What To Bring And What Not To Bring From The United States To Saudi Arabia

There is a Muslim sister who is relocating to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for employment purposes. I asked everyone to come up with a list of what they thought she should bring from the United States to Saudi Arabia and also what she should NOT bring. There is very little information available on this type of advice online and it is scattered all around besides. Feel free to make other suggestions in the comment section. Thank you! Tara Umm Omar

Aisha: Tell her to bring a Kindle, and any books she wants. Other than that, I don’t find much need for anything from the States beause we can get most everything here, alhamdulelah.

Hanin: Bras underware. Legos. Specialty spices like Mrs. Dash. Chili powder for chili sauce. Pantyhose if used. Spray n Wash Stain stik hahahaha. Shoes? I guess I can pretty much find what I need. My kids like me to stock up on cereals there when cheaper. Vitamins!! Cheaper there. Trail mix. Craisens!!!!! Ahhh craisens!! Hahaha. High quality backpacks as needed.

Hayat: So much depends on her family status. I bring shoes, because the kinds I like are much more expensive in Saudi than they are in the USA. I also bring dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs, which are not always available here and which also are much more expensive here when they are. They don’t have the cold medicine that you mix with hot water, so I bring a couple of boxes of that. I like to bring underwear and shoes, too. In general, manufactured products are available here, but much more expensive than in the USA. I used to bring a lot of books, but now I download them. She might want to buy a Kindle or similar e-reading device.

Aish: Well considering I even packed pegs in my suitcase coming from Australia, I am probably not a good one to answer this, however I would like to say that if anyone is into natural products then bring a year’s supply. I have had challenges finding good quality items such as Vitamin D3, Krill Oil, Coconut Oil for cooking, Liver detox – Silimarian, psyllium husk (not capsules), and then the sanitary products and underwear are a few other items I would include – the quality again is just not comparable to the West. Plus there are men in the shops and that makes it very hard to smuggle a packet of sanitary napkins under the lettuce leaves. And tiger balm is of shocking quality here compared to what I buy in Australia. Here everything is in plastic and they dont seem to realise the hazards this can have on one’s health. And salt, Himalayan salt, I have never found here so I brought that from Australia too. Eucalyptus Oil is another good product and also organic underarm deodorants – rigidee didge/authentic products. So that would be my advise as a basic list of important products for me. Elhumdulilah on a recent trip home, I managed to obtain almost a year supply of everything. Everything else seems to be accesible, even pegs! Knitting needles and wool, now there is something I haven’t seen here yet!

Karemah: If she is a vegetarian bring good vegetarian sourced protein powder because its not available here.
Bio available vitamin D3 since most stuff here is imitation. Good vitamin B-12. GNC is here but if you are into quality products, bring from the States. “BioBest” and “Organic Food store” on Aruba Street bring in some but their source is not reliable, they are always sold out when you need it. 110 volt kitchen gadgets will end up ruined by power surges so do not buy new stuff and expect it to last a long time here. Hair appliances are here in abundance so don’t bother with 110V which the blow out in less than a year. If you have a baby, bring your car seat and stroller because here you will pay a big premium for quality. Breastfeeding moms like slings, they are not easy to find here however front packs are. Your favorite health care name brand items may not be here but we have humidifiers (hot and cool), thermometers, baby swings and the like here just a bit more expensive. See Mothercare online to get an idea of what is carried here. Educational toys are good to get what you like from USA, we have them here but they are limited. German and British stores are here but very expensive. Get your favorite bras and undergarments since very few women’s only places that sell things normal women want to wear. We have most brands you’d want but most undergarment shops are run by men. Fitted sheets are at Home Plaza but are not the deep pocket type so sheet sets would be on my list. If you like to home garden and have a favorite vegetable, bring it. We have some seed packets here but maybe not organic or the variety you like to grow.

Sumaiyah: What to bring or not bring to Saudi? Hmm, wow that will be one exhaustive list either way! Before I came to Saudi, I also had some sisters advise me on what to bring to Saudi. One sister actually told me not to worry about bringing my trainers as she said “ladies don’t wear those there, you’ll need heels”. Of course I had to chuckle a bit because everyone knows both heels and trainers are worn at appropriate times but I understand the reason the sister advised me in this manner because back in the U.S. I always wore trainers because I had two jobs; I was always on my feet! So the sister must have thought I’d go to an “azeemah” (party) in my trainers here in Riyadh!

Ann: I always liked various translations of Qur’an that give me a better idea of what is being translated. So unless you like to have only one translation of Qur’an, disregard but this would be a must as Saudi has only the one translation. This would go for any Islamic books, hard to find ones that give various interpretations, especially in regards to women and history (rolls eyes and we know why lol). It is easier to bring them in when you are moving in than getting them shipped individually. I had so many books rejected that I got a P.O. box in Bahrain. A Kindle is a good source if she is an avid reader all together not just Islamic books. Or another e-reader (although I have preference for the Kindle because its easy on the eyes for me). That would be my only suggestion as most things are available in Saudi. I was always book deprived. Even kids books in English that are Islamic are quite easy to get and they seem to have more and more in Jarir Bookstore. Or if she is a crafter there is so little choice in KSA and even Bahrain for supplies. If she is into sewing just clothes, there are enough places to gather things for that even getting her machine serviced is easy. But if she is a quilter, does knitting, needle point, scrapbooking etc., short supplies doesn’t even sum that up. Even when you do find supplies, they are so expensive it should be a crime.

Mandi: What to bring: Tampons. Any food items that you really love and are unsure of them being here. Pictures from home. Phone numbers/email addresses of family and friends. Books to pass the time. Your favorite movies. Scarves if you’re a hijabi and don’t feel like wearing black every day. Winter coat, I gave mine away before I came and then realized it does get cold here. A good supply of any prescription meds you may need, they might not have them here. Tylenol/Advil. Patience. An open mind. What not to bring: Statues or knick knacs, unless you are ok with them possibly being confiscated. Magazines or books with questionable content or pictures, unless you are ok with them being taken. A bad attitude.

Jean: Maybe an open mind is the best thing to pack.

Tara: Keep your bank accounts open and bring ur debit cards with Visa or Mastercard logo (that has either the Pulse or PLUS on the back of it). You can wire money through Western Union, a bank like Saudi American Bank (Samba) or one of the many remittance offices available throughout the city. You should also inform your American bank that you will be traveling to Riyadh for work and expect to use your debit card so red flags won’t show up on your card. When that happens, my bank locks the account and freezes the card! I would bring spices, hair care products, organics, vitamins, tampons if you use them, bras, panties (especially if you’re plus size because stores like Splash, Evans and Ann Harvey are extremely costly. Plus other stores catering to plus-sized women are not really plus-sized and a total rip off in that aspect), good white socks and black nylon socks. American brand appliances you can buy here at expensive SACO but also at any other appliance/furniture store that is cheaper so save the room for other stuff thats hard to find here. You wouldn’t get American brands but you would have to shop around for other quality brands (Germany, UK, etc). The other thing I would bring is a burkini because they are available here but hard to find and when located, not for tall/plus-sized women. Special toiletries or meds that you can’t do without or a 2-3 month supply or even a yearly supply until you find it here or go back home from more. Take a look at the following website, Customs Regulations In Saudi Arabia: International Shipping. Anything on that list which is not allowed to be shipped into KSA, you should consider packing, as long as it is not banned. Also keep in mind that all airlines have their own restrictions so it is best to call them and get the details. For example, see the “Dangerous Goods” section on Saudi Arabian Airlines.

Tiffany: She should not even bring herself! lol 😛

Stacey: I live in a small town so it might be different. But I buy almost all my kids’ shoes in the U.S. I only wear quality shoes for me and my kids. So I buy name brands with good support for the year, no Payless on our feet. I have yet to find good shoes here. Even at the sports store the quality isn’t good enough. For anyone with unusually big, small or tall sized statures, I’d shop in the U.S. I’m tall so I get some things made [at the tailor shop] but not all. I can find some tops but I am not always liking the styles here. Good bras and ladies are in the U.S. too. That’s what I can think of. Really most of my stuff is from home lol.

FHWS readers, what do YOU think should be or should not be brought from the United States to Saudi Arabia?

Photo Credit: Packing Checklist For Expats

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Tara Umm Omar

American married to a Saudi.

2 thoughts on “What To Bring And What Not To Bring From The United States To Saudi Arabia”

  1. I read all the lists, amazed that the current recommendations are so similar to what I was told to take in 1978, 33 years ago! Some things just never change (smile)… Seems all you ladies have this covered… I remember taking my favorite foods, a good supply of clothing as clothing was so expensive even then in SA, IF you could find western styled clothing. I always took lots of books, although they usually created a huge wait at customs as every book was generally looked at. I wish I could turn back the clock and it is 1978 and I had all those wonderful years to relive. I was in Saudi Arabia for 12 years and personally, had a wonderful experience. Tara, thanks for this very informative and even FUN site. Jean Sasson

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    1. Wow that was a long time ago! When I go back home, I’m definitely stocking up on clothes, shoes, organics, candy and spices! I plan to bring a carry-on with what I’d need in the U.S. for 2 days, shop til I drop and when I get ready to return, buy luggage there and load em up. I’m debating about books because of the extra weight and due to the fact that I like reading e-books. However if there is a book I can’t find on Kindle or iTunes, you better believe I’m packing it!

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