Dubai, United Arab Emirates Report of what it's like to live there - 01/24/21
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?
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?
Washington, DC. There are easy non-stop options between 12-13 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live here?
5. 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?
Most of the housing is nice and spacious. En-suite bathrooms in almost every bedroom are great for guests and many of the houses have access to a pool. Some of the apartments are within walking distance to the Consulate. Most of the villas are 20-30 minutes away from the Consulate. Unfortunately, there are a lot of residential options near the major schools leading to 30-40 minute bus commutes (or 20 minute car commutes) for most of the kids.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Almost everything is widely available. Imported food is around 20% more expensive than the US, but there are lots of local options that are affordable.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Chicken broth and chicken noodle soup. Pork is available in the western grocery stores, but non-halal chicken products are almost impossible to find.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Anything and everything. The food is a B+, lots of pretty good options but not a lot of stand outs. Deliveroo is a popular delivery app.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Cockroaches and ants are always around! The concrete style of the homes helps with pest control.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Lots of expats have other expats as live-in helpers/nannies. Part-time cleaning and babysitting is widely available for around $10/hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Lots of availability, but I hear they are pretty expensive.
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?
Yes, all widely accepted and safe to use. Some merchants are cash-only, but they are the minority.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Lots of options but many churches are crowded.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is the language of communication in Dubai. You will likely never need Arabic but there are classes available throughout the city or through the Consulate.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
No! UAE takes the inclusion of persons with disabilities, or persons of determination as they are called here, very seriously. Taxi vans are parked in the front road outside of the airport. There are paved paths to the ocean. Public parks have ramps to the playground areas and somewhat accessible playgrounds. Persons of determination and a guest can go to free to almost every attraction in the country. While no place is perfect, this is probably one of the easiest cities for a physically disabled person to navigate.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, all safe. Taxis are also pretty cheap. The metro and bus routes are extremely cheap, clean, and nice, but they can’t get you many places quickly. It would be very hard to live car-free from the villas.
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?
Any car would be okay. Car maintenance is somewhat of an issue in general and more so for American cars.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. It can usually be installed a few days after arrival.
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?
Many EFMs work at the Consulate but there are also EFMs working on the local economy and consulting remotely.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Not many. There are some beach clean-ups, but there aren’t a lot of obvious options.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The UAE is a very safe place. It is nice to be able to explore back alleys and back roads with close to no worries.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The medical care seems pretty good overall.
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 quality is bad May-October.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Some of the housing, especially the apartments, have had major mold issues.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It is SO HOT June through September! The humidity is absolutely oppressive and even the ocean is too hot to swim in.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
June - September: Indoor season
March-May; October-November: Beach season
December-February: Desert season
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We homeschooled this year due to Covid, and it has been a great experience. Public schools here are only for citizens and private schools are expensive, so lots of expats choose to homeschool. There is a large community, Dubai and Northern Emirates Homeschooling.
We previously sent our older son to the American School of Dubai. I’d describe the school as okay. The educators are excellent and the campus has beautiful facilities. The academics weren’t a great fit for our son. We were used to the somewhat individualized learning typical in a lot of US public schools. ASD elementary school had the kids do lots of independent reading and writing which seemed great but didn’t connect with our son. There are lots of schools in Dubai, not many people seem totally satisfied with theirs, though.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
By law they are required to, but I have heard a lot of schools make excuses for why they can’t accept certain students.
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?
Widely available. I would recommend having kids attend pre-K at a daycare as opposed to elementary school because the daycares are somewhat more affordable. Maple Bear has a good reputation. Our younger son loved Mini-Miracles, but it is currently closed due to the pandemic.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Everything! Dubai Little League is very popular.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is huge but much smaller among Westerners. Overall the morale is pretty good.
2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This city is best for people that like luxury things, dining, and hotels. It is large enough, though, that most people or families could find their niche.
3. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Not many expats interact with Emiratis, but most people find friends with a range of backgrounds and nationalities.
4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Lots! Snorkeling at Snoopy Island, hiking in Hatta, sand boarding in the Sharjah desert.
5. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
We love Kidzania, Wild Wadi water park, and the Motiongate theme park. There are a bunch of hidden gems. I recommend following “Off the Beaten Track UAE” and “Real Mums UAE” to get ideas.
6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, both at the high-end in the malls and at low-end in the souks.
7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Lots to do and see. The public beaches are really nice and a 10 minute drive from most housing.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How bad the air quality is and that September would be unbearably hot.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, we have enjoyed our time here.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Sun screen, snorkel gear, and hiking boots. Bring winter gloves as you will need them at Ski Dubai.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Key to Dubai. Field Guide to the Emirates.