July 5, 2024

10 Things to Know Before You Move to Dubai

Are you moving to Dubai? Congratulations!

Dubai is a highly sought-after destination for expats. They say Dubai offers great work opportunities, fantastic international schools, and a good quality of life. 

🔎 But before you move to Dubai, it’s time to do your research. You will find lots of great resources for expats in Dubai, like our Moving to Dubai: Ultimate Guide and Checklist. Check it out!

And read our quick list of 10 things you need to know before you move to Dubai.

#1 Dubai’s work week is 4 ½ days

Let’s start with a quiz! 

Is Dubai’s weekend: 
⬜ Friday?
⬜ Thursday and Friday?
⬜ Friday and Saturday with a half-day on Thursdays?
⬜ Saturday and Sunday with a half-day on Fridays?

If you guessed Saturday and Sunday with a half-day on Fridays, you are right! 

In 2022, the official weekend in Dubai changed from Friday/Saturday to Saturday/Sunday, with a half-day on Friday. This change aligns Dubai’s businesses with international schedules whilst allowing Muslim residents to attend Friday prayers. 

Did you guess Thursday and Friday, or Friday and Saturday? You were partly right. 

In the past, Dubai had a one day weekend on Fridays (pre-1999), then added Thursdays in 1999, then changed to a Friday/ Saturday weekend in 2006.

#2 In Dubai, you can exchange your driver's licence for an Emirates licence… if you come from an approved country

The government of the UAE publishes a list of countries approved for its Markhoos initiative. The initiative allows foreigners from the UK, US, and other countries to trade in their home country licence in exchange for an Emirati licence, without taking a test!

family car in dubai  

#3 But you may not want a driver's licence. Dubai has excellent public transportation

Dubai is known for its clean and efficient public transportation.

  • Owned by Dubai’s Roads and Transit Authority (RTA), Dubai’s metro includes the world's longest driverless metro line. To skip the ticket queue, purchase a Nol card or – better yet – a Gold Nol card, which gives you access to a special train cabin with extra space
  • Dubai water taxis and the Dubai Ferry allow you to travel around Dubai by boat
  • RTA taxis can be pre-booked or hailed at the curb in Dubai. Dubai also offers a special taxi service for women operated by female drivers. To book an RTA taxi call +971 4 208 0808 or use the Careem or S’hail app

dubai public transportation

Dubai also has a large fleet of air-conditioned buses and bus shelters across the city. Which you may need, because…..

#4 It is hot in Dubai - really hot

If you are currently enjoying a chilly, rainy UK day, check the weather in Dubai right now to see what you are missing. 😎

Here is a result from 10pm on May 29, 2024: 

Dubai temperature

June, July, and August are the hottest months in Dubai, with daily high temperatures frequently topping 40 C or even 50 C.  The ‘coldest’ month in Dubai is January, when the daily high temperature drops to a moderate 25 C.  

During the hottest months, follow common-sense advice to stay cool:
Wear loose-fitting, conservative clothing
Stay hydrated
Wear a hat 
Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Enjoy Dubai’s air-conditioned shopping malls and public spaces
Plan exertion or outdoor adventures for very early before the heat of the day sets in

#5 The cost of living in Dubai may be cheaper than you think

dubai skyscrapers

When you think of Dubai, you might picture gleaming skyscrapers, glitzy shopping malls, and high-end dining. All this comes with a price, but not as much as you might think. 

In fact, if you are moving to Dubai from London, you may find that prices are generally around 25% cheaper in Dubai. 

According to this cost of living comparison between Dubai and London, dining, groceries, transportation and rent are all less expensive in Dubai. 

The exceptions? Alcohol, mobile phones, and internet service are more expensive in Dubai. 

You also may find that salaries in Dubai are lower than in London. According to this monthly salary comparison between Dubai and London, if you are paid 3,491.03 £ (16,351.40 AED) in London, you might earn 3,057.62 £ (14,321.34 AED) for a comparable job in Dubai. 

Did you get a new job in Dubai? You will probably need to exchange GBP into AED before you leave home.

We partner with Currencies Direct, an award-winning international money transfer service. Currencies Direct offers bank-beating rates and has a 5* Trust Pilot rating. Check them out for yourself at Currenciesdirect.com


#6 Dubai is one of the safest cities in the world: 

A global safety index by country ranked the UAE the 2nd safest country in the world, after Qatar. By comparison, Japan was ranked 8th and Switzerland ranked 9th.

When drilled down to find the safest cities in the world, four UAE cities are in the top seven:
#1 Abu Dhabi, UAE
#2 Doha, Qatar
#3 Taipei, Taiwan
#4 Ajman, UAE
#5 Sharjah, UAE
#6 Quebec City, Canada
#7 Dubai, UAE 

women walking on the street in dubai

#7 But safety comes with some restrictions. Learn about Dubai laws that affect expats

The UAE is undoubtedly a safe place to live, and part of the safety is due to the country’s strict laws. As an expat in Dubai, these laws apply to you too! 

Find out about Dubai laws that affect expats before you move. Some activities that might be “normal” in your home country are not only illegal in Dubai, they might even result in imprisonment or deportation.

These include (but are not limited to):
Public displays of affection
Eating or drinking on public transport or while driving
Public drunkenness
Chewing gum
Taking photographs of other people without their permission
Importing prohibited items – read our Dubai removals guide for details
And more…

Learn and observe the laws and restrictions that could put you at risk. Better safe than sorry!

#8 You need a licence to drink alcohol in Dubai

It’s the law: You need a liquor licence in order to purchase or consume alcohol in Dubai. You can apply for a Dubai liquor licence at an MMI or African + Eastern store using your Emirates ID or passport. 

For more information, read this helpful Expatica article about rules regarding alcohol and drug use in the UAE

#9 Dubai is tax free!

You may have heard that Dubai is tax free. But what does that mean?
According to the UAE government website:

“The UAE does not levy income tax on individuals. However, it levies 5 per cent value added Tax on the purchase of goods and services, levied at each stage of the supply chain and ultimately borne by the end consumer. The UAE also levies excise tax on specific goods that are harmful to health, and corporate tax on the net income or profit of corporations and other entities from their business.”

#10 Dubai isn’t all skyscrapers and malls. You can enjoy gardens and even birdwatching in Dubai too!

dubai miracle garden

Gardens in Dubai

Dubai does nothing by half-measure, including its gardens. The Dubai Miracle Garden is a fantasyland of colour and shapes, including 72,000-sq-metres of gardens filled with 150 million flowers and 50 varieties of butterflies.

Bird Watching and Nature in Dubai

Serious bird watchers know that Dubai is on the East African-West Asian flyway. This massive migratory route starts in South Africa and stretches through the Middle East all the way up through Kazakhstan to Siberia. Birds that travel this flyway include water and shore birds like black-winged stilt, little stint, and the redshank, as well as flamingos and eagles. 

To see some of these birds in Dubai:
At Mushrif National Park  you may see some species of owls and raptors as well as the delightfully-named Arabian Babbler. 

The Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary is home to 500 flamingos, as well as great egrets, grey herons, sandpipers and more.

flamingos in dubai

Bird-watchers and nature-lovers can learn about UAE government research and protection of biodiversity at: https://www.ead.gov.ae/Discover-Our-Biodiversity

Want to know more about Moving to Dubai?

Read our Ultimate Moving to Dubai Guide and Checklist

We share information and helpful links:

  • 10 step checklist for Moving to Dubai
  • Moving to Dubai with family -- how to find the best international schools in Dubai
  • Where do expats live in Dubai
  • International money transfer GBP to AED
  • Moving a pet to Dubai

And more! 

If you have any questions, reach out to our moving services team. We would love to help make your move a success.

Get a quote for moving to Dubai today!

Learn more about our Moving Services

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