10 Best Online Resources for Expats in Saudi

Despite the Internet being widely available in Saudi Arabia to government agencies, businesses and individuals, I find that there are not enough online resources for expats, especially if you are non-Arabic speakers. You may have more luck on the Arabic web, but as an English speaker, you may find that very little online resources for expats is available.

Looking for opening hours of this or that place? They don’t have a website! or it was last updated in 2001! Want to discover the city and need tips on where to go? The tourism websites are a joke: no up-to-date info, no dates of events, no links to organizing bodies, no contact details. The results is a LOT of frustration and many many missed opportunities to discover Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is a rich and varied country, with cultural, natural, and historical assets that go way beyond what you would imagine when first coming here. Yet, many expats end up living here and seeing nothing. I have been here more than 3 years now and I feel like I haven’t seen anything. Not that I didn’t try… but many times I made the trip, booked hotels, drove with the kids for hours only to find out that what we wanted to see was closed in the winter or that it was only open on the weekend or every Tuesday after 5pm…! It took me 2 years to finally visit one of the most famous museum in Jeddah. I know, right, ridiculous!Β  But don’t laugh, the vast majority of comments on Tripadvisor read something like that: “been living in Jeddah for 30 years and never knew that place existed!” or ” have drove past this place many times, never seen it open, didn’t know what it was!”.

The list below is not exhaustive of course but those 10 online resources for expats have helped me a lot over the years. These are my go-to places when I’m stuck. If you don’t know them already, check them out:

Immigration:

Saudi Ministry of Interior – aka Absher

https://www.moi.gov.sa/wps/portal/Home/Home

There is no doubt that sooner or later, you’ll need to use this link. All your information is stored on the MoI portal and you can access it all. You will need first to register (there are a few steps to follow, including fingerprinting, but it’s easier than it sounds) then you will be able to complete many procedures online such as ordering visas, renewing your iqama (residence permit), adding children as dependents and much much more.

Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs

http://www.mofa.gov.sa/sites/mofaen

This could also be useful if you plan for instance to invite people in Saudi Arabia under a family visit visa. As you can see if you click on Ministry Services, there are loads of things that this site can help you with.

Visa Services

online resources for expats

Visa Validity Website

https://www.eserve.com.sa/VVSWeb/

Once you live in Saudi, you will need to apply for exit-reentry visas in order to leave the country and you may want to check on the status of your visa. This website is where you check whether your visa has been processed or not and how long it is valid for. Absolutely essential link. Save it somewhere!

Facebook Expat Groups

Of course, there are loads of them and you can simply google them. However, those 2 groups – along with their associated websites or blogs- have proved the most useful to me over the years.

Susie of Arabia Facebook Group

online resources for expats

Susie of Arabia Facebook group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/susieofarabia/

Β It currently has over 17K members, all expats or future expats to Saudi Arabia. Many of them seem to be based in Jeddah, but the main cities of Riyadh and Dammam are also discussed regularly. No matter what you are looking for, simply ask in the group and someone is bound to have the answer. It is my number #1 go-to place for any specific questions about a place, opening times…. anything really. What is great about this group is that you get up-to-date answers to your questions.

Jeddah for Kids Blog (+ Facebook group)

online resources for expats

Jeddah for kids blog – Home page

https://jeddahforkids.wordpress.com/

If you have children in Jeddah, then you need to check out this blog. It has been running for many years and the people running it are very thorough in their research of anything kid-related in Jeddah. This means that they have long lists of places to keep the kids busy, schools, kid-friendly activities… Probably the most comprehensive website of the sort. They also have a Facebook group for specific request such as recommendations for a particular school or nursery.

Culture & Tourism

Saudi Tourism Official Website

http://www.sauditourism.sa/en/Pages/default.aspx

I was happy to realize when I checked the link for this post that they have a brand new website design and layout (BETA version) and I do hope the new site will be more useful than the old one. Unfortunately, as tourism is just emerging in Saudi Arabia as an economic sector in its own right, the online infrastructure is still poor. The good new is that KSA is investing a lot as we speak to develop this sector and we should see some improvements in the near future.

Jeddah Cultural Exchange Centre (+ Facebook page)

online resources for expats

Jeddah Cultural Exchange Centre – Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/CulturalExchangeCenter

Located in central Jeddah, the centre is home to Arabic classes, cultural adaptation workshops, even an English language book-swap. They also have movie nights with children’s classics or documentaries on Saudi Arabia. They also organize trips and visits in and around Jeddah. Definitely worth checking them out once you’re settled a bit.

Tour Guides / Groups

Saudi Arabia is a country that has long been closed to tourism and as such it is not easy to explore it on your own. You will need the help of some guide or group to make the most of all the amazing sights this country has to offer. Be warned that those trips for expats don’t come cheap so plan ahead.

online resources for expats

Amazing Tours Website – Home page

http://www.amazingtours.info/

online resources for expats

NomadArabia Facebook page

https://www.facebook.com/nomadarabia

Tripadvisor *Things to do in Jeddah* Page

online resources for expats

Tripadvisor Things to do in Jeddah page

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g295419-Activities-Jeddah_Makkah_Province.html

This is a bit of a given but you may very well be surprised to find some interesting place or activity to keep you and your family busy.

News in English

Saudi Gazette (+ Facebook page)

https://www.facebook.com/SaudiGazette

I have to admit, I’m not the type of person who reads or watches the news seriously. Too much negativity for my taste but I do like to know roughly what’s going on. If you’re like me, then Saudi Gazette is perfect. You’ll get all the news of Saudi Arabia, you’ll hear about big news, official announcements from the King, changes in the law that could affect you as an expat and so on… Oh and they have those really funny cartoons that are usually spot on to describe cultural aspects of Saudi.

 

Like I said, this list is far from exhaustive but it should get you started and help you with many issues. However, if you know others, feel free to add the links in the comments.

7 thoughts on “10 Best Online Resources for Expats in Saudi”

  1. Jamie M says:

    Thanks so much! My husband and I just moved to Jeddah and we’re still settling in (day 3) but we’re looking forward to getting more connected with what’s going on in the city!

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Welcome to Jeddah hope you are settling down well. There is quite a lot to see and do in Jeddah and KSA in general but the lack of widely available information can be frustrating. Don\’t hesitate to talk to people and to network to find out all the secrets πŸ™‚

  2. Tim UrbanDuniya says:

    Good tips. If I get to Saudi for work one day (inshaAllah) then this will be very useful!

    I like the new layout and design, by the way πŸ™‚

  3. Angie says:

    Very useful post most especially for those who are still getting the hang of the expat life in Jeddah. Indeed, life abroad is difficult. Thank you for this post.

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      Thank you Angie don\’t forget to save some of those links you never know when you might need them. Sounds like you\’re in Saudi too so feel free to share your own useful links in the comments. All the best with your new life here.

  4. Andrew Boland says:

    good to know there’s a strong selection of useful websites! πŸ™‚

    1. Jameela Deen says:

      There are quite a few useful websites out there. The problem is that people usually get to know them after a long time being in Saudi. Which is why I keep getting emails from future expats asking me all kinds of questions about where to find the correct info. Not that I mind getting the emails, I just thought that would save people the hassle if this list was published.

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