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This, then is Dubai…

Some facts on Dubai worth noting:


First thing. The weekend here is Friday and Saturday, so the work week starts with Sunday. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but you’ll get there. Friday is well known here for brunches. Most work places operate on a five days a week schedule, but some have exceptions and work six.

Getting around

Dubai has a fairly robust public transit system – operated by the RTA. The Dubai Metro is the highlight of the public transit system – it is fast, comfortable, air conditioned and driverless. Best of all it is super punctual. Standard fares start at Dhs 3 and goes up to Djs 7.50. The Dubai Metro goes from one corner of the city to another, has stops at the airport, and helps you reach major destinations acts the city. From most Dubai Metro stations you can jump on to a connector bus, provided it is on the route to where you want to go. 

Taxis are very easy to get, they are absolutely modern vehicles, air-conditioned, and metered. The approximate cost is around Dhs 1.85/km with fares starting at Dhs 5, with the minimum fare being Dhs 12. There are two main app-based ride services – Uber and Careem. Unlike in many countries, in Dubai, Uber is operated by companies, rather than individual drivers. You’ll get absolutely top end car to ride in (most are Lexus), they are totally reliable, and very punctual and quick to arrive.

Tax Free Dubai?

Yes, Dubai is technically ‘tax free’. That’s if you’re thinking of your income being taxed. You do not pay any tax on your income whatsoever to the Dubai government. You are still required to report and pay taxes depending on your tax status with your home country.

Dubai introduced a 5% VAT on all goods and services in 2018. Most long time residents were fearful of it in the beginning, but VAT is something everyone just takes as granted. Most stores will display prices inclusive of VAT – so there’s no 5% added on at the end. VAT applies to everything – clothes and apparel, restaurants, hotels, gas, groceries, etc.

All cars in Dubai pay a road toll when they pass through certain points on the main artery in the city – Shk Zayed Road. The toll is Dhs 4 for each pass. A lot of residents who pass through these points at least a couple of times a day, if not more, consider this a tax in some ways.

Bank Account

When you want to open a bank account in Dubai, the process requires a ‘no objection’ letter of confirmation from your sponsor. Some banks will also ask for a salary certificate, which means you’ll have to wait till that is confirmed. Basically, if you arrive in Dubai on a visit visa – even if that is extended – you cannot apply to open a bank account until you are employed. You will also need your original passport handy along with the No Objection letter and salary certificate if needed. It’s best to check the bank’s website or call ahead to avoid disappointment.

Get connected

There are three mobile service providers. These are Etisalat | Du | Virgin Mobile. All three provide post-paid and pre-paid mobile service plans – meaning you can a pay-as-you-go via a pre-paid amount being debited or and monthly billing option (usually requires a deposit). The latest mobile phones are also available on special plans from these operators and you can pay for them on monthly installments.

Cost of Living

Dubai is not cheap. But it isn’t Tokyo either. And far from, say, New York. In 2019, Dubai ranked in the 50th-60th band for cost of living. If you know how, it can offer decent value for money, but at the same time it is fairly easy to splurge and let it spin out of control.

Transferwise, one of the most well known cost of living aggregators has a very interesting post on Cost of Living in Dubai. A fairly detailed breakdown of costs are available on Cost of Living in Dubai for Expats and the site drills it down all the way to movie tickets, potatoes and cappuccino. Globally, for almost every city, the go-to website for information on cost of living is Numbeo – and we would easily recommend it as fairly reliable. Check it out at Numbeo Cost of Living in Dubai.

Time Out magazine online has probably the most comprehensive page on Moving to Dubai and it really covers a wide range of topics that would be of interest to both folks who are planning a move, or as a refresher for someone who has been here a few years.

Dubai Nice to Know

The official Dubai government website on Dubai ( Official Dubai ) is a simple reminder of the important facts on Dubai: about Dubai, population, economy, tourism, and the ruling family.


A Place to Stay

Nowhere to live? No problem. You can be on the verge of homelessness one day in Dubai and living in the pad of your dreams the next. Not because you’ve suddenly come into wads of cash, but because the rental market moves so fast. It’s probably worth looking a couple of weeks in advance of your moving date, but once you’ve found the home of your dreams be prepared to act fast before someone else takes it from under your nose. It’s common to be expected to be ready to move into a place the same week you find it.