Work in Saudi Arabia

Work in Saudi Arabia

21st Jun 2016

Many people are attracted to the unique Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by the prospect of far higher earnings than almost anywhere else in the world thanks to the lack of an income tax. Equally as many people who are attracted by this are, however, put off by the way of life in a country which is different to almost everywhere else on the planet.


The country closely follows Sharia Law and this means that it certainly isn’t suitable for many western people. Religion is by far the most important aspect of daily life for the Saudi people, and so Muslims with a strong faith should have little trouble settling in.


The role that religion plays in the life of the Saudi people should never be underestimated, as it will effect everyone who lives there. Prayers are observed 5 times a day, during which time businesses will close their doors for half an hour. The times of these change every day, but apps are now widely available to help you plan your day around them


That isn’t to say that the country is exclusively for Muslim people. Every year the number of foreign, non Muslim, workers in the area grows. The figure currently sits at around 8 million in a total population of 27 million, most of these people will live in secure compounds where they can enjoy a more relaxed and less heavily controlled lifestyle.


It comes as a surprise to many that the healthcare system in Saudi is similar to Britain's NHS, albeit it without National Insurance. It is also supported by an ever expanding private sector which caters for mainly the expat population as well as Saudi natives.


The majority of hospitals are operated by the Ministry of Health. It runs 220 throughout the country as well as over 1900 healthcare centres. Care is provided free of charge at the point of need, and this covers everything from GP appointments to specialist, complex surgery.


There are obviously a few notable differences, most notably who the MOH care for. The Ministry of Health has 3 sub departments who care for separate groups of the population, running separate hospitals, clinics and health centres. These are MODA, MOI and SANG hospitals.


MODA hospitals care for those in the Ministry of Defence and Aviation, MOI for those employed in the interior ministry and SANG facilities are for those in the Saudi National Guard.


The 3 main offshoots from the MOH are joined by a few autonomous government agencies who deliver healthcare to various other groups in Saudi society - including students and people with severe learning disabilities.


Ministry of Health facilities are well funded, and in 2016 received 104bnSR, the pressure that the system could potentially find itself under from the large immigrant community is lifted by an increasingly large private sector.


Currently the private system runs 127 hospitals, and hundreds more clinics and centres. Job opportunities within the private sector are becoming more widespread but remain hugely sought after due to higher pay, despite often offering less incentives than government facilities.


Saudi Arabia’s healthcare system has been improving and expanding at as fast a rate as the country has developed. The life expectancy currently sits at 76 years old, an enormous improvement from the 45 years average it sat at just 50 years ago.


Furthermore the infant mortality rate in the country is lower than in the illustrious healthcare capital of the UAE, and it only looks as if it will continue dropping.


If you were concerned that a move to Saudi Arabia would be a move into an undeveloped and struggling healthcare system then there is no need to be worried. The system is strong, and improving, and will only continue to get stronger in the future.


Of course concerns about the country’s healthcare facilities aren’t what puts thousands of westerners off the idea of moving to the country. The lifestyle, strict laws and media scare stories come together to do that.


As mentioned earlier Saudi is a devout Muslim country and adheres stringently to the principles of Sharia Law. This can be extremely restrictive, and involves rules that many non Muslims may find to be backward thinking and shocking.


Unusually there are no written laws in Saudi, instead decisions are taken at the discretion of a judge’s interpretation of whether or not the individual is guilty of something which might lead people away from Islam - or a ‘haram’ as it is known.


Many guides focus on the complex ethical issues surrounding these laws, but this one will focus on the basic things to remember if you move to Saudi. Adhere to these and you won’t find yourself in trouble with the Muttawa (religious police).




Photography in Saudi Arabia is not banned, but there are restrictions on what you can take photographs of. Government buildings, airports and anything related to the military or royal family are all off limits. Furthermore you should never photograph a Saudi without their permission - especially not a woman.


Women Driving Vehicles


Perhaps the most well known rule in the country is the one which prohibits women from driving cars. What surprises many people however is that this is, itself, not illegal. There are no laws preventing women from driving vehicles. Instead the authorities refuse to issue them licences, making it impossible for any women to take to the road.


Public Displays of Affection


It is illegal to hold hands in public in Saudi, and anything more serious than that can lead to punishments including lashes and even jail terms. It is also important to remember that getting too close to your husband or wife in public could result in a punishment, so when you’re outwith the compound it’s important to always keep a reasonable distance from your partner.


Single sex relationships are illegal, and getting caught displaying affection towards a person of the same gender as yourself could result in a death sentence or lengthy jail term.




One part of the law in Saudi which divides the opinion of almost everyone we know who has moved to the Kingdom is the forced wearing of the Abaya - a long black cloak - in public.


Some women find this oppressive, and don’t feel at all happy having what they wear dictated to them by the Government. Others however find it to be a pleasant relief from the norm. The Abaya - and non mandatory veil - make getting dressed to go out far easier and quicker, not to mention more comfortable and cool.


In compounds the dress code is not as restricted. The clothing can be much more western in style - although very revealing items should still be avoided.


Approaching Strangers


As a woman travelling to Saudi Arabia it’s important that you know to never approach strangers in the street, even if it’s just to ask for directions or the time. Male and female co-workers will get away with talking to each other within the workplace, but outside of it you and the person you are speaking to can risk being arrested by the Muttawa.


Almost everything outside of the compounds in Saudi is segregated. Shops and amusements may have separate entrances or opening times for women, and the religious Police will intercept and deal with anyone attempting to breach these regulations.




Alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia and, whilst some compounds may serve it discreetly, it should never be openly spoken about or abused. The punishment for being caught either smuggling alcohol into the country, or being found with it in public can range from detention to public floggings and jail terms.


With such strict and oppressive laws it is not hard to see why so many western trained medical professionals don’t consider taking their careers to Saudi Arabia. What they don’t realise however is how life in one of the many expat compounds in the country can provide as much freedom as they experience at home, but in a more relaxed and friendly environment.


There are many compounds spread throughout the country, and most of them offer a far more western style of living than staying with the Saudi people.


Compounds are effectively gated towns which are protected by their out of town location, large walls and secure entry points which are manned by security staff and members of the national guard. They are the safest places for anyone to live in the country, and are home to roughly three quarters of the expat population - mostly skilled workers in the oil, medical or teaching industries.


Inside the communities walls you would be unaware of the strict external security and rules, and often these towns are described as feeling like holiday villages. All of the homes are modern, well built and well equipped with plenty of appliances and technology. The high standard of living is only one of many advantages of these areas however.


With so many expats living in these locations, from so many different cultures and countries they are a fantastic place to meet new friends. Rules are relaxed so men and women can socialise together freely and the compounds have plenty of facilities such as restaurants, cafes, shops and swimming pools which are the perfect places to get to know your neighbours.


A strong sense of community spirit is also prevalent within the compounds, and it is something that people have said that they miss most when they have returned home.


Residents are usually all open and friendly with each other, and the facilities and streets are well looked after and clean thanks to the pride that residents take in them.


Life in Saudi is certainly not as restrictive as the stereotyping media would have you believe, and it is a lifestyle which appeals to plenty of people.


For those moving with a young family it can be the perfect place to raise children, with quiet streets, plenty of company and local amenities close by. Educational facilities within the compound are also becoming more common, but most parents choose to send their children to schools outwith the compound.


Schooling is a major factor which our clients consider when they are moving abroad, and it comes as a surprise to many people that Saudi has plenty of western schools. English schools - which speak the language and teach the curriculum - are based near the major cities of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dhahran, whilst the country is also home to German, French and American teaching schools. Wherever you are from, and whatever language you speak Saudi is sure to be home to a suitable educational facility.


Fees for schooling can be expensive - up to 83,000SR (£16,000) per year - but often employers will include an educational allowance in their salary package to either cover or subsidise the cost of this.


If the idea of a move to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is now appealing to you, then it is time to find out more about your potential employability and earnings.


For consultants jobs in the Kingdom they will look for certain board accreditation or fellowships, with their preferences being those who are American, Canadian, British or Arab board certified. Don’t be dispirited if your certification is not listed however, as they regularly accept candidates who are certified by other countries if they have the relevant experience and an impressive CV.


Experience is always necessary, with 5 years normally expected although slightly less than this may be accepted by some hospitals. As well as this fluency in English is essential, whilst a knowledge of Arabic or willingness to learn it will also help greatly.


Of course the salary package is one of the main attractions for foreign workers to the country, with the Saudi health system providing some very attractive incentives for employees.


A consultant can expect to earn between 55,000 and 60,000SR per month, tax free, this adds up to almost £130,000 per year. On top of this accommodation is usually provided within a compound, whilst flights to and from the country as well as health insurance are also normally included.


40 days paid leave per annum, as well as time for leave to speak at seminars and conduct research are also commonplace as well as the education payments mentioned earlier. Working as a medic in Saudi Arabia can therefore be more financially rewarding than almost anywhere else in the world.


If the higher salary and idea of a relaxed and interesting life within the compounds is something which appeals to you, then you may want to discover more about what the country has to offer.


Saudi Arabia is classified as one of the safest countries in the world, ranking well above the United Kingdom, United States, France and Switzerland. Compounds are safe havens, and only in the busy streets of the major cities - like Jeddah and Riyadh - is petty crime like pickpocketing something to guard against.


There are no cinemas or theatres in the country, so most expats will travel to neighbouring Oman, Qatar or the UAE to see those sort of things. For a Muslim travelling to the country however there are many must see sights of real significance.


The holy cities of Medina and Mecca are open only to Muslim people. These breathtakingly beautiful areas are regarded as the most holy in Islam, and for anyone with a Muslim faith are must visit locations.


Whilst many of the attractions within the country are related to Islam, there is plenty for non Muslims to do as well.


Shopping malls are perhaps the most popular place for people to spend their time. These stunning, modern structures are some of the biggest in the world. Major brands like Adidas, Calvin Klein and DKNY are all represented along with businesses like McDonald's, Marks & Spencer’s and Debenhams creating the feeling of a home away from home for many people.


Natural beauty can also be found throughout the country as well. Saudi is a much larger, less developed country than neighbouring Qatar and the UAE and so is full of plenty of stunning natural areas of beauty.


The peaceful Farasan Islands, Asir National Park and Wahba Crater can take you into the heart of the region's natural beauty, and can provide a relief from the busy cities and developed compounds.


Sport in Saudi Arabia is still a developing area, but there are plenty of facilities and clubs covering the area’s national games.


Football (soccer) is the country's national sport, and Saudi ProLeague teams are regulars in the Asian Champions League. The national football team - who have qualified for 4 World Cups - play their games at the stunning King Fahd Stadium which is a must visit for any sport fan.


As well as soccer there is a growing grassroots scene in rugby, ice-hockey and motorsport within the country. Modern facilities are being built, and more participants are signing up for all these sports which are sure to expand and grow in the not too distant future.


Saudi Arabia is a truly unique and fascinating kingdom which is unlike anywhere on earth. Whilst it most often hits the headlines for its laws and attitudes towards women it is nowhere near as backwards as the media like to portray it.


Expat life is comfortable thanks to attractive salary packages and pleasant compounds that can be as enjoyable to live in as the more well publicised nations.


It takes an open minded person to commit to a move to Saudi Arabia, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. If you believe that a move to the country would enhance your personal life and career however then register on our website for job alerts and all the latest healthcare news from the country.
















Saudi Arabia Facts





Largest City




Total Area

2,149,690 km2




$1.683 trillion

GDP Per Capita



Salman bin Abdulaziz

Crown Prince

Mohammad bin Nayef

Deputy Crown Prince

Mohammad bin Salman


Saudi Riyal

Population Density

12.3 per km2

Calling Code




Unemployment Rate


Net Migration

-0.55 per 1000

National Animal


National Tree

Phoenix Palm

National Colour


Time Zone















The Saudis pray 5 times a day, every day, with times varying.





Example 21/6/2016 - Riyadh


Before dawn



After true noon



Late afternoon






Around an hour post sunset





Demographics by Age


Saudi Arabia’s population has grown greatly over the past 20 years meaning it has a large number of working age people, and a far smaller elderly population. This can play a big role in the main health issues affecting people in the country.Title: Points scored






Heart Disease - A trend which appears to be similar throughout all Arab countries is a high rate of heart disease caused by a poor diet, lack of exercise and obesity. It is estimated that around 30% of the Saudi population are classified as obese, and this figure has risen gradually since 1990. 23% of men are classified as physically inactive, whilst this figure is nearer 50% for women within the country and so the health issues that accompany these factors are increasingly prevalent.


Strokes - See above, Saudi Arabia has a high rate of people suffering strokes, and this is strongly linked to the reasons behind the country's high rates of heart disease.


 Diabetes - Saudi Arabia has the 7th highest rate of diabetes in the world, with an estimated 16.8% of the population suffering from the condition. Despite increased education about how to avoid the condition rates appear to be continuing to increase and so the are the side effects of the illness.


Respiratory Conditions - Although the number of Saudis smoking tobacco has fallen in recent years it still remains at a relatively high 26%. This has lead to higher than average rates of lung cancer, COPD and asthma.


Kidney Disease - Saudi Arabia has the 6th highest rate of kidney disease in the world, and this is once more strongly related to the unhealthy lifestyle lead by many citizens. Diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels and smoking all lead to an increased chance of the condition and this is often described as the biggest health problem affecting the country today.


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