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Living in Dubai

Living in Dubai means living in the most important expat destination in the Middle East. Does this sound like a great idea to you? Read our InterNations Expat Guide to find out what to expect from life in Dubai! Learn all about accommodation, healthcare, and education for expat children.
Hotels are often the only housing option for expats on a temporary visitor visa.
  • New laws and guidelines give expats a clear understanding of renting in UAE.
  • Education is of a high standard and there are many international schools in Dubai.
  • Apply for your health card early and look into private medical insurance.

Expats living in Dubai used to experience a booming metropolis with a prosperous economy, but, of course, the economic crisis of 2008/2009 also affected life in the emirate. However, Dubai’s economy is slowly recovering and the emirate is on its way to once again becoming the economic center of the UAE. Dubai is divided by a creek into the Deira district in the northeast and Bur Dubai in the southwest.

Cultural Understanding

As in the rest of the UAE, life in Dubai is dominated by the Islamic religion, with a mosque in almost every district. The most famous and most beautiful, the Jumeirah Mosque, is an integral part of life in Dubai. The Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding organizes visits to this mosque for non-Muslims and expatriates. Its intention is to further the understanding of expats and tourists for cultural and religious heritage of the Emiratis.

With these and other activities, the government aims to portray the experience of living in Dubai as fascinating and the city as the number-one location for tourists and expats in the Arabian Gulf area.

Finding Accommodation in Dubai 

In Dubai, only legal residents can rent an apartment and have utility services connected. If your residence permit has not been issued yet, ask your employer to give you proof that your permit is being processed.

The tenancy agreement should contain all relevant information and has to be registered with Ejari (Arabic for “my rent”), a system governed by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). RERA also passed a law for tenants and landlords, creating a framework for living in Dubai’s rented properties, including obligations of both parties, eviction, general rules, and final judgment. The law is supposed to protect citizens and expats from high costs, unlawful evictions, and other issues.

Renting Accommodation

If you want to rent a place for living in Dubai, you should only use brokers or agents which are officially registered and hold a Broker’s Registration ID card. Their office must have a license issued by the Department of Economic Development. An official real estate agent normally receives a payment of 5% of the annual rent. This fee is paid when signing the lease.

If you should be settling down in Dubai on a temporary visitor visa, you cannot sign a fixed-term tenancy agreement. However, some brokers offer short-term lease accommodation for those who want to live in a more private setting than a hotel room. Due to short supply, this option is rather expensive. Regardless of the duration of your tenancy agreement, make sure you never use an unregistered broker or agent when renting an apartment.

The documents expats have to present for renting a place include a copy of their passport, a copy of their residence permit, and a statement of income from their employer. A formal tenancy application and a security deposit (usually around 4 weeks’ worth of rent) are required as well. Moreover, most contracts require you to pay rent in advance when living in Dubai. The rent is usually paid in four stages, covering three months at a time, but these terms are negotiable.

Utilities in Dubai

Established in 1992, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) supplies all households with adequate and reliable utilities supplies. Their customer care center is always willing to assist expats living in Dubai. There is also the option to activate your supply online - a convenient method for people leading a stressful life in Dubai’s business world.

When you contact the DEWA to activate your utilities connection, you will be asked to pay a deposit. This fee is usually about 2,000 AED for a normal apartment and 4,000 AED for a villa. Once you have submitted all the paperwork and paid the fees, your supply will be activated immediately.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 



Peter B. Krehmer

"There are so many expats in the UAE, but the InterNations Dubai Ramadan dinners brought some wonderful guests together. "

Suzanne Payne

"Dubai is such an overwhelming mixture of tradition and modernity that I was very grateful for all the support from other expats. "

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