Shopping on weekends
Favorite thing: Saudi weekend begins on Wednesday afternoon. Shopping malls announce their new promotions to coincide with weekend and all the malls are overcrowded. So, unless you are hunting for a bargain on some favorite item, don't go shopping on Wednesday evening. Thursday morning is always a better option.
- Business Travel
Tips for business visitors to Saudi Arabia
Favorite thing: Working in Saudi Arabia is both exciting as well as a challenge. A few tips for business visitors and for those who are on a short trip to the kingdom is not out of place. Prior knowledge of what and when to do before meeting your hosts always helps.
Saudis are quite hospitable, particularly when it involves business visitors. The first rule is to dress business-like: a suit with a tie should do, atleast for the first day. You will find that your hosts would be in their 'thobes' - the traditional Arabic dress - a long white robe . They would also be wearing a headgear - a white or pink squares in a white cloth with a black ring around the head. The weather is quite hot most of the year, but once indoor, you will find that all buildings are air conditioned and quite comfortable.
Remember to give a warm and firm handshake. If you are entering a room where a group of Saudis are seated, start always from the person on your right hand side and move towards your left anti-clockwise. Do not forget to greet each person with a "Salaam Alaikum" with a slight bow of your head and a genuine smile. It goes down well with your hosts.
While exchanging business cards, NEVER EVER keep your host's business card on your hip pocket. It is considered as an ultimate insult. Also, while seated in a chair, avoid sitting cross-legged such that one of your shoes point at your hosts.
You will usually be offered a traditional drink, called gahwa, which is a small cup of hot water mixed with cardamom powder. Never refuse it, but if you find it unpalatable, atleast try to take a sip rather than refusing it outright. It is usual for the Saudis to keep filling your cup once it is empty. This drink is normally taken along with dates.
Before you proceed to your meeting, be well-informed about the prayer timings. It keeps changing slightly every day, and it is quite normal for business meetings to be put on hold during prayer times. If you are a Muslim, you would be expected to participate in the prayers along with them. In case you are wearing a gold chain around your neck, try not to make it too obvious. Also, try to avoid wearing gold bracelets. These are considered taboo by Saudis as they are supposed to be worn only by women. Wearing a gold ring is considered okay, and usually nobody will make a fuss about it.
Patience is a very big virtue and do take time to develop your business relationship. Saudi Arabia is an extremely close-knit society and family and tribal connections matter top on the priority list. Establishing personal rapport with your hosts and developing genuine friendship would almost always result in a successful business relationship.
NEVER EVER discuss about religion, politics, monarchy, terrorism, security and such controversial issues, even on the sidelines. These are extremely sensitive matters. Topics which are considered okay are weather, football (the Saudis are a football-crazy nation and are extremely well-informed about the game), travel, hobbies, etc.
If you are giving a Powerpoint presentation, try to use bullets and avoid long texts. Always begin by mentioning the history of your company and do not directly barge into the main topic. Pay attention to the body language of your hosts, as it would reveal more than what a thousand words would not. Try to make the discussion more interactive by involving your hosts, rather than simply lecturing them.
Saudis usually associate any reference to time with the words "Insha Allah", which literally means "God willing". It could mean a few days, hours or months depending on the context, but normaly when they make a promise, it is usually kept. Do not expect miracles to happen right from the first meeting.
Never ever use your left hand. If your right hand is dirty or even wet, never ever shake hands with anyone before cleaning it thoroughly. If you are caught in such a situation that you must shake hands, offer your wrist instead. Strange as it may sound, it is considered quite okay in this part of the world, rather than withdrawing or not offering your hand, which would be considered offensive.
Remember the names of your hosts, or atleast a few of the important ones. Always address them by their last names, more so in the first few meetings.
When you complete your meeting, remember to once again shake hands with each of your hosts and do not forget to thank each one of them. Once you reach home, follow it up with an email thanking them - it goes down well with the Saudis. Remember, building a strong inter-personal relationship is the basis for a long-lasting business relationship!
Shopping malls are alot.
Favorite thing: Dammam is very nice,i lived there for about 5 years. and i think that:
Nokia is the best mobile phone there.
and if you want to pay a bill every month then choose mobily.
but if you want to charge then choose al-jawwal.
Hope i helped!!!
Riyadh: The Driest Place I've ever Been
Fondest memory: Riyadh is the driest place I have been to. It is moistureless and dusty whole year round. It is very hot from March to November (summer), while near-freezing cold on other months (winter).
Rain showers only happen few times on every end of seasons ergo no need to bring umbrellas. However sandstorms are more the common conditions.
If you happen to come to Riyadh during winter it is advisable to bring very thick jackets, furry coats and the like. Shopping for winter clothes in Riyadh during those times (November to mid January) could be pricey prior to the ‘end season sale’ in which most tags lowers down to 70% discount, that is between January to February.
Taking Photos Privately in Riyadh Public
Fondest memory: For the eager snap shooter, this city is still new to this idea.
Although it was announced that photography in the public were allowed for quite some time, still most Saudi citizens, especially women in black (those covered from head-to-toe) are not accustomed seeing foreigners snapping photos around them.
Taking photos in public to be allowed Published: 2005-7-6
They have this notion that once captured by the camera, soul leaves its body and goes somewhere else, perhaps with the photograph. In most cases locals would not want their women exposed even with their cloak and veil on. To avoid arguments or police confrontations take photos in places away or unseen by these kind of people.
Understandably they are only few decades old in their civilization. We foreigners should allow the tribes to adjust to this technology.
In addition, it is prohibited to photograph government buildings of any kind. It is best to keep this in mind to spare you from big trouble.
Riyadh's Emergency Numbers
Favorite thing: I have not tried any of these numbers but I hope this serves useful on urgent situations.
International Operator --->901
International Directory --->900
Directory Assistance --->905
Mobile Phones, Internet
Favorite thing: Two mobile service companies are operating in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Telecom Co. (Al Jawal) and Etihad Etisalat (Mobily)
Both of them are providing prepaid SIM cards from all over the country, with SMS, Multi Media messaging, and video calls if your subscription support that.
EasyNet, the free dial up service can be reached easily from most landlines in the country. The hour would cost you SAR 3.
You can reach Easynet by calling any of the companies numbers, such as 3660011, 3660022, 3660033, 3660100.
The cost will go only for the landline.
You can use wireless net services from most café shops, and in Al Tahlya St. (The smart zone in mid town)
DSL connectivity is also in most 5 stars hotels, with some extra cost for some hotels.
The internet is uses are censored by the sector’s regulator which blocks mainly the porn Web sites.
Don't worry, all famous Web sites are open such Yahoo, Google, gmail, MSN, Hotmail, Youtube, Facebook and sure VT hehe.
There are more than 20 internet service providers in Saudi Arabia, Most of them provide prepaid DSL services.
Orbit, the tv network, provide Satelite internet connection by about SAR 650 a month without a need for landline.
Mobily, and STC have recently launched wireless high speed internet (1.8 mega) for SAR 350 per month.
ATM, Money, Investment
Favorite thing: Each US dollar equal 3.75 Saudi riyals, this valued been fixed since so long, and they seems will keep it at least till the end of 2007.
Transferring money into and out of Saudi Arabia is quite easy through banks branches, some information required about yourself, and the receiving person. It will take about half an hour in some cases for the money to be delivered.
ATM Machines are everywhere (6519 of them) with English language for you, some of them also allow you to withdraw local riyals or US dollars.
Traveler's check and credit cards such as VISA, MasterCard, and American Express are widely accepted.
Saudi stock market (www.tadawul.com.sa) is largely dominated by local and GCC investors. Foreign investors channel their investment through the mutual funds managed by local banks. Foreign workers living in Saudi may put their money directly in the market without being allowed to buy in the initial public offerings.
Other investments such start your own business you may look at the General Investment Authority Web site: www.sagia.gov.sa and look at the negative list of fields which limited to locals. I believe its v short list with only 7 items.
Favorite thing: Education - There are 2 types of schools for Saudi's. One of which is the Government Schools (Grade School to University) and Private Schools ( Grade School to High school)
Recently, few private Colleges have opened for Saudi including School of Medicine.
Also, private schools for expats are available like the American, British, Indian, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Filipino from pre-school to high school.
a. Both government and private schools they allow Saudi's and Non- Saudi's until high school
b. Saudi Universities give stipend of approximately 250USD each student per month.
Finding Accomodation in Riyadh
Favorite thing: These are for expats who are looking for their accommodation when they plan to work here in Riyadh.
Housing is one of the good benefits of Saudi Arabia when you were hired by any company or establishment. Some company has their own accommodation for their employees and some companies would give housing allowance at 3 to 4 times of your salary then you are the one who will manage and find where do you want to stay either flat ( apartment ) or villa ( house ) inside a compound or not.
In our experience, housing was our first concern. We tried to look for a compound where the rental fee ranges from 40K( 2 bedrooms only ) to 100K( 3 to 4 bed rooms ) riyals per year (choices of 1 to 4 bed rooms semi furnished to fully furnished type with complete facilities like swimming pool, groceries store, sports facilities, spa and lots more). Some advantages of a compound are you have a little bit freedom by not wearing an abbaya inside the compound and you can have more flexible social activities with your friends depending on what facilities the compound has.
My husband also tried to find for a flat or villa outside a compound which has a big difference in rental fee compared to the compound rental fee. The difference ranges from 8 to 10K for a 2 bedrooms unfurnished flat or villa, and around 20 to 30K difference for an unfurnished flat or villa.
We preferred big space for our children, thus, we decided to rent a 3 storey 5 bed room Villa outside compound.
Favorite thing: Due to the location of Riyadh, it became the biggest city in Saudi Arabia. Not only because it is the capital but it is the center for both education and business.
Wide roads is the common seen here. The government is investing lots of money to make our capital one of the best in the world.
Fondest memory: it is the place where I grew in every aspect.
IQAMA (Residence Permit)
Favorite thing: Note:
This general tip is not my fondest memory here in Riyadh but this is an important reminder for those who plan to stay or work here in Saudi Arabia.
Many questions in the forum have been asked about this Permit and so we find it important to share what we know on how and when to apply it and who are the ones qualified/entitled or required.
1. Any expat/dependent of expat working in Saudi Arabia are required to obtain a RESIDENCE PERMIT or the so called IQAMA.
2. The VISIT VISA (1 - 6 months) is NOT allowed to avail the Residence Permit / IQAMA not unless the visit visa is converted to a working visa. The visit visa can be converted to a working visa even if you are in the Kingdom through a special permit.
3. The government fee for the IQAMA is 500SR per year. Maximum 2 years can be availed. As for the foreign wife of a Saudi, maximum of 4 years.
4. The employer has to be the one to process the IQAMA.
5. The processing time is usually 1 working day.
Pls. always bring your IQAMA with you coz this will serve as your only valid IDENTIFICATION CARD in the Kingdom.
Exit / Re-entry
Favorite thing: Every expat is required to obtain an exit/re-entry permit from the passport office if they intend to travel outside the Kingdom.This is also being processed by the employer.
REMINDER: The passport has to be valid for more than 6 months.
There is a single and multiple re-entry.
FEE: 200SR for single
500SR for multiple
It takes one working day to process the permit except in emergency case.
Blocked from taking a Photo at the SkyBridge?
Favorite thing: You will have noticed that you are parted with your cameras on your way up to capture the gorgeous view at night on the Skybridge on top of the Kingdom Tower: A sole commercial photographer has paid his dues to ensure a monopoly on this activity on the bridge. Discreet smuggled camera cellphones and mini cameras aside, after digesting the view return to the entrance to retrieve your cameras and head up to the Spazio Restaurant on the 77th floor to complete your photo expedition either on the singles (male) section looking south to the Faisaliya or the 'family' (mixed/women) to the north. The staff are accommodating enough for a small consideration to let you 'study the menu' ...
Favorite thing: Not quite a favourite but...before you travel:
If you do not already belong to a “Frequent Flyer” scheme, it is advisable to join now. Flights to Saudi have been known to be double booked & passengers removed. Those holding FF cards are given preference.
King Khalid Int'l Airport is quite big & modern, you will always land at a pier & not have to suffer the heat until you are outside arrivals. There is no duty-free area in the arrivals hall of the airport (that said, there isn't even one in departures!). Proceed to the lower level, immigration. Everyone is treated with suspicion, however western expats tend to receive a little more courtesy. You should present your passport & landing card you filled out before landing to the officer here. You will need to know the name & address of your sponsor. Single females have a separate counter & visiting wives may be dragged out to the arrivals hall to fetch their husband to take over immigration proceedings! Onto baggage claim, one word of warning here: “Fragile” seems to be Hindi/Urdu for “throw heavily onto the conveyor” so try to carry your breakables with you. Your bags may then be searched, which sometimes involves putting your bags through an x-ray machine, or a thorough item-by-item search. They will be looking for alcohol, drugs, pork products, porn and any pirated software/videos etc. From here it is out into the arrivals hall where someone should be waiting for you. If you are doing your own thing, turn left & proceed to the domestic terminal, (about a kilo walk!) here you will find the car rental desks, if you are so brave. There are the ubiquitous Airport taxi drivers who will hassle you as soon as the customs doors open "Taxi Sir/Ma'am?" but keep in mind, as are all things in KSA, fair is negotiable - aim as close to 50SR but no more than 75SR.
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