Industry Low-down

Guide To Living And Working In UAE

Published on: 01-01-2015

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates which includes Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. It is the 6th oil richest area and one of the world’s wealthiest nations per capita GDP. The IMF describes UAE as a high-income developing economy. There is a large and growing ex pat community in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and the architecture and design industries are strong.


UAE Accommodation

The tax-free, high salary haven that was once prescribed to the life of the ex pat in UAE is no longer the same. While you can still thrive there, costs of living have gone up and benefits packages are looking less impressive. It is up to you to live a life of opulence or to live cheaply and conveniently. Based on a 2 bedroom flat: You can find cheap accommodation out of central locations for around £7,000 a year. For around £14,000 you can live closer to a central location in an apartment with a shared pool. For £17,500 you can live in an expat apartment with all amenities.

UAE Transport

A private car is a necessity in UAE. Public transport is fairly minimal and taxis can end up costing a lot. Petrol is also a lot cheaper here than you may be used to back home. Buying a car in the UAE will cost you more than it would back home. So it is worth working out how much it would cost to ship your current car over. For many, this works out cheaper!

One thing to look out for – speeding and parking tickets are extremely high!

UAE Culture

Often thought of as an ex pat paradise (with 80% of the population foreign born), the UAE’s rapid developments have made it a relatively easy place to relocate to. You can expect an excellent mobile phone system, air conditioning in modern buildings (temperatures can rise up to 50°C in Summer) and plenty of other expats from the UK.

Though the majority of those living in Abu Dhabi are foreigners, behaviour in the emirate is nonetheless mandated by the Muslim religion, and its essential expats familiarise themselves with local laws and learn to respect traditional Arab culture. If your new role in the UAE is a managerial one you need to prepare yourself for working with a wide variety of ethnicities – whilst most people we talk to find this a positive and exciting experience, others find it a challenge.

UAE Food

Local food stuffs will be considerably cheaper than western imports. You can eat out at Indian, Arabic, Chinese or African restaurants for little more than the cost of eating in. However, eating in Hotel restaurants or bars will incur a much greater bill. Everyday food items will not be much different from home (15 fresh eggs will cost around £1.50 for example). So it’s really up to you how much you spend on food here. Alcohol is extremely expensive and it is advised that you buy this in duty free areas of the airport. An average bottle of wine will cost you £13.

UAE Schooling Costs

Schooling costs are extremely high for expats as they will not be allowed to attend public school. You should be prepared to pay around £8,000 a year upwards for a good quality school. School fees is something you should approach your employer about before you sign a contract. Many expats will have school fees paid for by their employer an this makes transition to the UAE a lot easier.

UAE Public Holidays (based on 2016 dates)

  • 1 January – New Year’s Day
  • 5 May – Israa & Miaraj Night
  • 6 July – Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
  • 7 July – Eid al-Fitr Holiday
  • 10 September – Arafat (Haj) Day
  • 11 – 13 September – Eid Al Adha Holiday
  • 2 October – Hijri New Year’s Day (Islamic New Year)
  • 30 November – Martyrs’ Day
  • 2 December – UAE National Day
  • 3 December – UAE National Day Holiday
  • 11 December – Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday

UAE Healthcare Costs

In Abu Dhabi, employers are legally required to provide expats with health insurance. So luckily, this is one cost assignees won’t need to concern themselves with. That said, some employers use local health insurance, which is not recommended for those at-risk individuals who have significant health issues. If you are older or in poor health, you may need to maintain health insurance in your home country and make sure your employer finances emergency evacuation insurance. Otherwise, local health care is up to standard for minor issues. Healthcare standards are considered to be fairly high in the UAE. Healthcare is free only for UAE citizens.

A family of four can expect to pay around £5,000 a year for full medical insurance. A 30 year old female can expect to pay around £700 a year.