Entertainment and things to do in Saudi Arabia KSA for an Expat
Things to do in Saudi Arabia
What will you do as an expat for entertainment in Saudi Arabia? Well you are not going to be going to the local disco, nightclub or even a quiet bar to chase women, that is for sure! Alcohol is strictly forbidden and so are public venues such as discos, there is no mixing of the sexes for any reason! The raciest thing you will experience with your friends is a coffee shop with your same sex friends or a family dinner. The sexes are segregated what ever the event, even at a Saudi “party” you will find the women in one area and the men in another.
With not even a cinema; eating, the malls and the souks (markets) are about your only option within the cities. There are many places to eat with all tastes catered for, you will find just about every western restaurant chain has outlets in Saudi; from Applebee’s to McDonalds. There are also many restaurants serving Saudi, Lebanese, Turkish, in fact any type of food you can imagine, Saudi is a great place to get fat!
Also don't be afraid to go out, the country is on the whole quite safe and as a foreigner you are likely to be left to your own devices most of the time. However if you are a woman I would advise going in a group or with your husband rather than alone at any time. Saudi Arabia is not a place for women to explore on their own.
Eating Out in Saudi Arabia
Things to do; go to the Malls in Saudi Arabia
The malls here are very modern with all of the western chain stores that you could imagine in any western mall (Except maybe the naughty knickers stores!) They are great places to spend time, especially for the women! They also have some great food courts (again be careful about segregation), and often have great play areas with some fine rides for the children with everything from bumper cars to roller coasters (the Saudis love their kids!)
The malls vary from smaller older malls to brand new "mega" malls which are huge and contain everything you need for a whole day and night out for the whole family. Malls generally are open to around midnight or 1am at the weekends.
Note however that if you are a single man you may be refused entry to some malls at the weekends as they try to protect the families from naughty single men!
Saudis Having Fun
Entertainment; Saudi Arabian Souks
The souks are great, you can find almost anything that you want from rugs to very fine gold jewelry. However be warned that as a westerner you will be seen as a walking wallet and charged accordingly. Most of the vendors will try to rip you off for as much as they can, if you can pick out what you like then get someone “local” do the haggling for you, but always haggle – there is always more than one “final price”, when you know how much things should cost it is much easier to navigate your way around the souks and find the bargains.
Find where the souks are if you want to furnish your house, prices on the souks will be a third or less of what you will pay in the big stores and you can find some very ornate quality work.
Exercise, Saudi Arabian Gyms and things to do.
There are a number of Gyms for men around the kingdom, most well equipped and attended with all of the facilities you would expect.
However Gyms for women do not legally exist unless part of a hospital! So women will have a tough time finding a good gym off compound!
You can walk outside, many people exercise by walking along the seafronts in both Jeddah and Al-Khobar, this can be a very sweaty experience as even in the evenings the temperatures are well above 30 degrees. Do not try running! As well as the seafronts you will see a number of areas where the Saudis will walk around various blocks. But remember women must still wear their Abayas over their clothes!
Have a Party to entertain yourself
On compound Entertainment
On the Compounds it is another matter, western compounds tend to have fairly western rules, some even have bars and regular discos but kept fairly low key so as not to offend. There is always alcohol available, either the home brew variety or if you talk to the Saudis most have access to a few bottles of Jack for a steep price! I have met a few people who have come to Saudi Arabia to try to escape drinking problems who have then ended up with even bigger problems as there is nothing much else to do on the compounds in the evenings except sit around the pool with your buddies and drink!
In addition to the compounds there are also occasional events at the embassies, so get yourself signed up and meet some people there.
You can get yourself signed up for various excursions through the various social networks in the compounds for trips out into the desert, sightseeing, diving and so on, there is a surprising amount to see! However be aware that there have been incursions by groups such as ISIS in the North and other groups close to the Yemen so you do have to think about where a trip is likely to take you with the way the region is at the moment.
Driving in the Desert - Take water!
Entertainment at Saudi Arabian Resorts
If you are on the coast there are a number of beach resorts that you can visit, some of these are western only and you can dress and behave as such. The seas and the beaches are relatively clean and there are often pools restaurants and places to relax in the shade.
In addition to this they also have villas that can be rented out for a night or several, depending on how “posh” the resort is, these can cost anything from 500 – 2000SAR per night depending on location, size and season.
Often you can go on diving and boat trips either from these resorts or close by.
For a more private party, it is possible to hire small private villas with pools on the edges of the cities, these can cost 1000 – 2000 per night plus. If you are looking to have a party off compound with ladies, booze, swimming pool, music and so on these are your best bet – but don’t get too noisy! Loud western music and women giggling and screaming could get you busted! Otherwise these are ideal.
Entertainment in Dubai or Bahrain for the Weekend
If you do want to escape for a wild weekend then it is not too expensive to get on a plane to Dubai or to queue for several hours with all of the Saudis trying to get across the causeway into Bahrain! I guess that the Saudis are traveling there for religious purposes not to drink beer and bed the many prostitutes that fill the bars and nightclubs, but I may be wrong!
Women cannot leave the kingdom without the permission of their husbands (fathers), if you want to leave make sure that you get the right forms filled in or you will be held!
The rules within Dubai and Bahrain are officially the same as in Saudi Arabia however a blind eye is turned to what goes on in most places, however if you behave badly in a “family” area or someone decides to complain about you, you need to get away as quickly as possible!
My advice is that wherever you are in the middle east, if some asks you to stop doing something or complains about your behavior; immediately stop, don’t argue, and get away as quickly as possible. These problems tend to fester in people's minds and the problem becomes bigger and bigger even though you have stopped, often resulting in police being called and so on. So get away as soon as possible even if everything seems OK!
More ideas for things to do in KSA
If you need to know more about what you can get up to in KSA and the care that you need to take while doing so you can read all of the information I have about being an expat in Saudi Arabia here on Hubpages. This hub will give you information about everything from driving around the country to getting a date.
Just remember that whatever you do you must follow their rules and respect their traditions, punishment is Saudi Arabia can be pretty severe so take care with regards to what you do in this fascinating country.