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Moving to Jeddah

A coastal city of contrasts, Jeddah is home to both an ultramodern industrial centre and a centuries-old historic district. As the principal gateway to Mecca and a thriving economic power, Jeddah is one of the most important cities in the Middle East, both in terms of religion and commerce.

Each year, Jeddah welcomes millions of Muslims from all over the world as they complete their Hajj. Many devotees stay long after, joining the countless foreigners who've moved here for employment opportunities in one of the city's many strong industries.

Though Jeddah is ruled by Sharia law, as is the rest of Saudi Arabia, it is the country's least conservative city. Respecting the cultural and religious norms remains essential, but expats will find themselves under less scrutiny than they would be in other areas of the Kingdom.

Despite quotas imposed on local companies by the government, Saudi participation in the labour force remains fairly low with the majority of Jeddah's labour force coming from abroad. Expats working here come from all over the world, ranging from North and East Africa, Iran, Turkey, Yemen and Southeast Asia to Western Europe and North America.

Living in Jeddah as an expat

Living in Jeddah as an expat can be both rewarding and challenging. The city offers a range of activities and amenities for expats, including international schools, modern healthcare facilities, parks, beaches and shopping malls. Expats may also find a sense of support and community through the city's close-knit expat networks.

However, it's important to note that Saudi Arabia has a conservative culture, and expats may need to adjust to different social norms and customs. Expat women, in particular, may find the adjustment challenging, as life inside the compound can be very insular, while gender segregation outside is the norm.

Cost of living in Jeddah

The cost of living in Jeddah for expats is relatively high. Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey places Jeddah at 101st out of 227 cities surveyed, but the average expat wage in the city is also fairly lucrative. It is critical to note that there is a stark difference between how Western expats and those from Africa, the Middle East and Asia are compensated in Saudi Arabia, and this can lead to a very different quality of life.

Accommodation and food can be quite expensive, especially in the central and affluent areas of the city, although living outside the city centre and shopping at local markets can bring down costs. The cost of entertainment and leisure activities can also add up quickly. Expats should expect to pay a premium for certain imported goods and services, but there are also many local options that can help reduce costs.

Families and children in Jeddah

Jeddah is home to a significant expat population, and many families find the city to be a welcoming and accommodating place to live. Healthcare in Jeddah is available through a mix of public and private hospitals, with many private hospitals offering high-quality medical care. By law, expats in Saudi Arabia are required to have health insurance, which is typically provided by their employer.

Education in Jeddah is also available for expat families, with a range of international schools offering curricula from countries around the world, including the UK, the US and France. These schools typically have modern facilities and experienced teachers, and they can provide a smooth transition for families moving to Jeddah from abroad.

Climate in Jeddah

Located on the Red Sea coast in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah has a desert climate with very high temperatures throughout the year. The summers are long and hot, with temperatures frequently exceeding 40°C (104°F) during the day. The humidity is also high, which can make the heat feel more intense, but expats can adjust to the climate and will learn to escape the worst parts of the day and enjoy the city's indoor spaces and attractions.

Jeddah can be a salty breath of fresh air in a country where there are many restrictions. Though it may take expats some time to adjust to life here, respecting the local culture and being open to learning will make it easier to settle in.

Accommodation in Jeddah

Expats moving to Jeddah are most commonly housed in expat compounds. Some consist of just a few houses, and others are microcosms with numerous villas, apartments and shared amenities.

There tends to be more freedom for expats in the compounds, where they often live far removed from the restrictive rules governing everyday life in Saudi Arabia. Women don’t need to cover up and expats at larger compounds can socialise at facilities such as shops, sports grounds, swimming pools, parks, restaurants and daycare centres. Staying at some of the more exclusive compounds in Jeddah can even be likened to living in a holiday complex.

Popular expat compounds in Jeddah

Arabian Homes

One of the best-known compound companies in Saudi Arabia, Arabian Homes offers a selection of apartments and villas. Sport and recreational facilities are available and there are various property types to suit all family requirements.

Al Basateen Village

A luxury compound, Al Basateen provides expats with the sort of space and safety they’d expect from quiet suburbs back home. Families have various housing options, while green parks and cul-de-sacs help make living here enjoyable.

Sharbatly Village

With a long-established history, Sharbatly Village is conveniently located within easy reach of the airport.  Properties come complete with manicured grounds and top-of-the-line recreational facilities, with both space and privacy being top priorities for developers.

Types of accommodation in Jeddah

Accommodation in Jeddah is typically expensive due to high demand and limited supply. Housing allowances are a fairly standard part of Saudi employment contracts and may include a specific amount, a percentage of the employee’s salary or, in the case of larger employers, even the provision of a property. Rental agreements are often between the employer and the compound.

Compound housing in Jeddah tends to be fully furnished. However, it is possible to find unfurnished accommodation at slightly lower prices. For a bit extra, expats who prefer to travel light can also arrange a 'soft package' which includes bedding, towels, cutlery and crockery. Otherwise, numerous shops sell quality household items.

Ultimately, expats could ship all their furniture to create a home away from home, though this is a significant expense. Moving with personal items only and living with what the compound provides is what most expats do.

Expats who are hired to work in Jeddah on lucrative employment packages will usually find that their accommodation needs are well taken care of, and they are either provided with fully furnished housing or are given a sizeable shipping allowance to help them bring their personal goods to Saudi Arabia.

Finding accommodation in Jeddah

Demand for compound housing in Jeddah considerably outstrips supply, so finding the right home can take some time. When choosing a compound, expats should think about the location and general lifestyle, rather than just the house itself – the liveability of a fantastic property is greatly diminished in the wrong location. It’s also worth bearing in mind that it's easier to change houses within a compound once expats have moved in, than it is to move from one compound to another.

Information about compounds in Jeddah is available online through individual property websites and listings. But many companies don’t update their sites regularly, and expats shouldn’t be surprised to find outdated images and information. Most people get advice from work colleagues and other expats once they arrive in Saudi Arabia.

Luckily, the majority of expats moving to Jeddah have the hassle of finding a suitable compound taken care of as employers usually arrange expat accommodation prior to their employees' arrival. In most cases, expats are housed in close to colleagues and other foreigners, which makes the transition into expat life in Jeddah much smoother. 

Renting accommodation in Jeddah

Leases and deposits

Compound contracts tend to be on a rolling annual basis, with rent paid at the start of each year or every six months. Deposits are typically around 10 percent of the annual rent.

Any necessary changes to the property should be done during the process of contract negotiation. Most properties are repainted when tenants move out, but fixtures and fittings can be worse for wear. It’s best to have any changes made before moving in.


Electricity, water and internet normally cost extra; service charges are usually included, while the compound is responsible for maintaining the property.

See the page on Accommodation in Saudi Arabia for more detail on leases and the rental process.

Domestic help in Jeddah

Expats living in Jeddah often hire domestic help, such as maids, nannies and drivers, to assist with household chores and childcare. Domestic workers are typically brought in from other countries, such as the Philippines, Indonesia or India, and are required to live in the household of their employer. It is common for employers to provide their domestic workers with room and board, medical insurance and paid time off.

To learn more about the ins and outs of hiring domestic help in the country, read Domestic Help in Saudi Arabia

Healthcare in Jeddah

The standard of healthcare in Saudi Arabia is among the best in the Middle East. Hospitals in Jeddah are no exception, with many facilities being among the region's finest.

Both public and private facilities have high standards. However, most expats prefer to use private healthcare in Jeddah. A few hospitals cater specifically to the expat community and are often staffed by expats or foreign-trained local doctors.

Private healthcare can be expensive, and expats working in Jeddah are required by law to have private health insurance. Employers typically cover health insurance, and it's something that expats should discuss as part of their contract negotiations.

Read more about Healthcare and Health Insurance for Expats in Saudi Arabia.

Hospitals in Jeddah

Abdul Latif Jameel Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre

Address: Prince Mutaib bin Abdulaziz Rd, Al-Safa, Jeddah 23341

Al Ryan International Polyclinic

Address: Al-Baghdadiyah Al-Sharqiyah, Jeddah 22241

Dr Soliman Fakeeh Hospital
Address: Falastin, Al-Hamra'a, Jeddah 23323

International Medical Center
Address: Hail Street, Al-Ruwais, Jeddah 23214

Saudi German Hospital

Address: 4 Batterjee Road, Al-Zahra District, Jeddah 21461

Education and Schools in Jeddah

Expats moving to Jeddah with children will certainly consider education and schooling a priority. The quality of a child's schooling has a huge impact on their transition into expat life. This is especially true in a country with dramatically different cultural norms to those the family may be used to.

The expat community in Jeddah is fairly sizeable. While expats have access to public schools in Saudi Arabia, the cultural and language barrier leads most families to opt for private international schools. Fortunately, Jeddah is home to a good selection of international schools.

International schools in Jeddah

Several private international schools cater for the expat community in Jeddah, allowing foreign children to study curricula similar to what they had back home – but they can be pricey and space is limited.

It’s important for expat parents to apply to several schools as early as possible. For the most part, schools don’t restrict who can attend, but some may give preference to certain nationalities and to students with strong academic records. Admission requirements vary according to the institution, so it's best to contact each school directly to find out more about enrolment procedures. Some schools require references from previous schools, and others may require potential students to take entrance exams. 

Being charged a non-refundable application fee is standard. Expat parents should also budget for additional expenses such as textbooks, extracurricular activities and school excursions.

The school year in Saudi Arabia runs from September to June. It is normally divided into two or three terms, depending on the school. The school week is Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. School days are shortened during the holy month of Ramadan.

Read more

See our reviews of the best International Schools in Jeddah

Homeschooling in Jeddah

Homeschooling is not generally recognised in Saudi Arabia, and expats living in Jeddah may struggle to find resources. However, it is not illegal and so numerous expats follow this option, even if just temporarily until they manage to secure a place for their child at an international school.

Special-needs education in Jeddah

As expats are largely reliant on international schools, there aren't standard policies across the board and special-needs provisions can vary significantly between schools. Some schools are better equipped than others to provide support for students with special educational needs – networking with fellow expat families and researching schools in depth can help determine which school is most suitable.

Tutors in Jeddah

Local families often employ tutors to help children become proficient in English as a second language. Non-English-speaking expat families in Saudi Arabia can benefit from doing the same, especially if children are attending an English-speaking international school, while those looking to learn or improve their Arabic should opt for a local Arabic tutor. Tutors can also assist with major upcoming exams and trouble subjects.

International Schools in Jeddah

International schools in Jeddah are well equipped to provide a high-quality education to expat children from diverse backgrounds. The schools cater to the needs of students from all over the world and offer a range of curricula, including the British and American systems, as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB). The schools employ experienced and qualified teachers who are trained to deliver these curricula effectively and provide students with a challenging and engaging learning experience.

The advantages of attending an international school in Jeddah are many. Learners are exposed to a culturally diverse student body, which helps broaden their perspectives and prepares them for a globalised world. The schools provide a range of extracurricular activities that help students develop their interests and skills outside the classroom. Additionally, the schools often provide language support to non-native English speakers, helping them to improve their language skills and adapt to their new environment.

Parents looking for the best international schools in Jeddah should research their options carefully and consider factors such as tuition fees, location, facilities and the reputation of the school. It is also important to consider the admissions process and any specific requirements for enrolment, such as language proficiency tests or previous academic records. Overall, expat parents can be assured that there are many excellent international schools in Jeddah that can provide their children with a first-class education and a rewarding educational experience.

Below is a list of some of the best international schools in Jeddah.

International schools in Jeddah


Jeddah Prep and Grammar School

Jeddah Prep and Grammar School has offered exceptional British education to expats in Jeddah for the last 50 years, imparting academic excellence, good manners, discipline, teamwork and commitment to their students. They've earned a reputation for exceptional standards and an engaging curriculum, and the school challenges and nurtures each student to help them discover their interests and talents. The learning environment builds confidence and character, encouraging students to take advantage of the opportunities available. Students are active, happy and engaged throughout their stay at JPGS.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British (English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels)
Ages: 3 to 18

Alwadi International School

Established in 1998, Alwadi International School provides expat students with a holistic education tailored to individual needs, alongside a British curriculum consisting of Cambridge, Edexcel and Oxford. The school emphasises personal and social skill development through extracurricular activities, cultural enrichment and sports. Alwadi attributes its success to enthusiastic students, dedicated staff and supportive parents. The school celebrates academic excellence, sports and extracurricular activities, and encourages students to "Aim Higher" in their life's journey.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British (English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels)
Ages: 3 to 18

British International School of Jeddah

The British International School of Jeddah is a not-for-profit institution, catering to over 60 nationalities and providing education from K-13. Accredited by the CIS, NEASC, IBO and a member school of BSME, the school offers excellent British-style education in a safe and innovative environment. This truly international community of learners works together to develop their interpersonal skills, values and understanding of different cultures. The school is committed to teaching students about tolerance, acceptance and respect, inspiring them to become principled leaders of the future.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate and British (English National Curriculum and Cambridge IGCSE)
Ages: 3 to 18

American International School of Jeddah

The American International School of Jeddah provides a holistic and authentic American education for students from Pre-K to 12th grade. Established in 1952, it has a long-standing history of commitment to providing each student with the best learning experience possible. The school is dedicated to nurturing the passion for knowledge of their diverse student body, helping them achieve their full potential and develop the skills and mindset needed to thrive as responsible and engaged members of the global community. With a core belief in respect, honesty and integrity, the school provides a quality education that positively impacts individuals and society.

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18

Lifestyle in Jeddah

The lifestyle in Jeddah is more relaxed than in many other parts of the Kingdom, thanks to the city's reputation as Saudi Arabia's most liberal city. Being a point of entry into Saudi Arabia, the city has been significantly shaped by the diverse people who pass through it, either for economic reasons or en route to Mecca and Medina.

New arrivals are often taken aback by the city’s greenery and its shoreline promenade that gives way to white beaches. The Corniche sweeping along the coast is one of the most popular attractions in Jeddah, but it isn’t the only way to spend one's free time.

Expats moving to Jeddah will have access to a wealth of history while simultaneously living in Saudi Arabia’s most cosmopolitan metropolis – between these two contrasts living side by side, there’s plenty to see and do in Jeddah.

Many of the events in Jeddah are influenced by Islam. Most notable are the celebrations at the start and end of Ramadan, and the period when the city is filled with pilgrims from around the world in anticipation of the Hajj. The few social festivals Jeddah does have are generally designed to attract tourists and investment.

Shopping in Jeddah

Widely believed to be the number one Saudi pastime, shopping opportunities are plentiful in Jeddah. From traditional souks to vast shopping malls, there's plenty to choose from.

Red Sea Mall is Jeddah's largest mall and a fantastic place to while away a few hours. The Mall of Arabia is another favourite well worth visiting.

Traders hawk jewellery, clothes, fabrics and traditional foods at the bustling old souks of Al Balad. It can be frantic, but it’s a good place for expats to have a local experience and try out their bartering skills. The gold souks, where clusters of shops sell gold by weight, shouldn’t be missed either. These special bazaars can be found in the Al Balad area and in several shopping malls.

Eating out in Jeddah

Expats will have more options than they might have expected when it comes to restaurants in Jeddah. While a large portion of eateries serve Middle Eastern fare, there's a good spread of continental cuisines too.

The city's larger hotels usually feature internationally inspired menus that should satisfy those looking for gourmet food in a familiar setting. Alternatively, multinational fast food chains are also well represented.

Expats should remember that many restaurants in Saudi Arabia are separated into sections based on gender and family arrangement.

Outdoor activities in Jeddah

Weekends in Jeddah are often spent around the Red Sea coast. Picnicking is a popular activity and the cooler climes of winter the Corniche and the city’s parks are filled with families. Expats should go early in the day to avoid evening congestion.

There are beaches just to the north of Jeddah where boats and jet skis can be hired. Here there are several private beach clubs with swimming areas, restaurants and cafés. These beaches are family-friendly, and expats can access them by buying a day pass or becoming a member.

Diving is one of the most popular activities for expats living in Jeddah. The Red Sea is one of the world’s premier diving locations. Its warm water is home to an abundance of fish, turtles, sharks and octopuses. Even those wary of underwater life will find it hard to resist the draw of the deep, and inexperienced new arrivals can learn at one of the city’s diving schools. Expats can dive at most beach clubs, and charters regularly run trips to offshore reefs.

For those who don't have the disposition for deeper water, snorkelling allows for fantastic insight into this underwater world from the surface. Snorkelling gear can be rented or bought at dive shops or most beach clubs.

See and do in Jeddah

There is plenty to see and do in Jeddah, as the city boasts incredible landscapes, cuisine and shopping opportunities. Below is a selection of our favourite attractions.

King Fahd's Fountain

King Fahd's Fountain, also known as the Jeddah Fountain, sprays a jet of seawater reaching up to 1,024 feet (312m) into the Saudi skyline, while the Al Salam Palace acts as a beautiful backdrop. The fountain looks especially stunning when illuminated by its 500+ spotlights at night.

Al Balad

The old quarter’s labyrinth of alleys gives visitors a glimpse into the towns and villages of Saudi Arabia's past. Its coral and limestone buildings also house numerous street vendors, making it a popular shopping destination.

Matbouli House Museum

Situated in Al Balad, the Matbouli House was built in the 1600s and offers a fascinating look at an authentic traditional Hijazi merchant’s home. Constructed from coral, this home is filled with traditional artefacts dating back centuries.

Al Rhama Mosque

Fondly known as the Floating Mosque, Al Rhama Mosque is a must-see and one of Jeddah's most sacred sites. Adjacent to the shoreline, when the tide comes in, it appears to float whimsically on the water below. It’s only made more marvellous by its decor and architectural beauty.

Annual events in Jeddah

Whether expats prefer festivals, cultural or religious events, new arrivals will find that the city is full of exciting gatherings to keep them occupied throughout the year.

Jeddah Summer Festival (June/July)

Known locally as Jeddah Ghair, the city’s summer festival attracts more than a million people every year. Numerous events and activities take place over several weeks. This includes art exhibitions, sports, food and craft markets, children’s entertainment and spectacular fireworks displays.

Jeddah Season (June/July)

One of 11 Saudi Seasons events held throughout the Kingdom, Jeddah Season celebrates the best in the arts – from theatre and music performances to comedy shows and art exhibitions.

Saudi National Day (September)

This public holiday held on 23 September marks the unification of the Kingdom by King Abdul in 1923. The festivities feature airshows, fireworks and parades. Locals and expats alike join in the celebrations.

Eid al-Fitr Festival (the ninth month of the lunar calendar)

Eid al-Fitr marks the end of Ramadan and is by far one of the most popular festivals in Jeddah. People come from far and wide for this week-long celebration, decorating their houses and preparing scrumptious meals for family and friends to break the previous month’s fast.

Shipping and Removals in Jeddah

Jeddah is one of the world's largest seaports, with plenty of competition between logistics and removals companies, which means expats generally have few problems shipping items here. Expats should get quotes from several companies, and compare their prices and reputations before settling on one.

On the other hand, not only is shipping expensive, but expats would easily be able to purchase most of their household items locally, and accommodation in Jeddah often comes furnished anyway. Expats moving to Jeddah should therefore think carefully before deciding what to bring with them.

Air vs sea freight in Jeddah

Air freight and courier services are good for delivering smaller packages. They're efficient, but the costs are proportionately higher.

All shipped items must pass through Saudi Arabian customs and the sender has to complete the appropriate paperwork. Customs clearance depends on whether goods are classified as having no commercial value. Dutiable goods are taxed.

Shipments can sit in customs for quite some time before they're allowed to be claimed. In some cases, the recipient of the goods may have to pay for storage during this period. Using a shipping company with warehouse storage can be worthwhile, as expats won't have to worry about extra costs if they can't claim their goods from customs immediately.

The list of prohibited items is long and constantly changing but generally tends to include pornographic material, weapons, alcohol, narcotics and pork.

Shipping your Pet to Saudi Arabia provides more info on transporting companion animals into Jeddah.