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life in saudi arabia

For many, joining Saudi Aramco will be the first time they set foot in Saudi Arabia. Here’s a summary of what the country is like, and what you can expect when you live here.

Climate

The climate will depend on where you are in the Kingdom but, in general, the summer lasts from May until September with the hottest months being June to August. There are strong winds, during June and July, which pick up quantities of sand and dust and are known locally as “shamals.”

Winter (December to February) is characterized by relatively mild weather interrupted by stormy periods with some rain, thunderstorms, and blowing dust.

temp rainfall

Money

The basic monetary unit used in Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Riyal (SR). The Saudi Riyal is printed in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500 bills/notes. The coins used are called “halala” and are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100. One Riyal consists of 100 halalas. The Saudi Riyal exchange rate is fixed to the U.S. dollar at SR3.75 to one U.S. dollar and fluctuates in value, relative to other currencies, in line with the U.S. dollar.

Each Saudi Aramco community has a local bank where U.S. dollar and Sterling personal checks and Saudi Riyal paychecks can be cashed. You can also purchase travelers checks here.

You can cash personal checks up to US$2,000. These banks will also usually cash Sterling cheques up to the equivalent amount.

£1.00 4.6083 SAR
€1.00 4.0010 SAR
$1.00 3.7492 SAR

Average cost of living

Restaurants

  • Meal, Inexpensive Restaurant

    Average: 15.00 SAR

    Range:10.00 - 20.00 SAR

  • Meal for 2, Mid-range Restaurant Three-course

    Average: 90.00 SAR

    Range: 50.00 - 140.00 SAR

Markets

  • Milk (regular), (1 liter)

    Average: 4.20 SAR

    Range: 3.75 - 5.00 SAR

  • Loaf of Fresh White Bread (500g)

    Average:2.27 SAR

    Range: 1.00 - 3.00 SAR

  • Eggs (12)

    Average:7.47 SAR

    Range: 5.60 - 12.00 SAR

  • Local Cheese (1kg)

    Average:22.76 SAR

    Range: 15.00 - 40.00 SAR

  • Chicken Breasts (Boneless, Skinless), (1kg)

    Average:18.81 SAR

    Range: 14.00 - 26.00 SAR

  • Apples

    Average:6.84 SAR

    Range: 5.00 - 8.00 SAR

  • Oranges

    Average:4.82 SAR

    Range: 4.00 - 6.00 SAR

Please note: Information is taken as an average and is correct at time of publication.

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Transport

A good road network connects all the major towns and cities in Saudi Arabia and all of Saudi Aramco’s major operating areas. Outside of the Saudi Aramco communities, the roads are often congested with heavy traffic, and driving conditions can often be more challenging than you may be used to.

To help you get around, we operate a system of free, scheduled bus services that cover transport to work, local towns, and between residential communities.

Education

The Saudi Aramco Education System (SAES) enjoys a worldwide reputation for its quality educational programme and commitment to excellence.

SAES (Ages 5-15)

Our school system enjoys a worldwide reputation for its quality educational program, highly qualified staff, student achievements, and facilities. These include learning media centers, art studios, music rooms, science labs, gymnasiums, swimming pools, sports fields, band rooms, and playground equipment.

Situated in each of our four residential communities, they provide an American curriculum for grades Kindergarten to 9 (5 to 15 years old).

Ages 16-18

Beyond age 15, there are two options. You can choose to enroll your children in the unaffiliated Dhahran High School or take advantage of our educational assistance benefit to part fund the fees for boarding schools around the world. This option also comes with travel reimbursements for your children to return to Saudi Arabia during the school holidays.

International Schools

There are a number of international schools in the Eastern Province. These include the British International School Al-Khobar, International Programs School, International Schools Group, and the Gulf International School. There are also international schools in the central and western regions of Saudi Arabia, catering for the needs of employees that work in Riyadh, Jiddah and Yanbu’.

Overseas Boarding Schools

There is also the option of attending out-of-Kingdom boarding schools, for which you will receive educational assistance. This reimburses you, up to established limits, for enrolling dependents up to the age of 18, in private schools overseas.

College and University

Although there’s no educational assistance for your children to attend college or university, we realize that study will most likely be abroad. So your children will still be entitled to two travel payments per year.

Housing

Depending on your position and what kind of accommodation is available, you’ll either be living in Saudi Aramco community housing or Saudi Aramco leased housing, or we’ll give you a rental allowance that you can use to live in the local community.

Saudi Aramco Community Housing

Our residential communities provide all the comforts of home.

Saudi Aramco operates four private, gated, residential communities for employees and their families at Dhahran, Ras Tanura, Abqaiq, and ‘Udhailiyah. Each is unique in appearance, size, and character, but all four are friendly, welcoming places filled with Saudi Aramco employees from all over the world.

Dhahran

Dhahran, the largest community, with a population of 11,400, is home to our worldwide headquarters and corporate functions. It has many modern facilities, while the older section of Dhahran is still a very attractive environment with tree-lined streets, stone houses, and grass lawns.

The main Dhahran residential community contains the administration complex, health center, and dental clinic. Dhahran features one of the Middle East's most challenging golf courses, and has three recreational centers with swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, a bowling alley, library, and movie theater. Other activities include horseback riding at the community's farm, exercising on hike-and-bike paths, and a variety of sports on the company fields.

Dhahran Hills is a mostly residential area, located about two miles west of Dhahran and just beyond the community’s golf course. The Dhahran Hills School (Kindergarten through to grade 5) is located in the Hills.

Dhahran’s marina and beach are just 40 minutes away at Half Moon Bay. The bay’s beautiful clear blue water and fine white sand make this a popular gathering spot for many Dhahran community residents to relax or enjoy sailing, fishing, or water-skiing.

The local town of al-Khobar is a 20 minute drive from Dhahran, where you’ll find shops and restaurants.

Ras Tanura

Ras Tanura, with a population of 3,000, is Saudi Aramco’s “jewel community by the beach.” Situated on the Arabian Gulf, approximately 80 km north of Dhahran, it serves expatriates working in aviation or marine operations, the Ras Tanura refinery, and two nearby company-owned and operated gas plants. The community’s facilities include a Community Information Center (CIC), bank, housing office, travel/insurance office, barber and beauty shops, and launderette.

The central recreational complex features a large swimming pool, tennis courts, basketball courts, aerobics classrooms, and a sports field. Like all of the main Saudi Aramco communities, Ras Tanura has an attractive 18-hole golf course and driving range, but this course is unique in offering views of the Arabian Gulf. The Ras Tanura fitness trail, the beach path, and the splash pads are also popular with many residents.

Outside Ras Tanura, the town of Rahima has a collection of gold markets (suqs), appliance stores, fruit and vegetable markets, and several restaurants.

Abqaiq

Abqaiq, also known as the “Friendly City,” has a population of 2,300 and serves as Saudi Aramco's main oil processing center. The community lies near the Rub' al-Khali (the Empty Quarter), the largest continuous body of sand in the world. Abqaiq is also about 75 km southwest of Dhahran and about 65 km from the oasis city of Hofuf, known for its ancient caves, pottery works, and markets that sell gold and fabric, as well as fruits and vegetables.

Abqaiq has extensive facilities, with the dining hall, snack bar, library, and meeting rooms all located in a large recreation complex near the community center. The community school is centrally located, as is Abqaiq’s commissary mall, which houses the grocery store, bank, mail center, travel office, beauty salon, and Community Information Centre (CIC).

The community also has stables with horseback riding, two swimming pools, a weight room, bowling alley, jogging track, sports fields, tennis and basketball courts, and an 18-hole grassless golf course with a clubhouse. At the company's private beach about 40 minutes away, expatriates enjoy fishing, sunbathing, sailing, and swimming.

Close to Abqaiq, the town of Medinat is home to restaurants, a gold market (suq), and fruit and vegetable markets.

'Udhailiyah

‘Udhailiyah, with a population of 1,250, is located about 100 miles southwest of Dhahran. It serves employees supporting oil and gas operations in the region, as well as medical professionals working at the area’s health facility.

‘Udhailiyah offers a variety of amenities – bank, mail center, and other daily essentials – and leisure facilities. Most of the homes and townhouses are new and modern.

Recreational facilities include stables with horseback riding; a swimming pool and a children's paddling pool; bowling alley; tennis, squash, and racquetball courts; state-of-the-art exercise rooms; and saunas and hot tubs. In addition, a scenic 18-hole grassless golf course has been carved into ‘Udhailiyah's foothills, or “jebels,” and a movie theater and supervised youth center are available on the community grounds.

The nearest town is the oasis city of Hofuf, about 45 minutes away, which can be reached by private company bus three times a week. In addition to several historical sites, including ancient caves, Hofuf offers shops and markets for items such as gold, housewares, fabric, fruit, and vegetables.

Saudi Aramco Leased Housing

Saudi Aramco provides five gated communities at Ar-Rakah, Dhahran Residential Tower, Las Dunas and Pearl. All are within a 20 minute drive from the Dhahran community and offer a range of leisure activities, including sports facilities, restaurants, and grocery stores.

Employees and their families who live in leased housing can also enjoy the Dhahran community’s leisure facilities, and have access to other communities, workplaces, and areas through our extensive scheduled bus service.

living in the local community

As a Saudi Aramco employee, we’ll help you find the right property for you.

Your choices include: houses or apartments in gated communities, apartments in condominium-style buildings, or houses in residential areas close to where you work.

The houses or apartments in gated communities are generally designed for expatriate residents. These have been created with your comfort in mind – giving you convenient access to a wide range of leisure and sports facilities. These usually include swimming pools, tennis courts, children’s playgrounds, supermarkets, and restaurants.

If you choose to live in an apartment in a condominium-style building or a house in one of our residential areas, you’ll find they’re all generally placed at the heart of the local community.

If you live in the al-Khobar/Dammam area, which is a 20 minute drive from Dhahran, you’ll have the Mall of Dhahran right on your doorstep – the largest shopping center in Saudi Arabia. As well as a supermarket, it has plenty of food outlets and over 200 stores, including a wide selection of Western brands.

Employees and their families who live within the local community can enjoy the Dhahran community’s leisure facilities.

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Shopping

Here, you can expect to find many of the brands and products you enjoy at home.

Groceries

In each of the Saudi Aramco communities, there is a commissary, which is like a neighborhood grocery store. Here you’ll find locally grown and imported fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as local farm eggs, milk, cream, cheese, and ice cream. Imported meat can be purchased fresh and frozen, but bear in mind that pork is not available. The commissary also stocks fresh and frozen seafood, spices, herbs, bakery items, bottled water, and general household products.

Magazines and newspapers – including U.K. and U.S .publications – are also sold at the commissary. However, you should be prepared for censorship and delayed availability.

Prices for food and household items are generally a little higher than prices in your home country. This is especially true of “bulk” items, e.g., cornflakes and other breakfast cereals.

For those living in the local community, groceries and other essential household items are available in a variety of supermarkets, which are the same size as Walmart in the U.S., or the equivalent of Tesco or Asda in Europe. These offer fresh produce (vegetables, dairy, fish, and meat) and local foods, as well as a full range of imported products.

Clothing, electronics and everything else

For most things you will want to buy, including clothes, cosmetics, electronics, and home furnishings, the malls of al-Khobar and Dammam are where you’ll find them. Alongside international stores like Body Shop, Liz Claiborne, GNC, Toys R US, Next, IKEA, Gerry Weber, Wallis, Adams, BHS, Bally, DKNY, Oasis, Topman, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, and Nine West, you’ll find a range of local shops that stock big name brands.

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Eating

When you join us, you’ll find there are plenty of options to dine out either on camp or in the local communities.

Within camp communities

Each Saudi Aramco community has a central dining hall open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll also find snack bars, similar to fast food restaurants, in each community. Dhahran also has its own restaurants – Tandoori House and El Chico – that serve lunch and dinner.

Outside company communities

The local towns offer a wide selection of cuisine, such as Italian, Middle Eastern, Korean, Thai, Indian, and Chinese. There are also some excellent hotel restaurants. And if you’re looking for a taste of home, you’ll find places like Starbucks, Cinnabon, Olive Garden, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds, Burger King, Baskin Robbins, and Pizza Hut in many local areas. What’s more, most fast food restaurants offer a home delivery service to the Saudi Aramco community main gate.

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What to wear

Living in another country means being mindful of the customs and traditions of your new surroundings. One of the most important customs in the Kingdom is dressing modestly.

At work

For your day-to-day duties, your clothes will reflect your role – normal office wear if you have a desk job or protective clothing if you’re at one of our facilities.

Away from work

Generally speaking, whatever you wear away from work at home, you can wear away from work in our communities. We only stipulate that you don’t wear tight-fitting and brief clothing, or transparent garments in public areas. For swimming, women should wear a one-piece swimsuit and away from the pool, men shouldn’t walk around without a shirt on.

In local towns

As you’d expect, away from the residential communities, special care should be taken to appear modestly dressed at all times. Women should wear long, loose-fitting dresses with conservative necklines and below elbow length sleeves. Men should wear loose-fitting clothing and long trousers.

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Healthcare

There are medical and dental facilities in each of the residential communities, staffed by some 400 doctors and around 3,700 other healthcare professionals.

Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare Company (JHAH) is the result of a joint venture with Johns Hopkins Medicine, one of the world’s leading academic health systems. This health care organization is designed to enhance the well-being of our communities by providing innovative, integrated, and patient-centered care to Saudi Aramco’s employees and their families, and health care beneficiaries.

There are medical and dental facilities in each of the residential communities, staffed by some 400 doctors and around 3,700 other healthcare professionals.

Covering outpatient clinics, pharmacies, health centers, and laboratories, our services and specialisms include:

  • General Medicine
  • Ear, Nose and Throat
  • Internal Medicine
  • General Surgery
  • Obstetrics
  • Paediatrics/Neonatology
  • Gynaecology
  • Radiology
  • Orthopaedics
  • Pathology & Medical

As an employee, all medical care is free. Dental care is on a fee-basis, paid for via payroll deductions.

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