Moving to Riyadh: What to expect?

Moving to Riyadh can be a very exciting experience. But before you move there, you need to get to know some basic things about the city itself and Arab culture. Riyadh is the largest city in Saudi Arabia and one of the most populated cities in the Arab world. It has a population of 6.9 million people as of 2018 and is only getting bigger. It is a political and administrative center of Saudi Arabia. King Abdullah Financial District, one of the world’s largest financial centers, is located there. Moreover, the city itself is divided into 15 municipal districts. If you like hot weather you will love Riyadh. It has a hot desert climate, with long and extremely hot summers, and short mild winters. It is also known to have dust storms during which the dust can be so thick that visibility is less than 10 m.

Dust storm covering building
Riyadh is known to have dust storms during which is not recommended to be outside.

Be prepared for cultural differences when moving to Riyadh

When you find yourself in Riyadh, it is expected of you to observe the country’s strict rules and traditions. For example, alcohol is prohibited, eating in public during Ramadan is forbidden. Celebrating any kind of Christian’s festivals like Christmas or Valentine’s Day is forbidden. When in public, all women must wear the abaya (the traditional black robe worn by Muslim women). Expats are obliged to live in compounds. This might sound restrictive and problematic, but these compounds are generally luxurious, clean, with sports facilities, swimming pools, and minimarts. Also, Riyadh is far less expensive than neighboring Dubai, but it doesn’t lack in fancy shops and world-class malls. You should also know this when moving to Riyadh:

  • Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam
  • The official language is Arabic
  • Always keep in mind that Sharia law prevails
  • Summer is extremely hot, so you need to make sure your air-conditioning works properly.

    Mecca pilgrimage
    Mecca, the birthplace of Islam

What to keep in mind when searching for a place to live

You need to decide what is important to you in terms of cost, location, and space. Finding the perfect accommodations when moving to Riyadh can be difficult because most foreign workers live in compounds. And as we said before, compounds can have swimming pools, restaurants, shops, and gym. The rooms are large and you will have a garage for a car. As for the neighborhoods, most people recommend Dammam and Jeddah for the expatriates. Expat compounds allow some freedom from the strict rules that govern in Saudi Arabia. Also, you must be aware of what you can get through Riyadh customs clearance. You don’t want to bring your stuff with you, just so you can turn them back. Air conditioning is sometimes part of the rental cost and in other cases, it will be billed as part of the electricity charge. Explore your options and make a wise decision.

Don’t worry about education when moving to Riyadh

If you are moving with your family you need to think about your children education. There are several international schools that children of expatriates can attend. Of course, you should contact the respective schools to get information specific to your child’s status. Some schools are not as selective as others and they will accept any child in the right age range. Many schools will use previous school reports to decide. They will also administer tests in English and mathematics to determine a child’s learning level. If they are younger don’t worry. There are pre-schools both private and public. Normal school year begins in August and it ends in June. It is divided into two semesters. It is important to apply well in advance. For foreign schools, priority is given to people holding a foreign passport of the same nationality as the school.

Can you raise infants/toddlers in Riyadh?

The simplest answer to this question is yes. Yes, you can raise toddlers when moving to Riyadh. There are a lot of attractions like Luna parks or special space where only children can play. In malls, there is also space for kids where they can play with their friends. After school, you can take them to some sports activities like swimming. Also, they can attend activities that are organized by the school or an embassy. Unfortunately, there are no movie theaters or concert holes in Saudi Arabia. Visiting the desert could be interesting for the kids and there are many trips organized with that goal. There are no particular challenges that you should be aware of as a parent. Just remember that local rules must be respected and make sure that your kids do not leave the compound without you.

Moving to Riyadh can be challenging because of hot climate
Visiting the desert could be interesting for the kids

Choose the right moving company when moving to Riyadh

Even though moving to Riyadh can be exciting, it can be stressful too. Logistics companies in Dammam can help you in moving your stuff with ease. But, you must start your search early. In order to respect one of the core rules when searching for a moving company, you must read reviews – lots of them. Online reviews are the best place to start your search.  Reviews provide a reliable, unbiased look at a company’s level of service in action. Choose three companies that you like the most and get estimates from them. If they don’t give you an on-site estimate, don’t hire them. Find out what is included in the price. Do they provide boxes, blankets, and other moving supplies? Is fuel included in the price?  Ask the right questions to avoid unexpected costs on moving day.


In order to do everything right when moving to Riyadh, you need to take a couple more steps. You need to prepare your family by talking to them or, organize a family meeting with them. Pack yourself properly in order to lower the price when hiring a moving company. Feel free to compare prices between two countries or the place you live in and Riyadh. Label the boxes and use the best packing materials. See for yourself neighborhoods you want to move in before you decide to move. And don’t forget to enjoy. Maybe moving is stressful but it is also exciting especially if you are going to Saudi Arabia.

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