KAUST Packing List – what to take in your suitcase.

First in my KAUST packing list posts – what to bring with you in your suitcase to KAUST. Obviously once you are here you can take a trip to Jeddah and buy almost anything you want, but these are the things I was grateful for, or wish I had packed to have with me when I first arrived.

I will write separate packing lists for the air shipment (which takes around 6-8 weeks to arrive) and the sea shipment (which takes around 12 weeks to arrive).

Adaptors – pack more than you think you’ll need, they are expensive over here

Tea bags/ food things you will miss from home (remember no pork or alcohol)

Work clothes and shoes – remember, it could be anything up to 8 weeks before your first shipment arrives, take enough shirts/trousers etc so you have some variety

Gym stuff and trainers – even if you aren’t a gym bunny the facilities are great here and you can go to classes as a way to start meeting new people

Swimming costume – you can bring a bikini too if you want but you will only be able to wear it at the beach not the pools.

Coat hangers – there are none in your new house here and I wished I’d packed some in my suitcase

Cosmetics – pack enough to last you three months as you aren’t allowed to pack liquids in your air shipment.

Suncream – you are going to need it, it’s hot here. Also it is really expensive to buy. I advise factor 50 to start with unless you have darker skin.

Mosquito spray – ditto

Big towels – you do have a couple of towels in your new house but they aren’t beach towels and you’re going to want to head to the beach at some point!

Non-work clothes and shoes – loose, none sheer fabrics. Linen and cotton are a good idea, sandals and flip flops. As much as it pained me to leave my Doc Marten collection behind, there really is no place for those guys over here. Nothing short or overly tight.

For ladies – Abaya and Hijab – You will need these in the airport and if you want to leave the complex. I bought mine from ebay and whilst it isn’t very pretty it does the job, you can focus on buying a beautiful one once you’re here.

Sunglasses – bring a couple of good, UV protected pairs. The sun is extreme in the desert.

Important documents – I advise having a file with KAUST contact details, your passport, your riyals, drivers license, copy of Saudi visa, copy of marriage certificate, copy of birth certificate, kids birth certificates and so on. Anything that might come in handy.

Cash – Bring riyals, you will be able to pay on your debit card from your home country here but you will not be able to get cash out on site because of a long running system error. You will have to wait for your Saudi account to be set up before you can get cash out in KAUST which could take six weeks. You can however get cash from ATM’s by going into Jeddah.

An extended supply of any medication you are on – there is a medical centre on site but it might take you a while to get set up with your BUPA cover and so on. Go to the doctor in your home country and ask for a two month supply before you leave so you have plenty of time and don’t have to worry about running out.

Hard drive – We brought a lot of movies and work-related documents with us on a hard drive and I’m glad I did as there are very few English-speaking channels available with the house set top box. Having said that, be sensible about what you put on there and be aware it might get searched or even wiped (ours wasn’t even looked at twice) so it may be worthwhile keeping a copy safe at home as well.

An unlocked mobile phone – unless you are planning on buying a new one over here. You will need a phone number in order to set up your Saudi bank account so having an unlocked phone that you can just buy a pay as you go sim card from Tamimi for is the easiest (and cheapest) option here.

A rucksack – Unless you are getting a car immediately as soon as you arrive (which is unlikely) a rucksack will help you when you are carrying your shopping home from Tamimi. Also handy when you go into Jeddah.

I’ll add to the list as and when I come up with any further suggestions. If you have any questions please do let me know and Please follow my Instagram @livinginarabia for regular pictures of KAUST and Jeddah

8 thoughts on “KAUST Packing List – what to take in your suitcase.

  1. It’s like you are set to go to a faraway island, right? Haha I’ve been to KAUST before. The place and facilities are really great, but the environment, even in the afternoon really feels dull because not many people are outside. 🙂 It looks sad but peaceful.


  2. Hello,
    thank you so much for this blog, i will be joining KAUST very soon and was wondering what to bring and what not to bring. Could you please tell us where can we get Ryals from?


    1. Hi Farouk, and congratulations on making the decision to come here! I would say it depends where you are traveling to KSA from but I would suggest getting your riyals in advance of arriving in Saudi Arabia as there do not seem to be many currency shops around that I’ve seen.

      Thanks for the comment! 🙂


      1. Hi Pippa, and thank you for the reply and the warm welcome 🙂 , i will be traveling from Manchester, i take it i can exchange GBP to Ryals once i arrive in Jeddah airport, but was wondering about the exchange rate. Also, i would love to know about how the internet is like in KAUST residences (internet speed)! and if working hours change during summer when it’s very hot and during the holy month of Ramadan!.


      2. Ah cool, we flew from Manchester too! If I was you I would get Riyal in the UK, most major travel agencies will get them for you, you will have to order them though so make sure you do it plenty of time before.

        The internet is very fast, you will have to provide your own router (you can get them here but we brought one with us) and the speed is not an issue for us at home.

        Sadly working hours don’t change in summer! In ramadan if you are Muslim you will work two hours less a day during the holy month, and you can also arrange to start later or finish earlier with your managers consent. All non-muslims maintain usual working hours throughout Ramadan. The whole university gets a week off for each Eid celebration however.

        Hope this helps 🙂


      3. This is really helpful, yes i am a Muslim and hence my question about working hours in Ramadan 🙂

        As you advised, i will try to get some Ryals here then. Cheers


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