Pros and cons of moving to Abu Dhabi

For British expatriates who are planning to move to Abu Dhabi, there are quite a number of factors to take into consideration. The culture and lifestyle in the Middle East is quite different to the Western world. While it can be an enriching experience, it can also take a little time to acclimatise and adapt.
There are advantages and disadvantages to any international relocation. We have put together a guide listing the pros and cons of moving to Abu Dhabi. This can help you make informed choices for your upcoming move.

Location and climate

Abu Dhabi City is located on an island off the mainland in the Persian Gulf. It’s only about 250 metres from the shoreline and is connected by large, multi-lane bridges. The main city is where most businesses are located, but there are also residential suburbs of Abu Dhabi on the mainland.
The weather can be a bit of a shock coming from the UK. Abu Dhabi has a hot desert climate, with sunshine nearly all-year round. The temperatures in summer (June to September) can be uncomfortably hot and humid, with averages often above 38°C. There are also sandstorms, which can reduce visibility.
Outside of the 4 summer months, the climate is very comfortable. You can make the most of outdoor living, from eating out to making the most of the beaches, parks, sporting facilities and desert excursions.


Abu Dhabi is known as a tax-free haven and this is one of the reasons the expatriate population continues to grow. There is no income tax payable in the UAE, though any overseas earnings may still be liable for tax in your home country. The emirate has recently introduced VAT for the first time (as of 1st January 2018), which may see an increase in the price of products and services.
The cost of living in Abu Dhabi is high. On-island accommodation is costly, especially for larger apartments in desirable areas. There is a high demand for luxury properties and this keeps the rental and sales markets inflated. Off-island accommodation is better value and more spacious, though the commute is longer. The other main costs when moving to Abu Dhabi include health insurance and, if required, school fees.


Abu Dhabi has a growing economy and is one of the wealthiest emirates in the UAE. For expatriates with the right skills, there are plenty of good career opportunities to secure high-level roles in multi-national corporations. Most expats will work for one of the many international businesses who have branches in the city. There is a free trade zone, the Industrial City of Abu Dhabi HCSEZ, which attracts new investment and business from foreign companies.
However, salaries are not as relatively high as they once were. The spiralling costs of living have risen at a faster rate than wages, so it’s important to negotiate a good employment package. It’s also worth noting the working week starts on a Sunday; the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday.
The UAE government’s Emiratisation campaign mandates the employment of Emirati workers in the private sector, and some industries have quotas to meet. This drive to employ more local residents into key job roles could impact on the number of expat opportunities.


Abu Dhabi is known for its high-end living, with top-class establishments and designer boutiques. There is a real mix of cultures, which means there is a lot to experience, with a variety of cuisines and entertainment on offer.
While around 80% of the population are expats, Abu Dhabi is a Muslim country that follows Islamic law. To respect the customs and traditions, some general guidelines should be followed. Dress should be modest and if you wish to drink alcohol, you’ll need to obtain a licence first.
If you are moving to Abu Dhabi, find out more about the international removals services Cadogan Tate offers to help you with your relocation.