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Guide to living in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become a veritable hotspot for expatriates in recent years, causing the community to be a wide mix of nationalities, cultures and languages. In order to enjoy the experience to the full, there are certain pieces of advice that it is a good idea to note.

In a recent article, Emirates 24/7 explored the top tips to impart on anyone moving abroad to live in the UAE. Here are some of those pearls of wisdom:


A long term relationship in the UK is not recognised as a coupling in the UAE unless marriage is undertaken. This may seem like a little thing, but it is technically illegal to live with a member of the opposite sex that you are not related or wedded to.

This can prove problematical for families and is something to think about carefully prior to relocation. Anyone found to be living in such circumstances can be jailed for a minimum of a year and then deported under the law of the land. Sex outside of marriage is also forbidden and carries the same consequences.

Residency documents

All expats must obtain a residency visa in order to live in the UAE legally. There are several ways of going about this and if you have relocated through work, your company should be able to sponsor you. This route will also mean getting a labour card or work permit.

Without a residency visa it is impossible to open a bank account, get a driving licence, register for a car or apply for a post box. This makes it high up on the list of priorities when organising your new expat life.

Dress appropriately

Despite being a multicultural society, there are a number of cultural differences that are not tolerated and a liberal attitude to dress is one of them. Never wear swimwear away from the beach or pool and cover up legs and arms in public places.

Getting around Dubai

There is an extensive public transport system in Dubai, which includes a Metro and buses, but you may wish to opt for taxis, of which are numerous. If you do decide that you wish to drive yourself, then you can exchange your existing licence with a UAE version after getting your residency visa. Remember to drive on the right-hand side!

Local versus offshore bank accounts

Taking some time to research the relative merits of different types of bank accounts will pay dividends in the long run, especially if you have not lived abroad before. While many local banks offer expats free accounts upon arrival, most of these require a minimum balance to be maintained otherwise a fee will be charged.

An alternative option is to bank offshore, which is a popular solution for expats, but be careful to look into the implications of this as some accounts will see you charged two per cent for cash withdrawals. This can become expensive and may mean you have to set up another bank account in the future.

Health insurance

Expat health insurance is another consideration. Some firms provide staff with some form of cover, but it is vital to know what this includes and what it doesn’t. It can be a very good idea to take out a comprehensive policy yourself.

If you intend to grow your expat family then be aware that maternity provision is unlikely to be part of a policy provided through work. Medical insurance is a necessity for pregnancy and beyond if you are living in the UAE.


Be an expat family requires parents to think clearly about their children’s futures far earlier than if they were to receive their education in their home country. This means looking at the different curricula and seeing how they would affect reintegration into schools back in the UK.

It also involves thinking about internationally recognised qualifications and how they will impact on university applications. All schools in the UAE hold public examinations for some sort of certificate. Many require entrance exams to admit children and the fees can vary enormously.

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