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Moving to Kuwait

Kuwait lies at the northern tip of the Persian Gulf. This Eastern Arabian country boasts landscapes ranging from the seemingly endless sands of the Arabian Desert to the ultra-modern skyline of the capital, Kuwait City, as well as picturesque shorelines. Moving to this oil-rich Middle Eastern state guarantees a unique experience for any expat.

Living in Kuwait as an expat

On the one hand, Westerners may experience culture shock after relocating to this Islamic country with its strict laws. Despite this, expats should always show respect for Arab traditions, including dressing moderately and not displaying affection in public.

On the other hand, the country is not quite as conservative as its neighbour, Saudi Arabia. Arabic is the official language of Kuwait, but English is widely spoken and an official language of business. Expats should face few problems communicating with locals, although making friends may be more of a challenge. Putting in an effort to build strong relationships in one's business and personal life could greatly enrich an expat’s experience here.

Despite its size, the small Gulf country is home to the world’s strongest currency, the Kuwaiti dinar. This is largely thanks to its oil reserves which have, in the past, spurred on waves of expats relocating to Kuwait for work. Today, the job market is broad, ranging from financial and marketing sectors to education and healthcare.

That said, finding a job in Kuwait is becoming increasingly difficult for expats. The governmental plan for Kuwaitisation aims to invest in the local Kuwaiti workforce and limits the number of foreigners allowed to stay in the country.

Accommodation in Kuwait is generally rather expensive and we suggest expats try to negotiate an allowance for housing with their employers if one is not already included. One positive about housing in the country is that expats have a wide range of different options to choose from. Houses often come fully furnished, but we recommend that expats ensure that air-conditioning is included, as summer months can get searingly hot.

Considering its small size, getting around in Kuwait is relatively easy. The country has a network of buses, taxis and ferries that make commuting convenient, though there is no railway system. Private cars are one of the main forms of transport here, and driving is generally straightforward, and petrol is much cheaper than in many other countries. Kuwaiti roads can be dangerous, however, and we suggest expats remain aware of their surroundings and drive defensively at all times.

The country has an extensive and high-quality public healthcare system. Expats can access this system freely, but in some facilities, Kuwaiti nationals are given priority, making waiting times for expats rather long. Instead, many expats rely on the private healthcare system. Here, they are offered excellent service and world-class expertise is guaranteed, although it all comes at quite a steep price. Health insurance is mandatory in the country, and while the state insurance scheme is available for expats, it does not cover treatment at private facilities.

Expat families and children

Families with kids will have to budget for school fees, and receiving an international education in Kuwait is expensive. These schools offer a range of curricula from around the world, including that of the US, UK, Canada, Pakistan, India and the International Baccalaureate. Public schooling is also an option, although teaching is done in Arabic and the resulting language barrier may be a problem for expat children.

With a rich culture and a myriad of historic sites, newcomers to Kuwait can find entertainment around almost every corner. Large shopping centres like the Avenues Mall can have everything from cinemas to famous British and American stores and restaurants serving up delicacies. For the adventure seeker, the country also offers scuba diving, desert safaris and trips to Failaka Island.

Cost of living in Kuwait

Although Kuwaiti employers once sought out expats, drawing them to Kuwait with lucrative relocation packages, these are far more difficult to come by recently. So, while salaries are tax-free, expats may need to consider the cost of living in Kuwait, particularly in terms of accommodation and healthcare. Many food items are also imported, which means daily groceries may be more expensive than expats are used to. In general, though, the high cost of living is balanced out by a high standard of living.

Climate in Kuwait

Expats should research Kuwait's climate thoroughly before moving. Most of the country’s topography consists of desert, and the intense summertime heat could easily overwhelm many new arrivals. That said, winter comes with the promise of far more pleasant, comfortable weather.

New arrivals may have to deal with an element of culture shock and make some lifestyle adjustments when moving to Kuwait. Despite this, they're likely to settle in quickly enough and start enjoying the luxuries associated with expat life in the Middle East. With a high quality of life and many interesting things to do and see, expats settling in Kuwait are bound to have something to write home about.


Fast facts

Official name: State of Kuwait

Population: Around 4.2 million

Capital city: Kuwait City

Neighbouring countries: Saudi Arabia to the south and Iraq to the north

Geography: Kuwait is a small country with its capital, Kuwait City, located on Kuwait Bay, a natural deep-water harbour. 90 percent of the population lives within the Kuwait Bay coast.

Political system: Constitutional monarchy (emirate)

Major religions: Islam is the main religion. Kuwait is a conservative society that enforces strict Islamic customs. That said, other religions are respected and expats are free to practise their own religions.

Main languages: Arabic (official) but English is widely spoken

Money: The currency of Kuwait is the Kuwaiti Dinar (KWD, or KD), which is divided into 1,000 fils. There are a number of local and international banks operating in Kuwait, and expats can open a local account.

Tipping: A service charge may be added to bills in hotels; if not, tipping is discretionary. Tipping is not expected but is often done out of courtesy, for example, rounding up a bill and giving the change to a waiter, taxi driver or petrol station attendant.

Time: GMT+3

Electricity: 240V, 50Hz. Both the UK-style three-pin and European-style two-pin plugs are in use, with type C and type G sockets.

Internet domain: .kw

International dialling code: +965

Emergency contacts: 112

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road and road signs are in English and Arabic. Visitors need an international driving permit to drive in Kuwait, and expats residing there will need to get a Kuwaiti licence.

Weather in Kuwait

Kuwait is a low-lying desert country characterised by long, dry summers and warm winters. In summer, average temperatures easily reach over 100°F (38°C) and can drop below 70°F (21°C) in winter. At night, minimum winter temperatures occasionally drop below 50°F (10°C).

Kuwait is a dry country, and the little rain it does get usually falls during the rainy season, between December and February. Humidity can be quite high during this time, particularly in coastal regions.

Dust storms are common when strong winds blow from the interior, and expats with respiratory conditions may struggle in the hot desert environment. There are also health risks of heatstroke and exhaustion, so expats living in Kuwait should drink plenty of water and stay indoors during the hottest times of the day.

Embassy Contacts for Kuwait


Kuwaiti embassies 

  • Embassy of Kuwait, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 966 0702

  • Embassy of Kuwait, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7590 3400

  • Embassy of Kuwait in Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 531 0090

  • Embassy of Kuwait in Paris, France: +33 1 47 23 54 25

  • Embassy of Kuwait, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 780 9999

  • Embassy of Kuwait, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6286 7777

  • Embassy of Kuwait, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 21 342 0877

  • Embassy of Kuwait, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4471 9980


Foreign embassies in Kuwait

  • United States Embassy, Kuwait City: +965 2259 1001

  • British Embassy, Kuwait City: +965 2259 4320

  • Canadian Embassy, Kuwait City: +965 2256 3025

  • Australian Embassy, Kuwait City: +955 2232 2422

  • South African Embassy, Kuwait City: +965 2561 7988

  • Irish Embassy, Abu Dhabi (also responsible for Kuwait): +971 2 495 8200

  • New Zealand Embassy, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (also responsible for Kuwait): +966 11 488 7988

Public Holidays in Kuwait

 

2022

2023

New Year's Day

1 January

1 January

National Day

25 February

25 February

Liberation Day

26 February

26 February

Prophet's Ascension

1 March

18 February

Eid al-Fitr

1–5 May

21–23 April

Eid al-Adha

9–12 July

28–29 July

Islamic New Year

29–30 July

19 July

The Prophet's Birthday

9 October

28 September

*Islamic holidays are subject to the sighting of the moon and dates on the Gregorian calendar can change.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Kuwait

Relocation to any destination has its advantages and disadvantages, and expats will find that Kuwait is no different. The better prepared a person is for the less appealing aspects of life abroad, the easier it will be to adapt and integrate. Below are some of the biggest pros and cons of living in Kuwait.


Accommodation in Kuwait

+ PRO: Lots of options for accommodation

Thanks to a construction boom in Kuwait, many different apartments and villas are available for expats to choose from. Almost all of the apartment buildings have a 'haris' or manager on the premises who handles small, everyday tasks for a small fee, like taking out the trash and organising for cars to be washed.

- CON: Limited parking and amenities

Most buildings have limited parking spaces and amenities. Parking spaces are often not included in the blueprints of buildings, so tenants are left trying to find a spot to park far from their homes.


Lifestyle in Kuwait

+ PRO: Lots of things to do

The best time of the year to explore Kuwait is between October and April – the winter months. There are many museums to visit and events to attend. Failaka Island, known for its archaeological ruins, is great for a weekend getaway with the family.

+ PRO: Taking advantage of the sunshine

When summer comes to Kuwait, everything tends to slow down as people stay home more often. But for those who enjoy the beach, there are jet skis, beach resorts with pools, and fishing excursions that provide heaps of entertainment.

- CON: Extremely hot summers

Dry, hot summers with some humid days may keep expats from daring to venture out. Fortunately, every building is air-conditioned and there are a lot of indoor activities (such as malls and restaurants) to peruse.

- CON: Litter is common

Unfortunately, litter is a big problem in Kuwait, as many people happily throw things out of their windows instead of taking the time to find a bin. Residential areas don’t have enough large dustbins for the number of people living there, so garbage sometimes overflows into the streets.


Safety in Kuwait

+ PRO: Low crime rates

Kuwait has a low level of crime but everyone should be aware of their surroundings, and it's advised that women shouldn't walk alone.

- CON: Police are known to have bad attitudes

In the event of an accident, when a report has to be filed, expats may find that the police are in no rush to assist. There have been cases of police officers showing up to the scene of an accident late if it’s just a fender bender. Language is also an issue, as few police officers speak English.


Working and doing business in Kuwait

+ PRO: High salaries and no income tax

Kuwait has the highest-valued currency in the world which means more tax-free income to send home.

- CON: Expats must have a Kuwaiti partner

Expats wanting to do business in Kuwait must usually have a Kuwaiti partner or sponsor.


Culture shock in Kuwait

+ PRO: A variety of expat social organisations

There is a wide variety of expat clubs for women to join, such as the American Women’s League (AWL) and British Ladies Society (BLS), among others. These organisations have regular gatherings and are involved with schools and charity projects. Social media platforms are a good way to reach out to these expat groups.

+ PRO: Younger generation open to expat

The younger generation of Kuwaiti citizens is more open to meeting expats these days, which helps new arrivals who want to learn about Kuwaiti culture.

- CON: Segregation rules

Expats are often caught unawares by the gender segregation laws in the country. These laws make it difficult for expats to make friends or start dating, and integration into the local culture can be tricky. Approaching and talking to a stranger is frowned upon, especially for men talking to women.


Cost of living in Kuwait

+ PRO: Tax-free income

There is no personal income tax in Kuwait, even for expats living and working there.

- CON: High cost of basic goods 

Although there are no taxes, the majority of goods are imported, which means there are higher charges on basic necessities.


Education and schools in Kuwait

+ PRO: Many different types of international schools to choose from

There are many different private schools in Kuwait. From Indian and Pakistani to American and British schools, expats have a wide variety of choices when it comes to international schools.

+ PRO: Many options for college

There are several different colleges for students to choose from, which means expat children don't have to travel abroad for higher education.

- CON: Education is expensive

Western private schools are extremely expensive, and the education children receive may not always live up to the expected quality. Expats should try to negotiate an education allowance with their employers.


Healthcare in Kuwait

+ PRO: Many private hospitals to choose from

Kuwait has many private hospitals and more are being built. Medical insurance is also available for everyone but can be costly, but most expats have insurance provided by their companies.

- CON: Long waits at public hospitals

For those without insurance, the wait at government clinics and hospitals can be nightmarishly long, as Kuwaiti citizens tend to have priority over others. Don’t expect to spend less than two hours for any visit to a public hospital.

Working in Kuwait

Expats are drawn to work in Kuwait by the opportunity to earn in the world’s strongest currency – the Kuwaiti dinar. What's more, the country is a tax haven, allowing expats to earn without having to pay personal income tax.

Due to Kuwait's small size and population, the country has largely been reliant on foreign workers to fill key positions within both the skilled and unskilled sectors. This has made Kuwait an attractive expat destination.

With that said, since 2013, the government’s Kuwaitisation programme has been looking to limit the number of foreigners coming in. The aim is for the country to invest in its own nationals. These plans also reduce generous subsidies for expat workers. While highly skilled workers may still be able to find work, their jobs could involve training a Kuwaiti to take their place when they repatriate.


Job market in Kuwait

Commercial opportunities for skilled expats in Kuwait have largely centred on the country’s oil wealth. Other opportunities exist in real estate, construction and engineering. Maintenance, repair and technician jobs are also available.

When it comes to doing business in Kuwait, jobs in finance sectors, including accounting and auditing, are commonly on offer, as well as sales, marketing and PR positions.

Given the demand for international schools, educators from all over the world have found themselves teaching in Kuwait. Doctors and medical professionals can also secure employment in the healthcare sector.


Finding a job in Kuwait

With the expat labour pool expected to decrease substantially, securing employment in Kuwait could be tricky. Still, job seekers can explore various routes to find work. Many expat residents have relocated thanks to an intra-company transfer, while others have gone through a recruitment agency or relocation company that offers services in job seeking.

We also advise prospective expats to start networking. Creating a profile on an online job platform and getting connected with Kuwaiti businesses is a good way to begin. Online job portals, including Bayt.com, Monster and GulfTalent, are highly recommended. It also helps to know someone living in Kuwait and build professional relationships through word-of-mouth.

Work permits

Expats wanting to work in Kuwait are required to have a valid work permit that is issued in conjunction with a formal offer of employment from a company in Kuwait. The work permit is sponsored and organised by the hiring company. Foreigners caught working without the proper paperwork face severe penalties, including deportation.

Employment contracts for skilled foreign workers in Kuwait usually include benefits such as a housing allowance, medical aid and annual air tickets home. Unfortunately, lucrative expat contracts are not what they used to be, as the country continues to implement the Kuwaitisation plan.


Work culture in Kuwait

Arabic is the official language of Kuwait, but English is widely spoken and understood in Kuwaiti business circles. Nevertheless, expats working in Kuwait will find it advantageous to learn at least a few key phrases and greetings in Arabic.

Work culture in Kuwait is formal and largely based on Islamic principles. Appearances are important and business attire should be conservative; women should avoid wearing tight-fitting or revealing clothing. Muslim Kuwaiti associates will pray five times a day; meetings and appointments will therefore need to be arranged around prayer times and expats should show respect and patience for this custom.

The workweek in Kuwait is Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend falling on Friday and Saturday. A standard working week is 40 hours, with companies usually operating between 8.30am and 6pm, sometimes with an extended lunch break. Office hours are reduced during the holy month of Ramadan.

Doing Business in Kuwait

Expats doing business in Kuwait will find themselves in a tiny Gulf state that is also one of the richest countries in the world, thanks to its oil reserves. Kuwait has a very open economy and a well-educated workforce made up predominantly of foreign workers.

The centre of business is the capital, Kuwait City, with large industrial areas located in Shuwaikh, Sabhan and Shuaiba. Home to around 10 percent of the world’s oil reserves, business in Kuwait is largely centred on the oil industry. Other major sectors include construction, finance and water desalination. The country is also a major exporter of plant fertilisers but, aside from fishing, there is virtually no agricultural industry.


Fast facts

Business hours

The workweek in Kuwait is Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend falling on Friday and Saturday. Business hours are usually between 8.30am and 6pm, with an extended lunch break. Business hours are reduced during the holy month of Ramadan, so expats should not expect to conduct important business during this time. Fridays are considered a day of rest and business meetings should not be arranged on Fridays.

Business language

Arabic is the official language, although English is widely spoken in Kuwaiti business circles. Nevertheless, being able to speak some Arabic may be useful and will be appreciated. Official documents and business contracts are written in Arabic. Although it’s possible to have the contract translated into English, should a dispute arise, the Arabic version will be the only one taken into consideration.

Dress

Business dress is conservative and men should wear suits. While women are not expected to wear an abaya or hijab, they should cover up as much as possible and avoid wearing close-fitting or revealing clothing.

Gifts

Gifts are not expected in Kuwaiti business circles, but will be appreciated. In line with Islamic practices, alcohol and pork products should be avoided. Gifts are usually opened in private.

Gender equality

Although women are given greater freedoms than in some of Kuwait’s neighbouring countries, senior positions in business are still dominated by men.


Business culture in Kuwait

Business culture in Kuwait is essentially Arabic. The majority of the local population is Muslim, and Islam dominates most facets of life in Kuwait, including business practices. We encourage expats to familiarise themselves with and show respect for local customs and business etiquette at all times.

Greetings

A handshake is common for greetings between men. Muslim women will generally not make physical contact with men they do not know, so when greeting a woman, rather wait for her to extend her hand first. Titles are important; only use someone’s first name when invited to do so. 

Family

Family is the centre of Kuwaiti society and it’s not unusual to see many members of the same extended family all working within the same organisation. In line with this, Kuwaitis like to do business with those they know and trust. Networking and taking time to build meaningful relationships with Kuwaiti associates will go a long way to conducting successful business. Small talk and getting to know one's associates are expected at the start of a meeting and it would be considered rude to go straight to business.

Titles

Titles and seniority are respected in Kuwaiti business culture. Business structures are hierarchical and decisions are made at the top. Those conducting business in Kuwait may need to practice patience to get through meetings with junior associates before finally meeting with the main decision-makers. At other times, the senior decision-makers may be present at a meeting but will have the junior associates conduct the conversation without contributing their thoughts up front. Business decisions can therefore take time, and should not be rushed.

Timing

It’s not unusual to have business meetings frequently interrupted by visitors or phone calls. In addition, Muslims pray five times a day, and expats doing business in Kuwait should be aware of prayer times as meetings and business engagements will need to be arranged around these times. Such disruptions can be a source of frustration for some foreign businesspeople, but impatience is frowned upon, and tolerance and courtesy should be practised at all times.

Saving face

Kuwaitis are known to be hospitable and generous hosts but they are also fine negotiators and astute businessmen. Saving face is important to Kuwaitis, who will not necessarily offer an outright 'no' when they cannot do something or are not interested in a business proposition. It is difficult to discern whether a business deal is likely to be successful or not. Expats should always remain calm and not to show anger or frustration when dealing with Kuwaiti business associates.


Dos and don’ts of business in Kuwait

  • Do respect Islamic principles and practices. An effort to learn Arabic would also be well received.

  • Do show respect for Kuwaiti business associates at all times. Never show anger or impatience in business meetings.

  • Don't rush business negotiations. Always have patience and expect decision-making to be a slow process in Kuwait.

  • Do take the time to get to know Kuwaiti associates and build meaningful business relationships with them. Kuwaitis are more inclined to do business with those they know and trust.

  • Do dress conservatively. Women should take particular care with their clothing, which should not be too tight or revealing.

  • Do have business cards printed in both English and Arabic. Business cards should be given with the right hand.

  • Don't arrange business meetings on a Friday, as this is a day of rest and an important day of prayer for Muslims.

Cost of Living in Kuwait

When relocating to Kuwait, new arrivals will have to consider the cost of living in a foreign currency. The exchange rate may also be a shock for many, since the Kuwaiti dinar (KWD or KD) is the strongest currency in the world.

Living expenses in Kuwait may differ greatly for expats, depending on their salary and any additional benefits they receive, as well as their lifestyle and what they choose to spend their money on.

Unfortunately, securing a job and receiving lucrative employment packages in this Gulf state is no longer guaranteed, with the national push for Kuwaitisation. That said, expats offered a job here can often negotiate for extra benefits. This is especially important for expat parents who have to keep the high tuition costs of international schools in mind.

Thankfully, with a generous salary, prices may be less of a burden on the wallet than expats expect from this high-income country. According to Mercer's Cost of Living Survey for 2021, the capital, Kuwait City, placed 115th out of 209 countries, making it more affordable than many major cities, including Barcelona, Toronto and Doha.


Cost of accommodation in Kuwait

Many expats move to Kuwait with accommodation provided by their employer. Employers own or lease apartments for their expat staff to reside in, and these lucky expats won't need to worry about rent, utilities or furniture costs.

That said, expats who are responsible for their own rent should expect over a third of their income to go towards accommodation expenses. We recommend checking whether utilities are included in the rental contract, as air-conditioning is necessary for summer, and could contribute to a high electricity bill.


Cost of shopping in Kuwait

A significant proportion of groceries in Kuwait have to be imported. So, buying typical food items that may have been more accessible at home could come at a higher price. Expats on specific diets may find that certain foodstuffs are excessively expensive or hard to find in some cases.


Cost of healthcare in Kuwait

Expats can access both public and private healthcare in Kuwait. That said, most expats prefer private medical facilities, which offer a high standard of care and short waiting times. Unfortunately, private hospitals are usually rather expensive. Health insurance is essential and expats must typically pay an amount towards public healthcare, whether they will use it or not. Nonetheless, we recommend getting comprehensive private medical cover, ensuring complete coverage for any situation.


Cost of transport in Kuwait

Buses, cars and taxis are the main forms of public transport. Buses are cheap but not frequently used by expats who can afford to get around in Kuwait by car. Expats are happy to buy first- or second-hand vehicles or rent a car, as petrol is cheap in Kuwait. Driving can be much more affordable here than in many Western countries, but bear in mind additional expenses, such as car insurance.

Taxis are also relatively affordable, but it’s advised to agree on a price before setting off.


Cost of living in Kuwait chart 

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for Kuwait City in May 2022.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

Three-bedroom apartment in the city centre

 KWD 530

Three-bedroom apartment outside of the city centre

 KWD 410

One-bedroom apartment in the city centre

 KWD 270

One-bedroom apartment outside the city centre

 KWD 210

Shopping

Eggs (dozen)

 KWD 0.55

Milk (1 litre)

 KWD 0.40

Rice (1kg)

 KWD 0.60

Loaf of white bread

 KWD 0.25

Chicken breasts (1kg)

 KWD 1.30

Pack of cigarettes

 KWD 0.90

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

 KWD 2

Coca-Cola (330ml)

 KWD 0.17

Cappuccino 

 KWD 1.40

Bottle of local non-alcoholic beer

 KWD 1

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

 KWD  13

Household

Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

 KWD 0.04

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable – average per month)

 KWD 8.70

Basic utilities (per month for small apartment)

 KWD 10.95

Transport

Taxi rate (per kilometre)

 KWD 1

Bus fare in the city centre

 KWD 0.30

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

 KWD 0.10

Accommodation in Kuwait

When relocating abroad, housing is a priority. Finding the best areas to live and affordable accommodation in Kuwait are among an expat's primary concerns when relocating.

Fortunately, Kuwait City boasts a variety of accommodation options, and many expats end up staying here. While rent prices could account for a third of an average budget, expats working in Kuwait are often provided with an apartment or house by their employer.


Types of accommodation in Kuwait

The majority of housing in Kuwait comes in the form of apartments, villas (large houses) and single floors in large villas that can be rented. Thanks to recent construction, modern apartment blocks are also available for expats to choose from, as well as serviced apartments. Both short-term and long-term rentals are available.

Homes in Kuwait are generally quite spacious, and may even have extra rooms available for domestic staff, a luxury that many expats may find they can afford in Kuwait. Housing complexes often offer expats facilities such as swimming pools, gyms and tennis courts in the comfort of their own buildings.

That said, the standard of housing differs greatly throughout the city. Older apartments are often much smaller than advertised or have outdated fittings and decor. Because of this, expats are advised to inspect all apartments and accommodation before finalising any legal contracts.

Although there are some housing compounds in Kuwait, they are not as common as in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, and expats tend to live in apartment blocks and villas nestled among the local Kuwaiti population.

Expats with a car should be sure to consider the availability of parking when house hunting in Kuwait. Also be aware that construction is common in many parts of the country, and the noise and dust from these sites could greatly impact daily life.

Furnished vs unfurnished

Expat housing often comes fully furnished, meaning tenants have limited choice on the decor. While this may make some feel restricted, many expats find it suits their short stay, curbing the need to move their own furniture between countries at exorbitant costs.

On the other hand, some homes are rented out with little or no furnishings. Expats may need to supply their own home with basics such as light fittings, appliances and air conditioning. Before signing a lease, prospective tenants should explicitly ask about the level of furnishing available.


Finding accommodation in Kuwait

With a wide variety of options, expats have little trouble finding accommodation in Kuwait. Many employers assist expats in the house-hunting process, and some finance the costs of rent in part or completely.

Online listings and property portals such as OpenSooq are easily accessible and highly effective when it comes to finding accommodation. Estate agents can also be a big help and ads in local English-language newspapers can have a great deal of attractive listings.

Word of mouth is another good way of finding accommodation in Kuwait. Because expats frequently come and go, apartments regularly become available, and networking is key when finding the perfect home.


Renting accommodation in Kuwait

Whether expats have housing provided for them by their employers or go it alone, we recommend tenants know what they are entitled to and what, if any, costs they must cover.

Leases

Leases are normally signed for a period of one year, but shorter-term rentals are also available and can be negotiated. When making an application, prospective tenants may need to communicate with their employer sponsoring their stay in Kuwait.

The rental agreement will usually be written in Arabic, so we suggest a trusted translator should draw up the lease in English.

Deposits

A security deposit of at least a month’s rent will be required to secure most properties. This deposit is refundable at the end of the lease, provided no damage was done to the property. Sometimes rent is also required upfront for three to six months’ stay.

Utilities

Expats should also establish whether utilities are included in the rental. Water and electricity are often a separate expenses that the tenant must cover, and with air-conditioning in summer being essential, these costs can be high.

Healthcare in Kuwait

Expats will be glad to learn that Kuwait offers high-quality healthcare. All Kuwaitis are entitled to free medical treatment at government facilities, while expats are expected to pay an annual fee to access public healthcare. Additional services, such as X-rays or specialised tests, are usually not free, and patients are expected to pay for these out of their own pockets.

With that said, healthcare for expats living in Kuwait has been a contentious issue in recent times, with the government looking at implementing policies of segregation for local and foreign patients, as well as local and foreign medical staff. This has come after locals had to wait for treatment at public facilities due to the large number of expats seeking medical assistance.


Public healthcare in Kuwait

Kuwait is divided into six administrative and health regions, with each region having a general public hospital, which provides full outpatient services and 24-hour emergency services. In addition, there is a wide range of specialist public hospitals in Kuwait.

Mental health facilities have also been improved greatly recently, advocating for both community- and home-based support systems as well as incorporating school programmes focusing on mental well-being in students.

Expats have access to public facilities but should expect long queues and waiting times. In an attempt to ease congestion at public facilities, the Kuwaiti government has started trials to bar expats from accessing public healthcare during certain times of the day. In some outpatient facilities, Kuwaiti nationals will be given priority access to medical care at public hospitals in the morning, while expats can only access these facilities in the afternoon, except in the case of an emergency. It remains to be seen whether this policy will be extended to all public health facilities.

To access public healthcare in Kuwait, expats need to register at their nearest clinic or hospital for a medical card using their Civil ID.


Private healthcare in Kuwait

Private hospitals in Kuwait offer better services and a shorter waiting time than public ones, and expats are not subject to restrictions at these facilities. Although private healthcare fees are regulated by the government, they can still be expensive, seeing as patients are charged registration fees, on top of general medical fees.

The restrictions being discussed for public hospitals are unlikely to affect foreigners who have comprehensive health coverage and attend private hospitals.


Health insurance in Kuwait

Health insurance is mandatory for expats in Kuwait. While access to the state system is granted through the state insurance scheme – which expats are required to pay into every year – this scheme does not cover treatment at private facilities. Expats living and working in Kuwait are advised to have comprehensive health insurance for the duration of their stay in the country. Kuwaiti employers may, in some cases, offer a benefits package that includes medical insurance.


Medicines and pharmacies in Kuwait

Pharmacies are widely available in Kuwait, with at least one 24/7 pharmacy available in each major administrative region. Private hospitals and clinics usually also offer pharmacy services. The prices of medicines are strictly regulated by the Ministry of Health, so expats should find that the prices of basic medications are fairly standard.

Some basic non-prescription medications, such as cough syrup, are available in supermarkets. On the other hand, many medicines that are freely available in the US or Western Europe may require a prescription in Kuwait.


Health hazards in Kuwait

The extreme weather, in particular the heat and humidity, accompanied by dust from the desert and continuous construction, are health hazards in Kuwait. Expats with respiratory conditions may struggle in this environment, and heatstroke and exhaustion are common among foreign workers.


Emergency services in Kuwait

Ambulances are usually only used in Kuwait in extreme emergencies. Many expats use their own vehicle or a taxi to get to a hospital, granted they are physically able to.

In the case of an emergency, expats can dial 112. Luckily, most emergency dispatch operators can speak English.

Education and Schools in Kuwait

The standard of education in Kuwait is high, seeing as the government has invested greatly in this sector in recent years. Kuwaiti nationals are entitled to free public education, but expats usually don't take this route, owing to language and cultural differences.

Most expats in Kuwait choose to send their children to private international schools that follow the curriculum of their home country.


Public schools in Kuwait

The Kuwaiti Ministry of Education regulates both public and private schools in Kuwait. Although public schooling is free to all Kuwaiti citizens, many Kuwaitis opt for private schools.

Education in Kuwait is compulsory for all children aged six through 14. Basic education is divided into three levels, namely elementary (five years), intermediate (four years) and secondary (three years).

Arabic is the language of instruction at public schools in Kuwait, although English is taught as a second language. Within the public education system, single-sex schools are the norm.


Private and international schools in Kuwait

There are many private schools in Kuwait, with some following the Kuwaiti school system, with Arabic as the language of instruction, and others offering international curricula.

International schools cater to the expat community in Kuwait. Most are co-educational and follow curricula such as that of the US, UK, Canada or India, or the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme.

Children in both private and international schools are required to take Arabic. These schools are also obligated to offer Islamic studies as a subject, but only Muslim students are required to take these classes.

Expat parents should expect to spend a considerable portion of their budget on their private education in Kuwait. On top of high tuition fees, additional costs include uniforms, textbooks, extra-curricular activities, bus transport services and an initial non-refundable admissions fee.

Due to the high demand for places at international schools in Kuwait, we encourage parents to start planning and researching schools as early as possible. Waiting lists can be long, as space is limited.


Nurseries in Kuwait

Expat parents with toddlers and young children in Kuwait have several choices for preschools, kindergartens and daycare centres. Some are attached to larger international schools and others are standalone kindergartens guided by various learning values, including the Montessori programme and English National Curriculum.


Special-needs education in Kuwait

Schooling options for children with disabilities and special education needs in Kuwait are quite limited, particularly for families who prefer an integrated education. Though separate from mainstream classrooms, many schools are uniquely dedicated to providing special needs education. These are largely concentrated in Kuwait City.

We recommend expats explore the international schools in Kuwait to see what services they provide. Some may be merely wheelchair accessible without specialised programmes or support teachers. Other schools offer greater support for students with mild special needs, learning disabilities, mobility and visual handicaps, and speech and hearing impairments. Private international schools commonly offer psychological wellness and counselling programmes.


Homeschooling in Kuwait

The law on homeschooling in Kuwait is unclear. While education is compulsory for children aged six to 14, school attendance itself is not explicitly obligatory. According to the HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), many families are advocating for homeschooling to be formally acknowledged.

Homeschooling allows parents and children greater flexibility with learning environments and is much more affordable than private education. Homeschooled children can learn at their own pace and follow their interests.

We recommend that expat parents network with other homeschooling families in Kuwait through social media, online forums and schools themselves to get specifics on the ins and outs of homeschooling in the country.


Tutors in Kuwait

Whether children attend a mainstream school or are homeschooled, tutors can be a valuable resource. Tutors are especially helpful if students are struggling with a particular subject, require extra support or want some extra guidance close to exam times. Parents can find tutors via online platforms, such as TeacherOn, as well as private tutoring centres.

International Schools in Kuwait

There are many international schools in Kuwait catering to the expatriate community, offering curricula from the International Baccalaureate to American, British and Canadian programmes.

Waiting lists for these schools can be long, so it's best to start the admissions process as early as possible. Entry requirements differ between schools, and we advise parents to contact their school of choice directly for specific details. Generally, the following is required:

  • Completed application form
  • Copy of previous school reports
  • Copies of birth certificate, passport, visa stamp and Civil ID
  • Medical card and proof of vaccinations

An admissions test may also be required, usually testing for proficiency in English and Mathematics.

Below is a list of some of the most popular schools offering an international curriculum in the country.


International schools in Kuwait

American Baccalaureate School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.abs.edu.kw

American International School of Kuwait

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.aiskuwait.org

American School of Kuwait

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ask.edu.kw

British School of Kuwait

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 4 to 18
Website: www.bsk.edu.kw

Canadian Bilingual School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Canadian (Ontario, adapted)
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.cbskuwait.com

English Academy Kuwait

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.tea.edu.kw

Gulf English School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 19
Website: www.ges.edu.kw

International Academy of Kuwait

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.iak.edu.kw

International British School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.ibskuwait.com

Kuwait National English School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate, English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-levels
Ages: 1.5 to 18
Website: www.knes.edu.kw

Universal American School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18
Website: www.uas.edu.kw

Transport and Driving in Kuwait

Kuwait is a small Gulf country, so expats will find getting around relatively quick and easy. That said, public transport in Kuwait is not well developed and consists of buses and taxis. The majority of residents buy or rent a car, or make use of taxis for short trips within Kuwait City.


Driving in Kuwait

Kuwait has an extensive road network and commuting by car is easy, as most road signs are in Arabic and English. New arrivals will also appreciate the low cost of petrol.

Most Western expats buy or rent a car for travel in Kuwait. Both used and new vehicles are widely available, and with lower prices on many vehicles, new arrivals can often afford something far more luxurious than what they had back home.

One downside to driving in Kuwait is that traffic congestion can be extreme during peak times and Kuwaiti roads have a poor safety record. Expats driving in Kuwait should be cautious; defensive driving is recommended at all times.

Traffic law enforcement is strict, with a speed limit of 75 miles per hour (120km/h) on major highways and usually 28 miles per hour (45km/h) on urban roads. That said, this does not stop many local drivers from racing at high speeds, leading to many accidents. Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road in Kuwait.

Driving licences

It’s possible to drive in Kuwait with an international driver’s licence on a visit visa, but once foreigners receive their Civil ID card, they are required to get a Kuwaiti driver’s licence. The process for getting a local licence may vary according to an expat’s nationality and their home country driver’s licence. While many Westerners easily obtain a local licence, some expats may need to take a learner’s and driving test.

Expats should note that when their residence permit lapses or is cancelled, their Kuwaiti driver’s licence also becomes invalid. The licence only becomes valid again once the residence permit is renewed.


Public transport in Kuwait

Kuwait’s public transport system is limited and largely consists of buses and ferries. There is no metro system in Kuwait, although the government reportedly has plans to develop a railway and metro system.

Buses

There is an established bus network in Kuwait, with services operated by CityBus and the Kuwait Public Transport Company. Buses operate along set routes around Kuwait City, but schedules can be erratic and unreliable.

Buses are generally modern, comfortable and, importantly, air-conditioned.

Ferries

Thanks to Kuwait's coastal location, sea travel is possible. For those looking to escape the city's hustle and bustle, ferry services and water taxis connect to offshore islands, such as Failaka Island. Expats can also experience sailing in a traditional Arabian boat, known as a 'dhow'. For all sea travel, foreign authorities place emphasis on safety concerns, and we recommend expats ensure life jackets are on board.


Taxis in Kuwait

Taxis are widely available in Kuwait, and thanks to their affordability, they are popular among the expat community. Taxis can easily be hailed from the street, although expats should be aware that unofficial taxis are in operation in Kuwait, which tend to overcharge unsuspecting passengers.


Air travel in Kuwait

As a tiny Gulf country, domestic air travel is not an option and there is only one major airport in Kuwait City – the Kuwait International Airport. The national carrier, Kuwait Airways, offers daily flights to regional and international destinations, while several other international operators, including British Airways, Emirates and Lufthansa, also carry passengers to and from Kuwait.

Expat Experiences in Kuwait

When moving to a new country there is nothing more reassuring than hearing the real life stories of others who have been in the same situation or those currently living in that destination. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Kuwait and would like to share your experiences.


Sharon Greaney moved to Kuwait in May 2014 when her husband found an opportunity to work in the Middle Eastern country. It's not been an easy transition, but she says the best thing a potential expat can do is read as much about their destination as possible before making the big move. Read about her expat experiences in Kuwait.

Gemma is a British expat living in Kuwait. She moved to Kuwait City when her husband started teaching at an international school there. They have subsequently had two children while living in Kuwait, and Gemma is now enjoying life as a stay-at-home mom. Read more about her expat experiences in Kuwait.

Avril Bailey is the president of the British Ladies Society in Kuwait. After an initial expat stint in the Ukraine, Avril and her husband moved to Kuwait in 2010 when he was offered a job there. Read about her expat life in Kuwait.

British Ladies Society Kuwait

Allyson is an American expat living in Kuwait. She moved to Kuwait in 2012 with her husband and they both work at the local American School. Read her expat experience of Kuwait to learn more.