Housing is one of the great challenges of setting up in the UAE, and although you may receive a housing allowance from your employer, you’ll probably need to top it up from your own pocket to cover the rent or mortgage.
Within every emirate, there is a mix of neighbourhoods suitable for families, city socialites, businesspeople and more budget-friendly options.
There are plenty of residential areas to choose from, and more developments are springing up all the time. Each, when finished, will have its own shops and restaurants, and usually, access to a school.
Use this guide to select areas that appeal to you and spend a few days driving around to see if the development is well established or still under construction, what facilities there are and what the traffic is like. We’ve also provided a price guide, with prices being for unfurnished properties.
If you want to rent a furnished place, anticipate adding Dhs.10,000 or more a year to the rental price.
Dubai has plenty of residential areas to choose from, ranging from family villas to snazzy high-rise apartments.
Marsa Dubai & JBR
The high-rise apartment towers of Marsa Dubai and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) are a popular choice located among hotels, numerous restaurants and the bustling Walk at JBR and shopping and dining area The Beach. Much of the neighbourhood is walkable with easy access to amenities. If you have a car, check if the property you want comes with a parking space.
Wellington International School and the International School of Choueifat in Al Sufouh are both just five minutes’ drive away, and there are a few nurseries in the marina. The nearest hospitals are Medcare Hospital near Al Safa Park and The Cedars Jebel Ali International Hospital offers 24 hour care.
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. JBR consists of several identical towers of around 40 storeys high, with communal pools, grassed areas and amenities. A one-bedroom apartment here can be rented from Dhs.100,000; a three-bedroom from Dhs.180,000.
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. Several high-class hotels offer an array of restaurants, bars and attractions.
A monorail system links areas on The Palm and also connects to Dubai Tram, which joins Dubai Metro at Marsa Dubai’s DAMAC Metro station.
Al Sufouh is 10-15 minutes’ drive and has several popular expat schools and a choice of medical centres.
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. Traffic onto the island isn’t a problem (unless there’s a large event) and there is plenty of parking underneath the apartment buildings and next to the 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 and is characterised by quiet streets lined with sophisticated villas, golden beaches, and good access to lots of shopping. Within the same stretch of land between the beach and Sheikh Zayed Road are the areas of Al Wasl, Al Safa and Umm Suqeim. All these areas contain mostly villas and share the same facilities. There are several schools in this area, as well as an assortment of nurseries. The largest secondary school in Umm Suqeim is Emirates International School and the area is home to two Raffles International campuses. The private Medcare Hospital near Safa Park has an emergency room, and the excellent value Iranian Hospital is just down Al Wasl Road towards Satwa.
Jumeira Road (Beach Road) is the lifestyle centre of Jumeira, 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. There are plenty of supermarkets. A three-bedroom villa will cost from Dhs.200,000 a year.
Despite having large sections demolished for the now-on-hold Jumeirah Garden City project, Satwa is still a desirable place to live. The main 2nd December Street buzzes with pedestrians and is home to several popular Arabic restaurants and fast food venues. There are a number of low-rise apartment blocks on 2nd December Street and Al Hudeiba Street (Plant Street), popular with singles looking for a vibrant area. There are also villas on the outskirts of the area, in Al Bada’a. Chelsea Plaza and Jumeirah Rotana have long been nightlife hubs and there are several three-star hotels in the area that are home to intimate licensed restaurants and bars.
2nd December Street and Plant Street are full of local stores, and supermarkets include two Carrefour Expresses and a Westzone. Traffic can be bad at rush hour and street parking is hard to come by, but it’s an easy neighbourhood to walk around. Residents have easy access to the facilities in the Jumeira area.
Annual rental prices for a two-bedroom apartment start at Dhs.130,000, or a three-bedroom villa from 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. The gated suburban community has tree-lined streets and pathways, attractively landscaped lakes, gardens and recreation areas. Of a similar style is the adjacent Jumeirah Islands community, and the nearby apartments at The Greens are convenient for those working in Media or Internet City.
Schools in this area include Emirates International School in The Meadows, Dubai British School, Dubai International Academy in The Springs, and Dubai American Academy at the Emirates Living entrance near The Lakes. Raffles International School operates several nurseries in The Springs, Springs Town Centre, Emirates Hills and The Lakes. For healthcare, the Rosary Medical Centre is located at Springs Town Centre.
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 with a community feel. The strip between Trade Centre Roundabout and Interchange One is home to some of Dubai’s biggest towers, most of which come with facilities including games rooms, libraries, barbecue areas, gyms, pools and sports courts. There is plenty of parking within each of the residential complexes, and the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Metro stop is walking distance or a short feeder bus ride away.
There are nurseries but no schools in Downtown Dubai, although those in Jumeira and Al Qouz are close. Apart from pharmacies dotted round the Old Town, The Dubai Mall and the Residences, there is the large Mediclinic in Dubai Mall providing healthcare. The closest hospitals are Medcare Hospital in Al Safa and the Iranian Hospital on Al Wasl Road in Satwa. On Sheikh Zayed Road is also Al Zahra Medical Centre in Al Safa Tower. 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 neighbouring development Al Furjan is designed with families in mind has two schools – Jebel Ali Primary School and the Winchester School. Discovery Gardens has the Aster Medical Centre and the Cedars Jebel Ali International Hospital is close by.
Although there aren’t any major shops within the Discovery Gardens development, Ibn Battuta Mall is conveniently close and contains a large Geant hypermarket. Rents tend to be lower in Discovery Gardens and apartments easy to come by. It’s one of the few places where landlords will still accept quarterly rental payments as opposed to six months or a year upfront. Annual rental prices start from Dhs.60,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Al Furjan is a low-rise development with four communities of apartments, three- to six-bedroom villas and three-bedroom terraced houses; a three-bedroom villa can be rented from Dhs.150,000.
Al Barsha has two distinct zones. The main area offers large villas with big gardens popular with local families. Some of the older apartment blocks offer competitively priced options, while the new apartment blocks, closer to Mall of the Emirates, are popular with Media and Internet City workers. New villas are being built on the other side of Al Khail Road (called Al Barsha South). Shoppers have the pick of stores at Mall of the Emirates, which has a Carrefour supermarket, high-street shops and designer fashion.
The Dubai American Academy and Al Mawakeb are located in Al Barsha, and Wellington International School, Dubai College and Jumeirah English Speaking School are nearby. There is a GP and paediatrician at the Medical Specialist Centre and the nearest emergency department is at Medcare Hospital in Al Safa.
A three-bedroom villa in Al Barsha is likely to cost from Dhs.170,000 per year, although Al Barsha 1, near Mall of the Emirates, has apartments and hotel apartments offering long-term rentals. The 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 residential development that stretches along Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road which also offers sporting attractions, entertainment facilities and retail outlets. Local schools include Jumeirah English Speaking School Arabian Ranches and the giant GEMS World Academy; Greenfield Community School and the International School of Choueifat are both in the nearby Dubai Investment Park. For general healthcare there’s a Medicentre clinic in Uptown MotorCity, and the nearest emergency department is at Cedars Jebel Ali International Hospital. MotorCity has a nice strip of cafes and shops, and Arabian Ranches has the Village Community Centre, which houses Le Marche supermarket, a chemist and several cafes. Typical annual rental prices for a two-bedroom villa at Arabian Ranches start from Dhs.145,000.
At Jumeirah Golf Estates, you'll pay annual rental for a four-bedroom villa from Dhs.290,000, while Dubai Sports City offers towers for lower budgets from Dhs.80,000 for a two-bedroom apartment or from Dhs.250,000 for a four-bedroom townhouse. MotorCity's medium-rise apartments set within cobbled streets go from Dhs.65,000 for a one-bedroom.
The older communities of Bur Dubai, Deira and Karama are well connected to both the red and green metro lines, and always buzzing with activity. The area has a wealth of independent stores and supermarkets, high street shops and boutiques in BurJuman Mall, and its souks, fish and fruit and vegetable markets are definitely worth a visit.
There’s a wide choice of nurseries, and local schools include the Dubai English Speaking School (DESS) in Oud Metha. Bur Dubai and Karama have small medical centres, and the emergency room at Rashid Hospital is near, as is the private American Hospital.
Bur Dubai is dominated by apartments in a mix of new and old medium-rise buildings. Rents are relatively low in some of Deira's more built-up areas, while the creekside dwellings cost more. The annual rental price for a two-bedroom apartment starts from Dhs.60,000. In Karama, you'll find mostly low-rise apartment blocks where a two-bedroom apartment is rented out for around Dhs.80,000 a year. Karama has large Filipino and Indian communities, which means there is a great selection of affordable Eastern eateries on your doorstep.
Mirdif offers villas and newer buildings, such as the Uptown Mirdiff complex, the upmarket Shorooq community villas and the low-cost Ghoroob apartments. There is a choice of nurseries, and schools include Uptown Primary, Star International School, the Sharjah American International School, Royal Dubai School, and the American Academy in Al Mizhar. General healthcare services are provided at Mediclinic Mirdif, and Mirdif City Centre mall offers a central point for residents to shop.
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.
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.
For education, there's the American Community School (ACS), the Higher College of Technology, and Syscoms College. For healthcare, Al Noor Hospital, on Khalifa Bin Zayed The First St, is affiliated with the UK’s National Health Service, while Corniche Hospital specialises in obstetric and neonatal care.
The impressive Marina Mall is a big draw to the area and has a Carrefour. The World Trade Centre Mall and Souk boasts the country's first House of Fraser department store.
Some of the older buildings in the city can be found along the corniche, although expats may prefer the more exclusive and modern Etihad Towers or Nation Towers at the Emirates Palace end. Annual rental costs are higher here, starting from Dhs.90,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and from Dhs.110,000 for a three-bedroom apartment.
Downtown Abu Dhabi is home to some of the city's more affordable apartments and hotels. Shopping-wise, it has Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Wahda Mall and Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre, as well as a wealth of smaller shops, cafes and restaurants to explore and some of the city’s most lively nightlife. If you have a car, you’ll also want to check out the parking situation before signing a lease, as it is very limited.
School include Al Muna Primary, Pearl Primary School and GEMS World Academy, and medical facilities include Burjeel Hospital, Dar Al Shifa Hospital, National Hospital and Al Noor.
A one-bedroom apartment in Madinat Zayed or Markaziya will cost from Dhs.80,000 and a three-bedroom apartment from Dhs.110,000. Al Nahyan offers some cheaper rentals, but also newer buildings with amenities. Typical annual rental costs are from Dhs.65,000 for a one-bedroom 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 for Abu Dhabi. Al Maryah Island is the officially designated Central Business District with Sowwah Square at its heart. At the moment it’s very much a destination for professionals with younger families.
Education is well covered at Repton School, which will be joined by a number of schools and universities set to open on Reem Island; Paris-Sorbonne University of Abu Dhabi is already up and running here. For healthcare, Cleveland Clinic and Abu Dhabi National Hospital in Al Baladia are just a short drive away. The luxurious Galleria Mall offers many of the finest designer names, eateries and cafes. All residential developments are less than five years old and offer excellent pools and gyms. A one-bedroom apartment will cost from Dhs.90,000; three-bedroom apartment from Dhs.145,000.
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. Khalidiya Mall was the neighbourhood's major shopping centre until Mushrif Mall opened with over 200 shops and there are a number of supermarkets.
German International School, Al Bateen Secondary School and American Community School are just some of the international schools in the area and there are lots of high quality nurseries available. Khalidiya Urgent Care Centre is close to Khalidiya Mall, while Sheikh Khalifa Medical City has an emergency department; the American Hospital is near as is the Gulf Diagnostic Centre Hospital in Al Bateen.
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 annually, a three-bedroom apartment from Dhs.120,000, and a five-bedroom villa from Dhs.200,000.
Mushrif is a quiet, central location in the ‘middle bit’ of Abu Dhabi island that most drive through to get to the ‘action’ at the corniche end of the city. There are plenty of villas for rent in this more leafy part of town. There's also a wide choice of medical facilities – the Middle East Specialised Medical Centre is in Hadabat Al Zaafaran, and the government hospital, Mushrif Primary Health Care, is near Mushrif Mall. The British School Al Khubairat (BSAK), Lycee Louis Massignon and American International School (AIS) provide education in the area. The large Mushrif Mall has a large fruit, vegetable, meat and fish market, or shoppers can visit the many smaller stores or a Carrefour supermarket heading out of town near Al Zaafaranah Park.
A one-bedroom apartment costs from Dhs.65,000 a year, and a three-bedroom villa from Dhs.170,000. Muroor is a fine option for families with some good-sized accommodation for rent starting from Dhs.65,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Around the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque are some of the most interesting neighbourhoods in the city. The souk adjacent to the Shangri-La hotel is a fascinating place to visit, and modern shopping facilities include small supermarkets and a large Carrefour. Brighton College is in Khalifa Park next to the Bloom Gardens Compound. Aside from that, on the island near Mushrif or off the island towards Raha Beach and Khalifa City there are a number of schools. For medical needs, there's a Healthpoint multi-speciality hospital by Zayed Sports City, and a newer branch of Al Noor Hospital is by Al Zaafaranah Park.
The Hills community offers modern villas with sea views, and is good for getting into the city quickly or out of it with equal haste. The annual rental price for a five-bedroom villa is from Dhs.280,000 per year. Mangrove Village is a well-established, family-friendly compound of villas by the water with good shared facilities, and a two-bedroom villa here will go for Dhs.165,000+; 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, yet you can still get into Abu Dhabi city centre in under 30 minutes if the traffic is flowing. Aside from limited shopping options, 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.
It's something of an education hub here with a choice of nurseries and schools including GEMS American Academy, Canadian International School, Al Yasmina and Al Raha School. There's HealthPlus Family Health Care Center at Al Bandar, and Al Noor Hospital, with Al Rahba Hospital nearby. Al Raha Mall, Deerfields Townsquare and Yas Island provide shopping and entertainment.
Raha Beach apartments start from Dhs.95,000, while a three-bedroom villa at Raha Gardens starts at Dhs.190,000 for the year.
To the south of the city, Mohammed Bin Zayed City (MBZ as it’s known to locals) 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. In fact, it's probably better serviced for accessible shopping and healthcare than many other areas of the city.
British International School Abu Dhabi (BISAD) is on the outskirts, next to Abu Dhabi University, and The Australian School is a short drive away in Shakhbout. For healthcare, there is Abu Al Abiad Hospital NMC Hospital and a branch of Al Noor Hospital, as well as the large Al Mafraq Hospital with an emergency maternity ward.
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.