Thinking of moving to Dubai or the UAE? No idea where to start? After my recent move to Dubai from the UK, I wanted to give you all some useful tips and let you know what to expect when moving to the sandpit.
I always had the dream to move abroad. To leave the miserable weather in the UK and spend my weekends on the beach with a Margarita in hand whilst complaining about it being too hot (we Brits are never happy!).
I had lived in the UK my whole life and had always put my career and making money before anything else, so jumped into a full-time job straight from school. I watched my friends travel the world, or take that infamous gap year to travel around Asia whilst I worked a 9-5 job. The highlight of my week was going to the local on a Friday and I was jealous that I wasn't the one traveling the world.
I had a well-paid job, a nice house, and a great group of friends and was comfortable. Many people would have been happy with my position, but I'm not someone that likes to be comfortable. Let's face it, great things never came from comfort zones.
Dubai had always had a place in my heart from previous holidays as a child, so it seemed like the perfect place to choose. That and of course there’s the tax-free element (winning!). I mean what's not to like? The crazy brunches, incredible food, and the beautiful sunshine all year round? Book me on the next flight!
After working in recruitment for over 4 years I knew it was a career I wanted to stay in and was put in touch with Discovered who is a leading recruitment agency here in Dubai. After a series of interviews and learning more about the business I knew it was a company, I wanted to join, and luckily with a job offer in hand they booked me on a one-way flight to Dubai!
There is nothing quite like the feeling of packing your life up into suitcases, with a one-way ticket in hand and no idea when you will be seeing your family and friends again. That combined with your Mum dropping you off at the airport crying her eyes out like it's a scene from Love Actually (cheers Mum).
As glamorous as Dubai is, there are some things you need to take into consideration. Below are a number of things I have learned from my time in Dubai that will hopefully help you make a decision as to whether it's the right move for you or not.
So, what is an expat's life really like in Dubai?
It’s a great place to grow your career and live in a multicultural society, a playground for when you're young and wild and free but also a fantastic place to raise a family with some of the world-leading schools being based here.
I work from 9am-6pm from Sunday-Thursday (that's the typical working week in the UAE, so say goodbye to those lazy Sunday mornings!) and can be found partying at Ladies Nights most Tuesday's. I spend my Fridays at lavish brunches in luxury hotels and Saturdays sweating out my hangovers on the beach (it's a hard life).
Needless to say, the quality of life available in Dubai is higher than the one you’re leaving behind – so long as you’re prepared to work hard, prepare to play hard too.
How to find a job in Dubai?
Working in the recruitment industry I am always looking for experienced talent in the tech space and most clients will fly you out for an interview and then pay for a relocation flight.
Every single job in Dubai will pay for your Visa and Medical Insurance - do NOT accept a job here if they don't.
There are plenty of websites to use to search for jobs, some of the top-rated are:
- Gulf Talent
- Dubai Jobs
I would recommend getting a job offer in hand before you fly out for financial reasons as the cost of living and rent out here is higher. However, it is actually easier to get a job when you're already here in Dubai due to companies not having to relocate you and being available for interviews.
When you have secured a job (congrats!) your new company will start the employment visa process for you. The process is:
- Application starts and documents are screened (2 days)
- Job offer signed and uploaded (1 day)
- E-visa issued (you will need this to enter Dubai and get a stamp in your passport which you will need for the next steps - 7 days)
- Medical Test (this will be done when you enter Dubai and include a blood test and chest x-ray - 1 day)
- Labour contract issued (1-2 days)
- Medical results and medical insurance applied (2-3 days)
- Residence Visa stamping (2 days)
After all, this has been completed you will receive your Emirates ID and become a legal resident in the UAE. It's important that you know that you can't rent an apartment, drive or hire a car or open a bank account without this. Be prepared to live in a hotel for the first 3-4 weeks and rely on taxis to get around.
Accommodation in Dubai and cost?
There are lots of different areas to live in Dubai, some more expensive and some far cheaper. The cost of rent in Dubai is at the lowest it has been in years due to the supply outweighing the demand at the minute. A useful website to see how much different areas are: bayut.com
Property Finder is like the UK's version of Rightmove and the best place to look for accommodation.
You will have to pay a deposit which is usually 5% of the years' rent and then another 5% on top in estate agent fees (or 10% for furnished). Be prepared that the estate agents aren't quite as responsive out here so you will have to chase them!
You will have to pay in cheques for your rent, some landlords only accept one cheque per year (which means you have to pay the yearly rent in advance) but some places accept three-four cheques per year which makes it more affordable. Always remember to negotiate the fees and number of cheques you pay as everything in Dubai is flexible.
I work in JLT and live in The Greens which is less than a 10-minute drive and pay around 55,000 AED/year in 4 cheques for a large 1-bed apartment. I previously lived in Sports City and paid 35,000 AED/year in 4 cheques for a studio apartment, but decided to move to be a little closer to the action and get a larger place.
Transport and getting around
As a resident, you can't drive in the UAE without a UAE driving license. You will have to wait for your visa to be processed and your Emirates ID to come through until you can change this over but it's a relatively simple thing to do and set you back around 900 AED.
Click here to see how to do this.
Once you have a driving license you can then hire or buy a car. I found a good deal with a company called Selfdrive who has monthly offers. I pay 2,100 AED/month for a Kia Sportage 2020 plate (which only costs me 90 AED to fill up from empty due to the prices of petrol!)
Download the Careem app to book a local taxi the same way as an Uber. Local taxies are far cheaper than Uber out here.
Dubai’s Metro system is very efficient, cheap and it’s one of the cleanest in the world. The metro comes every four minutes and stops at various points along Sheikh Zayed Road which is the main road in Dubai and 12 lanes wide (be careful, people don't like to use indicators on this road!).
Banking and finance
When moving to Dubai I ordered a Revolut card and downloaded the app. Revolut offered the best exchange rates and gave me the ability to exchange money instantly and top my card up from my UK account. I would highly recommend doing this to avoid hefty exchange rates and carrying lots of cash around.
You will have to open a bank account in Dubai to be paid into. Once your Emirates ID comes through you can open a bank account of your choice, but your employers should recommend a bank to use. My employers recommended Emirates NBD, they've been great so far so no complaints from them.
If you're relocating to Dubai with children or will look at having children when you move over it's important to understand the costs of schooling beforehand. For all Non-UAE nationals, there are fees to attend all schools in the UAE, the cost of which can vary depending on the school and age of the children. It is compulsory for all children between the ages of 5-15 years to attend school.
Fees can range anywhere between 15,000-60,000 AED/year per child, some employers offer schooling on top of their salaries (which typically caps out at 20,000 AED/child for a maximum of 3 children). Click here to read more.
Cost of Living
Dubai is expensive, but it's not as expensive as you think and there are lots of cost-saving apps and discounts available.
It will be likely that you will have more disposable income than you did in the UK. The average wage in Dubai is 15,000 AED per month and don't forget - this is completely tax-free!
Day to day life in Dubai can be as budget or as costly as you make it. You can get absolutely anything delivered here (food, groceries, medicines even your fuel!!) and that can make things more pricey.
The cost of groceries is a bit more expensive here than in the UK. But with cheaper supermarkets like Carrefour, Spinneys, and M&S it makes things very affordable.
Dubai is home to the largest mall in the world (approximately 65 football pitched long!) and has another 64 malls in the city for you to choose from. It's safe to say you won't be in a shortage of shops to choose from. Cheaper online shops are Namshi.com and Amazon.eu.
Everyone in Dubai loves a brunch - me included! Brunches are so fun and can be a great way to save money.
In the UK a brunch is something that you have in between Breakfast and Lunch, but not in Dubai. Brunches can be anytime throughout the day and include unlimited food and drink for 3-4 hours.
There are some great discount apps that will save you a fortune if you go out or dine out often. My favorites are:
- Entertainer (will cost 500 AED for the year but totally worth it)
- Lets DXB
Girls; Tuesday's will be your new favorite day of the week as Tuesday's mean Ladies Night. Ladies Night is held at most bars/clubs and lets us girls drink for free. Tuesday is now your new Saturday (enjoy the Wednesday hangovers in the office!)
The population of Dubai is predominantly made up of ex-pats (over 80%) so it's a great place to meet people from all over the world and get to learn about different cultures.
Living in a Muslim country means getting accustomed to its rules, but Dubai is far more lenient than people think. I party more in Dubai than I did in the UK – but it’s important to be aware of the laws when living and visiting here. With such a large ex-pat population, you’re not as exposed to Emirati culture as you might expect.
Dubai is known for its glorious sunshine all year round. However, in the summer months, temperatures reach 50 degrees which are a little hot, to say the least.
If you're looking to move to the UAE I would advise doing this in the winter months when temperatures are a little more bearable and around the 20-25 degree mark to give you a chance to acclimatize to the heat.
Everywhere is air-conditioned (even the bus stops) which makes it easy to survive the heat.
On average it rains 5 days a year here which means that when it rains it pours and the roads aren't made for rain. So be prepared for everything to come to a standstill at the first sight of a downpour.
Moving to Dubai has been the scariest but most rewarding journey of my life. It’s had it’s ups and downs and sometimes I've questioned as to whether I'm crazy for moving to a different country where I don't know anyone, starting a whole new life for myself, learning a new job in a different continent whilst having to make a whole new circle of friends. Crazy or brave? I haven't quite figured it out yet.
One thing I do know is that it's been the best decision I have ever made. I've grown as a person, gained so much confidence, made a whole bunch of new friends, and experienced things I never would have before.
I encourage anybody that's been thinking about it to make the leap and follow their dream if it's the right time for you.
Whether you’re just curious about ex-pat life in the sandpit or you’re planning on relocating to Dubai and have any further questions leave a comment on this article and I'll reply :)
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