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Article Details



Tips for newcomers to Saudi Arabia


by Expatguru - 09/28/2012


"This article focusses on what visitors and first-timers to Saudi Arabia can bring and what they cannot, with important tips."


As with any foreign country, first-time visitors to Saudi Arabia need to know what to carry and more importantly, what not to carry into the kingdom. I have tried to give a brief idea about this, so that you are well-prepared before you arrive.

To begin with, let me explain about what you cannot bring. Alcohol is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Carrying or dealing with narcotics is a big NO. In fact, if you are caught with narcotics, you would face death penalty by beheading. Saudi Arabia has zero tolerance for drug peddlers. People from South East and Southern Asia sometimes unknowingly bring poppy seeds (locally called ‘khas khas’) with them. Though this is routinely used in small quantities in food items in those regions, this is strictly banned in the kingdom. Of course, if you are a non-Muslim, never bring in any kind of religious stuff such as crucifixes, idols, religious books and pictures, etc.

If you need to carry personal medication, make sure that you have your doctor’s prescription otherwise they would be seized by the Saudi Customs at the airport. By the way, almost all medicines are available locally in pharmacies. Note however, that non-allopathic medicines (Ayurveda, homoeopathy, etc.,) are prohibited. In short, if you are not so sure, do not bring it. In case you are suffering from some chronic ailment, do remember to bring your medical records as it would help in further treatment in the kingdom. Primary health centers are available in almost all towns but specialized treatment in large hospitals is available only in major cities of the kingdom. In any case, health insurance is compulsory (responsibility of your sponsor) so not to worry.

Power supply in the kingdom is at 60 Hertz, which means that electrical equipment manufactured outside the Americas would not work. There are two voltages, 220V and 110V, but by year 2015 the Saudi Government has made it mandatory to have only one voltage, i.e., 220V. I would advise you not to bring in any electrical equipment as almost everything is available locally. Don’t bother to carry flat-to-round adapters or vice versa as they are all available in plenty in any supermarket.

Do bring in at least some 20 to 25 color photographs as you may require them for filling various forms, at least in the first month of your arrival. This would save you the trouble of rushing to the studio. Also bring your personal toiletry such as soap, paste, shampoo, etc., to see you through the initial few days till you get your first salary. And don’t forget to bring your original driving license as it would help you easily get a local license.
Do not forget to bring adequate personal clothing as weather conditions are severe in the kingdom, both in summer and in winter. Quality clothing is certainly available, but is rather expensive.

Finally, never take any baggage from fellow passengers while checking in, for your own safety. Trust you found these tips useful.

Expatguru


(5 Votes)

Views: 32622

24 comment(s)


Allen Smith
Saturday 29 September 2012, 12:01 am
25 photographs! I really wonder why they would need so many of them..

Expatguru
Saturday 29 September 2012, 12:06 am
Allen, you would in fact need more than 25 if you intend staying in the kingdom for at least a couple of years. What I have mentioned is only for the initial period - eg., opening bank account, driving license, iqama creation and so on, just to make your life easier after you land in KSA.

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R.M.
Monday 1 October 2012, 5:09 pm
Are you allowed to bring in religious books for your own personal use? It seems a bit odd for these to be banned, since Saudis surely don't expect every non-Muslim foreigner in the country to be an atheist.

Anne Osman
Thursday 18 October 2012, 9:57 am
The problem with religious books is that they're afraid that you are a missionary. Download the books you want to read once you arrive. Don't sweat the pictures. You can have them duplicated cheaply in Jeddah. If you like to take dietary supplements, such as you would buy at a place like GNC, it's much, much cheaper to bring them. We have GNC stores, but they're not fully stocked and very expensive. Just make sure you have documentation showing what the pills are for! Also things like branded athletic shoes are widely available but ridiculously expensive.

sarah
Tuesday 3 September 2013, 9:09 pm
what about regular vitamins?do you need to explain why u have them or are they allowed?

cynthia lj
Thursday 18 October 2012, 10:43 am
OK, been 5 years in the Kingdom, and worked for 2 different companies. I NEVER EVER had to provide 25 pictures, nor does the iqama process requires 25 pics. I have often read that though, and I'm really surprised: I have worked both for a private company here and for the government, and they asked me, what, 4 pics for the iqamah? Yes u do need to bring ur prescription along with ur pills, in case when they'd ask, as it has happened that they have seized the medecine. However, know that a lot of the meds sold in the West for outrageous prices can be found here for not even a quarter of the price sometimes: u just need to speak to a doc.

Expatguru
Tuesday 23 October 2012, 10:48 am
@Cynthia, I NEVER said that the Iqama process requires 25 photographs. I said that you need 25 photographs for a variety of purposes such as opening bank account, applying for driving license, iqama process, applying for a credit card, and so on. I have been in the kingdom for over 12 years and can say with absolute certainty that one can never have enough of these photographs. Unless of course you want to spend money and time in the local photo studio.

antonio
Tuesday 27 May 2014, 6:29 am
I am using anti deppresant pills,with xanax(which I take every third day),.Is it possible that I can bring it there for personal use.

R.H.
Friday 19 October 2012, 11:25 pm
I also found the strong wording about never bringing in religious paraphernalia to be quite harsh. People should be aware that the official policy is to ALLOW this material for personal use, in practice however, the application of this policy may not always be perfect. Certainly one Holy Bible will not be misconstrued as prosthelytizing. The problem is that the customs official might not see it that way and seize it. However, printed matter (especially if it's just a book or two) most likely won't be a problem given that most of the customs officials can't read or speak English. Bringing in 25 copies of the same book might lead them to find out what it is. With respect to religious icons, paintings, etc.--don't bring it in if it is priceless because there is always the chance that it could be seized.

Expatguru
Tuesday 23 October 2012, 10:53 am
@ R.H., you are precisely correct. The problem is that while the "official" policy may allow material for personal use, in practice you never know whether or not you bump into some religiously oriented guy at the airport. I guess it is better to be extra cautious.

YASIN AL-YASIN
Saturday 3 November 2012, 10:33 pm
Hi; Any advice for teaching jobs in SAUDI? I ama qual\ified CAMBBRIDGE CELTA Teacher

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Tuesday 4 December 2012, 6:37 am
These tips are very helpful for people opting for career in gulf countries, specially Saudi to be exact. http://www.comvita.com.au/ingredients-and-benefits/about-olive-leaf.html

Mahmood Hussain
Monday 24 March 2014, 7:52 am
I came to Riyadh in Nov 2013 on the post of a civil engineer in a company. Last month I signed a one-year rental contract and paid a 6-month advance rent, for an apartment in a building. Now I find that there is acute shortage of water in this building. After making enquiries from other tenants of the building I found out that the Municipality has disconnected the water connection because of the owner not paying the water bills for years. The owner is hardly getting one tanker once in 2 weeks, which is sufficient only for about 2 days for 10 apartments of the building. All the tenants of the building have tried their best with the owner sort out the problem, but to no avail. In such a situation, is it possible for me to cancel the rental contract. If yes, will I get back the balance of my advance. Please advise.

Mahmood Hussain
Monday 24 March 2014, 7:53 am
I came to Riyadh in Nov 2013 on the post of a civil engineer in a company. Last month I signed a one-year rental contract and paid a 6-month advance rent, for an apartment in a building. Now I find that there is acute shortage of water in this building. After making enquiries from other tenants of the building I found out that the Municipality has disconnected the water connection because of the owner not paying the water bills for years. The owner is hardly getting one tanker once in 2 weeks, which is sufficient only for about 2 days for 10 apartments of the building. All the tenants of the building have tried their best with the owner sort out the problem, but to no avail. In such a situation, is it possible for me to cancel the rental contract. If yes, will I get back the balance of my advance. Please advise.

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I'm moving in August for a 3 year teaching contract at a University in Riyadh. There are meds I've been on for years. I've been told that I am allowed to bring a one month supply of each as long as I have a letter from each doctor explaining diagnosis, treatment, reason for med. One is a pain med. Will my doctor's letter allow that?

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