Moving to Dubai
Are you moving to Dubai? More often thought of as a holiday destination, Dubai’s booming economy has been attracting increasing numbers of expats to the city in recent years. So what awaits you in the Middle East’s most glamorous city-state? The largest city in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is located on the south east coast of the Persian Gulf and has rapidly become the business hub of the Middle East. Renowned for its towering skyscrapers, man-made islands and enormous shopping malls, it has been rated as one of the best places to live in the region.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Dubai report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Dubai on the Map
Situated on the coast between Abu Dhabi to the south, Oman to the southeast and Sharjah to the northeast, this tiny city state has an area of just 1,500 square miles and lies completely within the Arabian Desert. This means the city is surrounded by clean, white dunes, with the desert giving way to the Western Hajar Mountains in the far distance. Although there are no rivers, Dubai does have a small natural inlet called Dubai Creek running diagonally through the city.
This fast-growing economy has expanded exponentially in the last 20 years, and it’s now an important business and transport hub for the Middle East.
- With a predicted population of 3.5 million by 2020, the Roads and Transport Authority is investing heavily to improve public transport and the infrastructure.
- Cars are by far the most popular way of getting around the city.
- There are five main highways running through Dubai and connecting it other towns and emirates.
- There are 2,100 buses on 140 routes and the bus stops are air-conditioned.
- Dubai International Airport is the home base for Emirates Airlines.
- It’s the busiest passenger airport in the world and is seventh busiest cargo airport.
- Dubai Al Maktoum International Airport is still being developed but by the time it’s fully operational it will be the biggest airport in the world with the capacity for 160 million passenger per annum.
- The Dubai Metro has 49 stations on two lines, and more lines are under construction. It’s the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula.
- Dubai has two major commercial ports, one of which is the world’s largest man-made harbour and the biggest port in the Middle East.
Most of Dubai’s building boom has taken place to the west of Dubai Creek, on the Jumeirah coastal belt, and this is where you’ll find most of the free-zone business areas. These are economic zones which offer special concessions to attract foreign investment. Living in Dubai is expensive and landlords often require a year’s rent in advance. However, it helps that utilities are subsidised by the government. Although foreigners are permitted to buy property, most expats rent. Apartments are usually new and many come furnished—these are the most plentiful type of accommodation, but you might also find a townhouse or a villa if you have a larger budget.
The following areas are popular with expats:
This is the oldest part of Dubai where the buildings don’t tend to rise so high. It’s a vibrant area and the rent is cheap but it’s not convenient for any international schools and it can be noisy.
Dubai International Financial Centre and Downtown
In the shadow of the Burj Khalifa—the world’s tallest building—this area mixes apartment blocks with office towers. Rents range from medium to high for good quality accommodation and it’s handy for Dubai Mall. It’s perfect for expats who work in this area.
Jumeirah Beach Residence
This is an expansive residential development at Jumeirah Beach, comprising clusters of towers along ‘The Walk’. This is a beachfront promenade of shops and restaurants. The facilities are good with multiple pools and gyms for residents to use, and the area has a holiday vibe. Rents are affordable, though you’ll pay extra for a sea view and it tends to attract lots of young professionals. However, there is a paucity of green space and traffic congestion can be a problem.
Just inland from the Jumeirah Beach Residence, this development is built around a man-made marina. There are a number of hotel-apartment blocks here, which offer long and short-term serviced lets. It’s quiet and affordable, and there is usually good availability.
This has become an icon for Dubai—the palm-shaped man-made island off the Jumeirah Beach. The trunk is made up of medium-height apartment blocks with shared beach access, while the leaves offer expensive villas with private beaches and pools. Prices are at a premium due to demand but it’s a wonderful place for families if you can afford it. A car, however, is a necessity as there is no metro station on the Palm.
Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim
In this older and more established area of town there are plenty of villa compounds, which makes it particularly appealing to families. It offers good access to the beach and to a number of schools, and your villa will most likely be in a compound with a communal pool and good facilities. Prices are generally reasonable but some of the villas are now a little tired.
Comprising of four separate areas—The Greens, The Springs, The Lakes and The Meadows—set around the Emirates Golf Course, this development offers low-rise apartment blocks and individual villas set in communal gardens. This is one of the greenest places to live in Dubai and it’s ideal for families with children. It’s well located, just inland from Dubai Media City.
A number of developments along Emirates Road between the Al Khail roundabout and the E66 provide a good choice of villas, townhouses and apartments. The larger houses and gardens on offer make them a first choice for families. Their proximity to the desert makes the developments much quieter but also a little dustier, and younger professionals may feel too far from the centre out here—a car is certainly a necessity. Look for Dubai Silicon Oasis, Victory Heights, Motor City and Arabian Ranches.
Who Lives in Dubai and Why?
Dubai’s population is mainly made up of foreign nationals, helping to shape the economic boom.
- Dubai has a population of 2.1 million, of which 83 percent are expats.
- The bulk of these come from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and work in the construction and services industries.
- There are more than 100,000 British people living in Dubai, the largest group of Western expats.
- Contrary to what most people belief, oil revenues only account for 5 percent of the country’s income.
- Dubai’s main sources of revenue are tourism, aviation, real estate and financial services.
- Arabic is the official language, with English being used as a second.
- Islam is the state religion but Dubai is tolerant of other religions and there are large communities of Christians, Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.
- After a downturn in the recent recession, Dubai’s economy is now growing once more.
- A 2014 growth rate of 6.1 percent makes Dubai one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
- Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade was worth $362 billion in 2014, with China its largest international trading partner.
- Industry-specific free zones attract foreign corporations—they include Media City, Healthcare City, Knowledge Village and the Dubai International Finance Centre.
- Tourism is being developed as part of a strategy to increase foreign currency flowing into the country.
- The city can accommodate 15 million tourists a year.
- As a young economy, Dubai is still reliant on overseas expertise, so there is a wide range of opportunities for expats to live and work here.
- Most expat jobs are in banking, finance, insurance, Sharia compliance, construction, retail and telecommunications.
- Dubai is one of the only countries in the Middle East to allow expats to buy property and own land.
The Best Bits
As one of the world’s wealthiest and fastest growing cities, Dubai has an enormous amount to offer. It rises from the desert like a jewel and with a-money-no-object attitude, the Emiratis have created an extraordinary playground to entertain themselves and attract tourist dollars.
Here are some of the highlights:
- At 828 metres, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, inspired by the harmonious structure of the Hymenocallis flower.
- The city has the world’s tallest skyline with more buildings of over two thirds of a kilometre tall than anywhere else.
- Expo 2020 will be an extraordinary spectacle, creating 270,000 jobs. The theme is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.
- With its own food festival and thousands of restaurants, Dubai is a gourmet destination of note and the gastronomic capital of the Middle East.
- The city has a frenetic nightlife, mainly confined to hotels due to the laws regarding alcohol. It’s also an established stop for world music tours.
- Dubai has an important art gallery scene—which should come as no surprise given the concentration of wealth here.
- The old city souks on either side of the creek are still the place to explore for food, traditional goods and, in the Gold Souk, gold and jewellery.
- With more than 70 shopping centres, Dubai is arguably the shopping capital of the world, and Dubai Mall is the world’s largest with 1,200 shops.
- Dubai’s tourist attractions include a dolphinarium, a cable car, indoor skiing, camel riding, exotic bird shows and the Dubai Miracle Garden, which is the world’s largest flowering garden.
Bringing the Kids
Dubai is a wonderful playground for children, with countless tourist attractions to fill up the school holidays. However, the climate in the summer months is ferocious—hot, humid and windy, with temperatures regularly hitting 40°C. Naturally, air conditioning is essential and it’s also universal—even the bus stops here are air conditioned.
When it comes to education, there are approximately 80 public schools and 150 private schools. Expat children, however, are not permitted to enrol in the public schools, while the majority of the private schools teach in English and cater to expat children.
- There are 15 or so schools offering international curricula, mainly via the International Baccalaureate Programmes.
- Several schools offer IB career-related programmes and BTECs.
- There are also a number of schools offering Indian and Pakistani curricula.
- GCSEs and A-levels can be sat at Dubai Gem Private School, Dubai British School and the English Language School.
- The American School of Dubai offers an American curriculum.
- There are also several international universities in the emirate.
- Unfortunately, international schools in Dubai command fairly hefty fees—up to AED 90,000 per child per year.
- For this reason, home schooling is also a popular expat option.
- British public schools Wellington, Westminster and Winchester all run branches in the city.
Relocating to Dubai
As the commercial hub of the Middle East and one of the fastest growing cities and economies in the world, Dubai is rich in opportunity for expats in the financial, construction and services industries. With English widely spoken and a good selection of international schools, it’s become a popular destination with British and Americans. Whether you choose to live in a sky-high apartment overlooking the city or in a private villa compound with access to the beach, there’s a wide choice of high quality accommodation. However, Dubai is an expensive city to live in and the climate across the summer months can be challenging.
At Saunders 1865, our teams of experts combine local knowledge with first-hand experience to pinpoint the right area and the right property that will tick all your boxes. Do you have children that need to be enrolled in school? Are the transport links convenient for your needs? Does this location fit with your expectations of expat life and is the space configured in a way that suits your requirements? We can bring expertise to all these factors and help to arrange smooth, efficient and stress-free relocations – to Dubai, London and destinations across the world. Our services include home finding assistance, school finding, lease negotiations, temporary accommodation, move management and immigration assistance. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out how we can help you.
Average Monthly Rent - Dubai
|Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre||AED 5,703|
|Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre||AED 3,600|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre||AED 9,598|
|Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre||AED 6,974|