Moving to Dubai

Moving to Dubai – Practical Tips for Hassle-Free Relocation

Moving to Dubai – what to ship, how to organise the removals and other essential tips for no-stress move to Dubai

Packing up and moving can be stressful even if your new house is down the street. When you are moving to Dubai, it can become a real problem unless you know exactly how to organise the process.

So you have found a job in Dubai, sorted out your contract and visas, looked at renting a property in Dubai and even had a go at sorting out a school in Dubai for your child. You feel you are ready, what’s next?

Visit Dubai and Orientate Yourself with the City

Do not even think of moving to Dubai until you’ve visited the emirate and spent some time getting to know every corner of Dubai city. 

Most tourists are automatically entitled to a 30-day visit visa, your passport will be stamped with your entry entitlement when you land at the airport.

Emirates airline’s information pages have visit visa information for those from other nations.  So, before you travel, ensure you’re aware of your entitlements and any limitations on how long you can remain.

Use your orientation days wisely.  Don’t just lounge on the beach or mooch round the shopping malls…as tempting as the thought might be.

If you’re moving to Dubai because your company is relocating, or you’ve been headhunted/recruited by a local employer, you may be lucky enough that they’ll pay for the trip and arrange it for you.  If not, these are the basic things you need to cover: –

  • Consider the benefits of using a relocation agent to help you move
  • They will meet you when you travel to Dubai for your orientation trip and help you get to know the city
  • Alternatively, make private arrangements to meet an estate agent or two to view properties in different areas of the city
  • Spend time prior to your visit online and via books finding out about the different areas of Dubai
  • Make a detailed list of the places you want to visit – from schools to hospitals, from the government offices to the range of leisure offerings you might make use of when you finally move to Dubai
  • Consider hiring a driver for at least a couple of days, get them to take you to all corners of the city you have identified that you want to visit
  • Keep an active diary – write the places you’ve seen and your first impressions
  • If you don’t like any of the accommodation options you’ve viewed, hopefully you’ll have time to meet different agents and view different areas/apartments.
  • If not, at least make a note of areas of the city/suburbs that you’ve visited which could potentially make a nice place to call home
  • Go to a supermarket and look at the real cost of day-to-day groceries
  • Visit a car dealership and find out about costs, terms, availability and your options
  • You should even try to find the time to visit furniture and electrical goods stores to find out the price of goods that you may need, and to help you decide what you should ship and what you can affordably buy new

Your orientation trip will give you a really good feel for Dubai, areas to live in, renting opportunities, schools and other essentials.

Planning Your Relocation to Dubai

As already mentioned there are relocation companies which specialise in moving to Dubai.  They will help you find a place to live, they will assist you with your visas and medical cards, they will plan your move and ensure your personal effects are pack up and shipped out.

Alternatively you can do all of the above by yourself!

Firstly ensure your permissions are in place – use the excellent Dubai government’s website to get informed, and consider asking on forums for any advice from anyone who has recently made the move.

Your new company may assist you with this aspect of your relocation – but you may then end up on your own when it comes to working out how to sponsor your family for example.

Find a removal company to move your personal effects to Dubai – there are plenty to choose from!  They will give you a quote based on the volume of ‘stuff’ you want to move – and you may need an entire container or just part of a container.  Get quotes. It won’t be cheap so think long and hard about how much you really need to ship.

Whether you should ship your furniture and personal possessions to the UAE or not is a bit of a personal preference, because of course you can get anything and everything you could possibly want in Dubai where there are not only traditional furniture souks and shops, but there’s an IKEA too!

However, an individual will have to think about cost of shipping versus the cost of storage in their home nation, or the cost of shipping versus the cost of buying new in the UAE, and even whether furniture and personal effects will fit into a new home in Dubai.

There is a whole list of considerations from cost to hassle, so should you ship or shop when you move to Dubai?

Can You Fit Furniture In Anyway?

For those moving to Dubai where rental rates are still exorbitant despite the property market crash, they may find they have to move into a far smaller property than they are used to, and that only half their furniture will fit anyway. 

Naturally for such expatriates, at least half of their consideration is taken away for them – i.e., they will have to leave at least half of their furniture behind anyway!

Is it Cheaper to Ship, or Shop for Furniture in Dubai?

The next consideration is of course cost.  International shipping costs of course depend on where you’re shipping from and companies will give you prices based on a whole or a half container, a container for shipping a vehicle or a cost per kilogramme if you only want to ship certain specific items. 

The international shipping company will also assist you with information about current regulations and restrictions on importation, because these do tend to alter regularly. 

There are certain goods that you can’t import, certain goods which are taxed upon arrival and other items that will be scrutinised closely!  What’s more, you need to be in Dubai to receive your personal effects when they arrive.

Shipping times vary, and some expats from the likes of American and Australia complain of excessively long wait times of over 6 weeks before their furniture arrives. 

Naturally this adds another layer of complexity, cost and hassle as you have to find temporary furnished accommodation until your goods land in Dubai.

When it comes to talking about the UAE and Dubai in particular, most expats who have been relocated there in the past by an employer, or headhunted or employed by a local company will have a relocation allowance. 

This can cover shipping or it can cover shopping.  It’s a personal preference. 

Many goods such as electrical items are cheap in the UAE compared to the relative cost in the West, and in our experience, expats would be wise to do a reconnaissance mission and look at the larger furniture shops and electrical goods stores in advance of their move and think about what they want to ship and what they want to buy new.

How Long Are You Staying in Dubai?

Another decision-making factor to bear in mind is how long you will be living in Dubai for.  Of course, this is not something that you can say for definite as you may find you don’t like it as much as you thought.

In addition, your life position can change and you can’t stay as long as you wanted.  But if you intend staying for the short-term only, it may be better to buy new and very cheaply just for the duration of your stay, rather than packing everything up and moving it, only to have to pack it up and move it back 6 months or so later.

At this point in time you may well be wondering if it is indeed worth the time, the money and the hassle to import your worldly goods when you move to Dubai.  And again, we would say that it’s a completely personal decision.

Who Ships Their Furniture to Dubai and Who Buys New?

Those who are relocating their entire family for a new life in Dubai often find that spending the time and working out which personal effects and goods to ship can make all the difference between settling in easily and not. 

Children particularly find it comforting to have reminders of home around them when they move to a new country – so it can indeed be well worth the time, money and hassle.  Of course, if you can negotiate a good relocation deal with your employer, the money won’t be an issue anyway!

You will be in the majority if you ship stuff out and if you’re planning on staying in Dubai for at least the medium term.  Those who do so most often are families or couples, whereas single professionals tend to not mind buying new.

Final Pieces of Advice

And now a final couples of notes for you to bear in mind if you are moving to Dubai and you can’t decide whether to ship your personal effects or buy new in Dubai. 

As a lot of people are leaving Dubai and the UAE as a result of job losses at the moment, there are people offering furniture and white goods as well as cars for sale for very low prices.  This is good news if you’re moving to the region and wanting to buy furniture for a new home for example.

Also, don’t ship your DVDs and CDs, carry them with you and ship the cases otherwise they may well be confiscated for “approval checks” and you will never see them again. 

The same goes for books, think about storing rather than shipping as they may be confiscated, and finally and most importantly, don’t take or ship food items or drugs of any sort if you want to avoid hassle from the customs officials.

You will probably arrive in Dubai before your furniture anyway, so make sure you have temporary accommodation sorted. 

Everything else can be sorted out once you’ve made the move and you’re on the ground.  Our dedicated living in Dubai section covers the many elements you may then need to explore, from what it’s like living locally during Ramadan, to how expats enjoy their social life for example.

Finally, it just remains to reiterate that you really need to visit to get a feel for the emirate and the lifestyle, because it isn’t actually to everyone’s taste. 

We have heard Dubai described as heaven and hell…so make sure it really is what you expect before you even consider moving to Dubai permanently.

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