Living in Dubai
The Dubai lifestyle is one of the main draw cards for the emirate. With a fantastic climate for much of the year, beaches, haute cuisine and couture on tap and a cosmopolitan environment, Dubai can provide a wonderful standard of living for expats and holidaymakers.
Winter sunshine averages eight hours per day, while the summer figure reaches as high as eleven hours a day. The climate of the UAE is, generally, hot and dry.
The summer months, from June to September, are too hot for comfort. Midday temperatures range from 35°C to 42°C, and occasionally top 49°C at the height of summer.
From December to March, the climate is considerably more equable with midday temperatures ranging from 25 to 35°C and falling to as low as 9°C at night
Whilst much is written about the fierce heat of Dubai in the summer, but the fact remains that for eight months of the year the climate of Dubai is extremely pleasant, with warm, dry days and clear blue, cloudless skies.
A wide range of styles of accommodation is available in Dubai from studio apartments to expansive villas and compounds. Many investors will find the gated communities of expats located around the city particularly attractive. These self-contained areas are usually landscaped and secluded and offer an excellent standard of living.
Apartments, too, are in high demand, with new high-rise developments stealing the property headlines around the world. Both inland and looking over the sea, apartment complexes usually have excellent links with the rest of the city
Those with children will find education expensive, but extremely high quality, with schools offering a wide range of international qualifications—there will likely be a school teaching your home country’s syllabus. Most popular are the British GCSE and A-Level system, American high schools, the international Baccalaureate and the Indian CBSE and ICSE curriculums.
Schooling is offered mainly in Arabic and English and there are scores of private schools available across the city. In addition, a number of universities have established campuses in Dubai in recent years, including branches of international universities from India, Europe and America.
Crime levels are extremely low and many residents enjoy the security the emirate affords to their person and property. Laws are strictly enforced by the police, although there should be no problem if residents maintain a sense of respect for culture and customs at all times.
Many residents still don’t think twice about not locking their doors in Dubai. This sense of security the city affords is particularly enjoyed by families with young children.
And one of the most compelling reasons to live in the emirate is the complete lack of income and sales tax. Whatever you earn, you take home, although new residents from certain countries should register their tax status with their home authorities to make sure they are not still liable.
The cost of living in Dubai has increased significantly in recent years, although indications suggest that this rise is slowing, especially with the fall of property prices in the emirate. Compared to some Western countries, Dubai is reasonably priced, and the lack of having to pay tax certainly does make a difference to outgoings.
You need a visa to live and work in Dubai. Whilst you may be entitled to an automatic visit visa depending on the nationality of your passport, securing a residency visa comprises a lengthy bureaucratic process. Ownership of your property will entitle you to a renewable six-month visa, although updating this visa will invoke costs.
If you have an employment visa you can sponsor your spouse and children to live with you, and you can also sponsor a domestic helper to work for you. After you have your visa you will need a health card, and finally, securing a government ID card is the final step needed to become a resident
Dubai has a modern telecommunications system. Etisalat and Du, the two telecoms providers across the UAE, enjoy a duopoly on most business and personal telecommunications services in the UAE. Phone costs are expensive compared to those in other countries.
There are no postal deliveries in Dubai and all mail is sent to post office boxes. Most residents use their company P.O. box address for private mail, but it is possible to rent a personal box a local post office branch.
As anyone will tell you driving on the roads of Dubai can be difficult, with a generally poor standard of driving and a great deal of congestion. The traffic situation in Dubai has become a major problem with serious traffic jams being the norm, although the development of new road infrastructure is beginning to take effect to calm traffic.
A road toll system—Salik—has been installed on the main arterial highway and across two of the bridges. The toll works with radio frequency “reading” a tag on your car’s windscreen and Dhs 4 being deducted from your account every time you pass under the scanners.
Cars are tax free and as a result are relatively inexpensive. Petrol, too, is still very cheap despite a 30 per cent increase in July 2005. Driving under the influence is considered an extremely serious offence and will result in an automatic and immediate one-month imprisonment with the court deciding on a fine or further confinement thereafter. There is zero tolerance. Taxis are cheap and increasingly easy to come by.
There are a number of private clinics and hospitals in Dubai offering a very high standard of healthcare. Private health insurance is a must for all expatriates though this is generally offered by employers as part of the employee’s benefits package.
The government hospitals are generally of a good standard. Of particular note is the Al Wasl hospital which specialises in maternity and paediatrics, and has an excellent reputation.
The social scene in Dubai is excellent; there are many great restaurants, bars and clubs, with something to suit every taste and budget. The best guide to life in Dubai is Time Out, which offer a look at what is on offer every month.
There are clubs and social groups covering almost every interest and sport known, and a few new ones such as sand skiing. Off-roading, or dune bashing, and camping are popular activities among expats during the cooler months. A 30-minute drive out of Dubai will find you in the middle of rolling sand dunes with only the odd camel for company.
There are clubs to join, as well as guides and trainers who can be hired to instruct and teach you about the intricacies of driving on sand and, more importantly, show you how to rescue a stuck vehicle.
Dubai is not a ‘dry’ Emirate like Sharjah, although the consumption and purchase of alcohol is controlled. The law states that only hotels or private clubs can serve alcohol, although it seems that the interpretation of this law is stretched pretty thin sometimes.
Due to this restriction expat socialising tends to gravitate towards hotels and as a result alcohol can be expensive. There are two companies licensed to sell alcohol in Dubai for private consumption and their premises tend to be located near the main supermarkets.
In order to buy alcohol to consume at home you are required to apply for a permit. It is a painless process though the license has to be renewed annually.
There are outlets in the northern Emirates where it is possible to buy alcohol without a license.
The Holy Month of Ramadan falls in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar. This runs on a lunar cycle and so Ramadan moves earlier each year by 12 days.
Ramadan lasts a lunar month and starts when the first sliver of the new moon is seen and ends when the crescent of the next new moon is seen. It is a wonderful time in Dubai, meant to embrace family and friendship, and putting the past behind and starting afresh. It provides a good opportunity for expats to visit their Muslim friends and business partners to reaffirm friendships.
During the month it is not a requirement that non-Muslims fast, although eating, drinking or smoking in public is strictly forbidden.
All hotels have an area set aside for guests to eat in during the day and it is still quite easy to find places to get something while you are out and about.
In the office it is of course imperative to show respect to your Muslim colleagues, but most places will set aside an area for the non-Muslims to take refreshments during the day.
By law office and school hours change during the month and employees of all religious backgrounds are not permitted to work more than six hours a day.