Useful Information on Living in Saudi Arabia

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The Language Barrier in Saudi Arabia

The official language of Saudi Arabia is Arabic. However, English is the business language, and is taught as a compulsory second language in schools. There are areas of the country that have a considerably multicultural community, in which several other languages are spoken. These include Urdu, Egyptian Arabic, and Tagalog. While it might be possible to get by with minimal knowledge of Arabic, it’s advisable to at least learn the basics if you will be living there.

Weather & Climate

An astonishing 95% of Saudi Arabia is desert, so it will come as no surprise to learn that this part of the world sees soaring temperatures. In the summer, the average is around 45°C however temperatures over 50°C are not unusual.  In the colder months of December and January, the average low temperature in the south is around 10°C.

Sand storms are a very real concern when it comes to weather in Saudi Arabia. These are most frequent in the east, where there can be between 10 and 60 sand storms every year, but even in the lower-risk areas of the south and west will see between five and 15 storms annually. If you encounter a sandstorm while driving in Saudi Arabia, the safest thing to do – if it’s possible – is to pull over and let it pass. On occasions when this is not an option, the best advice is to travel slowly, make sure your lights are on, and change your vents to circulate internal air.

British Embassy in Saudi Arabia

Address:PO Box 94351
11693 Riyadh
Saudi Arabia
Phone:+966 (0) 11 481 9100
Fax: +966 (0) 11 481 9350
Office hours:Local Time
Sun-Thurs: 08.00 – 15.00

Emergency Services Contact Information in Saudi Arabia

Emergency ServiceContact Number
Police Service999
Fire Service998
Ambulance Service997

Health in Saudi Arabia

All visitors to Saudi Arabia should see their GP to discuss health implications and potential injections before they travel. Regardless of travel, MMR and Tetanus immunisation should be kept up to date. Additionally, the following vaccinations might be recommended; Diphtheria, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Influenza, Meningitis, Polio, and Rabies.

Those aged 1 year or over who are entering Saudi Arabia from a country that has a risk of Yellow fever transmission (including airport stopovers of 12 hours or more) must present a Yellow fever immunisation certificate in order to do so.

In Saudi Arabia, all medication is chargeable; a visit to a doctor is likely to cost around £20. For this reason it’s advisable to take out travel insurance that will cover this.

Driving while Living in Saudi Arabia

Expats who want to drive while living in Saudi Arabia will encounter various differences to driving in the UK. One significant difference is the fact that women have only been allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia since June 2018. This means if you are a female expat who wants to drive, while this is completely lawful, you will find that there are far fewer female drivers than there are male.

Traffic accidents in Saudi Arabia are undeniably high. In 2018 alone there were 13,221 road deaths, compared to 1,770 in the UK. Considering the population of Saudi Arabia is about half that of the UK, this is a striking proportion. Such incidents are likely to happen as a result of inattentive and perverse driving, so it’s important for new drivers in particular to pay close attention to their surroundings.

Getting your Driving Licence

Expats can drive in Saudi Arabia using their international licence for up to three months, after which time they must apply for a local licence. Those who will be hiring a vehicle in Saudi Arabia are advised to obtain and bring an International Driving Permit too, because some rental companies will ask for this as well as your normal licence. Both of these should be carried at all times while driving. To apply for a driving licence in Saudi Arabia, you must present the following:

  • A copy of your existing licence translated into Arabic
  • An eye test and blood group report (from within Saudi Arabia)
  • A copy of your Iqama (resident permit)
  • A copy of your passport including both outer covers
  • 4 passport-size photos

With this documentation you will be able to apply and pay for a driving licence, and take both theoretical and practical training.

Legal Requirements

As with the UK, driving under the influence of drink or drugs is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia. As well as this, drivers can be severely punished for being in possession of alcohol. Law dictates that seatbelts must always be worn, and phones can be used on a hands-free basis only.