Arriving in...Jubail City - Saudi Arabia


Fraser Clarke

Making a career move overseas can be a daunting prospect, however we’re hopeful that we can be of help. In our latest Odyssey Exclusive series, ‘Arriving in…’ we’re going to take a look at your journey to a new life abroad. We’ll aim to cover all the basics to make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be for the  move, and get the most out of life in your new homeland.

As we come towards the end of the series we’re returning to Saudi Arabia, this time to look at Jubail City in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province. A location that is far less well known than the major cities of Riyadh and Jeddah.

Getting there: Getting to Jubail City itself can be trickier than moving to one of Saudi’s major locations. There are no direct flights, however a number of airlines offer single-stop routes from London Heathrow.

Turkish Airlines, MEA and EgyptAir all offer attractive prices, however most people choose to book with Gulf Air. They offer a direct flight to Bahrain, followed by a short 35 minute flight up the Gulf to King Fahd International Airport.

The airport itself is modern, having been opened less than 20 years ago, and the travel time to Jubail City itself is around 50 minutes.

Accommodation: Most expat medics moving to Jubail City will choose to live in the compounds located around the edge of the central business district. These offer plenty of amenities and a laid back way of life, as well as high quality housing.

Of the various options Murjan Village is considered one of the most popular. Located on the pristine shores of the Gulf to the north of the city, it offers stunning views and high class accommodation.

Rent prices are, on average, some 82% lower than they are in London, and although this saving can be reduced considerably depending on where you stay, it’s unlikely that the cost of living will be higher.

Wherever you choose to move though we’d recommend always viewing property first, and speaking to expats with established local knowledge to avoid finding yourself in an unexpectedly unpleasant situation.  

Keeping in contact: Despite being one of the world’s most secretive countries, communicating from Saudi Arabia can be quite easy. Internet speeds are reasonable, and are improving, whilst a ban on VOIP calling was abolished in September - allowing Whatsapp to be used for calls.

STC is the most popular mobile network in the Kingdom, and it offers a strong signal at a competitive rate. Mobily and Zain are the other firms popular with expats.

Basic rules: Saudi Arabia remains a strictly Islamic country, and religion still dominates everyday life. Things are more relaxed in Jubail however, and attitudes are slowly beginning to change as the Kingdom starts to progress towards a more liberal way of life.

Despite this there are still a few things that you have to know before you arrive:

  • Life stops five times a day for prayer. We’d recommend downloading an app with prayer times to help you plan shopping trips.
  • Until a new law is passed in June, women cannot drive vehicles.
  • Possessing alcohol can result in a heavy fine, or even custodial sentence.
  • Always use your right-hand in a handshake, as your left is considered unclean.
  • Woman still have to wear the veil in public, however they don’t have to cover their faces. This practice is only followed by the natives.

Getting around: Saudi Arabia is a huge country, with flights the best way to explore longer distances. Its location in the heart of the Gulf makes it perfect for visiting neighbouring locations like Bahrain, the UAE and Oman, whilst Mecca is a must-visit for Muslims making the move.

Jubail itself is perfectly located for weekend getaways. You can drive to Bahrain via the incredible King Fahd Causeway in just over two hours, whilst the relaxed town of Al Khobar is just over an hour away.

For further afield journeys flying is the only option, and there are plenty of flights available to locations throughout the Gulf. Locally taxis are cheap and available in great numbers, making them ideal for exploring the city itself.

Things to see and do: Despite being viewed by many as purely somewhere to enhance your earnings, Jubail does offer a small variety of things to see and do - and with travelling easy you’re unlikely to be bored.

  • Al Fanateer Beach - One of Saudi’s best beaches, it provides a relaxing break from the busy city lifestyle.
  • Galleria Mall - There are three malls in Jubail, but the Galleria is the most popular with expats. There are plenty of shops and restaurants for the whole family.
  • Watersports - Whether it’s windsurfing, scuba diving or boating Jubail City will be able to offer it.
  • IHG Hotel, Jubail City - The city’s premier hotel doesn’t just offer high quality accommodation, it has an excellent on-site restaurant, and plays host to plenty of events throughout the year.
  • Bahrain - We know, it’s not in Jubail - but the two hour journey to Bahrain is well worth doing - and it’s so close it’s practically local.

The working environment: Working in Saudi Arabia can be daunting, so we’ve compiled a quick list of what to expect:

  • Be prepared to work independently. As an experienced, Western trained medic you’ll be expected to work with less assistance than elsewhere.
  • A hierarchical structure remains, where the final decisions are made by those in positions of power.
  • Sunday to Thursday is the working week, with a Friday/Saturday weekend.
  • Be prepared for lengthy waits for administrative tasks.
  • Employers can, and occasionally do, end contracts with little notice. This means that a move isn’t ideal for someone looking for long-term security.

Don’t forget: 

  • Organise your finances before making the move, have you converted enough money, do you have an overseas bank account, should you be paying any tax at home?
  • Will your credit/debit cards work abroad?
  • Is your airport pickup sorted, and do you know where you’re staying when you arrive?
  • Do you have a phone that will work in your new location?
  • When is your official start date?