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UAE vs Saudi Arabia – The Best Choice for Expats Revealed!

UAE or Saudi Arabia for Expats? The Vacation Builder

If things are not that impressive as you expected in your career front in your home country, moving your base to a new country can benefit you. We completely understand that shifting from your home town to a whole new country can be very overwhelming and sometimes scary too. But if you are targeting the Middle East nations, we can help you a lot.

When it comes to an international relocation particularly for flourishing job opportunities, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia are hot favourites. Settling to any of these countries as an expat is coupled with plenty of fringe benefits apart from wonderful living conditions.

Moving as an expat to the UAE or Saudi Arabia comes with its own set of challenges and hurdles. You must be very curious about how it is living in one of world’s most fast-growing global societies. Before you begin your international relocation to explore new career dimensions, it would be wise to do some research about the best option for you.

This article presents to you our head-to-head of UAE vs Saudi Arabia, covering different aspects like Location Advantage, Topography, Weather, Cost of Living, Salaries, Career Opportunities, Things to Do & See, Crime Rate, Education, Population Density and Public Transportation.

Although we found UAE to be a more expat-friendly destination than Saudi Arabia, still you must go through each point discussed in this post to take the final decision as personal preferences always play a crucial role in any sort of career move.

Location Advantages

Most expats try to choose a foreign destination which is easy to access from different parts of the world. If your job profile demands extensive travelling to foreign locations, then you must not ignore the strategic location of your base. Choosing a foreign location with straight-forward travelling options helps you to cut down the time and energy you waste on the way out and on the way back to your home nation.

You will not see much difference when you compare the locations of UAE and Saudi Arabia. These are neighbouring countries and travelling time to any is more or less same from most major cities around the world.

Sandwiched between the Persian Gulf and Red Sea, both UAE and Saudi Arabia receive frequent direct international flights from most parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. However, coming from Australia and America (both South and North) will certainly involve lengthy journey hours to reach UAE or Saudi Arabia.

UAE is the home to two of the most promising cities in the Middle East – Dubai and Abu Dhabi. No wonder travelling to and from Dubai International Airport or Abu Dhabi International Airport is more convenient.

Now comes the size of these two countries to understand the domestic travel time. A single glance at the world map is enough to understand that Saudi Arabia is much bigger in size than UAE. To be more specific, it is around 25 times bigger than UAE. Therefore, domestic travel time is short in UAE which means accessing any destination in UAE is less time consuming than it is in Saudi Arabia.

Verdict – UAE wins the race because of its smaller size and two internationally acclaimed airports.


UAE vs Saudi Arabia - Where is better to relocate? Topography | Elephant Rock, Saudi Arabia | The Vacation Builder
Elephant Rock, Ola, Saudi Arabia

When you shift your base to a different country, it opens up a door to explore its natural assets and unique landscapes. The more enriched the landscape, the more scope to plan exotic trips.

Topography of both UAE and Saudi Arabia is starkly different from what you see in the other parts of the world. These two countries are mostly made of expansive barren lands lacking much of greenery. Desert landscapes surely dominate the most of their terrains with some stunning surprises.

Located on the banks of the Persian Gulf, UAE features a somewhat flat topography. Beautiful beaches here have always been the celebrated tropical destinations. Northern part of the country is dotted with undulating Hajjar Mountain Ranges. There are many beautiful lakes & Wadi’s in UAE too.

Saudi Arabia, the largest country in Middle East, covers the majority of the Arabian Peninsula with its huge land area of 2.1million square kilometres. Major part of this landmass consists of desert but the country has its fair share of mountainous portions in its southwestern region. The highest peak gets is as high as 10,000 feet from sea level. Along the Persian Gulf shore, there are several stretches of salt flats, known as sabkhas.

The natural beauty of the UAE is way more captivating than Saudi Arabia. So, the scope of exploring new landscapes or trying unique outdoor activities is better in UAE than in Saudi Arabia.

Verdict – UAE

UAE vs Saudi Arabia Weather

UAE vs Saudi Arabia - Where is better to live | Weather | The Vacation Builder

Good weather lifts your mood instantly and there is nothing wrong in looking for a place that offers great career moves along with a charming climate. When we are talking about weather in UAE and Saudi Arabia, we have very little scope to differentiate between them, and both are HOT!

Both these places exhibit hot (sometimes humid too) and dry climates for most of the year. People coming from Europe and America may be shocked with the amount and intensity of sunlight that both these countries receive.

The warmest month of the year in Saudi Arabia is August with the highest temperature of up to 44°C. January is the coolest month when average temperatures drop to around 20°C.

If you take a look at Dubai’s climate, it shows similar trends to Saudi Arabia. Here, January is also recorded as the coolest month of the year with average temperatures of 19°C. Both July and August record maximum temperature surges with average temperatures of 35°C – 36°C.

Average Monthly High Temperatures in Saudi Arabia and UAE

 Dubai (UAE)Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)
Based on Dubai (UAE) and Riyadh (Saudi Arabia)

Both the UAE & Saudi Arabia feature year round sunshine and very little rain. The winter months can be great for beach living or exploring, however the heat in the summers can be too much to go out!

Verdict – Tie

UAE vs Saudi Arabia – Living Costs

Although Dubai is known for its swanky lifestyle and glitzy affairs, you will be surprised to hear that the city’s cost of living doesn’t even come close to global giants like London, New York or Sydney. We have already published head-to-head comparison articles for Dubai vs Sydney, Dubai vs Berlin, London vs Dubai, Dubai vs Kuwait & Dubai vs Qatar to throw light into this matter.

Comparing average monthly expenses is a more accurate way to figure out which place come with extra burden on your finances. According to Numbeo.com, you will need approximately AED 17,000 (USD 4,625) per month to secure the same standard of living in Dubai as you would with AED 10,850 (USD 2,950) to live in Riyadh.

Local Purchasing Power in UAE is slightly higher than Saudi Arabia with an index of 84.93 and 80.11 respectively. Restaurant and grocery prices in Saudi Arabia are less by 44.04% and 10.13% than in UAE.

So, living in Saudi Arabia will cost you much less than in UAE. Being Gulf Nations, the best part of living in any of these countries is the tax-free income.

Verdict – Saudi Arabia

UAE vs Saudi Arabia Salaries

There aren’t many who are interested in moving to a new country without financial gain. Monetary gain is undoubtedly a major motivating factor that pushes people to head for a new country. The salary package offered to you plays a crucial role in taking that big leap.

Middle East countries has always been considered as the best platforms to give your salary package a strong push. Thanks to tax-free income policy in Gulf nations, you can literally save huge amounts by working in both in UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Now comes the dilemma? Which of these tax-free heavens are better to move in? You can compare the average salary packages offered for different fields of works to decide which place comes with more monetary gains in terms of income.

UAE vs Saudi Arabia Average Salary Packages

ProfessionSalary in UAESalary in Saudi Arabia
AccountantUSD 42,470USD 34,140
Civil EngineerUSD 57,710USD 49,600
Electrical EngineerUSD 65,880USD 50,700
Business Development ManagerUSD 101,000USD 81,100
TeacherUSD 47,400USD 40,540
Administrative AssistantUSD 32,950USD 27,750
Graphic DesignerUSD 40,300USD 31,000
Air Traffic ControllerUSD 67,800USD 55,000
MechanicUSD 22,600USD 18,500
HR ManagerUSD 101,275USD 75,750
Petroleum EngineerUSD 63,975USD 51,750
NurseUSD 50,300USD 38,400
DoctorUSD 171,500USD 121,870
DentistUSD 157,450USD 125,050
Hair StylistUSD 27,200USD 22,300
Occupational TherapistUSD 81,125USD 65,600
Bar ManagerUSD 42,750USD 34,400
Real Estate AgentUSD 58,150USD 44,270
Web DeveloperUSD 58,500USD 43,200

Remember that salary packages varies extensively depending on the work experience, global demand of certain set of skills and educational qualifications. The salaries mentioned in the above table have been collected from Salaryexplorer.com.

Verdict – UAE

Career Opportunities

Middle East countries depend largely on expat population for skilled workers. People all over the world rush to UAE and Saudi Arabia to explore the vast job market and attractive salaries.

One of the easiest ways to gauge the scope of securing a job can be the unemployment rate. Of course, it is not the only factor to consider when considering a move in a new country in search of a job; but it is a good tool to have a fair idea on job scenario of any particular country or region.

Due to the Corona Virus Pandemic in 2020 we have chosen to show figures from 2018 and 2019 to give a more accurate representation.

UAE vs Saudi Arabia Unemployment Rates

  Unemployment Rate UAESaudi Arabia

It’s clear from the data that the UAE has has an extremely low unemployment rate. Saudi Arabia also comes with excellent career opportunities in comparison to other Gulf nations but the unemployment rate is significantly higher.

Verdict – UAE

Things To Do & See

Living in a different country may look intimidating sometimes because of new culture, customs and people. Your journey of settling down to a new destination can be made interesting if you explore new things and places around. Travelling to new destinations or indulging into exciting activities are particularly helpful for expats with family and kids.

UAE is smaller in size compared to Saudi Arabia but when it comes to tourist attractions, this country is simply unbeatable. Ranging from stunning beaches to mountainous terrains, imposing wadis to serene lakes – UAE has plenty of things to keep your interest high.

Things to do in Dubai

Things to do in Saudi Arabia

UAE is the land of best tourism opportunities. So, living here will inevitably bring the best of it to you. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia looks great for a trip but not for making a life out of it.

Verdict – UAE

Crime Rates

It is impossible to ignore the safety of your own and your family while exploring new destinations to move. Success of your decision to live the life of an expat vastly depends on the quality of life you will get there.

Crime in UAE as well as in Saudi Arabia is relatively low when you compare the data to some of developed nations around the world. Numbers of criminal offences against women are surprisingly very low and that could be because of the strict law practiced in these lands.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi – two prominent cities in UAE have Crime Indexes as low as 16.30 and 12.08 respectively. For last three years, rate of crime incensement is about 38.26% in UAE. The UAE as a whole has a crime index rating of 15.45.

On the contrary, Saudi Arabia doesn’t show that impressive data with a crime Index of 26.68. Rate of increase in crimes in Saudi Arabia is about 42.25% over last three years.

Even though the UAE is safer to live than Saudi Arabia, both have extremely low crime index’s compared to most other major countries in the world. You can see more at https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/crime-rate-by-country

Verdict – UAE


If you are a parent, then shifting your base for a better job position or better living standards is not enough. You must have been pondering over the quality of education that your child will receive in a new city or country.

When we talking about schools and colleges, UAE has made tremendous advancement in education sector. The nation believes in creating a wonderful society by educating young minds with best-in-class academic opportunities.

Education in UAE is supported by both private and public schooling. There are numerous international schools where expats prefer to send their children for a more globalized upbringing. However, the UAE doesn’t support free public schooling to children of expats. Sending your child to UAE’s private schools is a costly affair and it comes with an average cost of AED 100,000 (USD 27,200) per year.

Just like UAE, public schools in Saudi Arabia are accessible only to Saudi Arabian citizens. Very few local people allow their children to attend international schools. For British or American schools, annual tuition fees are around SAR 25,000 – SAR 75,000 (USD 6,650 – USD 20,000).

Arabic is mandatory in most Saudi schools. For higher studies, even local students prefer to attend overseas universities or a globally recognized institution in Saudi Arabia.

Private schooling in UAE is more costly than in Saudi Arabia but the standard of education is higher in the UAE.

Verdict – Tie

Population Density

UAE vs Saudi Arabia - Where is better to relocate? Population Density | The Vacation Builder
A busy day at JBR Beach – Dubai

None of us would love to move to a heavily crowded place just for the sake of a better career opportunity. Overcrowded cities often come with poor living conditions. Excessive traffic on the road, poor public services, polluted environment are just a few of them.

The good news is neither UAE nor Saudi Arabia are thickly populated. If you compare population density from both the countries with other developed countries in the world, you will be surprised to see a stark difference in the figures.

In spite of being the most populous city in UAE, Dubai has a population density of only 860 people/sq. km which is astonishingly low compared to New York, Sydney or London. UAE’s population density as a whole is even lower at just 118 people per sq.km.

Most parts of Saudi Arabia are barren land and so doesn’t support favourable leaving conditions. This could be the reason cities in the country are comparatively thickly populated. Although the national population density is 16 people per square kilometre, Riyadh shows an astonishing figure of 3,900 people per sq. km.

Saudi Arabia surely suffers terribly from an unfair distribution of population whereas UAE shows much more evenness.

Verdict – UAE

Public Transportation

UAE or Saudi Arabia to Live | Public Transport in Dubai | The Vacation Builder
Bridge to the Dubai Metro

We will end this comparison with the public transport. The availability of an effective and comfortable public transportation network is essential to lead an easy life. Getting around the city or country with ease should be one of your major concerns before moving in to a new place.

Both UAE and Saudi Arabia put their best effort in designing a seamless transportation network across the country. Travelling by bus, rail, metro and taxis are the best ways to cover short distances. For long journeys, you can avail flights connecting a hoard of domestic as well as international airports.

Dubai has some of the best, quickest and cheapest transport systems in the world, however, when it comes to the average cost of a single ticket, Saudi Arabia wins. Dubai is in the top 76% of cities offering cheap public transport, with the average cost of a single ticket at just $1.20. Riyadh steals the show though with a single transportation ticket cost of just $0.47!!

If you’re travelling by car, the road conditions in both these countries are extremely good. That’s why driving through the highly maintained highways feels so great.

The UAE prides itself on some of the best transport systems in the world, and they’re cheap too! However, Saudi Arabia offers cheaper travel and so we cannot split the two.

Verdict – Tie


Aside from Living Costs, the UAE steals the show when it comes to choosing between Saudi Arabia and UAE to live. Saudi Arabia was competitive in a lot of aspects, especially when it came to Weather, Education & Public Transport.

Thanks for reading. We hope this article will help you to gain clarity about living as an expat in UAE and Saudi Arabia. Although UAE is the favourite expat heaven, Saudi Arabia is not much behind in the race. Now you have to pick your destination depending on your personal and professional goals.

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