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Updated 5 Dec 2011

Expats moving to Saudi Arabia will almost certainly have solidified a job, negotiated their contract and squared away salary logistics prior to arrival; and in the majority of instances, foreigners lured abroad to Riyadh, Jeddah or the Kingdom’s oil-rich Eastern Province will be granted a shipping allowance.

If this topic has not been raised, be sure to do so prior to putting your signature on the dotted line. While shopping in Saudi Arabia is taken very seriously, with large malls, weathered souqs and high-end boutiques in most major cities, there will be some items that you’ll absolutely need to bring from home.

Not to mention, there’s no better way to start settling into a strange land than by surrounding yourself with a few familiar belongings and a handful of sentimental bits and bobs. 

Keep in mind that air shipments arrive immediately, while surface shipments can take several months. Furthermore, DO NOT send anything that’s irreplaceable in your shipment. Lastly, remember that most accommodation in Saudi Arabia comes furnished, thus you can leave the bedside tables and aged armoires in storage. 


Saudi Arabia packing list

What to pack in your air shipment

  • Computer and software

  • Some cookbooks

  • Tool kit

  • Games

  • Children’s toys

  • Video, DVD’s and CDs (note that custom officials will confiscate any material that they deem in violation of Muslim law)

What to pack in your surface shipment

  • The rest of your kitchen needs

  • Clothing

  • Sewing machine

  • Books

  • Household items

  • Appliances

  • Camping gear

What not to bring

  • Televisions (if coming from the US) – not compatible with local systems, and sets available for reasonable prices

What to pack in your suitcases

  • Children’s toys or stuffed animals

  • Copies of Saudi visa and passports in multiple locations

  • Over the counter prescription medication

  • Copies of prescriptions (same brands may not be available – so you’ll need to know active ingredient in the medication)

  • Contact lenses and solution (available in the KSA, but more expensive)

  • Brand-name cosmetics (available in KSA, but specific brands may not be present)

  • Loose cotton clothing

  • Tennis (Athletic) Shoes

  • Swimwear and exercise wear

  • Children’s clothes and shoes

  • Dress clothes (a lot of socialising within expat community – so dress-up occasions do exist)

What to pack in your carry-on

  • A chance of clothes for all passengers

  • Costly electronic goods

  • Passport and Saudi visa

  • Decongestant (helps children sleep on plane)


Further reading

Shipping to Saudi Arabia

Connie Sutton Our Expat Expert

I am what we call a "Middle East Retread". I lived in Saudi in the early 1990's, left and then returned here in 2007.  I have been married for 30 years to my husband, Rick, We have two beagles, mother & son, Shwayah & Trico, respectively. 

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