Many expats who relocate to Saudi Arabia for work receive subsidized housing, transports, health insurance and education for their children. Such benefits make the cost of living in this country quite affordable. With much of their expenses taken care of, expats are usually able to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. Saudi Arabia falls in the mid-range when it comes to cost of living. Surveys also show that Saudi Arabian cities are cheaper to live in than most other cities in the Middle East.
Here are some cost of living facts for expats moving to Saudi Arabia.Accommodation
There are two types of accommodation available for expats in Saudi Arabia; compounds and local accommodation such as apartments and town houses. Most expats choose to live in compounds as these have a more international ambience with amenities such as pools, restaurants and bars. Alcohol is forbidden in the Saudi Arabia but can be consumed within compounds. There has been an increasing demand for compound accommodation in recent years and as such the prices have soared. There is also likely to be a waiting list for more popular compounds. Expats who have accommodation included in their relocation package will find it highly advantageous. There are many western expats who prefer to live in local housing, as this is nearer to the city centers and also more affordable. Rental rates are cheaper than the cost of buying a home. But home prices have seen high inflation in recent times and the government has passed an emergency law that will bring down the prices by the end of 2014.
Education can be a big expense for expats with children. Foreign children have to attend international schools since they are not admitted into public schools in Saudi Arabia. The tuition at international schools can vary, but usually fall within the range of SAR 35,000 – 75,000 per year.
Saudi Arabia has many high-quality private hospitals and clinics, but charge high fees for treatments. Therefore it is important for expats to have proper health insurance.
Saudi Arabia is an oil-rich country and therefore the cost of petrol is cheap. Buying a car can be quite affordable and many expats are able to purchase vehicles that would have been too expensive in their home country. Despite the low costs of fuel, the flight of plane tickets, including domestic ones, remains unchanged. There is no proper public transport system in Saudi Arabia apart from a bus service that covers a few routes. Most people avoid the bus service due to its poor quality. Taxis are easily available but also expensive. Since there is no system of paying by the meter, the fare must be decided beforehand.
Food and household goods
Groceries are reasonably priced in Saudi Arabia and vegetables may even cost less than half of western prices. Fruits tend to be almost the same or slightly less than western prices. However imported food products may carry higher prices. Eating out can also be rather expensive.
There are limited import duties on electronics and therefore they can be purchased at affordable prices. Many computer-manufacturing companies do not sell their extended warranties in Saudi Arabia and hence buyers need to purchase a local warranty. The costs of phones are nearly the same as in the United States or Europe. There are many phone bazaars where further discounts may be available.
Expats may find that Saudi Arabia has limited entertainment options since there are no movie theaters, nightclubs or bars. But there is abundance of posh shopping malls, which serve as the main recreation spots for both locals and expats. It is possible to end up spending quite a lot of money at these malls. There are some beaches in the cities of Jeddah and Dammam, but these are private beaches that charge an entry fee. Some of the coastal cities also offer activities like scuba diving and paragliding, which can cost several hundred dollars each. Although movie theaters are prohibited in the country, all movies are freely available. Saudi Arabia has many coffee shops, ice cream parlors and restaurants, including the popular international franchises like Pizza Hut, Starbucks and many others. The food items at such places carry western prices.