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The Best Places to Live in the UAE for Expats

Expats moving to the UAE should consider living in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm Al Quwain. Each of these seven emirates has unique landscapes, economies, and attractions that draw expats, depending on their interests and lifestyles.

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Are you an expat interested in living in the UAE? Are you not sure which emirate is right for you? Our team at Pacific Prime has compiled this article to introduce you to each of the seven emirates in the UAE. We’ll teach you about the capital city and municipalities in these emirates.

We’ve also included links to articles that go deeper into the best places to live inside each emirate, so you won’t want to miss those deep-dive articles. Expats will also find value in our comprehensive guide to moving to Dubai and what to expect when living in Dubai.

If you have further questions about the UAE, contact Pacific Prime. We are an award-winning international insurance broker who is here to help expats secure health and travel insurance for their global adventures.

Best Emirates in the UAE for Expats to Live In

The UAE has seven emirates for expats to live in: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, and Umm Al Quwain. Each emirate has a capital and several municipalities expats can choose from. 

Dubai Creek skyline, a top living choice for expats in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates have a mix of rocky desert, coastal plains and wetlands, and waterless mountains. The cities on the shores of the Persian Gulf have unspoiled beaches that attract many expats, tourists, and travelers.

Many have extremely modern and luxurious cities, while others have beautiful natural terrain in remote or agricultural locations.

Let’s take a look into each of the emirates below to discover which one fits your interests and needs!

Abu Dhabi: For Expats

Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate in the UAE, and it has three regions: Abu Dhabi City on the coast, Al Ain in the east, and Al Dhafra in the west. Abu Dhabi is home to expats and families from more than 200 nationalities who are drawn to the world-class quality of life, modernity, and hospitality.

Abu Dhabi, the City

Abu Dhabi the city is the capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. This city is consistently voted “the safest city in the world,” and it is a business hub that is experiencing incredible growth and expansion. This city has beachfront apartments, golf courses, and family-friendly communities.

Abu Dhabi's skyscraper skyline, a prime expat living destination in the UAE

Expats enjoy biking in Abu Dhabi, attending the splash park, skate park, and dog park at Sheikha Fatima Park, and the gorgeous borderwalks at Jubail Mangrove Park.

Read our blog post to learn about the best places to live in Abu Dhabi the city.

Al Ain

Al Ain is a city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate. It is an oasis city in fertile land at the base of Mount Hafit. Agriculture is the traditional profession in this region. This city has an airport, roads that connect with Abu Dhabi, the capital, museums, and a university.

Al Dhafra

Al Dhafra is the western municipality of the emirate of Abu Dhabi in the UAE. It covers about 71% of the total emirate’s area. Expats looking for a more remote residential experience will like the small population density in Al Dhafra. The US Al Dhafra Air Force Base is in this municipality.

Dubai: For Expats

Dubai, the emirate, is the second largest emirate of the UAE. It is also the second most populated. The capital of the Dubai Emirate is the city of Dubai, and this capital is the largest draw for expats in the UAE because of its luxurious lifestyle, modernity, and extravagant attractions.

Dubai downtown skyline, showcasing a premier expat residential area in the UAE

The Emirate of Dubai has four municipalities:

  • Dubai
  • Jebel Ali
  • Jumeirah
  • Hatta

If you’re serious about moving to Dubai, you may want to consider becoming a citizen of Dubai.

Dubai the City

Dubai is a city full of skyscrapers, ports, peaches, and businesses. Expats and tourists are drawn to Dubai for its massive tourism economy and world records, such as the world’s tallest building and the world’s largest mall. Many expats live downtown, at Dubai Marina, or at the Arabian Ranches.

Read our blog post to learn more about the best places to live in Dubai.

Ajman: For Expats

The Ajman emirate is the smallest emirate in the UAE. Ajman is divided into three regions: Ajman the city on the coast, the township of Manama, and the township of Masfout. Ajman, the city, is famous for its scenic beaches, hot springs, and mangrove forests.

Ajman the City

Ajman the city has safe, well-maintained neighborhoods that are attractive to expats from around the globe. Six of the best places to live in Ajman include Al Nuaimiaya, Al Rashidiya, Al Hamidiya, Ajman Downtown, and Al Mowaihat.

Read our blog post to learn about the best places to live in Ajman.

Manama

The municipality, or landlocked exclave, of Manama is in the foothills of the Hajar Mountains. It is an agricultural oasis with quarries and mines of magnesium and chromium.

Masfout

Masfout is the second exclave, or municipality, of the Ajman emirate. Masfout is in the mountains, and it is a small town with essential services such as farming, and it has a quarry for marble.

Sharjah: For Expats

Sharjah Emirate in the UAE consists of the capital city Sharjah and three coastal enclaves: Dibba, Khor Fakkan, and Kalba. Sharjah is known as the cultural capital of the UAE, and many expats are attracted to Sharjah for its rich history and stunning architecture.

Sharjah the City

The city of Sharjah is the third largest city in the UAE. It has many annual festivals, such as the Sharjah Light Festival, and Sharjah International Book Fair, and the Sharjah Biennial. Many expats love to live in Al Nahda, Al Majaz, Al Taawun, Al Khan, and Al Qasimia.

Read our blog post to learn about the best places to live in Sharjah.

Dibba

Dibba municipality of the Sharjah Emirate is a port town on the east coast of the Gulf of Oman. It is currently a small fishing village with palm groves and vegetable plots. It has roads and trails that link to other settlements, and it has a small local hospital. This may be for rural expats.

Khor Fakkan

Khor Fakkan is one of the most visited tourist sites in the Sharjah emirate. It has gorgeous rock formations and the rugged Hajar Mountains. The Khor Fakkan beach is beautiful, and expats enjoy sailing, kayaking, scuba diving, and more in the Gulf of Oman.

Kalba

Kalba municipality is a large attraction for expats interested in ecotourism. There are many sites to go wildlife spotting while trekking, kayaking, and scuba diving. Many are drawn to Kalba to spot an Arabian oryx. Another top attraction is the Bait Sheikh Saeed Bin Hamed Al Qassimi Museum.

Fujairah: For Expats

Fujairah emirate is the only UAE emirate without any territory on the Persian Gulf coastline, but it does have a coastline on the Gulf of Oman. This is the fifth-largest emirate in the UAE. This emirate consists of Fujairah, the city, the emirate capital, and the city called Dibba Al-Fujairah.

Read our blog post to learn about the best places to live in Fujairah emirate.

Fujairah the City

Fujairah City is a modern metropolis that is less well-known, but it is beginning to attract more expats. Fujairah has some of the lowest cost of living in the United Arab Emirates, and it has some of the coolest climates as well.

Dibba Al-Fujairah

Dibba Al-Fujairah is the second largest city in the emirate, and it has a developing tourism industry. This has a nice family friendly neighborhood with all your basic amenities. It has luxury hotels, gorgeous beaches, and a diving site called Dibba Rock.

Ras Al Khaimah: For Expats

Ras Al Khaimah is an emirate that produces the majority of the UAE’s crops. It harvests cabbage, onions, tomatoes, dates, tobacco, bananas, and more. Ras Al Khaimah city is the capital of the emirate.

Other towns and settlements inside the emirate are:

  • Al Jazirah Al Hamra
  • Rams
  • Khor Khwair
  • Diqdaqah
  • Khatt
  • Masafi
  • Huwaylat

Ras Al Khaimah the City

Ras Al Khaimah city is in the north of the UAE, and it has a booming economy with plenty of jobs for expats. This capital has a deeply rich culture and history with great political stability and low crime rates. Expats enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, sailing, and golf.

Read our blog post to learn more about the best places to live in Ras Al Khaimah the city.

Umm Al Quwain: For Expats

Umm Al Quwain emirate is the second smallest emirate in the UAE, and it has the smallest population. Traveling along the coast of the Persian Gulf, this emirate has many inlets, spits, and offshore islets. The capital, Umm Al Quain, is on one of these spits. Expats find quiet life in this emirate.

This emirate is the most remote, and it has beautiful, untouched land for expats seeking natural beauty and silence.

Here are a few of the areas expats may choose to live in:

  • Al Salamah
  • Al Rass
  • Al Baida
  • Emirates Modern Industrial Area
  • Umm Al Quwain Marina

Read our blog post to learn more about the best places to live in Umm Al Quwain.

Conclusion

The United Arab Emirates has many beautiful places to live: from the intensely luxurious attractions in Dubai to the serene and simple life in Umm Al Quwain. You get to decide for yourself what fits your dreams for your future home.

Because all expats need to make a health insurance plan for their new home, we invite you to talk with an insurance expert to learn more about how the healthcare system works in the UAE. We also encourage you to learn which UAE providers many expats choose to work with.

Pacific Prime offers a free resource to all expats, and we’re proud to share it with you! We have created a no-obligation insurance quote generator that allows you to compare insurance quotes from a number of insurance providers side by side. You can save your quotes to review later, and you can discover which plans meet your needs.

Try out this generator today, and read or watch this tutorial to learn how to use the tool.

Here are some additional resources expats may also enjoy:

Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Serena Fung is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, a global insurance brokerage and employee specialist serving over 1.5 million clients in 15 offices across the world. With 2+ years of experience writing about the subject, she aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog.

Serena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. As such, she is an avid advocate of mental health and is fascinated by all things psychology (especially if it’s cognitive psychology!).

Her previous work experience includes teaching toddlers to read, writing for a travel/wellness online magazine, and then a business news blog. These combined experiences give her the skills and insights she needs to explain complex ideas in a succinct way. Being the daughter of an immigrant and a traveler herself, she is passionate about educating expats and digital nomads on travel and international health insurance.
Serena Fung