life in uae
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Expat Life in UAE – A Comprehensive Guide

Expat life in the UAE is a popular topic of discussion among individuals considering a move to this part of the world. The United Arab Emirates, or UAE, is a federation of seven emirates located in the Middle East.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are two of the most well-known emirates, and both offer unique opportunities for expats looking to live and work in the region.

The UAE is a popular destination for expats worldwide, with a diverse population that includes individuals from over 200 different countries.

The country’s strong economy, favorable tax laws, and high standard of living are just a few of the factors that make it an attractive option for those looking to work and live abroad. Expats in the UAE can expect to enjoy a high quality of life, with access to modern amenities and a range of recreational activities.

Expat Life in UAE

Let’s explore!

Visa Requirements and Procedures

Expats planning to work or live in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) must obtain a residence visa. The visa application process can be time-consuming, and it’s essential to understand the requirements and procedures involved.

To obtain a residence visa, expats must have a valid passport with at least six months of validity. Additionally, they must have a sponsor, either an employer or a family member who is a UAE national or a resident with a valid residence visa.

The visa application process involves several steps, including medical testing, biometric data collection, and security checks. The medical test includes a blood test and a chest X-ray to check for infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Expats must also provide proof of health insurance coverage, a copy of their employment contract, and a salary certificate from their employer. Once the visa application is approved, expats must pay the visa fee and obtain an entry permit to enter the UAE.

It’s important to note that expats must renew their residence visa every two to three years, depending on their employer’s sponsorship. They must also exit the country every six months to avoid overstaying their visa.

Overall, obtaining a residence visa in the UAE can be a complex process. Still, with proper preparation and knowledge of the requirements and procedures involved, expats can successfully obtain one and enjoy their time living and working in the country.

Cost of Living

Living in the UAE can be expensive, but living costs vary depending on where you live and your lifestyle. Dubai is generally more costly than other emirates regarding housing, food, and entertainment. However, there are still ways to save money and live comfortably.


Housing is the most significant expense for expats in the UAE. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Dubai can range from AED 2,500 to AED 8,000 per month, depending on the location and amenities. Utilities such as water, electricity, and gas can add up to around AED 500 per month.

Food and Entertainment

Food and entertainment costs in Dubai can be high, especially if you prefer to dine out frequently or enjoy the nightlife. However, many affordable options, such as street food and local cafes, are available. A meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost around AED 50, while a beer at a bar can cost around AED 40.


Transportation costs in Dubai can be high if you rely on taxis or ride-hailing services. However, the public transportation system is affordable and efficient—a monthly pass for the Dubai Metro and bus system costs around AED 350.

The cost of living in Dubai can be high, but there are ways to save money and live comfortably. By being mindful of your spending and finding affordable options, you can enjoy all Dubai offers without breaking the bank.

Accommodation Options

Regarding finding accommodation in UAE, there are several options available for expats. Depending on your budget and personal preferences, you can choose from apartments, villas, or serviced apartments.


Apartments are the most common accommodation in the UAE and come in different sizes and styles. They are available in both high-rise buildings and low-rise buildings. Apartments are a good option for single expats or small families looking for an affordable option. The cost of an apartment varies depending on the location, size, and facilities.


If you want a larger space and more privacy, villas are a great option. Villas are standalone houses with a garden and sometimes a swimming pool. They are available in different sizes, ranging from two-bedroom villas to six-bedroom villas. Villas are a good option for families looking for a spacious, comfortable living space. The cost of a villa varies depending on the location, size, and facilities.

Serviced Apartments

Serviced apartments are fully furnished with all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay. They are an excellent option for expats looking for a short-term stay or not wanting to deal with the hassle of setting up their own homes. Serviced apartments are available in different sizes and styles, and they come with a range of facilities such as housekeeping, laundry, and 24-hour security. The cost of a serviced apartment varies depending on the location, size, and facilities.

Accommodation Costs

The cost of accommodation in the UAE varies depending on the location, size, and facilities. Generally, the accommodation cost is higher in popular areas such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi. However, there are also affordable options available in other sizes. The cost of an apartment can range from AED 2,500 to AED 10,000 per month, while a villa can range from AED 10,000 to AED 50,000 per month. A serviced apartment can range from AED 8,000 to AED 20,000 per month.

Overall, there are several accommodation options available for expats in UAE. It is essential to do your research and choose an option that fits your budget and personal preferences.

Working in UAE

Working in UAE can be an excellent opportunity for expats seeking career growth and development. The country is known for its robust business environment, which attracts many international companies and investors. Dubai, in particular, is a hub for various industries, including finance, real estate, tourism, and more.

Employment prospects in UAE are generally positive, with many companies actively hiring for various positions. However, competition for jobs can be high, especially in specific sectors. Job seekers need to have a strong resume and relevant experience to stand out from the crowd.

Employment opportunities in UAE are diverse, ranging from entry-level positions to senior management roles. Many companies offer competitive salaries and benefits packages, including health insurance and paid vacation time.

To work in UAE, expats must obtain a work permit, typically sponsored by their employer. Getting a work permit can vary depending on the individual’s nationality and the type of work they will be doing. Researching the requirements and process thoroughly before accepting a job offer is essential.

Overall, UAE offers many career opportunities for expats working in a dynamic and diverse environment. With its robust business culture and growing economy, UAE is a great place to advance your career and gain valuable experience.

Culture and Customs

The UAE is a melting pot of cultures with a rich and diverse history that spans centuries. Emirati culture is heavily influenced by Arabic and Islamic traditions, which are deeply ingrained in the daily lives of its people.

Arabic is the official language of the UAE, and while English is widely spoken, it’s always appreciated when visitors try to learn a few key phrases in Arabic. Islam is the dominant religion, and the call to prayer can be heard daily throughout the country.

One of the most critical events in the Islamic calendar is Ramadan, which Muslims worldwide observe. During this month-long fasting period, Emiratis and expats come together to share meals and celebrate the spirit of giving.

Emirati hospitality is legendary, and visitors to the UAE can expect to be treated with warmth and respect. Dressing modestly and respecting local customs and traditions is essential, especially when visiting mosques or other religious sites.

The UAE is a welcoming and inclusive country that values diversity and cultural exchange. Whether you’re here for a short visit or a more extended stay, learning about Emirati culture and customs will enrich your experience and help you connect with the people and traditions that make this country so unique.

Laws and Regulations

Living in the UAE as an expat comes with specific laws and regulations that you must abide by. The UAE has a strict legal system enforced by the authorities, and it is essential to be aware of these laws to avoid legal issues.


The UAE has a legal system based on Islamic law, and it is essential to respect the local laws and customs. Some of the laws that you should be aware of include:

  • Alcohol consumption is only permitted on licensed premises
  • Public displays of affection are not allowed
  • It is illegal to use drugs or possess drug paraphernalia
  • It is unlawful to engage in any form of gambling
  • Dress codes must be respected, especially in public places


The UAE has rules enforced by the authorities, and it is essential to follow them to avoid any legal issues. Some of the rules that you should be aware of include:

  • Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious offence
  • It is illegal to take photographs of government buildings or military installations
  • It is unlawful to engage in any form of public protest or demonstration

Local Laws

The authorities enforce the local laws in the UAE, and it is essential to be aware of them to avoid legal issues. Some of the local laws that you should be aware of include:

  • The use of electronic cigarettes is banned in the UAE
  • It is illegal to engage in any form of cybercrime
  • It is unlawful to engage in any form of hate speech or discrimination


Deportation is a severe consequence of breaking the laws and regulations in the UAE. If you are found to be breaking the law, you may face deportation, fines, or even imprisonment. It is essential to respect the laws and regulations in the UAE to avoid any legal issues.

Education and Schools

Education is a top priority in the UAE, and the government has invested heavily in developing a world-class education system. Various schooling options are available in the UAE, including public and private schools, international and local schools, and boarding schools.

Public Schools

UAE public schools are free for Emirati citizens and offer high-quality education. However, expat children are not eligible to attend public schools.

Private Schools

Most expat families in the UAE opt for private schools, which offer a range of curriculums, including American, British, French, Indian, and International Baccalaureate (IB). Private schools in the UAE are known for their excellent facilities, highly qualified teachers, and diverse student body.

Private schools can be expensive, with annual fees ranging from AED 30,000 to AED 100,000 or more, depending on the school and grade level. Some schools also charge additional fees for transportation, uniforms, and extracurricular activities.

International Schools

International schools in the UAE cater to expat families and offer a multicultural environment with students worldwide. These schools follow curriculums from their home countries and provide a range of extracurricular activities.

International schools are generally more expensive than local schools, with annual fees ranging from AED 50,000 to AED 150,000 or more. However, they offer high-quality education and prepare students for universities worldwide.

Boarding Schools

Several options are available in the UAE for expat families who prefer a boarding school education. These schools offer a range of curriculums and provide a safe and supportive environment for students.

Boarding schools in the UAE can be expensive, with annual fees ranging from AED 100,000 to AED 200,000 or more, depending on the school and grade level. However, they offer a unique educational experience and prepare students for universities worldwide.

Healthcare System

The healthcare system in the UAE is of high quality, with both public and private facilities available. The government has significantly invested in healthcare infrastructure, resulting in modern hospitals and clinics with state-of-the-art equipment and technology.

Medical insurance is mandatory for all residents of the UAE, including expats. Employers are required to provide medical insurance for their employees, while individuals can purchase private insurance plans. The cost of medical insurance can vary depending on the level of coverage and the insurance provider.

Public healthcare facilities are available to all residents of the UAE, regardless of their nationality or income level. However, expats often prefer private healthcare facilities due to shorter waiting times and higher quality of care.

In addition to general healthcare services, the UAE offers specialized medical services such as cosmetic surgery, fertility treatments, and alternative medicine. Many of these services are available at private facilities and can be expensive.

Overall, the healthcare system in the UAE provides high-quality care to residents and expats alike. With public and private facilities available, individuals can choose the level of care that best suits their needs and budget.


Transportation in the UAE is generally reliable and efficient. The country has a well-developed road network, with modern highways connecting all major cities. The public transportation system is also extensive and includes buses, taxis, and metro trains.


Driving is a popular mode of transportation in the UAE, and many expats choose to purchase or rent a car. You must have a valid driving license to drive legally in the UAE. If you have a driving license from your home country, you can use it for up to six months before obtaining a UAE driving license. Obtaining a UAE driving license is relatively straightforward, and you must pass a driving test.

Public Transport

The public transport system in the UAE is well-developed and includes buses, taxis, and metro trains. The Dubai Metro is a modern and efficient system that connects all major areas of Dubai. The Abu Dhabi Metro is currently under construction and is expected to be completed shortly. The bus system in the UAE is also extensive and covers most areas of the country.


Taxis are a convenient and affordable way to get around in the UAE. Taxis are metered, and the government regulates fares. You can hail a taxi from the street or book one through a taxi app.

Overall, transportation in the UAE is reliable, efficient, and affordable. Whether you drive, take public transit, or use taxis, you can quickly get around and explore all this vibrant country has to offer.

Entertainment and Tourism

The UAE is known for its luxurious lifestyle and entertainment options. From world-class theme parks to high-end shopping malls, there is no shortage of entertainment in the country.

Theme Parks

The UAE is home to some of the world’s most famous theme parks, such as Ferrari World, Warner Bros World, and IMG Worlds of Adventure. These parks offer thrilling rides, live shows, and interactive experiences for visitors of all ages.


The UAE has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, such as Jumeirah Beach, Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach, and Kite Beach. Visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, and water sports activities.

Shopping Malls

The UAE is a shopper’s paradise, with numerous high-end shopping malls such as Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, and Yas Mall. These malls offer various shopping options, from luxury brands to high-street fashion.


The UAE is known for its diverse culinary scene, with many restaurants serving international cuisine. From fine-dining restaurants to street food vendors, visitors can enjoy a variety of delicious dishes.

In conclusion, the UAE offers various entertainment and tourism options, from theme parks to beaches, shopping malls, and restaurants. Visitors can be assured of a luxurious and enjoyable experience in the country.

Expat Life in UAE – Conclusion

Living as an expat in the UAE can be an exciting and rewarding experience. Throughout this article, we have explored various aspects of expat life in the UAE, including the culture, lifestyle, and job opportunities.

The UAE is diverse, with a rich history and a unique blend of cultures. Expats can enjoy the warm hospitality of the locals and experience a wide range of activities, from shopping in Dubai’s malls to exploring the historical sites in Abu Dhabi.

The Emirates offers a high standard of living, with excellent healthcare, education, and infrastructure. Expats can also benefit from tax-free salaries and a low cost of living compared to other developed countries.

Dubai, in particular, is a popular destination for expats, with its vibrant nightlife, world-class restaurants, and luxurious lifestyle. However, other emirates, such as Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, also offer a high quality of life and job opportunities in various industries.

Overall, the UAE is a welcoming and exciting place to live as an expat. With its modern infrastructure, diverse culture, and excellent job opportunities, it is no wonder that so many people choose to call the Emirates their home.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where to live in UAE?

Deciding where to live in the UAE depends on your lifestyle, budget, and personal preferences. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are popular choices for expats due to their modern facilities, diverse communities, and job opportunities. Other cities like Sharjah, Ajman, and Ras Al Khaimah offer affordable housing options.

Living in Abu Dhabi with family

Abu Dhabi is family-friendly, with many parks, beaches, and cultural attractions. The cost of living is higher than in other cities in the UAE, but the quality of life is excellent. Many international schools and healthcare facilities make it a popular choice for expat families.

Cost of living in Abu Dhabi

The cost of living in Abu Dhabi is higher than other cities in the UAE. Housing, transportation, and food are the most significant expenses. However, salaries are generally higher in Abu Dhabi, and many companies offer benefits like housing allowances and health insurance.

Living in Abu Dhabi vs Dubai

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have different lifestyles and atmospheres. Abu Dhabi is more relaxed and family-oriented, while Dubai is known for its nightlife and entertainment. Both cities offer excellent job opportunities, modern facilities, and a diverse community.

What is a good expat salary in Dubai?

The average salary for expats in Dubai varies depending on the industry and job position. However, a good wage for a single person is around AED 10,000 per month, while a family of four would need around AED 20,000 per month to live comfortably.

Are expats happy in Dubai?

Many expats are happy living in Dubai due to the high standard of living, tax-free income, and diverse community. However, it’s essential to research and understand the cultural differences and laws before moving to the UAE.

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