The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most popular destinations for Filipino workers. From construction workers to domestic helpers, OFWs are needed in almost all sectors of the Saudi economy. However, there are some things that you must learn about the living conditions in Saudi Arabia first before accepting a job offer here.
In this blog, we will discuss some important factors you must consider when living in Saudi Arabia as an OFW.
- Overview of OFW Life in Saudi Arabia
- Healthcare and Hospitals
- Other Services
- 7 Tips for adjusting to living conditions in Saudi Arabia for OFWs
- Frequently Asked Questions
- 1. What are the living conditions like for OFWs in Saudi Arabia?
- 2. What is the cost of living like in Saudi Arabia?
- 3. How can I stay in touch with my family back home?
- 4. What are the cultural differences I should be aware of?
- 5. Are there any restrictions on what I can bring into the country?
- 6. What is the employment situation like for OFWs in Saudi Arabia?
- 7. What is health care like for OFWs in Saudi Arabia?
- 8. What should I do in case of an emergency?
- Final Thoughts
Overview of OFW Life in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country, where religion plays a central role in daily life. It is the home of Islam’s two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia is also the largest Arab economy and one of the most important countries in the world for oil production and exports. With its large population (about 30 million), it offers opportunities for OFWs who want to work abroad but do not want to be isolated from the rest of the Filipino community given that according to the data from Philippine government’s Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), as of 2021, there are more than 1.3 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia. This makes Saudi Arabia one of the largest destinations for Filipino workers abroad.
The cost of accommodation in Saudi Arabia can vary depending on a number of factors, such as location, size, and amenities.
- Rental prices for apartments and houses can vary widely depending on the city, with prices in major cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam generally higher than those in smaller towns and rural areas.
- On average, a one-bedroom apartment in a city center can cost between 3,000 to 6,000 Saudi Riyals (800 to 1600 USD) per month.
- A three-bedroom apartment in a city center can cost between 4,500 to 12,000 Saudi Riyals (1200 to 3200 USD) per month, while a similar apartment in the suburbs could cost between 3,000 to 8,000 Saudi Riyals (800 to 2133 USD) per month.
It’s worth noting that the rent prices can fluctuate with the supply and demand of the housing market, also the prices may be different depending on the neighborhood, the quality of the housing and the level of services.
It’s also important to consider that utilities and services such as electricity, water, and internet are usually not included in the rent price and will add additional costs to the overall expense of accommodation.
The transportation system in Saudi Arabia is different from that in the Philippines. There are no jeepneys, tricycles, or taxis available in Saudi Arabia. However, a Metro train runs between Riyadh and Dammam; it’s called the Green Line. You can purchase a card at any station and use it to ride on this line.
The Uber app is also an option for transportation if you have an account set up with them (it’s free to sign up). If not, you may need to hire a driver who owns his car to take you where you want to go. You may also consider renting or buying your own car so that you’re not reliant on public transportation options like these two services provide—though driving in Saudi Arabia can be challenging due to road safety concerns and regulations governing driving conditions (such as speed limits).
Driving in cities like Riyadh and Jeddah can be challenging as there are limited roads available for cars within these areas. Many of the roads are reserved exclusively for pedestrians, which means drivers must be vigilant when navigating streets that are crowded with people walking around and possibly not paying attention to their surroundings. This includes being alert for pedestrians who may unexpectedly cross into traffic lanes without checking for oncoming vehicles first.
The country where you will be working is the Middle East, so you should know that the communication infrastructure differs from what we have in the Philippines. You may not have access to your phone and internet most of the time during work hours. However, there are ways for OFWs to get connected with their loved ones back home through these means:
- Cellphone/SIM card – this can be used as a hotline from Saudi Arabia to other countries like Malaysia, Indonesia (and vice versa). They can also use it as an international calling card when calling home or abroad via landline numbers from around the world such as Australia, Canada and USA. Having one will let them call their families inside and outside Saudi Arabia without worrying about high costs since most phone companies offer unlimited calls for less than 100 SR per month (minimum cost required before taxes).
- Wi-Fi hotspots – this refers to free public wireless networks available in certain areas, such as malls or cafes, which provides internet connection even when they go out of town or are just plain bored while waiting at convenience stores!
Banking in Saudi Arabia can present some challenges for overseas workers from the Philippines, as the banking system is different from what they may be used to. Unlike Filipino banks, which are open to the general public, Saudi banks are only open to Saudi citizens and Muslims. This means that as a Filipino worker, you will not be able to open an account with a Saudi bank.
However, there are still ways for you to access your funds and manage your finances while living in Saudi Arabia. You will be able to find many Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) throughout the country, similar to those found in the Philippines, but in order to use them you will need to have a bank account or an ATM card from your home country. Your bank back home may also have restrictions on how much money you can withdraw per day or week, so it’s important to be aware of these restrictions.
To make things easier, it is recommended that you establish a bank account with a Saudi bank as soon as possible after arriving in Riyadh. One popular option is Riyad Bank, a private financial institution. You can transfer money from your Philippine-based bank account into this new account by visiting any branch of Riyad Bank and providing instructions on how much money to withdraw and where. This can be a convenient way to access your funds and manage your finances while living in Saudi Arabia. You should also consult your employer or bank representative for other financial options and advice.
Entertainment options in Saudi Arabia may be quite different from what you may be accustomed to, particularly in regard to the restrictions on alcohol and the cultural focus on religion.
For Muslim individuals, there are various options for religious activities and education. Many mosques throughout the country offer free prayer and classes for those interested in learning more about the religion. Additionally, several religious sites, such as the Al-Haram Mosque, Kaaba and others, can be visited for spiritual fulfilment.
As alcohol is not allowed in Saudi Arabia, most entertainment options will be focused on non-alcoholic activities. For example, visitors can visit museums and art galleries such as the National Museum, Royal Clock Tower Museum (Al-Omari Grand Mosque), Al-Masmak Fort and other places that showcase the rich cultural and historical heritage of the kingdom. These places can be a great way to explore the country’s history and see the architectural marvels of the region. Additionally, shopping is popular, with many malls and traditional souks offering various products and cultural experiences.
It is worth noting that the entertainment options and opportunities may change depending on the situation and events of the country, as well as the government’s policies. Therefore, checking the most recent and accurate information from the relevant authorities and entertainment providers is always advisable before planning your visit.
Healthcare and Hospitals
Saudi Arabia offers a well-developed healthcare system equipped to handle a wide range of medical procedures. The country is home to many hospitals that are equipped with the latest technology and staffed by highly trained medical professionals. Additionally, the healthcare system is organized and efficient, providing residents with access to quality medical care when needed.
One aspect of the healthcare system is public healthcare options. Similar to the United States, there are government-run hospitals where people can receive free treatment if they cannot afford it. Additionally, the country has an insurance program which allows individuals to pay monthly fees in exchange for coverage in case they become ill or injured while living in Saudi Arabia.
Private healthcare options are also available, providing a range of services. These options include dental clinics, which offer basic procedures such as cleanings and fillings, and full-service hospitals offering a comprehensive range of medical services, including surgery, physical therapy and specialized treatments. This variety allows individuals to choose the healthcare options that best fit their needs, preferences and budget.
However, it’s worth noting that the healthcare system in Saudi Arabia is constantly evolving, and the information on the provision of services and subsidies may change. Therefore, it is always recommended that workers check the latest and most accurate information from the relevant authorities and healthcare providers. Additionally, overseas workers need to check with their employers regarding their health insurance coverage and their available options.
The healthcare and legal services in Saudi Arabia are generally available to citizens and legal residents, but the availability of certain medical and legal services may be limited. If you need specialized medical care or if your doctor is not available, it may be necessary to seek treatment in another country.
The government does provide some legal services for its citizens and legal residents but it’s not always a requirement for resolving issues. There are also alternative methods of dispute resolution such as mediation that can be considered as an option to solve problems instead of going through a legal process. Mediation is often considered to be more convenient and effective in resolving disputes as it allows parties to come to a mutually-agreed upon solution in a confidential and informal setting, rather than in a courtroom.
It’s important to keep in mind that the healthcare and legal systems in Saudi Arabia are complex and may differ from what you are used to. Therefore, It is always recommended to consult with relevant authorities, legal representatives or healthcare providers for the most accurate and up-to-date information and guidance.
7 Tips for adjusting to living conditions in Saudi Arabia for OFWs
1. Research the culture and customs.
Take some time to learn about the culture and customs of Saudi Arabia before you arrive. This will help you understand and respect the local way of life and avoid any cultural misunderstandings.
2. Learn the language.
While many people in Saudi Arabia speak English, it’s helpful to learn some basic Arabic phrases to better communicate with locals.
3. Dress modestly.
Saudi Arabia has a conservative dress code, so it’s important to dress modestly, especially when out in public.
4. Connect with other expats.
Joining expat groups or communities can be a great way to make new friends, get advice and find support as you adjust to living in a new country.
5. Find ways to stay connected to home.
Staying in touch with friends and family back home can help ease feelings of homesickness and isolation.
6. Get to know the local culture and customs.
Try to experience the culture of Saudi Arabia by visiting its museums, landmarks, and festivals, it will give you a chance to learn more about the local culture and customs, and it will be a great way to explore the country.
7. Be open to new experiences.
Living in a foreign country can be challenging at times, but it’s also an opportunity to learn, grow and experience new things. Be open to new experiences and not be afraid to step outside your comfort zone.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the living conditions like for OFWs in Saudi Arabia?
OFWs in Saudi Arabia typically live in compounds or housing provided by their employer. These living quarters are often equipped with amenities such as gyms, swimming pools, and supermarkets, and are designed to make it easy for OFWs to feel at home. However, the quality of housing can vary greatly depending on the employer and location.
2. What is the cost of living like in Saudi Arabia?
The cost of living in Saudi Arabia can vary depending on the location and lifestyle of the individual. Generally speaking, basic necessities such as food and housing are relatively inexpensive, while luxury items can be quite expensive. For example, it is easy to find a meal for around $5, but a decent dinner in a restaurant can cost $30-50.
3. How can I stay in touch with my family back home?
There are a variety of ways to stay in touch with your family while living in Saudi Arabia, including phone calls, video chats, and social media. Many OFWs also rely on instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Viber to communicate with their loved ones. Additionally, mail and parcel services are available for sending physical items.
4. What are the cultural differences I should be aware of?
Saudi Arabia has a very different culture from most Western countries. There are strict dress codes for both men and women, and visitors are expected to respect local customs and traditions. This include not consuming alcohol or drugs, and non-muslim people are not allowed to practising their religion in public. Gender segregation is also strictly enforced.
5. Are there any restrictions on what I can bring into the country?
There are restrictions on what you can bring into Saudi Arabia. Items such as pork products, drugs, and pornographic materials are strictly prohibited. Visitors are also prohibited from bringing in religious items that are not associated with Islam, such as crosses or Bibles.
6. What is the employment situation like for OFWs in Saudi Arabia?
The employment situation for OFWs in Saudi Arabia can vary depending on the industry and location. Many OFWs work in construction, healthcare, and domestic work. There are also opportunities in other fields such as education and engineering. However, it is common for OFWs to work long hours, and labor laws may not always be enforced as rigorously as in other countries.
7. What is health care like for OFWs in Saudi Arabia?
The quality of healthcare in Saudi Arabia can vary depending on the location and employer. Many companies provide health insurance for their employees, and there are many modern hospitals and clinics in the major cities. However, health care for OFWs may be less accessible in rural areas, and the quality of care may not be as high as in developed countries.
8. What should I do in case of an emergency?
In case of an emergency, OFWs in Saudi Arabia should contact their employer, who will be able to assist them in finding the appropriate medical or legal help. Additionally, OFWs should also familiarize themselves with the emergency contact numbers for the police, ambulance, and fire department, which can be found online or at the local embassy.
In conclusion, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a popular destination for Filipino workers due to the high demand for labor in almost all sectors of the economy. However, it’s important for OFWs to be aware of the cultural differences, laws and regulations, as well as the working and living conditions in Saudi Arabia.
The cost of living, communication with family and friends, and access to healthcare are some of the factors that must be considered before making the decision to work in Saudi Arabia. It is also important to understand the restrictions on what you can bring into the country and the best way to stay safe in case of an emergency. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of what to expect before making the decision to work in Saudi Arabia to ensure that the experience is a positive one for the OFWs.
READ NEXT: Saudi Labor Law: Working Hours & Overtime