Living in Dubai: All You Need to Know

Living in Dubai: All You Need to Know

Do you consider Dubai to be a city of the future? Many people around the world have similar expectations of the city. At Dubai, you may experience both the calm of the desert and the excitement of the city life.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to call this metropolis home, where you can find the world’s highest skyscraper? And, how would it make you think about the diversity of people living here? With all the colors and topics of wonder, let’s explore life in Dubai.

We’ll help you understand the local customs and explore the city. You’ll find ways to live, connect, and fully live in Dubai. Here we go, Dubai!

Customs and Lifestyle of People Living in Dubai

Dubai blends tradition and modernity, becoming home to people from different cultures, religions, and backgrounds. Its history, geography, and Islamic values influence Dubai’s culture and lifestyle.


You might be wondering about this topic, especially if you’re coming from a non-Muslim country. Islam is the official religion of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. Most Emiratis are Sunni Muslims. We can say that religion plays a significant role in shaping the social norms and laws of the country.

For example, if you live in Dubai, it can be good to learn that Muslims in Dubai may pray five times a day and fast during Ramadan. If you’re a non-Muslim, you’re free to practice your faith. But it’s expected to respect Islamic customs and be sensible about local people’s traditions in public.

Language: Is English Spoken Widely?

Arabic is the official language of the United Arab Emirates. It’s widely spoken in Dubai. However, English is very common as well. If you don’t know any Arabic, you may wonder if you will have problems with public signs. But you’ll also see the signs in English in most places and other languages. So don’t worry; when you’re in a restaurant and looking at a menu, you can turn it around, and you’ll probably see the English version.

Climate: How is the Weather in Dubai

With very little rainfall throughout the year, the weather in Dubai is generally hot and dry. Winter and summer are the two main seasons in Dubai. It’s winter from December to February and summer from June to August.

We can say that winter looks like one of the most pleasant times to visit or go out in Dubai. On the other hand, in summertime, you’ll experience scorching temperatures and dusty winds. It’s better to be ready for any season and discover how Dubai’s residents survive best. It can be drinking plenty of water during summer, avoiding outdoor activities, and postponing them to winter climate when living in Dubai.

Social Life

When you’re an expat or a new resident of a new city, social life can be the top topic in your mind. Many cultures and nationalities will welcome you to Dubai. So that will create a lot of options to network, meet new people, attend cultural festivals, and participate in sports activities. But remember the local customs and traditions. Some might be new to you. And you might learn from a friend or a colleague. So there’ll be discoveries, and it looks exciting!


If you’re living in Dubai already, you must have discovered the shopping magic in this city. If you plan to move to Dubai and live there, be ready for this popular activity for tourists or residents. Variety, quality, and experience make shopping activity in Dubai an attraction. You’ll find nearly everything. Modern Dubai malls, outlets, and traditional markets are huge industries in Dubai. However, remember that the Dubai Mall experience may require some extra budget. But it depends on your choices.

Luxury brands, local crafts, or gold and jewelry shopping lovers can find nearly everything they want. The quality is high, as well as the service. What else? You can also enjoy the benefits of tax-free shopping, as Dubai has no value-added tax (VAT).

Permissions in Dubai: When and What Do You Need?

First of all, before you start to live in Dubai, you will need an entry permit if you don’t have the advantage of getting a visa-free entry or a visa on arrival. Having a sponsor can also be an option.

What will you need when you’re traveling or moving to Dubai?

  • As a tourist, a visa depends on your nationality. 
  • If you’re a resident of the UAE, you may need permission to travel abroad when planning to stay outside the UAE for more than 30 days.
  • In addition, you may also need permission to return to the UAE before booking your departure flights.
  • If you’re a traveler, you can extend your visit visa for 30 and 60 days for an additional 30 days from within the nation.
  • Regarding photography or filming for commercial purposes, you may need permission from the municipality (the Dubai Media Free Zone Authority).

Alcohol Consumption

This might be one of the questions in your mind if you’re consuming drinks including alcohol; “is it illegal to drink alcoholic drinks in Dubai?

It’s legal to consume drinks with alcohol, but you’re expected to show respect to the local laws and customs. And it’s not like in some other countries. There are some restrictions; for example, you can enjoy your drinks in licensed venues or your hotel room and accommodation.  

But you’re not allowed to drink any alcoholic beverages in the street or a public place. It’s also illegal to be under the influence of alcohol in a public space. A license is required to drink alcohol. Don’t forget that laws are very strict in Dubai, and you can face tough penalties, including fines and jail.

Before you arrive, you’ll need to declare the alcohol at the customs checkpoint. Remember to do so upon arrival. And keep receipts for any alcohol you buy outside the airport.

What about the prices of alcohol? Pints cost around 45 AED (€11). 

Censorship in Dubai

These are the times that we nearly can’t imagine any day without the Internet. In Dubai, it’s censored under the anti-terrorism laws. These laws are shaped to prevent the country’s residents and tourists from accessing the content of terrorist groups.

These laws can even easily censor critical political statements.

Some of the prohibited content are as follows:

  • Circumvention tools
  • The promotion of criminal activities
  • The sale or promotion of illegal drugs
  • Dating networks
  • LGBT+ content
  • And more

Dubai has regulations governing voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. It includes voice and video calls. According to the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TDRA), WhatsApp voice and video calls are banned.

However, YouTube is not completely banned in the UAE. Yet, the content is regulated by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA).

Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo are banned as well. Besides the bans, using a VPN is not generally illegal. However, the country has anti-VPN measures.

Expats Living in Dubai: What to Expect

So many expats and digital nomads preferred Dubai as one of the top destinations. Quality of life, career opportunities, and tax advantages are among the reasons they choose.

As there are many aspects of life that you might be looking for in a foreign country, there might be differences to be aware of. So let’s see together what living in Dubai is like.

Transportation and Roads: What’s Different in Dubai?

Dubai has a major independent government roads & transportation authority, The Roads and Transport Authority. It plans and executes transport and traffic projects. Also, it’s responsible for legislation and strategic plans for transportation in Dubai.

Dubai’s public transportation options are diverse. It caters to the needs of Dubai’s residents and travelers in the city. Metro, buses, trams, water taxis, and taxis are options. The rail system is very efficient and extensive. There are red and green lines connecting major areas of the city. So you can go to a neighborhood place easily by using affordable transportation.

Nol Card lets you access these public transportation options, even for different modes of transportation. You can recharge it with a credit card.


Before you start enjoying exploring the city by driving, let’s first see some rules and tips.

  • To legally drive in Dubai as a tourist, you must possess a valid international driver’s license. You can convert your license to a local license if you’re relocating to Dubai. Attend classes and get a passing grade unless you’re a citizen of one of the qualifying nations.
  • In Dubai, you’ll find yourself driving on the right-hand side of the road, with the steering wheel on the left. There is often heavy traffic and a high-speed restriction.
  • You need to pay close attention to the traffic laws. Penalties for violating them can be harsh, including fines, jail time, or even deportation.
  • Large, multi-lane roundabouts are possible and could be perplexing for certain motorists. Ensure you properly utilize your indicators and practice your roundabout abilities.
  • You may purchase a prepaid card called Salik and connect it to your windshield to automatically deduct tolls on certain roadways.
  • Anyone over the age of 21 in possession of a valid international driver’s license and a credit card can rent a car in Dubai.

Healthcare System in Dubai

The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) oversees the city’s public and private healthcare systems. Most Emiratis use the public healthcare system, providing low-cost or even free medical treatment.

Expats, legally obligated to have health insurance, mostly utilize the private healthcare system. Healthcare in Dubai is second to none, thanks to the city’s abundance of state-of-the-art facilities and highly trained staff. Cultural diversity, growing demand, and escalating healthcare expenses are further challenges.

What are the Income Tax Advantages in Dubai?

The absence of personal income tax is a major business perk in Dubai. Because of this, you may retain all your hard-earned money, which means you’ll have more spending and a better quality of life than in nations where income taxes are mandatory. If you are not a Gulf Cooperation Council country citizen, you are exempt from paying social security taxes and submitting tax returns.

But, you should be aware that Dubai imposes additional taxes, including:

  • Value-added tax (5% of purchases)
  • Goods like cigarettes, energy drinks, and soft drink goods are subject to an excise tax of fifty percent or one hundred percent.
  • The purchase or sale of real estate is subject to a 4% property transfer tax.
  • The amount of five percent that is due when renting out a home
  • Hotel and other service costs, as well as any applicable municipal levies

Jobs and Salaries in Dubai

Expats from all over the world flock to Dubai because of the city’s international reputation. There will be a great need for competent and experienced workers, but the workforce will also be more diverse and competitive.

You may retain all your profits in Dubai because personal income is not taxed there. Nevertheless, additional expenses are associated with living and conducting business in the city, including value-added tax, excise tax, property tax, rental tax, and tourist fees.

Tourism, commerce, banking, real estate, and technology are the backbone of Dubai’s thriving and rapidly expanding economy. Jobseekers can find many options in these fields, but they also need innovation and adaptability regularly. You can find jobs in international companies.

Local Laws

The Islamic laws of Dubai are particularly delicate because of the country’s religious background. Hence, be mindful of your word choice before speaking. What may be acceptable in your country may only sometimes be acceptable in Dubai. It’s very discouraging to use profanity in public in Dubai.

Traditional Islamic religious law, or Sharia, is strictly enforced in Dubai. There is a low threshold for same-sex relationships, and many ordinary practices are punishable by law, such as Physical intimacy (PDA).

Proper attire is expected in public areas in Dubai, including malls, mosques, and government offices, where a more conservative style is preferred. Wear clothing that covers your shoulders, knees, and cleavage; it’s modest. The law also requires you to cover yourself when you leave the pool or beach and on private beach clubs, although swimwear is fine there.

Kissing, hugging, and holding hands in public are unacceptable in Dubai. These might lead to unwanted scrutiny or legal action due to their rude and obscene nature.

The city-state of Dubai maintains strict regulations against the use, sale, and possession of any illegal substances. Even if the medicines are lawful in your country or prescribed to you, possessing even a small amount of them might lead to expulsion, jail, or arrest. Therefore, you should refrain from carrying any medication that includes them. These are among the most crucial regulations for expats living in Dubai.

Cultural Differences

The culture in Dubai is different from that of the Western world. For many visitors, it’s a culture shock when they arrive here. There are nationalities from all over the world. People walk in traditional clothes, you’ll find mosques from which prayers sound, and you’ll see the Arabic language all around you.

Dubai is a very safe country, and women can travel safely. As a woman, it’s not mandatory to wear a headscarf in public, but in mosques, it is mandatory. In Dubai, women have a much more liberal lifestyle than women in other countries in the Middle East. This means women can just drive, and work over here. However, when you talk to a local, waiting for a hand to be offered for a handshake is recommended.

On the other hand, women are often helped first at the supermarket or the bank. Government buildings often even have separate queues for women. The metro also has a separate train carriage for women. Note: for men, it’s strictly forbidden to enter here.

More than 200,000 expats are attracted to Dubai for its vibrant social scene, constant sunshine, and business opportunities, accessible.

Pros and Cons of Living in Dubai

Let’s look at the pros and cons of living in Dubai, especially if you’re moving abroad and deciding which foreign country to move to. It might be interesting for you!

What are the Pros of Living in Dubai?

  • A comfortable standard of living abroad
  • Efficient public transport
  • 100% of your earnings with tax-free income
  • A diverse, multicultural expat community
  • Luxury living with easy access to modern amenities
  • Diverse career opportunities in Dubai's dynamic economy

What are the Cons of Living in Dubai?

  • Internet censorship and restrictions
  • High living expenses
  • Summer temperatures above 50°C
  • Limited political freedom
  • Navigating cultural differences and strict local laws
  • Limited alcohol consumption under strict regulations
  • A complex visa system for foreigners
  • Congested roads, particularly during peak hours

What to Know Before Moving to Dubai: Checklist

  • Check your passport: is it valid?
  • Apply for work permits and visas
  • Learn if you need any vaccinations or a health check
  • Set a budget for your moving costs
  • Start building up your savings
  • Explore the local schools and their school fees
  • Arrange your banking activities

The Wrap-up: Living in Dubai as a Foreigner 

Dubai and its skyline look like it reaches towards the heavens. In the meantime, the streets of Dubai show a mosaic of diverse life stories.

In this guide, we’ve compiled the essentials of living in Dubai, from navigating the complexities of relocation to embracing the city’s lifestyle. Remember, Dubai is not just a place to reside; it’s an experience. And Dubai promises a life less ordinary.

So, your adventure in Dubai is just beginning. Let’s embrace it with an open heart.

If you’re also wondering about the living expenses in this city, you can find out your answers on “Cost of Living in Dubai“.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it expensive to live in Dubai?

Living in Dubai can be expensive. But it varies based on lifestyle. Accommodation, dining, and entertainment have high costs. However, there are budget-friendly options too. Utilities are reasonably priced, and petrol is cheaper compared to many countries. You can find luxury and affordability coexist.

Do I need a visa before moving to Dubai?

Yes, you need a visa to move to Dubai. The type depends on your purpose of stay, like work, study, or tourism. For long-term stays, you can secure employment or sponsorship from a resident. Visas are essential for legal residency and work.

What is Dubai’s “remote work” visa?

Dubai's "remote work" visa allows to live in Dubai while employed abroad. It's valid for one year and renewable. This visa lets you enjoy Dubai's amenities while continuing your current job. It's ideal for digital nomads seeking a blend of work and leisure.

Is it safe for Americans to live in Dubai?

Dubai is generally safe for Americans. The city has a diverse expatriate community. It's known for strict laws ensuring safety and low crime rates. Cultural sensitivity and adherence to local laws are crucial. It's a welcoming city for various nationalities, including Americans.

What satellite television operators are active in Dubai?

Dubai's primary satellite TV operators are OSN (Orbit Showtime Network) and beIN. They have a range of international and regional channels. It includes sports, entertainment, and news. Both provide various packages to for different viewing preferences and budgets.

What is the crime rate in Dubai?

Dubai boasts one of the lowest crime rates globally. Its strict laws and effective law enforcement contribute to high safety. Violent crimes are rare. Petty crimes do occur but are relatively infrequent. It's considered a safe destination for residents and tourists alike.

Is there a dress code in Dubai?

Dubai's hot climate requires comfortable, light clothing, especially when visiting religious or cultural sites. Avoid revealing clothing, cover shoulders, knees, and chest, and wear a scarf or shawl for cover. Men should avoid sleeveless shirts or swimwear. Casual or formal attire can be worn, but always dress appropriately and respectfully.

Where can I visit when I am living in Dubai?

Abu Dhabi is another city in UAE, and it’s one hour away from Dubai. So it may be a destination to visit sometime. Dubai International Airport is very developed, large, and busy.

Related Articles

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get in touch
Terms of Use