Student life in Riyadh

student life in Riyadh
Updated 2019-05-21 13:11

Moving to Riyadh as an international student can be challenging due to cultural and contrasts. However, with proper research, you'll discover that student life can be much more pleasant than you have ever imagined.

The first thing to do before moving to Riyadh is to get international health insurance as you will not be covered by the local healthcare system.

Good to know:
Most expats in Riyadh prefer to enrol their children in private international schools since Arabic is the primary teaching language. So you might want to learn Arabic before moving there, even though English is quite widespread.


Most expats in Riyadh choose to live in compounds with luxury apartments and villas. Behind the intensely monitored entries, these compounds provide a range of facilities including a swimming pool, a gym and other playgrounds.

As the mutawwa (Saudi Arabia's religious police) can't enter these zones, expat women living in Riyadh's compounds are not confined to the strict norms there. There is no strict dress code, and people can freely hang out, play games and relax. Sometimes, they even hold expat gatherings or just have a drink together.

As an international student, however, less are the chances that you will live in a luxury compound unless you have moved to Riyadh with your family. You can opt for student residences, rooms or apartments, depending on your budget. Read more in the article about Accommodation in Riyadh. Also, keep in mind that female students are more likely to find accommodation in female only residences while men are restricted to male only residences.


Most TV programs in Riyadh are in Arabic, so if you're not familiar with the language, you might be looking for different channels. Unless books are your best friends, you can still apply for an Internet connection and a satellite dish.

Leisure activities

How to enjoy your free time as an international student in Riyadh? Head to the National Museum, the Masmak Fortress, and the Kingdom Center with its astounding sky bridge are some of the must-sees. What about the weekends? Plan a day trip to the Arabian Desert with your new friends.

Shopping and eating out

If you're not keen about the desert experience, there's still a range of things to do in Riyadh as an international student, like shopping and eating out. The Souk al-Thumairi is a customary Arabian market where you can buy beautiful handcraft products, adornments, incense, and carpets for your friends and family at home. Besides, there are a few upscale shopping centres, especially in Riyadh's business region, where you can shop Gucci, D&G, and Versace.

While alcohol is restricted in Saudi Arabia, life in Riyadh doesn't mean that you won't enjoy eating out. From Middle Eastern and Indian food to Italian eating and Japanese cuisines, Riyadh's eateries are amazingly diverse. If you are new to the city, you will have to get used to the "Saudi champagne" with your suppers. It's basically a squeezed apple flavoured soft drink blended with lemon and sparkling water!

Social life as a student in Riyadh

Westerners are usually dealt with respectfully, however becoming acquainted with the Saudi occupants can be hard at times. Besides, the family has a far higher status in Saudi Arabia than in any other State in North America or Europe. A great deal of mingling happens among relatives. In any case, you should endeavor to meet different people that aren't your adjacent neighbors. University is thus an excellent way to develop your social circle. Attend events with your friends and plan outings together to make your stay a memorable one.

Useful links:

Al Arabiya
US News

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