15 things to know about living in Dubai in 2019

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Whether you’re moving to the city next year or a seasoned resident in need of a refresher…

Dubai moves at a fast pace, and the city is changing all the time. And with so much information out there about living and working in Dubai, it can be hard to know where to start. So, whether you’re fresh off the boat (or plane), or brushing up on your core local knowledge, we’ve rounded up 15 things to know about living in Dubai in 2019.

2019 is the Year of Tolerance

2016 was the Year of Reading, 2017 was the Year of Giving, 2018 was the Year of Zayed and 2019 will be the Year of Tolerance. Announced by the UAE President, H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the leader said the year would highlight the UAE as a global capital for tolerance, instilling the values of co-existence and peace in local, regional and international communities. The Year of Tolerance will also be an extension of the Year of Zayed, upholding the same values that the late Sheikh Zayed established among the people of the UAE. You can read all about the seven pillars of the Year of Tolerance here.

There’s now 5 per cent VAT

It’s not exactly something we all welcomed with open arms, but 2018 was the year in which value-added tax kicked off in the UAE. The introduction of VAT saw a small rise in the cost of living, with a 5 per cent tax on good and services including food, water and electricity (though public transport, international air travel, education and healthcare are exempt).

 

The working week begins on a Sunday

You might be used to Sundays at home, wrapped up in front of the television in your pyjamas, but in Dubai, you’ll typically find yourself at your desk by 9am sharp, as the days of rest fall on Friday and Saturday. While seeing all your friends enjoying a hearty roast on a Sunday lunchtime may never be easy, you’ll be the one laughing when your week finishes at 6pm on a Thursday and you’re gearing up for brunch while they make their Friday commute.

Dubizzle will become your best friend

Whether you’re looking for a new flat, selling your car or finding a job, Dubizzle is a great place to start. You can pretty much buy or sell anything on Dubizzle, and you can usually trust the buyers and sellers on it.

Rent is typically paid in cheques

While you might be used to paying rent as a monthly direct debit, in Dubai you can expect to be paying in yearly, bi-annually or quarterly payments in cheques. Forking out for a year’s rent upfront is becoming less and less common, although it can still be quite tricky to negotiate anything less than four cheques to pay your rent.

… but it’s becoming more affordable

Property prices in Dubai have fallen significantly in the last few years. A recent report by consultancy Chestertons found that average sales prices for apartments and villas declined 6 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter. It’s expected that this will continue in 2019. “In 2019, property prices are expected to continue to decline as we are most likely to see the materialisation of residential supply double, if not triple, the amount of units from past years,” explained Lynnette Abad, director of Research and Data at Property Finder.

You’ll want to get a nol card to use public transport

London has the Oyster card, Hong Kong has the Octopus card, Dubai has the nol card, which can be used to get around the pubic transport system across the city which includes buses, metro, tram and the water taxi. There are four types; red, blue, silver and gold – although silver and gold are the most commonly used. A silver card is priced at Dhs25, and comes with Dhs19 credit already on it to use. The gold card costs the same, but gives you access to the gold class carriage which is typically less busy and the seats are comfier. Each far comes at a slightly higher premium with the gold card, but it’s totally worth it. It’s not just limited to transport, your nol card can also be used to pay for things such as your groceries in selected supermarkets.

Getting a car is quick and easy if you already have a driving license in your home country

If you have a driving license from one of these 36 approved countries, you can convert your existing driving license quite easily. You’ll need to take a passport copy, Emirates ID, original driving license, NOC from your sponsor and complete an eye test certified by the Dubai Health to Dubai Traffic Department (Driving License Section in Al Ghusais), pay a fee of just over Dhs800 and provided your documents all match up, you’ll be on the road the same day.

A couple of forms are required to open a bank account

To open a current bank account in Dubai, you’ll already need to have a residency visa and your Emirates ID – although some banks allow non-residents to open a savings account, this is rare. There are often two forms required to open a bank account in Dubai: an NOC (a No Objection Certificate, provided by your employer or sponsor), and a salary certificate which your employer will provide. You can apply over the phone or online for your bank account, although you’ll need to present a passport in branch to complete your application.

There are two main mobile phone network providers

When you get a phone, your network provider will probably be one of the two big players: du or etisalat. Although they’re starting to get some competition, Virgin Mobile and Swyp have both launched in the region, and although they’re not as popular, they’re providing some competition for the industry leaders.

Video calling home can be tricky

Currently free online calling services like Skype and FaceTime are banned in the UAE under the country’s Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) policy. However, reports in 2018 suggested that the UAE’s Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) was in talks with Microsoft and Apple to look at the possibility of lifting restrictions on the services – so hopefully video calling home could be made a lot easier this year.

Brunch has a whole new meaning in this city

The word brunch may mean a lazy breakfast feast that begins mid-morning in your home country, but in Dubai, it’s a whole new world. Brunch is an institution (you’ll hear that word a lot, too), and is usually a three to four hour feast of unlimited food from around the world, free-flowing drinks, live music and entertainment. They range from around the Dhs100 for a cheap and cheerful offering to Dhs800 for the swankiest affairs.

There are some great ways to make living in Dubai cheaper

Yes, the cost of living might be higher than in your home town, but there are plenty of ways to make dining out and spending time with friends cheaper. Apps like The Entertainer and Moonshine allow you to take advantage of discounts and two-for-one deals at a host of venues around the city, while regular ladies’ night and gents’ nights offer money off your bill, free drinks and dinner deals every night of the week. Read our guide to Dubai’s best ladies’ nights and gents’ nights.

Certain things can get you in trouble which might not be offences in your home country

When it comes to living in a Muslim country like the UAE, some rules should be obvious – but others are less so. And while they might be rarely enforced, it’s still a good idea to aware of them, lest you inadvertently fall foul of the law. No public displays of affection, no drinking in public, no indecent clothing are all pretty obvious rules of living in a Muslim country, but did you also know that swearing in Whatsapp messages, sharing photos of accidents and fundraising could all land you in trouble? Read our guide to seven things you might not know could get you in trouble in the UAE.

We’re gearing up for a major event in 2020

Dubai is gearing up to host Expo 2020 from October 20, 2020 until April 2021, which will take place at a purpose built site on the edge of the city. So what exactly is it? Well, an expo is a super-sized exhibition which sees participating nations all come together to exhibit their feats in every sector from industrial to scientific to technological. Expo’s of this scale happen around the globe once every five years, with the Expo 2020 in Dubai the first to be held in the region. Dubai successfully won the rights to Expo 2020 back in 2013. More than 170 countries will be represented at Expo 2020, with the site split into three main Pavilions; Opportunity Pavilion, Mobility Pavilion and Sustainability Pavilion. A UAE Pavilion also features in the main site.

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