The Cost of Living in Saudi Arabia for Tax Expats

Ryadh in Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is situated in Western Asia, dominating the Arabian Peninsula.  It is the largest state in the Middle East, 2nd-largest in the Arab world (after Algeria), the 5th-largest in Asia, and the 12th-largest in the world.  Most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland and mountains, making it a sparsely populated country.  Its population of 33 million comes after a rapid growth rate from an estimated 3 million in 1950, due to one of the highest birth rates in the world – about 20% are estimated to be foreign-born.  Around 80% of the population inhabit the big cities of Jeddah, Dammam and the capital Riyadh, which has a population of about 8 million.  Indeed, it is strongly dependent on foreign workers with about 80% of those employed in the private sector being expats. This makes Saudi Arabia an idyllic location if you are considering relocating for a new tax job through Kingpin.

The Saudi economy is the largest in the Middle East, ranking 18th globally.  Saudi Arabia is an “energy superpower”, estimated to have the third-highest value of natural resources.  The Kingdom has the second-largest proven petroleum reserves in the world and is the largest exporter of petroleum.  It also has the fifth-largest proven natural gas reserves.  Saudi Arabia has a command economy with central planning, dominated by the petrol industry; roughly 63% of budget revenues and 67% of export earnings come from the oil industry.  A key challenge for the economy is how to diversify its output. Given the fall in oil prices over several years, the country introduced VAT on consumer goods and has signed up to the OECD initiative to limit Transfer Pricing.

For more, see here.

Interesting facts

  • It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast
  • Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the world without a river
  • Riyadh’s camel market is one of the world’s largest and sells about 100 camels per day
  • It is the 3rd largest military spender in the world and largest in relation to GDP
  • The country saw the founding of the Islamic faith
  • The state is in charge of Islam’s holiest sites
  • The Saudi king’s official title is “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.”
  • It attracts over 2.5 million Muslims from across the world for the Hajj celebrations

Cost of Living


An individual can travel to Saudi Arabia after the embassy issues them a visa, allowing a stay of between 14-90 days. When arriving in the country, an application must be filed with the Ministry of Labour for the Iqama or residency permit. Work visas are available for long-term employment.

Applicants must submit:

  1. A letter of invitation from the Saudi sponsor company.
  2. A medical report authenticated by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office at the following postal address: Legalisation Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, PO Box 6255, Milton Keynes, MK10 1XX (Tel: 0370 000 2244).
  3. A copy of the contract of employment, attested by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  4. A copy of certificates for academic qualifications, attested by the Saudi Cultural Office, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Saudi Embassy. Academic qualifications must be relevant to the proposed employment in the Kingdom.
  5. An up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV).
  6. If previously employed in Saudi Arabia, a letter of recommendation from a former employer must be submitted.
  7. A Power of Attorney, submitted electronically by the Saudi sponsor company through the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  8. A police certificate, obtained from, attested by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.


The overall cost of living in Saudi Arabia is similar to most European countries as a tax expat.  The Kingdom ranks 62nd out of 136 in the Global Cost of Living Index.  The cost of accommodation tends to be more expensive than in Europe.  In addition, Riyadh and Jeddah rank 35 and 100 out of 209 in the Mercer’s City Living Index, which ranks how changes in prices of goods and services affects purchasing power.

For more information, see here.

Rent Per MonthAverage €Range €
Apartment (1 bedroom)
in City Centre
317.42     191.50 – 478.76
Apartment (1 bedroom)
Outside of Centre
234.97 143.63 – 359.07
Apartment (3 bedrooms)
in City Centre
564.51 59.07 – 837.82
Apartment (3 bedrooms)
Outside of Centre
432.56 287.25 – 646.32

The most popular option for getting around in Saudi Arabia is via private car and taxi. There is however a bus network and a railway network comprised of two main lines.

Trains operate along a 449 km route connecting Dammam, Abqaiq, Hofuf and Riyadh. The 4-hour journey is very picturesque with the train winding its way through desert dunes. You should expect to pay around $45 for a return journey. A second Dammam-Riyadh line runs via Haradh.

Inter-city buses are operated by Saudi Arabian Public Transport Company, comprising of 2,000 buses connecting the major cities. There are restrictions on travel near the border with Yemen. Buses are comfortable, air-conditioned, reasonably priced and generally safe. There are onboard toilets and some buses offer food and refreshments on board, though there are rest stops on most routes.  The front two rows of buses are reserved for women and children. Unaccompanied foreign women may travel on intercity buses if they have an iqama (residence permit) or a passport.  It is worth noting that foreign travellers rarely use local bus services, it is advised to rent a car or a driver to travel within Saudi Arabian towns and cities rather than rely on local public transport.

Taxis are generally cheaper than in other Gulf states and are a popular option as the public transport network does not connect the whole country. In 2012, Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Transport brought in a ‘no hailing law’ which means all taxi journeys had to be booked in advance. There are no meters in Saudi Arabian taxis, so the price must be agreed upon in advance. As most drivers do not speak English, you should ask an Arabic speaker to order a taxi for you.  Women are forbidden from being in a taxi unaccompanied by a man, or with a man who is not her husband or a blood relative. Women may get in a taxi in the company of another woman.

For more information, see Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of transport.


International schools in Saudi Arabia offers various types of curriculums, such as the International Baccalaureate, the UK national curriculum, a US-style model or the International Primary Curriculum.  Given the number of expats required to fill the country’s workforce – especially in the oil sector – the private international school sector is quite sizeable.  Campuses are concentrated in the capital Riyadh and the coastal cities of Jeddah and Al Khobar.  As well as many schools following British, American and international curriculums, there are German, Italian, Pakistani and Filipino foundations, serving the children of nationals working in the desert kingdom.  A total of eight schools are accredited by the Council of International Schools, while the Council of British International Schools has two members. There are 18 IB World Schools that offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma, 12 of which offer the Diploma Programme

For more, see here.

Other considerations

Utilities (Monthly) Average  €Rental €
Basic (Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Water,
Garbage) for 85m2 Apartment
73.0735.91 – 119.69
 1 Min. of Prepaid Mobile Tariff Local
(No Discounts or Plans)
0.110.05 – 0.16
Internet (60 Mbps or More, Unlimited Data,
58.6635.91 – 83.78

If you are interested in a move to Saudi Arabia or anywhere else in the world and would like to speak to Kingpin International about International Tax Opportunities, across Direct Tax, Transfer Pricing or Indirect Tax please contact a member of the team. Alternatively, view our current International Tax vacancies.