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Renting news: Riyadh versus Dubai for the expats

white flag marked near the saudi arabia

Renting news: Riyadh versus Dubai for the expats

Learning from my friend who has been an expat for over 10 years in the Middle East

During the recent Chinese New Year, I visited my primary schoolmate. Yes, based on number of years, we have known one another for nothing less than 35 years. All these years, I have always known him as an expat working in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and he has worked in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi too. Many years ago, he also said that Dubai is an amazingly cosmopolitan city and that I should definitely visit him there.

In my recent visit just two months back, I learnt that he’s now working from Malaysia and travelling to Riyadh once every month. He is now an expat with his employer based in Riyadh. He used to have a property in Dubai but I did not ask if he had sold his property after he moved to Riyadh. He told me that Riyadh is now becoming more open but for an expat, there are certainly fewer things to do, not to mention fewer expat friends too.

Nevertheless, when we talk about shopping malls for example, Riyadh has more and more of it these days but is still less vibrant than Dubai in comparison. Then, today I read about this news about Riyadh and Dubai. What a coincidence. Let’s read a little about that news.

Article in There is now a change in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. There are now more expats who are there with their families. There is now a restriction which states that all state entities must not do business with international companies that do not have their regional HQs in Saudi by January 2024.

These new restriction is part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambition to open the country to international markets, putting the capital among the world’s 10 largest city economies and doubling its population to at least 15 million by 2030 — despite many traditional barriers related to the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islamic law.

As of end 2022, almost 80 companies have applied for licenses to move their headquarters to Riyadh, Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih said in a recent interview, adding the city would become “the grand capital of the Middle East, politically and economically.”

Much-awaited masterplan for Riyadh’s expansion has been delayed multiple times. A metro system, which was set to be completed by 2019, has yet to open.

There is a housing deficit in Riyadh. Annual payments for a two-bedroom apartment in one of Riyadh’s better neighborhoods has gone up by almost 12% over the past year to about SAR 181,000 ($48,260), according to Faisal Durrani, partner and head of Middle East research at Knight Frank, a global real-estate brokerage and consultancy firm. 

Employees moving to Riyadh from Dubai could still get pay raises of 20%-25%. The article is a comprehensive one with a lot of details and examples. Do read it here: Article in

Did you notice the annual yearly rental for a two-bedroom apartment?

The rental per annum is US$48,260 (RM212,793) for a 2-bedroom apartment in one of Riyadh’s better neighbourhoods. Rental per month is thus RM212,793 divided by 12 and that’s RM17,732 per month. This is certainly not a low number and Riyadh is only starting to welcome more expats.In other words, it’s either an increase in the supply of homes facoured by expats quickly or else, the rental rates would continue to move upwards faster.

As the number is already very high in comparison to renting a 2-bedroom condo in Mont Kiara here in Malaysia, the disparity would just become bigger. With the current push from Riyadh, I do think the number of expats based there will increase much faster than the rate of increase for expats here in Malaysia. Just as an example for rental of a 2-bedroom condo. Source:

Malaysia is extremely loved by expats too

It’s a top Global City for Expats. Do look at the ranking below. This is as at 2022. Malaysia is ahead of Dubai too. For a better understanding, Preply’s global index has ranked 60 of the most popular destinations to find the top cities for expats in 2022 based on 11 relevant relocation metrics. 

Image source:

In case anyone thinking of visiting Riyadh soon, here’s the typical flight ticket price via Malaysia Airlines. (MAS)

Happy visiting Riyadh or Dubai or Abu Dhabi yeah.

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Charles Tan The Founder The Writer Kopiandproperty
Charles Tan

Charles is Founder of He writes from his investment experience for the the past 20 years in investments including property, stock, unit trust and more as well as readings and conversations with many property gurus in the industry. is an independent property blog which is not affiliated to any media company, property developer or even real estate agencies.


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