A new life in Dubai could well be one of the most exciting experiences you’ll ever enjoy. However, living in Dubai like any new country can be daunting, especially if you lack practical knowledge of how things are done locally. Like any other place in the world, Dubai has a lot going for it as well as some major drawbacks. When moving to a new place it is essential you know what both bad and good things you can expect from your new home.
For many expats, living in Dubai is an ultimate lifestyle experience. Dubai is an exciting and happening destination that cannot be ignored! It is, therefore, the place to be if you want to enjoy your social life and your working life in the fast lane. The climate in the emirate for 8 months of the year is perfect. Long hot days dominated by cloudless blue skies and enhanced with beautiful warm seawaters.
The social side of life is fantastic and diverse. Many expats join a hotel or private beach club when they arrive and spend much of their downtime enjoying the facilities. For others, there are more sports and sports clubs closely concentrated together within the emirate than anywhere else in the world! In the evenings the social side of life moves on to bars, clubs and restaurants with Dubai playing host to as wide a range of tastes as is probably possible!
The educational standards in Dubai are excellent and new schools and colleges are being constructed almost annually. Every major international corporation has a base in Dubai – or so it seems! This means that there are opportunities aplenty.
Dubai is a very tolerant emirate – tolerant of others’ beliefs and ways of life. It is also one of the most moderate in terms of applying the rules of Islam to everyone’s everyday life. Expats can buy alcohol in Dubai and also they are allowed to eat and drink during the daylight hours of Ramadan.
But with the goods, come some bads. Dubai is a bit of a bureaucratic headache especially for newly arrived expatriates who have to have licenses and permits for everything! You need a permit to buy alcohol, a license to drive, a permit to work and a permit to reside in Dubai of course! Get advice and assistance supplied and agreed on upfront from your employer to ease this initial period of adjustment that can actually put some people off staying in the emirate!
Unmarried couples are not allowed to live together – it’s actually the law.
The summer months from June to September are almost unbearably hot and many expats take holiday time off during this period to return home. It can make it worse if you have children as for most of the day they will really need to stay indoors in air-conditioned rooms.
The traffic situation in Dubai can be untenable and impact on the lives of those who have to commute or take children to school etc. The government’s programme of investment into public transport systems is easing the problem, but if you want to take a drive in Dubai, it can become a lengthy journey.
Housing and schooling are incredibly expensive in Dubai. The cost of living in Dubai is on par with living in central London – i.e., it is VERY expensive! There is a certain amount of governmental censorship on films, access to websites and even the likes of SKYPE. Some expats find this restrictive and frustrating.
Working hours can be very long and international companies operating in Dubai, in particular, do tend to expect an awful lot from their expatriate employees. Possibly because the salaries are higher and improved by lack of tax they feel they have some sort of ownership of their employees?
Dubai is currently a building site! There are pockets of calm and oases of tranquillity across the emirate, but there is also frenetic and relentless development occurring which can make life a little tiring and stressful at times. Inflation is massive in Dubai, fueled by property and rental prices in particular. Dubai is not exactly an environmentally friendly place nor is it the sort of place to live if you want to take long walks in quiet places!
Living in Dubai is really what you make of it. It’s a matter of personal choice and preferences and also finding out whether the opportunities Dubai offers (such as a good income not burdened with taxes) outweigh possible negatives.
Dubai’s wealth has been built on its oil industry, but it has successfully diversified its economy so that today it has multiple strands supporting its fiscal strength – including tourism, real estate, financial services, health and education.
Firstly, despite the emirate’s economic contraction which hit the world in 2008, Dubai now is still a booming economy where there was an abundance of employment prospects, and opportunity for strong speculation in the local property market abounded.
The other key reason why living in Dubai is so appealing to expats is because the lifestyle locally is exceptionally good, particularly for Western expats who benefit from a largely excellent climate, wonderful leisure facilities, a relatively laid back pace of life and good education and healthcare standards.
For those who want to advance their careers, earn a tax-free salary, and live in one of the most exciting and vibrant locations in the world – Dubai is a top place to move to. Building your professional career in Dubai can be an exciting experience, so if you want to have a go – read How to find jobs in Dubai and secure employer-sponsored visa, and start your career there.
Many people made strong fortunes in Dubai, and even to this day, it’s a centre of wealth and prosperity.
People who relocate long-term to Dubai can legitimately earn their salary free from income tax. No income tax in Dubai is a big deal for many professionals, plus there some additional tax advantages and some pitfalls as well.
Dubai especially has an excellent infrastructure and connectivity and the government is doing quite a lot to promote Dubai as a perfect destination for global talent and start-ups.
From a range of theme parks to private beach clubs, from incredibly opulent shopping malls to cinema complexes and an abundance of restaurants, from indoor snowboarding to the most remarkable music festivals – Dubai really does have it all.
Shopping in Dubai
There are multiple malls in Dubai – and in fact, the largest mall in the world exists in Dubai. What’s more, you can buy everything from Ikea furniture to traditional textiles in the emirate.
The cost of living in Dubai
The cost of accommodation can be as much as GBP 15,000 a year for a decent rental apartment in a good location and this has to be paid upfront. What’s more, if you want to buy a property in Dubai you may have to wait many years for an off-plan apartment or villa to be completed or pay top dollar for a resale property.
However, if you already own property in Dubai and want to rent it out, the good news is that you can easily achieve yields of between 8 and 11%.
Other than accommodation the other high cost outlays you need to be aware of include school fees which are now extortionate at the best schools as expats fight for places.
Whilst there is a law restricting the annual rate of school fee inflation to between 16 and 20 percent, schools find all sorts of ways to add on extras and this has seen annual inflation of up to 80 percent in school fees.
Medical insurance and the cost of healthcare is high – but then the quality you get is exceptional.
Basic day to day grocery costs are average, alcohol is expensive and can only be bought in hotel bars and clubs or if you have a license for your own home.
Healthcare living in Dubai
Since the introduction of mandatory health insurance in Dubai every resident living in Dubai needs to be insured one way or another.
Valid health insurance is necessary to obtain a residency visa. The new law is a part of Dubai’s programme to become one of the most advanced countries in terms of healthcare, its quality and affordability for all residents.
As you are moving to a totally different climate with totally different local bugs and health threats, there are some essential steps to be undertaken before your relocation and during your stay in Dubai.
It takes some time getting used to routes, modes of transports and local know-how of using public transport. However, after you familiarise yourself with it, getting around the city will become only easier. Dubai is planning to become the smartest city in the world in terms of public transport. The city can already boast driverless Metro trains, Tesla taxi cars, and even self-driving buses are becoming a reality. So, travelling by public transport in Dubai can be a perfect option for those who want to avoid the hassle of driving.
Dubai is truly an intoxicating country that offers the potential for an unprecedented lifestyle. A true world-class vision of a futuristic forward-looking city, that still holds onto a conservative tradition that you will have to accept if you choose Dubai. If you’re the type of person who thrives on buzz and excitement, Dubai could well be the perfect place to call home.