Living in Dubai

Things for
UK Expats to Know about Dubai

Things for UK Expats to Know

10 Key Considerations for UK Expats Planning to Relocate to Dubai

Relocating to Dubai as a UK expat requires careful consideration and planning. Here are 10 key aspects to keep in mind before making the move:

  1. Visa and Residency: Understand the visa requirements and process for obtaining residency in Dubai. Ensure you have the necessary documents and work closely with your employer or a reliable immigration consultant to facilitate a smooth transition.

  2. Cost of Living: Dubai is known for its high cost of living, particularly when it comes to accommodation, healthcare, and leisure activities. Research and budget accordingly to ensure your finances can comfortably support your lifestyle in Dubai.

  3. Cultural Differences: Dubai has a diverse and multicultural society, but it’s important to respect local customs and traditions. Familiarize yourself with local etiquette, dress modestly in public places, and be mindful of Islamic practices.

  4. Job Market: Dubai offers numerous employment opportunities, especially in sectors like finance, hospitality, and technology. Research the job market, understand industry trends, and explore potential job prospects before relocating.

  5. Health Insurance: Health insurance is mandatory in Dubai. Research and secure comprehensive health insurance coverage that meets your needs and complies with local regulations.

  6. Education: If you have children, research the education system in Dubai and explore schooling options that align with your preferences. Consider the availability of international schools that offer a British curriculum or other recognized curricula.

  7. Driving and Transportation: Dubai has a well-developed transportation system, but driving is the primary mode of transport. Familiarize yourself with local driving rules and regulations, and ensure you have a valid UK driving license or obtain the necessary permits.

  8. Language: While English is widely spoken in Dubai, learning some basic Arabic phrases can be beneficial and show respect for the local culture. Consider enrolling in language classes to enhance your communication skills.

  9. Weather: Dubai has a desert climate with hot summers and mild winters. Prepare for the extreme heat during summer months and adjust your lifestyle and wardrobe accordingly.

  10. Expatriate Communities: Dubai has a vibrant expat community, which can provide support, social opportunities, and networking. Engage with expat groups and organizations to connect with like-minded individuals and ease your transition.

By considering these Things for UK Expats to Know and other key factors, UK expats can better prepare themselves for a successful and fulfilling experience when relocating to Dubai.


Visa and Legal Requirements for UK Expats

Moving to Dubai necessitates understanding the visa and legal requirements. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Visit the official website of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) for up-to-date information on visa types and application procedures.
  • Consult with a reputable immigration lawyer or agency to ensure you have the correct visa and documentation for your specific situation.
  • Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations regarding residency permits, employment visas, and sponsorship requirements.
  • Official website of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA): link
  • Dubai Visa Information: link

Here are Some Key Points to Consider:

Visa Types:

Dubai offers various types of visas, including tourist visas, employment visas, investor visas, and dependent visas. Determine the most suitable visa category based on your purpose of stay and eligibility criteria.


Most expats in Dubai are sponsored by their employers or a local sponsor. Your sponsoring company or individual will facilitate the visa application process and act as your legal sponsor during your stay in Dubai.

Employment Contracts:

If you are moving to Dubai for employment, ensure that you have a valid employment contract that complies with local labor laws. The contract should outline your job responsibilities, salary, benefits, and other terms and conditions.

Visa Application Process:

Familiarize yourself with the visa application process and required documentation. You may need to provide personal information, passport copies, medical records, and other supporting documents. Follow the instructions provided by the relevant authorities and submit your application within the specified timelines.

Medical and Health Insurance:

As part of the visa process, you may be required to undergo medical tests and provide proof of adequate health insurance coverage. Dubai mandates that residents have health insurance, so ensure you have appropriate coverage before applying for a visa.

Duration of Stay:

Visa durations vary depending on the type of visa and your specific circumstances. Make sure you understand the validity period of your visa and any restrictions on entry, exit, or renewal.

Residency Permits:

Once you arrive in Dubai, you will need to obtain a residency permit, also known as an Emirates ID. This identification card is necessary for various activities, including opening bank accounts, signing rental agreements, and accessing certain services.

Compliance with Local Laws:

As a resident of Dubai, it’s important to familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations. Adhere to the legal requirements, respect the local customs and traditions, and ensure that you are aware of any specific rules that may apply to your visa category.

Renewals and Extensions:

Keep track of the expiration dates of your visa and residency permit. Start the renewal or extension process well in advance to avoid any issues or penalties associated with overstaying your visa.

Consult Professionals:

If you have any doubts or questions regarding visa and legal requirements, it’s advisable to seek professional advice from immigration consultants, legal experts, or your employer’s HR department. They can guide you through the process and ensure compliance with all necessary regulations.

Understanding Things for UK Expats to Know and fulfilling the visa and legal requirements are essential for a smooth transition and a successful stay as a UK expat in Dubai. 

Stay informed, follow the guidelines, and seek assistance when needed to ensure a hassle-free experience.


Housing and Accommodation for UK Expats

Finding suitable housing is a crucial aspect of your move to Dubai. Consider the following:

  • Explore online property portals like Property Finder, Bayut, or Dubizzle to get an idea of available options.
  • Engage the services of a reputable real estate agent who specialises in Dubai properties.
  • Consider factors such as location, amenities, proximity to schools and workplaces, and transportation options when choosing your ideal neighborhood.
  • Property Finder: link

Housing and Accommodation in Dubai:

  1. Rental Market: Dubai has a vibrant rental market offering a wide range of options, from apartments and villas to townhouses and serviced residences. Research the market to get an understanding of rental prices, location preferences, and the types of properties available.

  2. Rental Costs: The cost of renting in Dubai can vary depending on factors such as location, property size, amenities, and proximity to key areas. It’s important to set a budget and explore properties within your price range to ensure affordability.

  3. Real Estate Agents: Engaging the services of a reputable real estate agent can be beneficial. They can assist in finding suitable properties, negotiating lease terms, and guiding you through the rental process.

  4. Tenancy Agreements: When renting a property in Dubai, it’s customary to sign a tenancy agreement, which outlines the terms and conditions of the lease. Read the agreement carefully and understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.

  5. Utility Costs: In addition to rent, consider utility costs such as electricity, water, and internet when budgeting for accommodation. These expenses are usually separate from the rent and can vary depending on usage and the size of the property.

  6. Location: Dubai offers a variety of neighborhoods, each with its own unique characteristics. Consider factors such as proximity to work, schools, amenities, public transportation, and your lifestyle preferences when choosing a location.

  7. Community Amenities: Dubai has numerous residential communities that offer a range of amenities such as swimming pools, gyms, parks, and recreational facilities. Assess your priorities and look for properties that align with your desired lifestyle.

  8. Rental Regulations: Familiarize yourself with Dubai’s rental regulations and tenant rights. Understand the notice period for contract termination, security deposit requirements, and any restrictions or rules that may apply to the property you are renting.

  9. Furnished vs. Unfurnished: Determine whether you prefer a furnished or unfurnished property. Furnished properties provide convenience, while unfurnished options allow for personalization but require additional costs for furnishing.

  10. Moving Services: If you are relocating with furniture and belongings, research reputable moving services to facilitate a smooth transition. Compare quotes, check for insurance coverage, and plan the logistics of your move well in advance.

Taking these Things for UK Expats to Know and factors into consideration will help you find suitable housing and accommodation in Dubai. 

Conduct thorough research, visit properties in person if possible, and seek advice from real estate professionals to make informed decisions that meet your needs and budget.


Cost of Living for UK Expats

Understanding the cost of living in Dubai is essential for effective financial planning. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Research the average prices of essential commodities such as groceries, utilities, transportation, and healthcare services.
  • Factor in additional expenses like school fees, entertainment, and dining out.
  • Create a budget that reflects your lifestyle and financial goals to ensure a comfortable living experience in Dubai.

The cost of living for UK expats:

Accommodation: Housing costs in Dubai can be a significant portion of an expat’s budget. Rent prices vary depending on the location, size, and type of property. Generally, prime areas and newer developments tend to have higher rental prices.

  1. Utilities: Utility expenses, including electricity, water, and internet, should be factored into the budget. While the cost of utilities is generally manageable, it is essential to be mindful of usage to keep expenses in check.

  2. Transportation: Dubai has a well-developed transportation system, but owning a car is common for expats. Costs include car purchase or lease, fuel, parking, and maintenance. Public transportation options like the metro and buses are also available at more affordable rates.

  3. Healthcare: Healthcare costs in Dubai can be relatively high. Expats are required to have health insurance coverage, which can be provided by employers or purchased individually. Insurance premiums, co-pays, and out-of-pocket expenses for medical services should be considered.

  4. Education: If you have children, schooling expenses can be a significant consideration. Dubai offers various international schools with different fee structures. Tuition fees, registration fees, uniforms, and extracurricular activities should be accounted for in the budget.

  5. Groceries and Dining Out: The cost of groceries can vary depending on the type of products and where you shop. Dubai has a range of supermarkets, both local and international, catering to different budgets. Dining out can vary from affordable options to high-end restaurants, allowing flexibility in spending.

  6. Entertainment and Recreation: Dubai offers a wide array of entertainment options, including shopping malls, cinemas, restaurants, and outdoor activities. Expenses for leisure and recreation should be considered based on personal preferences and lifestyle choices.

  7. Taxes: Dubai is known for its favorable tax environment, as there is no personal income tax. This can be advantageous for UK expats who are used to higher tax rates in the UK.


It is important for UK expats to carefully assess their individual financial situation, considering income, lifestyle, and personal preferences when estimating the cost of living in Dubai. 

Conducting thorough research, creating a budget, and seeking advice from financial professionals can help ensure a realistic and manageable financial plan while living in Dubai. 

Ensure to take notes about Things for UK Expats to Know regarding life in Dubai.


Education and Schools for UK Expats

If you have children, researching education options and finding suitable schools should be a priority. Consider the following:

  • Explore different curricula offered by international and local schools in Dubai.
  • Check the rankings and reviews of schools to gauge their academic standards and facilities.
  • Visit schools personally, if possible, to get a sense of the learning environment and meet with the administration.
  • Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA): link
  • WhichSchoolAdvisor: link

Education and Schools. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind:

  1. Curriculum: Dubai offers a wide range of schools with different curricula. If you want your children to follow the UK curriculum, look for schools that offer the British National Curriculum or qualifications such as GCSEs and A-Levels. There are also international schools that offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum or the American curriculum.

  2. School Fees: School fees in Dubai can vary significantly depending on the school’s reputation, facilities, and curriculum. Private schools, which are the primary choice for expats, tend to have higher fees. Consider your budget and research schools with fees that align with your financial capabilities.

  3. School Admissions: The admission process for schools in Dubai typically involves submitting an application form, providing necessary documents (such as academic records and passports), and sometimes attending an interview or assessment. It’s advisable to start the application process well in advance, as some schools may have limited availability.

  4. School Facilities and Resources: Visit schools and evaluate their facilities, including classrooms, libraries, sports facilities, laboratories, and technology resources. Consider the availability of extracurricular activities, such as sports, arts, and clubs, which can contribute to a well-rounded education.

  5. School Location: Consider the proximity of schools to your place of residence or workplace. Dubai is known for its traffic congestion, so selecting a school that minimizes commuting time can enhance convenience and reduce logistical challenges.

  6. School Culture and Community: Research the school’s ethos, values, and overall culture. Consider whether the school’s approach to education aligns with your educational philosophy and the type of environment you want for your children. Engaging with the school community through open days or parent forums can provide valuable insights.

  7. Support for English Language Learners: If your children are not fluent in English, consider schools that offer additional support and resources for English language learners. Ensure that the school has appropriate programs in place to help students transition smoothly into an English-speaking educational environment.

  8. Special Educational Needs (SEN) Support: If your child has special educational needs, it’s important to research schools that offer appropriate support and resources. Look for schools with dedicated SEN departments or specialized programs to meet your child’s requirements.

  9. Reputation and Accreditation: Consider the reputation and accreditation status of schools. Look for schools that are recognized and accredited by reputable educational bodies or organizations to ensure quality education standards.

  10. Expat Community and Networking: Explore schools with a diverse expat student population. This can provide your children with opportunities to interact with students from different cultures and backgrounds, fostering a global perspective and a sense of community.


It’s essential to learn about Things for UK Expats to Know to conduct thorough research, visit schools, and seek advice from other UK expat families or educational consultants when selecting a school in Dubai. 

By considering these factors, you can make an informed decision that best meets your children’s educational needs and aspirations.


Healthcare and Medical Facilities for UK Expats

Access to quality healthcare is essential for a comfortable life in Dubai. Consider the following:

  • Research the healthcare system in Dubai, including public and private hospitals, clinics, and insurance coverage.
  • Ensure that you have comprehensive health insurance coverage that meets your needs.
  • Register with a general practitioner and specialists, if necessary, to have a reliable healthcare network in place.
  • Dubai Health Authority: link
  • Expat Health Insurance in Dubai: link

Here are some key points to know:

  1. Healthcare System: Dubai has a well-developed healthcare system that offers a mix of public and private healthcare facilities. The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) is the regulatory body responsible for overseeing healthcare services in the emirate.

  2. Health Insurance: All Things for UK Expats to Know in Dubai, including UK expats, are required to have health insurance coverage. Employers typically provide health insurance for their employees, while individuals can also purchase insurance plans from approved providers. It is important to understand the coverage and benefits of your health insurance policy, including the network of hospitals and clinics it includes.

  3. Public Healthcare: Dubai has public healthcare facilities that provide affordable medical services to residents. Government hospitals, such as Dubai Hospital and Rashid Hospital, offer a range of services including emergency care, consultations, surgeries, and specialized treatments. However, waiting times can be longer in public hospitals, and expats often prefer private healthcare options.

  4. Private Healthcare: Dubai is known for its high-quality private healthcare sector. There are numerous private hospitals and clinics that offer comprehensive medical services, advanced technologies, and specialized treatments. These facilities often have shorter waiting times, English-speaking staff, and a higher level of comfort and amenities. However, private healthcare can be more expensive, and it is crucial to ensure that your health insurance covers the cost of private medical care.

  5. Medical Professionals: Dubai attracts healthcare professionals from around the world, including many British and internationally trained doctors. The medical staff in both public and private healthcare facilities are generally well-qualified and experienced. It is common for doctors and healthcare professionals to speak English, which can facilitate effective communication and ensure a better understanding of your medical needs.

  6. Medical Tourism: Dubai has also developed as a medical tourism destination, offering advanced treatments and specialized healthcare services. Expats who require complex procedures or specialized treatments may find Dubai’s medical tourism facilities beneficial.

  7. Pharmacies and Medications: Dubai has a wide network of pharmacies where prescription and over-the-counter medications can be purchased. Many pharmacies are open 24/7 and offer a range of healthcare products. It is important to note that some medications may require a prescription from a registered healthcare professional.

  8. Emergency Services: In case of medical emergencies, Dubai has a well-established emergency response system. Dialing the emergency number (999) will connect you to the Dubai Police, who will dispatch appropriate medical assistance.


It is advisable to read about Things for UK Expats to Know to familiarize themselves with the healthcare system in Dubai and ensure they have adequate health insurance coverage. 

Researching and choosing reputable healthcare providers, understanding insurance policies, and maintaining regular check-ups and screenings are important for maintaining good health while living in Dubai.


Cultural and Social Norms for Brits

Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, and understanding cultural etiquette and social norms is crucial. Consider the following:

  • Familiarise yourself with Islamic customs and traditions, as Islam is the predominant religion in Dubai.
  • Respect local traditions and dress modestly in public places, especially during religious occasions.
  • Be mindful of cultural sensitivities, such as avoiding public displays of affection and consuming alcohol responsibly in designated areas.
  • Dubai Culture: link

Here are some key points for UK expats to understand:

  1. Respect for Islam: Dubai is an Islamic country, and it is important to respect and adhere to Islamic customs and traditions. Dress modestly when in public areas, particularly in more conservative areas, and be mindful of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, when Muslims fast from dawn to sunset.

  2. Greeting Customs: The common greeting in Dubai is a handshake, although some locals may greet with a slight nod or placing their right hand over their heart. It is customary to greet older people or those in more senior positions first.

  3. Public Displays of Affection: Public displays of affection, such as hugging, kissing, or holding hands, should be done discreetly, as public displays of affection can be frowned upon in more conservative areas.

  4. Modesty in Dress: While Dubai is relatively liberal compared to other parts of the Middle East, it is still important to dress modestly, particularly in public areas and religious sites. Women should avoid wearing revealing or tight-fitting clothing, and men should also dress modestly, avoiding sleeveless shirts and shorts.

  5. Respect for Local Customs: It is important to respect local customs and traditions. Avoid criticizing or mocking local customs, and be sensitive to cultural differences. This includes refraining from eating, drinking, or smoking in public during the holy month of Ramadan.

  6. Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol is permitted in designated areas such as licensed bars and restaurants in Dubai. However, public intoxication and drinking in public areas are strictly prohibited and can result in legal consequences.

  7. Photography: Always ask for permission before taking photographs of individuals, particularly local people. Avoid taking photographs of sensitive areas such as government buildings, military installations, and airports.

  8. Friday as a Rest Day: Friday is the Islamic day of prayer and rest in Dubai. Many businesses and government offices have reduced working hours on Fridays, so it is advisable to plan accordingly and be aware of potential closures or limited services.

  9. Tolerance and Diversity: Dubai prides itself on being a tolerant and diverse city. Embrace the multicultural environment and interact respectfully with people from different backgrounds and nationalities.

  10. Learn Basic Arabic Phrases: While English is widely spoken in Dubai, learning a few basic Arabic phrases can go a long way in showing respect and making connections with the local population.


By understanding and respecting these cultural etiquettes and social norms, Things for UK Expats to Know can integrate smoothly into the vibrant and diverse society of Dubai.


How Do UK Expats Get Around Dubai?

Navigating Dubai’s transportation system is essential for daily commutes and exploring the city. Consider the following:

  • Familiarize yourself with the Dubai Metro, tram, and bus systems, which provide convenient and affordable transportation options.
  • Consider owning a car or utilizing ride-hailing services for more flexibility.
  • Download transportation apps like RTA Dubai and Uber to navigate the city with ease.
  • Roads and Transport Authority (RTA): link
  • Dubai Metro: link

Employment Opportunities

Dubai’s thriving economy offers various employment opportunities across different sectors. Consider the following:

  • Research the job market and industry trends in Dubai and learn about Things to Know Before Moving to Dubai.
  • Update your resume to meet the expectations of employers in the region.
  • Utilize online job portals and network with professionals in your field to explore employment opportunities.
  • Dubai Careers: link
  • LinkedIn Dubai Jobs: link

Here are some common modes of transportation:

  1. Metro: Dubai has a modern and efficient metro system that connects key areas of the city. The Dubai Metro consists of two lines, the Red Line and the Green Line, and provides a convenient and cost-effective way to travel. The metro is air-conditioned and has separate carriages for women and children.

  2. Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Dubai and are a popular mode of transportation for both short and long distances. Taxis are metered, and fares are reasonable. Dubai taxis are known for their cleanliness and professional drivers.

  3. Ride-Hailing Services: Services like Uber and Careem operate in Dubai, providing convenient and reliable transportation options. With a smartphone app, you can easily book a ride and pay through the app.

  4. Buses: Dubai’s bus network covers a wide area and provides an economical way to travel around the city. The buses are air-conditioned and offer routes to various destinations, including residential areas, commercial districts, and tourist attractions.

  5. Trams: Dubai also has a tram system that operates along certain areas, particularly in the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) areas. The tram connects with the Dubai Metro and provides an additional mode of transportation for residents and tourists.

  6. Rental Cars: Some UK expats prefer to rent a car in Dubai for the flexibility and convenience it offers. Renting a car allows you to explore the city and surrounding areas at your own pace. However, it’s important to be aware of Dubai’s traffic rules and regulations, including parking restrictions and tolls.

  7. Walking and Cycling: Dubai has well-maintained pedestrian pathways in many areas, particularly in popular residential and commercial areas. Walking is a viable option for short distances, while cycling is gaining popularity, especially in areas with dedicated cycling lanes.


It’s important to note that Dubai’s road network is extensive, and traffic congestion can be a challenge during peak hours. 

It is advisable to plan your journeys accordingly and allow for extra travel time. Additionally, Dubai has implemented an electronic toll system called Salik, which charges a fee for using certain roads during peak hours.

Overall, The Things for UK Expats to Know in Dubai have a variety of transportation options to suit their preferences and needs. 

It is recommended to explore different modes of transportation and choose the most suitable option based on your daily commute, lifestyle, and travel requirements.


UK vs Dubai Lifestyle

Dubai offers a vibrant lifestyle with numerous recreational activities. Consider the following:

  • Explore the city’s iconic landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah, and Dubai Marina.
  • Take advantage of outdoor activities like desert safaris, beach outings, and water sports.
  • Engage with expat communities and socialize to make the most of your time in Dubai.
  • Visit Dubai: link
  • Time Out Dubai: link

Here are some key aspects of the lifestyle in Dubai:

  1. Outdoor Activities: Dubai’s sunny climate and beautiful coastline offer ample opportunities for outdoor activities. From beach lounging and water sports to desert safaris and dune bashing, there is no shortage of thrilling experiences to enjoy. Expats can also explore Dubai’s parks, nature reserves, and golf courses for leisurely outdoor pursuits.

  2. Dining and Cuisine: Dubai is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, offering a wide range of international cuisines to satisfy every palate. Expats can indulge in fine dining experiences at world-class restaurants, sample local Emirati cuisine, or explore vibrant food markets and street food stalls.

  3. Shopping: Dubai is a shopper’s paradise, with a multitude of shopping malls, traditional souks, and luxury boutiques. From high-end fashion brands to electronics, home decor, and local handicrafts, expats can find a wide array of products to suit their tastes and preferences.

  4. Arts and Culture: Dubai is home to a thriving arts and cultural scene. Expats can visit art galleries, attend exhibitions, and enjoy live performances, including music concerts, theater shows, and dance performances. The Dubai Opera is a popular venue for world-class performances and cultural events.

  5. Sports and Fitness: Dubai offers various sports and fitness activities for expats to stay active and healthy. There are numerous gyms, fitness centers, and sports clubs offering state-of-the-art facilities and a wide range of classes and programs. Expats can also participate in sports leagues, join running clubs, or try their hand at unique activities like indoor skiing or skydiving.

  6. Socializing and Nightlife: Dubai has a vibrant nightlife scene with a multitude of bars, lounges, and clubs catering to different tastes and preferences. Expats can socialize with friends and colleagues, enjoy live music performances, or experience rooftop bars with stunning views of the city’s skyline.

  7. Family-Friendly Attractions: Dubai offers a host of family-friendly attractions and entertainment options. From theme parks like Dubai Parks and Resorts to water parks, indoor play centers, and interactive museums, there are plenty of activities to keep families entertained.

  8. Wellness and Spa Retreats: Dubai boasts world-class wellness and spa facilities where expats can indulge in relaxation and rejuvenation. Luxurious spas, wellness retreats, and yoga studios offer a sanctuary for self-care and pampering.


Dubai’s cosmopolitan and multicultural nature ensures that there is something for everyone when it comes to lifestyle and recreation. 

Whether you prefer an active outdoor lifestyle, culinary adventures, cultural experiences, or simply relaxing and unwinding, 

Dubai provides a rich and diverse environment about Things for UK Expats to Know to and to enjoy a vibrant and fulfilling UK expat life.


UK Expats Embracing the Dubai Experience

Moving to Dubai presents exciting opportunities for personal and professional growth. By understanding the visa requirements, housing options, cost of living, cultural norms, and more, you can ensure a smooth transition to this dynamic city. 

Remember to conduct thorough research, seek expert advice, and make informed decisions about Things for UK Expats to Know Before Moving to Dubai to make the most of your new life in Dubai.

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