Getting Around in Riyadh
Expats may feel somewhat restricted when it comes to getting around in Riyadh, especially women who have, up until now, not been permitted to drive. Cars are cheap so most new arrivals opt to get a personal vehicle with a driver. While some expats do drive themselves, it can be a frustrating exercise for most.
Public transport in Riyadh is very limited. The bus network is not user friendly, especially for foreigners who do not understand Arabic. Taxis are a good alternative, especially for expats who are in Riyadh on a short-term contract.
Driving in Riyadh
Expats in Riyadh often find they can afford cars they wouldn't have been able to back home thanks to low import duties and cheap petrol. Roads in the city are well maintained, but local drivers are notorious for being aggressive and reckless, so many new arrivals hire a personal driver.
Speeding, cutting across lanes to turn, not indicating and ignoring right-of-way rules aren't uncommon, so driving defensively is advised. Expats can drive with a foreign or international driver's licence for up to three months, after which they're required to apply for a Saudi licence.
Traffic cameras are increasingly being used to deter running red lights and speeding, and fines can be steep. Expats should check the government website frequently to see if they have any – it's illegal to leave the country with unpaid fines.
Cars in Saudi Arabia drive on the right-hand side of the road.
There have been some positive changes with regards to the rights of women to drive in Saudi Arabia. Although women were previously not permitted to have driver's licences in the Kingdom and were thus unable to drive, the government has implemented legislation to change this, and by mid-2018, women will be allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Public transport in Riyadh
There is a limited bus network in Riyadh but it is not really accessible for the average expat. The good news is that major improvements are underway with the construction of a metro system, which is expected to become fully operational by 2021. Until the completion of the project, however, taxis provide a useful alternative for getting around in Riyadh.
Taxis are abundant in Riyadh and are a good option for expats who don't want to buy a car. They are reasonably priced and drivers will usually use the meter if the passenger doesn’t negotiate a fixed price.
Women are legally allowed to take registered taxis in Riyadh, although many local women still opt to travel in their own car with a personal driver. While men can sit in the passenger seat next to the driver, women should take the back seat.
The level of a taxi driver's English can vary from fairly decent to non-existent, so it's best to have the destination written down in Arabic before starting a journey.
While buses do exist in Riyadh they are rarely used by expats and wealthy locals. It's quite difficult for new arrivals to get to grips with the bus system in Riyadh as there are no posted stops and routes are usually written in Arabic.