The Odyssey Guide to Riyadh

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Fraser Clarke

We’ve already taken a look at expat life in Jeddah and so, in the final part in our Odyssey Guides series, we’re going to take a look at another popular Saudi location - Riyadh.

Located in the heart of the Kingdom, and home to more than five million people, Riyadh is one of the Middle East’s biggest hubs for business and finance, however it is also more conservative than the relaxed coastal areas of Jeddah in the west or Jubail in the east. This means that it’s vital to do your research before committing to a move.

Where to live?

Given the size of the city, and how hectic the traffic can be during busy periods, we’d recommend choosing accommodation that’s near your place of work - a lengthy commute in a country with questionable driving standards isn’t how anyone wants to start their day.

In terms of popularity and desirability however, there are plenty of good options - almost all of which are based in secure compounds.

Al Muhammadiyah is arguably the most sought after district in the city, offering fantastic facilities and top class accommodation that means it isn’t necessary to leave the compound itself too often whilst you settle in.

This comes at a cost however, and so many expats (especially those with families) chose to make their money go further by staying in compounds around Al Nakheel, where the spacious villas often come with decent sized gardens.

What is there to do?

The National Museum - Saudi Arabia is home to a rich culture and history, and Riaydh’s national museum can be a great way to discover more about the Kingdom.

Wadi Hanifa - Think of Saudi Arabia and you probably think of arid desert, not the scenic Wadi Hanifa valley that runs through areas of Riyadh. It’s perfect for leisurely walks.

Al Watan Park - Looking for a way to entertain young children? Al Watan Park can be perfect, with the family friendly little theme park the ideal place to spend weekends.

Where am I likely to be working?

Saudi Arabia is home to a strong public and private healthcare sector, however there are also plenty of smaller medical centres that we’d recommend avoiding.

There is a relatively even split between medics moving to work in the private sector, and those moving to work in the public facilities, with both offering high quality care within a modern environment. 

We only work with the larger private healthcare providers, and so any jobs posted on our website will adhere to strict quality standards - with most facilities being accredited by the Joint Commision International.

Who is suited to a move?

A move to Saudi Arabia can feel like a daunting prospect and, despite the obvious financial benefits, choosing to live in Riyadh is certainly not for everybody.

Ideally we’d recommend it to an experienced medic keen to maximise their earning potential, whilst testing their skills in a challenging environment. Medics, and especially those with Western qualifications, will be expected to work independently in the country - with a strong focus placed on them to make decisions based on prior experience.

As a result a move isn’t great as a first step overseas for a newly trained medic, nor would it suit someone with little experience of other cultures. If you’ve got the experience however, and a passion to learn more about a fascinating part of the world, then spending a few years in the Desert Kingdom can be an extremely attractive prospect.

Why move?

1 - Few locations on earth can offer salaries as high as Saudi Arabia, and a cost of living as low. Riyadh might be one of the more expensive locations in the country, but prices are still well below cities like Dubai or Doha.

2 - You’ll be given more responsibility within the hospital, thus having more freedom to tackle cases in the way you believe best.

3 - Saudi’s rich culture can make a move fascinating and immersive.

4 - Most of the compounds can offer a high standard of living, and plenty of opportunities to meet fellow expats.

5 - Riyadh is home to some high quality international schools, teaching a range of curriculums.