Relocating to the UAE

Moving to another country is a big deal, so we've put together some essential tips to help you adjust to a new life.

Most of the GEMS Education schools in the UAE are in Dubai. Dubai is a bustling centre of excellence, recognized as the commercial capital and tourism centre of the region and one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. It is a city of contrasts, where outstanding modern architecture and soaring skyscrapers stand alongside traditional Arabic buildings and suburban villas. Dubai’s many and varied attractions provide visitors with a unique experience.

The majesty of the desert contrasts with a spectacular nightlife of restaurants and nightclubs. The city has a strong service-driven economy, offering every business amenity from banking to telecommunications. International trading and industrialisation are encouraged by the provision of seaports and specialist free trade zones.

Essential tips to help you adjust to a new life:

  • Geography

    The UAE lies at the south-eastern part of the Arabian Peninsula bordered by the Persian Gulf to the north, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the south and west and the Gulf of Oman to the east. Dubai is situated on the south of the Arabian Gulf and occupies around 3,900km, with the area outside the city being flat, sparsely inhabited desert. To the east are the Hajar Mountains close to the Gulf of Oman.

    The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was formed on 2nd December 1971, when six emirates decided to join together and form a confederation. Ras-Al-Khaimah became the seventh emirate to join the confederation in 1972. The capital of the UAE is Abu Dhabi.

  • Population

    Dubai is a cosmopolitan city, home to more than 90 nationalities. The estimated population of Dubai is approximately over 3 million.

  • Cultural Heritage

    Dubai’s culture is firmly rooted in the traditions of Islam. Traditional dress is still worn among many local citizens and many Arabic cultural activities and sports are still practiced.

    Dubai is a very tolerant and welcoming place for foreigners and visitors are free to follow their own religions. Drinking alcohol in hotels and licensed health and sports clubs is permitted for non-Muslims. The dress code is liberal for visitors to the Emirate although people are advised to exercise discretion. Women are allowed to drive and walk around unescorted. Despite being a very relaxed place to visit and live, the visitor must not forget to respect their hosts and abide by local regulations.

    For instance, you should not stare at women because it is considered rude. Photographs of people should not be taken without their consent. Whilst shaking hands is customary when people meet or are introduced, you should avoid shaking hands with women if you are a man, and with men if you are a woman, unless initiated by your host.

    You should not insist to an Arab man that his wife attends gathering or social occasions. Avoid saying anything bad or belittling about the Arabian culture, traditions, religions and people or way of life that may appear strange or unusual to you.

    Should you be invited to a traditional Arab meal or banquet where food is served in one large dish, you will note that no cutlery is provided and only the right hand should be used to pick up the foods and eat. Also note, Muslims do not eat pork and whilst pork is available to non-Muslims in Dubai, it is advisable not to offer this to Muslims.

    All restaurants serve food in the usual Western manner and eating out in Dubai is a common practice amongst locals, residing expatriates and visitors, with a fabulous variety of restaurants to choose from.

    However, every year Muslims commemorate the month of Ramadan. It is a time of fasting when Muslims abstain from all food and drink and smoking between dawn and dusk.

    During the month of Ramadan, non-Muslims too are expected to abstain from eating, drinking and smoking in public places; most restaurants are predominately closed until evening; some of the private hotels continue to serve food in secluded or private areas.

    Other religious festivities include the holidays of Eid-al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) and Eid-al-Adha (pilgrimage to Mecca, also known as Haj).

    The normal daily prayer times are at dawn (Fajr), midday (Dhohr), afternoon (Asr), sunset (Magherb) and night (Isha).

  • The Government of the UAE

    The President of the UAE - His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the President of the UAE and also the Ruler of Abu Dhabi.

    The Ruler of Dubai - His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice President and the Prime Minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai.

    The Federal Supreme Council – The Federal Supreme Council is the highest constitutional authority in the United Arab Emirates. It is also the highest legislative and executive authority that draws up general policies and approves various federal legislations.

  • Climate

    Dubai has a sub-tropical and arid climate, with sunny blue skies most of the year. It rains infrequently, mainly in winter. Temperatures range from a low about 10.5 C (50F to a high of 48C (118F). </p>

  • Language

    The official language is Arabic, although English, Urdu and Hindi are widely spoken. Arabic and English are the official business languages. If you are greeted with ‘AS-SALAM ALAIKOM’ (peace be with you), it is polite to answer with ‘WA ALAIKOM ASALAM’ (and peace be with you).

    Whilst learning some Arabic may help, especially in gaining the respect of Arabs, it is worth nothing that people from various Middle East countries tend to speak in different dialects of Arabic.

  • Driving License

    You may be eligible to transfer your existing driving license, without having to take a driving test or going to driving school, if you have a valid driving license from the Gulf Co-operation Council or an approved list of 36 countries including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Singapore, United Kingdom and United States.

    The full list of eligible countries can be obtained at the official Dubai Government site (www.dubai.ae) or at the Dubai Police Station.

    All other nationalities are required to attend driving classes before a UAE driving license can be obtained. Individuals with valid licenses may be able to get a reduction on the number of classes to be attended after fulfilling various requirements. A driving license issued by the Traffic Police Dept. is valid for ten years.

    If your spouse is applying for a driver’s licence, you as the sponsor will have to write a letter of “No Objection” to him/her obtaining a driver’s licence. Contact your HR Officer or if you working at SSC (email [email protected]) to receive a Letter of No Objection from GEMS to take with you.

    Fees & Documents Required:

    • Passport for residents (original & copy)
    • Residence permit copy (Visa)
    • Current driving license (original & copy)
    • 1 passport photo
    • Eye test certificate (you can get an IT test done at any opticians, they will ask for 2 passport photos, some may charge a small fee (AED 100) – just tell them the test if for a driving license)
    • NOC (no-objection letter) from your sponsor (email: [email protected].)

    Canada: A letter from the Canadian Consulate in Dubai verifying the license is genuine is required before transferring your license.


  • Public Transport
    Taxis are good value while you are waiting for your license or for a night out if you are drinking. The government has the monopoly on public transport and they are certainly plentiful. Dubai Transport is the most prolific of the taxi companies, although there are now several others around. A point to remember – not all taxi drivers know where they are going and as you will be finding your way around to begin with you may need a map, or at least some directions as to where you are going. You may become familiar with certain landmarks to locate your destination although more roads now have names.

    The number for Dubai Taxi is: 04-2080808, 
    Click Here for more info!
    Uber is also available in UAE and offers UberSELECT, UberBLACK and even an UberCHOPPER! All you need to do is download the app, sign up, enter your credit card details and you’re good to go.

    Careem is a competitor of Uber in the UAE, you don’t need a credit card to complete the signup process on the app but you’ll need one eventually if you want to create a booking.

    Dubai’s local public transport is operated by the Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) and consists of the Dubai metro, buses, water buses and abras

    The Dubai Metro is a driverless, fully automated metro in the UAE city of Dubai. All trains and stations are air conditioned with platform edge doors. The Dubai Metro is the first urban train network in the Arabian Peninsula. There are Standard Cabins, Special Cabins for Women & Children only, Private cabins for Gold Class tickets holder only, that have wide leather seats and panoramic views, Wi-Fi access throughout the network in all cabins. You may find more information on their 

    There are lots of modern air-conditioned buses with electronic destination boards. The RTA operates local buses on  79 routes primarily serving the needs of low-income commuters. Buses are clean, comfortable, air-conditioned and cheap, but they’re slow and not widely used by staff. 

    waterbus operated by RTA on a fixed schedule and offers 15 minutes’ worth of luxury travel from Dubai Creek to the Dubai Marina. Abras, the traditional Arabian boats are a popular and cheap mode of crossing the Creek between Deira and Bur Dubai. Most expats take Abras mainly as a tourist ‘adventure’. You may find more information about transportation in UAE on the RTA (Roads & Transport Authority) website

Life in the UAE

  • Expat Community

    The UAE’s success is based on the vision and commitment of its leadership along with the contribution and experience of over 200 nationalities. The streets, shopping malls and business areas are alive with numerous languages and cultures. Do keep in mind that you will probably meet many people with different values and opinions.

  • Entertainment and Events
    Dubai offers a cosmopolitan range of nightlife from five star clubs to very cheap and cheerful restaurants. Alcohol is only served in restaurants found in hotels and clubs and therefore bills which include alcohol can be expensive. Dubai also attracts a wide range of entertainers from around the world for example international DJ’s, theatre productions and major recording stars will visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
  • Sun, Sand and Sea
    For those who like to lie on the beach, Dubai will be able to cater to your needs. Dubai has excellent hotels, beaches & spa resorts for those who like to spoil and indulge themselves. There are numerous private beach clubs located at beachside hotels.
  • Sport and Leisure

    There is also a wide variety of clubs and societies, including drama, music, natural history, etc. There are many excellent championship standard golf clubs, yachting and sailing clubs, horse-racing and stables, tennis, diving and much more!

    Yas Island is a home to some of the UAE's most exciting attractions, racing events, concerts, luxury hotels – Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuit, Yas Waterworld, to name a few

    Hamdan Sports Center is the main venue for all indoor aquatic events in the UAE and the main swimming pool for Sports Life Swim Squad, Synchronised Swimming and Water Polo training
    In addition to staging the Dubai World Cup sponsored Emirates, the world’s richest race day, Meydan also offers a full season of racing running from the end of October to the end of March

    The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium has been voted “Best Venue” by players on the ATP World Tour and has become a magnet for people seeking entertainment in Dubai 

    Global Village is the leading family outdoor cultural and entertainment destination and the largest seasonal cultural extravaganza of the region

    For snorkeling and diving there are spots at Dibba and KhorFakkan and if visited in October, provide an excellent opportunity for spotting turtles. These resorts offer a medium range of accommodation and Khor Fakkan is worth a visit for its old Mosque and Fort.

    Wadi Adventure is the region’s first man-made white water rafting, kayaking and surf facility built in the foothills of the majestic Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain

  • Art and Culture

    The Community Theatre & Arts Centre and the Madinat Theatre also host dramatic productions. Dubai Opera accommodates opera, theatre, concerts, ballet, art exhibitions, orchestra, film, sports events, and seasonal programmes. Established in 2004, The Abu Dhabi Festival is the UAE's largest classical arts event. The festival is the UAE’s foremost celebration of art and culture bringing together the greatest musicians, performers and artists from both the East and West in the heart of the United Arab Emirates.

  • Wildlife

    The Emirates have vast areas of wildlife to explore, with the wadis, mountains, and the deserts stretching out for miles around. Wadis are dry riverbeds following the course of seasonal streams and rivers through rocky valleys naturally carved out by flood waters. The best time to hit the wadis is between October and April. A tough and challenging drive in a 4WD is what wadi/dune bashing is all about.

    Camping out in the desert or on the beach is another thing to explore. For more information.

    One hour outside of Dubai is 
    Al Ain. You will find natural rock pools here which are fed from an underground spring. If you would like to see a more Bedouin life, a visit to the desert sands at Liwa (about 2 hours by car from Abu Dhabi) is a must. This has some stunning scenery as well as the highest sand dunes in the world.

    North of Dubai you can also find the 
    Musandam Peninsula in Oman which boasts spectacular scenery. This can be reached in around 3 hours by car and is known for its fjords and dolphins

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