Saudi Arabia

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Saudi Arabia: Health, Safety, Major Cities

Are you planning on moving to Saudi Arabia? This article will give you sufficient information regarding the country and its people, the hot, dry climate, and safety precautions. Moreover, our guide discusses popular expat destinations, as well as visa regulations for Saudi Arabia, in detail.
Mecca attracts 13 million Muslims annually, most of them pilgrims performing the Haj.

While moving to Saudi Arabia doesn’t necessarily entail any exceptional health risks, expats are advised to see a doctor for a general medical check-up well in advance of their relocation.

Make sure you have all the standard vaccinations before moving to Saudi Arabia (i.e. tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, polio, MMR, and influenza). If you’re considering a move to Saudi Arabia for the long term, you might want to get additional vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, rabies, and meningitis. The latter immunization is now mandatory for all pilgrims traveling to Mecca and/or Medina.

Malaria does not present a risk in major cities, but there have been cases of Dengue fever. Everyone should therefore take standard precautions against mosquito bites. Moreover, there have also been isolated cases of severe respiratory infections, caused by a virus called MERS-CoV. However, neither the WHO nor the CDC see any reason to restrict travel or commerce in the region.

Safety Advice: The Terrorism Threat

Foreigners should be advised that there is a general threat of terrorism in Saudi Arabia. Islamic hardliners who think the government is too liberal sometimes attack government offices and public places, such as shopping malls, markets, or Western hotel chains. Terrorist activities include kidnappings, large and small-scale bombings, and the odd targeted shooting.

However, foreigners who respect Islamic law and traditions are fairly safe in Saudi Arabia. Simply keep your eyes open and take care to avoid large gatherings, especially political or religious demonstrations of any kind.

Importing Goods: Religious Restrictions

Several important restrictions are enforced for people wishing to enter the country. Most of them are directly related to religious laws, for example, the zero tolerance policy on imports of alcohol and pork products. Please note that it is also strictly forbidden to carry any kind of religious scriptures or pamphlets with you. Carrying more than one copy of the Bible, for example, may be interpreted as an attempt to spread Christianity and result in punishment and/or being banned from entering the country.

Any attempt to smuggle herbal or synthetic drugs to Saudi Arabia will be severely punished if discovered. If you take any medication during your trip to and stay in Saudi Arabia, make sure to always carry your doctor’s prescription on you. It is, of course, illegal to import weapons of any kind.

Destination Riyadh

With an estimated 7 million inhabitants, the capital of Saudi Arabia is an important financial and business center in the Middle East. A considerable percentage of Riyadh’s residents are foreigners, many of them affiliated in one way or another with foreign diplomatic organs of state.

The Diplomatic Quarter of Riyadh is not only home to foreign embassies and international organizations, but it also contains up-market residential areas and shopping malls. With its numerous sports facilities and lush gardens, it is one of the city’s greenest areas and even offers some privileges to foreign diplomatic staff, such as a less strict dress code.

The city center is made up of the Al-Bat’ha and Al-Dirah districts, which also form the oldest part of the town; encompassing an old fort, some tourist attractions and museums. The commercial heart of the city is the Al-‘Olayya District, offering plenty of opportunities for shopping, dining, and accommodation. The industrial areas are mostly located in the east and northeast of the city.  

Destination Jeddah

Jeddah is the largest port on the Red Sea and a major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. Its three and a half million inhabitants make it the second largest city in the country. Moreover, its large numbers of expats from all around the world have helped to make it the most liberal city in the kingdom. This ethnic diversity gives Jeddah a somewhat cosmopolitan flair, reflected, for example, in a more tolerant attitude towards women’s rights. Indeed, the country’s first female law firm opened there in 2014, after women were granted the right to practice law in 2013.

Jeddah is the principal gateway to Mecca, and thus welcomes thousands of pilgrims every year. It is also one of the world’s largest open-air galleries, displaying works of art of international renown among other, more obscure pieces, in its public places.

Issues faced by Jeddah’s population include air pollution, especially on hot days, traffic congestions, occasional water shortages, and an outdated sewage system which cannot cope with the current amounts of waste water. Some poorer areas of the city still remain unconnected to the system.

 

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

Juan Garcia

"Making business in Riyadh was easy. But meeting true friends is hard. I found them on InterNations, where the global minds meet."

Marie Troisonne

"Without the help of all the expats on InterNations it would not have been able to settle in Riyadh that fast. Thanks to the community."

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