Relocating to the UAE? If you need more information about the country before you leave then read our expat guide and find out how Barclays can help.




As of December 2015, the population of the UAE is 9.45 million.

Source: CIA World Factbook

Main languages

Arabic (official), English, Hindi, Urdu, Farsi.


Islam is the official religion of the UAE, while other religions are respected.

Time zone

UAE time zone is GMT+ 4 hours.

Popular employment sectors

According to 2015 figures from the Ministry of Labour, the construction sector is the biggest employer in the UAE, with 1.5 million workers accounting for about 34% of the country’s total employment. The second two biggest employers are the business and industrial sectors, with 1.05 million and 500,000 workers respectively.

Source: WAM News


Before you travel to the UAE, check the current visa requirements with the UAE Embassy in London, or your home country.

UK citizens don’t need to arrange a visa in advance before visiting the UAE. Your passport will be stamped for 30 days upon arrival. To work in Dubai, you will need to apply for a residence visa. Typically your employer will act as your sponsor.

Source: Embassy of the UAE in London

Political system

The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven states. The Federal Supreme Council is the highest decision-making authority in the country and comprises seven Emirs (governors) of the seven emirates

Source: UAE Cabinet


Domestic supply is between 220-240 volts, 50Hz, type C, D, G. Sockets suitable for three-pin 13 amp plugs are the norm, but consider bringing two-pin adapters with you.



The currency used in UAE is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED)

International dialing code

The international dialing code for the UAE is +971

Internet domain

The internet domain for the UAE is .ae

Social media

WhatsApp and Facebook are extremely popular in the UAE.

Source: Media use in the Middle East


Broadband is widely available in the main urban areas of the UAE through two suppliers; Etisalat and Du.

Source: du Telecommunications

Mobile network coverage

Mobile coverage is generally good, as many people in the UAE do not have landlines at home. However, it can be expensive. There are two main suppliers: Etisalat and Du. Both 3G and 4G plans are available.

Source: Expat Arrivals

Emergency numbers

Police - 999; ambulance - 998; fire - 997.


Emergency treatment in government hospitals is free, but follow-up treatment may be charged. Applying for a UAE health card from the Ministry of Health allows residents to receive low cost medical treatment at public hospitals and clinics. For regular cover, however, expatriates should sign up for private health insurance for themselves and their dependents. Employers should provide health cover for employees who are resident expats.

Sources:, UAE Government


There is a wide range of international cuisines available in the UAE. Emirati restaurants typically serve traditional dishes made from fish, meat and rice. Sweeter dishes are often served at breakfast. Friday brunch is an institution among many expats, often put on by international hotels.

Sources: Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, The Telegraph


The United Arab Emirates is an Islamic country. Visitors and expat residents are expected to be respectful of the culture.

In general, it’s advisable to wear loose cotton clothing to stay cool in the heat and to keep shoulders and knees covered when out and about in public, especially when visiting the malls, government buildings and offices and places of work.

Source: Visit Abu Dhabi


Tipping of 10% to 15% for good service has become more common in recent years, although it’s not obligatory.

Source: Visit Abu Dhabi

Education system

Private schools offer 16 different curriculums, such as British, American and Japanese. The Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), the government department responsible for education in Dubai, has a directory that can help with choosing the right early education establishment and school, based on curriculum, fees, location and other important criteria. As with private schools in the UK, the best options often have lengthy waiting lists. The Abu Dhabi Education Council also has a directory of private schools on its website.

Sources: Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Which School Advisor, Abu Dhabi Education Council

Cost of private education

Tuition fees can vary. The KHDA regulates school fees according to the annual Education Cost Index (ECI) and schools’ inspection ratings.

According to Which School Advisor, average fees for British curriculum schools in Dubai can range from AED15,000 to AED28,000 per year.

Sources: Which School Advisor - News, Which School Advisor - Guides

Top universities

In addition to the local universities, the UAE has several offshore campuses and programs for reputable British, American, Australian and Canadian universities, among others.

Cost of childcare

The cost of nurseries varies across the UAE, depending on the facilities available. Typically four hours a day can cost approximately AED 35 per hour or more.

The cost of hiring a qualified childcare specialist, such as a baby nurse, has increased in recent years. The salaries of domestic helpers are around AED2,000 per month for live-in helpers to AED3,500 a month for live-out helpers.

Sources: Dubai Government, Grassland, 7 days UAE

Family activities

The UAE is a family-friendly place, with several public parks, waterparks, accessible beaches, child friendly malls and attractions such as The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, Ski Dubai and the Al Ain Zoo to name a few.

Sources: Dubai Aquarium, Al Ain Zoo


Vehicles drive on the right. You can check the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) website to see if you are qualified to transfer your home country driving licence or have to apply for a new one.

Source: World Standards

Public transport

The minimum taxi fare in Dubai is AED20. Fares are generally affordable and official taxis can be booked by calling 04 208 0808, online, by SMS, or flagged down on the street. Other popular modes of public transport in the emirate include Dubai Metro and Dubai Tram.

Sources: Dubai Metro, Dubai Online

Main airports

Car insurance

By law, you must have a minimum level of third party liability car insurance in the UAE.

Source: AIG

Fuel and utility bills

Car fuel is cheap by western standards.

Electricity and water are supplied by government agencies. For example, the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA) provides electricity and water in Dubai. It also offers a tariff guide and a calculator to help you work out how much bills could be.

Source: DEWA

National Insurance Contributions

When you live and work in the UK, you make National Insurance Contributions (NICS), which mean you’re entitled to claim a state pension at retirement and other benefits. If you are moving to a country such as UAE and stop paying UK NICS, the amount of state pension and other benefits you can claim when you return to the UK could be affected. However, you can make voluntary payments to top up you contributions. There are two types of contribution that you can make, either Class 2 or Class 3.

Source: GOV.UK

The information above has been collated from a range of reputable sources. Some of the lifestyle information may be anecdotal or the opinion of the source and is therefore a guide only. If living abroad and planning to return to the UK, you may want to continue making National Insurance payments in the UK to contribute to a state pension. Visit for more information.

What's next?

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