I visited Dubai for a holiday stopover, but I can’t lay claim to knowing the city. So I got in touch with a fellow blogger, Sheli Msall who is based there. Sheli is a US registered dietician now living in Dubai. For anyone considering moving to Dubai, here is her snapshot of life in the dazzling Emirati city…
What are the main pros and cons of living in Dubai?
There are many pros to living in Dubai. Entertainment options are limitless, and you can find direct flights to just about anywhere. The city is clean, easily accessible, and welcoming. Housing and vehicles are reasonably priced. It’s a great place to have family and friends come to visit. It’s also almost always summer here and you can enjoy the beach and pools almost year round (apart from the sweltering summer months).
The biggest con is the price of alcohol, if that’s something you’re interested in.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is very easy to rack up dept here. High credit card limits and easily accessible loans can allow you to live a life outside your means.
Another disadvantage could be that it’s almost always summer here. While it’s very enjoyable during the fall, winter, and spring, you won’t find four different seasons like in many western countries.
What’s the lifestyle like?
The lifestyle in Dubai can be just about anything you would like it to be!
If you’re feeling lazy, there are plenty of amenities: grocery delivery and petrol re-fueling at your home, office, or any other location. There are apps for laundry pick up and delivery, home cleaning services, pet grooming, and so on.
However, if you prefer a healthier lifestyle, there are plenty of options too. A wide variety of gyms and fitness studios are located all over the city. In addition, ClassPass is a scheme offering a huge number of fitness classes and includes massage and beauty treatments as well.
There are usually healthy options in most restaurants, including vegetarian and vegan dishes, plus many dedicated meat-free establishments. Most grocery stores offer an organic section and organic health-food stores are also available. Fruit and/or vegetable subscription boxes are common too.
During the cooler months most people prefer to spend time outdoors. There are plenty of green spaces to enjoy.
Dubai is also striving toward environmentally friendly initiatives and many restaurants and other establishments are beginning to go plastic-free.
Is it OK to move to Dubai without a job?
Ideally you should already have a contract in place before moving to Dubai.
You can only remain in Dubai for one month on a tourist visa, though most western passport holders can extend their visa for an additional month.
This means that if you have an offer from two companies and you’re not sure which you’d prefer, you could arrive in Dubai to check them out in person. But you’d have to choose pretty quickly as the process for a work visa does take some time.
Anything you should pack or ship when moving to Dubai?
Most housing options in Dubai are completely unfurnished. If you prefer, you can move your own furniture rather than shopping for new on arrival.
Many expats I know have shipping allowances as part of their salary package. Typically shipments are speedy.
If you do prefer to purchase new furniture, there are plenty of options, as well as second-hand marketplaces.
What is the cost of living in Dubai like?
As for accommodation, the housing market is great for buyers and renters right now. Dubai currently has an excess of housing, which is helping to keep costs low and negotiable.
Dubai is also very safe, so you can focus more on the area that you’d like to be in without worrying about street crime.
It’s worth noting that it’s rare to find properties that allow you to pay rent on a monthly basis. Most want a certain number of checks per year, which you provide upfront, post-dated. Typically, four checks are acceptable, meaning you pay three months per check. You can sometimes negotiate a lower rent if you’re willing to pay in fewer checks.
To give you an idea, for a two-bedroom accommodation rent in a good area of town, you can expect to pay between 100k-140k AED per year.
As for eating out, this can range from relatively affordable to the extravagant. If you’re looking to include an alcoholic beverage or two though (from restaurants in or attached to a hotel only), you can expect a pricey bill. There are always deals going on though, including ladies nights, happy hours and weekend brunches.
Day trips, usually to Oman, offer a great and affordable getaway.
However, don’t expect inexpensive petrol prices that can be found throughout many other Middle Eastern countries. Petrol prices in UAE are on par with prices found in the US.
Can you live in Dubai unmarried?
It is possible to live in Dubai unmarried and many people here do just that.
There are some laws that you should definitely be familiar with though. Public displays of affection between unmarried couples is against the law. It’s even frowned upon between married couples. This applies more in public areas rather than private venues, however.
What’s it like to live in Dubai as a woman?
Living in Dubai as a woman is not much different than living in the west.
In older, more traditional areas it’s respectful to wear loose clothing that covers your knees and shoulders. An easy way to make sure you always have the option to cover your shoulders is to keep a scarf with you.
Dubai is also a very safe place for western women and many leniencies are provided. Still, you should be careful and take precautions, especially if you plan to go somewhere that serves alcohol.
Is it safe to live in Dubai?
Dubai is considered by many to be a ‘modern surveillance state’. There are many pros and cons to this, but one of the big pros is that it significantly reduces crime.
I have never felt even mildly uncomfortable walking alone at night or any other time of day. Crimes are punished very severely, which is a major deterrent.
Driving in Dubai, and all of the UAE, is also very civilized and much safer than any other Middle Eastern country I’ve ever visited.
What is your number one piece of advice you’d give anyone moving to Dubai?
Manage your money well. Things could get very out of hand if you have a tendency to try to keep up appearances before you have the cash to be able to do so.
All in all is it worth moving to Dubai ?
I haven’t been in Dubai for very long, but so far, yes. I am thoroughly enjoying living in Dubai, so I would definitely say that it is worth it to live here.
I do not have children, but I should also mention that there many great and competitive schools here with great extracurricular options for kids of all ages. So far I really have no complaints!
Sheli blogs at nutritionistaabroad.com. Follow her journey for worldwide travel advice, healthy recipe ideas and eco-friendly solutions.