Expat Guide To Living In Dubai

Drawing of Dubai skyline, buildings, Burj

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 what daily life is like for expatriates in Dubai.

you’re not alone as an estimated 200,000 Brits already live there.

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 and hotels and miles of beaches, Dubai is also an international hub for business and finance that provides 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

Life may be free and easy in Dubai, 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.

For longer stays, expats need sponsorship, retirement visa or a golden visa.

  • Sponsorship comes from a Dubai employer or family already living in the emirate.
  • A 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:
  • 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
  • A golden visa is a renewable 10-year investment-based residence permit for expats with AED10 million (£2 million) invested in the UAE

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, architect s and engineers and roles in marketing and sales.

English as a foreign language teachers are 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 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 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 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

Dubai Healthcare

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

Going to see 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 check 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.

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. 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 stay 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?

It’s known for police 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. Same-sex relationships are forbidden by law.

Related Guides

Further related city and country guides and articles can be found following the links below

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