Keeping in Touch in Saudi Arabia
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The Kingdom can feel isolated and restrictive much of the time, so staying in contact with family and friends is an important part of expat life in Saudi Arabia.
The telecommunications sector has seen much improvement and diversification in recent years and with a competitive market, expats will have a variety of options when it comes to keeping in touch in Saudi Arabia.
Internet in Saudi Arabia
Expats have access to fixed-line and wireless broadband, and mobile internet. WiFi is widely available in cities and mobile broadband is increasingly common. However, fixed-line connections are often the cheapest and most reliable option.
The largest service providers include Integrated Telecom Company, Mobily and Zain. Expats generally only need their Iqama to open an account.
VOIP and instant messaging applications like Skype and WhatsApp are easily accessed, but have been subject to bans in the past.
Mobile phones in Saudi Arabia
Mobile services in Saudi Arabia are extensive, even in remote areas of the country. Pre- and post-paid packages are available. Many expats opt for pre-paid SIM cards, which can be bought at provider outlets or the airport. Credit can either be purchased in card form or electronically in shops. Post-paid accounts can also be set up at provider outlets. The most popular service providers are Saudi Telecom Company (STC), Mobily and Zain.
Censorship in Saudi Arabia
Despite the ease of accessing communications in Saudi Arabia, content is heavily restricted. Anyone accessing or publishing information can't be seen to criticise or contradict the values of Islam and the state.
Numerous pages relating to health, religion, education, humour and even entertainment have been banned. But the most aggressive censorship is reserved for content relating to pornography, drug use, gambling and religious conversion of Muslims.
English-language media in Saudi Arabia
Keeping up to date with news back home is also a good way to stay connected. Most English-language media is based on local and international hard news. Electronic and print publications like Arab News also offer information and advice aimed at the expat community.