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As relocation experts, at Move One we understand how important it is to familiarize yourself with your potential new home before making the big move, and of course to have a seamless transition when settling in your new destination.

Therefore, to make your relocation as hassle-free as possible, Move One profiles a country every month, providing an in-depth look at Relocation, Immigration, Moving and Pet Transportation issues, which could pose problems for expats. This month, we take a closer look at regulations in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The United Arab Emirates (دولة الإمارات العربية المتحدة) is a federation of seven states located in the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Oman and Saudi Arabia. The constituent emirates are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah. Dubai is the largest city by population and also the main focus of finance and expat living. Abu Dhabi is the second largest by population, acting as the center for industry and politics, and accounting for 87 percent of the total area of the UAE. The smallest emirate is Amjan, covering only 259 square kilometers.

The UAE has an extremely robust economy built upon natural resource exploitation, helping to establish the area as a center for international business and financial services. The economic and population growth driven by large number of expats resulted in a massive construction boom. There is an estimated US $350 billion of currently active construction projects across the emirates. The largest buildings and active construction projects in the world are in the UAE, including the world’s tallest building, the world’s most expensive civilian airport, the largest artificial island, an entertainment complex twice the size of Disney World, and the world’s largest shopping center.

The UAE has the world’s highest immigration rate. Only about 18 percent of the population are indigenous Emiratis, with the rest comprised of recent immigrants. Roughly half the population are transitory workers from South East Asia.


The UAE is typically very hot and very dry, with temperatures in July and August regularly exceeding 48 °C (118.4 °F) in coastal areas. Annual lows are during the winter months of January and February with an average of 10 and 14 °C (50 and 57.2 °F). Distinguishing features in the local weather are the brief but torrential rains during summer months when the entire annual rainfall will occur within just a few hours, the occasional violent dust storm, and a humid southeastern wind known as Sharqi (‘Easterner’) that blows during the later summer months. The Jebel Jais mountain cluster in Ras al-Khaimah has experienced snow only twice since records began.


The two main cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai have some of the highest costs of living and most expensive flats available anywhere in the world. However, due to the speed of the construction projects, there is currently a surplus of commercial and residential property, and as such it has become a buyer’s market. Investment Boutique has projected that close to 115,000 housing units will be finished over the next 18 months, which will require an extra 500,000 people to fill.

Property prices have continued to fall throughout 2010.

One of the most iconic and sought after residential areas is the Palm Jumeirah artificial island. Areas that have proven particularly popular with expats in Dubai include the Marina, Burj Khalifa, the Jumeirah Beach Residences, Umm Suqeim and the Arabian Ranches and Springs. In Abu Dhabi expats tend to prefer residences in Khalidiya, Khalifa City ‘A’, the Mangrove Village, Al Markaziyah and the Al Raha Gardens. These modern residential areas have the most developed leisure, entertainment, retail and education infrastructure.

The average selling price of a Dubai apartment at the end of 2009 was Dh.950 ($258) per square foot, which was down 16 percent from the start of the year. The master-planned communities comprising of three to five bedrooms villas with gardens are the most desirable for expats with families, such as the Al Raha Gardens and Sas Al Nakhl in Abu Dhabi, or Arabian Ranches and Emirates Hills in Dubai. In the same time period these were selling for around Dh.1000 ($272) per square foot, but had better kept their value at a fall of only 9 percent.

According to local real estate advisory services, the property values will continue to drop as more residential developments are completed and so more landlords are willing to negotiate and offer favorable rental terms.

There are an estimated 4,500 apartments in the process of being constructed, with an additional 8,000 flats due for completion by the end of this year. Out of these new developments the high-end supply will be concentrated around Reem Island and Al Raha Beach, with mid-end supply coming up on the Abu Dhabi main island and the most affordable lower end stock on the mainland, which includes the first phase of Al Reef Downtown.

Ownership restrictions: Since 2006, foreigners have been allowed to own freehold title on property in Dubai. There are no restrictions for re-selling the property or for owners planning to rent out their property. In other Emirates there are strict limitations to the extent to which overseas nationals are allowed to own property. For example, in Abu Dhabi foreigners are able to buy and sell renewable 99-year leases for property within designated projects.


The health care system in the UAE is modern and generally easily to access within the cities. Facilities and medical professionals are of a similar standard to Western Europe or America.

Expats who have moved as part of a corporate assignment will usually have medical insurance included in their relocation package, but the individual entrepreneur or short-term expat should look into their own travelers insurance. Health care costs in the UAE can be very expensive for anything more advanced than prescription medicine. The average cost of bypass surgery in 2009 was $44,000, as compared to $11,000 in Thailand, $10,000 in India and $9,000 in Malaysia.

There are variations between the Emirates in the health care procedure. In 2006 Abu Dhabi introduced universal and mandatory health care for all nationals and expatriates as well as their dependents. Dubai has not yet adopted the universal health care system, which has meant many of the low wage workers and lower income expats are without any form of health coverage.

New expats should register for a health card with the UAE Health and Medical Services Department, as they will not be able to access more than emergency medical treatment without one.

The massive influx of immigrants that drove the housing boom has had a similar effect on health care provision, with gargantuan medical facilities being developed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, such as the $3 billion Dubai Health Care City (DHCC) and $400 million DuBiotech. Thanks to the scale of investment and development expats will be able to find name-brand health centers including the Mayo Clinic and Great Ormond Street Hospital as well as leading pharmaceutical and med-tech service suppliers such as Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Novo Nordisk.

For more information on obtaining private health insurance see The Ministry of Health website

Cost of Living

According to The Economist, the UAE is amongst the most expensive countries in the world to live in for expats, particularly Abu Dhabi. Whilst property and rental prices have been falling, expats should expect their accommodation to be by far their largest expense, with rent accounting for up to 50 percent of monthly salaries.

Whilst location will have a significant effect on rates, an average one-bedroom apartment can cost roughly $1700 a month, and2 to 3 bedroom apartments can be upward of $4,000. It was not uncommon for payment of a full year of rent to be demanded up-front with no refund should the lease be prematurely terminated, but with the current oversupply of housing more landlords are prepared to negotiate or offer more reasonable terms.

Home utilities average around AED 200 ($54) for a one bedroom apartment or studio.

A four bedroom villa without a swimming pool will have an average monthly utility bill of around AED 1,800, including water, electricity, sewerage, and the AC housing fee.

Tenants will have to pay monthly DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) bills , as well as a housing fee which is calculated at 5 percent of yearly rent divided into 12 months. AC is usually included in the electricity bill (paid to DEWA), but in newer developments (such as Dubai Marina, Jumeira Beach Residences, etc.) it comes as separate bill. DEWA bills are usually higher during summer months, and also for properties with gardens and private swimming pools due to higher consumption of water and electricity.

When new tenants signs up for DEWA connection they will need to pay a refundable deposit of AED 2,000 for a villa and AED 1,000 for an apartment. In the case when AC is separate, there is a deposit for connection as well of around AED 1,000 per number of rooms, also refundable upon vacancy.

There are still no gas mains in Dubai, and individual gas canisters need to be purchased and attached to the cookers. The canisters initially cost around AED 350 /EUR 77 and refills are usually AED 60 .

There are additional monthly bills for internet, landline, and cable TV.

Various packages are available for internet ( AED 150 – 350 monthly, installation AED 200); cable TV (basic AED 50, premium AED 350, installation up to AED 475); landline (installation AED 125).

Petrol is currently around AED 1.72 per liter

The cost of consumables and groceries will depend on if you are prepared to shop at the markets or at the air conditioned supermarkets that specially cater for expats with imported goods from home. A rough estimate of AED 2,000 ($540) per month is reasonable, especially when supplemented with widely available and inexpensive Eastern Asian takeaway and delivery options.

Local and public transport is heavily subsidized by the government and is inexpensive. Bus fares are usually only two to four Durham and a short taxi ride of within four kilometers will be the minimum flat fare of AED 10. As of last September Dubai has a modern metro system, with fares being from AED 2.5 to 6 depending on the length of the journey.

Assignees with dependents should be looking for a monthly salary of at least AED 9,000, which should be exclusive of an accommodation allowance.

Whilst the general cost of living is quite high for European expats, the cost of other services are significantly lower and expats of even modest means may be able to afford maids or cleaning services.

Currency conversion on August 26, 2010: USD$ 1 = AED 3.67

Food and Drink

Milk (1 Liter) AED 5
Cheese AED 25
Dozen eggs AED 8-15
White bread AED 2,50-4,50
Rice AED 6-12
White sugar AED 4
Large Coca Cola AED 2-4
Still mineral water (1 liter) AED 1
Olive oil AED 15-25
Tomatióoes AED 5
Apples AED 8
Fresh beef filet AED 40
Fresh whole chicken AED 18
Fresh white fish AED 40
Table salt AED 3
Milk chocolate bar AED 4


Soap AED 3
Toothpaste AED 7
Shampoo AED 10
Deodorant AED 10

Eating out

Three-courses in a restaurant AED 150
Fast-food meal AED 30
Cup of coffee in bar/cafe AED 12


Spirit (1 shot) AED 25-35
Bottle beer AED 25-35
Marlborough Lights AED 6,5
Cinema Ticket AED 30

Services – health, appearance

Gym Membership (PA x2) AED 3000-8000
Average male haircut AED 50
Average female cut and blow-dry AED 110
Manicure AED 40
Pedicure AED 45-55


The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but due to the huge influx of immigrants, the lingua franca tends to be English. The majority of the population are migrant workers from across Asia and so Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Tagalong, Tigrinya, Amharic, Malayalam, and Bengali are all widely spoken.

Expats will not be expected to speak Arabic, but as in all cultures the use of a few local words of thanks or greeting will go a long way. Popular phrases include

Yanni – ‘you know’

Yallah – ‘come on, let’s go, just do it’

Chalas – ‘finished, over, done’

Inshallah – ‘God willing’

Al-Hamdulillah – ‘Thank God’

Mashallah – Congratulations!’ (literally ‘God’s blessing’)

Shokran – ‘Thank you!’


Due to the enormous immigrant population in the UAE, expats will be able to find nearly every major education system in the world represented somewhere in the major metropolises. Annual tuition ranges from AED 25,000 to AED90,000 for competitive international schooling

Internationally Recognized Universities in Dubai

American University in Dubai
Boston University Dental School
Canadian University of Dubai
The British University in Dubai
University of Dubai
French Fashion University Esmod
Heriot-Watt University Dubai
Middlesex University in Dubai
SAE Institute
Manchester Business School Dubai
American College of Dubai
NYU Abu Dhabi
Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi
University of Wollongong

Life & Expat Community


The UAE is the most moderate and liberal of the middle eastern states, but there are still some traditions and attitudes that expats should respect to avoid offending the local populace. The legal system is based upon civil law and predicate, but Shari’a law is still applied to certain aspects of family law, inheritance, and specific criminal acts including sodomy, homosexual acts and adultery. There is a strong liberalizing emphasis implemented by the UAE’s National Human Rights Committee, and as such the death penalty is not enforced for homosexuality and convicted expats are simply deported.

Unmarried couples cannot live together.


Indigenous Emirati males prefer to wear a kandura, an ankle-length white shirt woven from wool or cotton, and most Emirati women wear an abaya, a black over-garment covering most parts of the body. Unlike neighboring Saudi Arabia the Islamic dress code is not compulsory and western style dress is predominant thanks to the expatriate majority. Public appearance in western dress is tolerated as long as it remains modest, and even less conservative dress is permitted in appropriate places, such as bars or clubs. Recently there have been highly publicized instances of expats disregarded the local law and custom and getting arrested for indecent clothing, or lack thereof, at beaches.


Hotels, bars and restaurants in the metropolises will have licenses to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises. There are off-licenses that sell alcohol but you will require an official permit to be allowed to purchase. To obtain a license you can fill in an application in one of the stores which will then liaise with the police and authorities. Be warned – to complete the forms you will need a salary certificate, a housing contract, a signature from your employer, copies of your passport and visas, passport photos, plus a nominal fee. The license will limit you to a certain proportion of your salary, measured out on a form of rationing card, although stores will often be prepared to use unused rations from previous months.

Immigration & Visas

To work in any of the Emirates you will require an employment visa, but it is permitted to enter on a Visitor’s Visa and then look for work. Once you have an Employment Visa and a Labor Card you may ‘sponsor’ your spouse and children to live with you. You will also be screened for Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and will be denied entry should you test positive. Tourists entering on a Visitor Visa are not screened. There are currently reforms being passed regarding the medical exclusion laws, but implementation into law has not yet occurred.

At present, expatriate property owners are granted a Residence Visa of three years, renewable after every three years of property ownership. These visas extend to the spouse and immediate family of the owner. However, these visas do not give an automatic right of employment.

Absences of more than six months will cause your Residence Visa to lapse, though this cancellation can be waived by paying AED100 ($27) for a Temporary Entry Permit prior to travelling back to the UAE.

The concept of sponsorship is a common feature in immigration amongst the Arab states. It requires an employer or ‘kafeel’ to officially sponsor and vouch for an employee to be allowed into the country. If you lose your job you will have a set time to find another job and kafeel, or else you will have to leave the UAE and seek re-entry through a Visitor’s Visa. Migrant workers cannot leave the UAE without the kafeel’s permission and grant of an Exit Permit, and many sponsors have contract clauses that prohibit the transfer of sponsorship from one organization to another. This system has come under international criticism and have been described as modern day slavery for the unskilled and low-paid laborers who come in huge numbers to work on the massive construction projects and find themselves effectively indentured to employers.

Different emirates will have some specific rules and limitations on Employment Visas and Labor Cards. In Dubai you will have only 30 days to find another job and another sponsor, or else you will have to leave the country and reapply for an entry visa. You will also have a restriction on the number of times you can change jobs based upon your level of education and formal training.

Islamic Holidays

Expats and visitors should keep an eye on the Islamic calendar to work out if there are any specific holy days coming up, particularly Ramadan. During Ramadan the faithful fast during the daylight hours until dusk, and the restaurants are required by law to remain closed during the day. The larger hotels may be permitted to keep one restaurant open, but as a general rule you are on your own, cuisine wise, until the sun sets. Expats who have eaten or drunk anything in public, including bottled water, have in the past been arrested and fined. Once the sun goes down, however, there is a decidedly festival atmosphere as the ofiftar (‘breaking of the fast’) is celebrated and vast meals and menus are offered.

Things to See & Do


Amjan is one of the smallest and least opulent of the Emirates, which means that whilst it doesn’t attract much in the way of international tourisim and mega-malls it does have some beautiful and uncrowded palm-lined white sand beaches. Locals and savvy expats can be found heading this way for BBQ’s and picnics around the municipal picnic tables with their disctinctive blue umbrellas. The Mepinski Resort & Hotel has a stretch of even more secluded beach, and the sheesha cafés opposite the waterfront along with the museum and historic dhow building yards are worth a visit.


A-Ain is the UAE’s half of the Buraimi Oasis, bordering Oman. Anyone who has ever seen an oasis in a movie suddenly appearing in a desert after endless miles of sand dunes will not be disappointed. Five days by camel train (or two hours on the highway) out of Abu Dhabi the oasis resort offers a cool, dry climate offers locals and tourists a sanctuary from the coasts heat and humidity. The verdant street, lively weekly markets, local museums, and famous date-palm oasis make a good few days outside of the metropolises.


The route out from Dubai to Fajairah is a ribbon of highway that curves over the horizon, with nothing but dunes for hours that makes for spectacular sunsets and sunrises. About 30km from the Fujairah there is the town of Masafi that hosts the famous Souq al Juma market on Fridays, as well as a smaller market daily 8am to 10pm, which is a riot of rugs, fruit, vegetables, household appliances and outrageous tacky souvenirs. After all the color of the sunrise and the market Fujairah itself is a fairly unprepossessing heavy goods seaport, but is a good base from which to go and explore the beauty spots along the east coast of the Musandam Peninsula. Resort hotels around Khor Fakkan and Badiyah offer all-inclusive luxury service, private beaches, and the most accessible and pristine diving and snorkeling opportunities along the east coast.


Sharjah is one of the cultural capitals of the UAE, and has an unusually high concentration of excellent museums, theaters and galleries. The souqs are large but low key, providing the best souvenir and genuine local craftwork shopping around. The town has been compared as the counterpoint to nearby Dubai’s opulence and western attitudes as it permits no booze, no immodest clothing, no cafes and no cohabitation by non-married couples – which can actually make for a welcome change of pace outside of the metropolis.

Abu Dhabi

The second largest of the cities, Abu Dhabi is home to the political, industrial and cultural life of the UAE, and as such has a lot to be seen by the newly arrived expat or visitor.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque – the 6th largest in the world, accesable by non-muslims on Saturday through to Thursday mornings.

The Corniche – the famous waterfront reaches from Breakwater and the Marina Shopping Mall (home to the world’s tallest flagpole) all the way to the Mina Zayed port, passing along sandy beaches with turquoise waters, shopping centers, markets, cafés, playgrounds and the majestic towers of downtown Abu Dhabi. In the evening the walkway is thronged by tourists and locals alike come out for a promenade in the cool dusk air.

Khalifa Park – developed at a cost of $50 million, this opulent and refreshing green space within the city has its own aquarium, museum, train, play parks and formal gardens.

Cultural Events – The Abu Dhabi Cultural Centre has become a landmark in the Emirates and holds cultural events and workshops throughout the year. It has a well-stocked library, children’s programs, art exhibitions, benefits, and other culture-related activities that are the hallmark of any city. It’s well worth a look.

Also check out the Lulu Islands – a collection of artificial islands constructed at absolutely staggering cost, which are now sitting around doing absolutely nothing since the grand plans surrounding them collapsed. Also opening this year will be Yas Island – a motorsports haven that aside from having a formula 1 race track on it also has a farrari themed theme park, a water park, and the obligatory vast shopping mall. If youre looking to burn rubber in a more rugged environment the Abu Dhabi Off-road Club offers a free lesson to all newcomers, and has weekly trips out to romp around the dunes with some of the 2000 members, the vast majority of which are expats.


The Bastakiya District is a beautiful example of one of the few surviving areas of Old Dubai filled with both original and restored buildings. The district is refreshingly light on tourist capitalization and expats will get to wander through the cool, narrow streets and find the art galleries and cafes hidden throughout the area.

The Dubai Museum, as well as being a fantastic destination for anyone genuinely interested in the history of the Emirate, is a required visit for any expat who wants to sound like they know a thing or two about their adoptive city in the bar later.

More modern wonders can be seen from the ‘At The Top’ observation deck on the 124 floor of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure at 828 meters and 160 floors. Visitors should be warned that at this height the building moves appreciably – about 2 meters in each direction – which is an effect more than a little unsettling for some. The epic structure has nine separate hotels, a cascading fountain, and the usual supply of opulent malls. Safely down at water level the Palm Islands are the largest artificial land masses in the world and whilst just a normal residential district up-close it is amazing to see the sheer scale of human endeavor going on in Dubai. In terms of extremes it’s hard to beat the Burj al-Arab – the only seven star hotel in existence. You will need a reservation and some nice shoes to even enter the premises to have a cocktail at the bar, but is worth it just for bragging rights. Wrap up your experience of hysteric opulence with a trip to the Mall of the Emirates, which contains its own ski resort,or the Dubai Mall, which has its own waterfall, ice skating rink, huge aquarium, dancing fountain. There is also the Atlantis Hotel with Aquaventure Water Park and Dolphin Bay where you can swim with actual dolphins.

Public Holidays

Public Holidays for the January 2010-December 2011 period:
1 Jan New Year’s Day.
26 Feb Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet).
9 Jul Leilat al-Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet).
11 Sep Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan).
17 Nov Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).
2 Dec National Day.
7 Dec Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year).
16 Dec Ashoura.
1 Jan New Year’s Day.
5 Dec Ashoura.
26 Feb Mouloud (Birth of the Prophet).
28 Jun Leilat al-Meiraj (Ascension of the Prophet).
31 Aug Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan).
7 Nov Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice).
2 Dec National Day.
26 Nov Al-Hijra (Islamic New Year).

Move One’s relocation services include city orientation, home and school searches as well as door to door moving services worldwide and cover packing of personal effects, warehousing, pet transportation and fine art shipping. Should you need help with your corporate or individual relocation needs, or if you would like to receive a free quote, do not hesitate to contact us at

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