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Frequently Asked Questions الأسئلة الشائ

Visa

Do I need visas to both enter and exit Saudi Arabia?

Visas are necessary in Saudi Arabia, and tourist visas don’t formally exist. Depending on what type of visa you need (business, residence, work, transit) you’ll have to arrange the appropriate documentation with the help of a local sponsor. Upon entry into the country your passport may be held by your employer. To exit/re-enter the country once working and living you will need to obtain authorisation in the form of an exit stamp from your sponsor. 

Do I need to apply for a visa for any of the countries I transit through?

You may do depending on your nationality and the length of transit time. Please check with the travel agent at the time of booking.

Do I need to register with my Embassy in KSA?

Yes, you should. You can do this either prior to departing for Saudi Arabia or on arrival. In some cases this links into advice about functions and upcoming events.

Food

What will the food be like?

Saudi Arabia has a large selection of food options. You can sample Middle Eastern cuisine or international cuisines such as Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Mexican, Turkish, and Indian. There are also the big international chains such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut etc.

Alcohol and pork products are not permitted in the country.

Money

What is the currency of Saudi Arabia?

The currency in Saudi Arabia is the Saudi Riyal, commonly referred to as the “SAR” with the local currency symbol being ﷼. The sub-unit is called the halala, dividing the riyal into 100 equal parts. The SAR has been fixed at a stable rate to the US dollar since the early 1980s, with the rate being USD$1 = SAR3.75.

What do you mean by "tax-free income"?

There is no income tax deducted in Saudi Arabia. However, your foreign income may be taxed in your home country. It is your responsibility to find out what your tax obligations are.

There is no sales tax in Saudi Arabia but in some restaurants (such as in hotels) you may have a service charge added to your account. This is not usually passed on to staff as a tip.

Am I able to use my ATM card and credit card in Saudi Arabia?

Yes. ATM machines accept cards from all over the world via systems like Cirrus and Plus. You can also get an ATM card for your local Saudi account. Maybe increase your daily limit at home on your debit cards before leaving home.

Saudi Arabia is generally a cash society, but credit cards are accepted in major department stores and major hotel restaurants. Generally, outdoor souks (markets) do not accept credit cards.

How can I open a bank account?

Once you have your Iqama (residence permit) it is very easy to open a bank account. The Colleges of Excellence will provide you with information about how to go about this.

Safety

What standard of healthcare can I expect?

The level of healthcare in Saudi Arabia is largely similar to that of the US and Europe. You must have some form of healthcare in order to obtain your iqama (work permit).

Will I be safe in Saudi Arabia?

There is relatively little crime in Saudi Arabia and generally western people say they feel safe. However, you should apply the same common-sense precautions you would at home e.g. don’t leave your bag or belongings lying around. It is also recommended that you register with your home country’s embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Communication

Is English spoken in Saudi Arabia?

The official language is Arabic, but there are many languages are spoken in Saudi Arabia. English is widely spoken in the main centres and all the courses at The Colleges of Excellence will be taught in English.

Can I access the internet?

All internet traffic is processed through centralized servers that filter content that is contrary to Islamic values, so some sites will not be available (particularly those with content that is sexually explicit, religious, or violent).

Are there any newspapers in English?

There are 3 daily English newspapers: Arab News, Saudi Gazette, and Riyadh Daily. There are also a variety of English-language bookshops available.

Clothes

What should I wear when I am in Saudi Arabia?

Both men and women need to dress conservatively due to the religion and customs of Saudi Arabia.

Many Saudi women cover their faces in public and all women, including Western women, must wear the long black abaya. Normally, women also wear a headscarf when in public (i.e. outside your house) to cover their hair. It is important to display sensitivity to local traditions and cultural norms to ensure a smooth transition into life in Saudi Arabia. If accommodated in an expat compound Westerners can dress in the manner familiar to their country of origins.