Monday, December 1, 2008

Checklist for travellers to Saudi Arabia

People travelling to Saudi Arabia need to take certain precautions to avoid last minute surprises.

You may be a first-time visitor to the kingdom or an expatriate who is returning after a vacation. In either case, the most important document is the Saudi visa stamped in your passport. Note that the dates mentioned in the visa refer to Hijri calendar and not the Gregorian calendar. You may use the tool provided in this page for converting from one to the other or can click on this link.

Note that once a visa is issued, it is mandatory for you to reach the kingdom within the specified date, otherwise the visa would lapse. This is applicable for both first timers as well as those who are on an exit/reentry visa. For those expatriates who were unable to return to the kingdom before the date mentioned, please click on this link to find the procedure for returning. Remember that when you reach the airport, even before you check in, the validity of the visa will first be verified by the airline staff. Since this would normally be in a separate queue, make sure to be in the airport quite early.

I would advise first-timers not to stuff items in your baggage unnecessarily. Almost everything is available in the kingdom, which is available elsewhere in the world. Bring in only those items which you consider absolutely necessary. Note that electric supply in Saudi Arabia is in two voltages, 220 volts and 110 volts , 60 Hertz frequency. Flat to round pin adaptors and vice versa are freely available in the market, so don't bother to bring those either.

If you are going to bring your personal medication, make sure that you have your doctor's prescription with you for the same, or it would simply be thrown out by the Customs upon landing. Alcohol and drugs are strictly banned items and users and peddlers face capital punishment. Some travellers from South Asia, bring poppy seeds ('khas khas'). Although this is quite commonly used in food items in that region, please note that it is banned in the kingdom. Although a well-known fact, I would like to emphasize upon non-Muslims not to bring in any religious material like books, idols, pictures, crucifixes, etc.

Do not at any cost offer to take the luggage of your unknown fellow passengers while checking in. These are difficult days, and who knows what the other guy has stuffed his baggage with!

I would advise you to bring plenty of passport size photographs (about 20 would be adequate, to begin with). You would have to fill in plenty of forms, particularly in the first few months after arrival and these photographs would come in handy. Atleast you needn't have to immediately run to the studio to have yourself photographed.

Do bring some cash in US dollars to see you through the first month, until you get your first salary. Money can be easily converted in Saudi riyals in any of the exchange centers in the kingdom. You may like to bring in your personal toiletry like soap, shampoo, etc., to see you through until you get your first salary. Food is relatively cheap , but you cannot say the same about accommodation. Temperatures reach extreme during summer and winter, so do come prepared with your personal clothing.

Working in Saudi Arabia is both a challenge as well as interesting, if you are well-prepared mentally. Hope the above tips were useful.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a very good advice.

I am now working in saudi arabia in a computer ferm, since ia have found a new job i am going final exit and want to come back in ather company which have provided me a job in ther company.

But i have heard that NOC is requied for indians is it true, other thing the person who goes exit, on the air port they take finger print of that person ( what is this for i could not understand can you please explain it to me or find it for me) this would be helpfull for me and other persons too.

thaks meay ahalla help you always amin

Expatguru said...


Please read this link including the comments at the end

Anonymous said...

Dear sir,
At present I am working in Saudi. Since I have found a new job whit better benefits I am going on exit and want to come back on the other job with better benefit.
I also heard that when are going exit on the air port we have to give finger prints is it true.
If it is true then for what purpose they are taking our finger prints. Please can you explain it to me it would be help full for every one.
Thanks may ahalla help you amin

Micper said...

Dear ExpatGuru,
With reference to my 23rd Nov's request under "Expatriate Grievance Cell", very very excited to see this blog.
Thanks a lot, I appreciate your efforts from the depth of my heart.
Keeeeeeeeeeep writing.....Jazakallah

Anonymous said...

From what i read in this site, the esb is based on the final salary and alowances before leaving.But what if one is provided with accommodation by the COMPANY.This will not be reflected in the final pay.Will a notional amount be calculated in the esb or what will hapen if one goes on exist while having been in compay accommodation during the final month of service. My contract stipulates a two motnh's salary in lieu of accommodation per year.

Expatguru said...


It is true that finger prints are taken for expatriates going on exit. It is also true that this is being carried out in phases for all expatriates living in the kingdom even if they are not going on exit. I have myself undergone it!

The reason given is to track criminal elements easily and also to prevent people from re-entering the kingdom using different passports.

Expatguru said...


Nothing gives me more pleasure if my writing is of some use to my fellow expatriates. I must infact thank you for coming out with a list of topics on which you need information. This blog will always continue to be free of cost for all my fellow expatriate brothers and sisters, and what keeps me going is encouragement from readers like you.

Expatguru said...


Please, I request you to use some name (even if it is not a real name) because there are so many anonymous readers asking questions, and you should know whom the answer is meant for!

You cannot enjoy two benefits at the same time, i.e., it is either accommodation or house rent allowance. So, if you are enjoying company-provided accommodation, it certainly will not be calculated in your ESB.

Rajesh B Iyer said...

Hello Sir

I need a favour. I am Rajesh from Chennai coming down there as a part of a consulting assignment. I was told i need to obtain a letter from chamber of commerce.

Is it possible for me to have a sample of such a letter since i am unsure of the contents?Please do mail me to

Expecting your support
Rajesh Balasubramanian

Anonymous said...

dear sir,
i am so sorry but i want to know about NOC,if i want to be back without NOC then how long duration ,i have to stay in pakistan adn then i can be back,other what are is the NOC,A LETTER from sponsor with chamber of commerce and other condition.plz guide me.

Expatguru said...


I can guess that you are arriving on a business visa. Usually, you would need a letter from the Chamber of Commerce attesting that you are in some business entity or words to that effect. The important thing is it has to be in their letter head and with their rubber stamp.

Manaswini.K said...

Hi! Awesome job done. I went through many posts and I feel all topics are extensively covered and can be a reference guide for any expat. Feel like I know enough myself to suggest someone what to look for!! Out of curiosity- how often do they change terms for expats there? Cheers.

PRADIP said...


Expatguru said...


Thanks for your comments. How often do they change terms for expats? Well, no one knows precisely. One thing is for sure, as I always say - the only thing certain in Saudi Arabia is uncertainty!

Expatguru said...


Normally, nobody would trouble you if you bring a doctor's prescription along with the medicines. Just ensure that none of the medicines has any of the banned items (for example poppy).

Anna said...

Dear EapatGuru,

I am delighted with the information on your blog. In fact I have gone through almost all postings.

1) Can you please provide information on Communication infrastructure, such as dial-up and broadband internet, landline and mobile phone services and respective costs in Jubail.

2) In general, what is the validity of work visa after stamping?


Expatguru said...


Glad to know that you found my blog useful.

I intend writing a separate post on the topics raised by you shortly.

Once a work visa is stamped in the passport, one must enter the kingdom within 3 months. Upon arrival, the sponsor will have to apply for a residence permit (iqama) within 3 months. Usually the validity of the iqama is valid for either 1 or 2 years depending on the intention of your employer. This is the maximum time you can stay in the kingdom unless it is renewed.

Anonymous said...

hi this is my first time to visit ur site and i found its useful specially for who have querries regarding the finger printing system that passport department implemented..i want to go on exit this coming february and re apply to another company but the current employer of mine they do not give from the philippines is there new rules regarding NOC or the fingerprinting when im going to returned here..and the humors that if u caught in airport that u are expat or been work before they will deport u? thank u in advance ..

Expatguru said...


Thanks for your comments. It is true that when you go on exit, your fingerprints are taken at the airport. There are two reasons for this. First, this is to keep check on criminals who try to escape. Second, they can easily trap people who come back on a different passport. NOC has been abolished by law, but has not been implemented by Saudi embassies around the world uniformly. I am unable to confirm whether this rule has been implemented by the Saudi Embassy in Manila and would advise you to check this independently.

saifulla. c.m.p said...

Dear Expat Guru,
I have got a job as a Mechanical Engineer in Saudi Arabia,most probably i will join in next month.Can I bring my Laptop to Saudi Arabia from India,What are the precautions while carrying laptop,about the content and progrmmes,can I keep pirated preinstalled programmes in my lap.Your advice in this matter greately appreciated.

Expatguru said...


Unless there is objectionable material such as porno or un-Islamic content, you should not have any problem in the airport.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir:

I have an offer from a Saudi Company. Presently I am in Qatar. The Propective employer asked me to do the medical with their agent in India. So I planned to go for a short vacation to India for medical and visa processing.

Presently my passport having a valid resident visa in Qatar(I intend to have frequent visit in Qatar in the future). Is to possible to stamp 'Saudi Visa in my passport' without cancelling my present valid visa in Qatar??

I will be obliged if you give clear answer and the visa stamping formalities.

With Best Regards,


Expatguru said...


You cannot have best of both worlds. How can you be resident of one country while working in another? When you go out of Qatar for good, automatically Qatar's exit visa will be stamped on it. If you go out of Qatar without cancelling your Qatari resident permit, the stamping officer in the Saudi Embassy will certainly not stamp the Saudi visa for the reason mentioned above.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir:

Thanks for your information. While I working in Qatar I already have resident visa of Kuwait (same company) only need to visit kuwait atleast once in every 6 months to not lapse the resident permit.(Meaning to say two resident permit in my passport)

So, I believe, I must cancel my present resident permit in order to stamp Saudi Visa?? even I working for the same company in Saudi & Qatar?

With Best Regards,


Expatguru said...


I have never come across such a case until now when a person can be resident of two countries while not being a citizen of either. It is better to contact the Saudi Embassy directly and find out the facts. I would appreciate if you could share your experience with us for the benefit of other expatriates.

syed said...

Dear sir,
Thanks for your information, i am syed rahman from mayiladuthurai, working in Al-khobar for last 8 months in engineering consultant.

exqwizme said...

Great advice Guru, thank you!

I'd like to point out just one thing; you mention
"bring some cash in US dollars to see you through the first month [...] Money can be easily converted in Saudi riyals in any of the exchange centers in the kingdom."
You might want to add that twenty dollar bills are nearly impossible to convert ;-)

Expatguru said...


Is it so? This is news to me. May I know the reason for the same?

Thanks for your comments.

Ram Balagopal said...

HI Expat Guru,
I have launched my own social media portal and plan to write a blog on general information on Saudi Arabia.
I thought yours is best in terms of information on KSA, do let me know if i can use the your content on general information about KSA

thanks Regards
i have already interacted with you on certificate attestation, family visa and others

Expatguru said...


You may use the information in my blog provided you mention the source of this information, i.e., the web address of this blog, wherever you use such information. I appreciate your gesture in asking for permission before using the contents here.

Anonymous said...

Dear Expat guru,

Iam a regular reader of your blog and i appriciate the way you are helping all of us.

Since 4 years iam in saudiarabia and 6 months before i have given my original degree certificate to my employer to change my profession from AC technician to Engineer and unfortunately employer fail to change. Finally i decided to go on exit and got approval and got exit stamp on my passport. On the last working day i went to office, signed my exit documents and asked my employer to give back my degree cirtificate, but now he is saying that he missed that certificate somewhere while trying for my profession change. Also told me to wait for a week so that he can crosscheck with all his staff.

The question is
-If they fail to search my certificate what should i do shall i take any letter from them stating that they lost it.

-Can i ask compensation for making duplicate from india and for waste of time in this process.

-What documents i have to carry with me from here to make my process get speedup to make duplicate copy and attestations.

-iam planning to come back immidiately as iam holding a job offer. How can i proceed since the saudi consulate in india require original degree (attested) to stamp new visa. My new employer given me deadline of 2-3 weeks, can i use my provisional certificate to stamp new visa.

Waiting for your precious advise


Expatguru said...


First of all, I don't understand why you wanted a change of profession from technician to engineer. If it was for bringing your family, note that the profession "technician" in the iqama is entitled to bring his family, so all your effort was a waste. You must immediately type out a declaration that your degree certificate is lost and get it attested by the Indian Embassy in Riyadh. They do it within one day, so do not waste any more time. Do take a letter from them in their official letter head with their stamp saying that your degree certificate was misplaced. Let this letter be in Arabic, for your own safety.
I do not know whether they will compensate you (even though they are 100% at fault). You must parallaly start attestation of your provisional degree certificate by the HRD Ministry, Ministry of External Affairs and the Saudi Embassy in New Delhi. If you can wait for a week, please do that. Remember, once you are out of the kingdom, nobody will bother to do your work - out of sight, out of mind - so it is better you are here for another week and keep pressurizing them for your certificate. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Guru,
Im from India and new in reading your blog, and i find its soo much informative and helping, wishing you all the good for your efforts. I do have one query I will be thankful to you if you help me and show me the best way, Im new in Saudi Arabia, 5 months back i arrived and my Iqama Profession is Labour (MASON) which is Transferable, Im still under my Sponcer, I only have my SSC (Calss 10th) Certificate, and Certified from Microsoft (MCSA) and from Cisco (CCNA).(I think MSCA and CCNA can not be attested from HRD in India)I dont have Degree. Can I change my Iqama Profession to somthing related to Computer Technicain or Something on which i can get Family Visa and easily move to work in IT company, Cause most of IT and other Companies want to have a other related Profession in Iqama other than Labour (as mine is as MASON). Please reply for this query and suggest me the right way to any related alternate way. Thanks in advance. AJ

Expatguru said...


Unfortunately, without a qualification certificate of atleast a diploma, you will not be able to change your visa profession. You may wish to find out from some shopkeepers in your area as to how they managed to sponsor their families. Good luck.

AJ said...

Thanks Guru for ur quick reply, one more thing i wana share and ask, few years back, I studied a Computer Diploma (2 yrs Course) from JNNYC,Approved by D.R.D, Govt. of India, that time faculty of the Center told that the Diploma can be Attested, but when i was coming to KSA that time i went to Attested that beside my SSC cert. but the person at GAD Office told that this Diploma can't be attest cause its Private. I was nt having much time to ask the people of JNNYC. I landed KSA only with SSC Cert.(Do u knw anything about this ?). One more thing i want to know that, I have been doing my BA course from an Open University in India, but still have to finish, if i finish the Course and if i recieved Degree (BA from Open Universtiy) can it will be helpfull in the process of Iqama in any way ??

Hope u will reply soon and provide the information.. Thanks in advance.AJ

Expatguru said...


The GAD office is absolutely right. Private diplomas are not attested by the Ministry of External Affairs. If the Open University in which you are doing BA is recognized by UGC, it will be attested by the Ministry. Even a provisional certificate would do for bringing your family. Good luck!

AJ said...

Thanks once again Guru for your quick and helpful information,hope if i get my Degree it will help to change my Iqama Profession and to get family status too, yet im not married but soon going to be, when i visit back home.

thanks again.. will back again if i need any help.. take care.

Anonymous said...

Hi Guru,

I'm very happy reading all the posted blogs, but I want an advice from your side if I go for an exit and after 3 to 6 months I'm planning to go back here in Saudi assuming they take my finger print and iris scan before I'm going to exit is theres no problem going back here in Saudi? after they took my finger print and iris scan? please help me for this matter assuming I leave here for an exit not exit/re-entry.

Thanks and more power to this site.

3 of Philippines

Expatguru said...

3 of Philippines,

Please check with the Saudi Embassy in Manila whether NOC is required for Filipinos. It varies from country to country, even though the requrement was abolished over 3 years ago. If you do not need an NOC and you have left on an exit visa, you can return for employment anytime.

Micper said...

Dear ExpatGuru,
Kindly answer my two questions:
1. If the visa for KSA and all our required documents are ready then upon submission, how much time will it take for visa endorsement process?
2. After visa endorsement, what is the maximum time limit, or validity to fly.
Thanks in advance.

Expatguru said...


If it is not Hajj or Ramadan season, it usually takes about 2 weeks to stamp the visa in your passport. Once stamped, you must enter the kingdom within 30 days of stamping unless otherwise mentioned in the visa.

NMSHAMIM said...

Hi Guru
I have gone through checklist for the newcomers to KSA.
I have seen notes about bringing medicines.
How about HOMEO medicines with prescriptions. I heard HOMEO is not practicing in Kingdom.
Is it possible to bring the Homeo medicine while family is coming for a visit.
As you know, Homeo medicines usually found with company packing with all chemical name,brand name,manufacturing date,exp date and company name. Also in other way homeo medicines are distributing by homeo doctors with their own pack with hand written labels but will have prescription.
And usually the second way is common.
How do we can bring Homeo medicines in Kigdom
Please help us, who are all doing well with homeo.
Thanks and appreciating your venture.


Expatguru said...


Get the medicines when your family is visiting. Normally they dont check the family luggage for these things.

Bhavak said...

Dear Expatguru,
Great Blogs!
I need your advice. I am residing at India and I have very good job offer from Saudi. I have my Provisional Degree Certificate from Bangalore University. Is it possible to get it attested from University and State ministry HRD.
Thanks and appreciating your venture.

Bhavak Shah

Expatguru said...


Yes, it is possible to do so.

Manoj Bhatnagar said...

I have got a job in Saudi and want to join in October First week but since my daughter is in 12th standard in Qatar, I wish to keep my family here in Qatar until December. Will Saudi authorities stamp my RP even if I do not cancel my Qatar Visa (RP). Pl. see if you can help on this. Thanks

Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query using the form through the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would give you a detailed personalized reply.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,

Thanks for giving me chance to get valuable ideas from your blog.
I have joined in a company in June 2004 and went on final exit in FEB 2010 with concluding my contract(total 6years). company paid me 5days salary per year for 5 years and 15days salary for 1 years as End service benefit (ESB). when i raise a question about payment of ESB, they replied me this as per company rule.i received just around 3500SR only for 6years service as ESB.
company gave me 4 months re-entry visa (not EXIT) then i came back to the same company in June 2010 after 4 months vacation. then i have signed a new contract in June 2010 and again i wanted to go on final Exit in this November 2011 because of some family problem. i Submitted 1 month notice and now company is asking me to pay a penalty of 3000SR to go on exit. because contract is 2years. but nothing is mentioned in my agreement to pay if i breach the contract before 2 years.

pls suggest me what should i do...

Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized reply by email.

bariah said...

Hi my husband and family were granted a business work visa when we arrived in saudi they said my husband was banned they claimed to have no futher information about the ban. How long? What reason??? when we left saudi 6 moths ago there was a problem in the computer system saying how can we be here if the computer said we never entered! it was really strange. We had come o a visitation visa. they mentioned it must be some computer glithe and it happens some times. We are from America and very confussed as to why we can't enter Saudi again?? Now based on a computer glithe that had nothing to do with us we're wondering if we would ever be able to enter saudi?? are our visas revoked because of his refusal for entry? can a ban be lifted? please help! we are waiting in Dubai for hopful entry, my husband has work waiting for him in saudi. Thanks much!

Expatguru said...


Please fill in your query in the form using the link in the top right corner of this blog. I charge a nominal fee for my consultancy, which would get you a detailed, personalized reply by email.

Anonymous said...

My Name is Stephen

I am intending to visit KSA for a job, i dont have any queries as such just want to thank you for the wonderful work that you are doing sure once am there i will have tons of queries i did go through all the other queries and most have been answered already am just not sure about my salary as i havent been told anything yet as its my uncle who is arranging for my job i am a bit scared with the climatic conditions and all as you mentioned so just a bit nervous anyways wonderful job again
God Bless!!