Living in Riyadh?
Education and Transport in Riyadh
Education for Everyone
Since the medium of instruction in Riyadh’s public schools is Arabic and education revolves around the local interpretation of the Quran, most expats prefer to send their children to international schools. There are a variety of international and third-country schools available. Most of them also include a kindergarten for children between three and five years old, and a school bus service for all their students.
The biggest disadvantage of these excellent schools is the cost. If your employer does not cover the cost of an international education in Riyadh, you may end up paying around 87,063 SAR per year. This number is the annual tuition fee for new high school students at the American International School Riyadh in 2016/17, extra fees for ESL support, registration, etc. not included.
Selected International Schools in Riyadh
American International School of Riyadh (IB diploma)
Getting Around Riyadh
The school bus service mentioned in the previous paragraphs on international education in Riyadh is obviously very important. While the government is in the process of constructing a metro and bus network, this project will take at least another two years to complete (2018), until this point Riyadh has no public transport system to speak of. Local residents from poorer areas who do not drive take advantage of the privately owned busses known as the ‘Khatt Al Balda’. They can be seen throughout Riyadh but are rather derelict and shoddily run. The doors often do not close and there are no designated stopping points. Instead drivers pick passengers up anywhere on the street and similarly, to get off, one just yells.
For expats who do not want to avail of this option, transport can be rather difficult, especially as women are officially forbidden to drive a car in Saudi Arabia. Female expats must depend on their male family members, a shuttle service provided by their compound, or a company car with a driver. The expansion of Uber in Saudi Arabia has also been a great help for women in Saudi Arabia.
At King Khaled International Airport and in Riyadh’s city center, it’s easy to hire a taxi. Cabs are usually white limousine-style cars. Taxis in Riyadh have a meter; however, it’s still pretty common to agree upon a flat fare beforehand. A trip within Riyadh should cost about 25 SAR.
If you are a woman, remember that you have to sit in the back. However, male expats, too, may prefer to sit in the back of the taxi, as there have been reports of drivers sexually soliciting foreign male passengers.
On the Road in Riyadh
If you don’t have a personal driver and prefer to be more independent, you (as a male expatriate) can hire a car with a long-term lease or buy a second-hand vehicle. Car rental companies can be found at the international airport and in Riyadh’s business district. Whether you own the car or just rent it, make sure you have a comprehensive insurance policy. The local driving style is sometimes rather adventurous, to put it politely.
Always carry your important papers in the car (i.e. iqama ID card, driver’s license, vehicle insurance, vehicle ownership, vehicle registration), and insist on calling the traffic police after any accident (993). If either the other driver(s) or the police officer wants you to sign an Arabic statement, categorically refuse to do so. Or, if you do think that signing it is the wiser course of action, add a sentence that you do not understand it. In addition to the police, contact your visa sponsor and/or your embassy, and try to get a translator for all interviews at the police station. Thus, you’ll be able to avoid being blamed for damage or reckless behavior you are not guilty of.
Foreign men can use an International Driving Permit or overseas license for up to 12 months. After that, they need to exchange it for a Saudi license. Saudi Arabia has a license exchange agreement with selected states, e.g. Germany. Male drivers from these countries only need to present the following to the Riyadh traffic police:
- original license
- two copies of your license
- official certified translation into Arabic
- iqama ID card
For nationals from other states, it is more complicated. Please contact the General Department of Traffic, your local consulate or a local driving school for further questions on this procedure.
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