Expats FAQ in United Arab Emirates

What city are you living in ?


Q: Which banks in Dubai provide Shariah-based services?

A: Dubai is predominantly Islam, reason why all banks offer Shariah-based accounts along the laws and banking principles of the religion.

Q: Are there banks in Dubai that provide online services?

A: Yes, expats do have access to online services, but most banking transactions in Dubai require personal appearance at the branch. Expats should take the time to study the different banks in the city, and choose one that suits their lifestyle.

Q: What are usual office hours for banks in Dubai?

A: Banks in Dubai are mostly open from 8am to 3pm everyday except Fridays. All ATMs are open 24 hours a day, and there is no charge for different-bank withdrawals.

Q: What time do banks open and close in the UAE?

A: Banks are usually open from 8am to 1pm. On Thursday though, they close an hour earlier, and they are close the whole day on Fridays and public holidays.

Q: Do UAE banks charge hefty fees for transactions?

A: Yes. Banks in the UAE are quite notorious for charging hefty fees. Offshore banking is advisable for expats, but cash withdrawals can be charged as much as 2%. The rates differ among the different banks, so it's best to shop around before choosing one to open an account with.

Q: Is telephone banking available in the UAE and what language is used?

A: Yes, telephone banking is available in both Arabic and English in the UAE. Bank statements and all forms of communication may also be in either of these two languages.


Q: How much protection do investors get in Dubai?

A: Dubai is fairly easy to do business in, according to the World Bank's Ease of Doing Survey for 2013. However, it ranked poorly in terms of investor protection. Nonetheless, in the same survey, the city got high rankings for paying taxes (first place), trading across borders, and handling construction permits.

Q: What are the most common business customs and practices in Dubai?

A: As expected, business customs and practices in Dubai are unique from one company or business environment to another. As an expat, the most important thing to remember is that Dubai is a Muslim city, being part of UAE. Hence, prudence must be taken at all times, especially on issues that are considered sensitive for Arabs or Muslims in general.

Q: What is the language used for business in Dubai?

A: Although English is widely spoken in Dubai, Arabic is the official language and the main language used when dealing with Arab business associates. It is not surprising, however, that some people speak Hindi, Malayalam, Farsi, Bengali, or Urdu.

Q: Can expats fully own a company in the UAE?

A: No. Expats who want to open a business in the UAE need to find a citizen partner who - at least in paper - owns a minimum of 51% of shares.

Q: What are the local customs regarding handshakes among business associates in the UAE?

A: In the Middle East or any Muslim-dominated region in the world, the right hand is always used for shaking hands, as the left hand is reserved for body hygiene and is thus considered dirty. Handshakes are usually lengthy, and etiquette requires that a person must wait for the other to withdraw his hand.

Q: Is punctuality a big issue in UAE business?

A: Yes. Business culture in the UAE demands that punctuality be observed, especially by expats, even when their local counterparts don't do the same. Emiratis are a bit more relaxed about time than Westerners, but again, expats are usually expected to be on time for official functions.


Q: What are some of the best, not-to-be-missed attractions for kids in Dubai?

A: Beaches, Wild Wadi and Wonderland (water park with a Caribbean theme) are three places all expat kids in the city must experience. Smaller kids will probably be happy in indoor playgrounds at the malls. Al Nasr Leisureland is a must-go for kids who can't get enough of arcade and sporting fun.

Q: What are some of the best nurseries in Dubai?

A: There are so many out there. British Orchard Nursery, which is run by a UK-educated team, is popular among expats. Children's Oasis Nursery is also a good one. The Internet is the biggest resource for expat families looking for nurseries in Dubai.

Q: Are there Montessori nursing schools in Dubai?

A: Yes, there are many Montessori nursery schools in Dubai. Most cost as much as any regular school and also have long waiting lists. Most of them are open for 4 to 5 hours in the morning before closing at lunchtime.

Q: What are some of the challenges of raising expat kids in the UAE?

A: There are no major challenges associated with raising kids in the UAE, except for incredibly high school fees that many average-earning expat families complain about. As foreigners, expats can only enroll their kids in private schools, which are international schools that are not only very expensive, but also even hard to get placements in. In Dubai, for instance, fees can amount to Dh 100,000 for one academic year. In a survey of these families, 87% say it's cheaper to educate their kids back in their home countries.

Q: Is the UAE safe for kids with asthma (or any other respiratory condition)?

A: While the UAE boasts a reputation for having near-zero disease outbreaks affecting kids, many children in the country are having a hard time coping with asthma due to poor air quality and sandstorms. Dust, pollen, spores, and pollen often force asthmatics to stay indoors.

Q: Can an expat parent file for child custody in the UAE when married to a UAE citizen?

A: Yes. Parents who are non-UAE nationals can file for child custody in the UAE, whether or not they are married to a local citizen. Under the country's family laws, custody ends at the age of 11 for a boy and 13 for a girl, except in special cases where the court rules to extend this period for a female child up to the time she gets married, or a male child until he reaches a certain age of good discretion.

Cost of living

Q: How much does it cost to hire a housemaid in Dubai?

A: Salaries of housemaids in Dubai vary, depending on where the workers come from. Those from the Philippines get a minimum monthly pay of 1,400 Dh, those from India receive 1,100 Dh, and housemaids from Sri Lanka get around 825 Dh. Employers are responsible for paying the costs of securing residence permits and healthcare for these workers.

Q: How much do average expats pay in monthly utilities?

A: On average, mobile phone calls cost around .30 Dh/minute, Internet costs 250 Dh monthly and energy consumption amounts to about 400 Dh monthly.

Q: Is food expensive in Dubai?

A: Food is fairly priced in Dubai and there's a great variety available for all budgets. Bars and even restaurants are fond of having special deals and happy hours. (Alcohol is expensive and non-Muslim expats need to get a special license to be able to buy some. To qualify for a license, an expat should be at least 21 years old, a Dubai resident and earning no less than 3,000 Dh monthly.)

Q: Is it expensive to live in the UAE?

A: While foreigners love the UAE because it's tax-free, the cost of living in the country is quite high. This is a significant concern that must be considered by expats negotiating contracts with potential UAE employers. Accommodation and schooling are the two biggest expenses, although petrol is, of course, cheap compared to other countries.

Q: How much does hiring a maid cost in the UAE?

A: Hiring a maid in the UAE is cheaper than in the West or in Europe, but the cost has increased considerably in recent years. The one-time security deposit for a maid visa has even increased by Dh 1,000, from Dh2,000 to Dh3,000. In New Dubai areas such as Emirates Living, the asking price for a maid is from Dh2,500 to Dh3,000, and pay is expected to increase by 10% yearly.

Q: How much do household utilities cost in the UAE?

A: It depends on use, but gas, electricity and water cost almost nothing. Fuel is, of course, very cheap even when prices tend to rise. A small vehicle can have a full tank for just Dhs 70.


Q: Do expats in Dubai get medical benefits from their employers?

A: Unfortunately, no. There is no universal healthcare coverage in the city, and expat workers need to get their own health insurance or a health card from the DOHMS. The card, which is valid for one year, qualifies the owner for emergency admission to any government hospital. Under the new health insurance program, however, this health card will be eventually replaced with a health insurance card.

Q: What are some of the most common health risks expats face in Dubai?

A: Because of Dubai's extremely warm climate, heat stroke and exhaustion are two things expats should be prepared for, along with dehydration and sunburn. Ongoing construction, not to mention dust and sand from the nearby desert, can also trigger or worsen respiratory problems.

Q: Are pharmacies widely available in Dubai?

A: Yes. Pharmacies are widely available in Dubai, and most are open 24/7. Note that medicines are generally pricey, so it's best to keep receipts for those who want to claim medical aid.

Q: Are maternity benefits included in the mandatory employer-provided health insurance in the UAE?

A: Unfortunately, the mandatory employer-provided health insurance in the UAE does not include maternity benefits. Working female expats in the country can thus only rely on private medical insurance for this type of coverage.

Q: Is the UAE strict in terms of prescription and/or psychoactive drugs?

A: As a matter of fact, yes. The UAE has very strict laws covering narcotics and expats who need to take prescription and/or psychoactive drugs (for example, anti-depressants, tranquilizers, etc.) should consult with the UAE Embassy in their home countries, or from their diplomatic mission in Dubai before flying to the UAE. There are medical certificates as well as administrative forms that are required before such types of drugs may be imported into the country for personal use.

Q: What is the quality of maternal care in the UAE?

A: Maternity care and services are excellent in quality in the UAE as evidenced by the country’s very low birth mortality rate. There are nearly no outbreaks of common diseases affecting pediatric patients, polio has been completely eradicated, and measles occurs in very isolated cases.


Q: What are the costs of hiring a real estate agent when buying a house in Dubai?

A: A real estate agent in Dubai is usually paid two to five percent of the property selling price. Expats are not required to hire a lawyer to assist in the purchasing process, but this is highly recommended, especially for those who have recently moved to the city.

Q: How much do expats pay upfront before signing a lease in Dubai?

A: Many landlords demand an advanced payment equivalent to a whole year's worth of rent, plus a security deposit. Expats often use this ridiculous demand as leverage in trying to bargain for a lower price. Otherwise, some landlords will agree to be paid a series of post-dated cheques.

Q: Are foreigners allowed to own land in Dubai?

A: Yes. Expats are now allowed to buy property and land in Dubai, unlike other parts of the Middle East where restrictions have remained. This move is believed to be a strategy to attract international investors.

Q: How much is rent in the UAE?

A: Like most other countries in the world, rent in the UAE has a lot to do with location. Properties in Dubai may cost around Dhs 5,400,000 monthly; in Abu Dhabi, prices average at Dhs 3,000,000; in Sharjah, about Dhs 3,500,000 and in Al Ain, around Dhs 4,900,000.

Q: Are foreigners allowed to own real estate properties in the UAE?

A: Yes, they are now entitled to own properties in the UAE. However, lenders usually do not provide loans to expats for individual properties, although they may on business developments. Also, note that few banks lend money to non-residents of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council).

Q: What is the minimum duration of a typical rental contract in the UAE?

A: Most rental contracts in the UAE are good for about a year, and in most cases, landlords will require a full year's worth of rent to be paid in advance. Those who terminate the contract prematurely are also likely not going to get their money back.


Q: Where do shoppers go to buy gaming electronics in Dubai?

A: There are many places to buy gaming electronics in Dubai. Try electronic souqs in Deira or Al Fahidi in Bur Dubai. Considered standard stores are EMax, Sharaf DG and Plug In, all of which have plenty of showrooms across the emirate.

Q: What is one eating experience in Dubai that no expat or tourist must miss?

A: There are actually many, but no one should miss the famous "Brunch." This isn't the typical late breakfast-lunch combo meal though. It's a buffet hosted by many big hotels, where they serve food, drinks, including beer and house wine and sometimes champagne. Brunch is available every Friday from 12 noon onwards. The quality of the food varies though so it's good to ask for recommendations.

Q: Is pork completely banned in Dubai (considering it's a Muslim region)?

A: Not necessarily, but all menus in all restaurants indicate which dishes contain pork. Establishments that serve pork also need to get a special license to be able to do so. Pizzas will most probably come with cunningly disguised veal, turkey meat, or beef.

Q: Is alcohol totally prohibited in the UAE?

A: No, it's not, except for Muslims. Many bars and restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi serve alcoholic drinks but note that establishments allowed to do so are only those located inside hotels.

Q: What types of sports are popular in the UAE?

A: There are plenty of favorite sports in the UAE, and number one is horse racing (where the famous Arab horse came from). Dubai hosts the richest annual horse race in the world known as the Dubai World Cup. Of course, camel racing is popular, along with football, cricket, golf, tennis, and rugby.

Q: How much does eating out cost in the UAE?

A: It depends on the dining "standards," but the range is from Dhs 15 – 3000 per head, with a service charge of 20% in Dubai and 16% in Abu Dhabi added to menu prices.

Looking for a job

Q: Is it easy for expats to move from one employer to another in Dubai?

A: Moving from one employer to another in Dubai is actually a complicated scenario. For one, most employment contracts include a condition that bans workers from being employed by another company in the same industry, within one year from departure from Dubai. What makes it even more complicated is that expats need to reprocess their visas if they have to change jobs. To do that, the former employer has to sign a "No Objection Clause" document.

Q: What kinds of jobs do expats usually have in Dubai?

A: Construction, financial services, and tourism jobs are what most expats have in Dubai. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the oil industry that generates the most employment opportunities in the city, although oil is its main revenue source.

Q: Is it possible to apply for a job in Dubai from another country?

A: Yes. In fact, most expats working in Dubai have already secured employment before flying in. It is normally the employers who facilitate the visa and work permit application process, pay for the costs and act as sponsors.

Q: Do UAE employers typically provide a pension scheme for expat workers?

A: No. Only a very small handful of companies provides pension or saving schemes for their workers. However, that doesn't mean an expat shouldn't explore other means of preparing for retirement. There are plenty of pension plan providers in the UAE that offer better benefits than those that come from employment.

Q: Are there working holidays in the UAE?

A: Yes, but the dates change every year depending on moon sightings. In most cases, workers are entitled to two days off from work for each month worked. There are ten national holidays, but the actual number of holidays is dependent on whether Eid falls on a workweek or a weekend.

Q: How do expats get jobs in the UAE?

A: In most cases, expats will apply for UAE jobs via agencies or through intra-company transfers, and applications are often done online. Note that outlining age, nationality, and gender requirements for advertised positions is not considered discriminatory and is allowed by labor laws.


Q: Is it important to stock coins when staying in Dubai?

A: Yes, if only because a lot of stores are fond of rounding up prices for lack of smaller coins. Besides that, expats will usually get a frown if they hand anything more than a 100 dirham note, especially in a taxi.

Q: How much personal income tax do people pay in Dubai?

A: Personal income is not taxed in Dubai, nor are there GST or VAT charges. This is undoubtedly one of the city's biggest expat attractions. However, some countries will continue to tax their citizens on personal income they earn in Dubai or anywhere else in the world. In such a case, it's always good for an expat to consult a tax adviser.

Q: Are cheques accepted as payment in Dubai?

A: Yes, they are widely accepted not just in Dubai but also in the whole UAE. Cheques are pretty much good for anything, but penalties are serious for issuers of bounced cheques. Post-dated cheques are the most common method of paying for a car purchase or a house rental, as debit orders are fairly unheard of in the city.

Q: Are there currency regulations in the UAE?

A: No, there are no currency regulations in the UAE and currency exchanges can be done almost everywhere in the country. The most favorable rates are offered by private bureaus, especially those found in shopping centers and popular souqs.

Q: What are the best places to exchange currencies in the UAE?

A: The UAE Exchange Center, which is associated with Western Union, is highly trusted by expats and has branches all throughout the country. Al Razouki International Exchange Company and Thomas Cook Al Rostamani are also very popular among tourists and expats.

Q: Is the official currency the same for all the different emirates of the UAE?

A: Yes, all seven emirates use the dirham, with notes in 5's, 10's, 20's, 50's, 100's, 200's, 500's, and 1000's. Each dirham can be divided into 100 fils, and coins come in 1's, 50's, 25's, 10's and 5's.


Q: How large is the expat population in Dubai?

A: The expat population in Dubai is so big that it's actually the dominant population in the entire emirate. Ninety-two percent of people in Dubai are foreigners.

Q: How hot can it get in Dubai?

A: Temperatures in Dubai can reach up to 45 degrees Celsius, and that usually happens from June to September. The humidity is also something to deal with in the coastal areas. The city gets the coolest from December to March.

Q: Do other religions exist in Dubai aside from Muslim?

A: Dubai is officially Islam, which means it operates along Islamic traditions. However, being the most liberal emirate in the entire UAE, there are many other religions practiced and tolerated.

Q: Where in the UAE are most expats based?

A: Dubai and Abu Dhabi are particular popular among expatriates in the UAE, obviously because of fantastic employment opportunities offered by employers in these two emirates. For expat workers looking for a more laidback lifestyle, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi's second biggest metropolis, has also become a hotbed.

Q: Which part of the UAE is the best for expat workers?

A: There are many great destinations for expats in the UAE, but Dubai seems to be the most established of them all, especially for skilled workers. In fact, most of the people living in the emirate right now are expat workers. Aside from the fantastic sights and adventures it offers, Dubai is also inarguably rich in attractive work opportunities.

Q: How hot does it get in the UAE?

A: Very hot indeed. During summer, temperatures can average about 40 degrees Celsius or 100 degrees Fahrenheit, especially in August. A lot of expats actually plan overseas vacations during this time to escape the uncomfortable season.


Q: What documents are required for importing dogs to Dubai?

A: The two most important documents required for bringing pets to Dubai are the Vaccination Certificate and the Good Health Certificate issued by the pet owner's vet. Copies of these must be faxed to the Dubai Human Resources Department at +971-4-2122818.

Q: What are some pet-friendly airlines that fly to Dubai?

A: Some pet-friendly airlines flying to Dubai are KLM and Lufthansa. Most carriers don't make special accommodations for pets, so it's important to choose wisely.

Q: Which dog breeds are prohibited in Dubai?

A: Pit Bull Terriers, Japanese Tosas, American Staffordshire Terriers, and any cross breeds of these are not allowed in Dubai.

Q: How long is the quarantine for pets imported into the UAE?

A: The UAE does not impose quarantine on animals up to the age of four months, provided all needed vaccinations are up to date, and an international health certificate (APHIS 7001) was issued not earlier than 10 days before departure.

Q: Which airlines fly pets to the UAE?

A: There are several airlines that fly pets to the UAE, but two of the pet-friendliest, based on pet owners' accounts, are Lufthansa and KLM. Some carriers will agree to transport pets but do not go the extra mile of ensuring that the animals are comfortable, if not safe while on transit.

Q: Are pets allowed in public areas in the UAE?

A: No. Animals are not allowed in public areas in the UAE due to issues such as environmental hygiene. That means no pets may be brought to parks, restaurants, beaches and other areas that are open to the public. There are, however, designated areas for dog-walking. Nonetheless, laws covering pets in the UAE are lax but sometimes confusing.


Q: Is schooling expensive in Dubai?

A: School fees in Dubai have actually taken a sharp rise in the last few years. So sharp that many expats find themselves homeschooling their children, or sending them home to continue their studies. Early primary schools charge about 40,000 Dh yearly, and this increases consistently at every grade. The fees can peak at around 150,000 Dh yearly for the senior level.

Q: Where can expats find credible reviews on schools in Dubai?

A: Many schools in Dubai are known for their high standards but vary in terms of teaching methods. Expat parents can check the Dubai Schools Inspection Bureau website for annual objective reviews of all private schools in the city.

Q: What education systems are followed in Dubai schools?

A: Many schools follow the National Curriculum of England for primary school, then IGCSE and A level qualifications for the senior level. Others use the US, Indian, Austalian, or UAE curricula. Many have also started offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme.

Q: What types of schools are common among expats in the UAE?

A: Because the UAE is a country full of expats, international and westernized schools are very common. These schools usually have their curriculum and do not follow the UAE educational system. Public schools are reserved only for citizens and permanent residents.

Q: Are expats admitted into state universities in the UAE?

A: Yes, but very rarely do foreigners students get a place in state universities in the UAE as Emirati students are always prioritized. Foreigners who do get admitted have to undergo a very stringent process. Nonetheless, expat students who want to enter a university in the UAE have a choice of private institutions which are mostly located in Dubai and Sharjah.

Q: Do expat kids get access to free education in the UAE?

A: No, expat kids do not have access to free, government-funded schools in the UAE, but there are plenty of private schools that offer very high standards of education. Note that fees can be exorbitant and placements are often limited, so it's important for expat parents to plan their move as early as possible.


Q: How is shopping in Dubai?

A: There is everything, from reasonably priced groceries to high-tech electronic gadgets and all the rest. Imported products can be very expensive though. There are world-class shopping malls, the grandest of which is the Mall of the Emirates, and many, many souqs (Middle East-style bazaars). There's also a very unique shopping area called the Karama Center, which offers everyone a nice streetside shopping adventure. Prices here are dirt cheap, but watch out for counterfeit products.

Q: When is the Dubai Shopping Festival held each year?

A: The Dubai Shopping Festival is a yearly event which happens in January and February. This is when shopping discounts get the fattest in Dubai. Products can go wildly cheap and there are all sorts of mad promotions that entice shoppers. There are gaming stalls, kid street fairs, cultural performances, fireworks and all sorts of fun things. The time of the festival is a very busy business season, so expect hotels to be expensive during these months.

Q: What are considered "best buys" in Dubai?

A: Best buys in the city include textiles, carpets, perfume, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The Spice souq sells frankincense, incense burners, DIY henna kits, etc. For textiles, go to Bur Dubai's textile souq (sells the best Indian saris). The city crawls with all sorts of souqs where all the other best buys are found.

Q: Where can expats find international brands when shopping in the UAE?

A: For famous international brands, expats usually troop to the malls that carry most Asian, American and European fashion lines. The shopping capital is Dubai, which also enjoys a reputation for being the shopping capital of the Middle East. Abu Dhabi is also fast catching up with its wide array elite souqs opening up lately, along with Arman, Ra's al-Khaimah and Sharjah.

Q: What makes souqs very attractive to expat and tourist shoppers in the UAE?

A: Three reasons - prices are cheap, bargaining is a given, and there's a whole array of good available, from gold to faux fashion items. Souqs are also great for experiencing the traditional charms of the Arab region. These places feature a hodgepodge of stalls and alleys and coffee houses. When people aren't shopping, they're usually enjoying Arabic coffee known as gawha. Souqs are usually named after the goods they sell. For example, there are gold souqs, plant souqs, antique souqs, etc.

Q: Which UAE airport is considered the best for duty-free shopping?

A: Duty-free shopping is almost a given when people talk of the UAE. That's because all airports in this country have their duty-free shops. Of course, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are still the most popular, featuring a wide array of items from gold to perfume to sporting equipment, etc.


Q: How do expats save money when making overseas calls from Dubai?

A: International calls are least expensive when made on Fridays, public holidays, and between 9pm and 7am on regular days. All phone directories have a list of rates at the back.

Q: How available is Internet access in Dubai?

A: Widely available. It's everywhere and some of the public places that offer free Wi-Fi are airports, five-star hotels (for guests only, of course) and cafes. There are Internet access kiosks in central areas but they charge around 2 o 3 Dh per minute. Those who have laptops and browsing software can dial 500 5333 to get a connection, for a charge of 15 fils/minute.

Q: Do phones purchased from another country work in Dubai?

A: Yes, if they are GSM phones which have been unlocked. Otherwise, expats can use a service called "Speak Easy" or get a temporary SIM card. Another option is to use their own handsets with a temporary card (contact ETISALAT for details) or simply buy a new phone.

Q: How do people in UAE switch from one mobile phone service provider to another while retaining their original number?

A: There are two providers in the UAE - Etisalat and du. Etisalat users can switch to du just by typing "CHANGE" and sending to 3553, but changes will not be in effect until after a month. There is no system for switching from du to Etisalat as of today.

Q: Is broadband Internet expensive in the UAE?

A: Broadband Internet in the UAE is one of the priciest throughout the Arabian Gulf, placing only at number 55 for affordability on a global scale. Kuwait is number one for service while the UAE is inferior to Qatar, Oman and Bahrain in the International Telecommunication Union's annual report. Still, the UAE is 6th for mobile phone service affordability all over the world. According to experts, this is because of providers (Etisalat and du) competing for mobile phone clients instead of fixed line broadband users.

Q: Are there English broadcasts in the UAE?

A: Yes, there are many. In fact, in service of the diverse expat population in the country, there are also English broadcasting stations, as well as Filipino, Malay, Hindi, Urdu and, of course, Arabic.


Q: How much do cars cost in Dubai?

A: Cars in Dubai are cheap; in fact, they are notably cheaper than cars in the US or UK. This is not the only reason though that expats like to have their own vehicles in the city. Being an oil-rich region, petrol is also inexpensive, and so are car maintenance costs. Most expats in Dubai drive the Land Cruiser.

Q: What is the best transport option in Dubai?

A: Having a car is certainly the best option because it's the fastest and the least expensive way to get around the city. A bus is also a good one, but the metro is more appreciated for its speed and reasonable fares.

Q: Is there a phone-booking service for taxis in Dubai?

A: Yes, there are phone-booked taxis in Dubai. There are at least 10,000 cabs currently operating across the emirate, and it is often easy to book one. Flagging a taxi on the street is also usually trouble-free.

Q: Is it true that women travelers get special treatment in Dubai?

A: Yes, not just women travelers but all women in general. One of the perks that often surprise female travelers is that they are normally served first at post offices, police stations, banks, and public offices. There would even usually be separate lines for them. People in Dubai have very strong traditional roots, and part of this is utmost respect for the female population.

Q: How do expats get a driver's license in the UAE?

A: It depends on the country the expat is from. Some nationalities are allowed to drive in the UAE just by exchanging their current license with a local one, while others have to take a theory test as well as a practical test. More specific information is available at the UAE government website.

Q: How do expats find driving in the UAE?

A: Road safety is a very big issue in the UAE mostly because of sand, speeding vehicles and speed bumps that are hard to detect from a distance. This has led to the country having one of the highest road mortality rates in the Middle East.

Q: What's the most popular mode of public transport in the UAE?

A: Taxis are the most popular mode of transport in the country, and they can be flagged down practically anywhere. They're also cheap, although prices may vary. Note that women are expected to sit in the back.


Q: When is the best time to fly to Dubai?

A: The best time to fly to Dubai is when the heat becomes less scorching. That's between the months of November and April, with temperatures of around 24 to 35 degrees Celsius. Nonetheless, malls, hotels and other establishments are all air-conditioned and adequately equipped to manage indoor temperatures.

Q: Are there facilities for differently-abled travelers in Dubai?

A: Yes. From five-star hotels to airports to big shopping malls and even taxis, there are facilities provided for differently-abled individuals. There are also designated areas for wheelchair parking in parks, though a disabled widow badge is likely required to use them.

Q: Are women expected to wear the abaya or veil in the UAE, including expats?

A: No. Expat women are not expected to wear the abaya or veil if they don't want to. However, conservative clothing is still generally expected. A few times, women wearing revealing clothes have been refused entry to malls and other commercial establishments. They also get the looks from men, especially Pakistanis as well as Indians. In Dubai and Abu Dhabi though, Western fashion is accepted for women going out at night, so there’s no problem entering bars or restaurants.

Q: Are gay couples really banned in the UAE?

A: Yes. Homosexuality is a serious offense with a serious penalty in the UAE. Gay couples traveling to this country should thus be extremely discreet. Note though that it's not unusual for men to be seen holding hands in public. This does not have sexual connotations in the UAE as opposed to most other parts of the world.

Q: When is the best time to travel to the UAE?

A: In terms of the weather, the best time to come is between October and April, which is considered the "pleasant" season - not too hot - in the UAE. But temperatures can also dive to 12 degrees Celsius in the morning, usually at the peak of winter.


Q: Do expats with a residence visa still need to get a work permit to be employed in Dubai?

A: Yes. Anyone who is not a UAE citizen should get a residence visa because this is, in fact, a requirement for one to get a work permit or labour card from the Ministry of Labour. Without a work permit, which comes after a residence visa, an expat cannot be legally employed in the city.

Q: When does a Dubai residence visa expire after issuance?

A: It depends on the specific type of residence visa. For example, employment (except domestic helper) and family visas are good for two years, student visas and visas for domestic helpers are valid for one year, and investor visas may be valid for up to three years.

Q: Can expats sponsor family members to join them in Dubai?

A: Yes. Valid residence visa holders can sponsor their spouses and children, provided their salaries are at least 3,000 Dh monthly (with paid housing) or 4,000 Dh monthly (no paid housing). To sponsor a parent, they have to earn more and possibly pay a deposit.

Q: What's the process for getting an immigrant visa for workers in the UAE?

A: The process is long and document-intensive, but it is the responsibility of the employer, not the prospective worker. Once an expat has secured an employment visa, it will entitle him to permanent residence in the UAE for up to three years, after which a renewal is required.

Q: Is it possible to apply for a UAE visa through a sponsor?

A: Yes. Family members who are living in the UAE can serve as sponsors, but note that they need to have an immigrant status to be qualified. Of course, employers can and regularly sponsor workers to the UAE.

Q: Who are exempt from getting a visa to enter the UAE?

A: Citizens of GCC nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Oman) are not required to get a visa when entering the UAE. All they have to do is present their GCC passport at the port of entry.