Dubai, United Arab Emirates Report of what it's like to live there - 08/05/11
Personal Experiences from Dubai, United Arab Emirates
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
East Coast USA. There are direct flights from Dubai to JFK -- about 13 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
Almost 1 year
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There are loads of options, especially over the last year or so with a bubble in housing that was constructed. Easy to find an apartment, with a very high vacancy rate especially in JBR, Marina and JLT. From this area it takes 15-20 minutes to drive downtown or 40 minutes by metrp
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Everything is available but more expensive than in the USA
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Everything is available here but more expensive.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Tons. Seems to be more expensive than in the USA
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
There are a few places, with each Mall having one
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Mail gets here, but it helps to use one of the delivery companies. Aramex has some sort of program where you can have a PO Box in the USA to which mail/packages can be sent, and they will automatically be forwarded to Dubai.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Lots of nannies are available on the market, for prices ranging from 900 AED per month to 2000 AED per month. Philippine nannies tend to be more expensive because of their better language skills. Check out expatwomensforum.com for details
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, lots of options.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credits cards are widely accepted. ATMs are all over the place.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Yes, local and international. Local papers (The National, Gulf News) are cheap (less than 1 USD per day). The FT is more expensive.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
If you have a car, probably not many. I think the metros are handicap-accessible and almost all apartments and office buildings have parking with elevator access. As Dubai is a modern city, the infrastructure seems designed to accommodate wheel chairs, etc.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are affordable and the metro is cheap. I have never have taken a bus, but there is an extensive bus system.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Don't bring one, as cars are cheap (no taxes or duties). Lots of used cars are available on the market. If you want to go camping in the desert, you obviously need a 4x4. Toyotas have the reputation of being able to handle the heat.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, but packages are based on speed and usage. Not cheap.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The two major carriers (Du and Etisalat) have lots of pre- and post-paid packages. GSM phones work here.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Normal. Suits and ties at the office. Lots of variability in public, with the beach attire including thongs. During Ramadan, one is supposed to dress more moderately. Dubai is "Middle East Lite"
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
So far so good; feels like Singapore here. The roads can be a bit dangerous, as drivers are very aggressive
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Lots of options. The American Hospital is quite good.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air is ok. During the summer it is quite hot, so one would want to stay indoors. During the infrequent sand storms, obviously, one doesn't want to be outside
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
There is never much rain. From October to May it is moderate -- warm during the day and tepid at night -- but from June through September it is VERY hot
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We have very little experience, as our son is two. From what I hear, schools are very expensive and of not great quality. You need to do research and probably stick to the International Schools
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I hear that children with special needs don't have many options. However, according to the local press there is a growing awareness
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Yes, lots of options. Also very expensive but quality it ok. We use Kidville.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Football (not the American kind) and tennis.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
90% of the population is expat.
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Lots of options.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for all, as there are lots of expats and lots of communities to find
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I think its there but as this is a Muslim country I don't think it's advertised.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I don't see much, but then again I stay away from the topics of religion or politics.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Family-friendly environment; easy to navigate; great infrastructure
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Beaches, desert, parks, movies, malls...
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Nothing unique in my opinion.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather during the winter is amazing
11. Can you save money?
Not really. Try to get a housing allowance.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
worries about living in the Middle East
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Dubai Explorer (updated every year). Arabian Sands for history. Purchase the Entertainer Coupon books when you arrive here to get discounts all over the place