Following our latest blog on relocating to Saudi Arabia, it seemed only fitting to break down the cost of living in the most popular cities in The Kingdom too.
If you have seen the news lately, you will know that Saudi is headlining it! For example, take Neom - the world-class cognitive mega-city being built as part of Vision 2030 for sustainable living.
Everything tech, development and start-up related; Saudi is at the forefront. Diminishing old opinions and showing how progressive the country is becoming is alerting more of the public to think about a move over to this upcoming, prosperous city.
This guide will cover the main statistics and living costs, from rent to groceries, activities to education and more. If you are reading this you may already be ready to move to Saudi- if so تهانينا (congratulations)! This blog will give you a better insight into prices in the Kingdom to help you with your move (prices are as of October 2022).
Population- 36 million
Area- 2,150,000 km2
Language- Arabic (English is widely spoken)
Currency- Saudi Riyal (SAR)
Riyadh is the largest city in Saudi and is the commercial capital of the country, Jeddah comes in as the second largest therefore both options are great for expats and are generally where people relocate to for work. I will be using both as examples throughout this blog.
Generally, the cost of living in Saudi Arabia will cost a little less than in Western Europe and is on average 18% lower in Riyadh and 20% lower in Jeddah than in the UAE. Rent in both cities is 70% lower than in Dubai, 77% lower than London (UK) and 88% less than in New York (USA).
*stats found on Numbeo comparison website
Most expats live in compounds located in the high-end areas of Riyadh and Jeddah; gated communities with high security and well-maintained apartments and villas.
A one-bedroom apartment in a compound starts from approx. 45K+ SAR (12K USD) with facilities and utilities included. 3-bedroom villas will be around 120k SAR/year (30K USD) compared to a similar villa in Dubai which will cost approx. 45K USD/year.
The most popular compounds in Riyadh are Al Hamza, Al Nakhla, Arabian Homes, Miral and Arizona to name a few, all rated 4-5 stars and most will include cafes, restaurants, swimming pools, tennis courts, gym facilities and more.
If you’d prefer to venture outside of a compound, you can pick up a one-bedroom apartment or even a 3-bedroom villa for a reasonable price of 30-60K SAR/year (7-15K USD).
Compound accommodations in Jeddah will mostly be fully furnished, but you can buy unfurnished at a lower cost. Popular compounds include Arabian Homes, Al Basateen Village, Sharbatly Village and Abdullah Compound. A one-bedroom apartment in Jeddah will cost similar to Riyadh- between 38-50K SAR.
Things to think about when deciding on which compound to choose:
*Be sure to thoroughly check your rental contract before signing as it will state the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the compound- you may need to get this translated as it is usually given in Arabic.
**Prices from Bayut, Zaahib and PropertyFinder as of Oct 2022.
You can expect to pay around 350 SAR/month (90 USD) for basic utilities including electricity, water and gas, much less than what you would pay in the UK, Europe and most countries around the world. Internet will cost around 250 SAR, a little more than other countries but works out much less overall. Saudi has fast ADSL and fibre broadband to keep you well-connected with prepaid and contract options. The main networks are STC (Saudi Teleco Company), Mobily and Zain.
As mentioned, many properties are fully furnished but there are a few recognized brands you can buy from in-store and online across the country; Amazon.sa, Desertcart SA, Pottery Barn, IKEA and Indigo, not forgetting Saco World; the Saudi version of Home Depot for household items.
The most popular way to travel around Saudi is to drive or take a taxi. Petrol prices are very low and the road network is great, therefore this is one of the most cost-effective and easiest means of travel. The basic taxi fare in Riyadh and Jeddah is 5-10 SAR, kilometre price 2 SAR- Uber and Careem are both available taxi services in Saudi.
There are shuttle services around the compounds for quick lifts across to malls and restaurants, some offer services a few times a week to hyper/supermarkets too.
Saudi Public Transport Company (SAPTCO) operate an affordable service with over 2000 buses across the country within large urban areas including Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Madinah, they also provide travel to neighbouring countries if you are travelling a distance. You can travel from Riyadh to Jeddah for around 200 SAR.
Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Transport has been developing the railway network, the four largest cities in Saudi will all have a multi-line metro network by the end of the decade. Riyadh Metro is expected to open by the end of 2022!
Food expense varies from person to person and is dependent on many factors but the average cost for one person for one month is approximately between 500-1000 SAR (130-260 USD). There are a few branded supermarkets in the cities; Carrefour, Lulu’s, SPAR and Tamimi (like the American Safeway) to name a few. For a more homely shop, you can head down to Danube which sells Waitrose products too.
Here's a basic food shopping list from Carrefour supermarket:
Milk- 6 SAR
Loaf of bread- 4 SAR
Potato 1KG - 4 SAR
Eggs (6 pc)- 5 SAR
Apples (1KG)- 7 SAR
Bananas (1KG)- 7 SAR
Water (1.5l)- 1.85 SAR
Cheese (1KG)- 25 SAR
Chicken (1KG)- 20 SAR
Leisure & Dining:
There is no shortage of dining-out options in Saudi, with Jeddah and Riyadh offering regional and international cuisines, fast food, street food to fine dining and more, there are options to please everyone.
As far as activities go, there are lots of different activities and attractions to keep busy, from cultural sights to escape rooms and road trips to desert safaris and more. Many sights in Saudi are free of charge or a small 5-20 SAR fee on entry. There are plenty of cool malls to access for free and budget-friendly things to do in Riyadh and Jeddah.
Here’s a look at the average prices for regular activities and dining:
1 Cheeseburger meal- 25 SAR (6 USD)
1 Street stall/food truck kebab, rice & drink- 8 SAR (2 USD)
1 Meal at a traditional restaurant- 40-50 SAR (10-12 USD)
Multi-course dining for 3 people- 120 SAR (30 USD) PP
A Cappucino at a nice café- 15-20 SAR (4-5USD)
2 x Cinema tickets- 100 SAR (26 USD)
1 x Monthly gym membership 350 SAR (90 USD)
1 x Go Karting- 129 SAR (33 USD)
1 x Ladies Only trampoline session- 85 SAR (22 USD)
1 x Waterpark access- 100 SAR (26 USD)
For the best free things to do in Jeddah click here
For the best free things to do in Riyadh click here
School Fees & Education:
Saudi’s education system has completely transformed over the past few decades, there are over 30,000 schools across the country, with private schools set to double over the coming years due to the growth in the market and the Vision 2030 education initiatives in place.
There are 45 international schools in Riyadh and 122 in Jeddah offering K-12 education.
You can see the database and prices for Riyadh here
You can see the database and prices for Jeddah here
Private schools can range from the national curriculum, particular methodology teaching (International Baccalaureate and nationality-based institutions for example American schools will focus on a particular teaching standard, GCSE teaching in British schools and German schools will follow another. The latter option is great for expats as students will be learning from the same curricula as they would at home.
Healthcare in Saudi is very well-established and on par with Europe and USA. Professional doctors and nurses are very often expats and usually speak fluent English. Medical insurance is mandatory for everyone in Saudi, including expats, you and your family will be covered by your employer under legal obligation (but you can choose to purchase additional medical care if required or if the package you have is too basic).
With Saudi in the limelight daily, impressing the world with its transformations, there are plenty of reasons to think about relocating to this well-developed country; the ever-growing economy, high income, low living costs, plenty of opportunities and tax-free living to name a few- not to mention the globally recognized businesses that are building offices in Saudi as we speak; companies know this is the next professional place to be, it is no wonder more and more people are sparking interest and heading out there!
You could be next!