Moving to Dubai

Let us organise your relocation to Dubai

Dubai is a popular location for expatriates, and here at Cadogan Tate we have plenty of experience in moving customers to the UAE. Relocating to another country is stressful and there are a lot of elements to consider, but we can help to streamline the process by planning and executing the move with practised efficiency…


In this guide to Dubai, we will go through the key things you need to think about, such as where to live, what to take with you, the cost of living and moving with children.


Our international removal specialists can help you through the process, dealing with paperwork, customs and making sure that nothing is forgotten or left behind.


Cadogan Tate International Movers are experienced and knowledgeable in all aspects of moving to Dubai. We can guide you through each key stage of the process and help you prepare for your relocation. We have plenty of experience with shipments to Dubai and can advise on planning, packing, transportation and customs regulations. This includes knowing what you can and can’t take with you, what paperwork is required and how to deal with specialist items.

Our personalised service starts from your first contact with us. It is important that we take into account your individual moving needs, so one of our relocation surveyors will come to your home to assess what you wish to take with you to Dubai. We can arrange the right shipping, storage, specialist packaging and paperwork needed for your belongings, so they arrive safely at your new destination and with the relevant permissions. Giving you one less thing to worry about.

Once we have made our initial visit and assessment, we can give you a detailed no-obligation quote. If you decide to use our services, you will be assigned a Move Co-ordinator who will manage your move from start to finish.

Get in touch today to find out how we can help you with your move to Dubai and to get a tailored quote to meet your requirements.

Enquire now or call us on +44 (0) 20 8963 4000


General advice

Dubai is a popular expat location due to its world-class luxury accommodation, work/life balance, excellent career prospects and high earning potential. With tax-free living, it’s no wonder so many professional and skilled expatriates are attracted to the region; in fact, the native population is small and the majority of residents are migrant or expat workers. This lends the city a real multicultural vibe and makes it easier to settle into a new life. Find out more about living and working in Dubai in our guide.


There are plenty of large international businesses based here, across a wide range of industries, but in particular banking, finance, tourism, communications and construction offer good opportunities. Many expats will already have a job offer before moving to Dubai, but for those drawn to the lifestyle and looking for a position, see our article on getting started with finding a job in the city.


Regional Information

Dubai is a popular destination for expatriates of all nationalities and one of the top countries British professionals opt to relocate to. It offers good opportunities to develop a career in the Middle East, with high earning potential. Many British expats are relocated through inter-company transfers, while others are headhunted for their particular skills.


The tax-free living has drawn expatriates to the UAE for decades and Dubai is undergoing continual growth to meet demand. There are always new apartment blocks and villas being built, and neighbourhoods are expanding beyond the city limits. Dubai is a new city – just 40 years old – and one that is constantly pushing boundaries. It is home to some of the tallest buildings in the world and some of the most architecturally stunning.


Dubai also offers the chance to experience a new culture, though it is quite Westernised. One of the hardest things to adapt to is the heat. It can easily top 40 degrees, with high humidity and little rain.


Dubai LifeStyle

The quality of life in Dubai is high. This is equally matched by the cost of living, although this is somewhat offset by lower taxes and high wages. It is a vibrant, international city, with world-class facilities and amenities.


It is important to remember that Dubai is an Arab emirate and a strictly Muslim country. It is very tolerant of other religions and allows them to be practised, but it draws a line against proselytising. It also means certain religious conventions need to be recognised and respected, such as the month of Ramadan when hours in shops and other establishments will be shorter.


It also means the culture can be very different and there are laws that are uncommon in the Western world, but must be followed. For those moving with children, it’s important to be aware of the Guardianship laws and have the correct paperwork in place before moving. Certain behaviour is expected, such as modest dress, no alcohol outside of the home or licenced venue, and no public displays of affection. Unmarried couples may not live together. We have put together a guide to some of the most important laws to be aware of when moving to Dubai.


For women moving to Dubai, it is worth being aware of how the lifestyle in the UAE differs from what they may be used to. There are plenty of female expatriates calling Dubai home. However, there are things to note, especially when a woman is moving to the emirate alongside her husband, but with the intention of also working. Find out more about life for expat women in the UAE in our article.


While you need to be aware of the more conservative laws and expectations and make sure you are comfortable with them, the majority of expats enjoy the many lifestyle benefits that Dubai offers. English is widely spoken and it’s a generally friendly city that is welcoming of expats. There is an amazing nightlife scene, with plenty of entertainment venues and shows to enjoy, as well as restaurants with world-class international cuisine. It’s also an architecturally stunning city, with lots of buildings of note to visit. Getting around the city is stress-free too; while the roads can be very busy, the Dubai Metro system is clean, efficient and widely used.


Real Estate

Dubai is a modern city and most of the accommodation available is very new and ultra-modern. Most expats will choose to rent, though there are good opportunities to buy too. A lot of the living space comes in the form of large, serviced apartment blocks, and they are usually furnished to a high standard, enabling expats to move right in. There are short-term leases available for these kinds of apartments, which is useful for expatriates getting used to an area before committing to a long-term rental or purchase.


Outside of the main city centre, there are residential areas that offer more family-friendly homes, such as large villas. Often a home or a housing allowance is provided as part of a relocation package, but you may prefer to hunt for the right property yourself. Things to consider include how much space you need, how many bedrooms and what the nearby schools are like.


The cost of renting has come down a little from its peak in the mid-2000s, but it is still a significant outgoing. The monthly rent for a furnished apartment can cost anywhere from AED 6,000 to AED 8,500 (£1,200 to £1,800), depending on the area, with smaller studios costing less and larger family villas significantly more.



Dubai has many different residential areas to suit your needs and preferences. For example, Dubai Marina is particularly popular with expatriates, with its high-rise waterfront buildings dominating the skyline. There is a man-made harbour at its centre, which is full of shops and restaurants. This area attracts young professionals, both singles and couples, drawn to the vibrant nightlife and social scene.


Downtown is another desirable area for expats. It can get quite busy on the streets at peak times, but it is perfect for those who want to live right at the heart of the city. There are various apartments and villas in this area, with new properties being built all the time to meet demand.


For those looking for a quieter, more family-centric, neighbourhood, consider Arabian Ranches. This is a quiet suburb with wide, leafy streets and larger villas. It has a strong Western community and is great for children, with some excellent schools in the area. It does mean you’ll need a car to commute into the city. Families may also consider Emirates Hills, which is made up of small residential areas of large, spacious villas, while remaining close to the city centre.


For those who want to be close to the beach, the Jumeirah Beach Residence is a long stretch of apartments right along the sand. The high-rise buildings consist of flats with balconies to make the most of the view, and usually offer underground parking for convenience too. The apartments often have other on-site amenities too, such as communal gardens, a gym or a pool.


Children and Education

Many families move to Dubai and, as such, the Emirate does cater to children’s educational requirements. The state schools are only open to Emirati children and citizens of nearby Islamic countries, meaning expatriate children must attend private schools or be homeschooled. There are plenty of world-recognised international schools in Dubai, following the British, American, German, French, Japanese or Indian education systems.


There is plenty to do in Dubai for children, though they may struggle to get used to the heat of the summer, limiting outdoor activities in the peak of the day. Find out more about moving to the UAE with children in our guide.


The cost of living in Dubai is considered high for families. For British expatriates however, it is comparable to the cost of living in London. The largest costs will be accommodation and private education. The best international schools are popular, so they do have long waiting lists and the highest fees. Your relocation package may include an allowance towards school fees, which can cost from AED 50,000 to AED 115,000 a year (£10,000 to £25,000). See further information on the cost of living in Dubai with children.


We have put together a list of international schools in Dubai to help you find out more about your options for education.

School name Website Country curriculum Junior School Senior School
American School of Dubai United States Yes Yes
Bradenton Academy Dubai United States Yes Yes
Clarion School Dubai United States Yes Yes
Deira International School United Kingdom / International Yes Yes
Dubai American Academy United States / International Yes Yes
Dubai British School United Kingdom Yes Yes
Dubai College United Kingdom Yes Yes
Dubai English Speaking School United Kingdom Yes
Emirates International School International Yes Yes
English College Dubai United Kingdom Yes Yes
Foremarke School United Kingdom Yes
Hartland International School United Kingdom Yes
Jumeirah English Speaking School United Kingdom Yes
Jumeirah College United Kingdom Yes
GEMS Cambridge International School – Dubai India Yes Yes
GEMS Millennium School India Yes Yes
GEMS Modern Academy India Yes Yes
GEMS Royal Dubai School United Kingdom Yes
Raffles International School United Kingdom / International Yes Yes
Repton School Dubai United Kingdom Yes Yes
Swiss International Scientific School International Yes


Health insurance is compulsory for all citizens, residents and visitors to Dubai. As such, it is likely your new employer will provide you with a certain level of cover. It is important to check what this cover includes, as it may just cover you, as the employee, and not your partner or family. Many of the larger, international corporations will include family health insurance.


Every member of the family is required to have health insurance by Emirate law. Employers legally only have to provide a minimum level of cover, which includes maternity, outpatient treatment, in-patient treatment and treatment for existing conditions. Depending on your personal needs and those of your family, you may need to consider a more comprehensive package. You can find out more about healthcare options in Dubai in our guide.


The UAE in general is well known for its excellent healthcare provisions, meaning you can expect a high standard of care. In Dubai, many of the medical professionals are also expats, making it easy to find a doctor or specialist who speaks English.


If you are looking for comprehensive health insurance for your relocation to Dubai, there are some well-regarded international companies who can provide a policy. We have a list of popular health insurance providers who offer cover for expatriates.


Money and Utilities

While the cost of living in Dubai is high, it is comparable with major Western cities. In Mercer’s Cost of Living Index 2018, Dubai places 26th out of 209 worldwide cities. For comparison, London comes in at 19th. There are inevitable costs associated with any international move, including shipping and travelling. Many companies will offer a good relocation package, with some remuneration towards these outgoings.


There is high earning potential in Dubai, coupled with no income tax, which can make for a very comfortable lifestyle. There are some taxes on services and goods, with VAT being recently introduced to the emirate. The tax year runs from 1st January to 31st December.


When renting an apartment, you may be required to pay the annual rent upfront, and the rent generally does not include any utilities. Electricity and water can cost around AED 1,200 a month, more in the hot months if the air conditioning is running full time.


Many well-known banks have a presence in Dubai, such as HSBC, Barclays and Citibank, which helps when it comes to setting up a UAE bank account. There are also significant local banks with a good reputation. Nearly all banks offer modern services and online banking.


How much time should you allow for shipping to Dubai?

We recommend that customers allow three to five weeks for port-to-port shipping to Dubai from the UK. All personal effects into Dubai are subject to full inspections for which we recommend you allow two weeks.


What can you take?

Dubai is an Islamic state and, as such, there are some strong restrictions on the import of certain items into Dubai. We recommend that you do not consider taking alcohol, large quantities of foodstuff, 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 when shipping to Dubai.


All printed material such as books, magazines, DVDs, videos, tapes, and photographs will be detained by customs and subjected to inspection. Please note, anything pornographic or against Islamic beliefs will be seized for destruction or for the customer to pay for its return to the country of origin.


It is important to note that you must be present in the UAE at the time of Customs clearance, and in addition to your passport and stamped residence visa, you will need a detailed inventory or packing list – that will be prepared by our International Removals team.


Taking a car or motor vehicle

It is relatively straightforward to import a car to Dubai, as long as it meets UAE specifications, which means that only left-hand drive cars can be imported. You must also be a legal UAE resident to import a car.


Various documents will need to be supplied to clear customs, such as a passport, proof of ownership and a Certificate of Origin. All vehicles are subject to a 5% duty of the car value.


Cars need to undergo a technical test at a trusted test centre, before they can be registered and insured. Read our guide for more information on car insurance in the UAE and how to renew it. Request a quotation from us to get a price for car shipping to Dubai.


Can you take pets?

Transporting pets can be complex, with each country having its own laws and requirements. It is possible to bring your pets with you to Dubai, as long as they meet the import requirements. This means that they must have a microchip that meets international standards, be up to date with all their vaccinations, and they must be certified to travel with all the relevant paperwork from your vet. This will enable you to apply for an import permit, valid for a month after being issued.


You can import two pets per person. There are no quarantine requirements for pets, unless they are less than four months old. Certain dog breeds are not allowed to enter the UAE, so please check before planning to take your pet with you.


It is also important to be aware that there are laws that surround where pets are allowed. They are banned from public places in Dubai and are limited to designated dog-walking areas.


Contact us to find out how we can help you organise moving your pet to Dubai.

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