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The Guide for living and working in Saudi Arabia
A guide, information, advice and useful addresses.

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Political Status Geographical situation
Economy & statistics


Other sectors
Weights, measures and voltages
Main towns


Entry formalities:
Health & medicine


Connections with France
Time differences
Car rental
Hotels & restaurants
Your suitcase
Your car
Schools & schooling
Cost of Living


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City Ville Guide

The Guide for living and working in Saudi Arabia
A guide, information, advice and useful addresses.
1 - Political Status

The political regime is one of an Islamic Arab monarchy with a constitution which is based on the fundamental Saudian law.
The King holds total power which is delegated symbolically by the people during the ceremony of the oath of allegiance of the monarch.
The head of state is the King Fahd Ibn Add al-Aziz (born in 1921).
His heir is his brother the Prince Abdallah Ben Abdul Aziz (born in 1924).

Legislative power :
The consultative Assembly (Majlis al Choura) is made up of 90 members designated by the King for a four year term of office.
The Constitution : The Koran and the Charia are codes of law inspired by the Koran and the Sunna which take their teachings from the life of the Prophet.

Historical Outline :

1902 and 1926 The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was created by Ibn Saoud.
1932 The Kingdom was permanently established by Abdel Aziz al Saoud.
1962 The abolition of slavery
25th March 1975 assassination of King Faycal, King Khaled succeeded to the throne.
1982 Death of King Khaled, the present monarch King Fahd succeeded to the throne.
1987 Diplomatic relations with Iran were broken off following a confrontation in Mecca between Iranian pilgrims and Saudian security forces (402 victims).
2nd April 1990 Irak, under Sadam Hussein, threatened Saudi Arabia and invaded Kuwait.
King Fahd called upon the Allied forces to protect his kingdom.
2nd July 1990 1,425 people died in riots during the pilgrimage to Mecca
1991 The Saudian government signed an agreement with 20 banks for a loan of 4.5 billion dollars to pay the USA for the money spent during the Gulf War.
1992 Creation of a consulative Assembly and the creation of a law introducing human rights in the country
2 - Geographical situation

Saudi Arabia covers a total surface area of 2,149,690 sq.kms. which is four times the size of France.
The country is situated in the Middle East and is bordered by Jordan, Irak and Kuwait on the north and on the east by the Persian Gulf, Bahrein, Qatar and the United Arabic Emirates.
The Red Sea is to the west and Yemen and Oman to the south.
There are some mountainous regions with the reliefs of Chammar, Toulik and the Hedjaz plateau.
The rare rivers are called oueds.
The territory is composed of 98% desert or semi-desert zones.
It has two sea coastlines : 650 kms on the Persian Gulf and 1,760 kms on the Red Sea.
The population density is 7 inhabitants per square kilometer.
The Island of Bahrein has been attached by a 30 km bridge to Saudi Arabia since 1986.

3 - Economy & Statistics

Saudi Arabia started producing oil in 1933. It is the biggest petrol producer in the world.

Saudi Arabia has hardly any other resources apart from petrol, except the annual pilgrimage to Mecca which brings in a large income to the country.

The Gulf War and its huge financial cost for the kingdom, combined with the fall in petrol prices, which reached their lowest point in 1997 at $9 a barrel, really gave the country cause to worry, as 80% of their income still comes from oil.

Subsidies, civil servant salaries, military expenditure, demographic pressure and the level of the internal debt (presently greater than the GDP) are contributing to the deficit in public finance.
The debt has reached worrying proportions, weakening the economy and stopping its developement. Structural reforms are necessary to ensure a continued growth.

Saudi Arabia is presently facing the challenge of modernizing while at the same time protecting its traditional values.
Reforms risk creating social tensions.
Officially unemployment doesn't exist, but in fact the employment situation is becoming more and more worrying.
The population has grown during these last fifteen years faster than the economic activity. 50% of Saudi Arabians are under 15 years of age.
To create sufficient jobs for these young people arriving on the job market the growth rate would have to be 6% per annum and it is only 2%.
There is not enough technical training in many of the sectors.

The country has requested membership of the WTO (World Trade Organization) in order to improve its access to the international petro-chemical markets.
To fulfill the requirements as well as to dynamize the economy, the government has undertaken reforms : liberalizing trade, changing the investment regulations, reforming the fiscal system and the capital market. Foreign industrials can now benefit from the same tax regime as Saudians and except for in the petrol, commerce and distribution sectors, can hold up to 100% of the capital in an entreprise.

The Saudi Arabian government has prepared a new investment code.
It was adopted on the 11th April 2000 by the Council of Ministers presided over by King Fahd.
These new regulations, which have been prepared over the last five years, will provide for the increase in the period of tax exemption from 10 to 20 years, for the lowering of the maximum rate of taxation on the foreign share in a co-enterprise, will allow losses to be carried over and will simplify the registration procedures for industrial co-entreprises and ease up on the system of 'sponsoring'.
**(see the text of the new code at the bottom of the section).

Saudi Arabia is a rich country with a GDP per capita of $US 9,000 in 1999, but its citizens must be convinced to repatriate the 700 billion dollars which they have invested abroad so that the private sector can find the necessary capital to diversify the economy.

Saudi Arabia has the most important economy in the Gulf region and with the perspective of a customs union between the Gulf countries by April 2005, the kingdom could become the portal to a market of over 27 million people.



economic growth (%)


inflation (%)


public balance/GDP (%)


petrol exports (billions of $)


average price per Saudian barrel ($/b)


other exports (billions of $)


imports (billions of $)


current balance/GDP (%)


external debt (billions of $)


of which short term debt (billions of $)


costs of the debt/exports (%)


Import-Export :

The main goods exported are petrol and refined products.
The main good imported are mechanical and transport equipment (40.4%), foodstuffs, tobacco and drinks (13%) and chemical products (11.3%).
Four different customs duties are used :
7%, 12%, 20% and 100%.
Some basic foodstuffs (meat, some cereals, sugar), fertilizers, orthopedic material and military equipment are exonerated from customs duties.
- the main suppliers are the USA (27.8%), Japan (10.3%), UK (11.8%), Germany, Italy and France
- the main clients are the USA, Japan and the European Union.
Since the Gulf War Saudi Arabia has been trying to diversify its suppliers to escape from the economical grip of the United States.

Division of the GDP by activity sector :

agriculture : 7.0%
industry : 9.7%
mining : 37.9%
services : 45.4%

** The text of the new foreign investment code
- Foreign companies can apply for an investment permit (licence), either temporary or permanent, to the SAGIA, an organization which has been created to deal with the new code
- The SAGIA has to reply to the applicant within 30 days, counting from the day that the bone fida dossier was deposited by the foreign company : once this date is passed, if there has been no reply from the SAGIA, permission is considered as given.
- The supreme economic Council will publish a list of sectors in which foreign investment is not possible
- A foreign company can eventually obtain more than one licence in different sectors of activity
- Foreign investors with a licence can own their own installations, including the personnel housing, which is necessary for the exercise of their economic activities
- A foreign investment project which conforms to the new code can benefit from the same advantages, incentives and guarantees as a Saudian projet
- Capital which has been invested can be freely transferred, either totally or partially, abroad
- A foreign investor can be his own 'sponsor', as well as that of his employees.
- Investments held by foreigners can only be confiscated, either totally or partially, if there is a legal decision to do so, and any expropriation caused in the need of public interest should be compensated correctly.
In the case of a conflict with the Saudian authorities, the foreign investor can resort to a procedure of amicable arrangement

4 - Agriculture

In spite of the aridity of the country, agriculture is a very important activity.
The government heavily subsidizes the sector and encourages modern agricultural techniques, creating research and training centres.
The aim is to reach the point of self-sufficiency.

There has been huge government subsidies to install desalination units to treat sea water in the struggle against the encroaching desert, and Saudi Arabia is today one of the best equipped countries in the world with a daily production of 2 million cubic meters of fresh water.

Saudi Arabia has a high enough production to be able to export dates, milk products and flowers, but it still has to import cereals.
It is the biggest importer of barley in the world and imported 7 million tons of wheat in 1999.

Agricultural production
(in millions of tons , of head )



















5 - Industry & mining

The mining sector employs 2% of the labour force and represents 36% of the GNP.
The industrial sector employs 24% of the labour force and represents 16% of the GNP.

Natural gas : 47.5 million tons (10th biggest producer in the world).
Petrol : 412 million tons (biggest producer in the world).
Petrol reserves : 33,385 million tons (biggest in the world).
Reserves of natural gas : 6,426 million tons (5th biggest in the world).

The wells are situated on the west bank of the Persian Gulf.
Natural gas has also been exploited since 1961 in huge industrial complexes (Jubail).

Saudi Arabia has the biggest petrol reserves in the world and its status as the biggest world producer guarantees it a dominating position within OPEC.
Petrol represents 90% of the export returns and 80% of the national budget, the moment there is a drop in the price of crude oil the economy suffers because of this dependence. 95% of Saudian petrol is produced by the national company Aramco for account of the government.

In a totally different domain, Saudi Arabia is reviving the secondary building sector.
It is a market which is open to foreign products and there is a high demand in the electricity field.
An Italian company has been charged with building an electrical power station in Riyadh. 
Other housing projects have been planned over the next ten years.

Saudi Arabia's candidacy for the WTO and the necessity to diversify its industry is bound to radically change the industrial scene.
The government has decided to develope and modernize its sectors of energy, petro-chemicals, banks and insurances.
At the same time the government is developing a programme of education and training for its citizens.

Nearly 39% of the industrial added value in the country comes from the chemical industry (methanol, ethylene, ammoniac, urea and light and heavy oils).

The main Saudia Arabian industries are : fertilizers, insolating material, soda, resin, bricks and tiles, ornamental stones, cement, plaster, sanitary installations, glass containers, salt, adhesives, sodium silicate, titanium doixide of titanium

6 - Other sectors

The service sector employs 65% of the working population and represents 41% of the GNP.
Saudi Arabia has launched large scale investment and economic reconversion programmes.
All the sectors are growing and the country has a very modern life style, the main areas to continue developing are medical, commercial, large scale distribution and foodstuffs.
Big American enterprises are present in nearly every domain, from Panda and Safeways supermarkets, which are open 24 hours, to big industrial farms of 50,000 hectares (glasshouses, intensive wheat growing...) not to mention the numerous para-military activities.

It must be noted that there are three distinct categories of consumers :
- royalty, the aristocracy and the big families of tradespeople and entrepreneurs (30,000 - 40,000 people)
- 13 million Saudians who have an average income of 120,000 FF.
They spend about two thirds of their income on consumer goods and foodstuffs.
- 4 million immigrant workers who are both unqualified and in a precarious situation.

Saudians are very attracted to modern products and new technologies, it is they who own the most computers per capita in the Middle East.
There are already 400,000 internet users among them.
These internet users are very interested in shopping sites, in fact 52% of them have already bought articles on the web compared to 23% which is the average number of international shoppers.

7 - Population

The latest census shows a population of 20,738,920.
There are 1,900,000 inhabitants living in Riyadh, which is the capital.
The majority of the population are Arabs, but there are nearly five million foreigners living in Saudi Arabia (27%).
The main expatriate communities are Indians (1,228,000), Egyptians (1,195,000), Pakistanis (778,600), Philippinos (460,000), Bangladeshis (446,200) and Yemenites (424,300).
There are also 35,000 Americans, 30,000 British, 5,000 French and 2,500 Germans residing in Saudi Arabia.
The population density is 7 inhabitants per sq. km.

0 - 14 year olds : 41.15%
15 - 64 year olds : 56.07%
65 years and over : 2.78%
life expectancy 71.91 years
population at an age to work : 11 million
- of which are working : 7 million

demographic expansion 1997-2015 : +3.1%
urban population : 86%
child mortality : 21%
energy consumption per capita TOE : 4.75
Population without drinking water : 5%
population without sanitary installations : 14%
n° of doctors per 1000 inhabitants : 1.3
telephone lines per 1000 inhabitants : 117
mobile telephones per 1000 inhabitants : 17
private cars per 1000 inhabitants : 90
n° of computers per 1000 inhabitants : 43.6
adult illiteracy : 27%
secondary schooling/age class : 61%
graduates/age class : 16%

8 - Language
The official language is Arabic, the second most used language is English.
Not knowing Arabic is not an obstacle to working in the country.

9 - Religion

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country
Friday is the day of prayer in the mosques.
Mecca and Medina are the holy centres of the Islamic religion
Religious affiliations : 98% Muslims (mostly Sunnites), 0,8% Christians, 0,4% others.

10 - Weights, measures & voltage

The electrical voltage is 110-220V nearly everywhere and electricity is free throughout the country.
The plugs in use vary, mainly they are American types, but you will also find British or German types.

11 - Money

The currency is the Riyal (SAR) which has a fixed parity with the US dollar.
1 Riyal = 1.837 F.
1FF = 0.55 SAR
1$ = 3.75 SAR
1 euro = 3.5702 SAR

There are no regulations or restrictions on transferring money.

All international credit cards are accepted.

12 - Main towns


with its 2,000,000 inhabitants is situated on the Red Sea.
It is a modern town with a large port.
The airport is 30 kms out of town, a taxi to town costs about 100 FF.
Temperatures go from + 25° in January-February to + 45° in July-August
Office opening times : 8am to 1pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm

Is the capital of the company, there are 3,100,000 inhabitants.
It is a modern town with the royal palaces in it.
The population has enormously increased and so has building.
The airport is 45 kms out of town, a taxi to town costs about 100 FF.
Temperatures go from + 10° in winter to + 50° in summer.
Office opening times : 8am to 2.30pm (administrations), 8am to 1pm and 4.30pm to 7.30pm (private)

(1 million inhabitants) is the centre of the Islamic world with its large mosque which holds the Kaaba
(the Black Stone) which is venerated by the Muslims
Non-Muslims are forbidden entry to Mecca
It is situated at 80 kms from the Red Sea.

(0.4 million inhabitants) is the second holy town in Saudi Arabia.
It is in this town that there is the Mausoleum of Mohammed.
The town is a commercial centre with an agricultural market of citrus fruit and dates.

(0.6 million inhabitants) is situated on the western bank of the Persian Gulf.
It is a modern town.

(0.3 million inhabitants) is situated in the north

(0.4 million inhabitants), situated near Djeddah and Mecca

13 - Climate

The climate is very hot with large temperature variations.
It is tropical and humid on the coast.
In the middle of the desert the temperature goes over 50°C in summer.
The average desert climate goes from 18° to 38°C
In the mountain regions the climate is cooler.
In Ryadh the climate is very hot during the three summer months, but is generally pleasant during the rest of the year with the dry and bracing air of the desert.
Djeddah, on the contrary, is very humid.

14 - Insects

There are scorpions in the desert.
There are a lot of mosquitoes, which are active all the year round, particularly after sundown.

15 - Working in the country

Muslims have to pay a religious tax called the Azakat, which represents 2.5% of their assets. There is also a tax on profits which for foreigners goes from 25 to 40%

Before leaving:
Languages :
It is a good idea to take Arabic lessons, but English is used everywhere. The quality of the job that you can get will possibly depend on your level of English. There are several institutions in France where you can brush up your English.

If you are employed by a French or international company:
In the case where your employer is a French or international company you don't have to deal with administrative formalities, the administrative services in the country usually deal with the formalities for all the expatriate staff. You will only have to deal with them yourself if you are the only representative of your company in the country (commercial agent, in charge of a liaising office, etc ...).

Preparing for your departure and looking for a job :
You could start by looking for information by writing to French associations existing in the country, to Trade Commissions, to the commercial services of foreign banks in France or French banks in Saudi Arabia. The French consulate usually has a service dealing with jobs and training and can put you in touch with companies wishing to employ French personnel.

The French Chamber of Commerce also offers information about the job market and the most dynamic sectors of the economy and they also edit a bulletin for French companies and local members. You could publish a job application in this bulletin.

The Trade Commission in Saudi Arabia or the CFCE in Paris can let you consult their list of French companies set up in Saudi Arabia.

There is a comprehensive documentation about the country available from the cultural service of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Paris.

You could also make a personal appointment with the Franco-Saudian Chamber of Commerce to complete your information and to obtain professional advice.

While you are looking for information you could also contact companies directly and send in an application proposing your services.

There is often relevant information to be found in international Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Directories and files on the country will be useful in looking for important bits of information concerning the sectors of activity and the local economic conditions.

Specialized organisms such as the ANPE, the APEC, the APECITA and the ILO can also be of help.

Where to look for job offers :
In the French press (Le Monde, Le France Soir, Figaro, Moniteur du Batiment, Expat magazine..) for French companies sending people abroad.

In the international press nearly all the big daily papers have a column or a section of job offers (The European, The Guardian, Vacature, Corriere della Sera, La Tribune de Genève ...)

You can often find international job offers via the bigger employment agencies and temporary work agencies.

Via Internet you can get easy access to several data banks offering jobs locally.

Writing your CV and the accompanying cover letter :
Sending in information about yourself is the first step to getting an interview, so it's very important that you do it properly.

Your CV must be in English, clearly set out, typewritten and very detailled. It should be accompanied by a handwritten covering letter. Some companies are not very interested in graphology, but it is still advisable to write your letter by hand.

Don't forget to attach a recent photo, preferably where you are smiling.

It is not necessary to send in all the documents as proof of your diplomas, work certificates etc with the first letter. If you mention all the important points in your CV and give the addresses of former employers, so that they can eventually be contacted, it is sufficient initially.

If ever you should think of arranging a CV to suit the employer's requirements, you should know that according to a study made by the Florian Mantione Institute, your CV has a 45% chance of being checked by the prospective employer, 34% of the candidates are eliminated following that verification, and that 60% of the checks are done with the previous employer.

So, whatever your motives for adapting your CV, you should know that it will not help you during future interviews and could possible play against you.

Questions you should ask yourself before expatriation :
Ø What exactly is the mission ?
Ø What is the length of the contract ?
Ø Are you going alone or with your family?
Ø What is the life like locally ?
Ø Have you thought about coming back, how you will manage to get reinstalled financially?
Ø Do you have the right character to be an expatriate ?

Qualities you need :
Ø emotional stability (so that you can react rapidly to all kinds of situations).
Ø autonomy, (can you make important decisions on your own)
Ø mobility and availability, are you able to relocate quickly?
Ø social contact, (don't forget that an expatriate is an ambassador for his country in his working and his social life ).
Ø accomodating (you can easily adapt to changes of culture, climate and way of life)
Ø the ability to accept and understand cultural differences
Ø tolerance and respect for other people's habits and traditions.

Family: Your partner should share your ambitions, this is very important and can play in the recruiting choice.
Some companies, particularly if the offer is for a long term job, want to interview the candidate's partner to check that there are no conflicts in the couple which could eventually disturb the mission.

For the interview :
Punctuality is appreciated all over the world. Be on time for your interview.
Whatever post you are applying for, dress well, you will be judged on your appearance and the way you dress.
First interviews can be short but can also last for several hours if your application is found to be interesting, depending on the position to be filled, and if you have to do psychotechnical tests (handwriting analyses) or aptitude tests.
Be careful not be appear pretentious about your know-how, or to exaggerate your professional abilities. Emphasise your real competence, your ease of adaption, your mobility, your ability to work in a team and your willingness to bring in any experience you have gained.
Don't forget that unemployment is high nearly everywhere in the world.

Foreign companies often like to show that they employ expatriates in their company. International personnel can bring in experience and knowledge which is beneficial for the company.

Salaries : It can be difficult to negociate a salary, especially when you are not sure of the cost of living in the country. Higher salaries could mean that the cost of living is higher also. If you are employed by a French company you will normally have a salary which gives you an equivalent standard of living to the one you had in France.
For several reasons, particularly concerning the salary and social cover it is often preferable to go abroad with a European or international company. The salary is usually calculated on a portion "European base" which can be paid either in Europe or abroad plus a living allowance. This living allowance will be calculated by the company from up-to-date information coming from the French Embassy or other companies in the country.

Taxes : (see our guide for expatriates) If you are employed locally you will have to pay the taxes in the country. If you should have an international contract you could have a tax free salary. In some countries taxes are taken off the salary at source by the employer.

Accomodation - car - fringe benefits : If you are employed locally it is very unlikely that you will be able to negotiate housing. Whether or not you get a car will depend on your function and your place in the hierarchy of the company. On the other hand if you are an expatriate with an international company you will probably have accomodation, car, travel allowance, return trips home etc included in your contract.

Working conditions : The local work conditions will be applied with their advantages and their inconveniences.
Sometime work or living conditions can be difficult for foreigners abroad, particularly if you happen to be dealing with an important site in an inhospitable zone, but this is not often the case.
If you have an international contract you will normally have 15 days home leave every three months, that is the usual rota in the Middle East.
If on the other hand, you have a local contract, regular paid leave periods with air tickets will be very difficult to negotiate.
With an international company you will have no administrative problems with police, customs, immigration, taxes, visas or consular declarations, the companies usually have a service which deals with all that for their personnel and handles any problems that should come up.

Working hours will be the local ones, foreign companies are subject to the legal obligations in force in the country.

16 - Entry Formalities
You need a passport which has at least still three months validity on it and where there must be no sign of an Israelian visa.
You are obliged to have a business visa which costs 200 FF for a short visit.
Attention : the country does not give tourist visas. The only foreigners admitted into Saudi Arabia are business men (and immigrant workers).

There is however the possibility of getting a 'visitors visa' if you are related to a foreign resident. All applicants have to have either a Saudian or a resident 'sponsor.' The visa is valid for 30 days.

17 - Health

The state of hygiene in the country :

The hospitals are well equipped and of an excellent quality.

Individual insurance is forbidden in principle. In spite of that there are 74 insurance companies operating in the Kingdom. It seems that individual medical insurance will be the first kind of insurance to become official and even obligatory for expatriates, and eventually also for the Saudians, and this will partially help towards financing public hospitals (which are free of charge at present for Saudi Arabians).

There is a risk of malaria in the south and the west, except in Djeddah, Medina, Makkah and Taif.
The vaccination against meningitis A&C is obligatory during the period of the pilgrimage to Mecca.
You must also have had a yellow fever vaccin if you come from an African country. It is a good idea to get vaccinated against cholera and follow a malaria treatment.
If you have not had the requisite vaccins you will be vaccinated on arrival and held in quarantine.

Household pets must be accompanied by their veterinary certificates.

18 - Flights
Attention pilgrims : For pilgrims arriving on special or normal flights, during or outside the pilgrimage period ("Umrah") :
- on foreign airlines you can only arrive in Jeddah
- by Saudi Arabian Airlines you can arrive by Dhahran, Jeddah or Medina
You must have all the necessary health certificates with you as well as a return airline ticket which mentions the fact that you are a pilgrim.

Saudi Airlines is classed as the best airline in the Middle East and has second place in the world rating out of 225 companies. It has 109 planes and makes 310 flights a day during the tourist season. Financially the company makes a loss though.

19 -Time differences
Between France and Saudi Arabia the time difference is +2 hours in winter and +1 hour in summer (Arabia is 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time).
20 - Telecommunications

To phone Saudi Arabia from France dial : 00 + 966 + the town code + the number
Djeddah : 2
Riyad : 1.
To phone France from Saudi Arabi : 00 33 + the number

Radio/Television :
The television has two main channels.

Press/Newspapers :
- Akhbar El Alam El Islami (weekly) «News of the Muslim World ».
- Arab News (daily).
- Arrajol « The Man », (monthly).
- Asharq al Awsat (daily).
- Al Jazira «The Island » (daily)
- El Nadoua (the only daily paper from Mecca)
21 - Car rental

It is possible to rent a car from agencies at the airports and in the big shopping malls.
An international driving licence is required.
Avis :
Al Khobar : tel 966 03 898 2800
Dammam : 966 03 857 7831
Dharan : airoport : 966 03 891 9488
Jeddah : 966 02 6669 2020, airport : 966 02 685 304
Jubail : 966 03 346 6777, Intercontinental Hotel : 966 03 341 1576
Juffali : 966 03 827 5256
Riyadh : 966 01 476 1300
Yanbu : 966 04 322 7588
All Avis cars are completely equipped, have done less than 15,000 kms and have an average age of 3 months. The vehicles are carefully prepared and checked between each rental using a procedure containing 7 obligatory control points. The cars are rented with a full tank.
Renting from Avis automatically means that the car passengers, renter and/or driver are covered by a third party insurance as well as an insurance covering repatriation and the immobilization of the vehicule in case of an accident.

You can reserve a car :
- from your travel agent
- from the international reservation centre at 0 820 05 05 05
- or from any Avis agency
Avis has an interactive network worldwide, a client can reserve a car instantly from anywhere in the world.

We recommend that you pay your rental using your accredited Avis card or with another credit card accepted by Avis : American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Diners.
Through a simple free membership system, Avis gives identity and/or payment cards, which are a real help for a rapid and efficient service.

REASSURING : No on-line payment, you can pay Avis directly at the agency when you return the car
RAPID : Avis has the quickest car rental reservation service on the web
ECONOMICAL : The cheapest rates on the market are available on the Avis microsite
COMPLETE : You can rent a car anywhere in the world.
The Avis network : 5000 agencies in 172 countries, is now on-line!
EFFICIENT : Find your town (you don't have to fill in the country), enter the date and click on estimate
PRACTICAL : You only have to fill in 4 boxes and you will receive an e-mail confirming the reservation.
You can even rent a vehicle at the last minute just round the corner or ... on the other side of the world.

22 - Your suitcase
Take a wardrobe of light, but very conventional clothing - no short skirts, shorts, exposed shoulders etc.
Women in Arabia have to be veiled and do not accompany their husbands on social occasions.

Women (local and foreign) have to wear the abaya, which is a wide black robe which covers them entirely, whenever they go out of the house.
23 - Information
Week-ends last from Thursday lunchtime until Friday evening.
Public holidays are religious Muslim days, the dates vary each year with the lunar calendar : the beginning of Ramadan, Id ul Fitr, the Islamic New Year, Id ul Adha, the anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
Shops close during the prayer times.

Alcohol is strictly forbidden.

Supermarkets are open 24 hours a day.

Rules and Regulations :
- you have to leave your passport with your sponsor
- you need a 'travel letter' if you are travelling in the country
(these two rules could ease up in the near future)
- women must wear an abaya (a long black robe which covers them to the floor) whenever they go out, they are not allowed to drive and are not allowed to have a job
- western women can go to Arabia on business but have to follow the conventions and are not allowed to participate in commercial exhibition.
24 - Banks

The Saudian banking sector is powerful, it represents 5% of the GNP, employs 20,000 people and there
are 1,235 agencies.
Monetary policy is the jurisdiction of the SAMA, the Saudi Monetary Agency, who play the role of a central bank and issue payments concerning government contracts
There are 10 commercial banks, three of which are totally Saudian - the National Commercial Bank, Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corporation and the Rijadh Bank. The other seven , amongst which are the Al Bank al Saudi al Fransi, (the Crédit Agricole-Indosuez), are co-enterprises with foreign banks but with a majority Saudian share.

25 - Schools and Education

There are a lot of schools in the country :
- the French School of Djeddah (up to the secondary 2nd cycle)
- the French School of Al Khobar (up to the secondary 1st cycle) at Dhahran Airport
- the French School of Riyad (up to the secondary 2nd cycle)

The weekly days off are Thursdays and Fridays.
The rate of adult illiteracy is 34%, compared to 2% in France.

There are also big Saudi organizations which are interested in obtaining aid to develope practical training programmes :
- the GOTEVOT, a general organization for technical and professional training
- the general management of institutes and colleges of health science for the Ministry of Health
- the general management for the education of girls (primary and secondary schooling) - it manages training institutes and colleges
- the SCECO, Saudi Consolidated Electric Company
- the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu

26 - Guides

It is a good idea to subscribe to a specialized magazine :
Middle East Economic Digest,
Arab Press Services,
Gulf Directory

There are also trade magazines published by the French administration :
« Le Marché du second-oeuvre du bâtiment aux Emirats Arabes Unis et en Arabie Saoudite », edited by CFCE
The notes of the French Trade Commission, Librairie du Commerce International, 10 ave d’Iéna, BP 428-16, 75769 Paris Cedex 16 - Tel (01) Fax (01)
Trade Commission Riyadh : Article on the priority sectors for prospecting French companies

27- Observations

Prohibited :
- The Israelian Sheqel ,
- alchoholic drinks,
- firearms or other weapons,
- drugs (except for prescribed medicines with a prescription),
- foodstuffs which have pork in them
- musical or theatrical shows

Most foodstuffs are not allowed into the country except for fruit, nuts, some sweets, the boxes must be easy to inspect.

For business, as the judicial system is based on the Charia, the Koranic law, contracts have to be made using a local lawyer and fiscal matters have to be dealt with via a local accountant
Agreements which have been signed out of the country are not recognized.

When you are addressing a government Minister, the President of a Chamber of Commerce or other dignitaries, you have to use the title "Your Excellency"
Members of the royal family are addressed as "Your Royal Highness"
A 'sheik' is an elder from a traditional tribe.

The bakchich is a polite welcome gift. It is a commercial instrument or an offering, a sign of sympathy or friendship for the person you are meeting with.

Saudi Arabians are skilful negotiators and big buyers.
They prefer man to man relationships, where the word of honour and trust given are essential.
Contacts are paradoxically warm and formal. There is no question of being 'buddies', formal dress is appreciated, it is risky to ask after the family, and all negotiations start with long discussions on general nothings.

Saudians hate confrontations, one of the bases of their culture is a constant search for consensus.
Decisions are taken after long discussions amid councils and commissions.
It is important, even essential, to understand the hierarchy among the people you are talking to, their family relationship and where they come from. A real underground network which takes lots of time to unravel and needs lots of investigation.

Take time, don't be in a hurry, give the impression that you have plenty of time : this universal way of showing interest is really appreciated in Saudi Arabia.


Until this year international tourism could only take place in the kingdom in one of three ways : religious, business or family visits.
Will Saudi Arabia choose to open to tourism now that there has been an opening in its investment policy? Last April a Tourist Commission was created and the authorities are defining their policies concerning foreign tourism.

Every year over 2 million pilgrims visit this country where Islamic traditions cohabit with a growing western way of life.
Saudi Arabia is the Holy Land of Islam.
The sacred mosque founded by Mohammed is in Mecca. The sanctuary founded by Abraham was already there where the Black Stone, which was given by the Archangel Gabriel, is venerated. It was already a place of pilgrimage long before the birth of the prophet. The communal pilgrimage takes place from the 7th to the 10th May. The town and the near surrounds of the town are forbidden to "unbelievers"under penalty of death.

Saudi Arabia is the kingdom of princes and black gold.
In the cities you will find mosques next to ultra-modern skyscrapers.

Nights are freezing cold and days are burning hot. There are often sand storms which last several days.

In the region of Assir, to the south of Djeddah, there are mountain landscapes where the Saudi Arabians enjoy coming to find a bit of cool air during the summer. Four national parks have been created here.
In the region of Djeddah you will find the charm of the Red Sea, a perfume of the orient hangs over the historical centre of the second biggest town in the country.
There is the Nabatheen site of Medain Saleh - a kind of Saudian Petra - which is situated at 50 kms to the north of Medina.
An then there is the desert, each Thursday night, on the eve of the weekend, the desert around Ryadh lights up with little lights. These are Saudian families who come out to the desert to get back to their roots and share a meal round a campfire


Since the petrol boom, small shops have given way to shopping malls where you can find Japanese, American and European goods.
The Jamjoom City Center is the second biggest shopping mall in the world with 750 shops and 300 offices. The souks and the supermarkets are open until 10 pm.


Most of the art work comes from the Yemenites who for a long time were considered and treated as slaves by the Saudi Arabians.
The jewels, carpets and ceramics are very interesting.

In Riyadh
- Saudi Computer 2001 18th-22nd February
- Saudi Internet World 2001 18th-22nd February
- Saudi Education 2001 18th-22nd February
- Saudi Food 2001 1st-5th April
- Saudi Hotel 2001 1st-5th April
- E-Commerce Saudi Arabia 2001 7th-10th May
- Suadi Print 2001 20th-24th May
- Saudi Plas 2001 20th-24th May
- Saudi Chem 2001 20th-24th May
- Saudi Agriculture 2001 23rd-27th September
- Saudi Build 2001 28th October-1st November

In Jeddah
- International Book Fair 15th-18th May
- One to One - Arabia 28th-31st May
- Saudi Banking & Investment 28th-31st May
- Compu.Net 13th-18th September
- Saudi Arabia's International Trade Fair 8th-12th October
- Lifestyle 8th-12th October
-Middle East Education & Training Exhibition 4th-6th April
- International Book Fair 28th April -7th May
- Food Arabia 26th-28th May
- Hotel-Arabia 26th-30th May
- Propak-Arabia 26th-30th May
- Live for Sound, Vision & Consumer electronics 15th-30th September
- Compu.Net 15th-30th September
- Saudi Building Industries Exhibition 29th Sept-3rd October
- International Trade Fair 14th-18th October


Embassy of Saudi Arabia
5, avenue Hoche
75008 Paris
Tel 01 56 79 40 00

Consular Services
29, rue des Graviers
92200 Neuilly-sur-Seine
Tel 01 47 47 62 63

Embassy of Saudi Arabia
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
(613) 237-4100
Fax (613) 237-0567


Franco-Arab Chamber of Commerce
93 rue Lauriston
75116 Paris
Tel : 01 45 53 20 12 Fax 01 47 55 09 59
email : - site web :

22, ave. Franklin Fosevelt
75008 Paris
Tel 01 53 83 92 92

Saudi Arabian Airlines
34 avenue Georges V
75008 Paris
Tel 01 54 67 50 50
Service réservation
Free n°: 0 800 00 65 65 Fax : 01 53 67 59 80
Administrative management:
7 quai André Citroen
75015 Paris
Tel 01 44 37 23 00



French Embassy in Riyadh
Immeuble Saoud al Fayan
Quartier Olaya
PO Box 94367
Riyadh 11693
Tel 00-966-2-651-0082
or 00-966-2-651-1030

Trade Commission in Riyadh
PO Box 94009
Riyadh 11693
Tel 966 1 4880880 Fax 966 1 4882869
email :
site web

Trade Commission in Djeddah
PO Box 4452
Djeddah 21491
Tel 966 2 6510608 Fax 966 1 6511151
email :

Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry
PO Box 16683
Riyadh 11474
Tel 966 1 4053200 Fax 4029847
site web :
Chamber of commerce of Riyadh : tel 9661 404 004 fax 9661 402 1103
CCI of Jeddah : tel 966 2 6515111 Fax 9662 651 7373
CCI for the Eastern Provinces : tel 9663 834 5900 Fax 9663 857 0607

Employment agencies

International Human Resources
Industrial sector (methanol)
PO Box 4885
Riyadh 11412
966 3 340 5500
Fax 966 3 340 5604

National Co for Management & Services
PO Box 41491
Riyadh 11521
Saudi Arabia
966 1 478 5280
Fax 966 1 473 1272

Royal Commission for Jubail & Yanbu
PO Box 30031
Yanbu Al Sinaiyah
Saudi Arabia
966 4 321 6319
Fax 966 4 396 8001

Saudi Arabian Kent Co Ltd
PO Box 3462
Al Khobar 31952
Saudi Arabia
966 3 894 1064
Fax 966 3 864 1505


Akhbar El Alam El Islami
(News of the Muslim World)
Muslim World League
BP 537/538, Mecca
(966) 536 49 32

Arab News
SRP building
Madinah Road,
BP 4556, Jeddah 21412,
Tel 669 18 88 Fax 667 16 50

(A monthly magazine for men)
BP 4556
Jeddah 21412
669 18 88 Fax 669 55 49

Asharq al Awsat
PO Box 4556

Al Jazira
(The Island)
PO Box 354

El Nadoua
BP 224
Zahra Street
(966) 520 29 43 Fax (966) 520 30 55


French School in Djeddah
PO Box 9982
21423 Djeddah
(9662) 691.56.62 Fax (9662) 691.88.48

French School in Al Khobar
Eurovillage Compound
PO Box 691
31932 Dhahran Airport
(9663) 857.97.80 Fax (9663) 857.00.76

French School in Riyad
PO Box 87811
11652 Riyad
(9661) 476.85.01 Fax (9661) 477.36.52
French Companies in Saudi Arabia

Building sector

c/o Express Trading and Contracting
PO Box 1450
Al Khobar 31952 -
Tel (03) 857.01.12

Renault Véhicules Industriels
c/o General Machinery Agencies
PO Box 287,
Al Khobar 31952
Tel (03) 864.14.81

Société Auxiliaire d’Entreprise
PO Box 7394
Dammam, 31462
Tel (03) 827.60.06/827.60.07

Adloni Design International (interior architecture)
PO Box 6282
Riyadh 11442
Tel 476.30.71

Alphacoustic c/o Bin Laden Bros
(false ceilings, aluminium)
PO Box 7629
Jeddah 21472
Tel 653.35.27

Charles Baumert Intl Co Ltd
c/o Al-Issa Trading & Contracting
PO Box 17806
Riyadh 11494
Tel 405.32.22

Cossa Construction Services SA
PO Box 349
Jeddah 21441

Spie Batignolles
Jeumont Schneider BTP
PO Box 52616
Riyadh 11573
Tel 464.99.04

Saudian Companies

The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia
569, NSCSA Building,
Sitteen Street, Malaz Area
PO Box 89312
Riyadh 11495
Tel (1)4785454 Fax (1) 4778036 email
(Branches : Dubai tel 4 3975300 Fax 4 3975600 email :
Baltimore USA tel 410 6257000 Fax 410 6257050 email :
Singapore tel 65 2259993 Fax 65 3234926 email :
London tel 44 2075362800 Fax 44 2075362810 email :

Jeraisy Group (trading, distribution, industrial, computer sciences, telecommunications etc)
PO Box 317
Riyadh 11411, Saudi Arabia
Tel 4198000 Fax 4197052
email : site web :

Trade Fairs, Congresses, Exhibitions

Al-Harithy Company for Exhibitions Ltd
PO Box 40740
Jeddah 21511
Tel 966 2 6546384 Fax 966 2 6546853 email :
The Glassmill
1 Battersea Bridge Road
London SW11 3BG
Tel 44 2072233431 Fax 44 2072284229 email :

Saudi Exhibition Company
Tel 966 26549310 Fax 966 26550254
Tel & fax 966 14628082

Riyadh Exhibitions Company
PO Box 56010
Riyadh 11554
Tel 966 14541448 Fax 966 14544846 email :


Albaha Pullman Sasco Hotel
PO Box 388
Albaha, S.Arabia
Tel 07.725 4400 fax 07.725.4008

Holiday Inn
Al Jubail
PO Box 10167
Al Jubail, S Arabia
Tel 03/341 7000

The Gulf Meridien Al-Khobar
Corniche Bld
PO Box 1266
31952 Al Khobar
Tel 966. 386.46000 Fax 898 1651

Al Salman
Box 240 (Al Gassim)
Buraydah, SA
Tel 06/323 5984 Fax 06/324 0373

Dammam Hotel
PO Box 1928
31441 Damman
Tel 832 9000 Fax 834 9872

The Oberoi Dammam
First Street
PO Box 5397
31422 Damman
Tel 834 5555 Fax 834 9872

Albilad Hotel Moevenpick
Al Corniche Highway
PO Box 6788
21452 Jeddah
Tel 691 0111 Fax 691 2208

Holiday Inn Jeddah
PO Box 10924
Tel 02/661 1000/ Fax 02/660 6326

Jeddah Sheraton Hotel
PO Box 14315
21424 Jeddah
Tel 00 9662./6992212 Fax 009662

Rezayat Motel
PO Box 216
Tel 361 2856

Medina Sheraton
Sultanam Road
PO Box 1735
Tel 04-823 0240 Fax 04-825 1628

Al Khozama
Box 4148
Tel 465 4650 Fax 464 8576

Minhal Sofitel Riyadh Hotel
Old Airport Road
PO Box 17058
Tel 478 2500 Fax 477 2819

Riyadh Intercontinental
Maazar Street
PO Box 3636
Tel 465 5000 Fax 01 465

Riyadh Sheraton
PO Box 90807
Tel 454 3300 Fax 454 1889

Al Hada Sheraton Hotel
PO Box 999
Tel 02-7541 400 Fax 02-754 4831

Holiday Inn Yanbu
PO Box 452
Tel 04-322 33767

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