There are a number of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) available for you to find information on working and living in Saudi Arabia. Click on the individual headings to bring up relevant questions on different topics. 

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Gulf (2,217,949 square kilometers), with coastlines on the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. It borders Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Republic of Yemen. Most of the 29 million population is concentrated in coastal areas and interior oases. A large majority of the land mass consists of vast, empty deserts. The capital city is Riyadh. Other important cities include Jeddah (close to the holy cities of Makkah and Medinah), Dammam/Khobar,Tabuk and Abha.
Islam is the official religion of Saudi Arabia. Prayer calls occur five times per day and during these periods shops and restaurants close for about 20 minutes to allow workers to pray. Islam is also the basis of the legal system.
Men usually wear a thobe which is a long dress made of silk or cotton. It comes in different colors depending on the weather. However, causal outfits are worn for different occasions. Saudi women wear an abaya (a lightweight cloak, usually black, that drapes over their clothing), a scarf and sometimes a veil, whenever they are outside or in the company of men. Fashionable and modern outfits are worn by women for indoor female-only gatherings.
The official language is Arabic. English is the language of operation for many businesses and, given the vast expat population, it often becomes the common language of communication.
In general, Saudi has a desert climate with day temperatures that can reach over 50oC in June and/or July (average 450C) but falling dramatically in the evenings. The heat is hardly noticed nowadays as all enjoy climate controlled environments at home, at work and in cars. In winter the temperature rarely drops below 00C, but a general lack of internal heating can make it feel colder. Annual rainfall is low, being heaviest around March, usually with thunderstorms. There is little humidity.
Yes, this is generally the case. Education is usually mixed in Kindergarten and boys can be taught in a girls’ building but in boys’ classes until Grade 3. From Grade 4 on, boys and girls are then taught in separate buildings, girls by women only and boys usually by men. For parent/teacher conferences and other school events, only male relatives attend for boys and only female relatives attend for girls. Male graduation ceremonies may be broadcast to mothers in a separate room via a video link. Hospitals have separate waiting areas for men, women and families. Women would normally be seen by female doctors. Restaurants usually have a family section and a single men section: a group of women would go to the family section. There is often the option of dining in private covered areas. Where meetings are held with males and females in attendance, there would normally be two seating areas, possibly with a screen around the female section. Women are not allowed to drive in KSA. A married woman may travel freely with her husband. Single women may travel with married couples or a close male relative; otherwise they need to hire a driver and should not sit in the front seat.
The lunar Hijri calendar is widely used by government authorities and by the general population; however, the Gregorian calendar is understood by all and is used officially by international companies.
The approximately 9 million foreign residents in Saudi Arabia are made up of citizens from around the world: Australians, Bangladeshis, Egyptians, Europeans, Filipinos, Indians, Malaysians, North Americans, Pakistanis, South Africans, Sri Lankans, etc.
Some expatriates prefer to live in a private housing complex commonly called a compound: this is an area of private property that is similar to a gated community and is often costly depending on the facilities such as swimming pools, fitness facilities, tennis courts, salons, and grocery stores. Other expatriates live in apartments or villas that are at reasonable prices.
There are no requirements for women to travel in groups, though many female expats feel more comfortable when traveling accompanied.
Like anywhere else, the social life in Saudi Arabia is what you make of it. QEHC often organizes trips to festivals, historical sites, embassy events, etc. Barbecues and pool parties are common, especially through the summer months on compounds. Many events take place within the Diplomatic Quarter (DQ) in Riyadh, including concerts and film nights. By law, unmarried couples may not travel or dine together off-compound without being in the company of a married couple. Restaurants have separate areas for family and single men.
There are organized athletic events planned by various expat groups. Weekly ‘Hash’ events to the desert include both casual walks and lengthy runs. Fitness clubs are available for both sexes, but can be costly: most people stick with pool facilities and tennis courts commonly available in housing complexes. Golf courses are available at the Intercontinental Hotel where both men and women can play. In addition, there are bowling centers and horse riding clubs. The Public Relations Team can provide you with more information about recreation centers upon arrival.
There are three daily English papers: Arab News, Saudi Gazette and Riyadh Daily. There are English-language bookstores available, but the stock can vary.
Do not bring books which are critical of Saudi Arabia or which are politically controversial into the country. Pornography is strictly prohibited. Travel guides about Saudi Arabia are acceptable. If your books have covers or pictures that may be offensive, it is best to remove them. DVDs may be checked at customs.
Men can apply for a driver's license when in Saudi Arabia and can even purchase a car. Women, on the other hand, are not permitted to drive in Saudi Arabia, but there are taxis readily available in major cities. (The official licensed taxis in Saudi Arabia are white).
All women in Saudi (including expats) are required to wear an abaya and carry a scarf that can be used to cover the hair if required, e.g. when entering government buildings. Colored embroidery, applique, etc. is allowed. Expats are not required to veil. Abayas can be purchased online and throughout Saudi Arabia. Female employees are taken abaya shopping during the orientation period. Women may wear make-up and jewelry as desired. Any type of shoe (e.g., sandals, flip-flops) can be worn publicly. At home and under your abaya you can wear whatever you wish.
No. However, it is best to keep tattoos covered, and piercings in non-traditional locations (e.g., the eyebrow, lips) may be frowned upon.
Alcohol and products containing alcohol are strictly prohibited by law. Bringing them into the country, and/or purchasing or drinking alcohol is prohibited in Saudi Arabia.
Smoking is legal in Saudi Arabia, but women are prohibited from smoking in public, especially at their work location.
Most things that are available in the West are available in Saudi Arabia, with the exception of items that are prohibited, such as alcohol, pornography, and pork products. • Pharmacies stock most medicines that are needed and many pharmaceuticals can even be obtained over the counter. • High-end clothing and sportswear items are easy to find. However, dressing rooms are not available for trying products on. Tailors are easy to find where items can be made for you. • Electronics stores are plentiful with the latest computer, audio and video equipment. Expect to find censored videos and DVDs. • Gold souqs (markets) are popular with expatriates for jewelry shopping. It is easy to leave Saudi Arabia with a sizable gold collection.
Saudi Arabia caters to all cuisines. In addition to being able to sampleall kinds of Arabic food, Saudi is full of Western and Asian cuisines such as Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Filipino, Mexican, Turkish, and Indian. Standard Western chains such as McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Dunkin' Donuts and Dairy Queen exist. Fresh produce is readily available at supermarkets and fruit and vegetable souqs (markets) also provide excellent fresh produce. Alcohol and pork products are not permitted.
Adult education: Expatriates who want to take degree courses (e.g., graduate studies, MBA) usually enroll in distance education or online courses at institutions in their own country. Only Saudi nationals are permitted to enroll in post-secondary governmental institutions in the Kingdom. However, expats can enroll in other private schools and universities. Kindergarten - Grade12: Saudi is full of international schools for expats that teach British, American, French or New Zealander curriculum. There are also some international schools affiliated to embassies.
There is relatively little crime in Saudi Arabia as the level of violence is far less than one would find in a country of comparable size in the West, and the security level is high. Generally, Westerners say they feel safe.
When traveling abroad one should always register with one's embassy or consulate. The major cities of Riyadh and Jeddah are home to many government ministries, foreign embassies and consulates.
The voltage can be either 120 or 220 volts, more commonly 220. Sockets may be two-prong or three-prong (British style).
It is not appropriate to take pictures of government buildings or Saudi nationals, especially Saudi women. During the holy month of Ramadan it is not permissible to eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum in public places during daylight hours. Women should not offer to shake hands unless, of course, the hand of the other person is offered first.
Until late June 2013, the weekend was Thursday and Friday but was changed to Friday and Saturday to bring it in line with the other Gulf countries. All teachers work from Sunday to Thursday. On a few occasions you may be asked to work on Saturday with an overtime/time back reward.
You shall be required to attend work for eight (8) hours per day (Sunday to Thursday), teaching around 25 hours weekly. In addition to these hours, you will undertake course preparation, marking and general course administration, oral examination training and conducting oral examinations without additional remuneration.
The school year is made up of two semesters with a week-long break between them. The first semester includes a one-day holiday for National Day (23rd September) and this year includes a three-day Eid al Adha holiday after Hajj. There is also one-week vacation in March. An academic calendar will be included in your welcome pack in August.
Your coworkers will be educational professionals and support staff from Saudi Arabia and countries around the world: North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, etc.
Although English is the working language at many institutions, your colleagues come from all over the world, so English may be a second language to many of them.
Professional dress is expected. For men, business casual is appropriate (dress shirt and dress pants/trousers). For women, in areas where men are not regularly in attendance, wearing the abaya is not necessary: professional looking long skirts and sleeved blouses that cover the shoulders and come to the elbow are required (in any color). Necklines should be conservative and sheer fabrics should be avoided. Hair styles and accessories may be worn as personally desired.
Internet is provided in your accommodation. All internet traffic is processed through centralized servers that filter any content contrary to Islamic values, so some sites will not be available (particularly those with content that is sexually explicit, religious, or violent). Each employee is provided with a work laptop in order to fulfill professional responsibilities.
The Saudi Riyal (also spelled Rial), commonly referred to as the SR or SAR, has been fixed at a stable rate to the US dollar since the early 1980s, with the rate being US$1 = SR3.75.
There is no income tax deducted in Saudi Arabia, and there is no sales tax. However, your foreign income may be taxed in your home country.
You are paid monthly, in Saudi Riyals, by direct deposit into a local bank at the end of each Gregorian month.
QEHC will provide you with a temporary bank card upon arrival in order to access your pay. Once you have received your residence card (iqama), you will then be able to open a bank account. QEHC will provide the necessary information to assist in this.
Yes. ATM machines accept most cards from all over the world via systems like Visa, Cirrus and Plus. You can also get an ATM card for your local Saudi account. Occasionally machines have trouble with "chip cards."
Saudi Arabia is generally a cash society, but credit cards are accepted in major department stores and major hotel restaurants. Generally souks and local establishments do not accept credit cards.
Saudi Arabia is considered a very suitable place for saving due to its reasonable living cost. However, brand names and imports can be expensive, compared to the prices at home (where they may not be imports).
Our comprehensive recruitment process can be easily followed on this recruitment portal.
Your contract begins after arrival to Saudi Arabia and signing the final contract at QEHC’s head office. However, your pay will be counted as per the first day at work which is usually one day after your arrival. A full contract term is for the duration of a nine month academic year; however, your arrival date will determine the length of your contract.
Yes. The first 90 days is the probationary period in which the company and/or the employee have the right to terminate the contract without prior notice. In the event the employee is fired or resigns during this period, return flights will not be provided.
Each employee is provided with Class B medical insurance. The employee can upgrade her/his insurance class at his/her own cost.
QEHC presently has accommodations where all employees reside. Type of accommodation is based on availability and may require shared housing.
Cutlery, dishes, pots, pans, a kettle, and toaster come with the apartment, as do basic appliances such as a fridge and hotplates. Depending on your accommodation, washers and dryers are either in the individual apartment unit or in a communal laundry room (for which there is no charge). Utilities are included, as are basic TV channels.
Yes. For one contractual academic year QEHC provides two one-way economy-class tickets: one for your arrival to KSA on contract commencement and the second for departure from KSA upon contract completion.
No. Also, for logistical reasons, QEHC cannot honor requests to fly specific airlines, nor can we accommodate requests for additional or extended stops on your way to or from Saudi Arabia. QEHC has contracted with a travel agency to book its employees’ tickets. The ticket is usually booked for Economy Class with a maximum of 2 stops and 5 hours’ layover time (based on the distance). Any requested upgrade in the flight ticket or extra services will be funded by the employee.
Yes. As your recruiting company, QEHC will request your visa from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Obtaining a Saudi work visa is a lengthy and complex process which requires verification of educational and experience credentials, an extensive medical examination, and a police clearance. The process varies depending on nationality.
In order to stay and work in Saudi Arabia, you must obtain a residency visa. Residency visas are arranged by QEHC, and once you receive your residency visa, you will receive an "iqama" which is a residency permit. The iqama is similar in appearance to a driver's license — it has an identifying digital photo of you and carries your personal identifying information. You should carry it at all times. It is usually required to gain admittance to a compound or an embassy event (for which you must already be on the gate list).
Initially, you will enter Saudi Arabia on a temporary work visa that is valid for three months, sponsored by QEHC. Once you arrive, HR personnel will ask for your passport to process your iqama. The iqama usually takes from a week to 3 weeks, and is dependent upon procedures such as the company sponsored medical examination after arrival.
Upon entry into Saudi Arabia, HR personnel will request your passport in order to start the iqama process. Upon completion of this process you will receive your iqama and your passport will be returned.
While you are waiting to receive your residency permit (iqama), it is not possible to leave the country. After you obtain your iqama, you will be able to leave and re-enter the country with permission by QEHC and by the institution only on vacations (weekends or long vacations). For this you will need an exit/re-entry visa: the cost is 200 SR for each single visa you request. It is usually fast to process but you should request it at least three days in advance – longer at times when there may be high demand.
You are entitled to paid leave at the end of the academic year. All leave must be approved by QEHC and the direct institution. Employees are not typically given approval to take leave time away except on national holidays, Eid holidays and any approved breaks during the academic year. Employees can take their paid annual leave upon completion of the contract so as not to disrupt the academic year.
As per KSA law, employees are not allowed to sponsor friends or extended family members. Males are allowed to sponsor only close family members (spouse and children) as dependents. Females are approved to sponsor immediate family in certain cases. However, any employee can request a visit visa for parents, spouses, and children at any time and will be responsible for all costs associated with their visit (e.g., visa, flight, accommodations).