Moving to Dubai in 10 Steps: Everything You Need To Know

A Step-by-Step Guide to help you sort out your move

Relocating to Dubai is a life-changing experience, but it also comes with so much to do! Getting your visa, finding a home to rent, finding a school for the kids… It can quickly become overwhelming.

That’s why Matutto exists. We’re here to help you navigate this move, answer your questions, and make sure you have all the information you need.

You can get started with planning your move to Dubai right here, with our 10-Step guide that includes everything you need to know.

Drawing of iconic locations in Dubai, including the desert, the Dubai Frame, the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab.

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Topics in this article

1. Is Dubai for you?

Dubai's allure as a cosmopolitan hub is undeniable, but it's essential to consider if it aligns with your lifestyle and expectations, before making the important decision of moving there.

Life in Dubai embodies a blend of modernity and tradition, offering a dynamic environment with a thriving expatriate community. It is also considered one of the biggest business hubs in the Middle East, providing a large of opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.

To help you evaluate if Dubai is for you, start by asking the following questions:

  • Do I see myself living here?
  • Does Dubai have what I need from a city to be happy?
  • Is the job market able to meet my salary expectations?
  • Am I able to afford the lifestyle I want in Dubai?

If you’re not sure how to answer some of these questions, don’t worry - Keep reading this article and you’ll soon find the answers.

We always recommend to visit the city before making the decision of moving there, to better understand how the lifestyle is, and if it’s somewhere you could see yourself living in.

Another great way to assess suitability of the city, is making a list of the most important things for you that a city must have to live in. Research and understand to what extent Dubai offers that, and you’ll get more clarity.

Plus, you can always make a list with your personal Pros and Cons to help you with your decision!

Photo of an expat smiling and looking at the views of Dubai Marina

2. Understand your cost of living in Dubai

Dubai is known for being an expensive city, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of what your living costs will be, in order to plan your new life in this UAE city. If you don’t know yet how much money you will need per month, we recommend to use our Cost of Living Calculator to get an idea of your monthly expenses, and start preparing your finances.

The cost of living in Dubai will widely vary based on your living circumstances. For example, if you have kids, you will incur schooling fees, which tend to be relatively high. If you drive, you will have to account for transportation costs, which are much higher than taking public transport. If you rent a luxury apartment, you will spend significantly more in rent… And so on.

But the biggest expense of all, will almost always be your accommodation. Renting an apartment in Dubai can cost you anywhere between AED 45k to AED 250k per year, depending on the level of luxury you want to have access to. This will also depend on which area you decide to live in and the type and size of house you want - One thing is for certain, the neighbourhoods you decide to rent in will determine your price range, as there are some more expensive and some less expensive areas.

You can check out our Dubai neighbourhood guide to access average prices of each area.

A great way to put together your budget, is to allocate an estimated monthly expense to each of the biggest things you’ll need to pay. Here’s a list of the most common expenses when living in Dubai:

  • House Rent
  • House Utility Bills (water, aircon, electricity, wifi)
  • Car Rental, Gas and parking
  • Food & Groceries
  • School Fees (For families with kids)
  • Gym Membership
  • Leisure

You can use the Cost of Living Calculator to better understand how much each of these things will cost you, based on your lifestyle habits.

Keep in mind that another benefit of Dubai, is that there is no income taxes. This means that you will not need to pay taxes on your job salary, and therefore you may have more disposable income than where you’re moving from if you’re paying in come taxes there.

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Try the Cost of Living Calculator for Dubai

3. Visa Options and Finding a Job

Irrespective of your nationality, you will need a Visa or work permit to live and work in Dubai.

Depending on your employment type, there’s different Visa options you can apply for. Dubai offers freelancer visas for independent professionals who meet certain requirements, as well as investment visas for investors, and business setup visas for entrepreneurs. There’s also family and student Visas available.

Sign Up to learn more about the Visa Process and requirements.

But the most common Visa in Dubai, is the Employment Visa, provided to Expats when they sign an employment contract with a Dubai-based company. If you’re planning on finding a job in the city, naturally, one of your first priorities when planning to move to Dubai, should be to get a job in the UAE.

If you’re at the stage of looking for a job opportunity in Dubai, here’s some tips to help you with your job search:

1. Research the market: Familiarize yourself with the job market in Dubai to understand what type of roles are in biggest demand for hiring. Match your skills and qualifications to relevant roles - This will maximise your chances of getting a response.

2. Network: Reach out to people in your field and attend networking events - Nowadays there is loads happening online. Look on LinkedIn for hiring posts, and connect with Recruiters who work in your professional area. A lot of hiring for the Middle East happens on Linked, so make sure you have a strong presence on the platform, meaning a good profile and lots of relevant connections.

4. Make a list of everything you need to do

Photo of a couple packing their belongings into a box, and a suitcase.

Moving abroad can be an overwhelming task - there’s a lot you will need to prepare ahead of your move, from documentation to housing, to learning how to get around in your new city. That is why we have prepared a detailed checklist to help you navigate the entire moving process.

Here’s the most important things you cannot forget to do during your move:
Getting your Visa
Getting your local ID
Finding a House to rent
Open a Bank Account
Get a local phone number
Pack, ship and store my things
Book my travel
Get Healthcare Insurance

You can find a detailed list of everything you’ll need to do when you move to Dubai in your free account when you sign up. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to learn how to get each and every single one of these things sorted, as we have all the detailed and verified informaiton on how to get everything done inside our platform

5. Find a place to live

One of the hardest tasks when moving to a new city is finding a place to live. And when moving to Dubai, there’s a few important things to consider before starting your house hunting.

Firstly, decide if you want to buy or rent. Decide whether renting or buying aligns with your preferences and financial goals. Renting offers flexibility, while buying provides a long-term investment. The cost of real estate in Dubai varies, with considerations like mortgage rates and down payments. If you’d like to talk to an advisor about your possible options, you can reach out to us here.

Next, you’ll need to establish your budget Dubai's real estate market caters to various budgets, and different neighbourhoods have different prices. Establish a clear budget considering not only rent or mortgage payments but also associated costs like maintenance fees and utilities. This will help ensure you can stay on top of your finances throughout the year, and that you don’t get a home that is above your possibilities.

It’ll be very important to decide where to live There are many different types of Neighbourhoods to choose from in Dubai, each offering a unique living experience, and of course, different prices.

Dubai Marina appeals to those seeking waterfront living, while Downtown Dubai provides a cosmopolitan atmosphere near iconic landmarks. Jumeirah Lakes Towers is known for its community feel, making it suitable for families - But all of these areas have gone up in price in the recent years, and communities like JVC and Dubai Hills, which are located further outside the city, have become more popular.

Researching these areas and considering factors like proximity to workplaces, schools, and lifestyle amenities helps narrow down your choices.

Photo of a condo in Dubai, where you can see Arabic-style houses from the outside.

Find temporary accommodation for your first few weeks in Dubai You’ll need to rent temporary accommodation in Dubai for your first few weeks for a few reasons. The first reason, is because you cannot rent a long-term apartment without your Emirates ID, and that can take a few weeks to arrive. The second reason is, you’ll want to take your time to explore different areas and view properties before making a final decision.

It is very common for expats to choose to live in Hotel Apartments (Also known as Serviced Apartments) both for short-term and long term. However, these can be difficult to find. We have a list of expat-approved serviced apartments on Matutto, which you can access when you Sign Up.

6. Getting around in Dubai (Car and Pulic Transport)

Choosing whether to drive or not in Dubai will highly depend on where you live, where you work, and what places you need to travel to on a regular basis.

Dubai has an excellent transport system that is well-connected and affordable. The city has a reliable metro and bus network. The Dubai Metro is a convenient way to get around the city, and it connects most major areas. You can find the metro map here, and to start using it, simply purchase a metro card at one of the stations, top it up, and get going! The buses in Dubai are also reliable and very affordable, and they cover most areas that are not connected by the metro.

If you prefer to drive, it's essential to have a valid UAE driver's license. If you are moving as a resident, you will need to get a local license. Depending on where your license is from, you may be able to exchange it for a UAE license for a fee. You can sign up to learn more about what countries are included in this rule. Dubai has an extensive road network, and the city is well-connected to other emirates in the UAE.

Dubai also counts with an extensive network of taxis and private car companies, available to hire online or hail in the street. Careem is the most popular car hailing app that allows you to conveniently book a ride whenever and wherever you are on the spot. Because the price of petrol is quite affordable in the UAE, riding by taxi not a very expensive option in Dubai.

7. Open a Bank Account

Once you have arrived in the country, it’ll be very important to open a local bank account to help you manage your finances, receive your salary, and make local payments such as your monthly rent.

Opening a bank account in Dubai is easy as long as you have all the required documents. Most banks require a valid UAE residency visa, a passport, and a home address, which you may not yet have as soon as you land. You may also need to provide a minimum deposit, which can vary depending on the bank, as well as proof of earnings, so they know how much money will be entering your account on a monthly basis.

There might be a way to open an account while you’re still waiting for some of these documents - You can Sign Up to our platform to learn more.

Dubai is known for its resilient and ever-evolving banking system, and most banks offer a wide range of services, including online banking, credit cards, and personal loans. It's important to choose a bank that suits your needs and offers the services that you require.

Inside our platform, you can also discover what the biggest banks in the UAE are.

Photo of a One Hundred Dirham Bill

8. Get a local SIM card

One of the first things you’ll want to do when you arrive in Dubai is get a SIM card. Even though most public spaces in Dubai have wifi, having mobile data will help you get around, order taxis and stay in touch with friends and family when you’re on the go. Plus, you’ll probably need to start making calls to real estate agents or banks to help you get settled!

Getting a SIM card in Dubai is straightforward, as there are only a few providers to choose from. You can purchase a SIM card at the airport or any of the many mobile phone shops in the city. Most providers offer a range of plans and packages to suit your needs, including data plans and international calling.

When getting a SIM card, it’s important to know that you can only get a permanent phone number and plan once you have Emirates ID. In the meantime, you may only be able to get a tourist SIM Card that you can top up, and it normally has an expiry date. This will be your best option for when you first arrive in the country, and you can swap to a permanent contract once you have your Emirates ID.

9. Find a School for your kids (Families Only)

If you're moving to Dubai with children, it's essential to understand the school system prior to your move, and get started with finding a school for them as soon as possible, to ensure a smooth transition.

Because the UAE is a majority-expat country, the schooling system is private, and it caters to expat student needs. This often means that their school experience is almost exactly what it might be in another country. You can find Schools that offer AP classes, SAT and GCSE preparation. In most schools Arabic classes are also available, and in certain cases mandatory.

Dubai has a wide range of international schools, and the education system is mainly based on the British curriculum - although you can find American, India and French curriculums in many other schools too. Generally, the school year in Dubai starts in September and ends in June, with breaks for Christmas and Easter, but this depends on the school you choose.

Most international schools in Dubai offer an excellent standard of education, and they have a diverse student body. However, the fees can be quite high, and it's important to budget accordingly - Normally, different years have different prices. The cost of school also highly depends on the area, the demand, and the facilities they provide, so there’s many different types of schools that offer differnt costs.

It is advised to start looking and applying for schools as soon as possible, as the most popular schools tend to get full fast.

Sign up to compare and find schools in Dubai with our School Finder tool.

Photo of a family, the mother, father and two daughters in Dubai. They are posing for the photo at the beach, and you can see the Burj Al Arab building in the background.

10. Settle in and make new friends

Once you’re done with all the admin, it will all be about settling in your city, discovering all that Dubai has to offer and making new friends!

Dubai thrives on the coexistence of various cultures, offering expatriates a vibrant social landscape to explore. A few things you can do, to start building your new life are:

Join Expat Groups: Expatriate groups are abundant in Dubai, providing a platform to connect with individuals who share similar experiences. From professional networking events to social meet-ups, these groups offer a supportive environment for making new friends. You can get started by joining the Matutto Facebook Group here.

Explore Hobbies and Activities: Discovering shared hobbies and interests is an excellent way to forge connections. Whether you're into sports, book clubs, or volunteer activities, Dubai has diverse options to explore.

Embrace Cultural Experiences: Dubai's cultural richness offers unique experiences to share with new friends. From exploring traditional markets to attending cultural performances, immersing yourself in the local lifestyle provides ample opportunities to connect with both expatriates and locals.

If you made it this far - Congratulations! You’re pretty much ready to move to Dubai! Don’t forget to Sign Up to Matutto to learn more about this process, and leverage our tools and support for your move. Good luck!

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