The one thing you won’t hear expats complaining about is lifestyle in Dubai. 

The emirate as a whole has developed a strong tourism-based economy, and as a result the attractions and amenities on offer in Dubai are inimitable; and naturally all residents can benefit.

From a range of theme parks to private beach clubs, from incredibly opulent shopping malls to cinema complexes and an abundance of restaurants, Dubai really does have it all.

Getting your liquor licence

The first thing many British expatriates worry about is whether the emirate is dry.  Well, the good news is that expats over the age of 21 are permitted to drink outside the home in licensed bars such as those in some hotels and private clubs for example, and they are allowed to have alcohol for personal consumption in the home as long as they have a liquor license.

Dubai Lifestyle
New Year fireworks display in Dubai Marina, UAE

Obtaining a license isn’t difficult.  You have two ways of going about it. 

The first way is the easiest.  Your employer handles the application for you. 

The second is that you do it yourself by going to one of the branches of the two dedicated retailers who are allowed to sell alcohol in Dubai, these are MMI and A&E (there’s an MMI at the Mall of the Emirates for example).

You need to be non-Muslim and you will need to be able to prove that you are a resident in Dubai.

Ask a member of staff or go to the till and ask for an alcohol licence application form.  When you complete the form it’s sensible to add your spouse’s name and details as well if you will both want to be able to use the licence.

You will need to take the completed application form to your employer to sign and stamp and then you can hand it back at any branch of MMI or A&E and they will process if for you through the police department.  You’ll need the usual passport copies, passport photos and copies of your residency visa too.

If the requirements are not clear on the application form, just ask a member of staff who will advise you.

When you hand the form back at the shop, retain the tear-off strip from the application form as you re-present this when you go to collect your licence. 

When you hand your application in remember to ask how long it will take to process as times differ depending on the time of the year.  You will be charged around Dhs 200 for the processing of the application.

Once you get your licence back you’ll know how much alcohol you’re allowed to buy as this is restricted by the police department based on your salary and their discretion.

For most people, the limit is fine and manageable, but if you’re planning a party you will need to stockpile for a few months in advance!

Alcohol prices in Dubai are high because alcohol is taxed at about 30%.  There is literally zero tolerance for drink driving – so don’t think you can get away with just a quick half before getting on the road. 

If you’re stopped and caught out the penalties are high.  You’re not supposed to transport alcohol in a taxi or on public transport – and in theory, you’re even supposed to have a license to be able to consume alcohol in a licensed bar.

In practice we’ve never heard of anyone being asked to provide a license – and as tourists can’t get a license (you have to be a resident) and they freely buy alcohol, although in doing so they are theoretically breaking the law, you can see why this particular rule is not enforced.

Shopping is integral to lifestyle in Dubai

Beyond drinking, there is plenty more to do in Dubai.

Shopping is a big part of lifestyle in Dubai. If you like shopping there’s the annual Dubai Shopping Festival with its incredible events, competitions and prizes.  It takes place at the start of the year and includes all sorts of additional attractions such as impressive fireworks displays for example.

For the rest of the year you can visit the malls – and whilst the shopping options in Dubai aren’t particularly exceptional, (they’re the same products you can buy anywhere in the world), the malls are worth visiting as many of them are attractions in their own right.

Take the Mall of the Emirates for example, it has it’s own indoor ski slope.  Then there will be the Mall of Arabia that’s purported to be opening in 2012 and which will feature a dinosaur park!  Or how about Souk Madinat Jumeirah with its waterways?

Dining out

Having shopped ‘til you’ve dropped, perhaps you’d like to have something to eat? 

There are so many different restaurants in Dubai that you can eat out at a different establishment every night of the year!  Gordon Ramsey, Jamie Oliver and Gary Rhodes all have restaurants in the emirate if you fancy something a celebrity chef has allegedly created.

Alternatively, pick a nation’s cuisine and Google it followed by the suffix ‘in Dubai’ and chances are you’ll find a restaurant catering to your tastes.

Time Out Dubai is probably the best place to start when looking for a restaurant – and it’s an excellent place to find out what’s going on day to day in the emirate.

Dubai lifestyle – summary

For expats living in Dubai, the one thing that becomes quite important after the initial euphoria of your new life experience has waned, is establishing community and companionship.  The good news is that there are no end of clubs and societies you can join in with, and plenty of small groups and friendly fellowships to connect with.

From mother and baby groups to a rugby club, from the Working Mothers Club to the Dubai Irish society.  Once again, you name it and it probably exists in Dubai.  Naturally enough, most expats are really welcoming to new members because they can easily remember what it was like to be newly arrived and a bit lost in the big city.

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