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Western Compounds and Expat Housing in Saudi Arabia


Tony worked across Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, Al-Khobar and Jeddah, where he met his wife who has worked there for twelve years.

Most expats find themselves living in Western compounds in Saudi Arabia (KSA). This expat housing is like living in a small self-contained holiday village (or prison, depending on your point of view). The better ones have multiple pools, restaurants, markets, and so on. Within the compounds the dress is Western, some going as far as banning any form of Saudi dress and certainly Saudis are not allowed on at all socially!

Generally accommodation on Western compounds in KSA is of reasonable quality and quite spacious. Compound living is quite expensive compared to living off compound (Anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000SAR for a 3 bed villa or even more) but most westerners choose this way of life due to freedom and security as well as the facilities. I would not recommend living off-compound if you have a wife and children; at least within the compound they have relative freedom.

Most expats have their accommodation costs paid directly by their employer who will also normally arrange housing. However, there is a shortage of good housing in the better compounds in the main cities, so it may take some time to get somewhere suitable for yourself and your family.

Personally, I lived in one of the medium sized compounds in Riyadh, known as Seder Compound which was at the time expanding its number of villas considerably to add many more guests. I also visited many other expat compounds in Riyadh and also Jeddah and Al-Khobar. When I moved to Jeddah however, I elected to live off compound and experience more about the local life here.

Compound Security

Security of Western Compounds

Security of Western Compounds


The compounds are very secure. They have high concrete walls generally topped with an additional metal or net extension to prevent things being thrown over. Concrete blocks are placed all the way around the compounds preventing anyone getting close. To get to the entrance you normally have to drive through a concrete slalom course before getting to at least two security gates. The outer one will check your car and open the trunk. (Mine is often full of boxes, which could contain anything, but they don’t check inside!) The inner will check your ID, which, if you are a visitor, they will retain—a copy of which will then be sent to one of the ministries along with the name of the person you are visiting (big brother is watching you here!). They will also look after your moral wellbeing so don't expect them to let single girls through to see you if you are a single man!

In addition to the compound security you have the national guard, fully armed with automatic weapons, machine gun placements strategically placed to cover the entrance, and even a tank at one compound (at least one lighter vehicle at most compounds). The perimeter is often patrolled and cameras are placed around the perimeter to make further checks. It can be quite unnerving driving into one of the compounds if you are not used to this: hotels, embassies, and government buildings are similarly protected.

Living off-compound is not recommended for westerners, and is discouraged, as places that house Westerners are required to use and pay for the National Guard protection. I only know one Westerner living off-compound. I'm not sure if it's strictly legal under Saudi law, but he does it anyway as most people are not sure about the law!

Saudi Compound Video

Villas and Apartments

The quality and size of the accommodation can vary quite a lot between different Western compounds in Saudi Arabia, so it is best to go and have a good look around. However, when it comes to finding a place, it can be hard work. Most of the compounds are full and have a long waiting list for vacant space. However, waiting lists can be worked around if you know the right people and have the right tools (tools required are usually found in your wallet).

The best situation you can be in is if the company has already secured your accommodation; otherwise you could be in for a long wait.

Most accommodation on compounds aimed at Westerners is quite spacious and well maintained, normally around 150 – 200 sqm for a 3 bed type villa or apartment. A Saudi would consider this tiny! This will come with all of the usual rooms; kitchen, living area, bedrooms, and often multiple bathrooms—Saudis love bathrooms! If you are lucky you will also have a small garden, which is great for evenings.

Compound Housing for Western Expats

Compound Housing for Western Expats

Western Compound Housing

Western Compound Housing

Compound Life in Saudi Arabia

If your compound is aimed at Westerners then it will generally have a good range of facilities: swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts, shops, restaurants, and so on. They are self-contained villages and you can survive without ever leaving them.

Some have social clubs and clubhouses in which various events happen: parties, discos, meals, films, etc. The management and relations with local authorities will determine on how “Western” some of these events can become. Some have “bars” although these are run by residents on an unofficial basis and entry strictly controlled to residents and a few lucky guests. The drinks, however, are usually home brewed and the quality can vary considerably.

Guests are strictly controlled, lists having to be provided and approved before guests arrive. You cannot bring the Saudis onto the compound in the evenings as guests. You may be able to during the day for work purposes, but they will be expected to be going to your accommodation only!

As a single man you cannot bring in women! All guests onto the compound have to have their ID checked and their names will be passed to the “ministry” along with whom they are visiting. You will have to get her to visit a friend’s wife! There are always ways around these rules as long as you have a few friends.

Life can be very boring on compound after a while: same location, same people, same small places, etc. Many of the guys I know end up in “holiday” mode, congregating around the pool or friends' places every evening to have a drink and complain about work.

For the women who do not work, there are organized events, coffee mornings, trips to the malls, and so on. The restrictive rules applied outside are not relevant inside, and residents are able to dress normally, drive around, and mix however they wish.

No alcohol - Honest! Not even on Western Compounds

No alcohol - Honest! Not even on Western Compounds


Some of the compounds in Saudi Arabia have schools/nurseries for the younger children. However, you will want to send your children to an “international” school where they will be picked up and dropped off. The school generally starts early morning and ends mid-afternoon.

I do not have children here, but friends are on the whole happy with the education that their children receive. The more expensive the school the better the level of education on the whole.

Small update: the international school that my friend's children attend in Jeddah has just been closed as the books that were used were not "Muslim enough" and they were teaching "Christian Values." All of the staff at the school have also been deported!

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Housing Off-Compound in Saudi Arabia

Living in housing off-compound is generally much cheaper in Saudi Arabia. You can find a good quality apartment for 40,000SAR or cheaper in the center of the cities and find something much bigger or a place with a private pool on the edges of the cities for a similar price.

I have an apartment that has two bedrooms, each about 4.5M by 4.5M and each have a large bathroom with both bath and shower. The living area is very large, around 100sqm in size in which I have my sitting area with sofas and TV, a dining area (sound system and lights set up as a disco area for parties), and a large space for my pool table! It's very spacious, and there is a kitchen and an additional bathroom. This is a small apartment and costs me 33,000SAR per year ($8,800).

My only additional costs are my electricity (around 100SAR), water (again about 100SAR: some buildings are on main supply which is free but unreliable, since buildings top-up from tankers that have to be paid for), and 100SAR that I give to the building guard to wash my car every morning (you have to do this daily since the sand and dust settles on the car every night).

Finding Expatriate Accommodation Off-Compound

Finding expat housing in Saudi Arabia off-compound can be quite difficult, especially if you want to avoid getting ripped off! Most Saudis will just drive around looking for notices in buildings, written in Arabic, or go to local real estate offices and ask. The real estate offices are easy to spot as they will be with the other small shops but they will look like a plush office with seating for a few extra people. You will almost certainly be ripped off as they will try to increase their commission at your expense. Finding empty apartments can be quite simple: just drive around the area you fancy and look for gaps where air-conditioning units should be as most people have to supply their own. Gaps mean vacancies. Ask the guard on the building and he will be far more honest about the price (but this should still be bartered), plus the guard will be able to give you a tour of the building.

Most rent is paid six months in advance, but you may be able to negotiate quarterly if you are lucky. They actually prefer expats as tenants as most Saudis are terrible payers. One of my Saudi friends rents out his family's apartments and is in court regularly to get money from defaulters or to get them to move on.

The Advantages of Living Off-Compound

Living in housing off-compound in Saudi Arabia gives you the freedom of movement, including for guests, that you don’t have on a Saudi Arabian compounds, but it does become quite lonely if you are alone. If you are not easily able to mix and find your own “fun,” don’t do it!

If you are a single guy living on compound and you want to invite single ladies back to your villa or apartment, it can be very difficult here in Saudi Arabia. However if you are living off compound in KSA, there is no security to get through, just very nosey neighbors keeping an eye on you! They do watch, and they complain if they see anything they don't like!

I far prefer this option: if I want compound facilities and parties I just get myself invited!

A Final Word

For Westerners, living on an "expensive" compound really is the best and most secure choice to make, especially if you have a family.

Most others live off-compound as it is much cheaper to live and they have large communities of their fellow country people to rely on. So be very careful if you choose to live off compound.

The best of luck in finding a compound or an apartment and I hope that you enjoy living and working in Saudi Arabia as much as I have.


Ary on September 09, 2020:

Hi Tony,

Where are you these days? By the way that's a well informed article you posted probably a very long time ago.

Anonymous on January 15, 2020:

First of all, thank you for sharing helpful information.

I need your opinion in relation to dating life of homosexual men in Saudi. Would you recommend a in-a-closet homosexual man to live in compound or outside?


Cadyn on September 04, 2019:

Tony,will it be possible for expat females in Saudi Arabia, Dammam to be precise,get a job in the compound house?

Terry Pardoe on August 21, 2019:

Hi my wife has been offered a position In Al Wash Tabuk region they want her to find her own accommodation but can’t see any compounds anywhere near , any ideas cheers

Barry Horn on April 21, 2019:

Hi Tony! I have been offered a job in Riyadh, and would like to find a list of some off compound places to live. Would you be able to help here?

Barry Horn

KhobarPhD on April 18, 2019:

Hi, my name is Janice and I'm completing my Doctorate Degree. My dissertation is on cross-cultural training and expatriate adjustment. If you are currently an expat in Saudi Arabia, would you mind completing this easy and general 2 minute expatriate questionnaire? It is anonymous and very easy to complete. Upon entering the survey, it lists my full name, University, and Doctoral Supervisor so it is legitimate. Thank you.

Google Doc Survey:

fahad on March 04, 2019:


hello all whom written there , if you like to visit Saudi or living there ,its nice place and secure. even you live at compound or out side . if you need more information send to me email or replay.

thank you take care


Saudi citizen

Jery on December 26, 2018:

In Yanbu, there is 'The Cove'

Dietmar on December 14, 2018:

Dear Tony,

Thank you for your nice article.

Tony I do have the opportunity to life and work with my wife in Jeddah. We life already 13 years in the Middle East ( Bahrain, Dubai, Abu-Dhabi) As I know you cant compare this cities with Saudi Arabia I would like to know how is the life in the described compounds in terms of Alkohol? Some they say you could buy alkohol there to very expensive prices, an some inform there is nothing? Where can I find an trustful agency who looks for me for an nice villa?

Your feedback would be very appreciated

Thank you in advance



tg on September 24, 2018:

House made per off month

Donna on June 03, 2018:

Hi Tony my husband has been offered a position in Jeddah. I would be coming with him. It will be just the 2 of us and I think its doubtful that I will be able to work. Can you remommend compounds in Jeddah that will have all the facilites as I am probably going to spend all my time there. I would think we would be best with other families so that I would have female company. As long as there is facilties and other females I can cope with that.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on April 27, 2018:

Hi Sam, it certainly has been very true for me....

Sam on April 22, 2018:

"However if you are living off compound in KSA, there is no security to get through, just very nosey neighbors keeping an eye on you! They do watch, and they complain if they see anything they don't like!' this is not always true!!

Joe on January 14, 2018:

Hi, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience. Could you please advise what is the going rate for an expat to work in Saudi, in Telecoms (Team Lead role) I can see the accommodation is expensive. Thanks.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on November 14, 2017:

Hi Byanka

As I have always said I have always enjoyed my time there in Saudi. As long as you are on the right compound or are able to make your own social life then you can enjoy within the restrictions that are placed on all there.

Byanka700 on November 09, 2017:

Hi Great tips! though things are changing so fast these days. I came to Riyadh with kids to stay with my husband. First year we ended up in a sort of "levant compound" - where you don't really feel at easy, when all men are smoking shisha in front of the pool on weekend... I hated it for not being able to enjoy... and after a year of searching for a right place, we moved to Al Nakhla compound (Al Nakhla Residential Resort)... That is fully western with all the attributes and fun! I managed to find a very decent job in the area , kids are taken to multinational school by a bus from inside the compound and they have a nanny/maid to look after them once they are back, every weekend there is a party or BBQ with friends and drinks.. Life turns to be very happy in KSA these days!!!!

Aneesh on October 13, 2017:

Can we practice our religion freely in expat compounds

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on July 07, 2017:


There is no where that I can recommend in particular. I would just suggest that you take a drive around any area that is close to malls or other places that you enjoy. It is usually fairly easy to find something if you start talking to the guards on the different buildings.

As to sharing you may want to some of the other people that you are working with.

Jimenez on July 01, 2017:

Hi Tony thank you for the information.

I am currently living in a building of the company, I am thinking of moving to an independent apartment, which area do you recommend?

After two years I have already made friends and some social life, I would like a place where I can have visitors.

Can you recommend something in particular?

I have no problem sharing a flat with someone if they are sociable

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on June 20, 2017:

Hi Jakki

It is not an easy place to live for most wives unless you are happy living on a compound. You will do most of your socializing on the compound. The same will be true for your son and there may not be a lot of kids his age there. There is not a lot to do for kids of his age to do in the country other than to hang out.

The rules regarding the mixing of the sexes are very strict so he will not be able to mix with girls off of the compound. Same as you should not talk with any guys off of compound. It takes a lot of getting used to living there, it is a very different culture especially for the women.

Jakki ginn on June 20, 2017:

My husband is moving to Riyadh in July I want to go with him but worried about taking my 16 year old son, also heard I can't take 3 cats and a dog, any info would be a great help thank you

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on June 06, 2017:

Hi Marty,

Getting taxis in Jeddah is easy enough, in fact in some places it is hard to cross the street without them stopping in front of you. The driving in Saudi is some of the worst in the world so you will probably be best not driving there if you are not someone that drives a lot.

MartyF70 on June 06, 2017:

Great article Tony. I may have a job coming up in Jeddah and have been told that accommodation won't be a problem however I am not a driver. You don't want a car living a city in the UK! Will this be restrictive? Thanks.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on April 17, 2017:

Hi James

In my opinion a compound would be better purely on the basis of the social life that you will gain. Living in a hotel suite even if you have everything that you need may still be a little lonely; especially if your wife is going to be stuck inside it every single day while you are working. I certainly do not recommend that she goes off on her own anywhere while you are working.

Your wife cannot legally work to keep herself occupied and living in a hotel she would literally have nothing at all to do.

On a compound she will have other wives that she will be able to socialize with and spend time with, as well as having all of the various facilities there.

Best of luck - I enjoyed staying in Jeddah; it is one of the more relaxed and sociable parts of Saudi.

James on April 16, 2017:

Hi Tony , me and my wife we are moving to Jeddah for work . I just wanted to ask you about your opinion : I agreed with a 5 star hotel on the CORNICH to give me there 1 bedroom suite for yearly basis . Can you advise if living in a 5 star hotel suite is better for a year or living in a Compound still the best option ? Thanks for all the advise you have been giving many poeple on this forum

maureen on April 07, 2017:

Oh wow, things have changed, I travelled to Al Khobar many times from Riyadh to visit my boyfriend. I was allowed on his compound (European) with no trouble as a single woman, oh the compound had guards of course but no National Guard. Never had to surrender my iqama either. I have to add, why would someone want to rent an apartment? Unless the company accommodation is so awful......if it is, then that's a pretty rotten contract. Still as I said times have changed. :-)

RubyGrace on March 15, 2017:

Hi Tony, I think it is really noble of you to host this Q&A forum for so many years, I am so glad I found this page and really appreciate your help. It is not confirmed yet but my husband may get posted to Jubail within the next 6-12 months. We have two young teenage children and we are planning to send them to the British International school. I cannot seem to find a any decent looking online property site. Could you recommend any good gated community near the Grammar School or links to their websites? do you have friends that are Asian expat wife and what it is like for them to live in Jubail? are there any internet streaming restrictions in Saudi ? the reason I asked because some of the stories I read written by expats have mentioned that they regretted not bringing in more DVD movies and downloaded more music before they leave their countries. sorry for my long post and thanks very much in advance.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on February 06, 2017:

Hi Joshua

Yes you can pick up cars quite cheaply, however, once you have seen how they drive you may not want to. They have some of the highest levels of deaths on the roads in the world according to official stats.

As to the cost of living you will find that most things are reasonably priced and it is quite easy to save money for most people.

Joshua on February 02, 2017:

Hi thabks for ur postings. Learnt a lot from them. I am offered a job in a college in al ahsa. Are the cars cheap to buy? What is the cost of living there?

Lawal Bisola on December 19, 2016:

Hi. Good post. Please i'm a nurse and would be moving from Nigeria(Sub saharan Africa) to Saudi soon. On a salary scale of 1000$ per month. Accomodation n transportation catered for. Do you think this is a rip-off?? Thanks.

welder bloke on December 13, 2016:

I've been recruited by a college in Dammam, starting in February 2017 - could anyone recommend a compound in that area? my employer is putting me up in a hotel for the first week so i need to start house hunting before I even get there. All i need is a bachelor pad or a house share

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on December 06, 2016:


There is no problem with him living on a western compound being a Muslim. The only restriction with most western style compounds is that Saudis are not allowed on. You will find many other Arabs however from places such as Egypt, and Syria will stay on the compounds. Living off compound can be very hard when you consider that as a woman you cannot drive so getting around alone can be very difficult even with taxis. A woman traveling alone is not always safe in Saudi, especially a foreign woman.

HPT on November 27, 2016:

My husband and I have both been offered jobs in KSA. He's Pakistani, nominally Muslim but extremely liberal, educated, "Westernised"; I'm English. I guess I'd prefer for us to live on a compound but is this even possible if he's Muslim? And how hard would living off-compound be for me as a woman?

SRP on November 16, 2016:

Hi Friends,

Soon i will be moving to KSA, I got an offer from Oil & Gas industry located at 2nd industrial city dammam, Can some one suggest me on accommodation near to it. Either a good compound or Residential complex.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on October 26, 2016:

Hi Vantolou,

Not all schools are going to be able to offer you what you are looking for. It is best to contact the school directly to see what sports and other programs they offer; especially for girls.

In my experience kids do not enjoy coming to live in Saudi Arabia if they have grown up elsewhere and are used to their freedom. The larger compounds offer swimming pools, gyms, tennis courts and other facilities but you are still restricted very much to living within their walls and this can often be a real issue for some kids.

vantolou on October 26, 2016:

Hi Leanman,

My husband has a job offer to work in Rabigh, we have 2 daughters who are very sporty.

Does the international schools have sports like hockey, athletics??

Do the kids enjoy the schools and compounds?


Tony (author) from At the Gemba on October 21, 2016:

Hi Azfii,

There are instructions above for looking for a flat, feel free to read them. As to bringing girls there the rules in Saudi are very strict; if you are caught with a girl that is not your wife or blood relative then you can be in some very serious trouble. So bringing girls to your apartment could get you deported or worse.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on September 20, 2016:

Hi Ghuasi,

I am not familiar with the location personally, so you will have to go out and look or ask your employer or sponsor. As to going to Bahrain you just drive over the bridge - but you will need to have a valid exit and re-entry visa which will be issued by your sponsor if they allow you.

Ray on September 12, 2016:

"Most" westerners do not live in compounds in Saudi Arabia. Only a few do.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on August 25, 2016:

Bobby; In theory the only people that can access the compounds are the people that live and work there and invited guests. Single females should not be allowed on at all no matter what visas they have. That being said there are some that have arrangements with the compounds to come on and work as maids etc even though it is strictly illegal. I have also seen several girls sharing accommodation and offering help within the compound to single guys.

bobby fife on August 18, 2016:

Is it true that there are third county nationals (young ladies) that have access to the compounds because they have 'work' visas and can help with services?

Ectasy on July 21, 2016:

I just wanted to thank you for such a wonderful blog....and to let you know, I am Single - Indian living off compound.

I moved to Dammam last year . I enjoyed full freedom at my home country without any worries.

Here, really finding it difficult even to talk to any stranger.Making any sort of relation is far more difficult.

saudia_sam on March 17, 2016:

six years in Jeddah working for Saudia, this was back in the 70's.

Would love to revisit to see the changes at Saudia City now!

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on October 17, 2015:

Hi Yabby,

Entry onto any compound is by invitation so you will need to get yourself invited by the people that live on the compounds.

yabby on October 17, 2015:

hello Lean man i am shifting to riyad next week , i am single (bachelor) i have no friends and family there. i will be staying off compound , Do i get entry for compounds social gatherings .. Parties?

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on September 15, 2015:

Hi Hana,

Glad that you are enjoying Jeddah, I loved it there and enjoyed my apartment also. Although I did not have kids while I was there.

Hana on September 14, 2015:


I just wanted to thank you for such a wonderful blog....and to let you know, we are a western family living off compound :)

We are an American family with 2 children, never lived or seen a compound in Jeddah but we rented a 4 bedroom 4 bath Apartment with a very a huge balcony (for the kids to ride their bikes) and we are very happy with it. We have a security code to enter our building (6 floors) elevator and trash chute...The only downside is no we pay for a pool/beach membership at one of the resorts.

Saudi lady on March 29, 2015:

As I can see from your replies that you are panic from facing a new life! First of all, I would like to thank you for participating in building my ccountry. Secondly, life is difficult and different everywhere. You see hings here as restrict rules but to us its normal because we have our own life and social activities. I can see the same thing happened to Saudi when they travel abroad. Although life there is ( pretty wild and open) but they still not feeling secure, happy or pleasurable. Its a matter of life style that you are used to live. Its not about gaps btween cultures. You can live in Saudi and be happy. That experience here where you are only prisoned teach you or open your eyes to different things. If you can't love yourself then how can you be happy!

I have an expat friend. Yes I can't meet him , I can't visit him but we talk daily. He's nice, he hardly understand that sex is illegal here ( especially with saudi women) and he complained about living lonely in Saudi. So he travels to Bahrain or UAE during the weekend to have more freedom their. He returns back with crazy stories and he keeps telling me all that. His friendship is one of the greatest thing but its hard to understand western mentality! !

So just enjoy your trip as much as you could ♥♥♥

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on March 20, 2015:

I think that the country is in many ways safer than most places in Europe. But like anywhere in the world there are places that you don't go and there are things that you don't do if you don't want to upset the people there. Follow their rules and culture and you will be fine there in Saudi Arabia.

As to security on the compounds they are heavily guarded and you will be fine there.

Hugo on March 19, 2015:

Thanks for your answer. One more question, do you think that's secure for a European single man to work and live nowadays in south arabia.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on March 15, 2015:

You will have to ask your sponsor as to where you will be housed specifically. However most compounds are very secure and guarded well. If you want to know about the compound that they will use ask them for a contact that is living within the compound that you can talk with.

Hugo on March 14, 2015:

do you please can tell me witch compound are used by the National Guard hospital in riahd to single men health care professionals? Is it nice and secure?

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on March 11, 2015:

Hi Boyo,

The best thing to do would be to try to contact others that are working on the specific site that you are going to be working on as conditions can vary considerably even when working for one company over several sites. Typically it will be a 6 day week but hours will depend very much on your contract, the employer and of course your own personal commitment to the job. Compounds in Saudi do vary considerably but like anywhere if you are not happy sitting in your home make some friends and go out visiting. I would often be attending parties and events on other compounds if I were not doing something on my own.

Boyo on March 11, 2015:

Like previous post by Michael I have the opportunity of working for J&P Contractors on a large construction site as an engineer. They provide accommodation, but I am worried what it will be like.

Generally, is it a 5 or a 6 day working week and are the working days long? (In Kuwait some years back it was 6 days from 6am to 6pm). Although the money is good, if it was all work and any spare time spent in a lonely grubby compound then perhaps I should not come. Would Doha be better conditions generally, even if more expensive?

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on January 24, 2015:

Hi Wezz,

On the Saudi compounds that I have been on the beauty salons have always been quite busy with people also socializing there as people have their "treatments" done. So I would ensure that you can serve coffee and cakes...

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on January 24, 2015:

Hi Darcydog;

Have a look at this hub which will give you a good overview of just about everything. It has links to all of my different hubs here about being in Saudi Arabia.

wezz on January 24, 2015:

Hi there.

I'm planning to start a business inside one of the compound in Riyadh. The original idea was a beauty salon but I need to expand the business to provide more services.

What you think that is really needed inside compounds? Let's say a travel agent ? Any ideas?

Darcydog on January 23, 2015:

hey lean man!

I've just been offered a position 'tentatively' in Tabuk, I'd be looking to take the misses can you recommend any sites or pass on a bit of what it's like to set her mind at ease!

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on January 05, 2015:

Hi ZM that is a healthy housing allowance and will easily fund a 3 or 4 bed villa on most of the compounds in Riyadh. Finding a vacancy is usually the hard bit. Ask the HR dept of your company if they have any contacts - it is usually who you know when it comes to getting what you need in Saudi.

ZM on January 04, 2015:

Hi Lean - I have a job offer in Riyadh and the company will pay me SAR170,000 / yr for accommodation. What would this housing allowance get me in a western compound? And how long a wait one typically goes through these days to get accommodation in a western compound? Thanks!

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on December 29, 2014:

Hi Alaa

Most of the compounds that I know will not allow Saudis to rent to ensure that there are no issues with expats offending them. However there is nothing to stop you traveling around the different expat compounds in Jeddah to see if you can find one that will accept you. Although I think that you will have some issues even finding a vacancy.

I think your best bet however is probably Saudia city which is mainly for the airline but they do rent our to some others and of course it is one of the few that houses Saudi staff as well as other nationalities; some of the apartments are a little run down but there are still some good properties to find on there.

Alaa Bajiber on December 29, 2014:

Hi mate,

I am a Saudi citizen and i was wondering if i could rent in westeners compound in Jeddah? My wife is Spanish from Barcelona and she'll join me in jeddah in few months and we decided to live in a compound so she can handle the big change form living in New Zealand and Spain to a big different life style in Saudi!!

Btw i aslo wonder if there is any type of language exchange events in Jeddah so I could meet some expats to know what compound could be good for us, as well as making some friends before my wife arrives!

Thx for your help

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on December 09, 2014:

Hi New2,

I have never been someone that used forums or chat groups. Try Facebook as there are several expat groups there based around Saudi.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on December 09, 2014:

Hi Michael,

I don't know the company personally nor do I know which of the compounds that they will house their workers in within Riyadh. You could always try to contact some of the other workers there or even ask your contact there.

new2 on December 07, 2014:

I've been in Riyadh for a couple of weeks and am struggling to meet people from compounds. Can you recommend any forums? Keen to connect with people whilst I am here.

Michael on December 06, 2014:

Hi Leanman. Just found this site and have learned a lot in the last ten mins. I have just secured a job on a massive development in Riyadh for a company called J & P Contractors. Do you know anything about them and could you tell me which compound they put their staff too? Thanks.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on November 06, 2014:

Hi Mikey

Saudi is a pretty relaxed place in reality and you will be on the whole pretty much ignored in the malls etc by the locals as long as you are not breaking any of their many rules. I lived off compound and I never felt in anyway threatened anywhere I went. I did however know many westerners (mainly American) who would pretty much spend all of their time on compound and would only leave to travel to their workplace because they were so paranoid about their safety.

Aramco is a pretty good company to work for and you will find a pretty mixed bunch there.

On mixed / family compounds you will find very few single women if any! Most of the women will be the wives or daughters of other expats and that really is a risk not worth taking in a small space - especially when their morality laws are so tight you could find yourself locked up in prison.

Single women do get invited to the various parties however, but they will generally be living in women only compounds or villas.

Mikeyb513 on November 03, 2014:

Hello LeanMan,

Great post, I am glad I found you. I have an interview with Aramco in a few weeks and so I have been trying to do as much research about living in Saudi Arabia as possible. My main concern is being an American and living in Saudi Arabia. I am a pale skin Caucasian and am worried about being singled out/kidnapped/harassed, etc.

Could you possibly shed some light on this concern for my safety?

Also I am single and wondering about single women in the compounds, you say there might be single nurses and other professional women?

Any help advice would be appreciated

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on September 24, 2014:

Hi Evelien

I am not personally familiar with the individual compounds in Dharhan. Most of the schools are off the compounds and your children will be bussed there or you will take them. There are many different schools available, however I would drop a line to your own embassy there and ask them if there are any that offer teaching in Dutch.

Evelien on September 24, 2014:

HI LeanMan,

My family, 2 young kids(6 and 4 years old) my husband and I are thinking moving to Dharhan for a couple of years. My question is if there in the compounds good aducation or must my kids off the compound for good aducation? We live in the Netherlands but do you know if my children learn only English or also dutch because that's our mother tonque? Thanks for your great info.

aqsa on September 24, 2014:

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Hope that helps

Cheers, Aqsa Rao

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on September 09, 2014:

Hi djvxxx,

I don't have personal experience of the compounds there in Dammam / Al-Khobar having only stayed in hotels in that area. But from what I have heard they are better than Riyadh although there is not one that I can specifically recommend without knowledge. As to French there were a significant number in Jeddah also where I spent most of my time after a year in Riyadh so I would guess that there would be in the north also. Certainly there were a couple of French and Dutch guys in the last company I worked with there.

djvxxx on September 09, 2014:

Hi LeanMan,

Very interesting forum, really.

I've worked myself in Saudi and lived in Riyadh for about 5 years between 2008 and 2013 (under a 5-yr contract...). Naturally, I lived (with my wife) in one of the better residential compounds (Kingdom Compound) and it turned out to be quite OK...

I'm now about to ''return'' to the Kingdom (for everybody's reasons), but that will have to be in the Dammam/Khobar area this time...

Can you tell me what are the better western compounds there so I can start looking around ?

Also, my wife is French and she'd like to know whether there is any significant ''contingent'' of French expat families there similar to what she had successfully found in Riyadh...

Thanks for any useful info you can share...


Tony (author) from At the Gemba on August 31, 2014:

Well "The Lion Heart".

Reading what you have written I am not sure what to say as you are obviously describing some mythical land as the Saudi Arabia I know is nothing like you describe; I see Saudi woman being dropped off at the hospital gym to be picked up 10 minutes later by a different man. I see Saudi women flirting with people in the Malls. I see Saudi men having alcohol and drug fueled parties with women of all nationalities and many other things that you claim don't happen..

Just go and sit on the Bridge to Bahrain at the weekend and count the Saudi Men that are traveling over! They are not going there for the scenery!

Most Western women stay on the compounds and are afraid to come out - why - because they are afraid of you Saudi men as you do not behave well to women!

I suggest that you drag your head out of the sand where you have buried it and take an actual look at your own society to see what really happens rather than accusing others of things that are actually worse in your own country..

the lion heart on August 31, 2014:

You and agree with you you are scum and selfless known to come to my country and you do high salaries and your complete privacy and are Maamatkm best treatment but you are the same cats eat and deny the same dogs bite the hand that feed it tarnishes the country which Agntek of hunger and harm to the people of the Holy hospitable words this racist because you Terbeetm racism in your country if you do not like the habits of this country, you can leave, we respect religions and respect the customs of the people because it is something of its own On the other hand, you respect our customs you mockery of the daughters of Muslims and our habits to maintain We do not allow our women Baltberg and nudity and do not allow relations forbidden because they bring crimes proportion of AIDS large with you because relations Forbidden bass indecent for women Calceaj that surrounds the garden and the garden without a fence enter and have intercourse with her feet all of the passes by a pimp is only allowing his wife and daughters to freedom of movement between men and striptease in front of strangers than men, but in our society women Aajalsha Sawa her husband and become uncovered charms Sawa to her husband in contrast, the man it to be true to the seeking for women outside the home and do not betray his wife that her husband got a foot in obedience and chastity for men and did not allow strangers to approach her all the monotheistic religions sanctity of adultery and betrayal

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on July 12, 2014:

Thanks for your comments Andy, the Saudi compounds really are like holiday camps with just about everything you think you need available... so many people will just sit there and drink themselves stupid every night and as you say some will hit the drugs also. Partying off compound is often far worse but you have to have local friends more often than not. I don't recommend it at all - stay inside the rules and earn your money.

Andy on July 10, 2014:

Spent 7 years at raytheon compound as my father worked there. I was in early teens and let me tell you ... quite a ride I had there :) I made lots of friends off the compound (saudi's) and spent my time partying just about every day. This is a very strict country with very different culture but I think I smoked more Hash/Thai Stick/Brown Sugar there than anywhere in my entire life.... What I would say is, watch out as it is easy to fall into the party trap (I saw many other adults my dad worked with fall into this same trap) and find yourself in deep water.

I managed to never get caught up with police but totally trashed my life in the drug scene. Things can get pretty boring as people mentioned and it leaves room for lots of partying since there is nothing else to do. Let me tell you if you get caught with drugs or alcohol it can be brutal. I had many friends that did and even one that died......

Admin on March 18, 2014:

Villa Palma Compound

(The Perfect Neighbourhood...)


Tony (author) from At the Gemba on January 09, 2014:

Hi iwarmbro,

Just cruise around neighborhoods you like and look for either for rent signs or for apartments that do not have fitted aircon units (usually vacant) then talk to the guards on those buildings. It is usually quite easy to find somewhere even for an expat.

iwarmbro on January 09, 2014:

For a young, single guy that is.

iwarmbro on January 09, 2014:

Hi LeanMan, do you know of any good expat apartments in or around Riyadh?

Sikandar on November 05, 2013:

If anybody is looking for best Western Compound in (North Riyadh) with all kind of facilities. Then Don't hesitate to call me on my mobile 059 77 21 361 or email me @

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on October 08, 2013:

Thanks for leaving your info Mustashar, if anyone wants information on your villa in Jeddah then they can email me and I will pass on your details. (Use the link to my profile top right)

Mustashar Aqari on October 08, 2013:

Welcome to Jeddah.

If you are looking for a comfortable villa, we have the ideal offer for you.

4 br, 2 living rooms, open reception, kitchen fitted with all appliances.

Shared common facilities for sports, swimming pool etc.


The offer is for Companies seeking a compound for rent, or Expat tenants only.

Please e-mail us for further info.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on November 01, 2012:

Hi Alvin

If you go to you can check salaries there but at the end of the day your salary is a personal thing - if it is enough for you then it is enough. The cost of living in Saudi is very low so you will not spend very much.

If your contract is a "single" contract you need to find out if they will cover any expenses at all related to your family. Accommodation on compound can be relatively expensive so if they are only providing something suitable for a single then it may not be enough for your family. Check!

I would not consider living off compound with a family! Your wife and children will be highly restricted as to what they can or cannot do; it is VERY different to England.

That being said if they are providing you with accommodation on compound that will be big enough for your family then you should be fine. You do have to pay for schooling but primary level is not going to break the bank on the wage you are being offered.

Read as much as you can about the country and how it works before you go, there are many links in the article above you can follow. If you need any more help then you can contact me through my profile page (top right).

alvink on November 01, 2012:

Hi I am British Citizen got an offer from MOD (ministry of defense) to work in armed forces hospital in Khamis musahyt as a Head nurse and they offered me 18400SAR per month with free accommodation.

It's a single contract but they have assured me that i can bring my family after 3months .

Now my questions is i have 2kids going to primary school in uk is it easy to get a school admission? do i have to pay for the school?and once my family arrived will they offer me a free accommodation? or do i have to find my own? and is the salary they offered me is enough or do i have to consider negotiating? i honestly don't know whether to take it or stay in UK?

Please advice me on my email:

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on September 24, 2012:

Good luck, hope you find some work.

Alburai Mohammed on September 24, 2012:

my contact e.mail

Alburai Mohammed on September 24, 2012:

I'm Translator.

English to Arabic to French and the opposite.

It will be my pleasure and honor working with you having a job in your compounds and your group. Thanking you.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on September 01, 2012:

Hi Funk..

Most companies in Saudi are offering initial salaries that are not much different to UK salaries when the recruit direct from the UK. However your employer is responsible for your housing so I would clarify exactly what your housing allowance should be, especially if you are moving with family as you will need a place on a western compound to preserve their sanity. A 3 bed place on a good compound can easily cost you in excess of 80K SAR per year upwards which is a healthy chunk out of the salary that you mention.

That being said your salary is tax free (if you stay out of the UK long enough during the tax year, check the IR rules because there are a few twists that you should make yourself aware of.)

You should also know that the cost of living in Saudi is much lower than the UK, especially when you look at your household bills and fuel bills for the car. You will easily save a good chunk of your wage.

You also stand a good chance of increasing your wage when you get to Saudi, most expats I know that have the "mega salaries" got those when networking within the country. It is not unusual to be able to double or triple your salary with a company move inside the kingdom. I certainly first entered on a salary similar to that you mention (Plus car, accommodation, health etc) and ended up with a salary a little short of three times that within a year.

Good luck, if you have more questions feel free to contact me.

funksoulbrother on September 01, 2012:

Hi there

Really enjoyed reading your hub as i contemplate moving my family to Saudi from the UK.

My prospective employer is offering me a similar salary to what i earn in the UK (£60k)but has now decided they can only pay accommodation costs for the first 2 months. id be looking at a 3 bed on a good compound - what do you think is a reasonable amount to expect them to pay for accommodation (all of it or a contribution)? If moving to Saudi is principally a financial situation how much more should i expect the overall package to be compared to my normal UK salary do you think?)Much appreciated - a big move to consider armed with so few facts

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on August 24, 2012:

Hi Mani, there are many Indian families living in Riyadh. You will be able to find a place in just about any area of the city with neighbors from your own part of the world.

Mani on August 24, 2012:

Hi Lean man ,

Which is best place in riyadh for indian family ? I mean safe place for indian family ?

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on August 04, 2012:

Hi Driss

You can survive easily on less than 1000SAR per month as an individual if you do not have extravagant tastes and want to eat out every night. You are not clear in your comment if your housing etc is separate as for most contracts it is. Even if not you can take a room for around 1000 per month or find an apartment for around 12-15000 per year.

The other thing to consider is that once you are within the country finding a better paid job is not that difficult for the future.

Driss on August 03, 2012:

Hi, Great blog. My name is driss, ireceived a job offer from KSD, but i dont think its great. the job would be in Jeddah, and the salary is 110.000 RSD per year everything included (transport, housing, evertgh else). I wanted t know if (with a normal style of life, i mean i dont need fancy things or spend a lot of money ) i can have a calm life in jeddah, knowing that i have to look for appartment. I would appreciate so much your answer. I have to decide very soon if i should accept. Than you

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on June 13, 2012:

Hi HZ, sorry for the delay in responding but your comment was picked up as spam for some reason. My appartment was behind the Saudi German hospital in Jeddah not far from Shatti souk. That is a reasonable area to live and not too expensive.

HZ on June 11, 2012:

Hi Leanman,

Your apartment looks quite nice by your description. I moved to Jeddah a few months ago and am looking for one myself. Can you recommend which areas to look into for something similar. Thanks.

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on June 11, 2012:

Hi Rajkumar,

There is a large Indian community in Dammam as there is in most of Saudi Arabia so you should find plenty of your countrymen to socialize with.

Carrying religious items such as books etc which are not Muslim will get you in trouble, there are only Muslim Mosques within Saudi, no other buildings are allowed.

That being said it is being rumored that the holiest of places for all Muslims in Makkah was in fact originally a Hindu shrine before it was taken over by the prophet. How true this is I have no idea but there is much written about it if you want to look online.

rajkumar on June 10, 2012:

hi leanman and all indian........ i am from india working as an engineer recently i get an oppurtunity to work in dammam including fooding an accomadation.. just i want to know the culture of arabian in dammam i belong to hindu family.. is there any hindu temple ?? is there any resistriction for worship of hindu'god or godess ....

if any body knws about the indian culture and locality in dammam plz tell me.......

Tony (author) from At the Gemba on June 01, 2012:

Hi Shahnawazu, I would suggest any salary that makes you happy! While you may have been implementing lean in the UK your name suggests origins other than the UK and Saudis are apt to offer wages on your country of origin rather than the skills that you have to offer.

That being said, go to and you will find that they have salary details for many jobs across the region including Saudi Arabia so you will be able to check what others are getting for similar roles.

Good luck with you work there, feel free to contact me using the "contact leanman" below my profile picture top right.

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