In recent years, the Persian Gulf state of Dubai has become increasingly popular with expats from around the world looking for sunny weekends and tax-free income. Only a small percentage of Dubai is now home to Emiratis, with reports suggesting that a staggering 92% of residents are expats!
So if you’re thinking of moving to Dubai for life among the sand, sea and sky-high buildings of the UAE, check out our list of the key things any future expat should know before stepping on the place. Good luck!
The weekend days are different
After enjoying Saturday-Sunday weekends for a lifetime, most people are pretty settled in the idea of when a weekend occurs. Not in Dubai! Along with a number of other Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the weekend in Dubai is officially held on Friday and Saturday. On the upside, this means you’re free to spend your Fridays having a long brunch and lying on the beach…but on the other hand, Saturday nights have never felt so gloomy.
It’s scorching in the summer
One of the main draws of Dubai for expats is the wonderfully warm weather all year round. Cosy temperatures from September to April mean that it’s not uncommon to be sunning yourself in 20C heat in mid-December while friends in Europe are shivering into yet another jumper. However, come July and August, temperatures can hit 50C during the day with lows of 35C at night, which means staying indoors with the air conditioning on!
There’s no income tax
There may be a lot of big business (and big salaries) for expats in Dubai, but unlike in most countries, you won’t be facing hefty taxes that rise with your income. Dubai has no income tax or enforced social security payments, meaning the salary you earn is exactly the salary you receive. Compared to what high-earners pay around the world, that could see you taking home 60% more than you would on the same salary somewhere else!
Rent is high
Unfortunately, much of that money saved on taxes will end up going directly to your landlord, as rental prices in popular expat areas have skyrocketed over the last few years and continue to go up by 5-10% per annum. Around the Marina for example, a 1 bedroom apartment will set you back around £1250-£1650 per month - a fee which you may also be expected to pay in full for the whole year when you sign the contract. Fortunately some companies are willing to pay upfront and have their employees then pay monthly, so talk to your future employer before you leave to see if this is an option before handing over £15,000+.
English is widely spoken
While you’ll certainly find it useful to have some Arabic phrases in your arsenal, English is widely spoken in Dubai so there’s no need to learn a whole new language before arriving. However, many expats here do speak multiple languages, so you may have to get used to conversations held in various different languages at once!
It’s a safe place to live
Long prison sentences, well-publicised convictions and a prevalence of undercover police have contributed to Dubai’s reputation as a very safe place to live. It’s not unusual to see an expensive car left outside a shop with the keys in the ignition while the driver pops inside - although we don’t recommend doing this, just in case!
Big social scene
Despite what you might have heard, it is certainly possible to drink in Dubai - alcohol can be legally sold in certain bars and shops, and there’s a huge party scene in the city with plenty of high-end bars and clubs enjoyed by big groups of young expats. Friday brunch is also hugely popular, particularly in luxury hotel restaurants where you’ll find expansive buffets and free-flowing bubbly.
You’ll need medical insurance
As there’s no social security or welfare system in Dubai (hence the lack of social security payments on your paycheck), it’s vital that you organise some kind of medical insurance when you arrive. Many employers offer this through work, so discuss it with your company before setting off for the UAE.
For more information you can check our guide about moving to Dubai
Driving can be a bit of a hazard
Dubai has a reputation for dangerous roads and erratic drivers, as well as a high number of traffic accidents. Drive carefully, particularly in wet or foggy wealthy, and consider getting a large car such as a 4x4 if you’re going to be commuting regularly. Dubai also has a good public transport system, including a metro, if you’d rather just avoid taking to the roads altogether!
There are women-only areas
While Dubai may have been hailed as the best place in the Middle East for women, some female expats may still find Dubai a more restrictive place to live than they are used to. Certain optional segregations are in place via women-only facilities throughout the state, including separate metro carriages, ladies taxis, and even beaches holding female days during the week.