What It’s Like Living in Dubai as an Expat

What It’s Like Living in Dubai as an Expat

Are you planning to move to Dubai soon? 

The city is already home to thousands of expats from around the world. So, if you want to be part of its growing community, here’s what it’s like living in Dubai as an expat.

You Get to Enjoy Excellent Quality of Life

You Get to Enjoy Excellent Quality of Life
Image source: Remitly Blog

Dubai offers an exceptional quality of life to all its residents.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a regular employee or a business owner. You get to live in a safe, clean, organized and modern city.

Dubai is also a very diverse city with an expat population of 3.54 million. This means that you don’t need to make a huge adjustment when moving to the city.

Dubai Is One of the Safest Cities in the World

Dubai Is One of the Safest Cities in the World
Image source: Emirati Times

Dubai ranked 6th in the safest cities in the world by Numbeo with a Safety Index of 83.80 and a Crime Index of 16.20.

The city means serious business when it comes to the safety of its residents. In fact, its police force is known to have supercars in its fleet. 

You can also see a strong police presence around the city, so you feel safe even if you’re going out alone.

In 2022 alone, the General Department of Criminal Investigation (CID) of the Dubai Police reported a 63.2% reduction in the criminal reports filed in their office.

The Commander-in-Chief Lieutenant General Abdullah Khalifa Al Marri said that this is due to the eight new security projects introduced by the Dubai Police to make the city safer.

Crime and Safety Rates in Dubai
Residents feeling safe walking alone during the day91.23 (Very High)
Residents feeling safe walking alone at night83.16 (Very High)
Level of crime in the city12.22 (Very Low)
Residents worrying about cars being stolen10.54 (Very Low)
Residents worrying about being robbed or mugged12.98 (Very Low)
Residents worrying about being attacked physically because of ethnicity, gender or skin color13.72 (Very Low)

Dubai especially puts a lot of value in keeping its women and children safe. This is why it’s regarded as one of the safest cities for women to live.

Aside from its strong justice system, the Dubai government also invests in modern technology like CCTV cameras to protect its citizens and prevent crimes.

Dubai Offers the Best Housing Options

Dubai Offers the Best Housing Options
Image source: Luxhabitat

When you live in Dubai, you won’t have a shortage of options when it comes to housing. 

The Dubai real estate market is one of the best in the world where you can choose from apartments, penthouses, villas and mansions.

Whether you’re single or you have a family, you’ll find different housing options in the  best locations around the city.

A recent report also stated that prime property prices in the city are cheaper by up to 80% as compared to other major cities like London, New York, Paris and Hong Kong.

If you have $1 million in Dubai, you can already buy a 105 square meter (sqm) property while you’ll only get 34 sqm in London, 33 sqm in New York, 43 sqm in Paris and 21 sqm in Hong Kong.

You can find some of the best areas in Dubai to buy property here.

The average monthly rent for a studio apartment in Dubai is $1,125 while a 3-bedroom apartment in the city center would cost you around $5,040 per month.

Some expats who are just starting out in the city or still looking for a job would go for a bed in a shared room, which would cost around $355 per month. 

Dubai Has Excellent Public Transportation

Dubai Has Excellent Public Transportation
Image source: ITS International

Dubai may be known for the many supercars on its streets, but it also has one of the best public transportation systems in the world.

The city is efficiently connected by the Dubai public transport network, which is managed by the Roads and Transport Authority

Trains are the most popular public transportation system in Dubai since they’re safe, economical and efficient. There are three types of rail networks in the city:

  • Dubai Metro

Consisting of two main lines–Red and Green–the Dubai Metro runs through 90 kilometers of railway that passes through some of the most important spots in the city.

  • Dubai Tram

Linking the Dubai Metro with the Palm Monorail, the Dubai Tram runs along The Walk in Jumeirah Beach Road to Al Sufouh. 

  • Palm Jumeirah Monorail

The prestigious Palm Jumeirah has its own monorail system that runs through the island’s trunk, so residents and visitors can easily explore this man made island. 

The Dubai Bus is also another convenient option because it has stations in different parts of the city and buses depart frequently to accommodate passengers.

With more than 1,500 air conditioned buses, you won’t have to worry about commuting in Dubai.

Of course, you can always go back to how locals travelled back then on the water using an “abra” or traditional Arabian wooden boat.

With stations in Bur Dubai and Deira, this is the best way to travel around Old Dubai. You can also try the Dubai water taxi with more than 40 stops around the city.

Dubai Has Low Cost of Living

Dubai Has Low Cost of Living
Image source: Khaleej Times

Although Dubai is perceived as a city of luxury, the cost of living here is actually lower if compared to other major cities that offer the same amenities.

If you’re single, you would expect to spend on average $1,020 on cost of living every month without rent. On the other hand, a family of four would spend on average $3,523.

To get a better picture, you could enjoy a high quality of living in Dubai for $5,725 per month as compared to New York where you would need $10,010 for the same benefits.

Rent is also 51.4% lower in Dubai than New York and the general cost of living is 35% lower.

Here are some of the common expenses that you would expect to spend on when living in Dubai:

Monthly rent (One-bedroom apartment in the city center)$2,052
Utilities (Includes electricity, water, HVAC and garbage disposal)$211
Public transportation (One-way ticket)$1.60
Meal (One person at a regular restaurant)$14

The cost of living in Dubai will depend on your lifestyle and where you live. 

For instance, if you live in the city center, rent would be more expensive but you can also cut down on transportation since everything’s near you.

Dubai Has an Excellent Education System

Dubai Has an Excellent Education System
Image source: haus and haus

As an expat moving to Dubai with your family, you would want to send your kids to a school where they don’t need to make huge adjustments.

Fortunately, Dubai has some of the best schools in the world that follow both American and British Curriculums.

Since the city has a huge expat population, there are many international schools that cater to both local and foreign students.

Top Schools in Dubai

  • Kings’ School
  • GEMS Wellington School
  • Dubai International Academy
  • Dubai College
  • Dubai British School Emirates Hills
  • Jumeirah English School
  • Nord Anglia International School

You Don’t Need to Pay Tax

You Don’t Need to Pay Tax
Image source: VAT Registration in UAE

Here’s the thing: Dubai is not completely tax free. But if you’re an expat working and living in the city, you will not be charged any income tax.

To take advantage of this benefit, however, you need to pass these criteria to be a tax resident in Dubai:

  • The UAE should be your primary place of residence and the center of all your personal and financial interests
  • You need to be physically present in Dubai or the UAE for 183 days or more within a 12-month consecutive period
  • You need to be physically present in Dubai or the UAE for 90 days or more within a 12-month consecutive period with a residence permit
  • You are a resident of any GCC member state

If you meet all these requirements, you’ll be considered a tax resident and would not be subject to any taxes on your personal income while you’re in Dubai.

The city also doesn’t levy tax on property investments if you’re an expat. This is to encourage more foreigners to buy property in Dubai.

So, if you want to buy an apartment or house in the city, the price would be lower because you won’t be charged any tax except for a transfer fee that would be divided between you and the seller.

You Have Access to the Best Lifestyle Spots

You Have Access to the Best Lifestyle Spots
Image source: Timeout Dubai

Dubai is known for its vibrant social and entertainment scene, which is one of the reasons many expats choose to move to the city.

There’s no room for boredom in Dubai because it has all the amenities that you need to have a good time, from the biggest shopping malls to the best nightclubs and resorts.

Shopping in Dubai

Shopping in Dubai
Image source: Jumeirah

Dubai is a shopping haven with all its huge shopping malls, local flea markets and supermarkets.

The Dubai Mall tops the list by being the largest shopping mall in the world in terms of total land area. 

Here, you can choose from more than 1,200 shops that include international designer brands, local boutiques and food stalls.

Other malls in Dubai include:

  • City Walk
  • Mall of the Emirates
  • Dubai Festival City
  • Ibn Battuta Mall

Dubai also has many local shops and markets where you can buy everything from home decor to gadgets and gizmos for your home.

Now, if you enjoy grocery shopping, you’d be glad to know that Dubai carries some of the top international grocery chains in the world.

French supermarket chain Carrefour is one of the most popular supermarkets in the city where expats can find their favorite brands back home.

Other popular supermarkets in Dubai include:

  • Spinneys
  • Union Coop Supermarket Dubai
  • Lulu Hypermarket
  • Choithrams Dubai

If you want to experience grocery shopping like the locals, you can also visit flea markets and souks where you can buy local ingredients and spices to use for cooking.

Dining and Nightlife in Dubai

Dining and Nightlife in Dubai
Image source: Things to Do Dubai

Dubai is known for its vibrant nightlife scene. In fact, you can buy property right where the best nightlife is, so you don’t have  to miss out on the fun.

Whether you prefer a casual date night in a restaurant or party the night away at a bar, Dubai has a wide range of options for dining and nightlife.

The Best Restaurants in Dubai
HutongGate Building 6 - Ground Floor DIFC Al Sukook Street - DIFC - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Orfali Bros BistroD 92 - Jumeirah - Jumeirah 1 - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s KitchenCaesar’s Palace - Bluewaters Island - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Nobu by Nobu Mathsuhisa22nd Floor - Atlantis The Palm - Palm Jumeirah - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
STAY by Yannick AllenoCrescent Road (West) - Palm Jumeirah - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
OssianoCrescent Road - Palm Jumeirah - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
The Best Bars and Pubs in Dubai
Mi Amie DubaiLevel 1 - Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel - Trade Center 2 - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
CE LA VI DubaiTower 2 - Level 54 - Address Sky View Hotel - Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Asia AsiaDubai Marina Mall - 6th Floor Pier 7 - Sheikh Zayed Road - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
The Tap House Dubai HillsDubai Hills Business Park - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Level 43 Sky LoungeLevel 43 - Four Points by Sheraton - Sheikh Zayed Road - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
ZETA Seventy SevenAl Mamsha Street - Dubai Marina - Dubai - United Arab Emirates

Dubai also has different local pubs, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and local eateries that you can explore while living in the city.

So, if you’re planning to move to Dubai soon, you can guarantee that it will be one of the best decisions that you’ll make.