Renting is the only way an expat can get a house in Saudi Arabia and as with other towns, Riyadh has its fair share of compounds. This is not to say you can’t find accommodation outside compounds. Far from it – there are many apartments available at reasonable rates, furnished or otherwise, some even have a pool. These however are really only to be considered by dedicated bachelors, as your family will not thank you for the wrong decision. They can be sought mostly in the Arabic press, so get a translator at work to find one for you and can be had for as little as 15,000SR per year unfurnished. Compounds range in size and facilities, but as a rough guide a 2 bedroom villa can be rented for 45,000SR – 55,000SR if you shop around and become more expensive depending on location and facilities. Also check how your accommodation allowance will be paid, as many compounds expect a year’s rent paid in advance, whilst some will accept 6 monthly payments, and only a few will take monthly payments, often at a premium i.e. 55,000SR will quickly become 70,000SR if paid monthly.
There appear to be two distinct types of accommodation available; prefab buildings with window type a/c units, and concrete built with central a/c – obviously this reflects on the price, as does the amount of “furnishings” that go to make a furnished flat – some offer only basic furniture while others include a “soft pack” i.e. bedding, crockery, cutlery, etc.
Most rental prices appear to be all inclusive but check before you sign and be sure to take a reader of Arabic with you if your rental agreement is not in English. A phone call will normally see any repairs carried out reasonably quickly on a compound; however, if you are outside it helps if you are keen on DIY. One point to look for when choosing your accommodation is covered parking; as the inside of a car can reach 70ºC making touching the steering impossible without first removing your socks to use as gloves. Another point to note is that of noise pollution - Check the vicinity of the nearest mosque as the sound of earlier morning prayer call can be quite alarming, and the sound of locals collecting friends by honking their horn at all hours is annoying.
As you will probably notice when you arrive, Riyadh is a big building site, with the city constantly expanding and evolving, and as such, all rent prices outside compounds are negotiable. Most of the accommodation is however light and modern and once settled into they can be made to look quite attractive however there is no getting away from whitewashed walls.