Expats looking for accommodation to rent in Riyadh will typically choose between numerous Western-style compounds or, less commonly, local housing in the form of a villa or apartment.
However, availability can be limited despite the variety. It’s therefore often best to have the help of a sponsoring employer during the house-hunting process.
Popular areas and suburbs to rent in Riyadh
Riyadh is laid out in an easily navigable grid and is divided into 15 districts. The central district of the city is known as Al-Dirah, which includes various areas like Al-Malaz, Al-Aziziyah and Al-Shemaysi. To the east are Al-Rabwa, Al-Izdihar and Al-Nakheel, which are known for their modern architecture, luxurious lifestyle, and upscale shopping malls. In the west are Al-Murabba, Al-Batha and Al-Olaya, which are more traditional and cultural areas. Expats can find a range of residential compounds throughout Riyadh.
One such compound is Al-Hamra Oasis Village, located in the heart of the city. This compound is an ideal option for expat families as it offers a range of facilities like swimming pools, playgrounds and parks. In the west of Riyadh is Arizona Golf Resort, which offers an elegant lifestyle to its residents with a golf course, spa and fitness centre. It is a perfect choice for expats who prefer a high-end lifestyle with easy access to shopping malls and restaurants. Kingdom City is a newly developed and affluent residential area located on the outskirts of Riyadh.
Another popular choice for expats in Riyadh is Al-Olaya and Sulaymaniyah. These areas are known for their commercial and business centres, making them an ideal choice for young professionals. They offer easy access to shopping malls, restaurants and other recreational activities. Al-Muhammadiyah and Al-Nakheel are other well-known neighbourhoods in Riyadh, offering a mix of modern and traditional lifestyle. These areas have numerous housing options suitable for families and young professionals.
See the page on Areas and Suburbs in Riyadh for more detail on the best neighbourhoods in the city.
Types of accommodation to rent in Riyadh
There isn't a great deal of choice when it comes to options for accommodation in Riyadh. Most expats opt to live in compounds where they are largely sheltered from the culture shock of day-to-day life in Saudi Arabia. Apart from availability, individual needs and personal preferences dictate which compounds expats are interested in.
These self-contained complexes vary in size from small apartment clusters to sprawling collections of villas. They're usually gated, walled and guarded and often include amenities such as gyms, clinics, restaurants, shops and schools.
The restrictive rules of normal Saudi life can feel far away within these secluded neighbourhoods. The Mutaween (religious police) seldom enter, and new arrivals have more opportunities to foster relationships with fellow expats who can help ease the transition. Women can also socialise freely inside compounds and there are no restrictions on what to wear.
Finding accommodation to rent in Riyadh
For many expats working in Riyadh, employers will supply accommodation in a compound or at least be in a position to assist in the process of finding a home. It’s important that expats discuss getting a housing allowance during contract negotiations. This could be a specific sum of money, a percentage of their salary or, as with some larger companies, even the provision of a property. For those going it alone without the help of an employer, colleagues, friends and fellow expats can be invaluable sources of information and recommendations.
Renting accommodation in Riyadh
Demand for compound housing is high among Riyadh's expat population, and rental prices are expensive.
Rent is usually expected to be paid six months to a year in advance. A deposit of 10 percent of the annual rent is also standard. Service charges and maintenance are typically included, but tenants are responsible for paying utilities such as electricity, gas and water.
Riyadh relies heavily on water from desalination plants in the nearby coastal cities of Jubail, Yanbu and Shuaiba, and has implemented strict water conservation measures to minimise wastage. The tap water in Riyadh is generally safe to drink, but many expats purchase bottled water or use water filtration systems to ensure safe drinking water.
Riyadh has a highly developed power generation and transmission infrastructure. As a result, the city has a more reliable electricity supply than other regions. Electricity bills in Saudi Arabia can be high, so expats should be mindful of their usage and turn off appliances when not in use.
Natural gas is commonly used in Riyadh for cooking and heating. Many residential buildings have gas connections, but this is not necessarily the case in some apartments, and expats may need to purchase gas cylinders for their apartments.
The Riyadh Municipality oversees waste management in Riyadh. Expats should familiarise themselves with the waste disposal system and follow the guidelines for separating the waste into recyclable and non-recyclable items.
The Saudi government's online portal Hesabi ('my account' in Arabic) streamlines setting up and paying for utilities. Expats can view and pay their water and electricity bills and see information about local gas providers, waste management, recycling and environmental initiatives.
See the page on Accommodation in Saudi Arabia for more detail on leases, the rental process and utilities.
Domestic help in Riyadh
Expats living in Riyadh can hire domestic help, such as housekeepers, drivers and cooks. The cost of hiring domestic help is relatively low compared to Western countries, and it is common for expat families to have live-in domestic helpers. That said, there are regulations in place to ensure that domestic workers are treated fairly and have their basic rights protected.
For more details, read about Domestic Help in Saudi Arabia
►For more on finding the perfect home, see Accommodation in Saudi Arabia
►Read about the best Areas and Suburbs in Riyadh
"Compounds are an ideal option for expats in my opinion. Most outside rules don’t apply (e.g. women don’t need to wear the national garb Abaya and public displays of affection is okay)."
Read our interview with Indian expat Palavi to learn more about living in Riyadh.
Are you an expat living in Riyadh?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Riyadh. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global Health Insurance - 10% off any plans bought in November and December 2023
With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider. Cigna is currently offering a 10% discount for seniors (over 60) on their Silver package.
International Movers. Get Quotes. Compare Prices.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.