Here's 10 things that we think you definitely should do and experience during your first 30 days of living in Dubai
18 August 2014| Last updated on 12 March 2018
It can all seem a bit overwhelming at first- we highly recommend lists, lists, lists and also a large dollop of patience mixed with a healthy dose of humour. There's no point stressing and being really miserable- you've made it here, it's sunny- so now it's time to get sorted and start living!
1. Get A NOL Card!
You’re going to need to get out and about when you first move here and the NOL card will give you access to public transport- Metro, bus, tram, water bus and parking. It’s a low cost and convenient way to get to know your way around this bustling city. There are different versions available red, blue, silver and gold. The red one is a paper card that’s only valid for 10 journeys so might not be the best choice for you… the gold and silver ones can be recharged so might be the best choice. You can only get a blue one when you’ve got your residency visa/ Emirates ID. The gold and silver ones cost 20 dhs and come with a balance of 14 dhs pre charged. You can find out all you need to know about NOL Cards here>>
2. Get Snapped!
You need to get loads of passport photos taken! You are going to need lots! When you are applying for your residence visa, driving licence, Emirates ID card and all the other permits you need for living in Dubai, they always, always require passport photographs. We would recommend getting at least 25 for you and every member of your household- it helps prevent the midnight dash to Kodak shop when you find out you’re going to need 10 pics by the next day! You can get them done in the photo shops that are in most malls as well as in communities.
3. Get Food Shopping!
As tempting as it may be to order takeaways every night it’s time to get au fait with local produce. You will find the supermarkets are full of imported products you may be familiar with from the UK, America and South Africa but there are also new, and usually cheaper, brands to discover. You need to keep an eye on the price of imported goods as they can sometimes be quadruple what you would pay at home. Imported fruit and veg are extremely expensive. Good news- there are quite often locally sourced alternatives or the exact same thing available- but with a name you might not be familiar with- at a much more affordable price. So it’s time to have a really good wander round your local supermarket to discover what’s available and what’s not and get planning those meals. Find out more here about shopping for necessities in Dubai>>
4. Get Wordy!
Try to learn a few words of Arabic. It will really help you settle in and also show you are making an effort to be polite- which goes a long way here. You can get by in English in most places, Hindi, Urdu and French are also quite common... it's good to have a smattering of a few languages just in case here! The words are fairly easy to say and can help smooth many a transaction. It's also handy to learn the Arabic numbers too- both to be able to read them and write them.We’ve got a whole list here of the most common used words that you are going to find handy. Handy Arabic Word Guide>>
5. Get Cultural!
Quite often expats can have been here a year and suddenly realize they’ve never even spoken to an Emirati or learnt anything about the culture. It’s easy to get into that expat bubble but you’ll be missing out on so much and there’s so many exaggerated stories out there in expat land. Try visiting the Jumeirah Mosque when they have a tour on- that really is a must do outing. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) is also a great place- they have talks, meals and walking tours- also not to be missed and you’ll learn so much. All of this will help you have a much better understanding of your new home, its history and rich culture.
6. Get Unpacked!
You need to make your home base as familiar and comfortable as possible to help you settle in. Relocating to a different country is a major upheaval in anyone’s life and the sooner you have your home feeling like a home, the better you will settle in. Get the family photos put up on the walls, your favourite DVDs and music out and get the kitchen sorted and stocked so you can eat at home. If there’s anything missing there are tons of furniture and white goods shops here- try places like Carrefour, IKEA, Home Centre for low cost, easy shopping. The sooner you get your home sorted the sooner you will start to feel a little bit more settled. Don’t do what some of us have done and still have boxes that need unpacking 5 years after you’ve moved here!
7. Get Orientated!
Don't be like this guy! It's not a good look! We know, 30 days is not a long time to get to know a city and it’s going to take you a least 6 months to start to feel some familiarity but it’s great to start as you mean to go on. So try to get yourself orientated with the layout of Dubai. You can study Google maps, buy some guide books and when you are out and about make note of the routes you are being taken on especially in a taxi. Slowly but surely you’ll start to recognise places and get a sense of direction. This really helps when you start driving yourself. Start taking notes of the big landmarks and where they are in relation to where you live and visit… we know of one lady who could get everywhere in Dubai as long as she started at the Burj Al Arab :)
8. Get Connected!
There are so many great websites in Dubai that will help with you settling in. You already know we’re bursting with information and all the answers you need- especially on our busy forum which you can sign up for! Other sites that are going to come in really handy are the local news sites- try Gulf News and The National for the best written news coverage in the region and Dubai 92 is a really great local radio station featuring local news and stories as well as great music. Find Facebook groups to join that match your interests and family situation as well as you residence location and get connecting with Dubai people and companies on Twitter too. You’ll be up to speed on Dubai happenings in no time!
9. Get Buffed!
It’s important to have a little bit of me time when you move to a new country and welcome to Dubai, the land of manis, pedis and more! There are so many beauty salons in Dubai and there’s bound to be one near you. Most people find them cheaper than their home countries so what might have seemed like a one off special treat at home can become a regular pampering occurrence in Dubai. You'll be getting those feet out a lot more than in colder climes so it's time to finally get them sorted! Whether you love a facial or prefer a massage this little bit of affordable me time will really help diffuse the stress of uprooting yourself and bring a little bit of routine into your new life. Check out our recommended salons and spas here>>
10. Get Social!
We know you’ll be really busy with work or family things but it’s really important to start to think about your social life. We’ve been running coffee mornings and events for 10 years and we would love to see you at one of them. They are all hosted by expat women like you and have women from all round the world attending, who’ve been expats from 1 day to 40 years! They are a great place to ask all those questions in person and also to find new friends. It helps to know that you’re not alone and someone else has probably had the same frustration or experience as you- you can share tips and even laugh about it! See our events time table here>>