Apart from securing your new job, getting your accommodation satisfactorily sorted out is probably the most crucial factor in making your move to the UAE a success.
Picking the place to live that best suits your needs can be a particularly tricky task – particularly when you first arrive in the UAE and don't know one end of town from the other.
The UAE has plenty of residential areas to choose from, ranging from family villas to snazzy high-rise apartments. More developments are springing up all the time and each, when finished, will have its own shops and restaurants, and usually, access to a school.
We recommend that you select areas that appeal to you from our residential profiles and then spend a few days driving to each place you are interested in – that way you can see if the development is well established or still under construction, what facilities are there and what the traffic is like. We've provided a price guide, with prices being for unfurnished properties, and if you want to rent a furnished place, anticipate adding Dhs. 10,000 or more a year to the rental price.
Whichever place you pick to live you're sure to find many great features, and the rest of the UAE's attractions will be just a short drive or taxi ride away.
Dubai has plenty of residential areas to choose from, ranging from family villas to snazzy high-rise apartments. Wherever you choose, you’re never far from good quality schools, healthcare facilities, shopping malls and grocery stores.
Marsa Dubai & JBR
The high-rise apartment towers of Marsa Dubai and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) are a popular choice for expats. The many hotels are home to numerous restaurants, and The Walk at JBR is packed every evening with people socialising and strolling, as is the shopping and dining area The Beach. Other attractions include the sandy beach and marina, splash and water parks, a running track and outdoor gym, and an outdoor market in the grounds of The Beach mall.
Most apartments in Marsa Dubai have a pool, and annual rental prices start from Dhs.90,000 for a one-bedroom and Dhs.210,000 for a three-bedroom pad. A one-bedroom apartment in JBR can be rented from Dhs.100,000; a three-bedroom from Dhs.180,000. If you have a car, check if the property you want comes with a parking space.
Palm Jumeirah (also referred to by its Arabic name of Nakhlat Jumeira) is one of the most sought-after areas for families due to its wide range of facilities and the fact it’s away from the hustle and bustle. Its proximity to the beach is also a plus. A monorail system links areas on The Palm and also connects to Dubai Tram, which then joins up to the Dubai Metro.
Several high-class hotels are now open on the Palm, all offering an array of superb restaurants, bars and attractions, including a water park, aquarium and dolphinarium.
The trunk of the island is made up of large one to four-bedroom apartments, and the fronds are covered in nearly identical three to six-bedroom villas. Annual rental prices range from Dhs.130,000 for a one-bedroom apartment to Dhs.350,000 for a three-bedroom townhouse.
The actual area of Jumeira occupies a prime nine-kilometre strip of coastline stretching south-west from the port area. Jumeira Road (Beach Road) is the neighbourhood’s lifestyle centre, with art and fashion boutiques, independent restaurants, takeaways and fast food joints, as well as access to the lively Jumeirah Beach Hotel and Madinat Jumeirah. The city’s most popular beaches are within walking distance of Jumeira and Umm Suqeim.
Jumeira villas have high rents, with three-bedroom villas starting from Dhs.200,000. There’s a mixture of huge ‘palaces’, independent villas, and villas in compounds with shared facilities. Two-bedroom apartments in neighbouring Satwa start from Dhs.130,000, while a three-bedroom villa will go for Dhs.170,000.
Rated by property experts as one of the top five neighbourhoods to raise a family in Dubai, Emirates Living is a desirable address with a range of villa-style houses in The Springs, The Lakes, The Meadows and the exclusive Emirates Hills. Tree-lined streets and pathways, attractively landscaped lakes, gardens and recreation areas make it perfect for those who want to enjoy the peace and quiet of suburbia. The gated-community feel runs throughout each neighbourhood, as kids play in the streets and parks, while adults jog the pavements.
The smallest villas available are located in The Springs, the larger properties are in The Meadows and Emirates Hills. Annual rental prices range from Dhs.130,000 for a two-bedroom townhouse to Dhs.350,000 for a six-bedroom mansion.
With the Burj Khalifa on your doorstep, Dubai Mall (with its aquarium) and the dancing fountains, Downtown is a popular tourist area, but it also has a community feel. Children’s play areas, cafes and restaurants, souks and swimming pools are to be found, and the wide promenades, Arabian passageways and palm-lined streets that link the different residential quarters encourage residents to walk around.
Options range from tiny studios to expansive four-bedroom townhouses, and the finishing in most buildings is of a high spec. Most residential towers come with facilities including games rooms, libraries, barbecue areas, gyms, pools and sports courts. Annual rental prices: One-bedroom from Dhs.100,000 in Old Town or Dhs.160,000 in Burj Khalifa.
Made up of clusters of Mediterranean style low-rise apartment blocks, Discovery Gardens is surprisingly green. Traffic bottlenecks can be a problem during rush hours, but there is plenty of parking. The metro is not easy to walk to; a bus or taxi is the best option. The neighbouring development Al Furjan is designed with families in mind and has 50 hectares of parkland, as well as cycling and jogging tracks.
Rents tend to be lower in Discovery Gardens and apartments easy to come by. Annual rental prices start from Dhs.60,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. A three-bedroom villa can be rented in Al Furjan from Dhs.150,000.
The main area of Al Barsha offers large villas with big gardens and is popular with local families. There is also a range of old and new apartment buildings. For dining and nightlife, you can head to the restaurants at the Kempinski and Pullman hotels at Mall of the Emirates or the many good-quality independent eateries in the area. Attractions include the cinema, play centre, bowling alleys, theatre and indoor ski slope at Mall of the Emirates.
A three-bedroom villa in Al Barsha is likely to cost from Dhs.170,000 per yearThe neighbouring TECOM community is made up primarily of residential towers, where rents tend to be a bit cheaper, with a two-bedroom apartment costing from Dhs.90,000 per year.
Dubailand is a vast development that stretches along Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road and includes sporting attractions, entertainment facilities, retail outlets and residential areas.
Arabian Ranches is a quiet development with grassy areas, and its spacious villas tend to have swimming pools. Annual rental prices for a two-bedroom villa start from Dhs.145,000. Anyone looking to garner a slice of the residential golfing lifestyle should consider Jumeirah Golf Estates, where a four-bedroom villa will cost from Dhs.290,000. On a lower budget, Dubai Sports City’s two-bedroom apartments start from Dhs.80,000 and MotorCity, which consists of pretty, medium-rise apartments set within cobbled streets and greenery, has one-bedroom apartments starting from Dhs.65,000.
Head to Dubai Creek and its surrounding areas of Bur Dubai, Deira and Karama for a flavour of what Dubai used to be like. These older communities are well connected to both the red and green metro lines, and the area is always buzzing with activity.
There's plenty to do here, with museums, heritage sites and art galleries of Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood; Zabeel Park and its weekly farmers' market; the corniche of Dubai Creek and BurJuman Mall. Bur Dubai is dominated by apartments. You can expect to pay from Dhs.70,000 for a two-bedroom apartment. Rents in Deira are relatively low in some of the more built-up areas – from Dhs.60,000 for a two-bedroom apartment – while creekside dwellings cost more.
Mirdif has villas and newer buildings, such as the Uptown Mirdiff complex, the upmarket Shorooq community villas and the low-cost Ghoroob apartments.
There are plenty of dining options here, and for entertainment the massive Mirdif City Centre houses a cinema and Playnation, so there’s plenty for the little ones. Further down Airport Road is the smaller Arabian Centre shopping mall which has a World Mart and a Cinecity cinema.
Mirdif is a great area for families and has developed into a bustling community with a well-established feel. Take your time with your search as the quality of the buildings varies greatly, and some areas are under the flight path to the airport. Annual rental prices are Dhs.60,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and Dhs.115,000 for a three-bedroom villa.
Abu Dhabi isn't short of interesting places to live and new options are constantly arriving on the market. There are good schools and medical facilities, as well as shopping entertainment.
The corniche stretches along the Arabian Gulf coast, from Emirates Palace up to Port Zayed. It has traditionally been one of the most sought after areas to live, thanks to the expansive beach, spacious green parks, abundance of shopping options, and the multitude of restaurants and hotels. Marina Villas is an exclusive development of five to eight-bedroom villas behind Marina Mall; some even have their own private beaches. The annual rental cost for a five-bedroom villa starts from Dhs.700,000. Expats tend to prefer the modern Etihad Towers or Nation Towers at the Emirates Palace end, to older buildings on the corniche. Annual rental costs start from Dhs.90,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Downtown Abu Dhabi is a busy melting pot that thrives with life. Some of the city's more affordable apartments and hotels can be found here, mixing it up with five-star hotels towards the corniche and a few villas heading towards Al Nahyan and Al Wahda. Parking is limited, however. One-bedroom apartments in Al Zahiyah, formerly known as the Tourist Club Area, start from Dhs.68,000. Madinat Zayed and Markaziya is a busy area with easy access to the corniche where a one-bedroom apartment costs from Dhs.80,000 and a three-bedroom apartment from Dhs.110,000. Al Nahyan is a little quieter but still close to the action, where typical annual rental costs from Dhs.65,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and from Dhs.105,000 for a three-bedroom apartment.
The newly developed Al Reem and Al Maryah islands form an impressive skyline of residential, commercial and business properties. At the moment it’s very much a destination for professionals with younger families and while amenities are still a little limited, it’s set to become a real hub for Abu Dhabi. There are new beaches, a marina and sports facilities in the pipeline. Most residential buildings are on Reem Island, such as Gate Towers, Sun & Sky Towers, Marina Square, or The Arc. All are less than four years old and offer excellent pools and gyms. A one-bedroom apartment will cost from Dhs.90,000; or three bedrooms from Dhs.145,000. Across the water is Saadiyat Island with its stunning beaches, popular Saadiyat Beach Club and easy access into the city.
One of the most popular and upscale areas in the city, Khalidiya treads that fine line between being quiet and established yet offering plenty to do. To the bottom it stretches out to Al Bateen, an extremely affluent and well-groomed area popular with Emirati residents. In the heart of Khalidiya though there’s a good mix of Arab and expat communities, who enjoy it for the family feel and close proximity to the corniche and city centre. The area stretches to Al Mushrif to the east and Downtown to the north, encompassing an eclectic area of residential and commercial zones. Make sure you snap rentals up quickly as this area is very popular thanks to its family feel and urban twist. A one-bedroom apartment will cost from Dhs.75,000 per year; a three-bedroom apartment from Dhs.120,000; and a five-bedroom villa from Dhs.200,000.
This is the ‘middle bit’ of Abu Dhabi island that most drive through to get to the ‘action’ at the corniche end of the city. However, it’s not without charm and there are plenty of villas for rent in this more leafy part of town. There are good cafes and restaurants tucked in amongst residential and business areas, and at hotels in the area. The Eastern Corniche runs alongside Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Street and looks out over the mangroves, close to the Eastern Mangroves Promenade. It has gardens and gazebos for picnics and is popular with joggers and cyclists. Mushrif is a quiet, central location and Muroor is a fine option for families with some good-sized accommodation. One-bedroom apartments in either area cost from Dhs.65,000 a year. Nearby Al Gurm is a luxurious development of waterside apartments costing Dhs.700,000 for a four-bedroom villa.
Around the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque are some of the most interesting neighbourhoods in the city. From the Rihan Heights towers near the Zayed Sports City complex and the established expat community around Mangrove Village, to the numerous villa and apartment compounds heading towards the city, there really is something for everybody. The hotel around Qaryat Al Beri (Between the Bridges) make the area is a hub of evening activity. The Hills offers modern villas with sea views and easy access to a park and the Armed Officer’s Club. Annual rental price for a five-bedroom villa is from Dhs.280,000. Mangrove Village is a well-established, family-friendly compound of villas by the water, where a two-bedroom villa will go for Dhs.165,000+ per year; a four-bedroom villa from Dhs.215,000.
This large area on the edge of Abu Dhabi is perfectly placed for access to Abu Dhabi International Airport, Yas Island and the E10/E11 highway to Dubai. It’s well serviced for nearby beaches, sports and leisure activities. Raha Beach is one of the areas where expats can buy property and the waterfront complexes of Al Bandar, Al Muneera and Al Zeina are some of the most desirable locations in Abu Dhabi. The sprawling Khalifa City offers larger accommodation for the money and is popular with families after more space and some peace and quiet. Raha Beach offers mainly apartments starting from Dhs.95,000, while Khalifa City has compounds and individual villas, most with large accommodation. Raha Gardens is a popular long, narrow stretch of villas starting at Dhs.190,000 for three bedrooms.
To the south of the city, Mohammed Bin Zayed City (or MBZ) runs alongside the industrial area of Mussafah and continues eastward towards more local-dominated neighbourhoods. It's often not the first choice for western expats, but there is relatively easy access into the city and for your rental allowance you’re likely to find a larger living space. A mix of Indian, Arabic and fast food restaurants can all be found alongside villas and in small shopping centres. Although there’s not a lot to see in the immediate area, a quick drive on the E11 toward Al Rahba brings you to the small but decent Emirates Park Zoo. Being close to the industrial zone keeps the large villas in quiet streets remarkably well priced. Annual rental costs range from a three-bedroom villa for Dhs.120,000 to a four-bedroom villa for Dhs.130,000.
While most of the population of the UAE lives in the big cities of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the other cities offer affordable, accessible and diverse alternatives.
Also known as the ‘green city’ or ‘garden city’ due to the many parks, gardens and open spaces that it boasts, Al Ain is ideal for anyone who wants to live away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Despite its modest size, there are plenty of attractions from the family-friendly Al Ain Zoo to the thrill-a-minute Wadi Adventure, and nearby Jebel Hafeet is a great place to hike.
International schools include Al Ain International and GEMS Our Own English High School. For healthcare, a multitude of private services are offered at NMC Specialty Hospital and Al Noor Hospital. There is a choice, albeit limited, of compound and independent villas – as well as apartments. Annual rent for a five-bedroom compound villa starts from Dhs.160,000, and expect to pay from Dhs.75,000 for a three-bedroom apartment.
Despite being the smallest of the emirates, Ajman has a choice of fine dining restaurants, luxury hotels and pristine beaches, with a few heritage attractions thrown in for good measure. And, with its relatively undeveloped coastline, residents can enjoy uninterrupted views of the Arabian Gulf each and every day.
Ajman Academy offers British and IB curriculums, and the Royal Academy Ajman follows the Indian curriculum. Private hospitals include the GMC Hospital Ajman and the government-run Khalifa Hospital.
Residential properties in Ajman are available at much more affordable prices than the other larger emirates of the UAE. Emirates City on Emirates Road consists of mid and high rise buildings and should eventually include a shopping mall, five star hotel, parks, educational and medical facilities, and a golf course. Annual rental prices for a three-bedroom apartment start from Dhs.39,000. The Naeimiyah District is located in the heart of Ajman with easy access to the beach, and annual rental prices for a two-bedroom apartment here start from Dhs.50,000.
Other popular expat communities are located at Ajman Pearl Towers, which are close to the city centre, and Ajman One, a community of 12 residential towers set within landscaped gardens and surrounded by amenities.
This east coast gem is surrounded by the spectacular Hajar Mountains. Wadi Sidr, Wadi Tayyibah and Wadi Asimah are particularly well suited for hiking and mountain biking activities; the Fujairah Heritage Village is home to a collection of fishing boats, traditional dhows and tools depicting what life was like in the UAE before the discovery of oil; and the coastline has plenty of excellent diving spots. There’s a mix of Indian and British schools, and a wide range of healthcare services offered at the GMS Thumbay Hospital.
Finding rental accommodation in Fujairah can be a challenge because of the shortage of villas and apartments, and the small number of real estate companies. Because it is a small city and not overly congested, you can get from one side to the other in a short space of time – so location is not too important. A one-bedroom city centre apartment can be rented from Dhs.35,000 per year, and a four-bedroom villa with sea and mountain views can be rented from Dhs.100,000.
Boasting some of the best natural scenery in the UAE, this is a great home escape from city life. With the stunning Hajar Mountains as its backdrop and the sparkling waters of the Arabian Gulf on its shore, the northernmost emirate is the perfect location for anyone who loves camping, hiking and soaking up the sun. The polar-themed Iceland Water Park is great fun for all ages too. Schools include the popular GEMS Westminster School Ras Al Khaimah, for FS1 through to Year 8, and the 248-bed Sheikh Khalifa Specialist Hospital is one of the UAE’s largest healthcare facilities. There are some fantastic neighbourhoods here. Homes in Al Hamra Village enjoy the benefits of five-star hotels, an 18 hole championship golf course, the marina and Al Hamra Mall on their doorstep. Annual rent for a two-bedroom apartment starts at Dhs.59,000, and Dhs.110,000 for a four-bedroom townhouse.
Anyone looking for a more luxurious lifestyle, can head to The Cove where a three-bedroom villa can be rented from Dhs.190,000 per year. There’s also a great selection of new, modern apartments on the beautiful Al Marjan Island, starting from Dhs.35,000 for a studio.
Dubai’s neighbouring emirate is the cultural capital of the UAE, with a well-preserved heritage area, an ever-evolving arts scene, some wonderful museums and a thriving cafe culture. Regular events such as the Sharjah Light Festival and Sharjah Biennial draw visitors from all over the UAE and beyond; in the city centre, it seems like there’s always something new to see and do. There’s a wide choice of schools and nurseries offering international curriculums, and plenty of medical centres and hospitals to meet all your healthcare needs, including the government-run Al Qassimi Hospital.
Al Nahda is one of the most popular expat neighbourhoods, with its excellent amenities like schools, medical centres, shopping centres and supermarkets, and affordable rents for modern apartments. Waterfront communities are located at Al Khan, where a three-bedroom apartment is rented for around Dhs.110,000 per year, and at Al Buhaira Corniche next to the Al Majaz waterfront, where a two-bedroom apartment can be rented from Dhs.58,000 per year. There is also a good choice of apartment complexes in Al Qasimia.
Don’t want to rent? Expats can now buy plots at the mixed-use community Tilal City, which will include homes for 65,000 residents on a 100-year lease; the completion date is due at the end of 2017.
While this is a great location to experience traditional Emirati life, there are also some modern attractions including Dreamland Aqua Park and Flamingo Beach Resort. And, for anyone with a head for heights, there is an airfield where you can learn to fly or go skydiving.
Although Umm Al Quwain is a small emirate, there are plenty of amenities: the International School of Choueifat is in UAQ, and the Ajman University of Science and Technology Network, Ajman City Centre and Sharjah City Centre malls, and the Royal Hospital and Central Private Hospital are just a short drive away.
Umm Al Quwain Marina, an established waterfront community along the shores of a natural lagoon, is the main expat neighbourhood here. Annual rent for a modern three-bedroom villa starts from Dhs.100,000, with communal facilities including tennis courts, play areas and a swimming pool.