Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Report of what it's like to live there - 02/17/14

Personal Experiences from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 02/17/14


1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We have also lived in Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Jerusalem.

View All Answers

2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

This is maybe the worst part of living here. Our home is in DC. We fly to Frankfurt - 6 hours flight and then stay there about 6 more hours. Then it's another 10 hours to DC so you have an entire day of traveling. If you have small kids, this is a nightmare you don't want to live more that once per year.

View All Answers

3. How long have you lived here?

20 months.

View All Answers

4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. consulate spouse.

View All Answers

Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We live in Sierra compound. The American school is on compound as well as a supermarket( you can find pretty much everything here), a restaurant that is bad and expensive, a beauty salon, a taylor, a few boutiques, a gym, a bowling alley, a dry cleaner, lots of kids activities (some free), one pool for every 5 or 6 little town houses, tennis courts, basket ball courts, soccer field, big playground with a little nursery for pets, and a little pond with ducks.

The new Consulate is going to be ready in about 3 years, and there is going to be a new compound with the American school set to move there.

Some other families live in al Basateen compound that is attached to the British school. This compound is not as nice as la Sierra but is nice, has just one pool, a restaurant and grocery store as well.

Again, the homes in la Sierra are not the best - they are small town homes with 3,4 , or even 5 bedrooms, but they are all the same size (no matter the number of rooms). The rooms are generally small and there is no storage at all.

There are also about 3 homes in Catalonia that are bigger and better.

View All Answers

2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Fruits and vegetables are not too bad. We order cleaning supplies. Local diapers are terrible.

View All Answers

3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Mosquito repellent, diapers, healthy snacks,shampoo (the water here has lots of salt), pool toys for the kids, beach toys, swim suits, tennis raquets, scuba diving equipment, more toys (expensive and poor quality here).

View All Answers

4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All of them: IHOP, Cheesecake Factory, UNO Chicago pizza, Ruby Tuesday - of course, no wine or pork in the restaurants.

View All Answers

5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Ants and mosquitoes.

View All Answers

Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO and pouch.

View All Answers

2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Generally Filipinas and African nationals - for full-time, you pay about US$1,000 per month plus having to be a sponsor (costs about US$600 per year).

It is VERY VERY difficult find good help good (rely on referrals).

View All Answers

3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

In the compound there is a tiny gym, tennis classes for kids and adults, aerobics, yoga, pilates, zumba ( you pay per class about US$8 or less, tennis lessons about US$26 per class or less).

There is a big and nice Golds gym - one part for men and one for women (expensive but not sure how much).

View All Answers

4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

No problem generally but credit cards are not accepted at all places (carry cash).

View All Answers

5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

No churches.

View All Answers

6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Everyone speaks English but some Arabic helps a lot.

View All Answers

7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes - I have problems with a stiller; I can't imagine a wheelchair.

View All Answers


1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We are not allowed to take taxis.

View All Answers

2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Some people don't bring their own car. This is a big mistake - motor pool is sometimes a headache to organize and they can only wait for you for about an hour (and shopping takes time here!). The most inconvenient part of this culture are the prayer times - this means that the stores are closed for about an hour and then open 2 hours etc. Sometimes you get kicked out of stores due to prayer but the supermarket is generally open continuously.

View All Answers

Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

STC is the best - some other ones have limited downloads. We had a very bad experience with Zein.

View All Answers

2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

The consulate gives you one, but for the spouses STC is very reasonable about US$10 per month. If you want internet on your phone, you pay about US$6 per month. All the phones you buy here are unlocked.

View All Answers


1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

There is a good Spanish vet who speaks English. Note that you cannot let your dogs run free at the compounds.

View All Answers

Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

In the Consulate there are some EFM jobs but spouses don't apply for them! They prefer to stay at home.

View All Answers

2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Women have to wear an abaya (black dress). Men and kids can wear what they want.

I do not use my abaya very much as you don't need it at the compound, at the school, at the consulate, at the beach, and other compounds.

View All Answers

Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

I think a car accident is the biggest concern here. I've been in several counties, and NEVER seen something like this. There are no rules, people drive with kids on their laps, kids are running around in the car, no respect for rules. We've seen terrible accidents here.

View All Answers

2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Serious and urgent matters require medevac.

View All Answers

3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Dusty and humid.

View All Answers

4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Hot all year: from May to September, it is really hot (July and August you better run away from the 120F heat!). From November to the beginning of March, it is great, hot but too bad - the nights would be great to be outside but beware of mosquitoes.

View All Answers

Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

In the past, the American school was a mess, but with the new administration, everybody is very happy. The principals are very nice and always available to talk.

In the past, the British school was the best, but it is difficult for the American kids to get in. I heard stories of kids who arrive during the summer and have to wait 2 weeks after school starts to take the admission test.

View All Answers

2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I haven't heard of any.

View All Answers

3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There is one in the compound, while not great in the past, the new administration is better.

The American school has a nursery for kids of the teachers and they now allow consulate families to take the kids there as well. The nursery has a 8:00am to 3:00pm schedule, and there are 1 adult for every 3 kids. It's about US$ 320 per month.

View All Answers

4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Not that much. In the compound there is soccer and tennis for free but if you want private lessons for you kids, you have to pay a lot.

There is no basketball or football at all; there are instructors for ballet and gymnastics for girls.

View All Answers

Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

People with young kids are actually happy. Couples and singles are miserable.

View All Answers

2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

There are parties at the consulate every 2 weeks. And, you will keep busy at the compound.

View All Answers

3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

For families - yes. Singles and couples do not like it here. Actually, couples who live at the Sierra compound ask for change of housing because of too many kids.

View All Answers

4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I don't think so.

View All Answers

5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

I think so, but not against Americans, they love blond kids!

Saudis are actually gentle with us.

Men can be weird, some of them don't want to take the elevator if you are there, and don't even look in to your eyes.

View All Answers

6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Scuba diving, finding this to be a great place for kids.

It is not true that women can't go out alone, I always go out by myself, and have never had any problems. It is true that women have to wear an abaya, a black dress, when you go out, you don't have to cover your hair (just when the "mutawas" - the religious police - are around, you have to carry a scarf to cover your hair but in almost 2 years I only saw the mutawas 2 times - and in those cases, people around you tell you so you cover yourself before the police tell you).

Women can't drive here, but honestly, you don't want to drive here! It is crazy.

We use motor pool and it is one of the most difficult aspects here (sometimes there are no vehicles available).

View All Answers

7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Swim, scuba dive, go to the beach, travel … you will have lots of friends from all nationalities.

View All Answers

8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Carpets and travel, go to the beach, domestic service, camping in the desert, extra sport activities for the kids.

View All Answers

9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Money, there is not to much to spend here.

I think honestly this is one of the best places I've ever been with kids: the compound is very safe, the kids go to the playground every day and play all day long, you don't have to be worry about anything, We live in Sierra compound which is, for me, by far the best compound. I've been in some others and this is the one I like the most. The American school is attached to the compound, so our boys just take their bikes and go to school. The boys don't even want to be out of the compound. From 8 years on, kids can take scuba diving lessons here in the pools of the compound. And, you can go to the beach - it is important to say that the beach is not free (you have to pay) but there are good beaches, clean and with most expat people, women can wear a bikini etc. Some people travel to Dubai, Thailand and some other places - travel in the region is not far and not expensive.

It is important to know that the new consulate is going to be ready in about 3 years and they are going to move the American school and the compound there. I've seen the proyect, and no doubt the homes are going to be better than the homes in la Sierra (the compound is great but the homes are kind of small and simple; the bedrooms and bathrooms are tiny, in some of the bedrooms if you have 2 twin beds you cannot even open the closet).

View All Answers

10. Can you save money?


View All Answers

Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That the motor pool service is so inefficient and the prayer times close everything down.

That there are no religious services and that is so dificult to get a good maid or nanny.

View All Answers

2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, the kids really like it here, but I don't know if it is going to be the same when the Consulate moves in the next few years.

View All Answers

3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

View All Answers

4. But don't forget your:

Summer clothes.

View All Answers

Subscribe to our newsletter

New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More