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10 Things Expats Should Know About Living in Dubai Before Moving There

10 things expats should know about living in Dubai before moving there

By Samar Owais · September 5, 2012

Life for expats in Dubai is many things, but it's certainly never dull. No matter how much one researches a place before moving to live there, some things only get discovered after living there for a while.  

Following are a few things expats learn only after living in Dubai for a few months.  

Language:  Arabic may be the official language of UAE, but it isn't the mostly widely spoken—English is. Expats often say that they go by weeks without hearing anyone speak Arabic.  

Ramadan:  Working hours reduce to 6 hours a day during Ramadan for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Eating in public is also strictly prohibited during fasting hours.  

Postal Mail:  Unless something is couriered, postal mail does not get delivered to home addresses. People have to get P.O boxes for regular mail. Most expats prefer to have things delivered at work or get a P.O Box assigned to them through their employer.  

Taxes:  UAE (and Dubai as a result) is a tax-free country. That means no one here is required to pay any kind of personal or income taxes! There are absolutely no forms to fill, and no claims to make.  

Construction:  In 1991, there was only one Skyscraper in Dubai, and that was the World Trade Center. Now, more than 200 buildings are over 100 meters in height. (Source: Arabian Money )  In fact, at its construction boom, Dubai was said to employ 15%-25% of the world's cranes.  Dubai has the World's Tallest Building (Burj Khalifa), longest metro line (Dubai Metro), biggest  man-made island (Palm Islands) and the largest shopping mall (Dubai Mall) to name just a few.  In summer, when the temperatures are peaking, working hours for construction workers change. Construction starts before dawn, and halts from 10 am – 4 pm when the temperature spikes.  

Alcohol:  Alcohol, while considered Haram in Islam, is legally available in Dubai and is served in hotels, restaurants and bars. The catch here is that only restaurants and bars within a hotel are given licenses to carry alcohol. Restaurants outside of hotels are not permitted to serve alcohol.   Drinking alcohol in public and especially outside of licenses premises is illegal and offenders get fined heavily.  

Oil:   Contrary to popular belief, Dubai does not have a lot of oil. Abu Dhabi does. Most of Dubai's  income comes from trade.  Gas in Dubai is extremely cheap averaging an AED 1.72 per litre or around $0.50  

Media:  Dubai is known to monitor and ban websites it considers having offensive material. Flickr and Twitter were the most popular sites blocked in Dubai, but both have now been unblocked.  Radio is a very popular medium in Dubai, but it must follow strict rules. It is illegal to talk about the Royal family, politics or sex on air.  

Politics:  Each emirate is ruled by a monarch and the President, and Prime Minister of the country are chosen from the monarchs of the seven emirates.  Because of the monarchy, there are no political parties in the country.  

Airports:  Technically, Dubai has one airport with three terminals. Every terminal is large enough to be a separate airport on its own though.  Terminal 3 is for Emirates Airline exclusively and one of the best airports in the world. Terminal 1 mostly for budget airlines and Terminal 2 is for all the rest.  This list is by no means complete but it's an excellent starting point for expats who're new to Dubai.  

Health Insurance:  Health care is not provided free to expatriates living or working in Dubai, and private hospitals and clinics are quite expensive by world standards. Make sure you buy a suitable international health insurance policy if you're planning on moving to Dubai. 

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