How to Move to Dubai: Everything you Need to Know
Are you seeking a life-changing experience, filled with new opportunities, diverse cultures, and a vibrant lifestyle? Look no further than Dubai!
This buzzing city, nestled within the United Arab Emirates, has rapidly become a global hub of innovation, luxury, and opportunity.
After living in Dubai for over a year, my only regret is not moving here sooner!
From out of this world culinary experiences to futuristic attractions to its strategic global location, it’s far exceeded all of my expectations.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the steps you need to take to make your dream of moving to Dubai, also known the ”Land of Gold” a reality, with all my insider tips included.
If you’re looking for the ultimate guide on moving to Dubai, this is it! ❤️🔥
Dubai Visa Options
If you’re looking to move to Dubai, obviously you’ll need to start with sorting your visa out.
To get a visa to live in Dubai, you generally need to have a valid reason to move here, such as work, investment, or family sponsorship.
Here are the most common ways to obtain a visa:
1. Dubai Employment Visa
This is an attractive option for professionals due to Dubai’s tax-free salaries!
Last year I was sponsored by a Luxury Hotel, as I worked in their Dubai Marina office. The process was pretty straightforward as employers will generally handle most of the paperwork.
For the purposes of the visa application, you’ll need to produce certain documents, including:
- A valid passport with at least six months’ validity
- Passport-sized photographs
- Copies of your academic and professional qualifications (attested and translated, if necessary)
Once your employer informs you that your work permit is approved, you can book your flight and enter Dubai. How long this will take of course varies, but my visa was approved in less than 2 weeks.
Upon arrival, you’ll receive a temporary visa stamp in your passport, typically valid for 60 days. This grace period allows you to complete the remaining steps of the visa process.
After arriving in Dubai, you’ll need to undergo a medical examination, which includes blood tests and a chest X-ray, to screen for certain communicable diseases. This can easily be done at the futuristic Smart Salem Medical Fitness Center. If you pass, you’ll receive a medical certificate, which is required for your residence visa application.
Next, you’ll need to apply for an Emirates ID card by visiting an authorised typing centre to complete your application and have your biometric information (photograph, fingerprints, and digital signature) captured. This can be done at any of the Amer typing centres located all over Dubai.
Finally, your employer will submit your residence visa application to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). Once your application is approved, your passport will be stamped with a residence visa, which is typically valid for two or three years and renewable.
Obtaining an employment visa in Dubai may seem like a daunting process, but with a little preparation and the assistance of your employer, it can be relatively straightforward.
Keep in mind that regulations and requirements may change, so always consult the official UAE government websites or the UAE embassy in your home country for the most up-to-date information.
2. Dubai Investor Visa
If you want to move to Dubai, but don’t have an employment visa, then think about getting an Investor Visa instead.
Dubai has emerged as a global business hub, attracting entrepreneurs and investors from around the world.
With its strategic location, excellent infrastructure, and business-friendly policies, Dubai is an ideal destination to set up and expand your business.
If you’re considering venturing into Dubai’s thriving business environment, you’ll need a business visa.
I chose to set up a freezone company because it has numerous tax advantages and allows for 100% ownership of the business. This is in contrast to the UAE mainland, where foreign investors are usually required to have a local partner who holds at least 51% of the company shares.
As setting up a company in Dubai can be quite complicated, I used Cavenwell to help. They’ve got a wealth of experience in corporate structuring and I truly couldn’t have managed the process without them!
Once your business is established or your investment is secured, you can apply for an entry permit granting you preliminary approval for your visa, which allows you to enter Dubai to complete the remaining steps of the application process.
Next, you’ll prepare the necessary documents for your business visa application, which typically include:
- A valid passport with at least six months’ validity
- Passport-sized photographs
- A copy of your entry permit
- Business registration documents or proof of investment
- A bank statement demonstrating your financial capability
- Health insurance coverage
Upon receiving your entry permit, you can enter Dubai. You’ll receive a temporary visa stamp in your passport, usually valid for 60 days, which allows you to complete the remaining steps of the business visa process.
After arriving in Dubai, you’ll need to undergo a medical examination, which includes blood tests and a chest X-ray, to screen for certain communicable diseases. This can easily be done at Smart Salem Medical Fitness Center. If you pass, you’ll receive a medical certificate, required for your residence visa application.
Next, you’ll need to apply for an Emirates ID card, which is a mandatory identification card for all UAE residents. To do this, you will need to visit an authorised typing centre to complete your application and have your biometric information (photograph, fingerprints, and digital signature) captured. This can be done at any of the Amer typing centres located all over Dubai.
Finally, you’ll need to submit your residence visa application, along with the required documents, to the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA). This can be done at their office in person or online through their e-services portal.
Once your application is approved, your passport will be stamped with a residence visa, which is typically valid for two or three years and renewable.
Acquiring a business visa in Dubai is a crucial step in realising your entrepreneurial dreams in this dynamic city.
While the process may seem complex, understanding the requirements and following the steps outlined above can help to make getting your investor visa and moving to Dubai way more manageable.
Always consult the official UAE government websites or the UAE embassy in your home country for the most up-to-date information.
Setting up a Dubai Business Bank Account
So, you’ve got your investor visa sorted, meaning you’re well and your way to moving to Dubai! Congratulations!
However, I must let you know that setting up a business bank account in Dubai can be quite complicated and can take forever (depending on your circumstances and which banks you try to set up an account with).
For me, after months of trial and error, Wio bank proved to be the easiest and best option when I moved to Dubai. They managed to set up my business bank account in just a few short days.
Note: To do this, I had to obtain the original company formation booklet from IFZA, which is the International Free Zone Authority, located in Building A2, IFZA Business Park. They also have the authority to stamp the board resolution granting you authority to open and operate a business bank account. You will need to pay a fee of AED409 for this service.
3. Dubai Family Sponsorship
The good news is that you can actually move to Dubai without a job or form of investment.
If you have a close family member who is a resident or citizen of the UAE, they may be able to sponsor your visa application.
The sponsor must meet certain income requirements and provide proof of their relationship to you.
4. Dubai Student Visa
Alternatively, if you’re planning to study at an accredited educational institution in Dubai, you can apply for a student visa.
You’ll need to provide proof of your enrolment, financial means, and other relevant documents.
Best Savings Accounts in Dubai
When moving to Dubai you may wish to open your own personal bank account.
Please check out the below table of all bank account options in Dubai, to help you understand which savings account will be best based on your personal circumstances.
Getting a Dubai Phone Contract
When I moved to Dubai I purchased a dual sim iPhone (available on Noon) to conveniently keep my UK and Dubai sim in my phone at the same time.
The network provider I’m with in Dubai is Du, as their flexi plan only costs me £11 per month.
Note: You’ll need to take your passport / Emirates ID to Du in order to obtain a Dubai phone contract.
E-sims are also particularly handy while you wait to become eligible for a local number. Airalo is an incredible app, which is available in Dubai, and gives you a variety of data packages to help make your travels as easy as possible.
Dubai Health Insurance
Obtaining global travel medical insurance is an absolute necessity when moving to Dubai. Also, if you are a Dubai resident, having health insurance is a legal requirement of moving to Dubai.
Nomad Insurance with SafetyWing is probably your best bet, as it covers emergency medical evacuation and bedside visits, starting at just $42 per 4 weeks.
While I hope you never have to use it, it’s there in case of emergencies that can seriously rack up expenses.
This is particularly important for Dubai, as although the healthcare system here is of high quality, it can be very expensive, especially for expats and visitors who likely won’t have immediate access to the public healthcare system.
One of my favourite features of SafetyWing Insurance is that you can use it as a subscription service, meaning you don’t have to pay for the whole year upfront. Instead, you’re charged every 28 days, until you cancel (for for a maximum of 364 days), which gives you the ultimate level of flexibility.
Another massive benefit of SafetyWing is that there’s no limit on travel duration, so you don’t need a return date (and a return ticket) in order to activate your insurance. So in my opinion, it’s the perfect safety net for anyone on the move!
Check SafetyWing Insurance out for yourself here:
Dubai Weather 🌞
Spring is a fantastic time to be in Dubai as you’ll find fewer crowds yet moderate temperatures, meaning it’s the ideal time to get out and explore your new home! You can visit places like the Dubai Opera, cruise the Dubai Creek, or just wander through the historic Al Fahidi district. Also, the Dubai Food Festival usually takes place during this time of year, offering a gastronomic journey through the city’s diverse food scene.
I won’t lie, the Summer is extremely hot in Dubai, with temperatures often exceeding 40°C. So you will likely spend most of the Summer days indoors and under the AC! However, we actually love the Summer in Dubai because there’s so many amazing deals, especially for residents. For example, we managed to book afternoon tea, a spa day (including a massage) at The Ritz for less than £100! What’s great about Dubai is that it’s truly a year-round destination, with so many amazing indoor activities you can do, like Ski Dubai, the Dubai Aquarium, or the Dubai Mall. Plus, you can attend the indoor Summer Surprises festival, which is a retail event offering massive discounts and entertainment options.
Autumn brings a much-needed respite from the summer heat, with temperatures gradually decreasing to a more comfortable range! It’s a great time to enjoy Dubai’s outdoor attractions, like the Miracle Garden, the Dubai Marina, or the Global Village. Autumn also marks the beginning of the sporting season, with events like the Dubai Rugby Sevens and the Dubai Fitness Challenge kicking off.
In terms of Dubai in Winter, the average temperatures are mild and range between 17°C and 30°C, making it the perfect time for beach activities and desert safaris. Winter is seriously vibrant with festivals, like the Dubai Shopping Festival, the Dubai Jazz Festival, and of course New Year celebrations. But this is also the peak tourist season, so expect larger crowds and higher prices.
Local Customs in Dubai
Dubai is home to a diverse population, and its culture is a unique fusion of traditional Arabic values and modern global influences.
Interacting with locals is one of the best ways to learn about Dubai’s culture. Emiratis are known for their warm hospitality and friendliness, which I’ve experienced firsthand on countless occasions! Take opportunities to engage in conversation, ask questions, and share experiences whenever you can.
One of the top things to know before moving to Dubai (or travelling here), is the dress code. While this Emirate is more liberal than other parts of the UAE, you should still dress modestly in public places. For example, I tend to cover my shoulders and knees when in public places, including shopping malls, restaurants, and government buildings.
When visiting mosques or other religious sites, women are expected to cover their hair with a headscarf and wear loose, long-sleeved clothing that covers their legs and arms.
When in doubt, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and dress more conservatively.
Regarding alcohol consumption, it’s good to know that this is no longer a criminal offence in Dubai! You are now permitted to drink at officially licensed establishments, such as hotels, restaurants, bars, and clubs. Dubai has also recently scrapped the 30% tax on alcohol sales, but you must still be at least 21 years old to buy alcohol legally in the UAE.
Despite the above, it is of course essential to behave responsibly. A prime example of what not to do in Dubai is being drunk in public, as this can still lead to fines, imprisonment, or even deportation!
Where to Stay in Dubai
Although Dubai does offer accommodation to cater to different preferences and budgets, I would say that if you plan to move to Dubai, renting is generally pretty expensive and can be highly inflexible.
Usually tenancy contracts require you to pay upfront for the entire year (and pay by cheque) which seems very archaic! For digital nomads and those with a tight budget, this is hardly ideal.
Believe it or not, hotel surfing could be your saviour. I have genuinely saved a small fortune by simply going onto Booking.com and looking for the best hotel deals I can find each week, filtered by my budget and the general area I fancy staying in! As I’ve now booked so many hotels I’ve unlocked Genius Status which gives me discounts on eligible hotel bookings. If you have the flexibility (and no family members or friends willing to take you in) this is actually one of the coolest and cheapest accommodation options in Dubai.
If you have less flexibility, I highly recommend staying at hotels that offer long stay discounts. Rove Hotels are a good example, as they offer discounts of between 20% – 50% when you stay there for a month or more. They’re well placed throughout the city and I actually lived at their Dubai Marina hotel for 6 months last year. This is an ideal option when you have a set place of work. I really enjoy the set up of Rove Hotels, as they have washing machines that you can use for a small fee and you can also arrange to have packages delivered to their mail box.
For the ideal Dubai Staycation, I highly recommend heading to Atlantis the Royal! I’m sure you’ve seen it all over Instagram, but in case you haven’t, this is the most iconic landmark in Dubai right now and will completely redefine your perspective of luxury!
If you want to get a feel for what it’s like to live in Dubai, check out my YouTube Short Video of ”A Day in the Life” Dubai Vlog ↓
Best Places to Eat in Dubai
If you move to Dubai, you’ll need to know where to eat!
In terms of the best restaurants in Dubai, there’s an incredible venue to suit literally every budget and occasion here.
These are my top picks:
Best Breakfast in Dubai:
Late Night Dinner:
To Work & Eat:
Most Instagram Worthy:
- Arabica % (by far the best coffee in Dubai)
- Night Jar (extremely strong coffee!)
- Starbucks Al Seef, (voted as the most beautiful Starbucks in the world!)
We tend to order a takeaway on the Careem app most nights of the week, as you can have pretty much any type of cuisine delivered straight to your front door / hotel room.
This sounds expensive but it’s actually saved us money. We very quickly discovered that the supermarkets in Dubai are wonderful but extortionate. Whereas you can literally order an incredible takeaway for as little as £3 – £4!
To save on delivery fees we upgraded to Careem Plus, which has saved us hundreds of pounds over the last year.
Best Things to do in Dubai
Somehow there seems to be something new and exciting to do every single day in Dubai!
Top tip for saving money: If you do move to Dubai, I highly recommend downloading the Entertainer App. This discount platform has loads of exclusive offers for restaurants and attractions, and it also includes the ENTERTAINER Travel, which gives you the chance to stay at the world’s best hotels at a discounted rate! It’s saved us a fortune over the past year
Read all about the best things to do in Dubai here ⁀➷
Getting Around Dubai
Once you’ve moved to Dubai, you’ll need to know how to get around it!
Taxis: After realising that Uber is very expensive in Dubai, we now get around the city by ordering a Hala Taxi (government taxi) on the Careem app. This is by far the most economical option taxi wise.
Buses: Dubai’s buses cover a vast majority of the city, making it an affordable and convenient way to travel. You can pay for bus rides using a Nol Card, which is a rechargeable smart card. You can purchase and top-up these cards at metro stations, bus stations, and some retail outlets. Fun fact: Loads of bus stops in Dubai are air-conditioned!
Metro: The Dubai Metro is also a clean, safe, and efficient way to travel around the city. It has two lines – the Red Line and the Green Line, which connect key areas like the airport, shopping malls, business districts, and tourist attractions. Trains run frequently, usually every 5-10 minutes, and operate from 5am (or 10am on Fridays) until midnight (or 1am on weekends). Fares are based on the number of zones traveled and can be paid for using a Nol Card.
Tram: The Dubai Tram operates in the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence area, connecting key locations like the Palm Jumeirah Monorail, the metro, and various hotels and attractions. The tram is another convenient and comfortable transportation option, with fares payable through the Nol Card system.
Monorail: The Palm Jumeirah Monorail connects the Palm Jumeirah island to the mainland, with a station at the entrance of the island near the Dubai Marina. The monorail is not part of the Nol Card system, so you’ll need to purchase a separate ticket at the station.
Car hire: Renting a car in Dubai can be a convenient option if you’re planning to explore the city at your own pace or visit areas not well-served by public transportation. When we hire a car, we tend to use Discover Cars as they’re a fantastic option for finding affordable car rentals.
To rent a car, you’ll need a valid driving license from your home country and an International Driving Permit (IDP) if your license is not in English or not from a GCC country.
Driving in Dubai, particularly downtown, can be crazy at times (mainly due to heavy traffic and complex road networks), so make sure you’re comfortable with this before renting a car!
Dubai Flight Hacks
If you live in Dubai, flying to and from it can be expensive! This is one of the disadvantages of living in Dubai (tragic I know!)
However, you can save money by opting to fly from Abu Dhabi instead (it’s only 45 minutes away from Dubai). We’ve flown from here with budget airline, WizzAir, on numerous occasions, including to the Maldives for less than £200!
Alternatively, you can spend less on flights by breaking up your journey. For example, we flew from Abu Dhabi – London for less than £200 by flying via Albania (we wanted to spend a few days in this underrated country anyway, so it worked out perfectly!) Flying via Berlin is also a great way to save money.
You can easily experiment with fares yourself on Kiwi.com.
Top tip: Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when checking flights (I personally use and recommend NordVPN). When you use a VPN, you hide your location and make it appear as if you’re browsing from a different country, and by doing this you can often find cheaper tickets!
Moving to Dubai is an exhilarating experience that opens the door to endless opportunities and personal growth. By using my travel guide and embracing the adventure, you’ll soon find yourself thriving in this incredible city. Don’t put off your dreams, the dazzling lights of Dubai await you!
If you have any questions about moving to Dubai or the UAE, feel free to ask me in the comments below, or connect with me on Instagram! 🇦🇪 ❤️
Top Tours in Dubai:
Explore the UAE’s Other Emirates:
Did you know that there are seven emirates in the UAE, which are all totally unique? I’ve explored each of them and can attest that they all offer something completely different, from gorgeous mountain scenery to stunning marine life, there are so many adventures you can have beyond Dubai.
You can read all about the best things to do in the UAE’s lesser known emirates below:
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