There are no taxes on salaries or wages in Dubai, and sales tax is for the most part minimal. Despite the favourable tax climate, living expenses can add up, and many expats find themselves spending money on luxuries that they would not normally have splurged on back home. Accommodation, transport and education are the biggest expenses expats living in Dubai are likely to encounter.
Some helpful points for living in Dubai
Dubai is a city determined to retain its heritage while racing at breakneck speed to embrace the 21st century. As a vibrant, international city, it encompasses all the good, bad and ugly of any large city. The experience of living and working in Dubai can be most enjoyable and a great adventure if expats leave themselves open to the experience and abide by a few simple rules.
Cultural awareness in Dubai
It’s important to always remember that Dubai is an Arab emirate. While it’s the most liberal of all the emirates, there are a few cultural restrictions of which expats must be aware. The call to prayer five times a day can mean that non-Muslims may have to wait a bit to continue their business until Muslims return from prayer. During the holy month of Ramadan work slows to a crawl and most restaurants will be closed during the day or serve a limited menu. No alcohol will be served until the fast is broken at sunset. Important cultural restrictions to be aware of: modest dress is required (minimum is being loosely covered from neck to elbow to knees); drunkenness, drug use, dishonest behavior, foul language and public displays of affection are all criminal offenses with severe punishments.
Expats should not bring their family members over until they have their work visa, which allows them to sponsor family resident visas. The UAE does not recognize unmarried unions. If you wish to join your partner in Dubai, you will need to acquire your own visa. This can only be done by being sponsored by an employer or, in some cases, by purchasing property.
English is widely spoken and the nightlife scene is vibrant
English is a common language in Dubai, and spoken and understood by most people in the emirate. People are generally very friendly and eager to make new friends and, since it’s an international city, expats will have the opportunity to make friends from all over the world. Dubai is a fun city that caters to the young. Nightlife is lively but doesn’t start until after 9pm and goes on to the wee hours. Big name entertainment and parties are advertised all the time.
Getting official paper work, i.e. resident and work visas, utilities set up, bank accounts opened and mobile phones connected can be a bit frustrating as it can be difficult to navigate bureaucracy in Dubai. Many documents will have to be translated into Arabic. Be sure to use a reliable company.
Good public transport
Dubai Metro – if it is going where you want – is a nice, clean, affordable way to move around the city. There is a system of feeder buses offered at most of the major stations. Taxis are cheap and plentiful. For air travel, once expats have their residence visa, they can get an E Pass which expedites clearing customs.
Driving license for Dubai
Depending on your country of origin one can drive on an existing drivers license. Those from Europe, Australia and the US do not have to take the test. Instead you must go to the Roads and Transport Authority with your existing licence, passport and resident permit. There you will be required to take an eye test before being issued with your UAE license. Prior to receiving your residence permit you may drive a rental vehicle using your license from your home country. A comprehensive list of who is exempt from retaking the test is available from the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.
Healthcare in Dubai
There is good healthcare available across Dubai with certified healthcare providers and hospitals. A wide variety of alternative medicines are also available in Dubai, including Ayurveda and acupuncture.