There are surprisingly many differences between the grocery shopping experience in Saudi Arabia vs. in the expats’ home countries.
Here are a few tips for newbies in Saudi Arabia- How to grocery shop in KSA!
Where to Shop
The most popular large grocery stores in Saudi Arabia are Hyper Panda, Tamimi, Carrefour, Danube. Lulu’s and Euromarche. For imported American goods go to Tamimi. For exotic fruits and vegetables, Asian foods, wide range of gluten free and organic produce go to Lulu’s. Danube is good when looking for for organic, gluten free and dairy free options, great fruit and vegetable section and bakery. Carrefour for imported European produce. Euromarche and Panda are the best budget friendly options. Panda has the widest selection of Saudi produce.
Don’t forget the prayer times! Everything in Saudi closes for prayer for around 15-30 minutes. The length of the closure time depends on the store and how eager the employees are to return to their posts.
When to Shop
To avoid zahma which means traffic, never shop on weekend evenings. Worst times for crowds are on weekends starting after Maghrib prayer to around 11pm. Fridays the stores will start to have lots of people earlier, around 3-4 pm (Asr prayer). Due to the crowds, traffic jams in parking lots and getting “stuck” inside the store during prayer times, a quick grocery shopping spree might turn into a 3 hour ordeal. Add another hour or two to get there and back and you’re looking at a 4 hour grocery shopping trip.
The largest stores are open until 12am-2 am. It’s much nicer to go shopping late at night if you have the chance, or an early weekday morning. Some stores are even open 24hrs a day, like Hyperpanda on Takhasusi road. There’s even one infamous store on exit 20 which is open 25 hours a day. Imagine that, an extra hour for shopping!
Chose the right cashier
How to queue in line
Special considerations for female shoppers
Say NO to plastic bags
-Please try to save the nature and encourage the packers to use less plastic bags! Take your own reusable grocery bags (they can also be bought at the cashiers in Danube for example) Check out this post: 10 ways to recycle in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia there will be one or sometimes even two men packing your groceries. They are trained (I would assume) to put different items in separate bags, which is a very peculiar phenomenon for most westerners. If you buy for example bread, milk, deodorant, cookies, chicken and eggs, everything requires it’s own bag! This total waste of plastic is just mind-boggling and needs to stop. We can all do our part in reducing the mindless and pointless usage of plastic bags, which end up in the desert, the ocean and the beaches ruining the scenery and destroying the environment. There is no harm in telling the bagger you prefer your groceries bags to be packed full of things. If this fails, there is also no harm in going to help the bagger to pack the groceries and fill them up full yourself.
Any tips for grocery shopping in Saudi you want to add?
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Hello there! I’m Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 70 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia!