Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/18/22

Personal Experiences from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 08/18/22


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

I have been employees with the U.S. Department of State since 2008 and Jeddah SA is my sixth field assignment after Nairobi, Damascus, Hong Kong, Yerevan, and Lusaka.

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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?

I live in the South West and the best route is the Direct Flight from Saudi Air to Dulles VA (14hrs), and then I have multiple connection options. Saudi Air has direct flights to numerous European on countries that can expand your travel options. Travel to and from Jeddah is easy with little to no travel restrictions.

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3. What years did you live here?


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4. How long have you lived here?

We have lived here for 18 months of a 2 years assignment BUT I would have extended to three years if allowed. July 2021 - July 2023

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

I work for IPC at an information Management Specialist and took this assignment for the diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We currently live at the Oasis Apartments (Staff Diplomatic Apartments (SDA) and it has become my favorite post housing/living experience. The compound is clean, safe and the 2-minute walk to work is my favorite convenience. My apartment is a three-bedroom with all new features, high speed internet and numerous recreational amenities. We have a full-length lap pool that I use for cardio along with a gym. There are BBQ areas, "Tea Room”, children’s playground, Dog exercise area and a hosts of social events. The off-compound apartments (Siera/Basateen) (15-min commute) are a bit older and have a bit more up-keep required plus you feel like you are living in a fish bowl in the center of a public park. We would not move from the SDA if you paid us :)
The SDA has a "small army" of school-aged children, so if you have a child that can run, swim and scream, they will have no issues finding playdates. You can also get a yellow access badge for nannies if required. If you are without children, rest assured that the Apartments are very insulated and peace and quiet is available once you are in your residence. You cannot hear any of your neighbors and would think apartments were vacant even when occupied.
CONS: The grocery and delivery drivers will occasionally get lost, and we ask the local guard staff to translate the delivery location.

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

Jeddah has numerous large and modern grocery stores where you can find anything you need. There are times where a specific US based item is off the shelf for few moths between restocking so I tend to by two items at a time of a specific American brand. If you buy Western name brands you will pay extra but its worth it. The Post also uses the Riyadh commissary where buying pork and tea is available at a weekly delivery basis.
Western Favorites:
Lulu Hypermart

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

Jeddah is a no consumable post and you can find everything you need on the local market and Amazon delivery.

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

Jeddah has numerous American brand fast food and restaurant chains that all deliver through apps like "HungerStation" and "Jahaz" that has made it extremely hard for me to loose weight (TGIFridays, Cheesecake factory, Outback, Texas Roadhouse, Applebee's, McDonalds, Starbucks, Shake Shack etc.). Local food is chicken and rice based and the local staff will show you their favorite restaurants.

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

I have not seen a bug since I have moved into the SDA but Sierra and Basateen have repots of ants, cockroaches and mice but facilities handles and corrects these reports within the hour.

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Daily Life:

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

There is a DPO that provides all our mail needs and the most common correspondence is via email or social media apps.

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

Getting a quality nanny has been an issue and providing housing for a Nanny from your last post is difficult. This is the one area that is in need for a more permanent solution. At the SDA, you are able to get a nanny hired and screened for a badge that allows them to access the compound with no issues. This screening process takes about 2 months.

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

Each Housing compound has a pool and a gym. The Local staff has a soccer (football) game once a week that is highly competitive. Most people take up swimming for a workout as there are many pools options available. Jeddah also has a Bicycle club that meets a few times a week for rides. These are all at no cost. There is a Golds Gym if you require a full-size facility but I am unaware of the cost.

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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?

Most major credit cards are accepted, and the consulate bank provides check cashing services. I have used the ATMs with no issue but found that Apple-Pay works well with online transactions that use apps (Uber/HungerStation).

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

I have heard of Christian church services being available but are few and far between and are most likely held in private facilities.

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

Almost everyone speaks English, but Arabic goes a long way. There are also Hindi, Pakistani and Sri Lanka dialogues.

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

Most places provide accessories (parking ramps, doors)

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

Uber is the preferred mode of car hire and buses are not advised or readily available and Uber black is fairly inexpensive.

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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?

Car must be no older than 5 years old and both right hand/Left Hand drives are allowed. Pickup trucks are NOT allowed in KSA for private residence. A 2/4 door sedan will do just fine as the roads are within standards. Make sure your car has AC. Most common cars are Toyota, Hyundai, Kia and Nissan and fuel is cheap. I would bring extra cabin and air filters.

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Phone & Internet:

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

The SDA internet is 200MBPS download speed and is fast enough for a large family to watch Netflix/Hulu or ITunes movies/TV shows. There is no Armed Forces Network (AFN) yet and the local TV provider is boring and repetitive. We watch 100% of TV and movies by online means. I pay 55 SAR (15$) a month for fiber internet and is installed upon arrival to the SDA. It is a 3-week process from Siera and Basateen.

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

Each PCS officer is provided an IPHONE and is charged for long distance calls. I have heard that the Google phone card works well and is recommended. Some officers even use their State side issued cell phone while assigned to Jeddah.

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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?

Dogs, cats and rabbits are welcome, but you must register your dog as a “Guard Dog” and you might have trouble with “high bite risk” breads. We used PendorPets in Chantilly to help us ship my two fat, lazy, stupid, ungrateful cats at a cost.

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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?

Most EFMs get work at the consulate from roving secretary to data input specialist. There are a variety of jobs becoming available every few weeks.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I have not looked but I believe there are women help organizations that require volunteers. There is also volunteer options with the community working with the CLO

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

Women are encouraged to cover their shoulders and legs. My wife wears an Abaya and loves it. She says she is ready to go in 2 min and gets better service when wearing one. Most American females wear jeans and modest shirt and an Abaya just in case. It is becoming more acceptable for men to wear shorts at Western malls and restaurants, but I have a spare pair of pants in my car just in case I’m denied entry. The worst thing that will happen if dressed improper would be denied entry or dirty looks and snide remarks, so basically like High School.
Work Dress code is Business Casual depending on job duties.

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Health & Safety:

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

Jeddah is one of the safest cities I have ever lived in. The threat of crime is very low and the most common crimes of opportunities reported are car break-ins and pick pockets. My wife feels perfectly safe walking around wearing jewelry and flashing fancy purses. I use the ATMs and I have not been a victims of credit card skimmers like in Hong Kong. The driving conditions pose the biggest risk to safety as there are non trained drivers who make U-turns from the far right lane cutting off all traffic.
** There are missile strikes from Yemen but are in now way targeting US interest. These strikes are aimed at Saudi Oil refiners and the last thing the Yemen's want is for the US to get involved so the Consulate is not subject to these attacks. **
There was a two person ISIS cell but all members have been recently captured by Saudi Security forces. The Saudi host government takes terrorist activities very seriously and the last thing they want if for a US compound to be a victims of an attack on their watch and ruin their reputation

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

I hear reports of dust-related allergies. The medical providers her are first world operations and Americans seek medical services regularly. I would not get any major surgery done here but that's just me and women generally choose to return to the US for birth children.

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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?

Hot and dusty but breathable. We do get high dust warnings and ask everyone to avoid outside activity when high. I'm from the Southwest and this is normal to me.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

If you feel like its the flu or a cold its really most likely allergies.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

None. There is tea and sun and everyone seems to find a way to life stress free as possible.

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

Hot, hot and hot during the summer, and gets nice around Nov-March.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is the British and American international schools and are equal in education

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2. 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?

I have not heard of any daycare and is an issue over the summer months for duel working parents.

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

I hear that schools offer a range of classes and afterschool activities.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a few hundred at the consulate. It is a close-knit society with people spending time with co-workers even on weekends. Morale is high.

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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?

The local staff are very welcoming and often ask Americans to join social activities.

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

I hear its not the best "dating scene" but the younger marines have ways to meet singles but I know a few ingles who have gone on dates and even become romantically involved.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Yes, Saudis want noting more than to host and entertain American friends. They go out of their way to make everyone feel comfortable and no ethnic issues have been reported.

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

We have two openly gay officers who have not reported any issues BUT it is recommend you live at the SDA on compound for a more "private" experience dating locals.

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

Saudis have a tendency to stop and question Americans of Pakistani or Hindi ethnicity if walking around the compound BUT once the Diplomatic ID is presented, apologies are made and nothing becomes of the situation. My wife says "They are not segregating the women from the men, they are segregating the men from the women". She says this as she will be pulled out of line and provided a table at a café before a male will be served and women get special treatment especially if being served by a formal wait staff. Saudis have a low tolerance for harassment and If a women is being mistreated by a male, a small gang of women will com to her rescue and make sure the man is removed or even arrested. The US Consulate has a "Zero Tolerance" policy for gender-based harassment.

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

I love the 2-min commute, the food option and amenities of America. They have HUGE malls and modern movie theaters which is a break from our AF assignments. We would have extended if given the option.

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

Scuba Diving and snorkeling at the Red Sea is like swimming in an aquarium and many officers get Scuba qualified.

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

Its just like the US with high-end designer clothes and products. You can also find hand made crafts in the old city and many carpet options.

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

All the first world amenities offered state side.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I would have brought a 4-year old car from the US and shipped it.

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


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

You still need your cold weather gear as you are a 8-hour flight to the Swiss Alps for vacation.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sun umbrella.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

None in my option but Id read up on the Saudi Kings Vision 2030 plan.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a hidden gem and we both love it here.

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