Expats looking for accommodation in Riyadh will typically choose between numerous Western-style compounds or, less commonly, local housing in the form of a villa or apartment.
However, availability can be limited despite the variety. It’s therefore often best to have the help of a sponsoring employer during the house-hunting process.
Types of accommodation in Riyadh
There isn't a great deal of choice when it comes to accommodation options in Riyadh. Most expats opt to live in compounds where they are largely sheltered from the culture shock of day-to-day life in Saudi Arabia. Apart from availability, individual needs and personal preferences dictate which compounds expats are interested in.
These self-contained complexes vary in size from small apartment clusters to sprawling collections of villas. They’re usually walled, guarded and often include amenities such as gyms, clinics, restaurants, shops and schools.
The restrictive rules of normal Saudi life can feel far away within these secluded neighbourhoods. The Mutaween (religious police) seldom enter and expats have more opportunities to foster relationships with fellow expats that ease the transition. Women can also socialise freely inside compounds and there are no restrictions on what to wear.
Finding accommodation in Riyadh
For many expats working in Riyadh, employers will supply accommodation in a compound or at least be in a position to be able to assist in the process of finding a home. It’s important that expats discuss getting a housing allowance during contract negotiations. This could be a specific sum of money, a percentage of their salary or, as with some larger companies, even the provision of a property. For those going it alone without the help of an employer, colleagues, friends and fellow expats can be invaluable sources of information and recommendations.
Renting accommodation in Riyadh
Demand for compound housing is high among Riyadh's expat population and rental prices are expensive.
Rent is usually expected to be paid six months to a year in advance. A deposit of 10 percent of the annual rent is also standard. Service charges and maintenance are usually included, but tenants are responsible for paying utilities such as electricity, gas and water.