Saudi Arabia: A guide for pinay OFW first timers

 Before going to Saudi, here are the things that you should/shouldn’t bring.

1. Abaya (This is a loose, usually black robe worn by Muslim women, especially in Arabic-speaking regions, covering the body from head to toe.)

2. Tar-ha ( A scarf that serves as a covering for the hair, any color or design may do.)

PS: For Pinoys, you can usually buy abayas in Baclaran, Quiapo, or Divisoria area. It costs around 500-800 pesos.

Recommendation: It is practical to buy one pair because when you arrive in Saudi there are a lot of stores selling abayas and is cheaper and prettier.

3. English-Arabic dictionary

Recommendation: I bought one in National Bookstore, but it didn’t help me that much. I prefer bringing a small notebook and a pen with you where you can put in your pocket. Whenever you hear or encounter new arabic words just jut it down together with the english meaning. During free time read what you wrote in your notebook and memorize.

4. Condiments

If you are a fan of cooking, there is no need to bring magic sarap, vetsin, knorr cubes, etc. because there are a lot of Filipino groceries where you can buy all this stuff.

5. Canned goods

In Riyadh airport, they are not that strict about canned goods. My friend even brought pork canned goods and got away. (I’m not encouraging you) Any foods with pork properties are not allowed.

In the airport:

1. You should be in the airport 2-3 hours before check in.

2. Remember to bring your passport with your visa.

3. Bring all your necessary documents like COE, IDs, certificates, Red Ribbons. (sometimes the HR department requires all original documents)

4. Pocket money, if you want to eat or buy something in the airport around 300-500 pesos is enough.

5. In Saudi Arabian Airlines, 35 kilo is the maximum weight and it should consist of one piece only. Additional baggage on a separate bag will give you extra charge, this extra charge is very expensive.

6. For Hand Carries 10 kilo is the maximum.

7. It is more practical to be early so that you can check in first and not having the hustle and the haste of being late.

8. Remember to keep your booking reference and passport in reach, because these are the things they usually asks in the airport.


1. Time in Saudi Arabia is late for five hours from our Philippine time, so it is better to adjust the time in your watch or cellphones.

2. It is not necessary to put on your abaya and tar-ha before the airplane lands. The airport in Riyadh does not require women to put on their abaya right away.

Remember: Before going out on the airport you should wear your abaya.

Tips during your stay in Saudi:

1. Always bring with you your Iqama.

Iqama:  It’s a small Identification Card resident that says you are allowed to live (or work) in Saudi Arabia.

2. Females are required to be in their Abayas and Tar-ha.

*Some Abayas with over decorated design may caught the attention of Mutawas (government-authorized or -recognized religious police or clerical police) so, it is better to be discreet.

*Most Non-muslim Filipina are pasaways such as me, rarely use the tar-ha and because the tar-ha usually slides down on hairs it is better to know techniques how to use tar-has. Try this link Hijab or Tar-ha tutorials. Mutawas are very particular on female hairs because according to Islam, Female hairs are sacred. Mutawas will usually caught you attention if your hair is not covered. “Cover your hair sister” is a sound that is very familiar with non-muslim Filipino ladies in Saudi.

*Do not use too much make up.

I have a friend caught by a mutawa and captured her Iqama just because of wearing lipstick. She was detained on a muslim mosque for hours before they released her.

3. Taxis

*Never ride a taxi alone. It is better to ride a taxi in groups. There are a lot of Filipino taxi drivers stationed in the market of Riyadh, especially in Batha (name of the market in Riyadh). You can ask their number so that if ever you will be needing a taxi, you can always call them.

4. Market or Soukh (Riyadh City)

*Most Filipinos go to Batha (unofficial market). There are Filipino grocery store, shopping areas for shoes, abayas, clothing, blankets, gadgets such as cellphones and cameras etc.

View from the top of kingdom tower

Must Go:

1. Kingdom Mall Tower: The highest building in Saudi Arabia.

Entrance Fee costs 35 SR. It is better to go at night-time.

Picture taking with the use of a camera is not allowed except for cellphone cameras.

There is a photo booth stationed on the bridge where you can pay 25 SR for a photo and they can print it right away.

2. Haraj:

Riyadh’s largest flee market. You can find almost everything. Second hand branded bags, clothing lines, shoes and even furnitures on cheap price. It is better to go there during winter which is between november-march. Summer season in Saudi is too hot and it is not practical to stay outdoors. Beware of pick pockets and for the ladies, watch out for guys with “naughty hands”.

Kate’s ATV

3. Red Sand:

Red sand is 30-40 mins away from Riyadh. You can ride an ATV around 25-40 SR depending on your negotiating skills.  It is also best to go there during winter.

4. Hidden Valley:

It is 10 mins away from the red sand area. Here, you can have a picnic or rock climbing. Be careful, when you plan to climb the rock area. There are loose boulders and steep trails. Don’t forget to wear proper climbing shoes.


17 responses to “Saudi Arabia: A guide for pinay OFW first timers

  1. can i bring my own tawas in the airport i will be going to saudi this saturday, will i encounter any problems if i have it checked in. do they also check the contents of my ipod for music, videos and pics. thanks again.

    • My pocket money that I brought was only 100sr, good for emergency cash and it depends on the hospital that you are employed now because when I arrived in Saudi the hospital gave us cash advance that we can spend for the few things that we needed. but if you’re gonna buy toiletries, food, etc. for the few days or a month 500-600 sr would be enough.

  2. A bit of awareness lang especially sa mga nurses na ppuntang Riyadh saudi arabia.
    DO NOT EVER TRUST L.C Manpower Agency. Mga manloloko at pineperahan lang nila ang mga taong gustong mag apply sa kanila abroad. Also they will give you a 2 yr contract pero pag dating mo sa saudi null and void na yung contract mo. Papalitan na ng employer mo sa saudi ng panibago. And please steer clearly away sa isang polyclinic they’re offering. The name is Cmai medical center it’s in exit 7 of riyadh. I applied here in desperation kasi I really wanted to go abroad. Nag mamadali ako. Pero pinagsisihan ko yun after. 2yrs contact changed into 3yrs and 8hrs work changed into 10hrs. This polyclinic treats you like slaves. Although d ka nila sinasaktan physically but emotionally and psychologically ang banat nila. Im not complaining about the hard work and the long overtimes, which mostly without pay, but the way they treat a person. They degrade you they step on you like you are nothing. If something goes wrong even if it’s not your fault they will pin the blame on you. Even if you defend yourself and provide them with hard evidence still the management wont believe you. Nurses after work are locked inside their apartment. It is forbidden to come out. The cleaners and the drivers have much better privileges than the Filipino’s working in cmai medical center. I can give you a long list of why this place is terrible but that would take so much time. The main reason is, if you want to go abroad do not rush. Look for a better company. One where they value human rights.

  3. ok po ung pointman international services na ageny,tpos name ng hospital is Noorana medical center dun po kc ako maaasign? thank you.

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