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Transport and Education in Jeddah

Expats living in Jeddah profit from moving to the most relaxed of Saudi Arabia’s major cities. Still, navigating everyday life in the Saudi Kingdom isn’t always easy. Our Expat Guide to life in Jeddah helps you out with info on leisure, healthcare, local transport, and international schools.
Most expat families in Jeddah send their kids to an international school.

Transportation in Jeddah: By Sea and Air

Before the advent of the passenger airplane, Jeddah’s seaport used to welcome thousands upon thousands of Muslim pilgrims and traders. However, its importance for travelers has greatly diminished. While it does remain one of the largest commercial cargo ports in the Middle East, passenger services are limited to leisure cruises and a ferry service across the Red Sea.

Visitors, pilgrims, and expats alike now arrive via the King Abdulaziz International Airport. It opened its gates in 1981 and is continuing to expand, hoping to accommodate up to about 23 million passengers per year by 2020. Although it already has four terminals (one exclusively reserved for the hajjis), new facilities are currently under construction. The first phase of the project is 80% complete and, according to Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation, the doors will open for commercial operations in mid-2017.

Meanwhile, the airport remains open to international traffic from North and East Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, East Asia, Europe, and the US. Passengers can reach the city center of Jeddah by taxi, rental car, or via a shuttle service to most international hotels in town.

Transportation in Jeddah: On the Road

In addition to air and sea traffic, Jeddah is connected to Saudi Arabia’s most important road, the Highway 40, which crosses the entire Arabian Desert to Dammam. Adventurous expats can board an overland bus to Abha, Dammam, Ji’zan, Najran, Riyadh, Taif, or Yanbu. The SAPTCO bus station in Jeddah is located in the Al-Balad district, and can be called via +966-26485661. There are direct connections to Mecca and Medina as well, but these are for Muslims only.

Although the Saudi government has instigated a plan to develop a public transport system in Jeddah, which includes a metro, busses and ferries, and has allocated 48 billion riyal to see the project to complete, it will take at least seven years for it to be up and running. Until this point, however, the city is without a public transport infrastructure. Short-term visitors rely on taxis to get around (white limousines recognizable by the taxi sign on top of the car). The price is usually agreed upon beforehand. As a rule of thumb, a short trip within the city center costs up to SAR 20, a ride to the North Terminal around SAR 60, and a day’s journey approximately SAR 150 or a more. Larger hotel chains provide shuttle services for their guests, and you can usually book a limousine taxi via your compound.

The easiest option for well-off expatriates is probably hiring a driver if their company doesn’t provide one. Women are barred from driving, and male drivers from abroad may not always want to brave Jeddah’s traffic chaos on their own. Foreign licenses and international permits are normally valid for up to 12 months. After that, you need to swap your driver’s license, if possible, or acquire a Saudi one from scratch. Please ask the Jeddah traffic police (a regional sub-sector of the Saudi Ministry of Interior) for advice on this topic.

Education for Expat Kids in Jeddah

Expatriate children living in Jeddah generally attend private schools catering mostly to foreign residents. Saudi secondary schools are often not particularly competitive as far as academic achievements are concerned. Moreover, unless your family speaks fluent Arabic, the language barrier can prove to be an insurmountable obstacle. Lastly, expats often shy away from the narrow focus of the Saudi curriculum on Quran studies and the Wahabitic interpretation of the scriptures.

There are several kinds of establishments providing an international education in Jeddah. Some are genuine international schools, where the language in the classroom is generally English, but where you can find kids of various nationalities. Third-country schools aim at instructing children from specific countries or with particular linguistic and cultural backgrounds, e.g. German or Japanese students. Some other international schools mostly welcome pupils from Jeddah’s wealthy Saudi families, who are interested in raising their offspring with a more cosmopolitan outlook.

International Schools in Jeddah

We have listed some popular private schools in Jeddah below. There is also an Italian, a Korean, and a Turkish school in Jeddah, however, they do not have websites.. Please enquire with your local consulate for further information.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Javier Vazquez

"I met some great Mexican people to spend my after-work hours with, so I immediately felt at home here in Jeddah."

Ava Sneijders

"InterNations is a very good mix of professional setting and casual atmosphere. Expats on InterNations have and share a global mindset."

Global Expat Guide