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Planning a move to Dubai?

Our experts share their insider knowledge and top tips on planning your move to Dubai. 


25th August 2020


Year-round sunshine, stunning beaches, a vibrant social life and easy access to some of the most beautiful holiday destinations in the world. It’s easy to understand the lure of Dubai. However, moving to a new country, either alone or with family, can be rife with emotions from excitement to apprehension and even administrative boredom. Whilst we look after clients across the whole of Dubai and Middle East, this article focuses on the Emirate of Dubai, which has been home to Arbuthnot Latham’s Middle East team since 2013.

How many hours ahead of the UK is Dubai?

When the UK is on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), Dubai is four hours ahead. However, when the clocks go forward by one hour during British Summer Time (BST), Dubai is only three hours ahead. Time for a sundowner while the UK is still hard at work!


What’s schooling like?

Education is one of the highest priorities in Dubai. As the first President His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of Dubai, noted, “The greatest use that can be made of wealth is to invest it in creating generations of educated and trained people.” In Dubai, non-Emirati nationals may attend public schools but must pay fees, while public education is free for Emiratis. However, there are a host of well-established private schools including Brighton College, Repton School, Nord Anglia International School and King’s School, which many expats favour.

Father and daughter in Dubai

Where should I live in Dubai?

There is no shortage of residential property across Dubai, with more being built every week. If you are looking for an apartment, the main areas include Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Lake Towers (JTL), Downtown Dubai and Business Bay. Most apartments form part of a complex that includes a gym and a pool. 

If you’re in the market for a villa, there are  numerous gated and non-gated communities. The most luxurious of which include Emirates Hills, The Meadows, Jumeirah Islands, Arabian Ranches and Al Barari. Other larger communities include The Springs, Mudon, Jumeirah Park and Damac Hills. 

Which religion is followed in Dubai?

Islam is both the official and majority religion, followed by approximately 76% of the population. Other religions represented in the country including Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Sikhism are practiced by non-nationals. As a predominantly Muslim country, the holy day is Friday and so the Dubai weekend is Friday and Saturday, as opposed to Saturday and Sunday in the UK and other western countries. 


Can I drive when I get to Dubai?

Your tourist visa allows you to rent a car and drive on your home license. However, as soon as you have been granted your residence visa, you can only drive on a UAE driver’s license. The good news is that as long as you have a valid license from another country, you can pay to convert this to a UAE license without the need for a further driving test. 


Do I need to learn Arabic?

English is widely spoken, and the sheer number of expats in Dubai means that it is often the main language in the workplace, restaurants, bars and taxis etc. However, if you pick up some Arabic, you’ll find it easier to bond with colleagues and locals, and as with any country, learning some of the language shows you respect the place and its people.


Can I drink alcohol in Dubai?

As a resident of Dubai, the law states that you must obtain an alcohol license to have a drink at home, or at a bar or restaurant. Visitors can, and should, also obtain a license issued at the airport. The application process for an alcohol license can also be done online with a few standard documents. It’s usually received in a couple of weeks. 

Dubai runners

What is healthcare like in Dubai?

Many companies provide access to private treatment, which has a better reputation in Dubai than the public healthcare system. As of 2017, there were more private hospitals than public, according to Allianz. This makes sense, since anyone who isn’t an Emirati national can only access emergency treatment in a public hospital.

In Dubai specifically, unless you are an Emirati national, it is mandatory to have some form of private medical cover. If you need to take out your own private medical insurance policy before you move to here, there are numerous providers such as Cigna, who have four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility. 

How easy is it to buy a car?

Buying a car in Dubai is fairly simple, but there are things to consider. Due to the lack of a public transport network in the country, there is a heavy reliance on cars, which means large demand for both new and second hand cars. New car sales will feel familiar; all the major brands have their own showrooms, and test driving and purchasing is straightforward. You also have the added piece of mind that you are buying direct from the brand. It is the second hand car market that you need to be more cautious about. There are several credible dealers in Dubai such as Alba Cars and RMA Motors, who can assist with the purchase process, including organising bank finance if required.

However, if you choose to buy privately, be aware that many cars sold on the second hand market are imports without clear service histories. Often, these cars come from the US or mainland Europe and have been previously written off. It is essential therefore, that you understand the history of the car you are buying. The biggest second hand car market in Dubai is Dubizzle, an online platform where you can buy and sell anything (think eBay), but make sure you know your clutch from your carburettor before heading into a negotiation.


And because we can’t not talk about the weather…


Just how hot does it really get?

It’s true that temperatures can get close to 50°C in the height of summer (mid to late August), and for some Europeans it’s time to take a holiday back to the mild summer of home. However, Dubai is built for the heat and from air conditioning as standard to chilling the pools, every effort is made to help you enjoy the summer… just don’t go bare foot on the sand!

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