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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Please read this post as it contains much of the initial information that anyone moving to the UAE needs to know. You can also find loads of useful info and ‘how to’ advice in a book called Dubai Explorer. It is available from Amazon and from most major bookshops and supermarkets in Dubai and even long term expats use it.

The UAE is made up of seven different emirates with Abu Dhabi, the largest one and Dubai as probably the best known. The capital is Abu Dhabi. Whilst many major laws are common to all emirates many other rules vary so do not necessarily assume that what happens in one is the same for another.

To answer the most commonly asked questions – yes, pork and alcohol is available and no, women do not have to cover completely. ;)

Residency Visa

This is supplied by your employer, once you arrive the application for residency visa starts. You cannot remain in the UAE long term without a residency visa. Most residency visas are valid for 2 years and is renewable subject to mutual agreement between employer and employee.

You will need to have a blood test and a chest x-ray in order to be issued your visa and for each subsequent renewal. This is organised by your Company and depending on their efficiency can take anything from two days to two months.

In most cases you will need your residency visa to enable you to rent accommodation. A few landlords however, will take a letter from your Company confirming that they are in fact going through the process of applying for your visa.

You need to be resident to purchase and insure a vehicle.

Your employer will also supply you with a Labour Card. This is not applicable for Governmental and semi-Governmental employees.

Men can sponsor their wives and children, but generally only women in a handful of select occupations (lawyer, doctor, teacher, engineer – on high salaries) can sponsor their husbands. In practice, women on a high income (circa AED25k per month) can sponsor their husbands and families. A spouse’s visa will say ‘Housewife-not permitted to work’, but she can work provided the husband provides a NOC (No Objection Certificate). Under new rules (announced July 2009) expats must have a minimum salary of AED 10,000 in order to bring in their families.

You should get certain documents, such as marriage and birth (for dependents) certificates and qualification and degree certificates attested before you leave your home country.

You cannot sponsor your partner if unmarried. It is also illegal to co-habit. (Many people do however and if you behave discretely it is unlikely to be a problem, but be aware that you are breaking the law and risk jail and deportation if caught.)

Changing Jobs

In order to change jobs, you will require a No Objection Certificate from your employer. Failure to obtain an NOC can result in a 6 - 12 months labour ban being imposed on the employee. The Labour Ban can be waived provided that the employee satisfies certain conditions, which are discussed in the article below:
Removing the Labour Ban

An NOC is not required in a number of circumstances, notably:
- For employees changing jobs within the freezones or starting a new job with a freezone employer
- For employees of Governmental or semi-Governmental organisations
- For employees who have completed the limited contract
- For employees wishing to change jobs after the expiry of their current residency visa - normally valid for 2 years- but reduced to 1 year fpr degree holders on higher salaries.


The cost of accommodation has dropped in recwent years, althoug now shows signs of increasing again. However, accommodation is still considered expensive in comparison to western rental prices. Ensure that you get a big enough housing allowance to cover your rent, or factor this in with your basic salary. Fewer people get hefty housing allowances these days. Rent is payable in advance, usually in 1 - 6 cheques in the more popular areas and in up to 12 cheques in the less popular areas.

The area where you choose to live should largely be dictated by where you will be working. Proximity to schools should also be factored in, for those with children and the school places secured will quite often dictate the area where families typically live. Rush hour traffic can be bad, so best to minimize journey times. Prices vary between areas and the type of development you choose. As a rough guide only:

One bed apartment – from AED 35 - 70K
Two Bed apartment – from AED 50 - 90k
Villas 3 bed - AED 100 – 180k
Villa 4 bed - AED 140 - 220k
Villa 5 bed - AED 180– 250k

Unlike in many other countries it is common to live in apartments. Most decent buildings have a pool and a gym.

Useful article from Time Out in November 2008 regarding the different areas. :Time Out Dubai - City Guide, Information, Events, Reviews & What's On in the City of Dubai

Current rental prices of apartments and villas in the various areas can also be found on Dubizzle. Most landlords and agents typically advertise available properties there. It is common and acceptable to negotiate on the price and the number of cheques.

Prospective tenants should ensure that they obtain a receipt for all cheques handed over and additionally ensure that they sight the ownership papers from the landlord or agent. All cheques should be made out in the name of the landlord or in the name of the rental agency where the agent can provide evidence that he has permission from the property owner to do so. The agent should be registered with RERA and produce a copy of their RERA registration card. Tenancy contracts should also be registered.

The agency fee is paid by the tenant and typically equates to 5% of the annual rental value of the property. In addition, a 5% refundable deposit is also payable to the landlord.

Utilities & Services

Telecoms providers are Etisalat & Du. Often where you live dictates the provider to your home. You can use mobile services from either.

Water and electricity are from one provider in each emirate. DEWA – Dubai Water & Electricity Authority, for example. A deposit of AED 1,000 (for an apartment) or AED 2,000 (for a villa) is payable when you set up an account.

Everywhere is air-conditioned. (You need it for much of the year!). In certain areas where district cooling is supplied, such as the Palm, JBR, JLT and certain buildings in the Marina, the a/c charges are payable by the tenant. In most areas however, the a/c charges is included in the service charge, which is payable by the landlord.

Dubai Municipality charges a housing fee, equating 5% of the annual rental value of the property. This is collected via the tenant's DEWA bill in 12 monthly installments.

Driving and cars

We drive on the right and the vast majority of cars are automatic. The driving can be dangerous and standards are poor.

You need to be resident to purchase and insure a vehicle.

If you want to drive immediately, you get a hire/lease car, but obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your home country. You can also obtain an IDP from Emirates Post Offices. Whilst not all rental companies will ask to see your IDP, the law says you must have one and you may invalidate the insurance by not having the right documents. Note that it is illegal to drive a car without a UAE driving license if you entered the country on an employment visa or have a residence visa.

The usual international rental agencies all have offices here and there are also a number of local companies. Do shop around.

You will require a resident’s visa to get a full Dubai licence. Not all country’s driving licences are recognised in Dubai. If yours is not eligible for conversion, you will need to take a minimum of 20 lessons (exact number dependent on how long you've had your home country's license for) and a test.

Taxis are plentiful, regulated and relatively cheap.

There are automatic road tolls (called Salik) in several places which cost AED 4 a time or AED 5 in a hire car. You obtain a prepaid permit.

Cost of living

There is no personal income tax, but that doesn’t mean you are not liable for tax in a home country

The cost of living is quite personal and in many ways depends on your lifestyle and where you are used to living. If you only buy items that have been imported from your home country then you will end up with a big bill. Regional vegetables are much cheaper than those imported from a long distance and you will find cheaper alternatives to many familiar brands. The prices vary between the different supermarkets with the less ‘Western’ ones usually being rather cheaper.

For most people, assume that it is higher than in your home country.


6,657 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·

School fees for primary/elementary school will cost you a MINIMUM of 30,000 Dhs per child ( older children about 50- 60,000 Dhs a year) - not including uniforms, extracurricular activities or transport. Schools here also have long wait lists, so best to put your children’s names down at many schools (there will be a registration fee too). You may not also get them all in at the same school.

Many schools will ask for several thousand Dirhams in advance to secure a school place, but the law says that may charge a maximum of Dhs 500 only. Remind them of the KHDA ruling.

Refer to the thread on schools for more information.


Most banks require you to have residency before you can open a current account. Service is very hit and miss to prepare to be frustrated.

It is now standard for banks to request an undated cheque as surety when providing a credit card or personal loan.

Be aware of the serious consequences of bouncing a cheque – you could end up in jail.

Domestic help

Minimum monthly salary which you are required to pay by law varies from nationality to nationality. Phillipina maids have the highest minimum salary of around 1500 Dirhams a month if she lives with you. I think Sri Lankan maids have a minimum of around 800 Dirhams (if your conscience permits this!).

1,500 to 1,800 a month seems to be about average, with every Friday off. If baby-sitting is required in the evenings, this is usually paid for on top of their monthly salary.

Paying a maid on someone else’s sponsorship to come and clean for you for a few hours is illegal and there are occasional crack downs on this.

It is more usual to use an agency maid. There are numerous cleaning agencies and the going rate is around Dhs 35 per hour, usually with a four hour minimum. Some of the agencies are listed below:

Howdra 04 227 2726
Focus Cleaning Co 04 331 6006
Helpers Co 04 393 3777
Home Help 04 355 5100
Macco Building and Cleaning 050 295 8823
Molly Maid 04 398 8877
Smart Maid Service 04 344 1595
Solutions Hygiene 04 324 0076
Open House 04 332 403
Home Maid 04 339 3211

It is also common to employ a gardener if you live in a villa, as in the summer months the garden will require a hefty watering every day. For someone to come in six days a week, you can expect to pay around AED 350-500 per month, depending on the size of the garden and what tasks you require undertaken.


Alcohol is available in hotels, as well as bars and restaurants with a link to hotels. Also a handful of private members clubs. To buy alcohol in a shop you will require a licence. An application form can be obtained in any branch of A+E or MMI, the two main outlets that have branches across the city. You will require a NOC from your employer and proof of residency and income. Your purchasing limit is linked to your salary. Married women cannot obtain their own licence, but may use their husband’s.

It is illegal to have alcohol in your home if you do not have a licence. Muslims cannot get alcohol licences, no matter where they are from.

There is a 30% tax on alcohol in Dubai, so many people travel to other emirates to shops where this tax is not charged. Take care though, as it is illegal to transport alcohol across Sharjah (the only route) without a licence. Sharjah is a ‘dry’ emirate and alcohol is not available, nor should you have any whilst there.

It is illegal to be intoxicated in public, so watch your intake. Zero tolerance when driving so take a taxi – or don’t be surprised if you end up in jail for a few weeks.

Alcohol prices are high, particularly in high end hotels. Be warned!


Many medicines that are freely available in other countries (codeine for example) are banned or restricted. DO NOT attempt to bring in any banned medicines as the penalty can be severe. A list of banned medications can be found at this link.

http://www.moh.gov.ae/admincp/asset...ed controlled medical list seperated 2007.pdf

Under this heading I will also point out that all drugs are illegal here and if even the smallest amount of any substance is found on you, you will end up in jail and then deported.

Codeine is a restricted drug and you should be wary of trying to bring in medicines that contain it. For serious medical conditions many GPs and specialist physicians can prescribe drugs with banned substances if required.

Healthcare generally is of a high standard. If your employer does not provide you with medical insurance (only compulsory in Abu Dhabi) you would be wise to arrange your own. Government health Cards are available, but are limited in usage.

Restricted items

Anything that is the slightest bit anti-Islamic, ant-Arab, pornographic or relates to gambling is restricted. Just remember that this is a Muslim country and do not bring in anything inappropriate.

You also cannot bring in alcohol, apart from the usual limits in your personal luggage.

Recruitment agencies (+ headhunters + executive search agencies)

Agency Name Phone Number Industry
ACR World +971 4 339 7277 Architecture, Construction, Energy, Envi...
Appointments +971 4 390 0039 General (All industries)
BAC Executive Recruitment +971 4 337 5747 General (All industries)
Beresford Blake Thomas +971 4 390 0375 General (All industries)
Charterhouse +971 4 372 3500 General (All industries)
Clarendon Parker +971 4 391 0460 General (All industries)
Dulsco +971 4 347 7500 General (All industries)
Edge Executive +971 4 368 9460 General (All industries)
Egon Zehnder International +971 4 381 0200 General (All industries)
eMedHR.com +971 4 362 4748 Health care and Medical
First Select +971 4 334 3461 General (All industries)
Fish People +971 50 462 1781 General (All industries)
Focus Direct +971 4 355 4134 General (All industries)
Future Focus +971 4 321 7222 General (All industries)
Gulf Connexions +971 4 337 6791 Accounting and Auditing, Banking, Energy...
Hays +971 4 361 2882 General (All industries)
Headway +971 4 398 7369 General (All industries)
Hill McGlynn +971 4 299 3366 Architecture, Construction, Engineering
Ibtikar +971 4 343 8380 General (All industries)
Kershaw Leonard +971 4 343 4606 General (All industries)
Korn/Ferry +971 4 204 5777 General (All industries)
Lobo +971 4 331 3223 General (All industries)
Medico Worldwide Recruitment +971 4 390 2238 Health care and Medical
Michael Page +971 4 709 0300 General (All industries)
Mosaic Search +971 4 367 1030 General (All industries)
Nadia +971 4 331 3401 General (All industries)
Options Group +971 4 509 6652 Accounting and Auditing, Banking, Financ...
Personnel Network Group +971 4 336 6837 General (All industries)
Radiant +971 4 355 1506 General (All industries)
Sine Wave +971 4 398 5541 General (All industries)
SOS Recruitment +971 4 396 5600 General (All industries)
Wadi Jobs +971 4 332 8875 General (All industries)


6,657 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·
GENERAL INFORMATION - In no particular order:

• It is illegal for unmarried couples to cohabit. Yes, many people do it, but it is still illegal and there may be consequences, such as imprisonment and deportation.

• If you want to know what's going on, get a copy of Time Out.

• If you don't know already, learn a little about Islam. You should remember that this is a Muslim country, albeit one that makes many allowances for non-Muslims. Show respect for your hosts. And be aware that everything takes longer in Ramadan and certain restrictions apply.

• Get various documents notarised before you move to the UAE - marriage certificate, education certificates.

• Voltage is 220/240v. Plugs are UK style 3 pin. (Americans – you’ll need transformers to use US electrical items)

• Summer is VERY hot and it can be chilly in winter, especially in the evenings. Bring a few jumpers.

• Ladies – please consider your attire. Skimpy tops and short skirts are not appropriate for anywhere except a beach.

• Whilst medical care is good and hospitals sophisticated, you must have good medical insurance as it can be costly. There is no state funded scheme for expats.

• The tap water is safe to drink, although many people prefer the taste of bottled water. (Ask for ‘local water’ in restaurants so you don’t get charged a fortune for expensive imported water.)

• Bouncing a cheque is illegal and can result in a spell in jail, a fine and possibly even deportation

• It is illegal for an employer to hold your passport. Do not permit them to do so.

• Although the state religion is Islam, you will find churches and temples and people may generally practice their religion, although preaching of anything other than Islam is illegal. Judaism is not recognised, nor formally, is the state of Israel.

• The UAE has an enforceable Labour Law but this is not comparable to the protection provided to employees in many other countries.

Many other questions have been answered on numerous threads, so please do a search to find information.

Regular posters will usually be happy to provide advice on salary packages and best place to live based on work place, but please quote income in Dirhams per month as this is the format used here.


6,657 Posts

183 Posts
Update to "READ BEFORE POSTING. Useful info about Dubai/UAE"


When I clicked on the 2008 Time out link given in the Accommodation section it goes directly to the homepage of Time out, so I guess the content moved. I found all the articles below on the time out dubai website - if a moderator reads this, perhaps they could update the useful info section with these links? I think it might answer a lot of the common questions new people (like me!) have.... Thanks.

An overview of some areas:

Time Out Dubai - City Guide, Information, Events, Reviews & What's On in the City of Dubai

and then several short articles on specific areas:

Deira & Abu Hail

Mankhool & Bur Dubai

Burj Dubai & Old Town

Marina, JBR & JLT

Green Community & Dubai Investment Park

Arabian Ranches

Discovery Gardens

International City


Palm Jumeirah

Rashidiya, Garhoud & Festival City


Emirates Living

Sheikh Zayed Road

The Greens

Umm Suqeim & Jumeirah

6,657 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Just one little point. Just about every company in the UAE has an online presence, so if you know their name, please use google, rather than asking for contact details on the board.

As they say 'google is your friend'. You'll find it remarkably useful...
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