At Bayut, we know how daunting it can be to pack your bags and move to a completely unfamiliar city, no matter how much Hollywood romanticises it. Dubai attracts one of the largest percentages of expats in the world, so we decided to put together some information to help you make that transition easily. A lot of Britons are looking to this Middle Eastern city for better opportunities with many considering moving to Dubai from the UK. And with the sunny weather, pristine white beaches, safety and upscale lifestyle, who wouldn’t want to! If you’ve been asking the question “How to move to Dubai from UK?” Here’s everything you need to know!
Moving to Dubai FROM UK checklist
All British passport holders get a visit visa on arrival which is valid for 30 days, purely for tourist purposes. You can extend this for a longer period at a cost, but that usually involves exiting and re-entering the UAE, making it impractical in the long run.
1. Dubai Visas for British Expats
Here are the required visas when moving to Dubai from UK
- Employment Visa: A visa that is arranged by your employer allowing you entry to the country, after which a work permit is issued.
- Dependant Visa: A visa for those whose spouses or parents are already residents of Dubai
- Student Visa: A visa for those enrolling into one of the universities in Dubai
- Investor Visa: A visa for expats investing in companies in the UAE
The most common amongst these is the employment visa, the main requirement for which is to have a job offer from a company registered in Dubai. Once you accept such an offer, the visa processing and associated costs are generally taken care of by the organisation.
2. Documentation for moving to Dubai
If you are moving to Dubai on a work visa, your employer will inform you about all the required documentation. It includes your signed offer letter, passport copy, educational certificates and the recently introduced good conduct certificate from a recognised body in the countries you lived in for the last 5 years.
One of the things you need to take care of, is the attestation of your certificates according to the Ministry of Labour guidelines. This can take a considerable amount of time, so make sure it’s ready before you apply for a work permit in Dubai.
Your certificates must have the Apostille Stamp by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and be attested by the UAE Embassy in London. Once in Dubai, you will need to get these attested by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA). There are several agencies that attest certificates at a cost, you can consult one of them to avoid running around. Make sure all your other paperwork is in order, and your passport is valid for over 6 months.
Remember to take enough passport sized photographs, because your first few days after moving to Dubai will involve a lot of form-filling and counter-hopping!
3. Health Check for Visa Processing
There is a compulsory health check as part of the visa process after which you are issued the Emirates ID Card. Make sure that all your personal details are correct on this identity card; you will need it for most transactions in Dubai, like opening a bank account, renting an apartment or enrolling your kids in school.
Unlike the UK, Dubai does not have an NHS and medical insurance is mandatory. For those of you on employment visas, your company/sponsor will take care of your medical insurance. If you have dependents or if you are on an investor visa, you need to sort out the insurance yourself.
Owners of freehold properties in Dubai can also get a renewable UAE residence visa. Check with your property agent to make sure, as it is known to vary on occasion.
Living As A British Expat in Dubai
As an expat in this city, you will definitely not be a minority; a whopping 80% of the population are expats! Dubai is highly cosmopolitan with visible international influences in the food, lifestyle and even architectural areas.
This obviously doesn’t mean it is the Ibiza of the east; Islam is the national religion, so tone down the PDA and try to be sensible with your clothing choices!
1. Your Home in Dubai
One of the most important things, when you are moving to Dubai from the UK, is finding the right accommodation. With a booming real estate industry, the housing market in Dubai is a veritable treasure trove; from luxury apartments to upscale villas and even modest studios, there’s something for everyone.
There are quite a few communities with a large western expat population, so making friends and finding a villa or apartment to rent will be easy! Some of the popular areas for British expats include Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai and Arabian Ranches. We recommend finding a property agent to help you with your search to have a better understanding of what will work best.
Try to familiarise yourself with RERA laws, because all tenancy contracts in Dubai are governed by this
Rents in Dubai
If you compare the rents in Dubai to those in London, they are more or less similar. To put things in perspective, average rents for studios in Dubai Marina were AED 65k last year and AED 140k for 2-bedroom flats, which is actually less than what you would be paying in Canary Wharf. Compared to the other parts of England this might seem considerably higher but prices do decrease as you move away from the centre of Dubai into the suburbs. Rents are usually paid in post-dated checks, in quarterly, bi-annually or yearly payments. Some landlords do allow monthly payments, but that is not exactly a norm and can sometimes add up to be more expensive.
Settling into your Dubai Home
In Dubai, it’s quite easy to settle in once you find your home. There are several furniture and household goods stores including a few international favourites. Electricity and water are generally provided by DEWA, but this can change based on the area/building you are living in. During summer when temperatures soar up to over 40 degrees, expect your bills to be on the higher side since your air-conditioning usage will definitely increase!
Most residential areas also have a good selection of supermarkets and groceries which are similar to Asda and Sainsburys. British brand Waitrose has its own branch in Dubai Mall and Marina Mall; you can also find their products in the many Spinneys supermarkets across the city.
2. Getting Around Dubai
Once you have the house all sorted, you can think of moving on to the logistics of things. Londoners moving to Dubai will be happy to know that the emirate has its own metro. The relatively new metro lines in Dubai seamlessly connect most parts of the city and are the preferred mode of public transport for most Britons. For those opting to drive, you can easily convert your UK driving license to a UAE one by visiting any of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authorities Offices (RTA) and even transfer your No Claims Discount (NCD) for a reasonable motor insurance policy.
Average prices for cars in Dubai are similar to those in the UK, but petrol is considerably cheaper; a litre costs under 50 pence!
Government-run taxi fleets are a common sight on the roads and there has recently been a good reception to apps like Uber and Careem. Taxis are definitely cheaper than in the UK, so a trip home from the airport won’t mean you have to go without groceries for a week!
3. Schools for British Expats Moving to Dubai
The public schools in Dubai only cater to the Emirati population. For British expats in Dubai, there is a wide variety of private schools in Dubai offering international curriculums. Most Britons moving to Dubai enrol their children in GCSE schools, for a more familiar style of education. There are 58 British schools in Dubai, all vetted by the KHDA, giving British expats in Dubai a wide variety of choice when it comes to their children’s education.
The cost of education depends on the grade your child is in, the locations of the school and the management. The Cambridge International School, GEMS Wellington School and Regent International School are some of the top British schools in Dubai that are popular with British expats in the city.
4. Lifestyle in Dubai
Dubai has such a lot to offer in terms of lifestyle that deciding what to do on weekends will be quite the challenge!
Do you want to dance the night away in a luxurious lounge? Fancy a trip to the mall to pick up the season’s latest fashion must-haves? How about a tall glass of iced tea by the sea while you work on that tan? Done, done and done! These are all the amazing things British expats in Dubai get to enjoy
A culinary haven, a shoppers’ paradise and an Instagrammer’s delight; there are lots of ways to describe this bustling metropolis, but boring is certainly not one of them. Pints here are definitely pricier than in the UK and food tends to be marginally more expensive, but when you factor in the income-tax savings, your expenses in Dubai will more or less mirror those in the UK.
The city is well known for its gargantuan malls, which stock familiar UK high street favourites like Next, M&S, H&M, Mango and Zara. Some of the leading British department stores like Harvey Nichols and Debenhams have also found a home in Dubai’s malls, so there will be no pining for Westfield or Trafford Centre.
The wonderful thing about this city is that it’s not just about skyscrapers and opulent hotels. There are heritage sites in Dubai that are eternal reminders of the past, markets overflowing with spices and textiles and family-friendly parks where you can spend some quality time with your loved ones. For the sporty sorts, the lush golf courses, world-famous stables and abundance of water sports add even more allure to this emirate.
5. Cost of Living in Dubai
The initial few months after moving to Dubai from the UK will be a strain on your finances. There are rents to cover, things to be bought and other overhead expenses to take care of. After the first 6 months, your living expenses depend on a number of things like the place you live, the restaurants you frequent, how often you shop and what car you drive. If you are living in a penthouse in Palm Jumeirah, driving a Ferrari and lunching at Atlantis, the cost of living will definitely be higher than if you are in a council flat in Manchester.
You can definitely spend a pretty penny in Dubai, but most Britons end up saving a considerable amount that can go into their retirement fund.
We hope this guide helps you to make the right choices and transition easily into expat life in Dubai. It really is the quintessential city of superlatives, so we are positive you will enjoy living here. Here’s a short checklist to keep in mind when you are moving to Dubai from the UK:
- Sort out your visas and paperwork
- Make sure you have medical insurance
- Be careful, not to disrespect local traditions and sentiments
- Learning Arabic is not mandatory, but can be helpful
- Practise caution while drinking alcohol, you need a license to buy alcohol for your home, and drunken driving has zero tolerance
- Although the temperatures are high, malls and cinemas can get very cold
That concludes this moving to Dubai from UK checklist. We hope this article was helpful and answers the question of how to move to Dubai from UK.
Disclaimer: Visa rules are subject to change and can vary from company to company. To get up to date information on visa procedures and fees please get in touch with your employer/sponsor.