The Challenges of Living in Dubai as an Expat

Dubai is a dynamic city with a high standard of living and tax-free salaries making it an attractive destination for expats.
Although the city has so much to offer its increasing expat community, moving to Dubai doesn’t come without its challenges. Like in most countries, there are ups and downs and to help you make your decision we have highlighted some of the main challenges of living in Dubai as an Expat.

Why is Dubai so attractive?

Before we look at the negatives, let’s look at the positives. Dubai is one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and is synonymous with luxury and modern living. It has fantastic employment opportunities, but ultimately, it’s the large supply of attractive housing units, high salaries and low taxes that motivate many people to move to Dubai and live the expat lifestyle.
What are the challenges of being an expat in Dubai?
Wherever you choose to live there will always be pros and cons. So, let’s delve into the challenges that expats in Dubai might face.

Culture Shock

The culture and way of life in Dubai is very different to that of Western Europe.
It’s important that you beware of your actions to ensure that they don’t offend the locals, the majority of which live according to the Islamic Faith. It’s strongly advised to familiarise yourself with the local laws and customs, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
They have very strict rules that both natives and expats must abide by. For example:

  • Zero tolerance for drug-related offences
  • Non-Muslim residents must get a liquor license to drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues
  • Women should dress modestly when in public areas like shopping malls. Clothes should cover the tops of the arms and legs, and underwear should not be visible. Swimming attire should be worn only on beaches or at swimming pools
  • All sex outside marriage is illegal
  • It’s against the law to live together or to share the same hotel room, with someone of the opposite sex to whom you aren’t married or closely related

All residents are expected to respect and adhere to the local laws and customs.

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Dubai is relatively high and anyone relocating from areas outside of London will find that rent is expensive. The average rental for a one-bedroom apartment in Dubai is about £1,500, while rents average about £3,000 for a three-bedroom apartment.
Whilst Dubai is seen to be one of the more expensive cities in the world, since the economic downturn in 2008, the city is slowly becoming cheaper to live in for the average citizen, due to several factors. The factors include action by the government to hold down the price of everyday commodities and the strong value of the US dollar.
It’s important to note, the cost of living ultimately depends on the lifestyle you choose to live once you are in Dubai.


One of the biggest headaches for expats relocating to Dubai is the bureaucracy, especially when first arriving. You need a permit to do a lot of things in the emirate, including a permit to work, a license to drive and a permit to purchase alcoholic beverages. But before even getting to the country you are required to obtain a visa.
For those travelling to Dubai for employment, you will be required to obtain the correct visas to work. Often, if you are moving to Dubai for work, your employer in the city will apply for your visas and documentation on your behalf, as well as covering the costs associated.
It is recommended to research what sort of permits or visa you will need to live the life you intend in the city.

Extreme Heat

The heat in Dubai from June through to September can be very intense and is something that a lot of expats struggle to deal with.
The heat is dry, dusty and relentless and during the height of summer, temperatures can easily reach 40 degrees and above.
Luckily, most buildings, shopping malls, offices, public transport and cars are air-conditioned in an effort to keep tourists and residents comfortably cool and hydrated.

There might be challenges but it’s nothing that can’t be overcome if you’re truly set on moving to Dubai. Start planning your move to Dubai or contact us to learn more about expat insurance.

Related News