- Download our Moving to Saudi Arabia Guide (PDF)
The country’s strict interpretation of Sharia law and harsh punishments for illegal activity mean that safety in Saudi Arabia is not a major concern. There is normally tight security in and around expat compounds, leaving residents feeling quite protected.
Although terrorism is an ongoing concern in the wider region, there have been no recent attacks in Saudi Arabia, and no incidents that would warrant any concerns for the short term. Protests have taken place on occasion, but Saudi Arabia has not witnessed the level of protests experienced by other Middle Eastern countries in recent times.
Crime in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia has harsh punishments for criminal activity. Executions by beheading, stoning or firing squad are common for crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery. Apostasy, adultery and homosexuality are also subject to harsh punishment, which may seem archaic by Western standards.
Most expats live in expat compounds where security is tight, and burglary and armed robbery are not a concern. Nevertheless, petty theft does occur on the streets of Saudi towns and cities, and opportunistic theft from vehicles also occurs. Expats should always be alert when walking in the street and keep all valuables out of sight.
Terrorism in Saudi Arabia
Many governments warn their citizens about the risk of possible terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, particularly against Western targets and Saudi oil infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia has a history of terrorist attacks. The Saudi government takes the threat of terrorism seriously and has carried out a number of arrests of suspected militant groups in recent years. Expats should ensure that they stay in secure accommodation, and if in a compound, that adequate security is in place.
Protests in Saudi Arabia
Public demonstrations are illegal in Saudi Arabia. The government has invested heavily in employment and education programmes, which has gone a long way to alleviating dissent among the local population, and protests and demonstrations in the Kingdom are uncommon.
Any demonstrations that do take place in the Kingdom are usually in the Eastern Province, which has the largest concentration of Saudi Arabia’s Shia minority.
Road safety in Saudi Arabia
Road conditions vary considerably between cities and rural areas. Larger cities have well-constructed roads, while those in rural areas are often unpaved. Road safety is potentially one of the greatest safety concerns for expats in Saudi Arabia; traffic accidents are a frequent occurrence, aggressive driving and road rage are common, and traffic congestion in Riyadh is an ongoing problem. Expats should drive defensively or, if possible, arrange for a driver who is familiar with the local conditions.
►For more on staying safe and healthy in Saudi Arabia, see Healthcare in Saudi Arabia
"Apart from the crazy drivers on the streets, I’ve always said Saudi is the safest place I’ve ever lived. That may seem like a far-fetched statement but you can’t believe everything you see and hear from Western media."
Read more of James's expat interview about life in Saudi Arabia.
"Honestly safety has not been an issue for me. The truth is that I have felt safer here all these years than I ever feel back home in the US. Crime is much lower here and there is not the random violence like in the US. I’ve been to ghetto areas here in Jeddah, and I still feel safe."
To learn more about her experiences, read Susie's expat interview.
Are you an expat living in Saudi Arabia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Saudi Arabia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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