This post is a little guide to things you should think about bring to Saudi Arabia. The items listed are either not available, forbidden, limited and/or overly priced. I know when first moving to Saudi I was completely baffled about what to bring and ended up bring all the wrong things. This doesn’t only apply to Saudi Arabia, if you are considering relocating anywhere in the Middle East, this can be of help.
Of course there may be some things that don’t apply to you or are not listed and I would love to hear what they are. I always end up making a “Thing to get @home” list the minute I return to Saudi that ends up going on for the entire year. So keep in mind, that you can and will go home eventually!
1. TAMPONS– This has to be the hardest thing to find in Saudi Arabia. Over the years I have only ever seen it stocked once before in the mall pharmacy. If you are a tampons over pads type girl, stock up. I’ve heard that they are actually forbidden to be sold here because of their method of use. Something about inserting into a female, it gets bizarre. Anyhow be sure to have your self covered before venturing out here.
2. BRAS (Sizing) – This is more for the US/Canadian Expat woman, I suggest you get measured at your local shop and ask for your European size. The best place to buy quality bras in Saudi Arabia are often UK retailers ( Marks & Spencer, Debenhams) and their measurements are completely different to our standard bra sizes (DD36, 34B). There are more common retailers such as La Senza and Victoria Secret so you can survive without, but it is definitely good to have.
The biggest reason I stress bra sizes in general is because there are no CHANGE ROOMS in Saudi Arabia. You cannot try anything on (including bras) before purchase. This would be unheard of in other countries because most store policies don’t allow for returns on personal items (bras, panties, lingerie). The irony in this is that the same POLICY applies in Saudi Arabia. So once you buy it, its your no returns/exchanges. KNOW YOUR SIZE.
Lastly, if you choose to buy the better quality bras/panties expect to pay a great deal more than what is offered at home from the same product and retailer. My advice is to STOCK UP so you can avoid this all together.
3. Cosmetics– I can’t tell you how ridiculous the price difference is when it comes to makeup. It does not matter if you prefer drugstore make- up to designer make-up they are all over priced across the board. The price of Covergirl and Rimmel will have your head spinning almost triple what we would pay at home. Brands like Mac and Sephora are just as pricey making you wonder if you should just give up on make-up all together. Bear in mind that the brands are exactly the same and offer the same products but with extremely hefty price tags in comparison. In most cases the selections are very limited and don’t expect to see new collections and cosmetic line months/ever after their release back home.
If you are picky when it comes to your cosmetics and like a certain brand or product I suggest you STOCK UP before arriving in Saudi Arabia. Restock happens seldom and you my be waiting awhile…
4. Exercise (DVD, equipp): This can be for any expat really BUT I suggest it for women especially because finding ways to be active in Saudi Arabia are very limited. Depending on where you are there may or may not be an all-female gym club that you can join. Most major cities have a limited selection of various fitness centres for women. However they are very expensive, costing roughly what you would pay for a year membership in a month.
I find that a set of exercise DVDs are best because you have the freedom to do it on your time in the comfort of your home. Yoga mats, mini weights, skipping rope are all things that I would consider bringing. Physical Activity in public is forbidden in Saudi Arabia, so don’t expect to go for your morning jogs. Some major cities have designated walkways for pedestrians but keep in mind you will be walking in your abaya (black cloak and veil)
5. Entertainment (magazines, movies, books,etc): When I first was preparing to come to Saudi all I read everywhere was how magazines were forbidden and would get you in trouble at the airport. DEAD WRONG! Since then I have never arrived back from travel without at least a couple of magazines. No one pays any mind to you bringing in magazines just make sure they are appropriate (no porn). As for movies, I suggest you download as much as you can while abroad because you will have plenty of viewing time once you get here. Also, a lot the streaming sites and Netflix are not available once you are in Saudi Arabia.
Woman expats will find out sooner than their male counterparts that keeping entertained in Saudi Arabia takes a lot of effort. This being said make sure you take advantage of what’s offered at home and bring it with you!