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The Ultimate Guide to Moving to the United Arab Emirates
Made up of seven states; Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Qaiwain, Ras Al-Khaimah and Fujairah, the UAE has become a desirable destination for expats worldwide looking to enjoy a quality of life unaffordable elsewhere. It is also the
most westernised of the Middle Eastern countries, marrying the comforts of home with a glamorous and exotic lifestyle. Britons are within the top three nationalities of expats now living in the United Arab Emirates, drawn in by the perk of paying no tax on their earnings as well as beautiful beaches, active social lives and the opportunity to explore a unique landscape quite different from home.
Moving to UAE
Choosing a place to live
If you’re considering moving to the UAE, it is important to do your research fully so you can be sure that you are moving to the right place. Priorities will be different for everyone; schools, work, social life and community may all be important, among a variety of other things. This will help you discover which areas tick the boxes for you to make the right decision.
While there are a great deal of attractive elements that make the United Arab Emirates a desirable place to live, the culture and climate is quite different and you may need some time to familiarise yourself with those changes before making the move. The climate is subtropical and air conditioning in most buildings is a prerequisite for those concerned about dealing with the heat all year round. Despite this, you may make this a consideration when making a decision.
The UAE is an Islamic state which means that they operate according to Muslim traditions. Therefore it is common for some public areas to have designated areas or facilities for women, such as on public transport, fitness centres, banks and recreational areas. Working hours are often more varied depending on the nature of a business and the weekend is over Friday and Saturday with the beginning of the working week landing on a Sunday. It is also illegal for unmarried men and women to cohabit, and although the local police do not seek out couples living together, it is important to remember this. Additionally, it is against the law to use rude language or gestures towards the Emiratis or appear drunk in public.
These are a few examples of the changes in culture you may experience when in UAE cities and while UK expats generally acclimatise and embrace these fairly quickly, it is helpful for you to be aware before you arrive to avoid a culture shock!
Moving your possessions
It is important to think about how you are going to move your possessions as there is not yet a standard address system in the UAE, making the whole process a little more complex. Britannia Movers can safely ship your belongings door to door, taking care of everything, making the exciting move a whole lot less stressful. Whether you’re buying or renting, your home-from-home in the United Arab Emirates won’t be complete without them. Britannia Movers International specialises in helping families and individuals to move their belongings quickly and safely from Great Britain, to destinations all over the world. We offer decades of experience in relocation services, combined with local knowledge to tailor the move to your personal requirements.
Your belongings can be sent either by air or by sea, depending on how urgently they are needed on arrival. Container shipments usually take between nine and 14 weeks door to door, however if you need your possessions more quickly it is possible to have some or all of them flown over.
Depending on how much stuff you need shipping; we can either allocate you your own container, or add your belongings to a shared container. Either way, you can rest assured that your shipment will be cost effective and expertly handled, with every effort made to ensure that your goods arrive in excellent condition.
Moving to the UAE is more complicated than moving house within the UK as there are Customs and Excise regulations applied to importing your belongings. Although, shipments of household goods and personal effects are usually allowed duty-free, subject to you supplying a residents permit, there are some restrictions to what you can bring in with you. New household goods are subject to duty, which will be determined by customs officials.
There are restrictions set on any written material (books, leaflets, newspapers, and magazines), pictures, records, films, tapes, slides, movies, videos, CDs and computer software, which are subject to censorship and confiscation. These must be packed separately for easy access and clearly marked on the inventory. This is because any political, religious or pornographic material or content may be deemed offensive and prohibited. Additionally, medication and foodstuff is subject to special approval and inspection by the Ministry of Health and must be packed separately. This might all sound a bit stressful but Britannia International can help you complete your inventory and import documentation, making the process as straight forward as possible. It normally takes 7 to 10 days for customs clearance and delivery.
When bringing your pet to the UAE, you must get an Import Permit for each animal you wish to move and be able to prove that your pet is over 4 months old, with all the necessary vaccinations. They will also need a microchip number for identification. Britannia can recommend a specialised animal shipper to assist you in sending your family pet(s) from home to home. They will coordinate all documentation and necessary veterinary procedures.
Used cars and motor vehicles can be imported but will be subject to duty. You will need to hold a UAE residence visa and supply a range of documentation to do so, including registration documents, title of deed, copy of purchase invoice, certificate of origin, copy of passport, insurance policy, proof of ownership and a residence permit.
If you’re looking to move on a permanent basis, it is important to clear up any financial matters before you leave. This might include clearing any loans, organising bank accounts and telling HM Revenue & Customs that you are leaving the UK. Additionally, if you plan to return to the UK at a later date, it is very important that you settle any outstanding debts before leaving as financial crimes can often result in imprisonment.
When moving to a new country, there can be great difficulty in opening a bank account as you have no credit history. Opening an account before you leave the UK can avoid this problem. Dubai Islamic Bank, First Gulf Bank and Emirate NBD are among some of the UAE’s main banks, amongst many others.
Travelling to UAE from the UK
Travelling to the United Arab Emirates from the UK takes around 8 hours and can be done directly with Emirates, Royal Brunei Airlines or Etihad. Alternatively you can travel with stopovers via Qatar, Turkey or Germany, amongst others. Dubai in particular is a global travel hub and has easy access to trips onward to South East Asia and Australasia. This is something worth bearing in mind as it provides the opportunity to travel to countries not necessarily within your budget from the UK.
To emigrate or spend any length of time over 30 days in the UAE, you will need a visa. The easiest and most common route is if you have a job lined up, since your future employer will sort out all of these details for you. The rules also vary from each different emirate, contacting the bodies within your chosen one first is advisable so that you can find out where you stand.
If you have a family, you will need to check whether your employer will sponsor them. If not, you will need to get in touch with the UAE embassy in London (www.uaeembassyuk.net). Adults travelling with children will need to provide documentary evidence, for some UAE countries, of their parental responsibility, such as a birth certificate, before they can enter or leave the country, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. You will also need to get all birth and marriage certificates legalised by the UK Foreign Office. If you are a woman, you will need to work in specific professions to be able to sponsor your family’s move
Living in UAE
The UAE is experiencing a boom in a variety of career sectors due to the quick development that is taking place, most notably in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Now leading the rest of the world in net migration rates, a diverse range of industry professionals are now looking to make the move there with good wages and the perk of no income tax being a huge attraction. Sectors that are seeing huge rises in job availability include construction, financial services, tourism, media, marketing, telecommunications, engineering and IT.
The following table shows typical monthly salaries across a range of industry sectors as of September 2013.
Recreation and Sports
Courier / Delivery / Transport / Drivers
Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology
Media / Broadcasting / Arts / Entertainment
Electrical and Electronics Trades
Administration / Reception / Secretarial
Food /Hospitality / Tourism / Catering
Import and Export
Purchasing and Inventory
Fitness / Hair / Beauty
Publishing and Printing
Customer Service and Call Centre
Sales Retail and Wholesale
Quality Control and Compliance
Factory and Manufacturing
Teaching / Education
Accounting and Finance
Advertising / Graphic Design / Event Management
Construction / Building / Installation
Fashion and Apparel
Health and Medical
Airlines / Aviation / Aerospace / Defence
Facilities / Maintenance / Repair
Oil / Gas / Energy / Mining
Science and Technical Services
Executive and Management
Government and Defence
Finding a job in UAE
There are a range of online job boards for the UAE. Expat recommended ones are Dubizzle and Gulf Talent, although there are plenty more advertised online that will be worth checking out. Businesses are often looking for skilled, experienced and educated people for a wide range of sectors. Graduates or people with specialist skills or trades are very much sought after and have a good chance of gaining employment within the UAE. Upon employment, it is usually standard procedure for your new company to help organise your work permits, residence visa and Emirates ID card for you.
The local currency is the Dirham (AED) which is available in banknote denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. There are also coins denominated in Fils (100 Fils = 1 Dirham) available in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 Fils.
Cost of everyday items
1 litre milk
Beef fillet/per Kg
1 Kg chicken (frozen)
Sea bass per Kg
Health and Beauty
Monthly gym membership
Eating and drinking out
This can vary a great deal due the sheer variety and range of places available to eat out. For a meal at an inexpensive restaurant, you are likely to spend around 30.00 AED, although a three course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant will set you back around 150.00 AED. A fast food meal on the other hand will cost you 20.00 AED.
The most popular and convenient form of transport across the UAE if you don’t have your own car is by taxi. The minimum taxi fare is 10 dirhams. As an example, it would cost you anywhere between 80-100 dirhams to go from one end of Dubai to the other. There are also good bus services available in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain that locals often use. These cost anything between 1 and 4 dirhams. Dubai also has The Metro, running from 5:50 to 11:00 pm. Fares range from 1.80 to 5.60 AED depending on the length of your journey.
Renting prices vary based on the condition and location of a property. However, in any of the Emirati cities, you can expect to pay an average of 6,000.00 AED per month for a one bedroom apartment in the city centre, or 3,500.00 AED outside of the city centre. A three bedroom apartment in the City Centre is around 12,000.00 AED per month, or 8,223.60 outside of the city centre.
Arabic is the national language of the UAE and the language of the Emiratis and Islam. Urdu is also widely spoken due to the majority of the population being Indian and Pakistani. Despite this, everyone generally speaks English and all signs and official documents are translated into English.
UAE National Holidays
There are two types of public holiday in the UAE – fixed holidays such as New Year’s Day, and Islamic holidays, which are subject to moon sighting. This means that their dates can vary by a few days each year.
-1st January 2014- New Year’s Day
-13th January 2014- Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday (PBUH)
-27th May 2014- Israa & Miaraj Night (Night of Ascension)
-29th July 2014- Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
-4th October 2014- Arafat Day
-5th October 2014- Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)
-25th October 2014- Hijra New Year’s Day
Other Important Dates
-29th June 2014 – Predicted start of Ramadan
Education in the UAE is a massive priority and a valued part of its development. They offer free education at all levels to male and female students from nursery to university. There is also a substantial private education sector, expatriate children in the UAE are most likely to attend an international school, all of which are private. There are schools following the British National Curriculum as well as the International Baccalaureate. You will be required to supply details of your child’s academic records when applying for entry into one of these international schools, and they may be required to take a test. Most of these international schools have very good educational standards, although the fees vary quite widely and can cost anything from 30,000 to 40,000 AED a year. It may be worth scouring one of the many UAE Dubai expat forums to gather information from other expat families about schools they would recommend you apply to.
The city of Dubai is an opulent tourist attraction within the UAE and a common expat destination due to its location and developing job market. It has seen massive growth over the last few years and is a popular attraction for holidaymakers, as well as the rich and famous. The city features a range of impressive traditional and modern architecture, marrying its Islamic roots with the strong western influences that are now evident throughout the emirates.
With the famed Burj Khalifa, Burj al-Arab, Emirates Towers and the Pentominium, its skyline is impressive all on its own. That’s without the beautiful white sandy beaches, deep blue waters and luxury shopping malls scattered across Dubai. You can also go driving across the sand dunes, visit extravagant water parks, go on a cruise or dine in one of its many first-class restaurants.
Abu Dhabi has just as much to offer with an equally large expat community but perhaps slightly less grand opulence. Despite this, it is still home to one of the world’s largest mosques, complete with Swarovski crystal and 24 carat gold chandeliers, as well as a huge handcrafted carpet that took 2 years to produce. The breath-taking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open to visitors and is a must see if you are in the area.
Families are more likely to settle in Abu Dhabi, boasting more patches of greenery and a slower pace of life than Dubai, with extremely low crime rates and a safe community feel. This means that family friendly activities are readily available in the area, including visits to the desert, excursions to a variety of zoos, water parks and of course Ferrari World, an indoor Ferrari branded theme park.
Sharjah has plenty of fun activities to get involved in, is perfect for family living and more affordable in rent than nearby Dubai. However, it is one of the more conservative states with a stricter dress code and is completely ‘dry’, meaning that you will not find any pubs, bars or clubs. There are a lot of sporting activities on offer including dune bashing, horse riding, jogging and shooting. It is also home to The Blue Souk, Sharjahs most photographed building. This is essentially a shopping mall made up of 6 very beautiful buildings, embellished with blue tiling. A nearby change of scenery is an additional bonus, with Dubai being just a short drive away.
There is not a great deal of difference in climate wherever you are within the UAE, with all major cities on the coast sharing very similar climates as a result. With the UAE located in the Middle East, temperatures never reach particularly cold levels. From October to April the weather is very mild and on average around 27 – 28° C in the hottest hours of the day and around 17 – 18° C in the morning. It is most likely to rain during this season, although it tends to occur no more than 10 days in total throughout the year in the United Arab Emirates. Summer in the UAE can be incredibly hot during the months of June to September. The temperature often exceeds 40° C and rarely goes below 30 °C. This makes it almost impossible to go outside and air conditioning an absolute necessity.
UAE Holiday destinations
Popular holiday destinations outside UAE
Living in the UAE provides fantastic opportunities to explore more of the world than you could probably afford to from the UK. Dubai in particular is a world travel hub with flights going to all corners of the globe. With countries like India, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia a short flight away, your options for a holiday or long weekend are endless.
Due to the United Arab Emirates’ mix of both Middle Eastern traditions and western influences, you can get just about any cuisine you want. The country prides itself on its cosmopolitan restaurants and hotels, providing Michelin star standard food. However, it would be a shame not to enjoy the tasty traditional food on offer across the UAE. Their traditional food includes a lot of spices, much like Indian food it commonly contains rice, fish and meat as the main ingredients. Stuffed Camel, Al Harees and Shawarma are just three of the leading traditional dishes you can and should experience.
Stuffed Camel is published in the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the biggest dishes served in the world. A lot of elite Emirati families serve it at special occasions, such as weddings. The ingredients include a whole camel stuffed with one lamb, 20 chickens, boiled eggs, fish and rice.
Al Harees is an exotic UAE dish made of meat and wheat, often served during Ramadan, Eid and at weddings. It is simply flavoured with a variety of spices and salt, then boiled in water until it forms a smooth paste. It is then served on hot plates with local ghee – a type of butter.
Shawarma is a popular dish ordered regularly across the country. Generally served as lamb or chicken with a mixed salad of garlic, pickles, tomatoes, lettuce leaves and mixed spices in a arabic roti wrap. Much like a kebab, this dish is often prepared in a variety of different ways.
The UAE has 72 free to air channels, although pay-TV is becoming increasingly popular. The most popular are the MBC channels, which broadcast in a variety of different languages, including plenty of US and UK programmes. If you have a broadband connection, there are a number of additional services you can subscribe to in order to get regular UK programming from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and plenty more.
Due to the United Arab Emirates’ history and strong ethnic and cultural diversity, the cities throughout the nation are very much the leading arts and cultural hubs of the Middle East. With developing gallery scenes and stunning architecture across the country, the UAE has a unique and individual contribution to make to the international arts scene. Dubai in particular is a major cultural centre, now hosting a range of exciting galleries that host artwork from both international and local talent.
- There is no standard address system in Dubai, making delivery services a challenge.
- The world’s longest automated metro system is in Dubai. 87 trains operate on this 75-meter-long network that has no drivers.
- Dubai asked Disneyland to consider building a resort there, but Disneyland turned them down, saying Dubai was too small. So Dubai decided to construct its own theme park called Dubailand>
- The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping mall. Its internal area covers 5.9 million square feet.
- The Burj Khalifa is officially the tallest building in the world standing at 2,722 ft-tall.
- The world’s largest fleet of airplanes is operated by the UAE, providing its passengers with an on-board shower.
- The Middle East’s first indoor Ski Village and Resort is situated in the Mall of the Emirates and is 22,500 sq meters in size.
- The Atlantis Aquarium in Dubai has a minimum of 200,000 fish species
- Dubai has many man-made islands. Not notably in the shape of a large palm tree and a map of the world
More on moving to the UAE…
For more information on the practicalities of a move to the United Arab Emirates, visit our Moving to UAE page