Moving to Abu Dhabi

Professional international relocation services

The United Arab Emirates offers a wealth of opportunity for British expatriates. If you are about to relocate to Abu Dhabi, or you are considering the jump, now is the time to start considering the logistics of a long-haul move.

Packing up your life in the UK and shipping it halfway across the world presents its own unique challenges. It can be an overwhelming prospect and there is a lot of planning, logistics and admin work to deal with.

This is where we can help. We have moved countless individuals and families from the UK to Abu Dhabi. Our experience and training in this area gives us a great insight into the challenges involved, and we have tried and tested solutions for all your needs.

Take one load off your shoulders by delegating your international removals to a company that knows what it’s doing. It’s one less worry for you.

General advice

Moving to the Middle East is a big operation. Picking up your life and taking it halfway across the world isn’t simple, but with the right planning and preparation we can help you make it as seamless and efficient as possible.


We have been working in the UAE for a long time and, in that period, have picked up lots of advice, local knowledge and key information. We have a collection of useful articles on Abu Dhabi in our archive that can help you get ready for your big move, and we continue to add more content so that it’s always current. On this page, we give you a brief overview of what to expect when moving to Abu Dhabi.


Regional Information

Abu Dhabi is the second most-populous city in the United Arab Emirates after Dubai, as well as being the capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. It’s home to federal government offices and the President of the UAE, making it the political stronghold of the UAE.

It is considered a major cultural and commercial centre, accounting for around two-thirds of the UAE economy. Given that a high proportion of the population are international, there are plenty of job opportunities for those skilled in the right sectors. This attracts thousands of British expatriates every year, as does the high quality of life and low taxation.


The city is based on the south-east side of the Arabian Peninsula, on a small island joined to the mainland by a network of bridges. The climate is that of a hot desert, which can be a shock to the system for Western expatriates. From June through to September, temperatures can be so high that it’s uncomfortable to be outside – it can regularly top 38°C and beyond, and is humid. Even in the winter months, it rarely drops very low. The average lowest temperature in January, for example, is 13°C though the mean temperature is usually around 18°C.

Abu Dhabi Lifestyle

The lavish, luxury lifestyle of Abu Dhabi is one of the attractions of taking on a contract in the United Arab Emirates. It’s a modern city with the latest facilities, plenty of retail outlets and some fantastic fine-dining restaurants. There is a large community of foreign nationals, which leads to a vibrant and exciting nightlife, as well as opening up opportunities to network and build personal relations.

The weather can be a slightly limiting factor when it comes to outdoor leisure. The long, hot summers can be unbearable, especially coming from a Western climate. Good air conditioning and swimming pools go some way to offsetting the oppressive heat. Expatriates also make the most of the early evenings, when the temperature has dropped a little. It’s a popular time for families to hit the city parks for fresh air and picnics.

While a large majority of the Abu Dhabi population are expats, it’s important to remember that it is an Islamic country. There are various customs and observations, such as the call to prayer and Ramadan, as well as laws surrounding behavior, dress and alcohol.

Real Estate

Abu Dhabi has seen a massive growth in the development of new properties over the last few years. Rents have always been traditionally high, but they have dropped in recent months. Economic predictions at the start of 2018 suggest that rental prices will continue to fall this year. House sale prices have also been dropping. There are various factors cited as to the reason behind this fall, including the reduction in housing allowances and the introduction of VAT as of January 2018.

This has led to a lot of movement in the real estate market. While landlords might once have had the pick of tenants, now they are more likely to be offering incentives. This drop in residential rental rates and house sale prices means that for British expatriates about to move to the emirate, it’s a good time to look around to get the best possible property.

As Abu Dhabi’s economy is expected to grow in 2018 and more investments are being made in infrastructure and new business, the housing and rental markets will recover quickly. This could mean that it’s a good time to invest in property and await the uplift.


Before relocating to Abu Dhabi, it is important you arrange health insurance – it is mandatory in the emirate and you will need to have it in place to obtain your residence visa. Quite often, your new employer will provide and pay for your health insurance, but do check what it covers and who it covers. You may need to take out additional, more comprehensive cover, as well as cover for your family.

The level of coverage can vary quite a lot; more senior roles tend to come with more comprehensive health insurance cover. Health insurance policies give you an insurance card, which you will need to take with you to hospitals or clinics to receive care and treatment.

There are both public and private facilities throughout Abu Dhabi, all of which are of a good standard. It’s also fairly straightforward to find a doctor or specialist who speaks English, or has UK accreditations. Many healthcare professionals are themselves expatriates.

There are also good emergency services and you can dial 999 to receive immediate care, just as in the UK. Many expats only use public facilities in the event of an emergency, and other treatments and appointments are taken in private hospitals and surgeries.

Money and Utilities

The UAE has long been seen as a tax-free haven for expatriates. With a strong economy and plenty of business opportunities, there are no shortage of potential job roles. Salaries are generous in technical or senior roles which, combined with the lack of taxation, helps to provide for a high quality of life and luxury lifestyle. Abu Dhabi is one of the most popular cities in the UAE for expatriates (the other major expat city being Dubai). The Industrial City of Abu Dhabi is a free trade zone in a prime location on the outskirts of the city with ever-increasing international investment creating more and more opportunities.

However, there have been big changes in taxation in recent months. In 2017, the UAE government introduced a new tax procedure law. This lays out plans for a new tax system across the Emirates, which will be introduced in increments. It also defined the role of the Federal Tax Authority (FTA). As of October 2017, excise tax came into force for certain goods, which could see the price of some goods and products increasing as the levy is passed on from manufacturer to consumer.

In January 2018, VAT was also introduced at a rate of 5 per cent on non-essential commodities. The impact should be marginal at that low rate, but it does mean that the price of some goods will be affected.


At the moment, there seems to be no plans to introduce personal income tax, so for expatriates Abu Dhabi still offers good earning potential and a break from taxes – at least for earnings within the UAE.

How long should you allow for shipping to the Abu Dhabi?

It can take a little time for your belongings to reach Abu Dhabi, so you should build this into your removals plan. For sole use containers, the shipping time from London is approximately 5-7 weeks. For a shared container service, allow 9-11 weeks. Your personal effects will be subject to full inspection upon arrive in Abu Dhabi, which could take up to another 2 weeks.

What can you take?

Abu Dhabi is an Islamic state and as such there are some strong restrictions on the import of certain items into Abu Dhabi. We recommend you do not consider taking a lot of alcohol, large quantities of foodstuff, pork or pork-related products, weapons, firearms, fireworks, statues and figures with religious undertones, statues or artwork of naked human beings or any items that could be considered to be pornographic. Some of these items can be imported with prior approval, but limit where possible.

All printed material such as books, magazines, DVDs, videos, tapes, and photographs will be detained by customs and subjected to inspection when shipping to Abu Dhabi. You should declare these to the customs authorities on arrival, even if they are duty-free items. Other items that need to be declared include any medications, gifts with a value above 3,000 AED and radios.

There are plenty of items you can ship duty free, including all your personal luggage and belongings, lower-value gifts, electronic personal goods, pushchairs, sports equipment and cameras.

It is important to note you must be present in the UAE at the time of customs clearance. You will need to provide your passport, your stamped residence visa, proof of employment and a detailed inventory or packing list – this will be prepared by our international removals team. If you don’t yet have your residence visa, you will be charged a deposit based on the value of your goods, which you will get back if you submit your residence visa within 60 days.

Taking a car or motor vehicle

There are some restrictions on importing a car into the UAE, and it can be easier to buy new after relocation. Cars can only be imported if they are newer than 10 years old; if you have an older or vintage car to import, you would need to check with the relevant authority. You will need documentation to prove ownership of your car and a certificate of origin to show where the car was made. In the UAE, driving is on the left, therefore right-hand drive cars cannot be registered in the UAE. In order to register a car after importing, you will need legal UAE residency.

Moving to the Abu Dhabi with pets

Pets are generally less common in the UAE than they are in the UK, though there are plenty of residents who own a pet. There are limitations on where you can take your pet outside your home, with certain areas out of bounds for animals. This includes most open public spaces, beaches, parks and boulevards. Dogs must be kept on the lead at all times when being walked. Many rental properties in Abu Dhabi do not allow pets, so finding somewhere to live can be more difficult. The intense heat in the summer months can also be problematic for some animals, who are not used to the weather. However, it is possible to take pets to Abu Dhabi with you, as long as they are microchipped, fully vaccinated and are issued with an international health certificate within 10 days of arriving in the UAE. You can take up to two pets with you when you relocate. Please be aware that some breeds of dog are restricted.

Moving to Abu Dhabi can be quite a departure from life in London, so there are many cultural and lifestyle changes to prepare for.

We have put together a series of useful guides to the emirate to help you research and plan for your new life. This includes city guides, advice on buying property and all the latest news from the UAE.

One less thing for you to worry about is the logistics and implementation of your moving plan – that’s our job.

The Cadogan Tate International Removals Team has a lot of experience in moving goods to Abu Dhabi, so we can ensure that the process goes smoothly and efficiently.

Enquire now or call us on +44 (0) 20 8108 7116

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