Relocation to UAE

relocation to uae

UAE Relocation

As relocation experts, at Move One we understand how important it is to familiarize yourself with your potential new home before making the big move, and of course to have a seamless transition when settling in your new destination and to make you relocation to UAE as hassle-free as possible.

Move One profiles a country every month, providing an in-depth look at Relocation, Immigration, Moving and Pet Transportation issues, which could pose problems for expats. This month, we take a closer look at relocation to UAE.

The United Arab Emirates  (دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة) is a federation of seven states located in the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. Dubai is the largest city by population and also the main focus of finance and expat living. Abu Dhabi is the second largest by population, acting as the center for industry and politics, and accounting for 87 percent of the total area of the UAE. The smallest emirate is Amjan, covering only 259 square kilometers.

The UAE has an extremely robust economy built upon natural resource exploitation, helping to establish the area as a center for international business and financial services. The economic and population growth driven by large number of expats resulted in a massive construction boom. There is an estimated US $350 billion of currently active construction projects across the emirates. The largest buildings and active construction projects in the world are in the UAE, including the world’s tallest building, the world’s most expensive civilian airport, the largest artificial island, an entertainment complex twice the size of Disney World, and the world’s largest shopping center

The UAE has the world’s highest immigration rate. Only about 18 percent of the population are indigenous Emiratis, with the rest comprised of recent immigrants. Roughly half the population are transitory workers from South East Asia.

Property prices have continued to fall throughout 2010.

One of the most iconic and sought after residential areas is the Palm Jumeirah artificial island. Areas that have proven particularly popular with expats in Dubai include the Marina, Burj Khalifa, the Jumeirah Beach Residences, Umm Suqeim and the Arabian Ranches and Springs. In Abu Dhabi expats tend to prefer residences in Khalidiya, Khalifa City ‘A’, the Mangrove Village,  Al Markaziyah and the Al Raha Gardens. These modern residential areas have the most developed leisure, entertainment, retail and education infrastructure.

The average selling price of a Dubai apartment at the end of 2009 was Dh.950 ($258) per square foot, which was down 16 percent from the start of the year. The master-planned communities comprising of three to five bedrooms villas with gardens are the most desirable for expats with families, such as the Al Raha Gardens and Sas Al Nakhl in Abu Dhabi, or Arabian Ranches and Emirates Hills in Dubai. In the same time period these were selling for around Dh.1000 ($272) per square foot, but had better kept their value at a fall of only 9 percent.

There are an estimated 4,500 apartments in the process of being constructed, with an additional 8,000 flats due for completion by the end of this year. Out of these new developments the high-end supply will be concentrated around Reem Island and Al Raha Beach, with mid-end supply coming up on the Abu Dhabi main island and the most affordable lower end stock on the mainland, which includes the first phase of Al Reef Downtown.

Ownership restrictions: Since 2006, foreigners have been allowed to own freehold title on property in Dubai. There are no restrictions for re-selling the property or for owners planning to rent out their property. In other Emirates there are strict limitations to the extent to which overseas nationals are allowed to own property. For example, in Abu Dhabi foreigners are able to buy and sell renewable 99-year leases for property within designated projects.

The health care system in the UAE is modern and generally easily to access within the cities. Facilities and medical professionals are of a similar standard to Western Europe or America.

Expats who have moved as part of a corporate assignment will usually have medical insurance included in their relocation package, but the individual entrepreneur or short-term expat should look into their own travelers insurance. Health care costs in the UAE can be very expensive for anything more advanced than prescription medicine. The average cost of bypass surgery in 2009 was $44,000, as compared to $11,000 in Thailand, $10,000 in India and $9,000 in Malaysia.

There are variations between the Emirates in the health care procedure. In 2006 Abu Dhabi introduced universal and mandatory health care for all nationals and expatriates as well as their dependents. Dubai has not yet adopted the universal health care system, which has meant many of the low wage workers and lower income expats are without any form of health coverage.

New expats should register for a health card with the UAE Health and Medical Services Department, as they will not be able to access more than emergency medical treatment without one.

The massive influx of immigrants that drove the housing boom has had a similar effect on health care provision, with gargantuan medical facilities being developed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, such as the $3 billion Dubai Health Care City (DHCC) and $400 million DuBiotech. Thanks to the scale of investment and development expats will be able to find name-brand health centers including the Mayo Clinic and Great Ormond Street Hospital as well as leading pharmaceutical and med-tech service suppliers such as Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Novo Nordisk.

For more information on obtaining private health insurance see The Ministry of Health website

According to The Economist, the UAE is amongst the most expensive countries in the world to live in for expats, particularly Abu Dhabi. Whilst property and rental prices have been falling, expats should expect their accommodation to be by far their largest expense, with rent accounting for up to 50 percent of monthly salaries.

Whilst location will have a significant effect on rates, an average one-bedroom apartment can cost roughly $1700 a month, and2 to 3 bedroom apartments can be upward of $4,000. It was not uncommon for payment of a full year of rent to be demanded up-front with no refund should the lease be prematurely terminated, but with the current oversupply of housing more landlords are prepared to negotiate or offer more reasonable terms.

Home utilities average around AED 200 ($54) for a one bedroom  apartment or studio.

A four bedroom villa without a swimming pool will have an average monthly utility bill of around AED 1,800, including water, electricity, sewerage, and the AC housing fee.

Tenants will have to pay monthly DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) bills , as well as a housing fee which is calculated at 5 percent of yearly rent divided into 12 months. AC is usually included in the electricity bill (paid to DEWA), but in newer developments (such as Dubai Marina, Jumeira Beach Residences, etc.) it comes as separate bill. DEWA bills are usually higher during summer months, and also for properties with gardens and private swimming pools due to higher consumption of water and electricity.

When new tenants signs up for DEWA connection they will need to pay a refundable deposit of AED 2,000 for a villa and AED 1,000 for an apartment. In the case when AC is separate, there is a deposit for connection as well of around AED 1,000 per number of rooms, also refundable upon vacancy.

There are still no gas mains in Dubai, and individual gas canisters need to be purchased and attached to the cookers. The canisters initially cost around AED 350 /EUR 77 and refills are usually AED 60.

There are additional monthly bills for internet, landline, and cable TV.

Various packages are available for internet ( AED 150 – 350 monthly, installation AED 200); cable TV (basic AED 50, premium AED 350, installation up to AED 475); landline (installation AED 125).

Petrol is currently around AED 1.72 per liter

The cost of consumables and groceries will depend on if you are prepared to shop at the markets or at the air conditioned supermarkets that specially cater for expats with imported goods from home. A rough estimate of AED 2,000 ($540) per month is reasonable, especially when supplemented with widely available and inexpensive Eastern Asian takeaway and delivery options.

Local and public transport is heavily subsidized by the government and is inexpensive. Bus fares are usually only two to four Durham and a short taxi ride of within four kilometers will be the minimum flat fare of AED 10. As of last September Dubai has a modern metro system, with fares being from AED 2.5 to 6 depending on the length of the journey.

Assignees with dependents should be looking for a monthly salary of at least AED 9,000, which should be exclusive of an accommodation allowance.

Whilst the general cost of living is quite high for European expats, the cost of other services are significantly lower and expats of even modest means may be able to afford maids or cleaning services.

The following list will give you an idea of prices and cost of living in UAE:

ProductPrice ($ USD)Local currency (Albanian Lek – ALL)
  Meal for two, Inexpensive Restaurant$202000
  Meal for two, Mid-range Restaurant$353500
  McDonald’s BigMac$151500
  Medium Latte @ Starbucks/Costa$252500
  Fresh Milk (1 liter)$2150
  Eggs (Dozen)$2150
  Sugar (1 kg)$1100
  Tomatoes (1 kg)$2150
  Chicken fillet (1 kg)$5600
  Apples (1 kg)$2150
  Evian Water (1.5 liter bottle)$2150
  Domestic Beer (Korca) (1 bottle)$2150
  Heineken(330 ml bottle)$3350
  Pack of Marlboro Red$2250
  Snickers Bar$2200
  Lipton Tea (25 bag box)$2200
  One-way Ticket (local transport)$0.330
  Monthly Transport Pass$9900
  Taxi (5km, downtown)$4400
  Gasoline (1 liter)$2185
  Fitness Club, Monthly Fee for 1 Adult$353500
  Cinema, International Release, 1 Seat$5500
  Male Haircut$4400
  Female Haircut$5500
  Pair of Men’s Levis 501$404000
  CoverGirl Lipstick$7700
  Old Spice Deodorant (stick 2.25 oz)$454500
Household Goods
  Palmolive Soap (Bar, 80g)$4400
  Colgate Toothpaste (reg. tube)$4450
  Johnsons Baby Shampoo (15 oz.)$5500
  Tide Detergent (Powder, 33 oz.)$151500
  4 x Duracell ‘AA’ Batteries$8800
  Windex Window Cleaner (32 oz.)$3350

The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but due to the huge influx of immigrants, the lingua franca tends to be English. The majority of the population are migrant workers from across Asia  and so Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Tagalong, Tigrinya, Amharic, Malayalam,  and Bengali are all widely spoken.

Expats will not be expected to speak Arabic, but as in all cultures the use of a few local words of thanks or greeting will go a long way.

Here is a selection of basic, useful phrases

Yanni‘you know’
Yallah‘come on, let’s go, just do it’
Chalas‘finished, over, done’
Inshallah‘God willing’
Al-Hamdulilah‘Thank God’
MashallahCongratulations!’ (literally ‘God’s blessing’)
Shokran‘Thank you!’

Due to the enormous immigrant population in the UAE, expats will be able to find nearly every major education system in the world represented somewhere in the major metropolises. Annual tuition ranges from AED 25,000 to AED90,000 for competitive international schooling.

The UAE is typically very hot and very dry, with temperatures in July and August regularly exceeding 48 °C (118.4 °F) in coastal areas. Annual lows are during the winter months of January and February with an average of 10 and 14 °C (50 and 57.2 °F). Distinguishing features in the local weather are the brief but torrential rains during summer months when the entire annual rainfall will occur within just a few hours, the occasional violent dust storm, and a humid southeastern wind known as Sharqi (‘Easterner’) that blows during the later summer months. The Jebel Jais mountain cluster in Ras al-Khaimah has experienced snow only twice since records began.


The UAE is the most moderate and liberal of the middle eastern states, but there are still some traditions and attitudes that expats should respect to avoid offending the local populace. The legal system is based upon civil law and predicate, but Shari’a law is still applied to certain aspects of family law, inheritance, and specific criminal acts including sodomy, homosexual acts and adultery. There is a strong liberalizing emphasis implemented by the UAE’s National Human Rights Committee, and as such the death penalty is not enforced for homosexuality and convicted expats are simply deported.

Unmarried couples cannot live together.


Indigenous Emirati males prefer to wear a kandura, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton, and most Emirati women wear an abaya, a black over-garment covering most parts of the body. Unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia the Islamic dress code is not compulsory and western style dress is predominant thanks to the expatriate majority. Public appearance in western dress is tolerated as long as it remains modest, and even less conservative dress is permitted in appropriate places, such as bars or clubs. Recently there have been highly publicized instances of expats disregarded the local law and custom and getting arrested for indecent clothing, or lack thereof, at beaches.


Hotels, bars and restaurants in the metropolises will have licenses to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises. There are off-licenses that sell alcohol but you will require an official permit to be allowed to purchase. To obtain a license you can fill in an application in one of the stores which will then liaise with the police and authorities. Be warned – to complete the forms you will need a salary certificate, a housing contract, a signature from your employer, copies of your passport and visas, passport photos, plus a nominal fee. The license will limit you to a certain proportion of your salary,  measured out on a form of rationing card, although stores will often be prepared to use unused rations from previous months.

Islamic Holidays

Expats and visitors should keep an eye on the Islamic calendar to work out if there are any specific holy days coming up, particularly Ramadan. During Ramadan the faithful fast during the daylight hours until dusk, and the restaurants are required by law to remain closed during the day. The larger hotels may be permitted to keep one restaurant open, but as a general rule you are on your own, cuisine wise, until the sun sets. Expats who have eaten or drunk anything in public, including bottled water, have in the past been arrested and fined. Once the sun goes down, however, there is a decidedly festival atmosphere as the ofiftar (‘breaking of the fast’) is celebrated and vast meals and menus are offered.

Things to See and Do in the UAE


Ajman is one of the smallest and least opulent of the Emirates, which means that whilst it doesn’t attract much in the way of international tourisim and mega-malls it does have some beautiful and uncrowded palm-lined white sand beaches. Locals and savvy expats can be found heading this way for BBQ’s and picnics around the municipal picnic tables with their disctinctive blue umbrellas. The Mepinski Resort & Hotel has a stretch of even more secluded beach, and the sheesha cafés opposite the waterfront along with the museum and historic dhow building yards are worth a visit.


The route out from Dubai to Fajairah is a ribbon of highway that curves over the horizon, with nothing but dunes for hours that makes for spectacular sunsets and sunrises. About 30km from the Fujairah there is the town of Masafi that hosts the famous Souq al Juma market on Fridays, as well as a smaller market daily 8am to 10pm, which is a riot of rugs, fruit, vegetables, household appliances and outrageous tacky souvenirs. After all the color of the sunrise and the market Fujairah itself is a fairly unprepossessing heavy goods seaport, but is a good base from which to go and explore the beauty spots along the east coast of the Musandam Peninsula. Resort hotels around Khor Fakkan and Badiyah offer all-inclusive luxury service, private beaches, and the most accessible and pristine diving and snorkeling opportunities along the east coast.


Sharjah is one of the cultural capitals of the UAE, and has an unusually high concentration of excellent museums, theaters and galleries. The souqs are large but low key, providing the best souvenir and genuine local craftwork shopping around. The town has been compared as the counterpoint to nearby Dubai’s opulence and western attitudes as it permits no booze, no immodest clothing, no cafes and no cohabitation by non-married couples – which can actually make for a welcome change of pace outside of the metropolis.

Abu Dhabi

The second largest of the cities, Abu Dhabi is home to the political, industrial and cultural life of the UAE, and as such has a lot to be seen by the newly arrived expat or visitor.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque – the 6th largest in the world, accesable by non-muslims on Saturday through to Thursday mornings.

The Corniche – the famous waterfront reaches from Breakwater and the Marina Shopping Mall (home to the world’s tallest flagpole) all the way to the Mina Zayed port, passing along sandy beaches with turquoise waters, shopping centers, markets, cafés, playgrounds and the majestic towers of downtown Abu Dhabi.  In the evening the walkway is thronged by tourists and locals alike come out for a promenade in the cool dusk air.

Khalifa Park – developed at a cost of $50 million, this opulent and refreshing green space within the city has its own aquarium, museum, train, play parks and formal gardens.

Cultural Events – The Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre has become a landmark in the Emirates and holds cultural events and workshops throughout the year. It has a well-stocked library, children’s programs, art exhibitions, benefits, and other culture-related activities that are the hallmark of any city. It’s well worth a look.

Also check out the Lulu Islands – a collection of artificial islands constructed at absolutely staggering cost, which are now sitting around doing absolutely nothing since the grand plans surrounding them collapsed. Also opening this year will be Yas Island – a motorsports haven that aside from having a formula 1 race track on it also has a farrari themed theme park, a water park, and the obligatory vast shopping mall. If youre looking to burn rubber in a more rugged environment the Abu Dhabi Off-road Club offers a free lesson to all newcomers, and has weekly trips out to romp around the dunes with some of the 2000 members, the vast majority of which are expats.


The Bastakiya District is a beautiful example of one of the few surviving areas of Old Dubai filled with both original and restored buildings. The district is refreshingly light on tourist capitalization and expats will get to wander through the cool, narrow streets and find the art galleries and cafes hidden throughout the area.

The Dubai Museum, as well as being a fantastic destination for anyone genuinely interested in the history of the Emirate, is a required visit for any expat who wants to sound like they know a thing or two about their adoptive city in the bar later.

More modern wonders can be seen from the ‘At The Top’ observation deck on the 124 floor of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure at 828 meters and 160 floors. Visitors should be warned that at this height the building moves appreciably – about 2 meters in each direction – which is an effect more than a little unsettling for some. The epic structure has nine separate hotels, a cascading fountain, and the usual supply of opulent malls. Safely down at water level the Palm Islands are the largest artificial land masses in the world and whilst just a normal residential district up-close it is amazing to see the sheer scale of human endeavor going on in Dubai. In terms of extremes it’s hard to beat the Burj al-Arab – the only seven star hotel in existence. You will need a reservation and some nice shoes to even enter the premises to have a cocktail at the bar, but is worth it just for bragging rights. Wrap up your experience of hysteric opulence with a trip to the Mall of the Emirates, which contains its own ski resort,or the Dubai Mall,  which has its own waterfall, ice skating rink, huge aquarium, dancing fountain. There is also the Atlantis Hotel with Aquaventure Water Park and Dolphin Bay where you can swim with actual dolphins.

Public Holidays for the January 2010 to December 2011 period:

January 1New Years Day
February 26Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet).
July 9Leilat al-Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet)
September 11Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
November 17Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
December 2UAE National Day
December 7Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year)
December 16Ashoura
January 1New Years Day
February 26Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet)
June 28Leilat al-Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet)
August 31Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
November 7Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice)
November 26Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year)
December 2UAE National Day

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