Moving to Dubai from the UK? Your 5-step guide to transition into expat life smoothly

February 28, 2023

So you've decided to take the leap – you're moving to Dubai! The dream of leaving behind your long commute, tax bills, and of course, the moody British weather are almost a reality. Here's a quick step by step guide to moving to Dubai.

For me, the pristine beaches and the luxury lifestyle were reasons enough for relocating to Dubai. Not to mention the favorable weather and better work opportunities living in the UAE offers. So if you've been digging around the world wide web looking for some tips and advice, you've come to the right place.

1. Understand the country and its culture

Dubai attracts a large number of expats from around the world. It is highly cosmopolitan with a vast international influence in both food and lifestyle. There are many well-curated museums, malls, parks, racecourses and more to keep you entertained, so you'll always have plenty to do. As Islam is the national religion in the UAE, it's advisable to be culturally aware and respectful in how you dress or act in public.

It is extremely rich in history and many families can trace their lineage back generations to nomadic Bedouin roots. Dubai Cultural Intelligence is a good site to build your understanding of the Emirati culture. Plus, you can book guided tours of the city if you're planning on living, working, or even simply visiting the UAE.

2. Find your home in Dubai

If you're new to Dubai, some employers will make arrangements for accommodation. But if you're in charge of finding your home, it may be worth looking into some of the well-known residential areas in Dubai.

The Dubai Marina is favored by young, working expats, plus it's close to the beach. Jumeirah Lake Towers (known as JLT), The Palm Jumeirah, Business Bay and anywhere Downtown are also popular areas for expats to live. If you're budget-conscious and would like to look into renting a flat in less expensive districts, you could also consider properties around JVC, Motor City, Sports City, or anywhere in the suburbs.

Rent and purchase prices in Dubai can fluctuate depending on whether you're looking for a villa or an apartment, a high floor or low floor, a view of the water or a large landscaped garden and numerous other factors... But the good news is, unlike the UK, pretty much every residential building has a pool and gym facilities. If you're ready to start browsing to buy a property, Nomad Homes can help you.

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3. Get your banking arrangements and finances in order

If you're moving to Dubai on a sponsored work visa, your company may already have a preferred bank in the region. But Emirates NBD and Dubai Islamic Bank are reputable regional banks to consider opening an account with. The process is quite straightforward, and you may only be required to submit a copy of your passport, residency or work permit, and/or a letter confirming your salary from your employer. It may be worth checking if your bank in the UK is present in the UAE – plenty of international banks like HSBC, Standard Chartered Bank, and more are operational in the UAE.

Note: A little in-depth research into banking services and fee structures in the UAE might save you a lot of money as service fees, interests, or payment default fees, etc. are quite high in the UAE. Ensure you always maintain your minimum balance and regularly check your account for payments, direct debits, and more coming out of your account.

4. Learn how to get around in Dubai

If you're not planning to drive when you move to Dubai, there are three main modes of public transport available – The Dubai Metro, public buses, and Dubai Taxi services. Plus, Uber, and a similar local operator Careem, are here too. If you're planning on using public transport, you should consider getting a Nol card. It's a 'touch & go' smart card that allows you to use Bus, Metro, as well as RTA paid Parking with a single card, and it automatically deducts the correct fare for the transport service you use.

If you're getting behind the wheel yourself, you can convert your UK driving license to a UAE license by visiting the Dubai Roads and Transport Authorities Offices (RTA).

Note: driving in Dubai can work out pretty cheap as petrol prices are really low compared to the UK. Plus, you'll get well acquainted with the bustling Sheikh Zayed Road, as you can't get anywhere in the city without getting on this massive 12-lane highway.

5. Figure out your cost of living in Dubai

Dubai is not just an upgrade in lifestyle, it also offers amazing tax perks. If you're a salaried employee, you don't pay any taxes in the UAE. Thus, the UAE gives you many opportunities to save and live your best life. Petrol is cheap, utility bills are low, and there are plenty of incredible sales. However, as always your cost of living will depend directly on your spending habits.

Dubai is a high-tech city with wonderful architecture, and it's even considered one of the best cities around the world to live and work in. I hope these nuggets of advice will help make your move a little bit smoother, and your transition into expat life in Dubai a little bit easier.

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