Moving to Dubai from the UK


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4 out of 5

  • Affordability 3 out of 5

  • Safety 4 out of 5

  • Healthcare 2 out of 5

  • Traffic Flow 2 out of 5

  • Property affordability 5 out of 5

  • Climate 3 out of 5

  • Environment quality 4 out of 5

Dubai is rapidly becoming one of the more attractive destinations for UK expats. Boasting unparalleled economic growth it is a city aflame with entrepreneurial spirit and opportunity for the enterprising. It also offers a completely different environment from the UK, scorching weather, vastly different language, religion, laws and customs.

Those willing to integrate though will find Dubai very welcoming, much more diverse than one might initially expect and much more affordable than the UK. In addition there is a thriving expat community with whom you can socialise, play sports and indulge in the favourite British pastime (aka drinking).

Myths about Dubai are prevalent in the media, but in fact you can buy alcohol in bars and specialist shops (with a liquor licence granted to non-Muslims) and you don’t have to adhere to an Islamic dress code (though there are prohibitions against ‘indecent clothing’). You can also buy pork in the western section of some supermarkets.

Why move to Dubai

Of all the changes undergone by world cities in the last few decades the most startling and dramatic have occurred in Dubai. Once a mere business hub for the oil industry, the Emirate has taken advantage of rising oil prices and businesses moving from other parts of the Middle East to massively expand its economy and explode onto the international scene.

Nowadays oil and gas revenues make up less than 7% of Dubai’s income – the city has radically diversified its economy to encompass real estate, construction, trade, financial services and tourism.

This transformation has seen the landscape and population change as much as the economic balance: Dubai skyscrapers continue to shoot up, piercing the Arabian skyline, while man-made islands create real estate and tourism opportunities; Emiratis are now a minority in their own city as foreign workers have been sucked in to sustain the boom.

Opportunities for British people emigrating to Dubai are therefore plentiful and many have taken advantage of the low crime rates, enhanced spending power and low property prices to vastly improve their quality of life.

Dubai was named the 2nd best place to live in the Middle East (behind Abu Dhabi) in a 2012 and YouGov survey.

Job market

Dubai has the well-earned reputation of being a haven for people looking to boost their careers. Tax-free salaries and excellent job opportunities have lured thousands of expats yearly.

Dubai’s economic boom of the previous decade seems to have dwindled somewhat in the last couple of years. However, 2017 is set to be a year that revives the industry. While sectors such as retail and hospitality has seen a bit of a recent dip, industries such as education, agricultural sciences and manufacturing have enjoyed a considerable growth.

The most sought after employees in Dubai are engineers, teachers and people who work in more creative fields such as marketing and communications.

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Property market

2016 to 2017 has proved to be a remarkably bad year for Dubai’s housing market. Overall, residential property dropped by around 9% last year. Though this isn’t great for Dubai property owners now, it does mean the prices of apartments and villas are considerably lower than they were a few years ago. This is good news for expats thinking of investing in property soon, as it means more affordable property prices.

Given the recent downfall in housing prices, it may seem that investing in Dubai’s property would be a poor business idea. Nevertheless, Dubai’s property market is predicted to improve by the end of 2017, and hopefully continue to grow.

Interesting fact: Dubai has no address system – no street numbers, no road names and no zip codes. Directions and the postal systems run on what landmarks you are near.

Healthcare for expats

Dubai boasts a highly developed modern healthcare system for natives and expats alike. The public hospitals, free to use by citizens and expats who have a health card, provide free or highly affordable healthcare.

Many expats opt for private healthcare. One new development to the in the city-state’s private healthcare is an enormous medical unit, literally named Dubai Healthcare City. It’s a huge collection of clinics, hospitals and universities.

Comparing Dubai to London

Moving from London to Dubai will make you wonder how you ever managed to survive in a city as expensive as the UK capital. Everything from groceries to utilities are cheaper in Dubai – among the very few things you’ll find yourself paying a premium on are, understandably, alcohol and women’s fashion.

Compared to London, Dubai is generally safer and property is more affordable. The city’s roads though are highly congested so you won’t be escaping the London pollution.

Culture and nature

In cultural terms Dubai isn’t going to serve up your western staples – English language theatre, cinema (apart from the biggest Hollywood blockbusters) and live popular music will all be hard to find. If you’re willing to embrace the difference though you won’t be disappointed – the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is a good place to start.

There are also nature reserves, scenic parks, a well curated museum, a racecourse, some of the world’s most ambitious modern architecture to admire and golf courses aplenty.


Dubai’s climate is desert – much further removed from that of London you could not get. Average high temperatures in the summer months regularly exceed 40°C and rainfall is virtually non-existent except during the months December to March.

The summer humidity can be quite uncomfortable unless you’re in an air conditioned building or near a chilled pool.

Visas and work permits for Dubai

While permanent residency visas are relatively easy to obtain for Brits with employment in the UAE, it’s virtually impossible for those without. This is especially difficult since the global financial crisis which precipitated a severe downturn in the UAE and led to the government introducing quotas for foreign workers.

As such, you really shouldn’t move to Dubai unless you have a job which will lead to a work permit, which will in turn lead to residency and the right to rent an apartment, access healthcare and education, etc.

Packing list for your move to Dubai

No matter which part of the UK you’re moving from, there are several things that you have that you won’t need in Dubai. There are also several things you own that will get more mileage out of your time in the UAE.


  • All things winter (except for use in that indoor ski slope)
  • Umbrella
  • Rain gear (except for one jacket for visiting the UK)
  • Hot water bottle


  • Sandals
  • Sunglasses
  • Adapter
  • Long trousers and skirts

This is clearly not an exhaustive list for your move to Dubai; you’ll want to pack more so view the cost of shipping from the UK to Dubai. There you’ll find the costs, options to ship your belongings, and what is restricted in the UAE.

Schools and education in Dubai

The prospect of finding a school for your child in the United Arab Emirates that teaches the right curriculum, in the right language and which is near enough to your home may appear daunting at first but you’ll actually find that there’s a great deal of choice. School fees are also a lot more affordable than the tuition fees of private schools in western countries.

Those looking for a British curriculum might consider the highly regarded JESS and Dubai British School where fees range from around AED 29,000 to around AED 56,000 per year. There are at least 60 schools offering a UK curriculum though, with fees for primary education starting at around AED 4,000.

There are also a number of other international schools with various curricula and programmes from which to choose.

Special needs schooling is rarer and the costs higher (around AED 70,000).

Many large foreign universities have set up institutions at the Dubai International Academic City located 40 km southeast of the centre of Dubai.