Dealing with expatriates in Dubai: what are your options? What are the administrative procedural formalities? What are the most significant differences between European countries and those found elsewhere? Before making a big decision, many of us have pondered these issues in our minds. You’ve come to the perfect place if you’re considering moving to Dubai.
It’s important to keep in mind that locating trustworthy (and unbiased) data on the subject isn’t always easy. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the most crucial things to keep in mind, as well as some useful information that may address some of your most pressing concerns before making the leap.
Getting Your Visa
Every so often, the guidelines for applying for a resident visa are revised. If you’re hired by a company, they’ll often take care of all the administrative formalities and visa payments for you and your family. Your formal documentation (diplomas and marriage certificates, for example) must be brought with you and validated (and in many cases, translated) by the required authorities including the UAE Embassy in your country.
We strongly advise you to double-check any visa information with the relevant authorities before travelling. It is highly recommended that you register with the embassy of your home country as soon as you arrive in the UAE.
TO FIND ACCOMMODATION
You’ll need a place to stay in this vast metropolis once you acquire your visa. And you’ve got a lot of choices! You should be aware that the United States and Europe, as well as other countries, have various differences:
- The contract:
The majority of the time, a one-year contract is required for the rental, and the entire amount is due up front. In light of the current state of the rental real estate market, more landlords are taking numerous checks for rent as a payment method (1 to 4 cheques).
Rooms here are typically larger than those found in Europe, especially in the United States. Additionally, most tower and villa apartments contain a swimming pool and a fitness centre, which is a huge perk (treadmill, indoor bike, weight training equipment, etc.). It’s important to keep in mind that this isn’t always the case.
- The mail:
There is no letterbox in Dubai, thus the mailman won’t come to your house. If you want to receive mail, you can either have it sent to your company’s PO Box, or you can rent a PO Box. Instructions on how to accomplish this can be found on the Emirates Post Group’s website.
- Water and electricity:
When you become a tenant, you’ll have to join DEWA, the city’s water and electricity distribution system. You’ll be in charge of making monthly payments on your account. There is also a 5% municipal house tax included in this payment, so you’re not simply paying for water and energy.
- Sharing Accommodation:
Sharing is strictly forbidden, even between friends or non-married partners. If you’re considering doing something like this, know that it’s still illegal and that you could be penalised for doing so.
WORK IN DUBAI
Having a job in Dubai is both exciting and demanding! There are pros and cons to living in this city. On the one hand, it’s a true melting pot where you’ll meet people from all over the world. Regularly interacting with people from various backgrounds needs a high level of adaptability. However, if you’re flexible and open-minded, integrating it should be simple… In business and in daily life, the most widely spoken languages are English and Spanish.
There are no 35-hour workdays in the United States; yet, working days are longer than in Europe. When overtime is taken into account, employees put in an average of 8 hours every day. Also, the weekend is on Friday and Saturday (Islamic holy days), with the week beginning on Sunday, which is the start of the week in the United States. Six-day work weeks are common in many professions.
When you are hired by a company in Dubai, you will typically receive a package regardless of whether you are a local resident or an expatriate. If you work in a specific industry, the contents of your bundle will be unique to you. Among the “allowances” you can negotiate for are the following:
- Your air ticket and that of your family (one round trip per year in your country of origin)
- Your rent (or part of it)
- Your telephone expenses – your telephone plan and / or your Internet plan
- Your travel expenses
- Your relocation expenses or an allowance to equip your accommodation
- Children’s school fees etc.
When in doubt, consult with family and friends, and be ready to haggle when necessary!
Transportation in Dubai
There are numerous transit options in Dubai, so familiarising yourself with them is critical before settling on a certain area to call home. The following types of transportation are accessible in Dubai:
- By public transport
There are just two metro lines in Dubai, a sparse bus network, and an 11-station tram, therefore the city’s public transit system is currently developing. Take use of public transportation by purchasing the NOL Card, which will be charged for each trip. If you’re lucky, you won’t have to pay for the card each time you use it. On the metro and tram, you can ride in one of three waggon classes: regular, gold class, or a waggon just for ladies and children. Eating, drinking, and even chewing gum are not permitted in the waggons due to health and safety concerns.
- By car
For getting about Dubai, the car is the best option. First, you must obtain a two-year local licence after transferring your European driver’s licence. Now that you have your new licence, you can buy or rent a car. However, keep in mind that traffic accidents are common, so we don’t recommend buying a little city car to be on the safe side. You will also have to renew your vehicle’s registration with the RTA each year if you buy one. For this reason, the morning and evening rush hours in Sharjah will be particularly congested, as workers from Jebel Ali make their way home from work in Sharjah in the late afternoon.
Be cautious when leaving major highways; if you make a mistake, you may have to travel many miles to find the correct intersection! However, one bright spot may be found despite everything: gasoline is far less expensive than in Europe (on average 46 euro cents per liter).
The Salik toll system has been put in place in Dubai at long last. A sticker on your windshield will charge you 4 dirhams each time you pass one of the seven Salik points. This account can be recharged online at any time. All Customer Service Centers, the RTA website, and the vast majority of gas stations have it on hand.
- By a taxi:
If you need a taxi, you can get one for a fair price compared to other large cities. In Dubai, taxis are also available via Uber and Careem. However, even if the prices are a little higher, the cars tend to be better equipped with GPS and the drivers tend to be more cautious.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS IN DUBAI
The telecoms market is changing as a result of Virgin Mobile’s arrival. Du and Etisalat, the two long-standing service providers, have revamped their bundles to better compete (very high-speed Internet connection and all-inclusive mobile packages). It’s still more expensive in the United States than it would be in Europe.
DU, Etisalat, and Virgin Mobile are the three options for mobile service providers in the UAE. With or without a commitment, you can choose all-inclusive plans that include local and/or international calls. However, even if the prices have come down, they’re still higher than the 9 euro Bouygues Telecom bundle in France… Public areas in Dubai, such as retail malls, restaurants, and cafes, all provide WiFi.
Both Du and Etisalat provide a variety of home Internet connection plans to meet a wide range of needs and preferences. They can include, among other things, (very) fast Internet, cable TV channels, and free domestic phone calls. See if you can find out more about Internet boxes and how to purchase one for yourself by going to their respective websites.
HEALTHCARE IN DUBAI
Your employer’s benefits package must include medical insurance. Health care in Dubai is a serious business, and you’ll often pay a price for not having enough insurance. Reimbursing medical bills can be a major hassle. Services that health insurers deem superfluous are often denied coverage. We advise you to call your insurance company ahead of time to be sure you’re covered. Doctors, general practitioners, specialists, and other healthcare professionals who work in Dubai hail from all over the world.
EUCATION AND SCHOOLS IN DUBAI
If you’re relocating to Dubai with children, keep in mind that education costs a lot of money, especially at a young age. Negotiate your children’s school expenditures as part of the package offered in your job contract if possible. It is fairly uncommon for schools, particularly the more popular ones, to have waiting lists, which is why we recommend that you arrive as soon as possible to ensure that your child receives a space in the preferred institution. However, because most schools do not provide school food, you will need to pack a refrigerated lunch box for your children every morning. Finally, school days begin and end between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Plan a budget for the practise of activities (many schools offer activities at the finish of the course), as well as school bus transportation if you do not want to drive your child personally. Children’s ability to adjust to their learning can be stressed by the adventure of expatriation. The shift from one educational system to another can be stressful and result in learning issues. As a result, many parents turn to after-school tutoring.
Employing a domestic helper is a frequent practise among expats in Dubai. You have the option of hiring either a live-in (hosted in your house) or a live-out (self-hosted) nanny. To do so, you must meet certain criteria, primarily in terms of wage, as well as a few other conditions in order to sponsor a domestic assistant.
DAILY LIFE IN DUBAI
Life in Dubai can seem expensive and the expenses are endless, especially when living there with all your tribe. Note, however, that at equal post, salaries are generally more interesting than in Europe, not to mention the many advantages, mentioned above, which expatriates enjoy. However, the situation has changed a lot in recent years: if there is no income tax, there are many disguised taxes, and a 5% VAT (on all products and services) was put in place on January 1, 2018. In general, prices have increased, especially in the food sector and the relationship with the euro and the dollar has become less advantageous.
Living in Dubai, between the beach, the sun and the palm trees, is a bit like being on vacation all year round… and it’s good for morale. On weekends, head to the beach to sunbathe, play sports, have fun with the family… In short, you can leave your winter boots in Europe; here, of course, you will not need to use them!
Between October and May, the climate is temperate, the sky is clear and the nights are mild. Temperatures are around 25-30 degrees during the day and can drop to 18 degrees in the evening. It rains very rarely, but when it does happen and the downpour lasts several hours, it is a bit of a mess (to be polite!) on the roads that are not equipped with any drainage system.
From May and until September, the climate becomes less bearable, as temperature climbs and can exceed 45 degrees in July and August. Humidity also enters the equation from June with a rate often of 95% or more until September or even early October. Don’t panic though: there is air conditioning everywhere and everything has been thought of to make this period bearable.
GROCERIES AND SERVICES
Supermarkets, pharmacies, hairdressers, shopping centers…: everything is open every day of the week and until late at night. Some supermarkets remain open 24 hours a day and, often, neighborhood mini markets deliver to homes at no additional cost. Note that some supermarkets like Spinneys, Waitrose or Choithram have a “pork section”. This is a section a bit out of the way, where Muslims do not enter and where you can buy pork products.
In addition, many websites specializing in the sale of quality food products have been launched in recent years in the Emirates. You will easily find all the ingredients you need to perfect your favorite recipes. When it comes to shopping, of course, you won’t miss anything, Dubai being the city of shopping malls par excellence. You will find a very large number of international brands (almost all brands are available in Dubai) from luxury brands to more affordable brands.
VARIETY OF RESTAURANTS IN DUBAI
The restaurants market has experienced a real boom for about five years, and all the cuisines of the world (or almost) have invited themselves to the party. Fancy a Lebanese restaurant? Peruvian? Japanese? Indian? French? If you like variety, you won’t be disappointed. Some restaurants, which have the necessary license, also serve alcohol and pork. As with shopping, most restaurants offer home delivery, sometimes with minimum order. This service is generally free or costs a few dirhams which will be added to the order.
BUYING AND CONSUMING ALCOHOL IN DUBAI
- To Buy
You can get alcohol in the duty-free section of the airport. If you are resident in Dubai and want to buy or consume alcohol at home, you must have a license issued (under certain conditions) after approval from your company (in the form of a NOC) that will have to be renewed each year. With your license, you can buy alcohol in the stores of one of the two official distributors, MMI or African + Eastern.
- To consume
In order to serve alcohol, bars and restaurants must be licensed by the state. This is generally the case for bars / restaurants located in hotels and free zones which have independent jurisdiction, such as the DIFC district. You will notice that the prices of drinks are higher than in Europe, because of the taxes on alcohol and the duopoly of distribution. Please note, Dubai applies the zero tolerance for drinking and driving. It is therefore preferable to use a taxi when you come back from a drunken evening.
RELIGION IN DUBAI
The United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country, where state and religion are inseparable. You will quickly realize this when you hear the call to prayer, which echoes five times a day from the many mosques. Nevertheless, the country and more particularly the city of Dubai are very open to other cultures. The Emirates are also considered to be progressive in relation to the Middle East region, particularly with regard to the rights of women, who are completely free to drive, to work, to go wherever they want, to not wear the veil or the abaya … Of course, there are certain rules to follow to facilitate your integration: avoiding signs of affection in public, not wearing indecent clothes, not drinking or being drunk in public … It is all the more important to show yourself respectful during Ramadan, a period when charity, piety and humility are in the spotlight.