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Moving To Dubai From The United Kingdom

Moving to Dubai from the United Kingdom (UK) is a big change in life. You need to carefully prepare and make the best decisions regarding housing, education, and healthcare. Be aware of cultural differences between the UK and Dubai.

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Are you wondering what life is like in Dubai? Are you still figuring out if you have enough money to live a better life in Dubai? 

This moving guide will give you useful information on visa application, cost of living in Dubai, housing options, and cultural differences to adapt to make your lifetime transition to Dubai smoother.

Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. Located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf, it has emerged as a global city and business hub of the Middle East, with a cosmopolitan atmosphere thanks to immigrants who make up the majority of residents. 

The city has developed at a lightning pace over the last few decades, rapidly transforming from a small trading port into a modern metropolis known for its iconic architecture, grand shopping malls, and luxurious hotels. Hence moving to Dubai is gaining popularity in recent days..

Applying for Visa

The very first thing you need to do before moving to Dubai from the UK is apply for a visa. Whether you are going to Dubai to study, work, or start a business, there are a few different options for UK citizens.

Burj Park In Dubai, Scenic View For Uk Expats Moving To UAE

Here are the main visa options for UK citizens visiting or moving to Dubai:

  • Golden Visa: The Golden Visa is for renewable long-term residents who have foreign talent coming to the UAE to live, work, or study. It is valid for 5 or 10 years. Holders enjoy the privilege of not needing a sponsor.
  • Work Visa (inside the UAE): There are three types of work visas for expats moving to the UAE to work inside the UAE. These are the Green Visa, the Standard Work Visa, and the Domestic Worker’s Visa.
  • Work Visa (outside the UAE): The Virtual Work Residence Visa is for expats who move to the UAE and work virtually from inside the UAE.
  • Retirement Visa: Retired expats from the USA who are over age 55 residing in Dubai or the UAE can get a long-term Retirement Visa for 5 years.
  • Student Visa: Expat students who move to Dubai to study apply for a Student Visa that lasts for up to one year at a time.
  • Residence Visa for Family Members: Employers and employees who have a valid UAE residence visa can sponsor residence visas for their family members. There are specific requirements for who can be sponsored.

The employment and family visa categories provide the most flexibility and long-term stay options for UK citizens interested in relocating to Dubai. Visa processing is handled by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).

Cost of Living in Dubai versus the UK

The cost of living in Dubai is about 35% cheaper than that in the UK, making the location ideal for those who want to live a better life at a more affordable cost. That said, the cost of living varies depending on your lifestyle, whether you prefer a practical or a luxurious way to live.

Dubai is a worldwide metropolis with unlimited potential for development, making it a popular place to live. But before that, you may want to know how much it costs to live in Dubai.

Let’s focus on the four most important aspects, namely properties, transportation, dining, and entertainment, followed by exact numbers so you can get your head around the average cost of living in Dubai.

Properties

Paying for rent or buying a house is probably the biggest sum of money you will ever spend in one go. However, Dubai has a lot of housing options that you can choose from to suit your budget.

The table below shows the average price to rent/buy a place in Dubai:

 

Options Price
Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in a residential area GBP £17,950-33,650 (AED 80,000-150,000) per year
Rent for a villa/townhouse GBP £33,650-112,200 (AED 150,000-500,000) per year
Buying an apartment GBP £2916 (AED 13,000) per square meter

 

Owning a place comes with utility bills to pay. Electricity and water bills add GBP £220-660 (AED 1,000-3,000) to your monthly expenses, up to GBP £1120 (AED 5,000) for villas. Internet packages are priced at around GBP £ (AED 100-300) per month.

Transportation

If you are looking to get around the city, here are some ways to do it.

Metro: It is the most cost-effective way to get around the city along with public transport like the bus and the tram. To travel unlimitedly in one or two zones, you can minimize the cost with a monthly Dubai metro pass that costs GBP £63-103 (AED 280-460).

Uber Taxi: Grabbing a taxi is inevitable in certain situations such as delays in public transport, in this case, Uber would be your good friend. The Uber fare for a 5-10km trip would be around GBP £3-7 (15-30 AED), which is much cheaper than getting a taxi in the UK.

Private car: Having your own car is going to benefit you the most in the long run. However, if you happen to own a car in Dubai, you will have to pay for annual car registration and insurance of around GBP £1,121-2,242 (AED 5,000-10,000), depending on factors including the price of your vehicle.

Dining

From budget-friendly street food to fine dining, Dubai as an international city has no shortage of options for a mesmerizing dining experience. Cuisine from all over the world is readily available. In general, an average restaurant meal is about GBP £22-56 (AED 100-250) per person. 

For daily home cooking, you can expect to pay GBP £45-112 (AED 200-500) per week for supermarket groceries and essentials.

Entertainment 

Entertainment is more affordable in Dubai than in HK, here are the prices for some activities that you can do in Dubai, either by yourself or with your family.

Cinema:  Single ticket ranges from GBP £7-14 (AED 30-60).

Dubai Aquarium: A family visit to the aquarium costs around GBP £67-112 (AED 300-500)

Dubai Festival City Mall entertainment zone: Entry to the zone is GBP £11-33 (AED 50-150) per head.

Depending on your lifestyle, you might be spending more in certain areas, nonetheless, the average costs for entertainment are more affordable in Dubai than in the UK.

Housing Options in Dubai

As a rapidly developing international city, there is no shortage of apartments and villas offered for expats. Depending on your personal preferences and lifestyle, it is essential to think twice before settling on one option.

Brown boat cruising Dubai Canal, UAE - a view for UK expats

Below are some popular residential areas in Dubai favored by numerous expats:

Downtown Dubai

Downtown Dubai is a bustling neighborhood with upscale restaurants, entertainment centers, international food markets, and more. This neighborhood comprises five residential areas for locals and expats: Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Dubai Opera, Old Town, and City Walk.

The benefits of living in this area include its proximity to iconic landmarks and attractions and the provision of luxury apartments next to world-class amenities. Residents enjoy a modern and trendy lifestyle, with everything just a few steps away from home.

Mirdiff

Mirdiff is one of Dubai’s fastest-growing residential areas embodying convenient and affordable housing options for expats and families. The suburb provides easy access to Dubai’s main business areas such as Business Bay and Dubai Festival City. 

The highlight of living in the area is the family-centered amenities and activities within the neighborhood. Shopping malls, amusement parks, cinema complexes, and recreational areas are scattered in the area, providing entertainment and daily needs for residents in the area.

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina is a collection of close-knit communities close to major business areas of Dubai, with modern amenities from state-of-the-art healthcare facilities to dynamic activities available to expats.

Situating along the Persian Gulf, it offers its residents just the right balance between tranquility and excitability. Expats and expat families are sure to enjoy the modern and sophisticated lifestyle brought to you by the seaside metropolis.

Al Barsha

Al Barsha comprises premium accommodation quality at an accessible location, with top-of-the-line amenities offered to residents. Featuring diverse and vibrant cultures, the area is favored by expat communities.

The neighborhood offers the perfect balance between city and suburb, with plenty of leisure activity options and greenery parks to cater to individual standards and requirements. Complemented by an abundance of quality schools, families can be hands-free about their children’s education.

Jumeirah Beach Residence

Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) is a waterfront community situated in-between the Persian Gulf and Dubai Marina, comprising thousands of apartments perfect for those who want to prioritize a convenient lifestyle.

The sophisticated development of the area makes schools, hospitals, entertainment areas, and recreational facilities all accessible by foot or public transport within a close distance. Whether you wish to enjoy the food, nightlife, or beachside, JBR is for you.

An honorable mention would be Emirates Hills. It is probably the poshest area in Dubai which offers customizable luxurious villas for expats with a bigger budget. It is not for everyone, but if you get a chance to stay in the area, the mesmerizing landscape is sure to impress you.

If you wish to learn more about residential areas for expats in Dubai, feel free to check out the best places to live in Dubai for expats and families.

Healthcare 

The significance of health insurance in the UAE is more than just meeting your visa requirements, as it provides financial protection against high medical costs, ensures access to quality healthcare services, and empowers residents to navigate the healthcare system with confidence.

In Dubai, there are various types of health insurance plans available to meet the diverse needs of residents, including individual plans, family plans, expat plans, and international plans. You can choose whatever plan that meets your or your family’s medical needs.

Dubai Marina's luminous night skyline, a lure for UK migrants to UAE

According to the Cost of Health Insurance Report 2023, Dubai has climbed the 4th spot in individual IPMI and family premiums, up 8% and 11%, respectively. The major reason is the top-notch healthcare delivery services delivered across all medical institutes in Dubai.

For IPMI, the cost of insurance starts from GBP £123 (AED 550); and for extensive coverage, you can expect the premiums to start from GBP £1,230 (AED 5,500). For a family of 4, you can expect to pay approximately 3 times the premiums of individuals, starting from GBP £3,800 (AED 17,000).

Education 

Dubai has a growing international school system that caters to the large expat population. English is the primary language of instruction in most international schools. The tuition fee is averaged at GBP £614 (AED 2750) per month per child.

Education standards are generally high. There are various private international schools in Dubai affiliated with curriculums from the UK, US, India, Pakistan, and other countries. Some of the more prominent international school systems include:

In addition to private international schools, there are also public schools run by the Dubai government that follow the UAE curriculum and teach in both Arabic and English. You can freely choose which school is better for the future of your children.

Expat children have a good prospect of career development as the rapid growth of Dubai’s economy has created a strong demand for internationally educated and multilingual graduates to work across various industries.

Cultural Differences In Dubai

Cultural differences are inevitable, with aspects such as language, clothing, food, weather, and driving in the UAE being very different from those in the UK. Adaptation to an entirely new environment is arduous, but once you have successfully achieved the mission, it could be rewarding.

One & Only Royal Mirage Palace Hotel in Dubai, luxury for UK movers

Here is a list of cultural differences that you may need to take into account:

Language

For the language used in the UAE and in Dubai, the official language is Arabic. You might be wondering if it would be necessary for you to at least learn some basic communication in Arabic. But worry not. Most residents are fluent in English, especially in an international city like Dubai.

What’s more, there are a lot of expats from all around the world living in the city of Dubai, you should have no problem navigating through the city at all.

Clothing

The dress code in Dubai is similar to that in the UK but with some limitations. In the UK, women have a right to choose what to and what not to wear without any coercion; whereas in Dubai, there are a few rules that women have to comply with.

  • Do not wear anything too short or revealing
  • Sleeveless tops or shorts are okay, but hot shorts and crop tops are considered inappropriate in public areas except if you are in beach or clubbing areas
  • Sleeveless tops and shorts are not recommended if you are going to visit a religious place or a mosque

Food

From hummus to shawarma, some traditional Arabic food is no stranger to UK citizens. All of these are commonly seen in Kebab shops on the streets and supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s. That said, if you are looking to satisfy your taste buds with other cuisines, Dubai got you covered.

Dubai is packed with cuisines from all over the world, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and all that you can think of. Understandably, you might want to crave some British food once in a while to reminisce about the taste of home cooking, there are some famous British restaurants in Dubai too.

Weather

The temperature and humidity is probably the greatest difference between the UK and Dubai in terms of weather. Forget about your winter clothes and treat yourself to a few bottles of sunscreen. 

Unlike the rainy, cold, and humid weather in the UK, you can expect the weather in Dubai to be the complete opposite. The lowest temperature in Dubai averages at 15oC and maxes out at 25oC in January, whilst the highest temperature averages at 30oC and maxes out at 44oC in August. 

Driving

When it comes to driving, which could probably be your main tool for getting around, you should be aware of the differences between UK and Dubai driving. Here are some of the major adaptions that you should get used to to avoid accidents or fines.

  • Side of the road: Cars drive on the right side of the road in Dubai, unlike the left in the UK. So you sit on the opposite side of the car.
  • Right of the way: Vehicles coming from the right have the right of way at intersections in Dubai, unlike the UK, where it’s the left. 
  • Roundabouts: Entries and exits from Dubai roundabouts are counter-clockwise, unlike clockwise in the UK. 
  • License: You need an International Driving Permit or license swap to drive in Dubai. License from the UK can be exchanged for 3 years. 
  • Car format: The steering wheel is on the right side in Dubai, unlike the left side in the UK. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the requirements and process for a UK citizen to relocate long-term to Dubai? 

UK citizens can relocate to Dubai by obtaining a residence visa, usually sponsored by an employer who handles the application process. Applicants need proof of a Dubai job offer and income.

What factors are motivating British citizens to relocate to Dubai in increasing numbers? 

Many Brits move to Dubai for career opportunities, higher salaries tax-free, lower living costs, and a desirable climate. Good schools, abundant amenities, and close proximity to Britain also attract UK expatriates.  

Do UK passport holders have the right to take up employment and reside permanently in Dubai?

Yes, UK passport holders have the right to live and work long-term in Dubai so long as they follow immigration rules like obtaining an employment visa or investing sufficiently in a Dubai business or property. 

Under what circumstances or conditions would relocating from the UK to Dubai be considered worthwhile or advantageous by most expatriates?

Relocating can be worth it for better career prospects, higher earnings potential, and lifestyle perks like no income tax if overseas roles match skills and interests. However, big cultural switches and high costs of housing might temper relocation pros.

Conclusion 

Sufficiently preparing yourself and your family before moving to Dubai can make the transition a lot smoother. Secure individual or family health insurance on top to keep your loved ones physically and mentally fit without worrying about financial issues.

If you are from other countries like Canada and China looking to move to Dubai, we also have the most up-to-date information provided for you.

As a global insurance broker, Pacific Prime Dubai’s team of medical insurance specialists is experienced in offering unbiased advice and comparing premium prices across various top insurance companies around the globe to help you find the best plan for your needs and budget.

Contact us today for more information and an obligation-free quote!

Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Eric is an experienced content writer specializing in writing creative copies of marketing materials including social media posts, advertisements, landing pages, and video scripts.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Eric was exposed to a new world of insurance. Having learned about insurance products extensively, he has taken joy and satisfaction in helping individuals and businesses manage risks and protect themselves against financial loss through the power of words.

Although born and raised in Hong Kong, he spent a quarter of his life living and studying in the UK. He believes his multicultural experience is a great asset in understanding the needs and wants of expats and globe-trotters.

Eric’s strengths lie in his strong research, analytical, and communication skills, obtained through his BA in Linguistics from the University of York and MSc in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Bristol.

Outside of work, he enjoys some me-time gaming and reading on his own, occasionally going absolutely mental on a night out with friends.
Eric Chung