Expat Guide To Living In Dubai

Skyline of Dubai illustration

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates and home to tens of thousands of British Expats.

If you are thinking of living, working, or retiring to Dubai, this expat guide to Dubai provides invaluable insights into the best places to live, finding work, Visa information, and daily life for expatriates in Dubai.

Many expats believe Dubai is a country, but Dubai is one of seven separate kingdoms called emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai is a trendy global city that attracts movie stars, sports stars and the rich and famous.

Besides a luxury lifestyle, swish homes, hotels, and miles of beaches, Dubai is also an international hub for business and finance, providing thousands of well-paid jobs.

Why Do Expats Move To Dubai?

British expats move to Dubai for one of two main reasons –

  • Tax-free earnings while progressing a career with a top international company
  • Cashing in wealth in the UK to retire to relax in aa luxurious sunshine lifestyle

Few expats are disappointed with their lifestyle move that offers guaranteed sun and a Minister of Happiness to look after their well-being.

Visas And Residency For UK Expats In Dubai

In Dubai, life may be free and easy, but expats still need visas to live and work in the emirate.

Tourists can land in Dubai on a 30-day visa, which can be extended another 30 days during the visit.

Expats need sponsorship, a retirement visa or a golden visa for longer stays.


Sponsorship comes from a Dubai employer or family already living in the emirate.

Retirement visa 

Is a five-year rolling permit to live in Dubai for the over 55s. To qualify, expats must show at least one of:

Buying a Property in Dubai

Ownership of a property in Dubai worth AED2 million (£385,000) or more:

  • Savings of AED1 million (£195,000)
  • A monthly income of AED20,000 (£3,850) or more

Dubai Golden Visa

Gold Visa is a renewable 10-year investment-based residence permit for expats with AED10 million (£2 million) invested in the UAE.

For Emiratis thinking about getting permanent residency in the UK, look at the Tier 1 Investor Visa guide.

Working In Dubai

Dubai employers are always looking for the best talent, and well-qualified English-speaking candidates generally do well.

The top posts of the moment are IT and software developers, architects and engineers and roles in marketing and sales.

English as a foreign language teacher is also always in demand.

The average Dubai salary is £2,250 a month – compared with £3,050 after tax and deductions in London.

Cost Of Living In Dubai

Prices are around 25% lower in Dubai than in London, while rents are 37% cheaper.

Monthly living costs for a single person are AED3,435 (£660), while a family of four should expect to pay AED11,855 (£2,279).

The UK state pension of £778 a month converts into AED4,046, so it should comfortably cover bills for retired singles or couples seeking a comfortable rather than luxurious lifestyle.

Here are some example prices of day-to-day essentials:

Eating outAED£
Cheap restaurant34.946.72
Three-course meal for two at a mid-priced restaurant249.7648.03
Domestic beer (500 ml draught)44.988.65
Imported beer (330 ml bottle)44.988.65
Coke\Pepsi (330 ml)4.780.92
Water (330 ml)1.820.35
Daily essential groceries AED £
Milk (1 litre)5.881.13
Loaf of white bread4.990.96
Rice (1 kg)7.021.35
Eggs x 129.051.74
Cheese (1 kg)36.927.10
Chicken fillets (1 kg)25.744.95
Beef (1 kg)38.847.47
Apples (1 kg)7.331.41
Bananas (1 kg)5.771.11
Oranges (1 kg)6.341.22
Tomato (1 kg)5.100.98
Potato (1 kg)3.480.67
Bottle of wine59.9611.53
Cigarettes (1 x 20 Marlboro)22.004.23
Getting aroundAED£
Taxi (per kilometre)2.500.48
Gas (1 litre)2.030.39
Buy new VW Golf 1.4 / 90 KW Trendine89,421.4917,196.44
Utilities (monthly)AED£
Utility package for 85m2 apartment (Electricity, heating, air conditioning, water, garbage disposal etc)668.77128.61
Prepaid smartphone (1 minute)0.470.09
Internet (60+ Mbps broadband with unlimited data)355.6368.39
Sport and entertainmentAED£
Fitness club, monthly charge for x1 adult245.9147.29
Tennis court rent (1 hour on weekend)123.0323.66
Cinema ticket x1 seat39.997.69
Preschool full day, private, monthly x1 child2,336.57449.34
International primary school, monthly x1 child3,669.70705.71
Clothing and ShoesAED£
Pair of jeans (Levi’s 501)204.9339.41
Summer dress in a chain store (Like Zara or H&M etc)194.3237.37
Pair of Nike running shoes315.6960.71
Pair of men leather business shoes325.16 62.53
Price data source: Numbeo.com

Interested in other countries in the same region, check out the Top 10 Middle East Countries For Expats.

Dubai Healthcare

All expats living in Dubai must have adequate private healthcare insurance.

Seeing a family doctor costs AED220 (£42), and the price doubles for an out-of-hours consultation.

Operations and treatment in a private hospital cost about the same as a UK patient should expect.

Private healthcare cover depends on age and health – so the older and frailer you are, the more expensive the cover. 

Workers are generally covered by their employer, but this also runs to more than basic cover should the worst happen.

The cheapest insurance starts from around AED2,500 (£465) and rises to AED20,000 (£3,850).

Health insurance does not include dental treatment or visits to an optician.

Make sure you get the correct expat healthcare insurance and cover while travelling or living in Dubai.

Renting Or Buying A Home In Dubai

Expats can rent or buy a freehold home in Dubai but face a few restrictions buying leasehold homes in some neighbourhoods.

Expats do not need a specific visa to buy property.

The government has a list of approved developers for expats. However, the homes on offer are mainly villas as apartments are leasehold properties that are often restricted purchases for expats.

Here is some idea of the costs to rent and buy:

Rent (monthly) AED £
City centre 1 bed apartment5,489.901,055.75
Single person living costs (including city centre rent)8,925.181716.38
Suburban 1 bed apartment3,671.67706.09
Single person living costs (including suburban rent)7,106.941366.72
City centre 3 bed apartment10,754.642,068.20
Family of four living costs (including city centre rent)22,607.734347.64
Suburban 3 bed apartment7,484.411,439.31
Family of four living costs (including suburban rent)19,337.503718.75
Buying an apartmentAED£
City centre price per square metre13,266.032,551.16
Suburban price per square metre8,937.601,718.77
Mortgage rate 
Mortgage rate – Fixed 20-year term4.06%

Living In Dubai FAQ

Do expats pay tax in Dubai?

Dubai has no income tax or capital gains tax, so no tax is paid on earnings from work or investments or the sale of assets, like investment property.
However, expats will pay tax generated by rental property in the UK to HM Revenue & Customs.

Can expats drink alcohol in Dubai?

Yes, expats can drink alcohol at home or in licensed venues, but only if they have a licence issued and valid in Dubai. Drinkers must be 21 or older.

Does Dubai have a dress code?

Dubai is a Muslim state and adheres to strict religious rules. A dress code is one of them. Women should dress modestly in public. This means covering the tops of arms and legs. Swimsuits are allowed on beaches and at swimming pools, but these should not be too revealing.

Is kissing allowed in public in Dubai?

Police are known to arrest couples for kissing in public, as public displays of affection are considered bad taste.

How are unmarried couples treated in Dubai?

Regardless of your status outside of Dubai, sex outside of marriage is illegal and can lead to a prison sentence of deportation. In addition, same-sex relationships are forbidden by law.

Other middle east country guides can be found following the links below

Questions or Comments

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