Living In Dubai – The Expat’s Guide 2020
Thinking about living in Dubai? Our essential guide to life in Dubai will help you to plan your move and enjoy everything Dubai has to offer.
A new life in Dubai could well be one of the most exciting experiences you’ll ever enjoy. However, moving to Dubai like any new country can be daunting, especially if you lack practical knowledge of how things are done locally. We’re going to take a look at the pros and cons of living in Dubai, with practical tips on residency, taxes, education, to health and plenty more.
With our Dubai tips and you will know what to expect, so you can plan beforehand and make the very most of everything that the Dubai lifestyle has to offer.
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Like any other place in the world, Dubai has a lot going for it as well as some major drawbacks. When moving to a new place it is essential you know what both bad and good things you can expect from your new home.
Living in Dubai is really what you make of it. It’s a matter of personal choice and preferences and also finding out whether the opportunities Dubai offers (such as a good income not burdened with taxes) outweigh possible negatives.
Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It is also the name of the main city within the emirate of Dubai.
Dubai’s wealth has been built on its oil industry, but it has successfully diversified its economy so that today it has multiple strands supporting its fiscal strength – including tourism, real estate, financial services, health and education.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the ruler of Dubai, and together with Abu Dhabi, the emirate has veto power over certain matters of national importance in the country’s legislature.
As a result of this, foreign buyers are allowed to own the freehold title to certain property in Dubai for example – this is not the case in all other emirates within the UAE.
Dubai has become an exceptionally popular choice for relocation with expatriates for a number of key reasons.
Firstly, despite the emirate’s economic contraction which hit the world in 2008, Dubai now is still a booming economy where there was an abundance of employment prospects, and opportunity for strong speculation in the local property market abounded.
The other key reason why living in Dubai is so appealing to expats is because the lifestyle locally is exceptionally good, particularly for Western expats who benefit from a largely excellent climate, wonderful leisure facilities, a relatively laid back pace of life and good education and healthcare standards.
If you are seriously considering moving to Dubai, this is what you need to know before you move:
For those who want to advance their careers, earn a tax-free salary, and live in one of the most exciting and vibrant locations in the world – Dubai is a top place to move to. Building your professional career in Dubai can be an exciting experience, so if you want to have a go – read How to find jobs in Dubai and secure employer-sponsored visa, and start your career there.
Many people made strong fortunes in Dubai, and even to this day, it’s a centre of wealth and prosperity.
Expats who relocate long-term to Dubai can legitimately earn their salary free from income tax. No income tax in Dubai is a big deal for many professionals, plus there some additional tax advantages and some pitfalls as well. It’s essential to understand whether Dubai is really as tax-free as it’s famed for and you can get to the bottom of it in our Tax in Dubai guide.
One may say that the emirate’s heady days of constant economic expansion are over, for now at least, but there are still jobs in Dubai in many employment sectors.
The OAE is aiming to become one of the strongest global tech and innovation hubs in the bid to reduce oil dependency and diversify economy even further.
Dubai especially has an excellent infrastructure and connectivity and the government is doing quite a lot to promote Dubai as a perfect destination for global talent and start-ups.
Knowing which professions are in greatest demand in the OAE now and probably in the foreseeable future can help you considerably in finding a good job in Dubai.
If an employer is relocating you to be working in Dubai you want to negotiate your employment package. The cost of living in Dubai is so high you need relocation costs, accommodation costs and your children’s education costs taken into consideration at the very least.
If you’re looking for work in the emirate you can enter on a visit visa, depending on the nation you herald from, and target employers directly. You can also look online to see which recruitment companies can assist you to find work in the emirate.
You will need a labour card and your employer will have to sponsor your visa to live and work in the emirate.
If you lose your job you will have 30 days to find another job and another sponsor, or else you will have to leave Dubai.
You cannot just change jobs on a whim in Dubai – depending on the level of formal education you have, this restricts the number of times you can change job believe it or not!
When talking about living in Dubai, the majority of the time we’re talking about the City of Dubai rather than the emirate as a whole. This is where the majority of Britons base themselves in the emirate, and where they find work. The City of Dubai is also the lifestyle hub for the entire region.
Lifestyle in Dubai is the one thing you won’t hear expats complaining about. Although due to the heat it is mostly limited to indoor air-conditioned activities, nevertheless there are plenty entertainments of all sorts including amazing shopping.
From a range of theme parks to private beach clubs, from incredibly opulent shopping malls to cinema complexes and an abundance of restaurants, from indoor snowboarding to the most remarkable music festivals – Dubai really does have it all.
Read what kind of lifestyle in Dubai you can expect and how to get the most out of life in Dubai (including your liquor licence).
There are multiple malls in Dubai – and in fact, the largest mall in the world exists in Dubai. What’s more, you can buy everything from Ikea furniture to traditional textiles in the emirate.
A lot of what you buy is tax-free – however, importation costs can ratchet up what you’re paying for items. Moreover, VAT was introduced in 2018 at a rate of 5% excluding basic food items, healthcare and education. Take care when out shopping if you’re on a budget.
Shop in local markets and supermarkets for cheaper prices.
Avoid malls on a Friday night as they are packed.
Many expats leaving Dubai are looking of offload everything from furniture to cars – look on forums and supermarket/employment place notice boards for bargains.
When it comes to the cost of living in Dubai there is again good and bad news.
The cost of accommodation can be as much as GBP 15,000 a year for a decent rental apartment in a good location and this has to be paid upfront.
What’s more, if you want to buy a property in Dubai you may have to wait many years for an off-plan apartment or villa to be completed or pay top dollar for a resale property.
However, if you already own property in Dubai and want to rent it out, the good news is that you can easily achieve yields of between 8 and 11%.
Other than accommodation the other high cost outlays you need to be aware of include school fees which are now extortionate at the best schools as expats fight for places.
Whilst there is a law restricting the annual rate of school fee inflation to between 16 and 20 percent, schools find all sorts of ways to add on extras and this has seen annual inflation of up to 80 percent in school fees.
Medical insurance and the cost of healthcare is high – but then the quality you get is exceptional.
Basic day to day grocery costs are average, alcohol is expensive and can only be bought in hotel bars and clubs or if you have a license for your own home.
Fuel costs are affordable as are vehicle costs when compared to the UK for example.
Even with the introduction of VAT in Dubai (at a rate of 5% it is one of the lowest in the world) daily shopping costs are very reasonable.
Since the introduction of mandatory health insurance in Dubai every resident living in Dubai needs to be insured one way or another.
Valid health insurance is necessary to obtain a residency visa. The new law is a part of Dubai’s programme to become one of the most advanced countries in terms of healthcare, its quality and affordability for all residents.
As you are moving to a totally different climate with totally different local bugs and health threats, there are some essential steps to be undertaken before your relocation and during your stay in Dubai.
Our Healthcare in Dubai guide will tell you what you need to do before and after moving to keep your family and yourself healthy in Dubai, and what you can expect from Dubai healthcare system.
Learn as much about Dubai as you can before you move there – and if possible, visit before you commit to relocation.
Also, get on forums and chats with other expats who already live in the emirate to find out what it’s really like.
Knowing and following laws and rules in Dubai is a key to your wellbeing in the country.
Dubai is a rapidly expanding metropolis, attracting holidaymakers and expats from all over the globe. It is modern, lively and busy.
When it comes to driving in Dubai, obeying the traffic regulations should become your first priority.
You cannot get your own car in Dubai until you have a local driving license, but you can rent a car on your international license.
If you want to ride a motorbike in Dubai you need to have a license from your own nation, if you want to take tours off-road in the UAE you need to pass a desert driving course.
Getting around a modern metropolis for those who don’t like driving or don’t feel comfortable with it in a foreign country is initially a challenge.
It takes some time getting used to routes, modes of transports and local know-how of using public transport. However, after you familiarise yourself with it, getting around the city will become only easier.
Dubai is planning to become the smartest city in the world in terms of public transport.
The city can already boast driverless Metro trains, Tesla taxi cars, and even self-driving buses are becoming a reality. So travelling by public transport in Dubai can be a perfect option for those who want to avoid the hassle of driving.
Property prices in Dubai have surged and crashed, however, rental rates remain exceptionally high.
What’s more, you may be expected to pay for one year’s rent in advance. This can be difficult for many moving to the emirate, and some employers help out.
Find out if they will also help you find somewhere to live as this can be tricky and time-consuming.
If at all possible, reside in Dubai in temporary accommodation for as long as you can so you have plenty of time to get to know the different residential areas. This way you can find the right one for you and your needs and tastes.
Different areas of the emirate cost very different amounts and are more or less salubrious. Learn where would suit you before you commit to renting a property in Dubai on a permanent basis.
Moving to Dubai can be made easy if you plan beforehand, do your research and get essential things done on time.
Visit Dubai and stay there for some time to get the feel of the pace, find a job before relocating, research schools and places to live, do your paperwork, plan your relocation carefully – these are basic steps of moving to Dubai that can define your success or failure.
Dubai is truly an intoxicating country that offers the potential for an unprecedented lifestyle. A true world-class vision of a futuristic forward-looking city, that still holds onto a conservative tradition that you will have to accept if you choose Dubai.
If you’re the type of person who thrives on buzz and excitement, Dubai could well be the perfect place to call home.
No doubt, Dubai as a destination is a personal choice. Some people love it, some people hate it. However, what’s certain is that if you can love it, you can save an incredible amount of tax and potentially build much more wealth than you ever could back home!