Thinking of a move to Dubai? There is so much you need to know! This article is about things you should know before moving to Dubai. We cover the serious side to the more humorous ones that you should still be aware of! Who doesn’t want to know the most information before moving to a new city?
To begin with, we moved to Dubai 4 years ago. It genuinely took us a good 6 months before loving it. Relocating to Dubai can be an amazing experience, but there are big changes that doesn’t make it as awesome as seen in the documentaries and videos you have been watching on YouTube. You can actually read our full expat guide to Dubai if you want important questions you have answered in one single page.
1) Tax free earnings
Yes, you’ve read it right. At least, for now. You will not be taxed a penny on what you earn. What you negotiate with work will be your net salary. BUT, huge changes just happened, Dubai is no longer a Tax free haven. 5% Value-Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services has been in place since January 1st 2018. It is still great that you pay no tax on your income and one of the main reasons why people move to Dubai and the rest of the UAE! Also if you have your own company, you will be taxed after a certain amount of earnings. Will detail all of that on another guide!
2) VAT tax on goods & services
We think it’s important to emphasize on this and repeat to you that unfortunately, additionally to the import taxes that make almost everything you buy expensive, you will get an additional 5% VAT on good and services
3) Get a job before moving in Dubai
We can’t emphasize on this enough, do get a job before moving here. Many do anyway without a job, but that’s just our advice. Cost of living here isn’t cheap and not having income to pay your accommodation for example is horrible without some cash. Considering that, it is highly recommended that you get yourself a job before planning to move to the Emirates. Prepare to apply prior to arrive and get your interviews sorted for a pre-visit. If you can sign before, even better! Although, would like to add that if online fails for you, there are indeed plenty of opportunities once you arrive, but again if you are comfortable with your finances and accommodation isn’t a problem for you without an income, then go for it! Note that a working visa is required to stay in UAE. When you arrive at customs, you will receive a visit visa for 30 days. If you are planning on moving over jobless in the hope that you will find employment when you get to Dubai, worry not, you can do a simple border run by car to Oman which only takes about 4 hours total. Theoretically, you could do this indefinitely, and we know people who have used this solution for up to a year. This although doesn’t apply to French nationals and many others, do read before planning to do such!
4) Know the labour laws
When you negotiate your work contract, make sure you get what you deserve for your talent. Don’t ask for what you are not worth for, but to ask for round trip flights back home yearly, do ask for housing allowance (not all companies will give you one, although they might make your salary higher while considering this cost and transportation) and do make sure you get all the gratuity you should get in your field of work. We will talk more about finding work and negotiating your salary on another post!
5) Where you’re going to stay matters a lot
Commuting in Dubai can be quite a pain. If you’re not from a country like Canada, Australia, UK, etc, chances are you have to re-do all your driving tests in order to get the licence. Otherwise converting it is quite easy. Although, I am a French Canadian so I had to get extra paper work at the embassy, SUPER annoying. Back to community in Dubai, public transport isn’t the best. Considering all of that, choosing where you will live will be so important. Make sure you will be somewhere near work or convenient to get around. The budget will change a lot depending on which area you will want to stay at. We will make a video about places to base yourself in Dubai soon to help you in this decision making process.
7) You can monthly rent a place
There is this myth that you can only and only rent a place the full year and make it in 1,2,3 or max 4 payments depending on your agent and landlord. As much as it is true, you don’t have to find rent this way. There are plenty of places where you can pay monthly and not be tied to a year contract, stuck in one place. Plus, if you rent monthly, you will sip the lengthy and pricey procedures of the Middle East real estate. Dubai is geared towards professional tourists and expats with higher standards of living, so a lot of serviced apartments are available all over the city.
8) Weekends are Friday and Saturday
Shocking right? This actually scared me so much at first. So the working week starts on Sunday and weekends are on Friday and Saturday. This is because Friday is a holy day in Islam and people aren’t supposed to work on this day. Can you imagine some people actually have to work on Saturdays? Takes a little time to get used to it, but then it’s just like any normal week in your life!
7) Food is way more expensive than it should be
At the groceries or at the restaurant, you will pay way more than you should be. There are import taxes on these products so you will pay your groceries a bit more than usual. This is why it’s known that many people bring tons of stuff back from home.
8) You will never tank your own car ever again
There is no such thing as tanking your car by yourself. If you are new in Dubai and get off your car to tank, the workers there will look at you with a weird eye. Gas is definitely cheaper than anywhere else in the world. Not so fun fact is that you will most likely stress about finding a gas station when in low tank because Dubai seriously has a lack of well placed gas stations! They are definitely at inconvenient locations and always too far when you actually need them! Also, most of the time you will have to wait as lines are always long! Go very early or in the night if you have no patience!
9) Crazy driving and bad traffic in Dubai
If you think you are a bad driver, think again. There are so many bad drivers in Dubai and even though they are “good drivers”, it’s their driving behaviours that make them horrible. Many people have no respect what so ever on leaving a car distance between cars when driving 120 km/h on a highway AT ALL. You will get tailgated, you will get flashed, honked (less), for respecting speed limits. There is this thing about entitlement on the roads. Traffic in the morning and back to work is horrible. If you are heading to Downtown Dubai towards Sharjah from 5 PM, it can be HELL as traffic can be a proper car park. Living in Sharjah Emirate is way more affordable, so many workers simple are located there and this makes traffic simply marvellous…
10) Getting mail won’t be as easy in Dubai
The best way to receive mail is to actually give your work’s address. It is indeed weird to tell your family to send all your mail to your employer, but this is the best way to guarantee it will make it there! Depending of where you live, sometimes your delivery packages will get to home, but it’s not always the case. If someone sent you a regular package without FedEx or other 3rd party companies, you will have to drive quite far to an Emirates Post office to pick up your package. You will also have to pay a small fee of 5 DHS (less than 2$US) to get it. Setting a post office box is also a convenient thing to do if you receive a lot of mail.
11) Be prepared for the heat!
Summer makes Dubai very NOT enjoyable. You will find it perfectly acceptable to take a taxi for a 100m trip down the street. This is why Dubai has so many Malls and Indoor parks. Most people don’t expect this heat. We are lucky that we have jobs that allow us the luxury to migrate out of Dubai during summers, but if you can’t, do plan your vacation during the summer and get prepared for the intense air conditioning at work and in establishments! This also brings to the advice that you should enjoy Dubai Winters to the fullest by doing outdoor activities.
12) People can be rude, at times
As a Canadian, I say sorry ALL THE TIME. Even when I’m not even in the wrong. It’s just how we are, we are nice people. In Dubai, it’s another story, nobody ever says sorry when they are wrong (they mostly just ignore and brush it off or laugh) … but that’s because most of the people are not used to admitting fault. Of course not everyone is, but considering the mix of cultures, the separation of classes and nationalities, some people don’t bother to be respectful to one an other anymore which is sad.
13) All faiths are welcome
UAE is a Muslim state, but it actually has has churches, mosques and other type of temples. You will be working and living with people from different cultures and beliefs. Regardless of your faith, note that eating and drinking in public are forbidden during Ramadan at daylight hours.
14) It’s not all that conservative
Dubai can be a party destination. You can be smoking and drinking no problem and buying alcohol is actually easy in Dubai. More about it on another post! Many restaurants will offer an alcoholic menu so you will have no problem at all if you love your alcohol hit. Topless sunbathing is against the law, couples must refrain from public affection (you can hold hands, it’s not that extreme) and drunken behaviour is very criminal and you can be jailed. Other than that, it’s not true that you have to wear skirts that are longer than the knee or such rumours. You can wear whatever, just be respectful, most importantly when you go to malls where you can find more locals than the other places.
15) Ramadan & Islamic holidays
As in every Islamic country, especially in UAE working hours are shorter (6 hours or so) during Ramadan. Many have even shorter hours and even days off. There are many Islamic holidays, your friends at home will be wondering if you even work at all or always travelling around the region!
16) You become lazy because everything can be delivered
True story. You become pretty reliant on the fact that EVERYTHING delivers to your doorstep. Souq.com, Namshi, UberEats, Deliveroo, etc etc, so many companies just facilitate delivering food and goods to your house. Why bother anymore to go to the mall haha? Guess what as well… you can also shop your groceries. We absolutely love Kibsons, InstaShop and there are so many more!
17) You will get used to leave your valuables unattended
Stealing in Dubai is something that is so rare. Leave your phone and valuables on the table and go to the loo and you will be back with everything you left the same way it was before. Rare are people that dare to steal as there are cameras everywhere. Get caught and lose a hand you know, just don’t steal 😉
18) You will always be busier than the day before!
Prepare for the hustle bustle! For some reason, we Dubai residents are always “so busy”. We somehow find a way to have a long list of things to get done for work and life. You will find yourself somehow time deprived to see your friends, hence why you can’t have too many friends in Dubai, just choose a handful as that will already be hard to maintain!
19) Every Tuesday is ladies night = WINNING
If you are a girl and you love to have a drink, this is jackpot. Okay most of the ladies night are on Tuesday, but if you really wanted to, every night could be ladies night considering Dubai has so many F&B’s and they always find a theme night to be able to get some traffic! Although, Tuesday stays the prime day with almost every bar or club in the city with an offer including free drinks (yay!) and major discounts on food (almost always 50% off the food bill).
20) A lot of the opulence you see can be fake
Many people are in debt in Dubai. It’s so easy to get a loan, you will find many many abandoned cars, most probably that just ditched it and fled the country. Don’t try to do the same, the banks & government is now more strict and you actually can get caught at the airport and jailed!
21) There’s an endless number of things to do
You can never get bored in Dubai whatever your age, gender, nationality or preference, you are bound to find something to do in the UAE. Dubai is the home of world’s largest shopping mall, The Dubai Mall, which has thousands of restaurants, shops, a movie theatre, an amusement park, and a skating rink where there is an actual hockey league! There is SkiDubai, the indoor ski slope in Mall of Emirates and many outdoor sports such as Kite Surfing, Surfing, SUP, etc. You can check out our guide of things to do in Dubai.
22) Be neutral on social media
For the most part the UAE is a very free country. Women in the are allowed to wear bikinis on the beach, alcohol is served openly and pretty much everywhere, etc. One of the things you don’t necessarily think of doing is to be cautious when using social media, meaning be careful about what you post! By that we mean don’t post negative about Dubai or the UAE, the ruling families, or local religious and cultural traditions. Some people got in trouble for taking photos of people parking their car ridiculously bad. Note that you are technically not allowed to film other cars and take photos. Even though that is witness for the police of someone driving bad, you will be the one that ends up be in trouble.
That’s it. We are sure a few more points might pop up in our minds along the journey, but if we did forget any, leave them in the comments below! If you are moving soon to Dubai, good luck and hope this helped you manage your expectations!