Moving to Dubai: Your Complete Guide

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Eager to start a new chapter of your life in Dubai?
Ever thought of moving to Dubai? Dubai is a top choice for expatriates and regarded as a tax-friendly jurisdiction (tax free except 5% on Value Added Tax – VAT) due to its absence of personal income tax and corporate tax for most businesses. With a warm climate and between 8 to 10 hours of sunshine a day year round, Dubai is certainly a destination to consider.

Expatriates in the United Arab Emirates represent about 88% of the population making the UAE home to one of the world’s highest percentage of expatriates. Dubai and the UAE is tax free. However, in the last 15 years, the influx of wealthy people has caused a significant increase in the cost of living, especially housing and private school fees. The UAE was ranked 90th among the most expensive destinations for expatriates in 2013, but by 2023 it is already ranked 31st. Want to know how to live a luxurious life in Dubai?

Living in Dubai offers a top-notch lifestyle, in a spotless, secure, and opulent city boasting world-class facilities. It’s also a hub of endless career prospects, alongside upscale shopping, dining, and impressive high-rise living. Relocating to a foreign country is always a daunting task, but we’re here to support you. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about relocating to Dubai from the UK and elsewhere. This includes visa requirements for the UAE, finding a place to live, and essential information on the city’s cost of living. We’ll also briefly discuss the most economical ways to handle your finances abroad, including banking, and exchange rates. However, before we dive into the details, let’s first look at some of the fundamental things you need to know before your significant move.

What to know before moving to Dubai – Our top 7 must knows
1. Arabic is the national language of the UAE
2. All UAE residents must have an Emirates ID
3. The week starts on a Monday (not a Sunday)
3. Getting a driving licence is relatively easy (if you already have one in your home country)
5. You need a licence to drink alcohol
6. There’s now five percent VAT on everything
7. There is no official dress code in Dubai

Moving to Dubai – Essential Information.
Here are some key points to consider if you’re thinking about relocating to Dubai:
• Money – UAE Dirham (AED)
• Primary languages – Arabic and English
• Population – approximately 3.69 million people
• British expat community – around 240,000 people

Dubai’s Cost of Living
It’s wise to research the cost of living in your new destination before making the move. The positive aspect is that Dubai’s cost of living is, on average, about 22% cheaper than in London. To help you understand the cost differences, here are a few examples of daily and monthly expenses in Dubai compared to London, all in British pounds.
Discover the hidden gems in Dubai – Apartments for sale that will elevate your travel experience.

Cost in Dubai, UAE (in GBP) Cost in London, UK (in GBP)
Three-course meal for two people £57.45 £76.80
Loaf of bread £1.23 £1.12
Monthly public transport pass £64.47 £192.80 (zones 1,2 and 3)
Utilities – monthly (basic) £152.93 £320.60
Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in city centre £1,638 £2,183

Is buying a house better than renting?
Dubai is a whopping 73% cheaper than London. The price per square metre for an apartment in the city centre is around £3,340. To buy the same property in the UK capital, you would pay around £13,464. Therefore, the UK capital could be a good place for property investment.

Healthcare system in Dubai
Dubai has an excellent healthcare system consisting of a combination of public and private systems. Expatriates can use the public system, but services are not free. You will need to apply for a health card online with the Ministry of Health. However, it is important to remember that public healthcare services are designed for Emirati nationals, so demand is high and services may not be available for English speakers. As an expatriate, you are also legally required to have some sort of private health insurance. If you are working in Dubai, this may be provided by your employer. Otherwise, you will need to take out private insurance. The main advantage of this insurance is that it provides access to medical care of a much higher standard than the public system.
Healthcare in Dubai is funded through taxes and the public sector. Funding also comes partly from patient fees. Employees who have health insurance through their employer must pay 20% of their medical costs out of pocket. This amount is limited to 1,000 AED per year. Employers are obliged to provide health insurance to expatriate employees, but are not obliged to insure employees’ dependents. Some employers offer family cover, but many do not, so be sure to take these costs into consideration if you’re moving to Dubai.

Emergency Medical Care
Dubai’s public hospital provides free emergency medical care to anyone who needs it, even if they do not have a medical card. If you do not have a card, you will be given a temporary card on arrival.

Opening a bank account in Dubai
Dubai is the financial centre of the Middle East, so banking is thriving here, with a wide range of account providers to choose from. It’s also very easy for non-nationals to open a bank account in Dubai. You need to be a resident to open a current account, and non-residents are limited to a small number of savings accounts. These may have higher minimum balance requirements. The account opening process usually requires visiting a branch of your chosen bank. This is because there are many documents that need to be verified and verified. After you submit your application, it takes only a few days for your account to be opened. Requirements vary from bank to bank, but generally you will need:

• Passport
• Copy of visa
• Letter or salary certificate or pay slip from your employer or visa sponsor
• Emirates ID (if applicable)
• Proof of address

In some cases, you may also be asked for a reference letter from your previous bank, a recent utility bill, or a recent bank statement. If you want to open and manage your account online, there are an increasing number of digital and mobile-only banks in the UAE. These include:

• Liv
• Neo
• First Abu Dhabi Bank
Emirates NBD
• Mashreq
• Dubai Islamic Bank
• HSBC
• Citibank

Find a job in Dubai
Are you available to work in Dubai and have a work permit? If you don’t have a job lined up yet, you should start looking for one now. It’s a good idea to do this before you move. If you’re looking for a job in Dubai, here are some useful places to start your search:

Bayt.com
GulfTalent.com
Indeed.com
Naukrigulf
Emirates Group Careers
Khaleej Times Jobs

There is no income tax in the UAE, so you don’t have to pay tax on your salary.

Rent or Buy Property in Dubai
Along with applying for a visa, apartment hunting is at the top of your to-do list when moving to Dubai. You don’t need to be a UAE citizen to buy property in Dubai. However, expatriates can only buy condominiums in certain designated areas. These include areas around Downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah, Barsha Heights, Emirates Hills and Dubai Marina. The list of designated areas is updated annually. To find a property in , it is recommended that you register with a local real estate agent registered with the Real Estate Supervisory Authority. They can help you find the right property in a particular area, advise you on obtaining a mortgage and carry out the necessary legal formalities.

Should I rent?
This is a popular option for first-time arrivals in Dubai as it means you have a roof over your head as soon as you arrive. You can also just rent for a few months while you get a feel for the area and look for a property to buy. To find houses and apartments to rent in Dubai, start by checking the following websites:

•  Propertyfinder
•  Bayut
•  PropSearch
•  Dubizzle

Do I need a visa for the UAE?
One of the most important things you need to do before moving to Dubai is to apply for a visa. There are a few different options for UK nationals.

5 Year Green UAE Visa – This is a new visa for those who want to live and work in the UAE for up to 5 years without visa sponsorship. It is suitable for highly qualified workers, freelancers, investors and business partners. As part of the application process, you will be issued with a 60-day Dubai work permit to enable you to complete the final step on arrival.

10-year “golden” UAE Visa
– This is aimed at expatriates who want to settle in the UAE to pursue long-term career or investment opportunities. It is open to investors, entrepreneurs, managers, scientists and students who meet certain criteria. You can also obtain this visa by making qualifying investments in local real estate and other investments.

Other UAE visas for UK nationals include work visa, study visa and retirement visa. To apply for the UAE visa, you will need to contact the UAE Embassy in London or apply through a sponsor in Dubai. It is important to note that when applying for a UAE residence permit you will be required to take a blood test. If your HIV or Hepatitis test is positive your application will be rejected. You will most likely be deported if you are living in the UAE and there is no appeal process.

Schools & Education
Parents should, if possible, plan a school visit as at least 9-12 months before relocation as the schools admissions departments will often fill their quotas. If you’d prefer your children to live outside the bubble and meet other kids, both local and from all over the world, don’t worry. The majority of local, well-off families send their children to these private schools because they learn English there, but everyone has to attend Arabic classes anyway. A word of warning – some of the highly Anglicised school names are targeted at an Arabic or (in some cases) Indian audience and may make you feel like you’re in a huge minority. Our recommended options for English schools in Dubai are:

Dubai British School Jumeirah Park
Nord Anglia International School Dubai
Royal Grammar School Guildford in Dubai (RGSG Dubai)
Raffles International School

How to move your belongings from the UK to Dubai
Now we get to the practical part of planning your move – how to actually ship your belongings to Dubai. You’ll need to get quotes from transport companies and look at the different shipping options, including sea and air. It may be worth considering whether it’s worth taking everything with you – it may be cheaper to travel light and buy what you need when you arrive in the UAE. As a guide to what it will cost to ship your belongings from the UK to Dubai, you can expect to pay between £5,900 – £6,850 for the contents of a three-bed house. Start by checking the following websites:

Pickfords
Matthew James
Seven Seas Worldwide

Visit Dubai
Once you have done your due diligence, why not visit Dubai. Fly direct from London with Emirates, British Airways or Virgin Atlantic. CEO Today have compiled its top 10 luxury hotels guide for Dubai. What is the best time to visit Dubai? Dubai is a magnet for tourists with its glitz and glamour. The best time to visit Dubai is during the winter months from November to April.

Dubai has a tropical desert microclimate with very hot summers and warm winters. There is little rainfall throughout the year, although the distant moon over the Indian Ocean can make it seem rainier during the summer months. The highest temperatures occur during the peak summer months, so most visitors visit between October and May for the perfect vacation weather. The hottest month of the year is August, with an average daily maximum temperature of 44 °C and an average daily minimum of 30 °C. The coolest month of the year is January, with an average daily maximum temperature of 25 °C and an average daily minimum of 14 °C.

Areas & Neighbourhoods in Dubai
The Creek: This is where everything started. If you look at the photographs in the Dubai Museum, you’ll see that there was only a creek and desert fifty years ago. The calm waters between Deira and Bur Dubai were used by traders in the same way that motorboat ferries do today.

Deira: is the heart of the old city, along with Bur Dubai. Go to the souqs to smell the spices and see how well you can negotiate with the gold traders. Take a stroll along the Dhow Wharfage to marvel at how trucks, cars, and white goods-laden boats manage to stay above the water.

Bur Dubai: Travel down the creek to see everything that takes place between this location and the Al-Maktoum Bridge. To see how things were once, go to the Heritage Village and the Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House. A powerful way to see the contradictions that make Dubai what it is is to stroll through the wealthy merchants’ former home in Bastakia and the expat workers’ current home in Karama.

Sheikh Zayed Road: – Those who enjoy architecture will adore the structural battles that have taken place as each new hotel or development has attempted to surpass its neighbours.

Jumeirah: The Burj Al Arab, a city landmark, and the artificial islands of the Palm can be seen from your luxurious beach resort.

Dubai Top 7 things to do?
1. Dubai Mall
2. Burj Khalifa
3. Dubai Miracle Garden
4. Sky Dubai
5. The Dubai Fountain
6. Aura Skypool
7. Dubai Marina

Moving from the UK to Dubai – Checklist
Overwhelmed by the long list of things to do before moving to Dubai? Here’s a handy checklist of all the important tasks you need to focus on:

• Research your visa options, gather your documents and apply for your visa.
• Check your passport is valid.
• Set a budget for your moving costs  & get a quote to ship your furniture and belongings to Dubai.
• Look up local schools.
• Find an apartment – ​​you may need to make several trips to Dubai to get a feel for the location and browse –    properties for sale or rent.
• Look for a job, unless you already have one lined up or want to wait until you arrive.
• Research banks in Dubai to find out the requirements for opening a current account.
• Be aware of private health insurance.
• Tell HMRC you’re leaving the UK.
• Book your flight.

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, sits off the mainland on an island in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf and is also worth considering if you are thinking about relocating to the United Arab Emirates. CEO Today have complied our top things to see and do in our 48 Hours in Abu Dhabi guide.

You may also want to consider our list of the top 5 alternative cities to relocate to.

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