The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is generally on par with other destinations in the Middle East, though this varies greatly between cities. Mercer’s 2023 Cost of Living Survey ranked the city of Jeddah as 101st out of 227 cities, indicating the city is more affordable than several popular Middle Eastern expat destinations.

The capital, Riyadh, is ranked as the 85th most expensive city, showing its cost of living is much lower than Abu Dhabi but more expensive than Doha.

Fortunately, many expats move to the Kingdom on lucrative relocation packages with allowances for housing, transport, medical insurance and their children's education. Expats who have these costs covered by their employers usually find living expenses in Saudi Arabia reasonable and enjoy a comfortable lifestyle.

Cost of accommodation in Saudi Arabia

Expat housing in Saudi Arabia is expensive. High demand for property in expat compounds has resulted in high prices. The most popular compounds can have long waiting lists. Living outside the compounds often proves cheaper.

Villas and apartments in Saudi Arabia vary in cost depending on size, location, and amenities. Expats working in the Kingdom may be able to negotiate a housing allowance as part of their employment contract, which would be a major saving.

Cost of transport in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia doesn't have a comprehensive public transport system. This means many expats choose rather to buy or rent a private car. Given its position in the oil sector, petrol is cheap in Saudi Arabia. Expats can also typically afford to buy a more luxurious car in Saudi Arabia than they could back home. Car insurance is compulsory and is an extra expense expats should consider.

Cost of groceries and goods in Saudi Arabia

Electronic goods, groceries, and tobacco products are reasonably priced, but imported food and eating out can be costly.

When considering a move to Saudi Arabia or planning your budget as an expat, it's essential to know that local grocery items are generally more affordable than in many Western countries. This price difference can be quite substantial, especially when it comes to basic staples such as bread, milk and fresh produce. This affordability extends to local dairy products, meats and a variety of fruits and vegetables, making daily living costs lower for those essentials.

Despite the lower costs of basic groceries, imported goods and certain luxury items carry a higher price tag. This is partly due to import taxes and the logistics involved in bringing products from overseas. Therefore, while expats can enjoy savings on local items, they should be prepared to budget more for international brands and specialty products.

Cost of entertainment and eating out in Saudi Arabia

Entertainment options in Saudi Arabia are relatively limited, as there are no bars or nightclubs for Western expats. Instead, money is spent in compounds or on luxury items in the country’s many malls.

Dining out in Saudi Arabia offers a diverse experience comparable to smaller European towns or Southeast Asian cities. Whether it's a casual meal at a local eatery or a more extravagant dinner in expat-heavy areas, the range of options ensures there's something to suit all palates. While everyday dining is reasonably priced, high-end restaurants offer gourmet experiences at a fraction of what one might pay in larger Western cities.

The leisure and entertainment scene, while different from many Western countries, includes cinemas, music events and increasingly popular sports and cultural activities. Attending a movie, enjoying a concert, or participating in a sports event can be more costly than in many parts of the world but similar to prices in upscale Asian facilities.

Cost of education in Saudi Arabia

Schooling is another key expense for expat families, most of whom will opt for private or international schools rather than local public schools. Tuition costs at these schools can be expensive and will often exclude the cost of books, uniforms or excursion fees. Expat parents are advised to plan a budget for prospective schooling expenses.

Cost of healthcare in Saudi Arabia

Healthcare in Saudi Arabia is transitioning towards a more privatised model, which can influence costs for non-nationals and those not covered by government healthcare. 

For expats, the mandatory health insurance programme ensures access to a range of services at private healthcare facilities. Premiums vary based on the level of coverage chosen, with more comprehensive plans offering broader services and higher costs. While basic health insurance is compulsory, many opt for additional coverage to include dental and optical care services.

The cost of healthcare without insurance can be high, especially for specialised treatments and private hospital care. Medications, particularly imported ones, can also be costly. However, the government's efforts to increase private sector participation aim to improve efficiency and service quality, potentially leading to more competitive pricing in the future. Expats must thoroughly research and select a health insurance plan that balances cost with coverage needs, ensuring access to preferred hospitals and clinics.

Cost of living in Saudi Arabia chart

Note that prices may vary depending on the location and service provider. The table below is based on average prices in Riyadh in February 2024.

Accommodation (monthly rent)
Three-bedroom apartment in the city centreSAR 7,800
Three-bedroom apartment outside the city centreSAR 4,400
One-bedroom apartment in the city centreSAR 4,800
One-bedroom apartment outside the city centreSAR 3,300
Food and drink
Dozen eggsSAR 9
Milk (1 litre)SAR 4.99
Rice (1kg)SAR 8.13
Loaf of white breadSAR 4.30
Chicken breasts (1kg)SAR 21
Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)SAR 24
Eating out
Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurantSAR 200
Big Mac MealSAR 32
Coca-Cola (330ml)SAR 3.07
CappuccinoSAR 16.89
Bottle of beer (local)SAR 0
Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)SAR 0.42
Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)SAR 250
Basic utilities (average per month for a standard household)SAR 1,640
Taxi rate/kmSAR 6
City-centre public transport fareSAR 4
Gasoline (per litre)SAR 2.33

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