Expat's Guide to Dubai

Dubai has long been known among expats as the glittering jewel in the crown of the United Arab Emirates. With its strong economy, lucrative business opportunities, higher salaries and generous expat packages, this cosmopolitan city has a substantial expat population with plenty of opportunities to meet like-minded people and socialise through the expat network.
Of course, this glowing recommendation does come at a price – the cost of living is relatively high in Dubai, as are the costs of childcare and education. However, the latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey revealed that three in five expats (60%) living in the UAE feel their overall quality of life has risen since moving there. In this article, we’re going to explore some of what Dubai has to offer expats.

1. Living in Dubai

Moving to Dubai can mean living the dream for many expats. The luxury housing market is practically no holds barred, and whether you are seeking a compact villa or an opulent palace of an abode on the elite Palm Jumeirah, you will find it can be arranged. There are villas and apartments to suit a variety of budgets and preferences, some located in gated communities and others set in lush, private gardens.
Dubai has, of course, a hot climate with highs of up to 45°C and experiences very little rainfall throughout the year. Consequently, a pool might be a welcome respite from the stifling heat experienced outdoors and the constant air-conditioning that is a prerequisite in all indoor spaces in Dubai.
Expats will need a residence permit to rent accommodation in Dubai and it is recommended that those looking to rent should only use officially registered brokers who hold a Broker’s Registration ID card and whose office has a license issued by the Department of Economic Development.
One of the big draws for expats is that the UAE is a mostly tax-free country, so agreed salaries won’t need to be split with the government. Instead, revenue is collected through annual car registration renewal, parking charges and other smaller fees, while you may find that some hotel bars and restaurants may add tax to the bill.

2. Healthcare

The standard of healthcare in Dubai is high and the health infrastructure is very well developed. Both locals and expats can have easy access to the modern medical facilities. Many of the medical staff in Dubai is foreign trained and English is commonly spoken.
If you are coming to Dubai as an expat, you will need to undergo blood tests and a medical exam to ensure your capability to work and overall health. Whether you are seeking an e-card for work or residence visa, the medical exam is required. Your employer will often arrange this.
If you have gone through the required medical tests, you can apply for the Dubai health card. This card allows you to seek medical treatments at public clinics and public hospitals. These cards are valid for one year, and it is possible to renew the card online. To apply for the Dubai health card, you are going to need the following:

  • A copy of your passport
  • A covering letting from your sponsor
  • The completed application form
  • Two passport size photos
  • A copy of your visa application

Dubai health insurance
Only basic treatments are covered by the Dubai health card. That is why most expats opt for additional private insurance. This gives access to the private hospitals offering leading medical services from an international staff. Many employers cover the private insurance costs. It is recommended to have this arranged before making your move.

3. Education in Dubai

There were no non-religious schools in Dubai until the 1960s. Earlier schools only accepted boys and belonged to Mosques. The educational system has undergone gradual reforms since 1965. School is compulsory for children aged 6 to 12. The vast majority of student in Dubai (89 percent) attend private school.
Because Dubai is extremely popular among expats, there are many Westernised and international schools available that offer a Western environment and special curriculum for expat children. These often forgo the educational system of the UAE, following their own curriculum and examination providers instead.
One of the biggest expenses for expat families is likely to be schooling for children. Over the past few years, there has been a rise in school fees. While the schools in Dubai adhere to high standards for the most part, there are different approaches. Parents should consider what their priorities are in choosing an institution and what kind of learning environment will best suit their child.

4. Driving in Dubai

The roads in Dubai are managed by the Road Transport Authority. They also provide the public transport systems and enforce parking regulations. Fuel prices are low in Dubai, making cars and 4x4s popular, leading to heavy congestion on the Dubai roads. With busy roads and a large expatriate population, driving in Dubai can take some getting used to.

5. Public transportation

As the first of the Emirates to establish a comprehensive bus system, it is quite extensive and offers great connections throughout the city. Buses are very affordable and some bus stations are fully air-conditioned to provide shelters during the scorching summer months. In accordance with religious and cultural preferences, buses offer specific areas designated for women.
Dubai has also had a metro system since 2008. It is a state-of-the-art metro rail system offering passengers a fast and efficient mode of transport. Passenger use has exploded in the last decade, primarily because of the stops near shopping malls and free car parking available at the stations outside the centre.
Remember there is no eating or drinking allowed on the metro and offenders can incur heavy fines. You can find detailed information about stations, fares, and timings – on the Dubai Metro website.

6. Leisure activities in Dubai

The variety of leisure activities to enjoy in Dubai is truly spectacular. Shopping is taken to a new level with malls throughout the city boasting all manner of specialities from gadgets and entertainment to designer goods and restaurants. And the malls don’t stop at shopping – Dubai Mall even offers an ice rink, underwater zoo and an aquarium where you can dive with sharks. Additionally, Dubai offers stunning beaches, world class dining, indoor ski slopes, desert safaris, golf and plenty of family fun including water parks and beautiful green spaces.
The Burj Khalifa is the landmark building of Dubai. It is the most famous of Dubai’s points of interest and the tallest building in the world at 829.8 meters. Even for residents, the observation deck on the 124th floor is often cited a frequent ‘must see’.
If you are considering moving to Dubai or the other Emirates, Cadogan Tate will assist you every step of the way – from your first enquiry to unpacking at your new home, we are here to help and advise you. For more details about Cadogan Tate’s specialist international removals services from London, click here.