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See and Do in Dubai

Dubai has grown into a thriving metropolis. In the last 30 years the population has exploded, and now over 80 percent of the emirate's inhabitants are expats. Just as the population has mushroomed, so has the assortment of things to see and do in Dubai.

Expats should note that the time of year makes a huge difference when planning leisure pursuits; summer months (June to August) are best spent inside while the winter (November to January) offers plenty of outdoor fun and entertainment. The month of Ramadan is generally a quieter time when people visit family and friends and take some time for reflection, so opening hours will reflect this in some cases – be sure to confirm beforehand.

Below are some of our favourite things to see and do in Dubai.


Best sightseeing in Dubai

Burj Khalifa

At 829.8m tall, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building and certainly Dubai’s most famous landmark. We recommend those new to the city put a visit to this unparalleled piece of construction right at the top of their list, and get a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of Dubai from the building’s spectacular observation deck on the 148th floor. A nighttime visit is particularly special, and presents staggering panoramas of the emirate’s shimmering skyline.

Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates

Dubai Mall, which provides entry to the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Aquarium, is a shopping mecca. Stores are seemingly endless, and the mall is home to a massive cinema complex, innumerable eateries of all kinds, an ice rink, a colossal arcade and live entertainment venues.

One of the other sprawling shopping complexes in Dubai is the Mall of the Emirates, home to the famous Ski Dubai. This indoor slope is a favourite among visitors and residents alike, and is a fun way to escape the desert heat. Complete with chair lifts and even a penguin enclosure, it really is something to behold. The mall also contains boundless shopping opportunities, restaurants galore and various entertainment areas.

Dubai Museum

When exploring their new city, we recommend expats make a stop at the enthralling Dubai Museum, and take the kids along. Housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, which was built in 1787 to defend Dubai Creek, the museum is a fascinating journey back in time. Restored with original materials, including traditional coral blocks, wooden poles, mud and palm fronds, the fort gives one a glimpse into its storied history, and houses spectacular museum exhibits. From traditional boats and a wind tower to weaponry, musical instruments, and various other displays covering aspects of traditional Emirati life, as well as ancient artefacts.

Deira

On the northern bank of Dubai Creek, Deira is a hotspot among travellers who enjoy browsing its famous souks. Deira Gold Souk is the largest gold bazaar in the world and draws visitors from all over, while the Deira Spice Souk is equally popular and a feast for the senses, selling every imaginable spice, from frankincense to sumac. The Waterfront Market, a sprawling fish market, is more like an assault on the senses, but good for great bargains on fresh fish.

Heritage and Diving Village

For those expats interested in the ancient arts of pearl diving and dhow building, the Heritage and Diving Village is the ticket. Showcasing Dubai’s cultural and maritime heritage, the village also recreated traditional Bedouin life, with Persian homes, a traditional coffee house, and even a small souk, with regular live music and dance performances held here too.

Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Expat families will love Dubai’s famous aquarium. Housed on the ground floor of the Dubai Mall, this massive aquarium is home to over 140 species of sea life, best enjoyed from the tunnels in the Underwater Zoo. One could also take a glass-bottom boat tour, go snorkelling in the tank and even do some shark diving.

Dubai Parks and Resorts

For a day of boundless fun, new arrivals in Dubai should head to Dubai Parks and Resorts. This sprawling project boasts a range of world-class theme parks, including Motiongate, which has rides based around Hollywood blockbusters, Bollywood Parks, which similarly brings Bollywood films to life, Legoland Dubai, and Legoland Waterpark, a huge hit with the kids. After a day of fun, hungry revellers flock to Riverland Dubai which boasts an array of eateries and evening entertainment. 

Aquaventure Park

Another popular way to stave off the searing desert heat is a visit to this waterpark. Based at Atlantis, The Palm on the Palm Jumeirah (the emirate’s famous manmade island), Aquaventure Park is home to a few truly epic waterslides, among them the world’s longest, the Aquaconda, and the Leap of Faith, a monstrous nine-storey slide. Visitors can also enjoy underwater safaris using Sea TREK helmets, or kick back on the pristine stretch of beach, while the kids frolic in the dedicated water play area.

Dubai Miracle Garden

Another 'world’s biggest' in a city intent on doing everything bigger and better is the Dubai Miracle Garden, the world’s largest flower garden, spanning 2,000 square metres and boasting millions of flowers. Expats in need of some fresh air can enjoy peaceful strolls amid fragrant blooms, marvelling at the jaw-dropping floral displays, including a flower version of the Burj Khalifa.

Dune bashing

A favourite way to spend a weekend in Dubai is desert, or dune, bashing. Undertaken either with one's own vehicle or as part of an organised outing, this is a fun way to spend a couple of hours in the otherwise sandy oblivion. Once comfortable in the desert, grab the GPS and a tent and head out for an afternoon drive; make camp in time for the sunset and enjoy the peace.

Big Bus Tour

The best way for expats to get a complete overview of Dubai is to take the Big Bus Tour. A hop-on-hop-off service is offered from several major landmarks and tourist attractions giving passengers the opportunity to sightsee without the hassle of parking or getting lost. It makes for an informative couple of hours, and offers a good way to get a feel for this amazing city.

What's On in Dubai

Dubai has a number of festivals and events throughout the year for expats to enjoy. It is a great chance to meet other expats, mingle with Emiratis and enjoy the beautiful weather. 

Here are some of our favourite events on the Dubai calendar that expats can look forward to.


Annual events in Dubai

Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon (January)

Except perhaps for the Rugby Sevens, this is Dubai’s most anticipated annual sporting event. With three types of races (3km, 10km and 42km), the race draws thousands of participants and even more spectators every year. Expats should ready their running gear or dust off their supporters' hats, and join in the fun.

Dubai International Jazz Festival (February)

Taking place over 10 days and held at the stunning Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, the Dubai Jazz Fest is a must for new arrivals to the emirate. The event’s line-ups get more star-studded every year with big stars gracing the stage and performing to thousands of adoring fans. Great music, relaxed seating and a beautiful setting make for a truly memorable experience.

Dubai Food Festival (February/March)

One for the foodies, the Dubai Food Festival is sure to tantalise taste buds and delight palates. Inspiring and exciting, the event attracts thousands of hungry visitors every year with main attractions such as the flagship Beach Canteen, Dubai Restaurant Week and Taste of Dubai. Visitors are treated to major restaurant discounts, cooking demos and even meet-and-greets with their favourite celebrity chefs.

Dubai World Cup (March)

Even for those who are not interested in horse racing, the Dubai World Cup is a great way for new expats to socialise and meet people. First held in 1996, the event has just grown in popularity, and is known as the world’s richest horse race, with a staggering pot of USD 10 million. Fashion meets sports at this suave soiree, so dress to the nines and enjoy a day socialising among Dubai’s most glamorous. 

Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr (April/May)

Ramadan is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, when Muslims fast from dawn till dusk. The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, a three-day feast, which is one of the biggest celebrations in Dubai.

Dubai Fitness Challenge (October/November)

Launched in 2017 by HH. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai, this event inspires residents to live healthier by participating in 30 minutes of exercise over 30 days. The entire city picks up the gauntlet and turns into a fitness mecca with free fitness classes and events taking place across the emirate.

Dubai Design Week (November)

One of the most anticipated events in the design community and attracting more than 60,000 visitors from the UAE and beyond, Dubai Design Week celebrates the emirate’s creative community through exhibitions, events and installations all over the city. Creative and non-creative expats alike are sure to be inspired during this week-long feast for the senses.

Dubai Rugby Sevens (December)

The longest-running sports event in Dubai and one of the biggest parties on the calendar, the Dubai Rugby Sevens heralds the opening of the IRB Sevens World Series. Sixteen of the world’s best international rugby teams take part in this tournament, which has become one of the most popular in the Middle East and attracts fans of the sport from all over the world to the spectacular The Sevens Stadium in Dubai.

Dubai Shopping Festival (December/January)

A serious treat for anyone who loves to shop, the retail capital of Dubai comes to life each year when the annual extravaganza of shopping and entertainment sees millions of visitors descend upon the city from other emirates and beyond. With massive sales across all of Dubai’s epic shopping centres, it really is a great time to get in some retail therapy. Along with bargain deals, the city also comes alive with concerts, laser and firework shows, children’s entertainment and much else.

Getting Around in Dubai

Dubai consists of two distinct areas, each of which has its own transport infrastructure. There is the original city built around the Creek (an inlet from the Arabian Gulf) and 'New Dubai', where the relatively new developments are located.

The original city is reasonably compact, pedestrian-friendly – at least from about October through April when the weather is good – and has fairly reliable and efficient public transport options. Those using private vehicles will quickly discover that traffic is bad and parking is usually difficult to find. Options that are available are often expensive – either parking meters or limited multi-storey and ground car parks.

New Dubai, on the other hand, was largely designed for cars. Individual developments, such as Dubai Marina, are pedestrian-friendly but, as New Dubai as a whole covers a very large area, getting from one development to another requires transport.

Most expats own their own car – usually more than one per family – as cars in Dubai are reasonably priced and petrol is cheap.


Public transport in Dubai

Buses

There is a large and growing bus fleet covering most of the city. All are air-conditioned, well-maintained and clean. Buses are numbered with their destination shown in English and Arabic.

There are special feeder buses to the metro stations, designated by an 'F' before the route number. These are coloured blue and white, as opposed to the regular red and white buses.

Metro

Dubai has a fully automated metro system. Currently the system has two lines, the Red Line and the Green Line, with three further lines planned.

Dubai’s metro is modern, cheap, easy to use, clean, air-conditioned and fully automated (driverless).

Trains arrive every four minutes during peak time and every seven minutes in off-peak hours.

Crossing the Creek

Dubai Creek, an inlet of the Gulf, runs through the centre of the original city, with Deira on one side and Bur Dubai on the other.

Crossing can be done on the traditional, and fun, wooden abras – the small open, timber ferries that carry 20 passengers on benches along the centre of the abra. Alternatively there are air-conditioned water buses.

For drivers, a number of bridges and a tunnel cross the Creek.


Driving in Dubai

Once a residence visa has been secured, expats can legally buy a car in Dubai. Most of the well-known makes from the US, Europe, Japan and Korea are readily available and the dealers have extensive workshops for service and repair.

Buying is not difficult and new-car dealers will arrange the registration on behalf of the buyer. For used cars, the buyer and seller must go to the traffic police to register the transfer. There are used car dealers, private sales and small private repair/service workshops all over the emirate.

Cars must be inspected and registered annually, insurance is according to the usual international system and fuel is cheap.

Vehicles are left-hand drive. Road signage is in English and Arabic, but can be confusing and incomplete. Main locations within Dubai are indicated by green road signs. Blue signs show the directions to other emirates, while brown is used to indicate landmarks, and white is for street names.

The roads are new, good, flat, often have several lanes in both directions, and there are huge intersections on major roads with flyovers and tunnels.

Road deaths have been among the worst in the world but the police are working hard to improve driving standards in Dubai, especially the curbing of speeding. There is an increasing number of fixed and mobile radars, unmarked police cars, red-light cameras and a licence black-mark system; vehicles can be confiscated in serious cases.

Car crime is rare in Dubai, although normal precautions should be taken, such as locking the car and not leaving valuables in open view.


Taxis in Dubai

Dubai has plenty of taxis, usually in the form of Toyota Corollas. They are well-regulated, metered, air-conditioned and clean with uniformed drivers. Ladies-only taxis are available (with female drivers) and there are a few special taxis for the disabled. There are taxi ranks in various locations, or they can be flagged down on the street or ordered by phone.

Ride-hailing services are also available, and expats can download their choice of Uber, Careem or Hala, among others, as an app on their phone, which makes communication with drivers and payment much simpler.

Areas and Suburbs in Dubai

The best places to live in Dubai

Expats will need to consider several important factors when choosing the area or suburb of Dubai in which to look for accommodation. These include the type of lifestyle they'd like to have in the emirate as well as practical aspects such as proximity to their place of work and their children's school.

Once these factors have been considered and priorities are clearer, it will be down to the type of accommodation preferred, and of course the housing budget or allowance which, in the case of most expats, is included in their employment package.


Beach lovers in Dubai

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Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)

The Jumeirah Beach Residence is a massive residential development comprising clusters of high-rise apartment blocks overlooking the Arabian Gulf. The towers are built over an ocean-front promenade called 'The Walk', which is lined with retail outlets, restaurants, cafes and hotels. Each cluster includes swimming pools and gyms for the use of residents. Apartments with sea views are naturally quite sought after and command higher rentals but, in general, the area offers good value.

JBR is good for young professionals or those who wish to feel like they are always on vacation. There is a holiday vibe all year round, and amenities such as shops, restaurants and the beach are all within walking distance, and there is easy metro access, so personal vehicles are seldom required.

Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah is a manmade island in the shape of a palm tree that extends into the Gulf. There are two main types of accommodation here: medium-rise apartment blocks on the trunk, most of which have communal beach access, and expensive villas with private beaches and pools on the fronds.

The area is often preferred by young couples and families, as although there are no international schools on the Palm itself, Dubai College is situated just across the bay.

Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim

Older villas make up small compounds in this part of Dubai. The area is more established, with less construction and the villas near Beach Road are within walking distance of the beach. It's in a good central location. The area is also dotted with schools and is more cosmopolitan.

It's possible to find a bargain here, but expats should beware that some of these villas are not well maintained. Each compound will usually be built around a communal pool and garden. The area is great for families with pets, and the villas also often include a room for domestic helpers. 

Expats with children are spoilt for choice when it comes to international schools in the area. Options include Jumeirah English Speaking School, Emirates International School Jumeirah, Raffles International School and Jumeirah College.


City dwellers in Dubai

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Dubai Marina

Built around a manmade marina and set one road back from JBR, Dubai Marina is a popular residential area of high-rise apartment blocks, some of which have great views of the Palm. Several hotel apartment towers can also be found here offering serviced accommodation for short- or long-term lets. Prices are average and availability is good, though expats looking to move to this area should be aware that accommodation here is almost solely in the form of apartments. There is great metro access and good views, and while it still close to the sea, it is quieter than JBR.

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Downtown

Downtown Dubai is home to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. This is a fairly new and modern area built for mixed use; residential apartment towers are mixed in with office blocks and hotels. Prices are medium to high, but the build quality is generally exceptional. It's well suited to hip and trendy high-flyers. For families moving here with children, Hartford International School is nearby, just south of the neighbouring Dubai Design District.

Most accommodation in this area is close to the metro and Dubai Mall, and the area has good access to the older parts of Dubai as it is very central. However,  natural scenery is lacking as there are no beaches and not many gardens in the area.


Fauna and flora in Dubai

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Emirates Living

An Emaar development known as Emirates Living comprises a number of different developments, all built close to the Emirates Golf Course. The Springs is a development made up of two- to four-bedroom townhouses, as well as five-bedroom freestanding villas. The Lakes and The Meadows are home to large villas of up to five and seven bedrooms respectively. All the communities share parks, pools and, in some cases, even basketball courts. They're great for families or people with pets.

The area is green and leafy, as well as child-friendly, and parents will be pleased to know that there are a few international schools nearby, including Dubai British School and GEMS Dubai American Academy.

Dubai Silicon Oasis, Victory Heights, Motor City and Arabian Ranches 

All these developments can be found on Emirates Road between the Al Khail roundabout and the E66. The complexes consist of townhouses and freestanding villas, except in the case of Motor City, which also has some low-rise apartment blocks.

These developments are popular with expats from South Africa, Australia and the UK owing to the larger houses and gardens and better value for money. Arabian Ranches is quite popular, older and more established, and therefore more expensive.

Expat families will be able to enrol their children in one of several prominent international schools in the area, including GEMS Modern Academy and Repton School Dubai.

Mirdif and Al Garhoud

Built on either side of Dubai International Airport, Mirdif and Al Garhoud offer older style villa compounds with shared pool access. The rental prices are low to medium in these areas, and the close proximity to good schools makes these popular areas for people with children who prefer value for money.

Cambridge International School Dubai is located in Al Garhoud, while GEMS Royal Dubai School can be found in Mirdif. Deira International School is situated in Dubai Festival City, an area just south of Al Garhoud. The Millenium School is also close by, north of the airport.


Culture lovers

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Bur Dubai

Bur Dubai is one of the oldest parts of Dubai city. It consists of mostly low- to medium-rise apartment blocks built over shops and restaurants. This vibrant area is great for singles or couples who enjoy the hustle and bustle, although parking can be an issue, and there aren't any good schools nearby.


On a budget in Dubai

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Discovery Gardens, Barsha Heights and Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT)

More high-rise apartment blocks are on offer in these areas but, sadly, in each case, there are no views to speak of. Discovery Gardens is situated close to Jebel Ali Port at the end of 'New' Dubai, while JLT is directly behind JBR on the opposite side of Sheikh Zayed Road. Barsha Heights (formerly known as Tecom) is a free-zone near to the Mall of the Emirates. Accommodation is reasonably priced in these areas as there is plenty of availability. Serviced apartments are common in Barsha Heights and JLT. They are good areas for young couples or single people.

Parents browsing in this area will be happy to know that Nord Anglia International School Dubai is close by.

Nurseries and Kindergartens in Dubai

Expat parents with little ones too young to start primary school will find plenty of options for nursery schools in Dubai, including Montessori nursery schools. Some popular nurseries cost almost as much as regular school and can have long waiting lists, so expats should enquire early.

It's important to check specifics with each school, but most are open for four to five hours in the morning and close at lunchtime. Many allow parents to choose how many days their child attends during the week, allow early drop-offs, provide lunches, or have optional afternoon programmes for working parents.


Nursery schools in Dubai

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Alphabet Street Nursery

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British Early Years Foundation Stage
Ages: 2 months to 4 years
Website: www.alphabetstreetnursery.com

British Orchard Nursery

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British Early Years Foundation Stage
Ages: 6 months to 4 years
Website: www.britishorchardnursery.com

Dovecote Nursery

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British Early Years Foundation Stage
Ages: 1 to 3 years
Website: www.dovecotenursery.org/jumeirah

Jebel Ali Village Nursery

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British Early Years Foundation Stage
Ages: 1 to 4 years
Website: www.javn.ae

Jumeirah International Nursery School

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British Early Years Foundation Stage
Ages: 6 weeks to 4 years
Website: www.jinspire.com

Little Land Nursery & Montessori Centre

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: British Early Years Foundation Stage and Montessori
Ages: 14 months to 4 years
Website: www.littlelandnursery.com

Work Permits for Dubai

Expats wanting to live and work in Dubai require a work permit and a residency visa.

Most expats arrive in Dubai after already securing employment, and don’t have to deal directly with the complicated process as employers usually take responsibility for the visa application process, and thus the work permit, while also acting as the sponsor for the visa.

The law requires employers to absorb the costs of applying for a work permit.


Getting a work permit for Dubai

Work permit applications are handled entirely by the employer. All the employee needs to do is supply all the necessary documents to their employer.

Before getting a residency permit, applicants have to pass a health check. Individuals who test positive for HIV/AIDS or pulmonary tuberculosis will not be granted a residency visa and will be deported.

In the process of applying for a work permit, expats will also register for their Emirates ID card and Labour Card.

*Visa regulations and requirements for work permits are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Pros and Cons of Moving to Dubai

Dubai is a city determined to retain its heritage while still racing at breakneck speed to embrace the 21st century. As a vibrant, international city, it encompasses all the good, bad and ugly of any sprawling modern metropolis. The experience of living and working in Dubai can be most enjoyable and a great adventure if expats leave themselves open to the experience and abide by a few simple rules. 

Here are some of our pros and cons of living in Dubai.


Cultural awareness in Dubai

It's important to always remember that Dubai is an Arab emirate. While it's the most liberal of all the emirates, there are a few cultural restrictions we'd encourage expats to take note of.

The Islamic religion impacts every aspect of Muslims’ lives and they prioritise their life in this order: religion, family, country. The call to prayer occurs five times a day, Muslim women are respected and expats should be aware that some may not be comfortable in the presence of a man.

+ PRO: Islamic country, but other religions tolerated

Although Dubai is an Islamic emirate, other religions are allowed to be practised (there is a church compound in Jebel Ali with Christian churches and a Sikh temple), but there is a strong warning that proselytising is not tolerated. Ramadan, the holy month, will mean shorter hours and plenty of Iftar parties in the evening after the fast is broken.

- CON: Cultural adjustments needed when in an Islamic country

The call to prayer five times a day can mean that non-Muslims may have to wait a bit to continue their business until Muslims return from prayer. During the holy month of Ramadan, work slows to a crawl and most restaurants will be closed during the day or serve a limited menu.

Arabs are generally gracious people and it is ingrained in their culture to make sure nobody loses face. They often say 'no' in such gracious ways that sometimes one is not certain that they have refused, and this can be confusing for expats not used to this.


Accommodation in Dubai

Renting property in Dubai is a popular option with expats. There are many sections of the city to live in, depending on one's preferences.

Dubai Marina is an exclave of expats, while Deira is the more traditional area. Outer communities include Arabian Ranches and the Green Community. Jumeirah, Al Wasl, Al Safa and Umm Suqeim have lovely residential accommodation. All have mostly newer high-rise apartments and attached villas available for rent.

+ PRO: Housing is mostly new and short-term leases are available

Accommodation in Dubai is mostly new and pleasant. Serviced apartments are available everywhere in the city. These come furnished and are serviced as part of the rent; short-term leases are also available for this type of accommodation. 

- CON: Dealing with realtors and landlords can be tricky

Annual rents on apartments in Dubai must sometimes be paid in full and up front. Some companies will cover this for their employees and then deduct amounts monthly from their wages. Realtors can be difficult to work with. It's better to find a place by word of mouth and then go directly to the property or engage a realtor to handle matters thereafter. An agent is required to complete a rental agreement.


Doing business and working in Dubai

The economy in Dubai is moving forward at a rapid pace. This offers many opportunities, especially for entrepreneurs and professionals looking for career advancement. All kinds of services are needed.

As a young country, the UAE is still struggling to establish efficient operations in many segments of industry and relies on expats to provide this expertise. 

+ PRO: Lots of opportunities for entrepreneurs and professionals

There exists a never-ending list of services, goods and expertise needed in Dubai and the UAE. There are numerous 'Free Zones' for various industry segments that will help a new business get started, such as Media City, Healthcare City, Knowledge Village and the Dubai International Financial Centre.

- CON: Emiratisation and setting up a business can be frustrating

Emiratisation, an effort to increase the presence of Emiratis employed in the private sector, is a high priority for the government and is a serious consideration for all private sector companies. This means it's not uncommon to have an Emirati superior who is less qualified than their subordinates. 

Setting up a business in Dubai can be time-consuming and frustrating. Government regulations can be a maze and difficult to understand; it can even be difficult to get the same interpretation when working through the process. There are times when one department is not connecting with another and applicants can run around in circles. There is also the question of ownership – in some cases, an Emirati sponsor is needed to establish a business and the Emirati must own 51 percent of the business. 

Be very careful of an employment contract. Everything should be in writing up front, including salary, end of service payout, health insurance, etc. Some companies have been known to take advantage of their workers. Expats should not bring their family members over until they have their work visa, which allows them to sponsor family resident visas.


Lifestyle in Dubai

+ PRO: English is widely spoken and the nightlife scene is vibrant

English is a common language in Dubai, and spoken and understood by most people in the emirate. People are generally very friendly and eager to make new friends and, since it's an international city, expats will have the opportunity to make friends from all over the world. 

The plethora of fast-food franchises means it's possible to get foods that are familiar. Expats can get anything delivered at almost any time, including food, groceries, dry cleaning and office supplies. Friday brunch is a popular activity for expats, with every hotel and restaurant offering delicious arrays of food and drink to patrons.

Dubai is a fun city that caters to the young. Nightlife is lively but doesn’t start until after 9pm and goes on to the wee hours. Big-name entertainment and parties are advertised all the time. 

- CON: Bureaucracy

Getting official paperwork, such as resident and work visas obtained, utilities set up, bank accounts opened and mobile phones connected can be a bit frustrating as it can be difficult to navigate bureaucracy in Dubai. Many documents will have to be translated into Arabic, so expats should be sure to use a reliable company.


Getting around Dubai

+ PRO: Good public transport

Public transport in Dubai makes it easy to get around. The Dubai Metro is a good, clean, affordable way to move around the city, and there is a system of feeder buses offered at most of the major stations. Taxis are cheap and plentiful, and so are e-hailing services. For air travel, once expats have their residence visa, they can get an eGate card which expedites clearing customs. 

- CON: Driving can be hazardous and temperatures are extreme

Driving in Dubai is for the stout-hearted. The road system is difficult to navigate and the driving can be erratic and fast, especially on the main expressway, Sheikh Zayed Road. There are limited street signs and not all streets have names, so directions are often given in landmarks. If making a wrong turn or taking the wrong exit in Dubai, the city is totally unforgiving. It can take more than 30 minutes to get going in the right direction again.

It is usually far too hot to walk any distance in Dubai, with the exception being the emirate's slightly cooler period between November and March. 


Healthcare in Dubai

+ PRO: Good healthcare system

There is good healthcare in Healthcare City, an area of certified healthcare providers and hospitals. A wide variety of alternative medicines is also available in Dubai, including Ayurveda and acupuncture.

- CON: Outlying hospitals and clinics are not as reliable

Outlying hospitals and clinics can deliver sub-par medical care, so it's best to choose the big brands.

Visas for Dubai

Visa requirements for foreigners wishing to live and work in Dubai, as well as those interested in visiting as a tourist, are not as strict as in some Middle Eastern countries. The UAE has made the process of obtaining visas as straightforward as possible. For expats moving to Dubai to take up employment, the company will usually deal with obtaining the correct visas and work permit for employees and their families.

The UAE government maintains an official website with detailed guidelines and policies for visas and work permits.


Tourist visas for Dubai

Citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia do not require a visa to travel to the UAE.

Citizens of countries on a designated list also do not need to apply for a visa before arriving in Dubai. The UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and most Western European countries appear on this list. Citizens of these countries will be issued with a 30-day or 90-day visitor’s visa (depending on their nationality) when they arrive in the UAE. This visa can be extended for a further 30 days.

For citizens of other countries such as South Africa, China, India and Russia, visas need to be pre-arranged before arrival. However, obtaining a tourist or transit visa for Dubai is relatively painless and can be pre-arranged online through various airlines, including Emirates and Etihad. Once an application has been submitted, either online or through a designated visa centre, applicants will receive their UAE visa entirely online – without having to submit their passport for stamping.


Residence visas for Dubai

Expats require a residence visa to live in Dubai. While a residence visa is not the same as a work permit, it is usually sponsored by the company employing the expat. The employing company will usually submit all the relevant documents to the authorities, as well as carry the costs. The residence visa is needed to open a bank account in the UAE, get a driving licence and to register a car.

There are a number of different residence visas available for the UAE, such as domestic helper visas, work visas and family visas, and which visa an expat applies for will depend on what they intend doing in the emirate.

Medical requirements for Dubai residence visas

It is necessary for all expats to undergo a complete medical test at a government hospital or clinic prior to having their residence visa granted. This includes a chest x-ray to check for tuberculosis and blood tests to test for HIV/AIDS. Testing positive will lead to denial of a residence visa and deportation. At present, there is no appeals process for this in Dubai.

Sponsoring family members

Employers in Dubai usually process residence visas for the spouse and children of their expat employees. Valid residence visa holders may sponsor a spouse and/or children providing they meet the minimum salary requirements.

Generally, women may sponsor their spouse and children if they fall within the following professional categories: doctor, lawyer, nurse or teacher. If a woman is not employed in one of these categories, she may still be approved to sponsor her family based on her salary and with special permission from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

It is not possible to sponsor a boyfriend, girlfriend or common-law partner; it's necessary to have a marriage certificate as proof of the relationship.

Renewal of a residence visa for Dubai

Residence visas are valid for one, two or three years. There is a 30-day grace period once a residence visa expires; however, it is advisable to begin the renewal process in advance. The same documents need to be produced, and a new health check carried out.

If leaving the UAE for six months or more, a Dubai residence visa becomes invalid, and the entire process has to be completed again.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats should contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Moving to Dubai

A glittering metropolis with a skyline to rival any city in the world, Dubai's dazzling scapes, tax-free salaries, lavish lifestyle and spirit of desert adventure are big lures for expats from far and wide. Rising from the sand in a matter of a few decades, the city's uber-modern skyscrapers, leisure centres, manmade islands and mammoth shopping complexes are blueprints for both developing and developed cities the world over. 

Living in Dubai as an expat

As the second largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates after Abu Dhabi, Dubai was once considered a barren landscape in the oil-rich Gulf, but is now a hive of commercial and leisure activity, attracting thousands of new residents to its shores each month.

Contrary to popular belief, Dubai’s main source of revenue isn't oil. Although oil was discovered in the emirate in the 1960s and laid the foundations for its economy, it is other industries such as construction, tourism and financial services that are now the pillars of Dubai’s extraordinary wealth and provide the most job opportunities for expats.

Newcomers to Dubai will discover a city that offers a great lifestyle with excellent healthcare facilities, solid transport infrastructure, exciting shopping options and a multitude of things to see and do.

While Dubai's culture is still based on Islam and its accompanying traditions, the city's modernity has cast a slight shadow across the rigour of the religion and expats can enjoy a largely relaxed lifestyle in the emirate. That said, it's vital that one becomes familiar with the local laws of the land, in order to respect the people and the governing rules that exist.

Cost of living in Dubai

Though Dubai's tax-free status helps residents to enjoy the emirate's luxurious lifestyle, living here is far from cheap, and expats will need to ensure that their salary and any extras given are sufficient to cover the cost of living.

A good package will include benefits and allowances for expenses such as accommodation and international schooling. These are the two major expenses those relocating to the emirate will incur, and managing day-to-day life becomes much easier if these expenses are taken care of.

Expat families and children

While Abu Dhabi is often cited as the most family-friendly emirate, Dubai has just as much to offer parents and kids. Home to a number of excellent international schools, Dubai gives expat children the opportunity to have a high-quality education in their home language, thereby easing the transition to life in the UAE.

When it comes to entertainment, families will be spoilt for choice. Splashing about in waterparks is a particularly popular pastime and is a great way to cool down on hot days, and there are plenty of parks and green spaces throughout Dubai for picnicking and enjoying the fresh air. Shopping up a storm in one of the emirate's many malls is another activity beloved by locals and expats alike.

Climate in Dubai

The weather in Dubai is unfortunately one of the emirate's less appealing aspects. The summer months tend to bring scorching heat, with the average high for July and August being a sweltering 106°F (41°C). It's common to take some time out from the emirate at this time of year, with people heading to cooler climes to wait out the summer.

A stunning city, it's no wonder Dubai draws expats like moths to a flame, who tend to become so enamoured of the Emirati lifestyle that most opt to make a permanent home for themselves in this desert oasis.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dubai

From the culture shock to the lifestyle, there are bound to be many aspects of life in Dubai that expats planning a move there may wonder about. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Dubai.

Can I drive on my licence from home in Dubai or must I take another test?

This depends on the country of origin. Those from Europe, Australia, the US, and selected other countries do not have to take the test. Instead, these new arrivals must go to the Roads and Transport Authority with their existing licence, passport and resident permit. There they will be required to take an eye test before being issued with a UAE licence. Prior to receiving their residence permit expats may drive a rental vehicle using a licence from their home country. A comprehensive list of the nationalities exempt from retaking the test is available from the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority. Have a look at our guide page to learn more about transport and driving in Dubai.

What is the average expat lifestyle in Dubai like?

This really depends. In the past, generous employment packages enabled Western expats to live the high life in Dubai. Most expats lived in large villas, had domestic help, drove expensive cars and still had plenty of money to spare. These days, packages aren't as generous, and many expats are downsizing considerably. That said, expats will still be able to live comfortably, even if the lavish lifestyle once associated with Dubai is out of reach. Eating out is affordable, almost anything and everything can be delivered to one's home and there is no shortage of things to do, including golf, water sports, scuba diving and even skiing.

Exactly how hot does it get in Dubai?

Anyone who has lived in Dubai in summer will confirm that the weather can be hard to bear. With temperatures reaching 98°F (50°C), the heat is stifling and air conditioning is essential. Restaurants close outside dining areas, many expat families escape to their home country for the summer months and the rest simply stay inside. For holidaymakers, the weather might be a treat; for those who have to live and work in such extreme heat, it can become exhausting.

Lifestyle in Dubai

Surrounded by the sultry heat of the desert, expats will find that the lifestyle in Dubai largely revolves around activities best accompanied by air conditioning – apart from those adrenaline junkies who like to play on the dunes with bikes and trucks, or surf the waves with kiteboards and windsurfers.

But for an expat community lured to the emirate by inflated salaries and visions of tax-free wealth, heavy heat means that shopping and indoor entertainment options make up the epicentre of life and go nicely with the extra income.


Nightlife in Dubai

Expats can enjoy a vibrant social atmosphere as Dubai dishes up a heady dose of everything from indoor snowboarding and phenomenal music festivals to world-class restaurants and shopping malls galore.

Most of Dubai’s nightlife is centred on the hotels, and it’s not uncommon to find expats gathered around hotel bars until the wee hours when last rounds are being called.

However, a few clubs and nightlife spots do exist outside the hotels; Arabic nightclubs have become increasingly popular with locals and expats over the years.


Shopping in Dubai

For the expat whose idea of fun is cruising the aisles, Dubai’s city centre can be thrilling, with selections of malls, souks and specialist stores on offer. Authentic Bedouin paraphernalia, Persian-style carpets and textiles abound at the local markets, while brand names and electronic goods can be scooped up for a song.

Most shops open from 8am to 1pm, and then reopen again after the heat of the day at around 4.30pm until 8pm, or even later. Malls are air conditioned and remain open from 10am to 10pm. Most shops, malls and souks usually close on Friday mornings.

It won't take long for expats to realise that malls in Dubai have revolutionised the retail experience. These shopping meccas don't settle for the stock-standard stores and food courts typically on offer in other cities – rather, they take on the roles of entertainer, curator and cultural director all at once. Expats will find movie theatres, ski slopes, ice skating rinks and libraries alongside their favourite restaurants and international brand names. 

Dubai Mall is the city's largest mall and seems to take the philosophy of 'bigger is better' quite seriously. The mall boasts a fountain that rivals that of the Bellagio, one of the largest single-tank aquariums in the world, a SEGA Republic theme park and an ice rink. Other popular malls include Ibn Battuta Mall, Wafi City and the Mall of the Emirates.


Eating out in Dubai

Expats will be spoilt for choice when it comes to dining out in Dubai, with hundreds of restaurants to suit any taste and budget. 

One not-to-be-missed eating experience in Dubai is the famous 'brunch'. Hosted mainly by the larger hotels, brunch is an eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet, normally accompanied by unlimited beverages or house wine, beer, and even champagne in some cases, and are held on a Friday from 12pm onwards. Prices vary widely, as does the quality of the food on offer, so it’s best to get some recommendations before deciding where to go.

Alcohol is only served at select restaurants licensed to serve liquor. In most cases, the impressive array of hotel restaurants satisfies this requirement. Any dishes containing pork or alcohol are clearly marked on the menu, and pork products are only served in establishments that have a special licence. 

Ramadan

Bear in mind that during the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims and even some expats fast. One is not permitted to eat or drink in public during the day for the duration of the holiday. Many restaurants remain closed until evening, although those in the larger hotels still serve food.

Lunchtime dining takes place behind covered windows in order to show respect. As take-away meals are allowed, many restaurants remain partially open to provide this service, or else do home deliveries. Fasting is broken after sunset, and restaurants will open as normal at this time, often remaining open into the early hours of the morning.


Outdoor activities in Dubai

While the sweltering summer months make outdoor activities next to impossible, the city has much to offer in the cooler months of the year. There are beaches and waterparks aplenty, both of which are great places to splash around and cool down with the kids. Dubai is also home to numerous parks, perfect for a picnic or just a day out taking a walk.


Meeting people and making friends in Dubai

One of the major challenges of moving to a new place is meeting and making friends with like-minded people. Joining a club – whether for a sport, a hobby or a charitable cause – is a sure-fire way to find others with shared interests. But where to start? Here are a few clubs and societies to consider.

Eton Institute

There are countless benefits to learning a new language, not least of which is the opportunity to meet all sorts of people. Arabic is the natural choice for a new transplant to the UAE, but the Eton Institute also offers a diverse selection of other languages from across the globe, including everything from French, Spanish and German to Turkish, Hebrew and Farsi.

38smiles

One for the animal lovers, 38smiles is a non-profit animal rescue organisation. Stray animals, particularly cats, can often be seen around Dubai, and 38smiles has programmes in place to assist these vulnerable animals and help control the population of strays. This includes catch, neuter and release programmes, as well as the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of injured or mistreated animals.

Dubai Roadsters

A well-established cycling club, the Dubai Roadsters offer a fun and easy way to get into the emirate's cycling culture. For those who enjoy a bit of fresh air, this club has the benefit of being both a great way to meet people and an enjoyable form of exercise. Numerous weekly rides are held both on-road and at cycle tracks.

Working in Dubai

Dubai is recognised as one of the most prized destinations for job-seeking expats from all over the world. Built on the back of an oil and real-estate boom, the emirate has flourished since diversifying its economy and investing heavily in physical infrastructure. 

It’s true that Dubai relied on oil for much of its wealth at one point, but since it started diversifying its economy in the 1970s, the city has exploded with ambitious projects (its towering skyline of glittering behemoths and manmade islands a testament to the fact) and an extreme spike in population, largely owing to expats. Nowadays, only a small percentage of the emirate’s GDP is from oil, instead revolving largely around banking, tourism and trade, with the city operating two of the world’s largest ports and air cargo hubs.


Job market in Dubai

Truly a city of opportunity, Dubai draws expats of all walks of life. Regardless of area of expertise or skill sets, expats seem to flourish in the bustling emirate, as the diversification of its economy has seen a host of sectors explode with possibilities.

Owing to its geographic location, Dubai has become the trading centre for most of the Middle East, Africa and beyond. Giant multinational companies have established headquarters in the city, and with a sharp rise in such sectors as IT, telecoms, manufacturing, data mining, healthcare, banking, trade and tourism, not to mention its constant need of construction expertise, expats are making the most of exploiting opportunities in these fields. More recently, creatives have also flocked to the emirate in search of higher salaries, and media professionals are also increasingly viewing the city as a viable expat destination.

So-called ‘Free Zones’, which are areas that have been established for specific sectors or industries such as Dubai Healthcare City, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City, are continually springing up and expanding as more and more expats are choosing Dubai.

Mammoth tourism projects, including manmade islands, the world’s largest flower garden, its tallest Ferris wheel and its most luxurious hotel, not to mention indoor skiing slopes, colossal shopping malls and more, mean tourists are choosing Dubai no longer just as a stop-over but as their primary destination, which in turn creates a huge supply of tourism jobs.

Even with the slight downturn in available jobs, and more recently due to Covid-19, Dubai is undoubtedly a city literally on the rise, and many expats find joy and pride in being part of and contributing to the glittering project.


Finding a job in Dubai

It is virtually impossible to begin a life in Dubai without a residence permit, which allows expats to obtain a work permit. Employers are increasingly looking for those already settled in the region, and resident status therefore goes a long way when it comes to securing employment.

Prospective Dubai expats will do well to start their search online. Employers often advertise new vacancies on various web portals and sites such as LinkedIn, or on recruiting sites. Industry-specific agencies, be it in banking, healthcare, construction or tourism, are also a good way to go as they have intimate knowledge of the job market and will help connect suitable candidates with employers.

Those considering a move should be aware that career flexibility in Dubai, although slightly improved in recent years, remains limited. Due to regulations put in place to prevent job-hopping, expats will find that it's not easy to move between companies.


Work culture in Dubai

Expats are still flocking to the emirate in their droves, in pursuit of high salaries, low tax and lavish lifestyles. The continued influx is also propelled by the prospect of a unique cultural experience, scope for personal skills development and an abundance of business opportunities.

Historically, companies sourcing talent to work in Dubai had to offer generous relocation packages as an incentive for workers to decamp to the desert. Now, with the exception of very senior-level positions, those days are all but gone. No one, it seems, needs much incentive to make the move to Dubai and it is becoming increasingly unusual to find fully subsidised accommodation, furniture/shipping allowances, private schooling, family vehicles and other historically appealing expat perks.

Accommodation in Dubai

There is an abundance of accommodation in Dubai, and expats find it quite easy to find a home to suit their lifestyle and budget, be it a lavish high-rise apartment in central Dubai or more humble housing towards the outskirts of the bustling metro.

While many expats entertain the idea of living in a luxurious Middle Eastern villa with an opulent courtyard and pool, this type of housing can often be exorbitant, in high demand and simply out of reach for most expats. Whether buying property in Dubai or renting, it’s best to temper these dreams of grandeur and to take into consideration a number of factors before searching for accommodation. These include commute times to work and to local schools for those with children, congestion and noise level in the area, proximity to shops and restaurants and, of course, budget. Some areas and suburbs in Dubai are more expensive than others; this is especially true of New Dubai, a collection of suburbs that has been recently developed.

Depending on their employment contract, expats may find that they are allocated a home by their employer when relocating from overseas – indeed, we recommend that those relocating to the emirate negotiate with prospective employers to include accommodation in their contract. Expats who would prefer to look for their own accommodation can usually request a housing allowance in order to do so. 


Types of accommodation in Dubai

The type of accommodation and associated costs are important factors to consider. Both furnished and unfurnished accommodation is available in Dubai, and there are many different styles of housing to choose from, with the main ones being:

Apartments

A common choice among expats, apartments are (mainly) smaller self-contained units in larger buildings; referred to as "flats" in some parts of the world such as the UK. These range from small studios or one-bedroom units to expansive multi-roomed units.

Condominiums

These complexes are similar to apartments but are more luxurious and will generally offer a wide range of facilities. Those at the top of the scale will offer a full suite of facilities including a pool, gym, playground, tennis and squash courts, as well as 24-hour security.

Villas

Villas are freestanding with multiple rooms, dining areas and lounges, and tend to have a garden, but are often extremely pricey.


Finding accommodation in Dubai

It’s helpful to hire a real estate agent in Dubai, but it’s also possible to peruse the online classifieds or even just drive through areas of interest and look out for 'To Let' signs.

Expats using an agent to find accommodation in Dubai should make sure the chosen individual is registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) to minimise their exposure to risk and red tape. There have been reports of unsuspecting expats being duped by illegitimate agents, so it's best to check the agent's credentials before dealing with them.

Other expats have migrated to the neighbouring emirate of Sharjah, where rents are considerably less, but this involves commuting (approximately 30 minutes by car). 


Renting accommodation in Dubai

New arrivals in Dubai generally opt to rent rather than buy, as it can be extremely expensive to purchase property. Those expats who go about the relocation process on their own without the assistance of a real estate agent often elect to rent a short-term serviced apartment while checking out an area and deciding on long-term accommodation. This isn’t strictly necessary, though, and with a good agent, long-term rentals can be secured without the need for temporary accommodation.

Apartments, condos and villas can be rented furnished or unfurnished – it’s up to the tenant and whether they have the capacity and desire to ship furniture from their home country.

Making an application

Once expats have found a suitable area that suits their lifestyle and caters to all their priorities, it’s a good idea to research properties online and contact some local estate agents who will then set up viewings. When the right home is agreed upon, an application will have to be submitted to the landlord, and a contract drawn up. Before the contract can be signed, the estate agent or landlord will check references and do some background checks, and check whether the applicant has the required residence visa, passport and proof of income.

Deposits

Many landlords in Dubai will demand the entire year of rent be paid up front, in addition to a security deposit. If this is a financial possibility, expats should use it to gain leverage over the landlord and try and bring the price down.

Deposits, usually the equivalent of a month’s rent or more, can’t be non-refundable, as it remains the property of the tenant, but landlords are allowed to make deductions from the deposit or keep the whole amount for various reasons. Deposits are sometimes used to cover unpaid rent, for damages in excess of normal wear and tear, other breaches of the lease agreement, unpaid utility bills, or – if pre-arranged with tenant – to cover the last month’s rent. Additional fees to consider include the agent’s commision fee (if an agent was employed).

Leases

A lease specifies the period of tenancy along with other important terms and conditions that both parties need to agree on. Expats are urged to finecomb the agreement and to make sure that all verbal agreements with the landlord are in print and acknowledged by both parties. Both the tenant and the landlord should also agree on an inventory list at the start of the lease.

At the termination of the lease, the landlord and tenant can either choose to agree to renew the lease or end it. We recommend expats try to sign a renewable lease, and then notify the landlord accordingly when ready to leave, rather than having to engage in the house hunt all over again after 12 months.

Utilities

It is important for prospective tenants to scrutinise a lease agreement very carefully to ascertain which utilities are included in the rental cost before committing. 

Usually though, in Dubai, utilities and maintenance are for the tenant’s account. Expats looking to rent should be aware that they’ll be expected to pay for internet, electricity, water and gas. 

Healthcare in Dubai

The UAE has a highly developed health infrastructure and the standard of healthcare in Dubai is high. Medical facilities are modern and easily accessible for locals and expats alike. Most public hospitals in Dubai offer good quality healthcare, although many expats choose private medical centres. English is commonly spoken and much of the medical staff consists of foreign-trained expats. 


Healthcare facilities in Dubai

Public hospitals and clinics provide free or low-cost medical services to UAE residents. Expats who'd like to make use of public hospitals need to apply for a health card from the Department of Health and Medical Services.

Dubai is home to numerous modern private hospitals and even has an enormous medical centre, appropriately named Dubai Healthcare City.

Dubai Healthcare City is a large complex of medical buildings and institutions, and includes hospitals, clinics, teaching and research facilities, pharmacies and partnerships with international institutions, including Boston University and Harvard Medical School.


Medicines and pharmacies in Dubai

Expats will not struggle to find a pharmacy in Dubai as there are plenty across the emirate, and most are open 24 hours a day. Medicines are generally expensive in Dubai, and it’s best to keep the receipt if planning to claim from medical aid.


Health insurance in Dubai         

In recent years, the Dubai Health Authority has implemented new legislation under which all residents must have medical insurance. While Emiratis are covered under a government-funded scheme, expats will need to take out a private health insurance scheme.

Companies are required to provide health insurance for their expat employees. While they will not be required to cover the spouses and children of employees, they are encouraged to do so by the government.


Health hazards in Dubai

Due to the extreme temperatures, heat stroke and exhaustion, sunburn and dehydration are the most common medical ailments affecting expats in Dubai.

Continuous construction, accompanied by sand and dust from the surrounding desert, can also aggravate respiratory problems.


Pre-travel restrictions and vaccinations for Dubai

It’s not always easy to bring medication into Dubai as many medicines that expats might get at home are considered controlled substances in the UAE. Visitors entering Dubai can bring up to three months’ supply of a prescription item while residents can bring up to 12 months’ supply, provided they produce a doctor’s letter as well as the original prescription. Some medications may need the permission of the UAE Ministry of Health to be brought into the country.

In order to obtain a residency visa, expats need to undergo a medical examination and blood tests shortly after arriving in the UAE. All expats are tested for HIV/AIDS, but some expats may also be submitted to tests for syphilis, hepatitis B and C, and pregnancy. Positive results may result in deportation. It is worth noting that a chest x-ray is required in some other emirates, such as Abu Dhabi. This is not a requirement in Dubai. For the most up-to-date information, expats should consult the health and fitness section of the Dubai government website.

No vaccinations are required for the UAE. However, expats should ensure that all their routine vaccinations are up to date and contact a healthcare professional before travelling to the country to confirm the recommended vaccinations for Dubai.


Emergency services in Dubai

An ambulance service is available in medical emergencies in Dubai, and can be reached by calling the number 998 or 999. Operators can usually speak English as well as Arabic.

For non-life-threatening but urgent conditions, expats will usually arrange their own transport to hospital, such as driving (if in a fit state to do so) or taking a taxi.


Hospitals in Dubai

Al Zahra Hospital

Website: www.azhd.ae
Address: Al Barsha 1, Al Barsha

American Hospital Dubai

Website: www.ahdubai.com
Address: 19th Street, Oud Metha

Mediclinic City Hospital

Website: www.mediclinic.ae
Address: Building 37, Dubai Healthcare City

Buying a Car in Dubai

For expats, owning a car in Dubai seems to be an unwritten rule. Not only do most foreign nationals possess a vehicle but, overall, cheaper prices often encourage expats to buy a car in Dubai that will be more of a status symbol than a functional necessity. Still, modes of public transport are limited, and when it comes down to it, whether one chooses to ride in style or stay small, having a car in Dubai is a must.

To buy a car in Dubai it’s necessary to have a residence visa. If planning to make a purchase without a driver’s license, it's necessary to go to the police to explain the circumstances and receive approval.

Cars in the UAE are slightly cheaper than in the UK or US, and as an added benefit of living in an oil-rich country, expats will find that petrol is inexpensive and maintenance costs are affordable.

There are plenty of new and used car dealerships in Dubai, not to mention a host of expats constantly coming and going, creating a large network of private sellers.

Before buying a car in Dubai, it’s best to do as much research as possible and to note the following:

  • Read the service history record, and bring the vehicle to a mechanic – even if it looks to be in mint condition

  • Buy a car with Gulf specs; this will make maintenance for the engine, gearbox cooling and air conditioning easy to access and affordable


Buying a new car in Dubai

For expats who have their heart set on buying a new car in Dubai, nearly every make and model one would expect to find in the monstrous car culture of the United States, or any other Western country for that matter, exists within Dubai. Japanese and American brands are especially numerous and are sold at various franchised dealerships, most of which can be found on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Popular models do tend to be pricier than those less coveted; but overall, most car dealers can be convinced to give buyers quite a good deal, which often includes one year of insurance and a service warranty period.

Dealers may work with a specific bank and offer help in arranging financing. Do be mindful that bouncing cheques in Dubai is a criminal offence, so be sure to arrange financing within a budget. Sometimes, it's possible to get better rates from one's personal bank, so do some research beforehand.

The depreciation rate in Dubai can be as high as 30 percent, so if buying a new car don’t expect to sell it for anything close to the price of purchase.


Buying a used car in Dubai

The high expat turnover in Dubai and the small window of time in which many choose to leave have inspired a large second-hand car culture in the emirate.

There are plenty of used, or “pre-owned”, dealerships in Dubai, and many offer the same sort of service warranty, insurance and help with financing and registration that accompanies new car purchases. These benefits do of course come with a price.

Alternatively, Dubai has auction houses where expats can bid for their buy. A bonus of purchasing a car from an auction house is that all cars will have undergone a vehicle check and it is possible to register the vehicle there. However, on the negative side, there is no warranty included in the price.

Buying a used car from a private seller

Expats also have the option of purchasing from a private seller. This is the best way to bag a bargain, especially if the seller has a deadline to exit the emirate. That being said, expats wanting to buy a car from an individual should be knowledgeable about registration and car check-ups. They should also be prepared to bear the burden of managing paperwork and shouldering any additional hassle.

Ads are often posted on supermarket bulletin boards or can be found on Dubizzle.com or even in the Gulf News and Khaleej Times classified sections.

Shipping and Removals in Dubai

There is no shortage of shipping and relocation companies to meet the demand of expats heading to Dubai. In some cases the employer will have an in-house or preferred service provider who will help make the move as smooth as possible. Relocation companies can be hired to assist with every aspect of the move, from furniture transportation to school enrolment.

It should be noted that the UAE has strict rules on what may and may not be brought into the country.

No weapons, ammunition or narcotics will be admitted. The UAE has imposed restrictions on various medicines, including codeine. It is advisable to check the UAE customs website before travelling as being caught with ‘banned’ items can result in a jail term.

All music, books, CDs and DVDs etc. will be subject to inspection/censorship at customs. Anything considered to be against the values, tradition and morality of the UAE will be banned. This would include anything with pornographic or anti-Islam content.

Many expats may also be surprised to learn that certain breeds of dog are banned in the UAE. Be sure to prepare accordingly if planning to ship a pet to Dubai.

Education and Schools in Dubai

There are many private international schools in Dubai catering specifically to the large foreign community that calls the emirate home, and expats generally choose this option over the emirate's public schools.

For the most part, schools in Dubai adhere to high standards, but often have different approaches. Expats must consider what kind of learning environment will best benefit their child, and what their priorities are in choosing an institution. That said, many private schools in Dubai offer a brand of education that allows students to enter any university in the world. 

The Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau publishes annual reviews of all private schools in Dubai, and reports published on its website are a good place to get objective information about schools.


International schools in Dubai

Many international schools in Dubai follow the British school system, including the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and A-Levels, while others offer curricula from countries as diverse as the USA, France, Germany, India, Pakistan and Japan. The International Baccalaureate (IB), a globally recognised system of education, is also popular. Some international schools teach the UAE curriculum in addition to a foreign curriculum.

While international schools have more freedom in their curricula and language than local public schools, they are still required to adhere to certain local schooling regulations. Arabic as an additional language must be taught at all schools up to Grade 9, although students usually only have to achieve basic proficiency. Schools are also obliged to have Islamic Studies available as a subject. Attendance of Islamic Studies is compulsory for Muslim students, but optional for non-Muslim students.

School fees

Fees for international schools throughout the world are notoriously high, and Dubai is no exception.

In addition to tuition, there are other costs to consider. Many schools charge annual building and/or technology fees on top of tuition fees. Extras such as textbooks, uniforms, school lunches, transport to and from school, and extra-curricular activities may or may not be included in annual fees. In many cases, these are extra costs.

It's important to check whether a relocation package includes a school allowance; unfortunately, the days when this was a given are long gone. Also, most allowances won't be enough to cover a top school's tuition in full – so expats should make sure their salary is enough to cover the extra costs. We recommend expats negotiate for a good school allowance, especially if considering a senior position in Dubai.

Admission to international schools

Good international schools in Dubai are flooded with applications each year, and primary schools, in particular, are over-subscribed. Some of the best primary schools may be full for the next three or four years.

It's absolutely essential to apply as soon as possible, especially if one's child is between three and seven years old. Most schools will post admission requirements and application procedures on their websites. In many cases, it's possible to begin the application process from abroad. This should be the first priority for expat parents when planning the move to Dubai.


Tutors in Dubai

Private tutors are extremely popular in Dubai. Despite the rising cost of school fees in the emirate, many parents are reaching even deeper into their pockets to afford the hefty fees charged by tutors.

For expat families, tutors can be particularly useful in helping children adjust to a new curriculum, learn a new language or maintain their mother tongue.

Though the tutoring industry was previously unregulated, the Knowledge and Human Development Centre (KHDA) has recently implemented strict quality guidelines and licencing requirements. Parents should therefore research prospective tutors carefully to ensure they are KHDA approved.


Special-needs education in Dubai

In recent years, the UAE government has begun to focus on providing support to students with special educational needs. As a result, more public schools are now equipped to support such students. The ultimate goal is integration so that those with special educational needs can develop alongside their peers.

Some international schools have excellent special-needs education programmes, while others don't offer support in this regard. Parents with children with special needs should be sure to do their research before settling on a school.

Weather in Dubai

Dubai’s arid subtropical climate makes for perennially good weather and sunshine all year round, but for newly arrived expats, the heat in summer might be a real shock. Visitors and residents alike should take adequate precautions against heat stroke and exhaustion, and always keep properly hydrated.

The hottest months in Dubai are between June and September, when temperatures can reach a sweltering 113°F (45°C) and the humidity becomes stifling, especially in the coastal regions. Even the sea temperature touches on 104°F (40°C) during the summer months, and swimming pools at hotels are usually cooled to be more refreshing. 

Temperatures are only slightly more moderate the rest of the year, the coolest time being between December and March with temperatures between 57°F (14°C) and 77°F (25°C). There is very little rainfall in Dubai, but when showers do fall it is mainly in the cooler months.

 

International Schools in Dubai

Expat parents looking for an excellent international school in Dubai won't be disappointed. As a global expat hub, Dubai has one of the highest concentrations of international schools in the world. There are top-notch schools offering just about every curriculum imaginable – from the popular International Baccalaureate to the well-respected American and British systems, and more.

Because there are so many schools for parents to choose from, international schools in Dubai are competitive. High standards of education can be expected, alongside top-notch facilities and robust extra-curricular programmes. Teachers are generally well-qualified and knowledgeable. If at all unsure about a school, parents should consult the Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) – they do regular inspections of international schools and publish comprehensive reports.

Most international schools have rolling admissions so that families can apply at any time of year. Space can be limited, particularly in primary schools, so it's well worth applying early to secure a spot at the desired school.

Below is a list of some of Dubai's most prominent international schools.


International schools in Dubai

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American School of Dubai

The American School of Dubai is an independent non-profit school. With a history of more than 50 years, the school was the first in the emirate to offer the US curriculum. Its purpose-built campus in Al Barsha is home to top-notch modern facilities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18

Cambridge International School – Dubai

Cambridge International School Dubai has a student body of 2,300 representing over 65 nationalities. The spacious campus is divided into two: the primary school (Early Years to Year 6) and the secondary school (Year 7 to 13). This UK-curriculum school's combination of good facilities and excellent teaching staff provides students with the resources to excel. Read more

Gender: Co-educational 
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18

Clarion School Dubai

Clarion School offers a challenging, engaging and supportive educational programme, enriched by collaboration with parents and strengthened by strong external partnerships. The curriculum is delivered by the highest standard of teachers, all of whom have Master’s degrees in education. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American
Ages: 3 to 18

Deira International School

With pupils of more than 80 nationalities, this is truly an international school. Most teachers are British or Australian and the curriculum is based on the National Curriculum of England. The school is well-equipped with all the facilities necessary for a high-quality education. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Dubai American Academy

The Dubai American Academy is a GEMS school that opened in Al Barsha in 1997. It has since developed a great reputation among expat parents in Dubai and has obtained a KHDA rating of 'outstanding' for a number of years. The curriculum is American-based, enriched with international elements. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: American and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Dubai British School

Situated in the Springs area of Emirate Hills in Dubai, Dubai British School is a thriving 1,000-student-strong school which opened in 2005 as part of the Taaleem educational group. With well-equipped sport, academic and cultural facilities, the school aims to foster well-rounded individuals. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18

Dubai College

Situated in the New Dubai district and set in 19 acres of spacious, landscaped grounds, Dubai College has developed an excellent reputation over the last 30 years and is a popular choice for parents wanting a British education for their children. A good range of extra-curricular programmes are run alongside the highly praised academic offerings of the school. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 11 to 18

Emirates International School Jumeirah

Opened in 1991, this school has grown rapidly and, offering an international curriculum, provides education to 2,200 children of more than 70 different nationalities. The school grounds are lush and leafy, offering plenty of space for students to enjoy, while the school building itself is filled with high-quality facilities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

English College Dubai

English College Dubai opened its doors in 1992, with a separate primary school built in 2004. The school has a good reputation with expat parents in Dubai and offers a robust British education. The school endeavours to provide a well-rounded school experience, offering diverse sport- and art-focused extra-curricular activities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18

GEMS Modern Academy

A large Indian- and International-Baccalaureate-curriculum school, GEMS Modern Academy is popular with expat families and has a student body of 3,700. The school caters to students from Kindergarten through to Grade 12. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Indian (ICSE/ISC) and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

GEMS Royal Dubai School

The school is a primary-only school of 1,100 students. Rated as 'outstanding' by the KHDA, it offers the highly respected British curriculum alongside a wide variety of exciting extra-curricular activities for students. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum
Ages: 3 to 11

Hartland International School

Hartland International School is a place of learning and discovery that encourages creative thinking. The academic programme has high standards and students are encouraged to develop a sound work ethic and a love of learning. Read more

Gender: Co-educational 
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 3 to 18

Jumeirah English Speaking School (JESS)

This excellent non-profit school serves more than 2,000 students over two campuses in Jumeirah and Arabian Ranches. JESS has been rated 'outstanding' by the KHDA on several occasions. The quality of staff here is high and constantly improving as part of the school's professional development programme. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, BTEC and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Jumeirah College

This respected UK-curriculum school is situated in the prestigious suburb of Jumeirah and has been ranked 'outstanding' by the KHDA for several years in a row. The campus has good facilities with a diverse student body of 1,000 pupils from more than 60 different countries around the world. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and A-Levels
Ages: 11 to 18

The Millennium School

This state-of-the-art school opened its doors in 2000. The Millennium School teaches the well-regarded ICSE curriculum, which originated in India. With an entirely expat student body, children of globally mobile families are sure to feel at home here. The Millennium School supplements its excellent academic offerings with a wide range of extra-curricular activities. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Indian (CBSE)
Ages: 5 to 18

Nord Anglia International School Dubai

Nord Anglia International School Dubai opened in central Dubai in 2014, offering the well-respected British curriculum and International Baccalaureate. Class sizes are limited to a maximum of 20 students, so that all can receive individualised attention. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, A-Levels and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Raffles International School

A truly diverse school, Raffles International School has around 2,000 pupils hailing from more than 90 countries around the world. The school has an excellent English as a Second Language (ESL) programme as well as a robust mother-tongue programme to support the continuing development of home-language French, Spanish, Russian, German and Hindi speakers. Read more

Gender: Co-educational 
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE, BTEC and A-Levels
Ages: 4 to 18

Repton School Dubai

With ties to the 450-year-old English boarding school of the same name, Repton offers the best of British education and has been rated 'outstanding' by the KHDA. The school achieves top academic results and has a strong sporting tradition. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: English National Curriculum, Cambridge IGCSE and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai

The Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai is a leading international school where future generations are inspired to become confident and enthusiastic lifelong learners, ready to embrace the opportunities and challenges in a global world. Read more

Gender: Co-educational
Curriculum: Swiss and International Baccalaureate
Ages: 3 to 18

Domestic Help in Dubai

Dubai offers its residents a wonderful lifestyle in many ways, and one such luxury attached to working in the emirate is being able to afford a domestic helper. For some, this is nothing out of the norm, but for others, this is a new experience that can take some getting used to.

The UAE attracts people from all over the world who are willing to work as domestic helpers.

Although the market is full of just such people, finding trustworthy and hardworking domestic helpers is not always such an easy task. Not to mention, there are many legal implications attached to hiring domestic help in the UAE.


Finding a domestic worker in Dubai

Expats can either use an agency to source a domestic helper, or they can look for an employee directly. In both cases, it’s best to proceed with caution and to carefully consider the salary paid and the working environment for the domestic worker.

Using an agency

The word 'agency' in Dubai is an umbrella term; there are several companies that provide domestic services, but each organisation tends to do things differently.

There are agencies that offer cleaning and babysitting services. These companies directly employ domestic workers and then hire them out at an hourly rate for part-time services, and in some cases, the company will also provide a full-time live-in maid for a monthly fee.

Hiring a full-time live-in maid from one of these agencies does not require any form of sponsorship, and the maid can be exchanged for another, if necessary. In this situation, payment for the full-time maid service is made directly to the agency.

The preferred route for a lot of families is sponsoring a full-time live-in maid. There are labour agencies that will bring these maids to Dubai specifically for a client. Their fees will typically include an upfront agency fee and the costs of the maid’s flight. The client will be responsible for all the fees associated with sponsoring the maid and for paying the maid a monthly salary.

In some cases, maids are readily available in Dubai, but more often, there is a waiting period of a few weeks to bring a maid into the country.

There are also companies that act as domestic recruitment agencies for full-time live-in maids. These companies work along the lines of a typical recruitment company and will assist clients in sourcing locally available candidates. They charge a once-off placement fee and provide a guarantee to replace the domestic candidate, should this be necessary. The client is responsible for all the associated sponsorship fees and for paying the maid’s monthly salary.

Employing directly

Searching directly for domestic help is certainly doable, but can be a time-consuming and frustrating process, and expats who post a listing for a position will undoubtedly be inundated with calls and CVs.

Alternatively, one can find domestic help by perusing numerous classified websites that advertise maids looking for work. There is also the option of using word-of-mouth networks to source a trustworthy individual.


Salaries for domestic help in Dubai

The old adage 'you get what you pay for' applies to finding good domestic help in Dubai.

Salaries and the required working conditions for domestic help vary considerably, and there are recommendations made by various embassies for minimum salaries according to nationality.


Precautions and legal conditions in Dubai

Employing a domestic worker can sometimes be complicated, so ensuring that the contact is a reputable source, such as an agency or good reference, will go a long way in minimising potential problems.

The UAE has specific laws with regard to employing domestic help. Expats who wish to employ a maid need to be residents of Dubai and meet certain minimum salary requirements and will need to show evidence of these.

Only certain nationalities are eligible for a domestic worker visa, so it is best to check with local authorities for an updated list of what nationalities are on this list.

Kids and Family in Dubai

While Dubai is considered somewhat less family-friendly than Abu Dhabi, there are still many things for children and families to do in the emirate.

Dubai is filled to the brim with fun activities for the whole family to enjoy, from huge indoor play areas and water parks to educational centres, museums and an aquarium.


Child-friendly activities in Dubai

One thing is for sure, expats with families will need plenty of sunscreen when taking the kids out in Dubai. With scorching hot temperatures during the summer months, there are plenty of beaches. The Wild Wadi Water Park is another great option, offering a fun way to cool off and have a splashing good time.

The Aquaventure Park is another top waterpark with a few truly epic waterslides, among them the world’s longest, the Aquaconda, and the Leap of Faith, a monstrous nine-storey slide.

Younger kids will enjoy playing in the indoor playgrounds that can be found in just about every mall in this shopping haven. Children’s City is an exciting learning and play centre dedicated to children from toddlers to teens. There are many exhibits and programmes to enjoy, focusing on topics like space exploration, nature and international culture. Alternatively, Al-Nasr Leisureland, with its ice rink, bowling centre and swimming pools, will provide hours of arcade and sporting entertainment for more active kids.

Expat families will also love Dubai’s famous aquarium. Housed on the ground floor of the Dubai Mall, this massive aquarium is home to over 140 species of sea life, best enjoyed from the tunnels in the Underwater Zoo. 

For a day of boundless fun, families should head to Dubai Parks and Resorts. This sprawling project boasts a range of world-class theme parks, including Motiongate, which has rides based around Hollywood blockbusters, and Bollywood Parks, which similarly brings Bollywood films to life. The centre is also home to Legoland Dubai and Legoland Waterpark.

During the cooler months, families can pack a picnic and head off to Creekside Park for a day of fresh air where the little ones will have plenty of space to run around, ride their bicycles, or even take in a little miniature golf.


Education for kids in Dubai

As expat children don't usually attend state-run schools in Dubai, there is a wide choice of international schools in the emirate.

Parents will find that securing a spot for their little one in the school of their choice will likely be one of the most difficult tasks as a parent. Dubai schools are notoriously oversubscribed, and waiting lists are common for the best schools, so parents need to apply as early as possible. School fees can also be exorbitant, so expat parents planning a move to Dubai should seriously consider bringing this to the table when negotiating their relocation package.

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