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Looking for compounds in Riyadh

When Mark was first offered the job in Saudi, actually even before that when we were waiting in anticipation for the job to be offered we knew our first choice of accommodation in Riyadh would be on a western compound.

We wanted our new place to be a home from home.

Even though we have no problem whatsoever with following dress codes or anything and it actually doesn’t bother us in the slightest covering up. We sometimes, because of the world we’re from, being a westerner we wanted that little bit of ‘normality’ from our home life that we’re used too.

We like to go on walks in the evening so it’s nice to be able to just pop on your shorts and vest and go for a walk without thinking and also being able to pop to the mini market for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. Probably one of the biggest reasons for us to live on a compound is that we like to swim, sunbathe and be at the pool together. Which for us is a big part of our life.

Another thing we like about compound living is the escapism from the craziness of the city. 

Bouganvillea plant and blue sky on a western compound in Riyadh

Mark and I are naturally more country mice then city mice, so after a busy day at work (for Mark) and the busy crazy roads of Saudi it is so nice coming home to our little bit of an oasis behind the big doors in the middle of the desert. It really is like a big sigh of instant calm when you drive through the security gates and see the palm tree lined streets of our little compound.

Compounds are probably a go-to for expats here in Riyadh, but not all. Renting on a compound is more expensive then renting an apartment or villa from a private landlord, but you do have many facilities on a compound (which I’ll go into more in a moment) and the ease of having your utility bills included, onsite maintenance and full security.

Saying that we wouldn’t rule out renting outside of a compound because we do actually feel perfectly safe here, more safe then we did on our recent trip to London. For our first year at least we’re going to stay on the compound until we find our feet and get to know how you even go about renting from a private landlord. I haven’t discovered the equivalent of Rightmove yet! There’s also the language barrier as neither of us speak or read Arabic and when setting up Iqamas (resident cards) starting a new job etc etc the compound option was definitely the first choice. Saying all that though there’s a big chance that we will continue living on a compound as so far, we love it.

In Riyadh there are many many compounds. Some come up on Google search and others we found out about from my husbands work colleagues. They all offer similar facilities, but I would definitely recommend visiting them as all the  ones we visited have been completely different to what we saw online and what we thought they would be like in real life. For example one of the ‘best’ compounds with all singing and dancing facilities and villas turned out to be one of our least favorite and back home in Spain we really thought that would be the compound for us. It just didn’t have the right feeling to it, it felt very sterile and clicky and the villa, for the price was tiny with no privacy and they didn’t even give you new mattresses! 

Facilities on compounds

To break things down a little bit and to stop me waffling on and going off on a tangent here’s some of the facilities you can expect from a compound...

~ Utilities included (not really a facility, but it’s important to mention!) we pay extra for our internet, but the compound office arrange the set up for you.

~ Swimming pools (some have many, some maybe just one, and there's even some compounds with mini water parks)

~ Gyms /sauna’s/steam rooms

~ Mini Market

~ Coffee shops

~ Restaurants

~ Communal spaces

~ Security

~ Barbers/Hairdressers

~ Beauty salon

~ Bowling alley

~ Pool tables 

~ Laundry/Dry cleaning service

~ Cinema

~ Daily rubbish collection

Some compounds will have more of these facilities some have less, but these are probably your basics to expect. Some of the coffee shops maybe a popular well known brand some not, the same with the restaurants, some maybe well known and some compounds may have a bigger selection of restaurants/food outlets and some compounds may have just the one restaurant. 

Pool and palm tree on a western compound in Riyadh

It’s all about thinking properly and sensibly what you want from your compound life. For Mark and I we are not gym goers so to have lot’s of gym facilities isn’t on top of our list as we will probably never use the gym. For us though having a good pool area is important. What we like about the compound we’re in is the pool, even though it’s all centered in the same place, it’s split into fun sections with rock features. It feels very ‘resort’ like with private spaces. There is also a semi olympic pool to do some proper lengths in too. 

Another thing that’s important for us was to have a shop to be able to get the basics and a restaurant too. We love going out to the restaurants outside of the compound as there are literally so many, all different types from fast food to fine dining we literally have it all here in Riyadh! Sometimes though you just want to have a simple evening and walk to grab a quick bite to eat, so the restaurant on the compound completely fills that requirement for sure. 

One of the other things for us was to have a comfy, spacious and private villa. Nearly all of the villas we looked at even the very expensive fancy compound, they didn’t have private back gardens. They were all open, so if people were walking by they could easily see in. On another compound there was a path running all the way along from the back doors of the villas and you know kids on their bikes would be riding up and down.

Another thing to bear in mind is availability. I don’t know why, but it didn’t even occur to us there would be waiting lists for properties, as when we lived in the UAE there were always villas available. Granted they weren’t compounds, but we always lived on a gated community.  

Large leafy tree on a western compound Riyadh

We usually opt for 2 bed villas instead of apartments as we still want to be comfortable and have a bit of space, but it is still renting so we historically haven’t rented anything bigger then we ‘needed’. This time though for our Saudi adventure things are a little different. For us part of this adventure is having a nice house on a nice compound. We have a very spacious 3 bed villa which to be fair is all they had available! Honestly, the villa is too big for the two of us, but it is really nice having lot’s of space! Hopefully we will move our fur-babies over soon and having the gang here will definitely fill the rooms up! 

Most of the villas on the compounds are fully furnished. Some have options of unfurnished and part furnished, but most of the time the furniture is included. Make sure you check if the furniture will be new especially the mattresses. Every compound but one told us they would be new mattress, funny enough it was the fancy pants compound that said they don't provide new mattresses! 

Another thing to remember the rent is paid in advance usually in installments of one year or six months in advance. Some compounds will make exceptions and accept quarterly payments but none I spoke to would let us pay monthly. Also a security deposit is required. This again varies from compound to compound. Some say 5% of the rent, others a flat fee. 

Again previously we've always had unfurnished properties, but this time we had furnished. It is actually so nice to just walk in and everything (pretty much) is there. White goods, settees, side units, tables and chairs, T.V, beds, mattresses and chest of drawers. We did have to buy our own bedding which is fine and the smaller electrical items like the kettle, iron, ironing board, clothes airer, microwave etc. 

Do you live on a compound? 
Lived on a compound? Or looking to live on a compound? 

I hope you've found this post helpful and let me know if you have any questions at all 
about looking for compounds in Riyadh.


Heather x


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