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Setting Up In Dubai - Things You Need To Know If You Are Moving To Dubai

Updated on September 2, 2011
Azure11 profile image

Marian (aka Azure11) lived in Dubai for 7 years and now travels over there once or twice a year for business and pleasure.

Moving To Dubai?

If you are thinking of moving to Dubai then there are some things that you will need to know about before you go. You will probably have a lot of questions about jobs, schools, where to live, finances, cars etc and i will try and address some of those issues here to give you an overview of things you might need to look at more in depth and things you really should take into account as a factor as to whether you should move or not.

I have lived in Dubai since 2004 and have seen a lot of changes in that time but still the main rules are essentially the same and the fact that you are moving to an Islamic country should not be forgotten (if you are non-muslim yourself).


Generally there are 2 types of visa for Dubai - a visit visa and a residence visa.

A visit visa (and I will include in this the transit visa) is only valid for a short period of time which depends on what passport you currently hold. For a select group of nations (British included), the visit visa is valid for 30 days before you need to leave. There is also a grace period of 10 days after the 30 days but this should not be relied upon as it may depend on which border you go through and which border guard you speak to! Other nationalities have different rules for visas and may have to pay for them and get sponsored by a current resident of Dubai.

A residence visa is given to those who have a job in Dubai. Either you must be sponsored by an employer who then gets you a work permit and residence visa, or else you can set up your own company. There are a few options about setting up a company with the main ones being an LLC (currently an LLC must be owned 51% by an Emirati) or by setting up in a 'Free Zone'. There are a number of Free Zones in Dubai including Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City, Knowledge Village, Jebel Ali Free Zone etc and each Free Zone has a list of categories of company visa that it issues. A residence visa is valid for 2 years (recently changed from 3) as long as you still hold the job, otherwise the visa is cancelled.

Some things you can't do without a residence visa:

  • Buy a car
  • Rent a house
  • Open a bank account
  • Work

Degree Certificates

One thing you should do before you arrive in Dubai is to get your degree certificate attested in your home country. Check out the full rules on this as you will struggle if you don't do this before you arrive. You will need to go to the UAE Embassy in your home country as well as getting your certificates notarised. Getting your degree certificates notarised is important as you will need them for almost any job that you get and the Ministry of Labour will require that they are properly certified before you can get your residence visa.

There are some lovely family villas in Dubai
There are some lovely family villas in Dubai


It is possible to buy or rent accommodation in Dubai - but the recent downturn in the property market has really put most investors off from buying. Buying and selling is quick and easy and only takes around a week to do if you have everything in place. There are a huge number of real estate agents in Dubai who can help you with finding a place to buy.

If you want to rent accommodation then you can only do this once you have a residence visa (or a letter of confirmation that this is in progress) and almost all rentals are for 1 year at a time. A few years ago almost all rentals demanded one cheque up front for the year but now you can negotiate to pay in more than one cheque but you will have to pay a higher level of rent if you do. Some landlords will take 12 cheques but this is rare and most only go to 3 or 4 cheques over the year. You will also need to find a deposit of 5% of the rent and the agents commission of up to 5% of the rent.

It is possible to get short term rentals but the law is a bit grey on this so take care. There are also plenty of rooms to rent if you are coming on your own but also beware that it is illegal for people of the opposite sex to share accommodation if they are not related or married (although a lot of people do and as long as you don't do anything else wrong it is likely you will be OK).

Prices for rentals current range from around 40,000 dirhams a year for a studio flat to 300,000 dirhams a year for a large family home. Prices can exceed this in high income areas but this is a reasonable guide. A good place to check out current rental prices is Dubizzle. The dirham is fixed with the dollar at 3.65 dirhams to a dollar and the rate with the Pound varies but is currently around 6 dirhams per Pound.

Dubai Marina is full of high rise apartments
Dubai Marina is full of high rise apartments

Areas To Live

There is a wide choice of areas to live in Dubai, probably too wide for me to touch on all of them so I will give a brief rundown and a map:

The Springs and The Meadows: A community in 'new Dubai' with mostly family villas. The Springs has smaller ones with 2/3 beds and The Meadows has larger family homes. There are shops and schools within the area and it is popular with Western Expats.

The Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence(JBR): These areas are full of high rise apartment blocks and are slightly more popular with younger singles but there are still families in the area as it is right near the beach and is also good if you need to commute to Abu Dhabi. Traffic can be a bit of a nightmare at times especially at JBR at the weekends. Apartments are spacious and some have sea views, most have access to a pool and a gym and JBR is more expensive generally than the Marina.

Arabian Ranches: A community of family villas with a shopping centre and school. This used to be considered out of the centre of Dubai but with the spread of development it is now quite near places like Mall of the Emirates (with Ski Dubai) which is only a 20 minute drive away. There are more communities going up behind Arabian Ranches which also cater to singles with low rise apartments.

Mirdiff: An area that has recently undergone an expansion in terms of the building of villas and apartments which are now in ready supply and hence reasonably cheap. The downside for mirdiff is that it is right next to the airport and hence on the flightpath and those planes come down pretty low.... However it has 2 shopping centres and is near to the actual city centre area of Deira.

Jumeirah Lake Towers: A relatively new development of high rise apartments on the opposite side of the artery of Sheikh Zayed Road to Dubai Marina. Prices are relatively cheap but the downside is the huge one way system that is in place.

Jumeirah/Umm Sequiem: near the beach you can find some big villas that are either good for families or sharing for singles. Quite pricey and some are quite old!

The areas I have mentioned are mostly Western expat areas and there are many more to choose from.

Mirdiff, Intersection - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

get directions

Arabian Ranches:
Arabian Ranches - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

get directions

Dubai Marina:
Dubai Marina - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

get directions

Umm Suqeim, Dubai:
Umm Suqeim - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

get directions

The Springs:
The Springs, Community centre 1 - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

get directions

The Meadows, Dubai:
The Meadows, Entrance gate 8 2 - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

get directions

Jumeirah Lake Towers:
Jumeirah Lake Towers Metro Station 1 - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

get directions

Cars and Driving

The roads of Dubai can come as quite a shock to some expats in Dubai as the standard of driving is generally poor with aggressive and speedy driving contributing to a high death rate on the roads. Standards have improved over the last few years especially with the introduction of large numbers of speed cameras on most of the roads. But to drive in Dubai you need to be aggressive!

If you are on a visit visa then you can only drive a hire car - you can't drive a car owned by a resident. You also cannot own a can unless you have a residence visa. Taxis are frequent and cheap however.


I'm no expert on schooling but I have heard that places in schools fill up fast you you need to investigate schools before you come and get your child's name on a list. You will also have to find large sums for school fees unless you get paid these as part of your employment package.

Here is a comprehensive list of Dubai School Fees.

Things That Are Illegal

There are some things that are illegal that you may not be aware of. These include:

  • Living with your partner if you are not married
  • Homosexuality
  • Drinking alcohol without a licence
  • Public displays of affection
  • Zero tolerance on drinking and driving
  • Do not use hand gestures to locals
  • Being pregnant and unmarried (jail and deportation)


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    • breathe2travel profile image


      7 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      It's showing up today! :) Not sure what happened. I have flash (have had it for years, actually). Thanks for responding! :)

    • Azure11 profile imageAUTHOR

      Marian L 

      7 years ago from UK

      Hi breathe2travel, thanks for your comments and the link. I think maybe you need something else installed for the map to show - maybe flash? It shows up when I look so I am not sure...will try and investigate!

    • breathe2travel profile image


      7 years ago from Gulf Coast, USA

      The map is not appearing. I am assuming the large, empty space above the pinpointed locations is where a map should be housed.

      Informative hub. Interesting laws... I posted those on my FB page with a link to your hub.

      Voted up and useful.

      Warmest regards~


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