Riyadh City Guide for Nomads & Expats

Riyadh is the capital of Saudi Arabia, and is quickly becoming a popular destination for digital nomads and expats from around the world! With its vibrant culture, exciting attractions, and world-class facilities, Riyadh is the perfect place to explore for a short-term or long-term stay. Whether you’re looking for an extended holiday or a permanent relocation, this Riyadh City Guide is the perfect resource to help you experience the best of what the city has to offer. From the must-see historic sights and entertainment spots to modern shopping centers and the top restaurants and bars, this city guide will provide you with information on the best places to visit, as well as activities and events to explore. It’s also a great way to get acquainted with the local culture and customs, as well as learn more about the city’s history and heritage.

clocktower in downtown riyadh saudi arabia

What are the Best Places to Work Remotely In Riyadh?

Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, offers several great places to work remotely. Here is a list we’ve compiled of some of the best places for remote work in Riyadh:

Co-working Spaces:

  • HAYA Coworking: Located in the Al Olaya district, HAYA Coworking provides a comfortable work environment with modern facilities, private offices, meeting rooms, and networking opportunities.
  • The Workspace: Situated in the Al Olaya district, The Workspace offers flexible co-working spaces, private offices, and business services to cater to remote workers’ needs.

Business Lounges in Hotels:

  • Many hotels in Riyadh offer business lounges or executive lounges that provide a quiet and productive environment for remote work. Some popular options include the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh, Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh, and Burj Rafal Hotel Kempinski. Many hotels in the Saudi Arabia capital offer rooms with dedicated workspaces, perfect for those who prefer to work privately in their hotel room. There are over 50 hotels with a workspaces in Riyadh.

Coffee Shops and Cafes:

  • Some coffee shops and cafes in Riyadh provide a suitable environment for remote work. Some popular choices include Brew92, Art Café, and Arabica Coffee Roasters. These establishments typically offer free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, and a relaxed atmosphere.

Public Libraries:

  • Riyadh has several public libraries that can serve as quiet workspaces. The King Fahd National Library and Riyadh Digital Library are popular options. However, it’s essential to check their policies and operating hours as they may have specific requirements for accessing their facilities.

Community Centers:
– Some community centers in Riyadh, such as Al-Masmak Fortress, King Abdulaziz Historical Center, and King Fahd Cultural Center, provide spaces for remote work, along with opportunities to explore Saudi Arabian history and culture.

When choosing a place to work remotely in Riyadh, consider factors such as internet connectivity, availability of amenities, noise levels, and the overall atmosphere that suits your work preferences. It’s also important to respect local customs and adhere to any guidelines or regulations at the chosen location.

Culture in Riyadh

Riyadh has a rich cultural heritage that is deeply rooted in Islamic traditions and values which plays a central role in the daily life and culture.

 

The city is home to numerous mosques, including the iconic Masjid al-Haram, where Muslims gather for prayer and worship. Islamic customs and practices, such as daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, and adherence to Islamic dress codes, are widely observed.

 

The city embraces traditional Saudi Arabian values, which emphasize respect for elders, strong family bonds, and hospitality towards guests. Family is considered the foundation of society, and it is common to see close-knit families spending time together.

 

In line with Islamic traditions, conservative dress is expected in Riyadh. Both men and women typically wear modest clothing that covers their shoulders, arms, and legs. Women often wear an abaya (a loose-fitting black cloak) in public, although styles and colors may vary.

 

The Arabic language is the official language of Saudi Arabia, including Riyadh. Arabic script is used for written communication, and the Arabic language is spoken in daily interactions. English is also widely spoken and understood, especially in business and international settings.

 

Saudi Arabian cuisine is a significant part of Riyadh’s culture. Traditional dishes include Kabsa (a spiced rice and meat dish), Mandi (slow-cooked meat and rice), and Jareesh (a popular grain-based dish). Dates, Arabic coffee, and tea are commonly served as part of hospitality traditions.

 

Riyadh takes pride in preserving and showcasing its cultural heritage. The city is home to museums, such as the National Museum and King Abdulaziz Historical Center, which display artifacts, art, and exhibits related to Saudi Arabian history, heritage, and traditions. Traditional crafts, such as carpet weaving, pottery, and calligraphy, are also valued and celebrated.

 

Celebrating Islamic festivals, such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are marked by gatherings, feasts, and family-oriented activities. Traditional dances, music, and cultural performances are often part of these celebrations.

 

Appreciation for traditional arts, including calligraphy, is highly regarded in Islamic culture. Arabic calligraphy can be seen in mosques, monuments, and public spaces throughout the city. Traditional music, such as Najdi folk music, is also appreciated.

 

It’s important to be mindful of local customs, traditions, and Islamic etiquette while in Riyadh. Respecting cultural sensitivities, dressing modestly, and following local customs will most definitely contribute to a positive and immersive experience in Riyadh’s culture!

locals worshipping in mosque riyadh saudi arabia

Food In Riyadh

Riyadh offers a diverse culinary scene that reflects both local Saudi Arabian cuisine and international flavors. 

 

Kabsa is the national dish of Saudi Arabia, consisting of fragrant rice cooked with a variety of spices and usually served with chicken, lamb, or fish. Mandi, a popular traditional dish, features tender, slow-cooked meat (often lamb or chicken) with spiced rice, accompanied by flavorful sauces and Mutabbaq are savory pastries filled with spiced meat, vegetables, or cheese. They are commonly enjoyed as a snack or light meal.

 

Some other Arabic and Middle Eastern inspired cuisine offered in Riyadh is a well known favorite, shawarma: thinly sliced marinated meat, such as beef or chicken, wrapped in a flatbread with vegetables and tahini sauce. Another staple you might be familiar with is hummus, a creamy dip made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon juice. It is typically enjoyed with flatbread or as a side dish. And you will definitely want to experience local falafels!

 

Riyadh boasts a wide variety of international dining options in addition to their local specialities. You can find Lebanese cuisine which is popular in the city, with restaurants offering a multitude of choice in dishes such as mezze, grilled meats, and seafood. Riyadh also has a vibrant Indian food scene, offering a wide range of flavors from different regions of India. Try biryani, curry dishes, and delectable Indian breads like naan and roti. Lastly, you can find a some good selection of international fast-food chains, cafes, and upscale restaurants offering Western cuisine, including burgers, pizzas, pasta, and steaks.

 

Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about our friends with a sweet tooth! Saudi Arabia is known for its high-quality dates, which are often served as a traditional dessert or enjoyed with Arabic coffee. Known as “Qahwa,” Arabic coffee is a strong and aromatic coffee flavored with cardamom. It is typically served as a gesture of hospitality. Saudi Arabian sweets like Baklava, Kunafa, and Basbousa are commonly enjoyed during special occasions and festivals.

 

Riyadh offers a range of dining options, from casual street food stalls to upscale restaurants, catering to different tastes and preferences. Embrace the local cuisine, savor the flavors of Saudi Arabian dishes, and explore the international culinary offerings available in the city!

Healthcare in Riyadh

Riyadh has a well-developed healthcare system that provides a range of medical services to residents and visitors. Here’s an overview of healthcare in Riyadh:

 

Public Healthcare:

Saudi Arabia has a government-funded healthcare system that provides free or low-cost healthcare services to Saudi citizens. Public hospitals and primary healthcare centers (PHCs) are scattered throughout Riyadh and offer a wide range of medical treatments and services. These facilities are managed by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and provide care to both Saudi nationals and expatriate residents.

 

Private Healthcare:

Riyadh has a robust private healthcare sector, with numerous private hospitals, clinics, and specialized medical centers. Private healthcare providers offer high-quality medical services, advanced technology, and shorter waiting times compared to public facilities. Some well-known private hospitals in Riyadh include King Faisal Specialist Hospital, Saudi German Hospital, and Al Mouwasat Hospital.

 

Medical Tourism:

Riyadh attracts medical tourists from around the world due to its advanced healthcare facilities and specialized treatments. The city offers state-of-the-art medical centers that cater to international patients, providing services such as cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, and specialized medical procedures.

 

Health Insurance:

It is important to have health insurance coverage while residing or visiting Riyadh. Health insurance can provide financial protection in case of medical emergencies or the need for specialized treatments. Employers in Saudi Arabia often provide health insurance coverage for their employees, and expatriates are required to have health insurance as per the regulations of the Saudi Arabian government.

 

Pharmacies:

Riyadh has numerous pharmacies where you can purchase prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs. These pharmacies are usually well-stocked and follow strict regulations for dispensing medications. Popular pharmacy chains in Riyadh include Al-Dawaa Pharmacies and Tadawi.

 

Emergency Services:

In case of a medical emergency in Riyadh, you can dial 997 to reach the Saudi Red Crescent Authority for an ambulance. Private hospitals also have their emergency departments for immediate medical attention.

 

It’s important to note that healthcare practices and regulations can vary, and it’s advisable to have a good understanding of your health insurance coverage, access to medical services through travel insurance, and emergency contact information while in Riyadh. If you have specific healthcare needs, it’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional or your insurance provider for personalized advice and recommendations.

local coffee shop in riyadh, saudi arabia

Staying Fit and Healthy in Riyadh

Staying fit and healthy in Riyadh is absolutely possible, as the city offers various options to maintain an active lifestyle and prioritize your well-being. 

 

Riyadh has a wide range of fitness centers and gyms that offer state-of-the-art facilities, exercise equipment, and fitness classes. Some popular gym chains in Riyadh include Fitness Time, Gold’s Gym, and Oxygen Gym. These facilities provide options for cardio workouts, strength training, group classes, and personal training sessions.

 

For the nature enthusiasts, take advantage of Riyadh’s several parks and outdoor spaces where you can engage in outdoor activities. King Abdullah Park, Al-Masmak Park, and Wadi Hanifa are popular destinations for walking, jogging, cycling, or simply enjoying the greenery. Many parks also have designated areas for sports and recreational activities.

 

Riyadh is home to various sports clubs and facilities where you can participate in organized sports activities. These include football (soccer), basketball, tennis, swimming, and more. Some clubs require membership, while others offer pay-per-use options.

 

Dedicated walking and running paths can be found in different areas of the city. For example, Prince Salman Park and the Diplomatic Quarter are known for their scenic paths that are ideal for walking, jogging, or running.

 

For a more holistic approach to health, treat yourself to wellness centers and spas in Riyadh, where you can indulge in relaxation and self-care. Many hotels and standalone spas offer a range of treatments, including massages, facials, and body therapies.

 

Riyadh has a growing health-conscious food scene, with many restaurants and cafes offering healthy and nutritious options. Look for eateries that specialize in fresh salads, grilled dishes, vegetarian or vegan options, and locally sourced ingredients. There are also organic food stores and health food markets where you can find a variety of healthy food products.

 

Stay updated on community events and initiatives focused on health and fitness. Riyadh often hosts fitness challenges, fun runs, and wellness workshops. Check social media platforms, local event listings, or community centers for upcoming events.


Of course Riyadh is known for its hot and arid climate, so it’s crucial to stay hydrated, especially when engaging in outdoor activities. Carry a water bottle with you and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

Things to Do In Riyadh

Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia, offers a range of attractions and activities for residents and visitors alike. Here are some popular things to do in Riyadh:

 

Visit the Kingdom Centre Tower:

Explore the iconic Kingdom Centre Tower, one of Riyadh’s tallest skyscrapers. Enjoy panoramic views of the city from the Sky Bridge and visit the Kingdom Centre Mall for shopping and dining.

 

Explore Diriyah:

Discover the historic district of Diriyah, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit At-Turaif District, the birthplace of the Saudi state, and explore its mud-brick structures, museums, and cultural sites.

 

Admire the King Abdulaziz Historical Center:

Visit the King Abdulaziz Historical Center, a sprawling complex that includes the King Abdulaziz Museum, the Murabba Palace, and the Saqer Al-Jazirah Aviation Museum. Learn about Saudi Arabian history and culture.

 

Enjoy Riyadh’s Parks:

Spend time in Riyadh’s well-maintained parks, such as King Fahd Park, Salam Park, and Al-Masmak Park. These green spaces offer walking paths, playgrounds, recreational areas, and picnic spots.

 

Shop at Souq Al-Zal:

Experience traditional Saudi Arabian shopping at Souq Al-Zal, a bustling market known for its diverse selection of local crafts, textiles, spices, and traditional souvenirs.

 

Visit the National Museum:

Explore the National Museum of Saudi Arabia, which showcases artifacts, exhibits, and displays related to Saudi Arabian history, culture, art, and archaeology.

 

Experience Local Culture at Al-Masmak Fortress:

Visit Al-Masmak Fortress, a historical landmark that played a significant role in the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Explore the museum inside the fortress and learn about Riyadh’s rich heritage.

 

Attend a Camel Race:

Experience the excitement of camel racing at the King Fahd International Stadium. Watch as trained camels race to the finish line, showcasing a traditional Arabian sport.

 

Discover the Edge of the World:

Take a trip to the Edge of the World (Jebel Fihrayn), located on the outskirts of Riyadh. Enjoy stunning panoramic views of the vast desert landscape, dramatic cliffs, and rock formations.

 

Indulge in Traditional Cuisine: Sample traditional Saudi Arabian cuisine at local restaurants and cafes. Try dishes like Kabsa, Mandi, Mutabbaq, and Arabian sweets like Kunafa and Baklava.

 

Visit Riyadh Gallery: Explore Riyadh Gallery, a popular shopping mall known for its wide range of international and local brands, entertainment options, and dining outlets.

 

Attend Cultural Festivals:

Riyadh hosts various cultural festivals throughout the year, celebrating music, art, and local traditions. Check the events calendar for festivals like the Janadriyah National Festival and Riyadh Season.

 

These are just a few of the many things to do in Riyadh. The city offers a mix of historical landmarks, cultural experiences, shopping destinations, and outdoor attractions that cater to different interests and preferences.

la rustica pizzeria restaurant in riyadh saudi arabia

Weather & Best Time to Visit Riyadh

Riyadh experiences a desert climate, characterized by hot summers and mild winters. Here’s an overview of the weather in Riyadh and the best time to visit:

 

Summer (June to August):

Summers in Riyadh are extremely hot, with temperatures often exceeding 40°C (104°F) during the day. The nights are relatively cooler but still warm. If you visit during summer, be prepared for intense heat and make sure to stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.

 

Autumn (September to November):

Autumn in Riyadh brings milder temperatures compared to summer. Daytime temperatures range from 30°C to 35°C (86°F to 95°F) in September and gradually decrease towards November. It is generally a pleasant time to visit, with more comfortable weather for outdoor activities.

 

Winter (December to February): Winters in Riyadh are mild, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F) during the day. Nights can be cooler, with temperatures dropping to around 10°C (50°F) or lower. It’s advisable to pack a light jacket or sweater for the evenings.

 

Spring (March to May):

Spring in Riyadh sees a gradual increase in temperatures, with daytime temperatures ranging from 25°C to 35°C (77°F to 95°F). The weather can be pleasant, although it can get hot towards May. Spring is a good time to visit Riyadh if you prefer slightly warmer temperatures.

 

The best time to visit Riyadh is during the autumn months of September to November and the spring months of March to May when the weather is relatively milder and more comfortable for outdoor activities. However, if you can tolerate the heat, winter can also be a good time to visit, especially if you want to avoid crowds and enjoy cooler temperatures.

 

It’s also important to note that Riyadh experiences very limited rainfall throughout the year, so rain is not a significant consideration when planning your visit but as weather conditions can vary, it’s always a good idea to check the local weather forecast before your trip and come prepared with appropriate clothing and accessories for the season.

Cost of Living in Riyadh

The cost of living in Riyadh can vary depending on factors such as accommodation, transportation, food, and lifestyle choices. Here’s a breakdown of the pricing in Riyadh:

 

Accommodation:

  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center: SAR 2,500 to SAR 4,500 per month
  • Rent for a one-bedroom apartment outside the city center: SAR 1,500 to SAR 3,000 per month
  • Utilities (electricity, water, gas, internet): SAR 300 to SAR 600 per month

 

Transportation:

  • Public transportation (bus or metro): SAR 2 to SAR 5 per trip
  • Monthly pass for public transportation: SAR 100 to SAR 200, depending on the type of pass and distance traveled
  • Taxi starting fare: SAR 5 to SAR 10, plus SAR 1.60 to SAR 2.40 per kilometer

 

Food:

  • Basic lunch menu in a local restaurant: SAR 15 to SAR 30
  • Dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant: SAR 80 to SAR 150
  • Groceries for one person per month: SAR 400 to SAR 600

 

Healthcare:

  • Basic doctor’s visit (without insurance): SAR 100 to SAR 200
  • Health insurance (monthly premium): SAR 200 to SAR 500, depending on coverage and provider

 

Entertainment:

  • Movie ticket: SAR 30 to SAR 50
  • Fitness club or gym membership: SAR 200 to SAR 400 per month
  • Concert or theater ticket: SAR 50 to SAR 300, depending on the event

 

These prices are approximate and can vary based on location, lifestyle choices, and personal preferences. Use a currency converter to accurately project your budget costs. Additionally, prices may change over time, so it’s always advisable to research and budget accordingly based on your specific needs and circumstances.

outdoor arabic dining set up in riyadh, saudi arabia

Visa Requirements in Riyadh

As Riyadh is located in Saudi Arabia, the visa requirements for visiting or residing in Riyadh would fall under the visa regulations of Saudi Arabia. We’ve provided a detailed overview of the visa requirements for different purposes:

 

Visit Visa:

If you plan to visit Riyadh as a tourist, you will need to apply for a visit visa. Visit visas are typically issued for a specific duration, allowing you to stay in Saudi Arabia for leisure or business purposes. You can apply for a visit visa through the Saudi embassy or consulate in your home country or through an authorized travel agency.

 

Work Visa:

If you plan to work in Riyadh or any other city in Saudi Arabia, you will need to obtain a work visa. Work visas are sponsored by a Saudi employer, and the employer will typically handle the visa application process. The requirements for a work visa include a valid employment contract, medical tests, and other documentation as per the regulations set by the Saudi Arabian government.

 

Residence Permit (Iqama):

If you plan to reside in Riyadh for an extended period, you will need to obtain a residence permit, also known as an Iqama. The Iqama is typically issued after entering Saudi Arabia on a work visa or other eligible visa. The residence permit is required for activities such as employment, business, study, or accompanying a family member.

 

Family Visit Visa:

If you have family members residing in Saudi Arabia and wish to visit them, you can apply for a family visit visa. This visa allows you to stay in Saudi Arabia for a specific duration to visit your family members who are residents or citizens of Saudi Arabia.

 

Other Visa Categories:

Saudi Arabia offers various other visa categories for specific purposes, such as student visas, business visas, Hajj and Umrah visas, and medical treatment visas. The requirements and application process for each category may vary.

 

It’s important to note that visa requirements and regulations can change over time, so it’s always advisable to check the latest information on the official website of the Saudi embassy or consulate in your home country. The specific documents, fees, and processes can vary depending on your nationality and the purpose of your visit.

Jobs & Work Requirements in Riyadh

Finding a job and understanding the work requirements in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, is essential if you plan to work in the city. Here’s an overview of what to expect as you peruse the job market and work requirements in Riyadh:

 

Work Visa:

To work legally in Riyadh or anywhere in Saudi Arabia, you will generally need to obtain a work visa. The work visa is sponsored by a Saudi employer who acts as your sponsor and guides you through the visa application process. The employer will typically handle the necessary paperwork and documentation required for the visa.

 

Employment Opportunities:

Riyadh offers employment opportunities across various sectors, including finance, oil and gas, healthcare, construction, information technology, and hospitality. The city has a strong business environment, attracting both local and international companies. The Saudi government is also focused on diversifying the economy and creating job opportunities in non-oil sectors.

 

Local Labor Market:

The Saudi labor market prioritizes the employment of Saudi nationals, in line with the Saudi government’s initiatives to increase the participation of Saudi citizens in the workforce. However, there are still opportunities for expatriates, particularly in highly skilled or specialized roles where local expertise may be limited.

 

Language Skills:

Proficiency in Arabic is highly valued for most job opportunities in Riyadh. While English is widely spoken in business and international settings, having a working knowledge of Arabic can be advantageous for communication and building relationships in the workplace.

 

Education and Experience:

Employers in Riyadh generally look for relevant education and experience in the field when hiring employees. Having a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a related field, along with relevant work experience, can increase your chances of finding employment.

 

Saudization: Saudization refers to the national policy aimed at increasing the employment of Saudi nationals. It requires companies to meet certain quotas of Saudi employees in their workforce. This policy can influence the recruitment and hiring processes in Riyadh.

 

Networking: Building a professional network is essential in the job market in Riyadh. Networking events, industry conferences, and online platforms can help you connect with potential employers, colleagues, and industry professionals.

 

Cultural Adaptation: Working in Riyadh may require adapting to Saudi work culture, which emphasizes respect for hierarchy, conservative dress codes, and adherence to Islamic customs. It’s important to familiarize yourself with local customs, business etiquette, and norms to succeed in the professional environment.

 

It’s important to note that job availability, requirements, and processes can vary depending on the industry, company, and individual circumstances. Researching specific job sectors, consulting with recruitment agencies or professionals in your field, and understanding the legal requirements can provide more insights tailored to your interests and qualifications.

Enjoy your trip to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia!

 

Always blue skies ✈️

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