Moving To Dubai From UK – 101 Insider Tips You Need To Know

As exciting as it is moving to the Middle East, it's normal to feel a bit nervy! It's a massive change of lifestyle. As it happens, every member of staff at our Dubai office is an expat from somewhere around the globe, so we asked them if they had any tips for those looking to make the move.

We know, better than most, how daunting it can be moving to Dubai from the UK. We’re a document legalisation company, so we deal with people making the switch all the time – and they’re always as nervous as they are excited. It’s normal.

So, to help calm those pre-living in Dubai nerves, we’ve put together 101 Tips for Living in the UAE – a handy guide full of loads of little titbits to help you settle into the Dubai lifestyle. Our entire Dubai office is staffed by expats from all over the globe, so we asked them what they wished they’d have known when they first moved to Dubai. Those answers make up our tips.

They cover all aspects of living and working in Dubai; renting, working, utilities, transport, social etiquette – all the things you might need to know. I’ll run through some of the tips in this article, and at the end you can download the full pdf for free. It’ll make living in Dubai so much easier for you.


First things first you’ll need to sort out where you’re going to be living. Pretty much all expats start out renting – it’s a good way to test the waters and see how you adapt to living in Dubai without making any massive commitments.

Tip 3 – you need a bank account and a valid residence visa before you can start renting a house or an apartment long-term. You can open a bank account with a letter from your employer while your visa is being processed, and you could start renting straight away. We recommend waiting until your visa is accepted before renting, though – if it doesn’t go through you could end up out of pocket.

Social Etiquette

Moving to Dubai from the UK can be a shock to the system – it’s a completely different culture! You’ll need to know some of the basic social rules and etiquette so you don’t make a faux pas. Try not to worry too much, though. People often make mistakes when they first start living in Dubai, and locals will be pretty forgiving.

Tip 13 – the legal drinking age in Dubai is 21, but it’s handy to know that it varies across the different Emirates. In Abu Dhabi, for example, the drinking age is 18 (although a Ministry of Tourism by-law means that hotels will only serve over-21s). In Sharjah alcohol is banned all together.

A black and white headshot of Christian, an employee in the Vital Consular Dubai office. He's an expert on moving to Dubai from UK, having done it himself!

Tip 25. The UAE has an extremely laid back approach towards organisation. For many this will be very hard to adjust to. For example, deadlines at school are often just sprung upon parents. Public holidays are announced sometimes only a week before (leaving little time to plan breaks away properly). The response to many situations is “Inshallah” which loosely means ‘God willing’ or “In God’s time’. This is likely to be the first Arabic word you learn!

Chris from our Dubai Office

Tip 27 – in Arabian culture, the left hand is considered unclean. You should always use your right hand for opening doors, passing over or receiving things, eating and shaking hands. If you’re a leftie living in Dubai this might take some getting used to!

An image of the Dubai skyline, featuring loads of modern skyscrapers and the Burj Khalifa, for moving to Dubai from UK.

Getting Around

Getting around is like anywhere else in the world – you can walk, cycle, get taxis, use public transport or buy your own car.

Due to the intense heat, most people living in Dubai opt for the air conditioned taxis and public transport. If you do want your own car, you can often get good deals from expats leaving the country, looking to make a quick sale.

Tip 65 – if you’re travelling by the Metro, keep in mind that there are different carriages for different types of travel. If you’re male, avoid the women and children only cabin! If you’ve paid for standard travel, don’t get in the luxury Gold cabin! You’ll be fined for being in the wrong class. Prices are low by Western standards, so we’d recommend paying the bit extra to travel in Gold – especially on hot, sweaty days.

A black and white headshot of Pribi, an employee from our Dubai office.

Tip 66. Passengers are permitted to carry 2 items of luggage on a Metro train (one large suitcase and one piece of hand baggage). Eating, chewing and drinking are not allowed.

Pribi from our Dubai Office

Tip 70 – In Dubai, cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. If you’re wanting to drive you can swap your existing licence for a UAE equivalent once you get a residence visa – just remember to give way to the left!


Part of living in Dubai – part of living anywhere – is sorting out your utilities. You’ll need a phone and internet access if you’re wanting to stay in touch with your loved ones back home! Our guide offers plenty of handy advice on utilities.

Tip 95 – Getting a phone is easy. You can set up a pre-paid number for 60 days using a visitor’s visa until your residency visa is finalised, then you can sort out a proper contract. There’re 2 mobile service providers in the UAE – Etisalat and Du.

Tip 100 – If there isn’t already a router for your home internet connection, it’s worth looking in electronics stores and buying your own – it’s normally cheaper than buying one straight from the service provider.

Before moving to Dubai from the UK

Before you can start living and working in Dubai, you’ll need to have your documents legalised. It’s a pretty confusing, lengthy process that’ll have you dealing with various government departments across the UK and the UAE, getting a series of stamps to prove that your documents are legitimate. We’ve written a guide to UAE attestation that you can read here!

Trying to navigate document legalisation on your own is a lot of stress at an already stressful time, so I’ve got one more invaluable tip for you – use Vital Consular to have your documents legalised!

With our 100% Acceptance Guarantee, we take all the stress out of document legalisation. All you need to do is pop your documents to us in the post. We’ll legalise them for you and send them back, ready for use! It’ll save you so much time, effort and hassle – you can focus on your plans for living in Dubai!

If you’ve found these tips useful, download the full pdf version below for free! It also includes some useful contacts and numbers for when you arrive to give you the best possible start to living in Dubai. If you’re interested in more useful and interesting information for expats, tick the box to join our monthly round-up mailing list. We hope you enjoy the guide!

Where shall we deliver your instant download link?

We’ve got knowledge of the attestation process for most countries, so our experienced colleagues across the globe can answer any queries you have. If you've got an enquiry, you can give our team of specialists a call on +44 (0) 330 088 1142, send us a message via WhatsApp on mobile, use our live chat system, or e-mail us at

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Ashraf Vachhiat
Ashraf Vachhiat

Ashraf is the Marketing Technologist at Vital Consular, which means he handles all the technicalities involved in bringing this blog to life! He also enjoys creating in-depth articles around current affairs which impact the travel and relocation industry. In his free time, Ashraf relishes travelling as much as possible, and is always looking for quirky spots to take some great photos.

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