Life in Abu Dhabi

Expat Life in Abu Dhabi – A Comprehensive Guide

Abu Dhabi is a popular destination for expats seeking a new and exciting life in the United Arab Emirates. As the UAE’s capital city, Abu Dhabi offers a unique blend of modernity and tradition, making it an attractive location for expats from all over the world. With its warm climate, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture, Abu Dhabi is a city that never fails to impress.

Living as an expat in Abu Dhabi can be a truly enriching experience. The emirate offers a high standard of living, with world-class healthcare, education, and entertainment facilities. Expats in Abu Dhabi can enjoy a diverse range of activities, from shopping in the city’s luxurious malls to exploring the stunning desert landscapes.

With a large expat community, it’s easy to make friends and build a support network in Abu Dhabi, making transitioning to a new life in the UAE much smoother.

Expat Life in Abu Dhabi

Let’s explore!

Moving to Abu Dhabi

Moving to Abu Dhabi can be an exciting and life-changing experience. However, it can also be daunting, especially if you are unfamiliar with the process. Here are some critical essential needs to know before relocating to Abu Dhabi.

Visa and Residency

Before moving to Abu Dhabi, you will need to obtain a visa. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose of your visit and the length of your stay. Some common types of visas include tourist visas, employment visas, and residency visas. It is important to note that the visa application process can be time-consuming, so it is recommended that you start the process well in advance.

Once you have obtained your visa, you must register for residency. This involves getting a residency permit, which allows you to live and work in Abu Dhabi. You will also need to register with the Emirates Identity Authority to obtain an Emirates ID card, which is required for many transactions in Abu Dhabi.


When moving to Abu Dhabi, you must consider several factors, such as the cost of living, housing, and transportation. You should research these factors before making the move to ensure that you are financially prepared.

You will also need to consider the logistics of moving your belongings to Abu Dhabi. This may involve hiring a moving company or shipping your belongings by sea or air.


If you relocate to Abu Dhabi for work, your employer may provide relocation assistance. This may include help with finding housing, transportation, and other logistics.

Even if your employer does not provide relocation assistance, many relocation services available in Abu Dhabi can help you with the process. These services can help you find housing, schools, and other services to make your move as smooth as possible.

In summary, moving to Abu Dhabi involves obtaining a visa and residency, considering the logistics of moving, and potentially seeking relocation assistance. Moving to Abu Dhabi can be a smooth and exciting experience with proper planning and preparation.

Housing and Accommodation

Finding suitable housing and accommodation in Abu Dhabi can be a challenge, but with the proper preparation, it can be a smooth process. There are various options available, ranging from apartments to villas, and the cost of housing can vary depending on the location and type of property.

Renting a home is the most common option for expats in Abu Dhabi. The rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre can range from AED 4,000 to AED 8,000 per month, while a three-bedroom apartment can cost between AED 8,000 and AED 15,000 per month. Villas are also available for rent, ranging from AED 12,000 to AED 40,000 monthly.

Two popular areas for expats to live in Abu Dhabi are Al Reem Island and Saadiyat Island. Al Reem Island is an artificial island that offers a range of apartments and villas with sea views. Saadiyat Island is a cultural and entertainment hub, with luxury villas and apartments available for rent.

When searching for housing, it is essential to consider the location, amenities, and proximity to work and schools. Some apartments and villas come furnished, while others are unfurnished. It is common to pay a security deposit of one to three months’ rent.

Finding housing and accommodation in Abu Dhabi requires careful research and planning. Expats can find a comfortable and affordable home in this vibrant city with the right approach.

Cost of Living

Living in Abu Dhabi can be expensive, but it is important to note that salaries are often higher to compensate for the higher cost of living. It is essential to consider all aspects of the cost of living when planning to move to Abu Dhabi.

One of the most significant expenses in Abu Dhabi is housing. Rent prices can vary greatly depending on the location and size of the apartment or house. Researching the different areas and types of accommodation available is essential to find the best fit for your budget.

Another significant expense is transportation. While public transportation is available, many expats prefer their cars. The cost of purchasing a vehicle can be high, and there are also expenses such as registration, insurance, and maintenance.

In terms of taxes, there is no income tax in Abu Dhabi, which can be a significant benefit for expats. However, there is a value-added tax (VAT) of 5% on most goods and services.

Overall, while the cost of living in Abu Dhabi can be high, the higher salaries and lack of income tax can help offset these expenses. It is essential to consider all costs and budgets accordingly to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable expat life in Abu Dhabi.

Culture and Customs

Abu Dhabi is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities with a large expat population. However, it is essential to respect the local culture and customs. Islam is the official religion of the UAE, and the majority of the people are Muslim. It is necessary to be aware of Islamic customs and traditions.

During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. As a sign of respect, it is essential to refrain from eating, drinking, and smoking in public during this time. It is also necessary to dress modestly and avoid loud music and parties.

The local Emirati culture places a strong emphasis on hospitality and generosity. It is common for locals to invite guests into their homes for meals and tea. When visiting someone’s home, removing your shoes before entering is customary.

In public, it is essential to dress modestly and conservatively. Women should cover their shoulders and knees and avoid tight or revealing clothing. Men should also dress modestly and avoid wearing shorts in public.

Overall, expats can enjoy a positive and enriching experience in Abu Dhabi by respecting the local culture and customs.

Education and Family Life

When it comes to education and family life in Abu Dhabi, expats have a range of options to choose from. The city has several international schools that cater to the needs of expat families with children.

International schools in Abu Dhabi follow a variety of curriculums, including British, American, and International Baccalaureate (IB). Some of the most popular international schools in Abu Dhabi include:

  • British International School Abu Dhabi
  • American Community School Abu Dhabi
  • International School of Choueifat Abu Dhabi
  • GEMS American Academy Abu Dhabi

These schools offer a high standard of education and are staffed by experienced teachers familiar with the needs of expat families.

In addition to international schools, there are several local schools in Abu Dhabi that expat families can consider. However, it’s important to note that these schools may not offer the same level of support for non-Arabic speaking students.

Overall, expat families in Abu Dhabi have a range of options when it comes to education. Researching and choosing a school that meets your family’s needs and budget is essential.


Healthcare in Abu Dhabi is of high quality, with modern facilities and well-trained medical professionals. The city has a comprehensive healthcare system that includes public and private healthcare providers.

The Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA) provides public healthcare in Abu Dhabi, operating a network of hospitals and clinics throughout the city. The SEHA hospitals are well-equipped with modern medical equipment and staffed by highly qualified medical professionals.

Private healthcare in Abu Dhabi is also of a high standard, with many world-class hospitals and clinics offering a wide range of medical services. Private healthcare providers in Abu Dhabi include Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, Burjeel Hospital, and NMC Healthcare.

Abu Dhabi has a mandatory health insurance scheme, which requires all residents to have health insurance coverage. The health insurance scheme ensures that all residents can access affordable healthcare services. The health insurance scheme covers both public and private healthcare providers, and residents can choose their healthcare provider based on personal preferences.

Overall, healthcare in Abu Dhabi is of high quality and easily accessible to all residents. Whether you choose public or private healthcare providers, you can be confident that you will receive excellent medical care in Abu Dhabi.

Public Transport and Traffic

Abu Dhabi has a well-connected public transport system that is reliable and cost-effective. The public transport system includes buses, taxis, and the metro. The Department of Transport (DoT) and the Integrated Transport Centre (ITC) manage the transportation system.


The bus network in Abu Dhabi is extensive, with over 100 routes covering most parts of the city. The buses are modern, air-conditioned, and equipped with free Wi-Fi. The fare for a single journey is AED 2, and passengers can buy a rechargeable Hafilat card to make their travel more convenient. The Hafilat card can be topped up at any bus station or ticket vending machine.


Abu Dhabi’s metro system is currently under construction and is expected to be operational by 2025. The metro will connect significant areas of the city and provide a fast and efficient mode of transportation.


Taxis are readily available in Abu Dhabi, and they are metered. The starting fare is AED 5, which increases based on the distance travelled. Taxis can be hailed on the street or booked through a taxi app.


Abu Dhabi’s traffic can be heavy during peak hours, especially on major roads and highways. The city has a well-developed road network, and the streets are well-maintained. However, drivers should be cautious and vigilant while driving, as some drivers tend to drive recklessly.

In conclusion, Abu Dhabi’s public transport system is well-developed and provides a convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation. The city’s traffic can be heavy during peak hours, but the road network is well-maintained and easy to navigate. Passengers should know the fare structure and carry a rechargeable Hafilat card while using public transport.

Leisure and Recreation

Abu Dhabi offers a wide range of leisure and recreational activities for expats to enjoy. Here are some of the top options:

The Corniche

The Corniche is a picturesque waterfront promenade stretching 8 kilometres along the Arabian Gulf. It’s a popular spot for walking, jogging, cycling, and rollerblading. The Corniche also has several parks, playgrounds, and picnic areas. Visitors can rent bicycles or take a guided tour to explore the area.

Yas Island

Yas Island is an artificial island that is home to several world-class attractions. These include Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, and Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. Visitors can also enjoy shopping, dining, and entertainment at Yas Mall and Marina Circuit.


Abu Dhabi has several beautiful beaches where expats can relax and soak up the sun. Some famous beaches include Saadiyat Beach, Corniche Beach, and Al Bateen Beach. Visitors can swim, sunbathe, and enjoy water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding.


The mangroves are a unique ecosystem that can be explored by kayak or paddleboard. Visitors can see various wildlife, including flamingos, herons, and crabs. Several tour operators offer guided tours of the mangroves.


For those seeking adventure, Abu Dhabi has plenty of options. Visitors can go dune bashing in the desert, skydiving, or ziplining. Several indoor adventure parks, such as Clymb Abu Dhabi and Adventure HQ, also exist.

Overall, Abu Dhabi expats have plenty of leisure and recreation options. Whether you prefer the beach, the city, or the great outdoors, there is something for everyone to enjoy.


Abu Dhabi is located in the Middle East, which means it has a desert climate. The weather is generally hot and dry throughout the year. However, the temperature can vary depending on the season.


Summer in Abu Dhabi can be sweltering, with temperatures averaging around 40°C (104°F) during the day. The humidity can also be high, making it feel even hotter. It’s essential to stay hydrated and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun during this time.


Abu Dhabi experiences very little rainfall, most occurring between December and March. The rest of the year is generally dry. However, there can be occasional sandstorms, which can reduce visibility and cause respiratory problems.


Humidity can be high in Abu Dhabi, especially during the summer months. This can make the heat feel more oppressive and uncomfortable. It’s essential to stay hydrated and avoid prolonged exposure to the sun during this time.


Fog is uncommon in Abu Dhabi but can occur in winter. This can cause flight delays and reduce visibility on the roads. It’s essential to be cautious and drive slowly during this time.

Overall, Abu Dhabi has a hot and dry climate, with high temperatures and little rainfall. It’s essential to take precautions and stay hydrated during the summer months and be cautious during the occasional sandstorms and fog.

Employment Opportunities

Abu Dhabi has a thriving economy that offers numerous employment opportunities for expats. The city is home to many international companies, making it an ideal location for job seekers looking for diverse options. Some of the top industries in Abu Dhabi include:

  • Oil and Gas
  • Construction
  • Finance
  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Hospitality

The oil and gas industry is the largest employer in Abu Dhabi, and it always needs skilled workers. The construction industry is also growing rapidly, with many new projects underway, such as developing the new cultural district on Saadiyat Island.

Abu Dhabi’s financial sector is also expanding, with many international banks and financial institutions setting up operations in the city. The healthcare industry is another area of growth, with several new hospitals and clinics being built to meet the needs of the growing population.

Expats looking for employment opportunities in Abu Dhabi can search for jobs online, through recruitment agencies, or by networking with other professionals in their field. Many companies also attend job fairs and career events, allowing job seekers to meet with potential employers and learn more about available positions.

Regarding visa requirements, expats must have a valid work permit to be employed in Abu Dhabi. Obtaining a work permit can be lengthy and requires a sponsor, such as an employer or a family member.

Overall, Abu Dhabi offers a diverse range of employment opportunities for expats, with many industries experiencing growth and expansion. With the right qualifications and experience, expats can find rewarding careers in this vibrant and dynamic city.


Abu Dhabi is considered one of the safest cities in the world. The government has implemented several measures to ensure the safety of its residents and visitors. Here are some of the safety measures in Abu Dhabi:

  • Low Crime Rate: Abu Dhabi has a low crime rate, and the police force is highly efficient and responsive. The city has a strict law enforcement system, and the penalties for breaking the law are severe.
  • Safe Roads: Abu Dhabi has a well-maintained road network, and the traffic rules are strictly enforced. The city also has a low accident rate and highly responsive emergency services.
  • Safe Neighborhoods: Abu Dhabi has several safe neighbourhoods, and most areas have a low crime rate. The city also has a well-developed surveillance system, which helps prevent crime.
  • Emergency Services: Abu Dhabi has a highly efficient emergency services system, which includes police, ambulance, and fire services. The response time is quick, and the benefits are available 24/7.
  • Health and Safety Measures: Abu Dhabi has implemented several health and safety measures to ensure the well-being of its residents and visitors. The city has strict regulations for food safety, and the water supply is safe to drink.

In conclusion, Abu Dhabi is a safe city to live in, and the government has implemented several measures to ensure the safety of its residents and visitors.

Expat Community

Abu Dhabi is home to a vibrant and diverse expat community, with people calling this city their home worldwide. Abu Dhabi’s expat community comprises people from different walks of life, including professionals, students, families, and retirees.

One of the most significant advantages of living in Abu Dhabi as an expat is the sense of community that you can find here. There are numerous expat groups and organizations that you can join, which can help you to meet new people and make friends. These groups organize various events and activities, including cultural events, sports, and social gatherings.

For British expats, Abu Dhabi is an ideal destination, as there is a large British expat community here. The British expat community in Abu Dhabi is known for its friendliness and welcoming attitude, making it easy for newcomers to settle in and feel at home.

In addition to the social benefits, being part of an expat community can also provide practical help. For example, expats can share tips and advice on everything from finding accommodation to navigating the local healthcare system. Expats can also offer support to each other during homesickness or culture shock.

Overall, the expat community in Abu Dhabi is a welcoming and supportive network that can help you to make the most of your expat life in this vibrant city.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cost of living like in Abu Dhabi?

The cost of living in Abu Dhabi is generally higher than in other parts of the UAE. However, it is still more affordable than many other major cities worldwide. Housing and transportation tend to be the most significant expenses, but there are also many options for dining and entertainment at various price points.

What are the best areas for expats to live in Abu Dhabi?

Some of the most popular areas for expats to live in Abu Dhabi include Saadiyat Island, Al Reef, Al Raha Beach, and Khalifa City. These areas offer a range of housing options and easy access to amenities like schools, shopping, and dining.

What is the social scene like for expats in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi has a vibrant expat community, with many opportunities to meet new people and participate in social activities. There are a variety of clubs and organizations catering to different interests, as well as events and festivals throughout the year.

Is Abu Dhabi a good place for families?

Yes, Abu Dhabi is an excellent place for families. The city is safe, clean, and family-friendly, with plenty of parks, playgrounds, and other activities for kids. There are also many excellent public and private schools catering to a range of educational philosophies.

What are the job opportunities like for women in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi is committed to promoting gender equality and empowering women in the workforce. There are many opportunities for women in various industries, with a particular emphasis on sectors like healthcare, education, and technology.

What are the main differences between living in Abu Dhabi and Dubai?

While both cities offer a high standard of living and a range of amenities, there are some critical differences between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Abu Dhabi tends to be more laid-back and family-oriented, with a slower pace of life. Conversely, Dubai is more fast-paced and cosmopolitan, with a broader range of dining, shopping, and entertainment options.

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