Moving to Dubai was one of the best (and scariest!) decisions I’ve ever made. Initially, it was for two years, and that was over five years ago. 

What made me move to Dubai? Apart from the tax free earnings and glorious weather, I wanted to be somewhere with an international hub so I could travel a lot more. 

Things to know before moving to Dubai

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Why should I think about moving to Dubai?

Well, why not! If you need a change of scenery and you’ve been thinking of moving country anyway, then the UAE should be on your list. Some of the many reasons include:

  • Most months have gorgeous beach weather
  • You have tax free earnings
  • It’s a travel hub so you can be on a plane to a neighbouring country quite easily
  • There is an opportunity to save money (if you don’t spend it all on Friday brunch and travelling)
  • Accommodation is better, for instance you can have a one bedroomed duplex with this view for the same price as a bedsit back home!

View of Dubai Marina from JLT

If you really are thinking of moving to Dubai, here are some things to note before relocating.

No. 1 – Research

Before you embark on relocating to Dubai, do your research about the country you’re moving to, the United Arab Emirates. In fact, do some research on the Middle East in general. No matter what country you go to, there are always going to be different laws, traditions, and expectations. The UAE is no different.

Whether you agree with the rules or not, you don’t move to another country without agreeing to live by their rules. Simple as. If it’s the law in a country to not hop on one leg while touching your nose, then you can’t really complain if you’re fined for hopping on one leg while touching your nose. You were warned!

No. 2 – Employment

Have a job before coming here, or at least ensure your partner has one if moving together. It can take months to secure a job when you’re in the country and, without a residency visa, you will need to leave every 30 days to get a new tourist visa.

You will also have start-up costs when you get here and, without already having secured employment, it can be stressful. Unless of course, you have enough savings for a few months to get you started. 

No. 3 – Budget

While Dubai is tax free and the salary tends to be higher here, the cost of living is also higher. Make sure you budget before you make the move.

First off, you will need accommodation for the first couple of months while you wait for your residency visa, etc.

Rent works differently here in the UAE. Due to the number of people coming and going, most landlords ask for the rent up front for the year either in one cheque or two (yes, we use cheques here! I had never written a cheque before moving to Dubai). Although, as the years go on, more and more are accepting rent paid per month, so you may be in luck.

Most expats get a bank loan for their yearly rent, but you’ll need to be in employment before you can open a bank account. Alternatively, your employer may offer you an interest free loan which they will take out of your salary on a monthly basis. You will also need agent fees and housing deposit, along with utility deposits.

If you’re moving with kids, you’ll need to factor in the cost of schooling (which is very expensive!).

Don’t let the above put you off. While the cost of living in Dubai is quite high in comparison to other cities, expats do have a good quality of life here and have the opportunity to experience things they wouldn’t necessarily get to experience in their own countries.

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No. 4 – When to be conservative

While the UAE are extremely welcoming of expats, you are still required to be respectful of the culture and traditions of the country.

For example, cover up while in shopping centres – don’t wear your short shorts and belly tops. Also, beachwear is for the beach only. As soon as you leave the beach area, including inside resorts, you must cover up. And by cover up, I don’t mean you have to be covered top to toe, just wear respectful clothing.

The rumours aren’t true. You can drink in the UAE. If you are drunk and disorderly, however, you can be jailed so try to keep the disorderly behaviour to a minimum.

At night in bars you can pretty much wear what you like (obviously to a degree). And you can hold hands with your other half, just no other public displays of affection.

No. 5 – Ramadan

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Non-Muslims are not required to fast, however, you should be respectful of people who are fasting and not eat in front of them. Restaurants are still open but generally have cloth over the windows and doors.

When I first moved here, eating and drinking (even water) in public was not allowed, however over the years it seems to be getting more and more relaxed. Personally, I still think we should respect the tradition, it’s only for a few weeks.

During the month of Ramadan, there are shorter working hours (for non-Muslims too!). Your working day is reduced by two hours.

I really enjoy Ramadan as it’s quiet and relaxed and gives us a break from the normally busy lifestyle.

No. 6 – Public Holidays

There are many public holidays dotted about the year which gives expats an opportunity to hop on a plane for a short trip to a nearby country, or to head to one of the other emirates for a staycation. Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah are just an hour away from Dubai.

Two things to note about the public holidays in Dubai

  • some of them have a dry night the night before the public holiday begins, which means that the bars and restaurants won’t be serving alcohol.
  • You can’t always be sure what day the public holidays will fall on as they go by moon sightings. So it’s sometimes difficult to plan a trip away until the last minute when the holiday has been announced.

Flying to Dubai

No. 7 – Religion

Despite what you may have heard, the UAE are very welcoming of other faiths and have churches and temples as well as mosques.

No. 8 – Safety

Living in Dubai as a woman, I’ve had friends from home warning me to be careful, that it’s not safe for women. These are obviously people who have never even been to Dubai, let alone lived here!

Of all the places I’ve lived and travelled to, Dubai is at the top of the safety list. I can walk home from a bar at 4am on my own without feeling in any way like I might be at risk. I am a cautious person by nature, but I have never felt like I need to be on guard here.

When out, you can leave your bag or phone on the table, come back an hour later and it’s still there. Same as at the beach. Now, that’s not saying that I recommend doing this. As with any country, you should still practice caution, but it gives you an idea of how safe Dubai really is.

No. 9 – Saving Money

It’s not as easy as you might think! Yes, the salaries may be higher here, but so is the cost of living. In addition, as expats, we take every opportunity to jump on a plane to a neighbouring country for a quick getaway.

People back home assume you’re saving tonnes and will come home with enough cash for a house. But the reality is that life in Dubai is full of experiences and, personally, I’d rather experiences than things.

Don’t get me wrong, if you put your mind to it, you can definitely save here. You can stay in an area outside of the city with lower rent, you can stay in on weekends and not travel. The choice is ultimately yours.

No. 10 – The Weather

The summers are HOT! And it gets very humid between July and September. In August, you can expect the temperature to reach 50 degrees Celsius!

Despite what you might think, it does in fact rain here. Not very often, but it does. In fact, because it’s the desert and we don’t get enough rain, they do cloud seeding every so often to make it rain! And when it does, it’s kind of like when it’s snows back home – schools close, roads shut, sent home from work early.

No. 11 – Groups

Join expat groups on Facebook or meet-up groups. British Mums Dubai, or the Oracle, as I like to call it, is a fantastic Facebook group.  Anything you need information on, these mums have the answer. I believe there’s also a British Dads group too.

There are numerous Irish expat Facebook groups and I’m sure whatever country you’re from, you’ll find a group to join.

No. 12 – Entertainment

There is sooo much to do in Dubai, you will never have a boring day! When you have visitors, you can take them out on a desert safari, or to the waterpark. There are theme parks, skydiving and even an indoor ski resort!

Related: Skydiving In Dubai– The Ultimate Bucket List Item

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No. 13 – Getting Around

It’s really easy to get around. The Dubai Metro runs along the main road (Sheikh Zayed Road) all the way as far as the Airport, there’s a tram which brings you to the beach and Marina area, taxis are really cheap if where you’re going isn’t on the public transport route.

You can also rent a car easily and cheaply if you don’t own a car. The roads are crazy compared to home. On most of the main roads, there are 6 or 7 lanes, with cars driving up to 140km an hour.  The only way to survive – drive crazy just like everybody else!

No. 14 – The Weekend

The weekend in the UAE is Friday and Saturday. Friday is the holy day so places may not be open as early as they usually are. For example, the Dubai Metro only runs from 10am on a Friday, rather than 5am.

It gets some getting used to working on a Sunday and being off work on a Friday. For ages, my friends back home thought I didn’t work as I was always out and about at brunch or on a boat on a Friday afternoon!

No. 15 – It’s Busy

Life in Dubai is hectic. Whether it’s work or social, it’s hectic.

The first few months after your move, you will want to say yes to absolutely every single invite you get; ladies’ night on a Tuesday, Thursday night drinks, Friday brunch, Saturday beach day.  There is always someone’s birthday, leaving party, anniversary party to go to.

By all means, this is how you build your circle of friends, by meeting friends of friends.  But I found that by month 3 I was burning out and just wanted nights in my new home on the couch. Don’t take on too much when you first move to Dubai.

No. 16 – Expats

There are so many different nationalities of expats. Embrace it! You will make friends with the most interesting people from all corners of the world. There are so many people living the expat life in Dubai, in fact, that less than 20% of the population are Emirati!

Things to know before moving to Dubai

No. 17 – Construction

It’s said that 25% of the world’s cranes are in Dubai. That’s over 30,000 cranes!

There is always construction going on. Depending on where you live, you might even be kept awake by construction at night. Sometimes they can only work at night because it’s too hot during the day.  Make sure you research the area you plan to live in to ensure there won’t be a building going up right next door and overlooking you.

Sometimes you can go away for two weeks and come back to a new building you’ve never seen before!

No. 18 – Home

This is a tough one, but life goes on at home. And what you left behind some years ago aren’t always the same. For some people, it can be difficult to move back home.

You can get very used to Dubai life and certain elements and advantages to living here.  For example, at any time of the day or night I could call the shop at the bottom of my building and have a can of coke and some chocolate delivered to my doorstep. A lot of families have home help here, which may not be possible back home.

All in all, if you’re considering moving to Dubai, I highly recommend it.

Moving to Dubai was a turning point for me and gave me opportunities I never would have had if I had stayed in Ireland at that time. It was one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life, but I have no regrets.

So, whether you’re moving to Dubai with family or on your own, there are great opportunities for all, and I hope the above has given you some insight into what’s involved. 

If you have any questions about moving to Dubai, let me know in the comments or you can contact me here!

Ellie-M

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13 Comments

  1. This was so interesting to read, Dubai life sounds amazing! My best friend has lived there for 2 years now and when I went out to visit, it was insane, and I can’t wait to visit again xx

  2. This is fantastic, loads of real and useful information and advice. We already live here, so we’re enjoying every minute with the kids and yes you’re right, if you have kids you need to really factor in schooling into your budget, when we first moved here we didn’t realise that we would have to pay for school and from 3 years of age which is the starting age for school here, we were expecting it to be 5 years old like the rest of Ireland/Europe. It’s an important one to consider too if you’re starting a family here too as nursery before school is quite expensive too.

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