Thursday, 7 October 2010

Guest Blogger Series: Introducing... Aaron White

We first knew about Aaron's blog- 'An English Man in Dubai' when we tweeted, "Just looking at our blog roll. Any essential expat blogs we should be adding to the list?" and @ronski responded saying 'add me!' Reading through his blog and watching some pretty amusing parody videos that Aaron has made, we knew that not only was the blog a must add to any expat blog roll, but also that we had to get Aaron to guest post for us. So without further ado...

Dubai Explorer

I first arrived in Dubai June 2006 with a couple of suitcases, the phone number of an old friend, and not much of a clue. It was a real eye opener moving from the UK to the UAE, but as all expats will tell you in Dubai it is hard going for the first month or so, then you are on easy street.

I would not advise coming to Dubai to look for a job on a long term basis as being on a visit visa is quite hampering. For example, it is difficult if not impossible to buy a car or rent a property without having a residence visa. When you do have a job the company will then take care of applying for said residence visa, and after this everything becomes far easier.

Do be aware that it is standard practice for nearly everyone to want a photocopy of your passport/visa to do anything with. So make lots of copies of them and be sure to have them at hand.

What to do before you come?

Aside from the usual moving of address things I was made sure I did the the following:

1.Wrote a will (otherwise Sharia law comes into effect should the worse happen)

2. Declared where I was going to the Inland Revenue

3. If you are able to open up a Premier HSBC Bank account in the UK do it as the referral to Premier Status in HSBC Dubai is worth its weight in gold (making banking a lot easier)

4. Had my degree certificate attested via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Milton Keynes and a notary/solicitor (if you are married it would be wise to have your wedding certificate attested too)

5. Had Royal Mail forward my post to my office address in Dubai as there is very little direct home mail service available in Dubai

6. Made plenty of copies of my passport and had lots of passport photos made

7. Make sure you bring your driving license (for UK people also the paper counterpart) and a copy of your no claims bonus from your insurance company

Where do I live?

Companies will normally provide expats with some form of temporary accommodation when first arriving. This may be in a hotel or a serviced apartment, but if you are anything like me you will be itching to get your own place and make it feel like home.

The good news is that with the dramatic construction explosion over the last five years there is no shortage of good quality accommodation to be had in Dubai for far more reasonable rates than 2006. Also, apartments and villas typically provide far greater floor area than the equivalent in the UK, and many even boast communal facilities such as pools and gyms.

Dubai is basically split in two in terms of housing. First there is "Old Dubai" consisting of Deira, Bur Dubai, Satwa, Jumeriah and Umm Sequiem. If you want somewhere with an original taste of Dubai with a side order of bustle and action then any of these areas will provide this. With plenty of apartments available in Deira, Bur Dubai and Satwa this may appeal to a younger audience. Those with families may want to look for villas in either Jumeriah or Umm Sequiem for a slightly more residential feel.

Then there is "New Dubai" with many luxury apartments to be found in Dubai Marina, Old Town, The Greens and Tecom. These are suitable for professional young couple and singles. Villa areas include The Springs, The Lakes, The Meadows, Arabian Ranches and Mirdiff. These are often highly sought after as good schools are often located nearby.

Each has its own upside and downside and ultimately personal preference, location and budget will decide. The other good news is that there is now a glut of choice and with a little care you can find a great place to live in Dubai for "reasonable money"

To start looking I would recommend the excellent where you can find not only property listings but just about everything else as well as lively Dubai debate. Also be sure to check out the Gulf News ads –

Also a top tip if looking for cars, furniture or a housekeeper is to be sure to check out the noticeboards in Spinneys or your local supermarket. These can often be a gold mine of good bargains - usually from desperate expats who are leaving the country

What are my choices from transportation?

Coming for the UK I was somewhat petrified about driving in Dubai. After all it was on the "wrong side"of the road in traffic that has its own set of rules. Again, the good news for new expats is that the authorities have worked hard on a number of things. Firstly the driving, aside from the odd exception, really isn't that bad and with hundreds of speed cameras popping up around Dubai neither is it at quite the break neck speed it use to be.

Also public transport has dramatically improved. The Dubai Metro is up and running and can get you to nearly all major destinations in the city and each stop is well served by a new bus network.

Failing that the good old Dubai taxi is still reasonably priced and while there is now a minimum 10aed charge it is still super cheap compared to a London Black Cab.

Having said all that about public transport in this city nearly everyone owns a car. Japanese and American cars in particular are cheap and plentiful and petrol compared to Western Europe is very inexpensive despite rising by 50% in recent months.

What are the most important things when I get there?

As far as I am concerned there are five basic tenants that you need in Dubai:

1. Air Conditioning - it may seem like a joke - but when it is nearly 50c and 90% humidity having poor or no A/C is literally living hell. Most apartments will have central AC but if moving to a villa make sure the system they have has been regularly maintained and works well.

2. Water - for both water and electricity you will need to visit your local "DEWA" office - be sure to bring the following with you - A deposit (1000aed/2000aed for an apartment or villa), passport copy, visa copy, tenancy contract and passport copy of the owner of the property (this took by surprise before). Otherwise you could get your rental agent to sort this out for you

3. Electricity - see above

4. Mobile Phone - take your pick of provider (Du or Etisalat) and get a pre-paid or post-paid SIM and select your handset (along with the usual passport copies). But it really is important to have a mobile number as everyone you interact with want to know what it is. I can't recall when anyone asked me what my home phone number was in Dubai.

5. Internet Access - again choose from Du or Etisalat and while it is expensive compared to Western Europe there are now speeds available up to 30mb.

What do I do for fun?

Well if you are resident and want to drink I highly recommend getting an Alcohol license. It is after illegal to store and consume it in your own home or in a bar without one. Again the process involves form filling and passport copy supplying. But by now you are an expert at that right?

Other than that the UAE offers a wealth of activities - there are of course the beach bars and high end nightclubs than you can visit in any one of the numerous five star hotels. But the glorious weather can lead to such a adventures as 4x4 driving in the desert or along Wadi's, hiking in the mountains, diving in the Indian Ocean, camping in the desert or on the beach and nearly all year around barbecuing is possible.

If you are short on ideas then grab a copy of the local Time Out and give something a whirl. Otherwise if you have more detailed questions they can often be answered by either the Expatwomen forums (always my first destination) or the excellent Dubai Complete Residents Guide.

Dubai is still a young but vibrant city. A lot of things that you or I might take for granted are often in their infancy however with a dash of patience and dose of adventure you really can lead a fun life in the sun shine.

About the author

Aaron White is an expat who moved to Dubai in 2006, works in the IT field and writes the blog An Englishman In Dubai. Follow Aaron on Twitter @ronski


  1. Good stuff! I'll be passing this along to Dubai expats wanna-bes as exactly what they need. Aaron really covered this well, (we just moved away from Dubai). I also have to mention I am addicted to his blog, which is a fun, fun read.

  2. Hi Natalie,

    Glad you like Aaron's post and enjoying our posts on Expat Explorer.

    Do leave us some suggestions on the types of topics you'd like us to blog about or guest posts you would like to see more of.

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