Five things to know about emigrating to the UAE (plus your essential checklist)

With nearly 9 million expats currently living in the UAE, you won’t struggle to find a welcoming community to join when moving to Dubai or Abu Dhabi.

What’s more, the endless career opportunities, over-the-top recreational activities, and high standards of living make the UAE a world-class hub for ambitious entrepreneurs. 

Nonetheless, moving abroad doesn’t come without challenges or worries. And, if you are in the process of packing up your current life, you are probably looking for guidance – this quick-start guide can help!

As an expat, you will need private health insurance

The UAE offers free public healthcare coverage to its citizens. However, expats are responsible for finding and upkeep their own health insurance cover, which should provide at least basic protection for emergency health services. 

While health insurance requirements depend on the Emirate you will reside in, the legislation of Dubai and Abu Dhabi requires employers to supply basic health cover to their employees. Make sure you review local laws and choose a suitable health insurance plan before your move to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Third-party car insurance is mandatory

As an expat moving to the UAE, the chances are that you’ll need to drive a car. Whether it is to experience the adrenaline rush of getting behind the wheel of a supercar or simply commute to the office every day, foreign citizens must review the driving laws in the UAE. 

Local legislation requires all motorists to have at least third-party liability insurance to drive legally. However, most expats opt for more comprehensive policies that are more suited to their needs. 

If you are unsure how to find the right agency and policy for your needs, start by reviewing the options on Insurance Market, market leaders in car insurance comparison. 

Pro tip: while tourists can drive using a foreign or international driving license, residents of the UAE should obtain a local driving license. 

You’ll need to behave according to local customs and social etiquette

The UAE isn’t just an incredibly safe country, it is also a place with one of the richest cultures and heritage, which reflect Arabic and Islamic values. For citizens, visitors, and residents, behaving in accordance with local customs and social etiquette rules is essential to make the most of their life in the UAE and avoid legal issues.

Some of the key rules to keep in mind include:

  • Buying and consuming pork is considered Haram
  • Alcohol can only be consumed with a license and not in public
  • DUI and aggressive behavior are punishable by law
  • Displaying affection in public and taking photos of people is prohibited
  • Men and women should dress modestly and wear swimwear only on certain beaches
  • You should not point with your finger or with your feet

The cost of living can be high – and renting isn’t always straightforward

When moving to the UAE, you’ll need to take a hard look at your finances and determine what you can afford. In particular, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are considered to be 100% more expensive than the rest of the UAE, and simply renting a one-bedroom apartment can set you back between $1,000 and $1,500. 

What’s more, renting isn’t always straightforward. Some of the key things to know before renting an apartment in the UAE is that landlords don’t usually charge tenants on a monthly basis (you might have to cover multiple months’ worth of rent at the start or the end of the year) and a bounced check can have legal consequences!

English is widely spoken – but learning a few phrases in Arabic can help

Due to the sheer number of expats living in the country, English is widely spoken across the UAE, and it is the main language used in business interactions. However, learning a few phrases and words in Arabic can help you integrate with the local community and impress new acquaintances. 

Moving to the UAE: A checklist

Getting ready to move to the UAE? Make sure you tick these boxes:

  • Make sure that your passport is valid
  • Meet all visa requirements
  • Get the necessary vaccinations and health checks (i.e: HIV/AIDS)
  • Be clear on what the cost of living will be like and start saving
  • Learn how to move your business and your taxes to the UAE
  • Learn more about the different Emirates and neighborhoods to choose the most suitable one
  • Get a bank account and exchange your driving license
  • Collect your documents
  • Review local customs and etiquette rules to avoid faux pas!

Working with an immigration lawyer can help you enjoy a smooth, stress-free relocation process. 

Photo by Piotr Chrobot