Life in Dubai

Expat Life in Dubai – A Comprehensive Guide

Dubai is a city that has been attracting expats from all over the world for decades. It is known for its luxurious lifestyle, tax-free income, and endless opportunities. With a population of over 3 million, Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, making it an exciting and diverse place to live.

As an expat in Dubai, you will experience a unique way of life different from anywhere else. You will be greeted with warm hospitality and a welcoming atmosphere from the moment you arrive. Whether you are here for work, to start a business, or to enjoy retirement, Dubai has something to offer everyone. The city has some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall, and the Palm Jumeirah. Dubai has it all: year-round sunshine, stunning beaches, and world-class restaurants.

Living as an expat in the UAE can be both exciting and challenging. While the country offers a high standard of living, it is essential to understand the cultural norms and laws. As a Muslim country, certain customs and traditions should be respected. However, expats can thrive in this dynamic and vibrant city with an open mind and willingness to learn.

All About Expat Life in Dubai

Let’s start!

Understanding Dubai

Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in the Middle East. It is known for its luxurious lifestyle, modern architecture, and vibrant nightlife. Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, with a large expat community and a diverse population of locals and expats.

The locals, also known as Emiratis, comprise only a tiny percentage of the population. They are known for their hospitality and generosity towards visitors. It is essential to respect their culture and traditions, such as dressing modestly and avoiding public displays of affection.

Dubai is a modern and cosmopolitan city with a high standard of living. It is a hub for business and tourism, with world-class shopping malls, restaurants, and entertainment options. The city is also home to some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, such as the Burj Khalifa and the Palm Jumeirah.

As an expat in Dubai, it is essential to understand the local customs and laws. The UAE has a strict legal system, and respecting the laws and regulations is necessary. For example, drinking alcohol in public places is illegal, and strict rules around dress and behaviour exist.

Overall, Dubai is a vibrant and exciting city with a lot to offer for expats. Its diverse cultures and modern amenities make it a great place to live and work.

Moving to Dubai

Moving to Dubai can be an exciting experience, but it also requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some things to consider when moving to Dubai:


Before you move to Dubai, you will need to obtain a visa. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose of your visit. If you are moving to Dubai for work, your employer usually sponsors your visa. If you are moving to Dubai for other reasons, such as retirement, you may need to apply for a residence visa.

Temporary Accommodation

When you first arrive in Dubai, you may need to stay in temporary accommodation while you look for a more permanent place to live. There are many options for temporary housing in Dubai, including hotels, serviced apartments, and short-term rentals.

Residence Visa

If you plan to stay in Dubai for an extended period, you must obtain a residence visa. To get a residence visa, you must have a sponsor, such as an employer or family member. You will also need to undergo a medical examination and provide various documents, such as your passport and proof of income.

Moving to Dubai

Moving to Dubai can be a complex process, especially if you bring belongings. You must arrange for shipping and customs clearance, which can take several weeks. It is essential to work with a reputable moving company and ensure you have all the necessary documentation to avoid delays or issues.

Overall, moving to Dubai requires careful planning and preparation. By understanding the visa process, arranging for temporary accommodation, and obtaining a residence visa, you can make your move to Dubai as smooth as possible.

Living in Dubai

Dubai is a popular destination for expats due to its tax-free income, booming economy, and high standard of living. Living in Dubai can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s essential to understand the unique culture and customs of the city.


Finding suitable accommodation in Dubai can be challenging due to the high demand and cost. Most expats choose to live in apartments ranging from small studios to spacious penthouses. The cost of rent varies depending on the apartment’s location, size, and amenities.

Residential Areas

Dubai has a variety of residential areas to choose from, each with its unique character and charm. Some of the most popular sites for expats include Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai, and Jumeirah. These areas offer a range of amenities, such as shopping malls, restaurants, and parks.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Dubai can be high, especially regarding housing, transportation, and healthcare. However, the city offers a tax-free income, and many employers provide additional benefits such as housing allowances and health insurance.

Living in Dubai can be an excellent experience for expats willing to adapt to the city’s unique culture and customs. With its modern infrastructure, world-class amenities, and diverse community, Dubai offers a high standard of living that is hard to beat.

Working in Dubai

Dubai is known for its thriving business environment, which attracts many expats looking for job opportunities. The city has a diverse range of industries, including finance, healthcare, construction, and tourism.

Finding a job in Dubai can be challenging, but many resources are available to help you navigate the job market. Networking is critical, and it is advisable to attend job fairs and conferences to meet potential employers. You can also use online job portals to search for job openings in Dubai.

Regarding salaries, Dubai offers competitive compensation packages, with tax-free salaries being a significant draw for many expats. The salary package will depend on the industry, job role, and experience level. It is essential to negotiate your salary package before accepting a job offer.

In Dubai, the working week is typically Sunday to Thursday, with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. The working hours vary, but most companies follow an eight-hour workday. The UAE labour law mandates a maximum of 48 hours per week, with overtime pay for additional hours worked.

Overall, working in Dubai can be a rewarding experience for expats. The city’s business environment is dynamic, and the tax-free salaries and benefits can be attractive. However, it is essential to research and understand the job market and industry before moving.

Cost of Living in Dubai

Dubai is known for its luxurious lifestyle, but it can be expensive. The cost of living in Dubai varies depending on your lifestyle and where you live in the city. Here are some factors to consider:


Housing is one of the most significant expenses in Dubai. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city centre can range from AED 3,000 to AED 10,000 per month, while a three-bedroom apartment can range from AED 6,000 to AED 20,000 per month. If you want to buy property in Dubai, the average cost per square meter is around AED 12,000.


Dubai has a well-developed public transportation system, but many expats prefer to own a car. The cost of a new vehicle can range from AED 50,000 to AED 200,000, depending on the make and model. Gasoline is relatively cheap in Dubai, costing around AED 2 a litre.

Food and Entertainment

Dubai has many restaurants and entertainment options, but they can be expensive. A meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost around AED 100 per person, while a movie ticket can cost around AED 40. However, many affordable options are also available, such as street food and free outdoor activities.


Dubai is a tax-free city, meaning there is no income tax or VAT. However, there are some fees and taxes that expats may need to pay, such as a 5% municipality fee on rent and a 5% VAT on most goods and services.

The cost of living in Dubai can be high, but it is possible to live within your means by carefully managing your expenses.

Transportation in Dubai

Dubai has a well-developed transportation system that makes it easy for expats to travel around the city. The following are the most common modes of transportation in Dubai:


Dubai’s metro system is an efficient and affordable way to travel around the city. The metro network consists of two lines – the Red Line and the Green Line – that cover most of the city’s significant areas. The trains are modern, air-conditioned, and have separate carriages for women and children. The metro operates from 5:30 am to midnight on weekdays and from 10:00 am to midnight on Fridays.

Public Transport

Dubai’s public transport system consists of buses, trams, and water buses. Buses are the most common mode of public transportation and cover almost all city areas. The buses are air-conditioned and have separate seating areas for women and children. The trams operate in some regions of Dubai and are a convenient way to travel around those areas. The water buses are a unique transportation mode used in Dubai Creek and Dubai Marina.


Taxis are readily available in Dubai and convenient for travel around the city. The taxis are metered, air-conditioned, and have a standard fare. It is important to note that taxis can be expensive during rush hour and peak times.


Dubai’s bus system is an affordable way to travel around the city. The buses are air-conditioned and cover most areas of the city. The bus routes and schedules are available on the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) website.

In conclusion, Dubai has a well-developed transportation system that makes it easy for expats to travel around the city. Whether you prefer to travel by metro, bus, taxi, or public transport, plenty of options are available to suit your needs.

Healthcare in Dubai

Dubai has a world-class healthcare system provides its residents with a wide range of medical services. The government of Dubai has made significant investments in healthcare to ensure that the highest standards are maintained.


Dubai has several world-class hospitals that offer comprehensive medical services. Some of the top hospitals in Dubai include:

  • American Hospital Dubai
  • Mediclinic City Hospital
  • Emirates Hospital
  • Dubai Hospital

These hospitals offer various medical services, including emergency care, surgery, and specialist treatments.

Health Insurance

All residents of Dubai are required to have health insurance. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has made it mandatory for all employers to provide health insurance to their employees. Individuals not covered by their employer’s health insurance must purchase it.

There are several health insurance providers in Dubai, and residents can choose from various plans that suit their needs and budget.

Medical Tourism

Dubai is a popular destination for medical tourism, with many people travelling to the city for medical treatment. The city has several specialized medical centres offering cosmetic surgery, dental procedures, and fertility treatments.

Health and Wellness

In addition to medical services, Dubai offers various health and wellness services. The city has several gyms, fitness centres, and spas that provide a range of wellness treatments.

Overall, Dubai’s healthcare system is of a high standard, with excellent medical facilities and services. Residents can be confident they will receive the best possible care in Dubai.

Education in Dubai

Dubai has a well-established education system, with a wide range of options for both expats and locals. The education system is divided into primary, secondary, and tertiary levels, with public and private schools available.

Most schools in Dubai offer bilingual education, with English and Arabic being the two main languages of instruction. However, some schools provide education in other languages, such as French, German, and Spanish.

The Dubai education system follows the British curriculum, with many schools offering GCSEs and A-levels. There are also American and International Baccalaureate (IB) schools available.

Private schools in Dubai are generally more expensive than public schools, but they offer a higher quality of education and a more comprehensive range of extracurricular activities. Some of the top private schools in Dubai include Dubai College, Jumeirah College, and GEMS World Academy.

For those who prefer a more affordable option, public schools in Dubai offer free education to all residents. However, these schools may have limited resources and a lower education standard than private schools.

In conclusion, Dubai’s education system offers various options for both expats and locals, with bilingual education being a standard feature. Private schools offer higher education, while public schools provide free education to residents.

Lifestyle and Leisure in Dubai

Dubai is known for its luxurious lifestyle and vibrant leisure scene. The city offers many activities and entertainment options for expats and locals alike.


Dubai is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, with crystal clear waters and white sandy shores. The most popular beaches include Jumeirah Beach, Kite Beach, and Al Mamzar Beach Park. These beaches offer a variety of water sports activities, such as jet skiing, parasailing, and banana boat rides.


Dubai is a food lover’s paradise, with diverse restaurants catering to all tastes and preferences. From local Emirati cuisine to international cuisine, there is something for everyone. Some of the most popular restaurants in Dubai include Zuma, Nobu, and La Petite Maison.

Shopping Malls

Dubai is known for its extravagant shopping malls, offering a wide range of high-end designer brands and luxury goods. The most popular malls include The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, and City Walk. These malls also offer a range of entertainment options, such as cinemas, indoor theme parks, and ice-skating rinks.


Dubai offers a range of leisure activities for all ages, including theme parks, water parks, and indoor entertainment centres. Some popular leisure destinations include Dubai Parks and Resorts, Ski Dubai, and IMG Worlds of Adventure. Dubai is also home to some of the world’s tallest buildings, such as the Burj Khalifa, which offers breathtaking city views.

Dubai’s lifestyle and leisure scene is second to none, offering a unique and exciting experience for expats and locals alike.

Safety in Dubai

Dubai is a safe city with a low crime rate. The government has taken several measures to ensure the safety of residents and visitors alike. The police force is well-trained and equipped to handle any situation that may arise.

Dubai is known for its strict laws, contributing to its reputation as a safe place to live. The government has implemented strict regulations on the possession of firearms, and the use of drugs is strictly prohibited. The city also has state-of-the-art surveillance systems that monitor public areas, ensuring that criminal activity is detected and dealt with promptly.

Taking certain precautions is essential to ensure your safety when moving to a new country. In Dubai, it is recommended that you avoid walking alone at night in isolated areas. It is also advisable to always carry a mobile phone with you in case of an emergency.

Overall, Dubai is a safe city with a low crime rate. By following basic safety precautions and being aware of your surroundings, you can enjoy all this vibrant city offers with peace of mind.

Some tips to stay safe in Dubai:

  • Avoid public displays of affection, which is considered inappropriate in the city.
  • Be respectful of local customs and traditions.
  • Keep your valuables secure, especially in crowded areas.
  • Familiarize yourself with emergency contact numbers, such as the police and ambulance services.
  • Always carry identification, such as a passport or Emirates ID card.
  • If you are driving, make sure to follow traffic rules and regulations.

Expat Experiences in Dubai

Dubai is known for its luxurious lifestyle and cosmopolitan culture, which has attracted expats worldwide. Here are some experiences shared by expats living in Dubai.

Expat Life

Dubai offers a unique expat experience, blending traditional Arabic culture and modern amenities. Expats can enjoy the warm weather, beautiful beaches, and vibrant nightlife. The city also has a diverse population, which makes it easy for expats to meet people from different cultures.


Expats in Dubai can enjoy various activities, from shopping at world-class malls to exploring the desert on a safari. The city also hosts multiple cultural events throughout the year, including the Dubai Shopping Festival and the Dubai International Film Festival.


Expats living in Dubai have mixed thoughts about their experience. While some appreciate the high standard of living and tax-free income, others find the city too materialistic and lacking in cultural depth. Expats need to research and understand the culture before moving to Dubai to ensure a positive experience.

Pros and Cons of Living in Dubai


  • Tax-free income
  • High standard of living
  • Beautiful beaches and warm weather
  • Diverse population
  • World-class amenities


  • High cost of living
  • Limited cultural depth
  • Strict laws and regulations
  • Extreme heat during the summer months

Overall, Dubai offers a unique and exciting experience for expats looking to live in a modern and cosmopolitan city. However, weighing the pros and cons before making the move is essential to ensure a successful transition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the pros and cons of living in Dubai as an expat?

Dubai offers a luxurious lifestyle with modern amenities and a tax-free income. The city has a diverse population is a hub for business and tourism. However, the high cost of living and extreme weather conditions can be challenging for some expats.

What is the cost of living like in Dubai for expats?

The cost of living in Dubai is relatively high, especially for accommodation, transportation, and education. However, the absence of income tax and low import duties on consumer goods can offset some expenses.

What is a good salary package for expats in Dubai?

The salary package for expats in Dubai varies depending on the industry, experience, and qualifications. An average salary package for expats is around AED 20,000 to AED 30,000 per month, including accommodation and transportation allowances.

What are the rules expats need to follow when living in Dubai?

Expats in Dubai are expected to follow the local laws and customs, including dress codes, alcohol consumption, and public displays of affection. Failure to comply with these rules can result in fines, imprisonment, or deportation.

Is Dubai a popular destination for American expats?

Yes, Dubai is a popular destination for American expats, with over 10,000 Americans living there. The city offers excellent career opportunities, a high standard of living, and a vibrant social scene.

What are the downsides of living in Dubai as an expat?

The downsides of living in Dubai as an expat include the high cost of living, extreme weather conditions, limited social and political freedoms, and cultural differences. Expats may also experience homesickness, loneliness, and isolation due to the transient nature of the city’s population.


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