Movinhand's Guide For Workers Moving To Dubai From The UK
Have you landed a job in sunny Dubai? If yes, you are probably on cloud nine, dreaming of sandy beaches and shisha-fuelled 1,001 Arabian nights.
Live your dream, but don't forget that moving to Dubai from the UK is a unique cultural experience, especially if it's the first time you will be living abroad.
So here's 15 valuable tips that will help you prepare for a long stay in the most famous city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
If you have landed a job with a Dubai-based employer, wave goodbye to HRMC and its yearly tax bills. Individual residents in Dubai pay zero income tax, which means that you will keep the 20% of your income that you would pay for tax in the UK, rising to 40% for income above the £41,865 threshold. Plus, you will pocket the 12% you would normally cough up for National Insurance Contributions. Not bad, right?
And the good news doesn't stop there. Some UAE employers will also pay your council tax, which can be even heftier than its UK equivalent. If you haven't already signed a contract you can politely ask your employer about that, unless you work in the hospitality industry - most hotels and even some restaurants offer free or subsidised accommodation to employees.
Healthcare is private in Dubai and NHS doesn't have a Dubai outpost unfortunately, so make sure that your employer provides a good medical insurance plan that covers you and your family.
One day you will move to pastures new and wave goodbye to Dubai's sunny beaches, so you will probably want to transfer money from Dubai back to the UK. For freewheeling techies there is bitcoin, but PayPal, TransferWise and CurrencyFair, all digital money transfer services, are much safer options. Definitely, stay away from the traditional off-line money transfer companies - they will charge you a bucket load of money for a simple transaction.
You will probably need to open a bank account in Dubai if you are staying there for more than a few months. All the major UK banks have branches in UAE, but HSBC is the best option, as they allow you to open an expat type account and thus convert your money into local currency (dirham) or dollars. You will still be paying commission for banking abroad though. If you want to avoid that, you can opt for the local banks, NBAD and Emirates NBD being the top options. Pick the one your employer uses, it will make your life easier.
As you probably know already, UAE is literally a 'petroland', being one of the world's major oil exporters. Petrol is relatively expensive in comparison to other Middle Eastern countries, but still, if you are moving to Dubai from the UK you will be amazed when you hit the gas station. Suffice to say that one litre of petrol roughly costs 2 AED (38 p), which means that it's around three times cheaper than what you would pay in Britain.
Dubai is no pedestrian-friendly city, so you will probably need a car for your everyday commute, specially from early spring to late autumn when temperatures can be as high as 50 °C. You can use your UK driving licence in Dubai if you rent a car from a local company. Alternatively, you can get a temporary UAE driving licence for 6 months from the Traffic Police Office in Dubai.
Of course you will have to adjust your driving style to continental standards and thus drive on the right side of the road. Don't forget that UAE has one of the highest road accident mortality rates in the world, so beware and take it easy at the wheel.
Non-drivers, don't lose heart. Taxis are a bargain in Dubai, charging around 40p per kilometre. No worries about safety, as all vehicles are licensed and charge fixed prices for most routes. Dubai also has an accurate and clean public transport system, including a metro service that can take you to most parts of the city.
No reason to worry about being mugged in Dubai - it's much safer than the streets of any British city. But this is the Middle East, so no pornography or drugs, please. You should also avoid consuming alcohol or getting intimate with your partner in public places. The local police have a zero tolerance policy, so you don't want to end up in jail, be deported or, even worse, have your air conditioner confiscated.
Various types of prescription medication that are allowed in the UK are banned or are restricted in Dubai, so make sure that you always have with you the prescription with your name on it.
You can buy alcohol in Dubai, which is great and unusual for Middle East standards, but only at licensed restaurants and hotels. Plus, it is taxed by the local authorities, which makes it particularly expensive - even at pubs in Dubai (yes, there are loads of them) you will have to pay at least £5 for a pint.
You will need to get an alcohol license for around £30 to be able to buy alcohol outside of a licensed establishment. This will give you access to liquor stores, the equivalent of UK off-licence stores and practically the only places where you can get alcohol for a private binge.
If you are a shopping aficionado, Dubai is your dream destination. The exotic souks, as local marketplaces are called in Arabic, are ideal to purchase glitzy jewels at amazing prices. Don't hesitate to haggle, the local salesmen almost get offended if you don't. There are also several malls hosting all major brands, perfect for a non-stop shopping spree or just a stroll with the family.
Around 85% of Dubai residents are expats, so rents can be pricey in the residential areas preferred by well-heeled expats: Palm Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, the Marina, Al Barsha, Downtown Dubai and Jumeirah Beach Residences. A one-bed apartment, for example, will cost you anything between £17,000 and £22,000 and a two-bed apartment between £25,000 and 30,000 GBP, but you may get a bargain in less posh areas such as International City, Silicon Oasis and Deira.
Last but not least, don't forget your sunscreen! Say goodbye to mist, fog and rain and get a bronze tan that will keep you going when you come back home!