Cost of Living

How much does living in Saudi Arabia cost?

The overall cost of living in Saudi Arabia is similar to most European countries as an expat. There are some significant differences since the general lack of tax makes a big difference on the cost of certain items such as cars. The cost of accommodation tends to be more expensive than in Europe.

Food and groceries

Some foods, especially imported foods are more expensive in the Kingdom. If you buy internationally recognized brands, you might pay more than in your home country. There are usually plenty of cheap locally and regionally produced alternatives that are of excellent quality.

As Saudi Arabia is a Muslim state, alcohol tends to be home-brewed. This means that if you find somewhere where it is available, prices and quality can vary greatly.

Electronic goods, such as televisions, DVD players, cameras and software are generally cheaper than in Europe, mainly because of lower import duties. Clothing can be expensive if you favour designer labels. This is standard in Saudi Arabia, although there’s little need for winter clothing.

Utilities

Utilities, such as electricity, water and gas, are subsidized to some extent by the regional governments. These governments own the services (except for bottled gas supplies) in order to provide inexpensive electricity and water in order to support the local population. Utilities are therefore cheaper than in most European countries.

At the height of summer, air-conditioning costs will escalate. Newcomers sometimes make the expensive mistake of keeping their air-conditioning on even whilst they’re out. This is unnecessary, as air-conditioning systems quickly reduce the temperature in your accommodation when switched on.

You should also budget for the cost of international telephone calls, however call costs are kept low by Saudi Arabia’s government. This is to encourage international business and investment in the region.

Your cost of living will obviously depend on your lifestyle. When you’re negotiating a work contract, your prospective employer will usually produce a document that details the cost of living in that country, which is useful in helping you to decide whether the proposed job is attractive financially or not.

Average costs

The average monthly expenses for a single person, couple and family with two children are shown below (the numbers in brackets relate to the notes that are below the table):

 

Monthly Costs ($/£)

Item

Single

Couple

Couple with 2 Children

Housing (1)

1,000/650

2,000/1,300

2,000/1,300

Food (2)

500/320

750/500

1,050/700

Utilities (3)

225/150

300/200

450/300

Leisure (4)

450/300

450/300

600/400

Transport (5)

100/65

150/100

150/100

Insurance (6)

100/65

150/100

225/150

Clothing (7)

250/165

500/330

800/525

Totals

2,625/1,715

4,300/2,830

5,325/3,475

  1. Rental costs for a one-bedroom apartment in a modern block, probably unfurnished, a two-bedroom apartment in a similar block and a two or three-bedroom apartment or a modest villa. Apartments might have air-conditioning included in the rent. Satellite television is probably provided but is unlikely to include all channels. A swimming pool and/or gym are usually provided.
  2. Doesn’t include luxury food items or alcohol.
  3. Includes electricity (and air-conditioning), water (and usually sewage if charged in conjunction with the water, as is normal) and an allowance for telephone charges.
  4. Includes entertainment, dining out, sports, newspapers and magazines but not holidays (air fares are often included in work contract terms).
  5. Includes running costs for an average family car plus third party insurance, petrol, servicing and repairs, but excludes depreciation and credit purchase costs.
  6. Includes private health, travel, car and contents insurance. Note that property is rented, so building insurance is usually unnecessary.
  7. Lots of clothing is unnecessary in the region’s hot climate. Office wear for men is a shirt and tie, except for formal occasions.

This article is an extract from Living and Working in Gulf States & Saudi Arabia. Click here to get a copy now.

Further reading

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Other comments

  • Ruth, 11 December 2008 Reply

    A bit on the low side for housing

    a 3-bedroom villa on a western compound costs about 4 to 6 times as much as the stated 1200 dollars per month. (Late 2008)

    • Jeff 20 Feb 2009, 06:12

      A lot low on the food side

      You are way off the mark with regards to food. 500g gub of flora over £3, 375g breakfast cereals nearly all over £3, I find the weekly shopping bill is at least 50% higher in Kingdom and toiletries are very expensive.

    • abhi 02 Mar 2011, 03:11

      wrong info

      who writes this stuff !
      The prices mentioned are way off !

  • Ruth, 11 December 2008 Reply

    Oh I see

    "The price of wines and spirits, where these are permitted, is slightly lower than in the UK but higher than average European prices."

    I see - you've actually never even been to the Kingdom have you?

  • Mat, teacher moving to KSA soon, 12 August 2009 Reply

    Sorry to tell you that you are spreading misinformation...

    Spirits/Wines/Beers/Liquor is strictly prohibited in the KSA. There is no place one can legally buy or consume alcohol. Got it?

  • Mohammad Hasnain, 27 September 2010 Reply

    Objection on Article

    Hi ,, Above posted Article doesn't seem to be fair and true, because i am living in Saudi Arabia since 12 years and enjoying my life standards in a luxury way. Above mentioned cost PM (per month) is highly exaggerated and i recommend to amend the information.

    $ 4,125 = SAR 15,469 .. What would be the income to manage these expense per month. its seems that person earning 30,000 or above can live in Saudi Arabia and others cant afford as in single its $ 2,350 = SAR 8,813. means a bachelor must be earning 15,000 or above and if so Why is he alone then ? A single ll buy new cloths each month amounting to $150 i.e SAR 563 . lol..

    I am living in a Huge villa with 5 rooms + 2 bathrooms + big lounge + big drawing room and out door villa portion to play even football or volley ball and the area is peace full and fully facilitated and secure and I'M paying 30,000 PA that comes to SAR 2,500 for 5 person in house..

    thanks..
    Mohammad Hasnain
    Email.