Struggling to pick somewhere to live in Dubai? We take a look at everything you should consider
8 January 2013| Last updated on 30 July 2018
While it's a very broad topic, we've tried our best to gather all the information you need to make your decision on where to live in Dubai.
This, of course, is a very broad topic and a lot of the decision will be based on your own personal taste- but here we try and break the decision into factors based on our experience over the years and give some handy advice too...
#1 Consider the level of traffic
Dubai is not really that a big a place, but due to the traffic flow and other circumstances choosing the correct area to live in is key to your happiness living in Dubai.
Rush hours in Dubai run from 7am till 9am and 5pm till 7pm and the general rule is in the mornings the traffic jam will be from Sharjah direction into Dubai and reversed in the evenings on all major roads. So in the mornings the jam is from north to south and in the evenings south to north. This is due to an extremely large number of people living in Sharjah, due to cheaper rents in that emirate, and working in the Jebel Ali direction. The congestion is made up of both work and schools traffic.
Before choosing where to live in Dubai, you need to take a good look at where you will be working and where if you have kids they will be going to school and try and get a happy medium. There are a lot of road improvements happening continually to try and ease the flow of traffic so things can improve overnight sometimes!
#2 What are your payment options?
In the past all accommodation had to be paid with one annual cheque- so you were paying up front for a year. Due to the economic crisis over a decade ago, a lot of banks are not lending this money anymore and a lot of people cannot put/ are not willing to put such a large amount on a credit card.
Landlords are now, luckily, becoming more flexible and you can pay in 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and even in some cases 12 cheques- you may have to pay a bit more rent, the more cheques you give, but it can be a saving grace not to have to pay the whole lot at once.
This means you give the cheques for the whole year in advance to your landlord and have to make sure the money for your next cheque due date, is in your bank account, on the date of the cheque. You don't want to risk a bounced cheque!
Of course if your company is paying for your rent you will not have any of this worry- but even that is becoming more rare these days!
#3 Would you prefer a flat, or villa?
The dream for most people is to live in a lovely villa with a pool and beautiful garden but we have to be realistic too! For most people who come here it will be for a 2 to 3 year period so as tempting as it is to go for a beautiful big villa, you need to be really practical with your finances based on the above.
We look at the main points of difference below to help you in your decision:
Living in a villa in Dubai
The plus side to a villa is privacy, it feels more like a proper “home” more like what you may have been used to in your country of origin, you have a garden to take advantage of the beautiful weather here, more space, some come with a pool and more car parking.
The down side to a villa is much higher bills for electricity and water, maintenance charges are higher, more expensive to furnish, if you are not in a gated community or compound you can feel isolated, gardens and pools are expensive and sometimes difficult to maintain and as some villas are very huge and we all have a constant battle with dust here- housework can be a mammoth task, prompting many expats to hire maids.
Living in a flat/apartment in Dubai
The plus side to a flat is it is much more economical, easier and cheaper to furnish, you can control your service bills, a lot of towers and apartment blocks come with a shared pool and gym and sometimes shops too, you don’t feel isolated, easier to clean and most have 24 hour security.
The down side to a flat is you may not be used to living in such close proximity to other people, you may get one parking space included with your flat or even have to pay for one, less space indoors, no garden- although most do have balconies, it is harder to bring in heavy and larger shopping items and you may be disturbed by noise from other flats (top tip- go and see a flat in the evening when people are more likely to be home so you can test out the thickness of the walls!)
Of course, everyone has their own personal preference in what type of place they would like to live in, whilst they are in Dubai, but it makes good sense to weigh up all the options- unless you are buying- you have to remember you are renting and it is never going to be your actual “home” so choose what fits your lifestyle and your budget.
#4 Is it pet-friendly?
Dubai, sometimes, is not the most pet friendly place- so you will have to consider this when deciding where to live. Most villas are ok with pets, although you will have to check with the landlord.
Most apartments say no pets- although many people do ignore this rule. If you have a nice quiet cat that is not going to cause any trouble you will probably get away with it- a yappy, barking all night dog that disturbs your whole building- not so much!
Check your lease for details or ask your agent or landlord in advance to solve any issues.
It's worth noting that Dubai Marina is a dog free zone, so if you have pets it's best to look out for more pet friendly communities.
Where to start
Some landlords employ an agency to run their building especially for apartment blocks and with the increase in expats buying properties there seem to be more direct with landlord dealings too. If you are dealing with an agency you will also have to pay them a fee if you take your home from them- this can be from 5- 15% of the annual rent so be careful and find out in advance.
Online property searching has become easier in the past years. You can search by budget, area, number of bedrooms etc. We also have the EW property guide if you need further info on specific areas.
You can also approach an agency yourself to employ them to find you what you are looking for. There are good ones and bad ones out there but just trust your instincts and you should be fine.
There are many recommendations on our information board and feel free to ask questions on there to get the latest up to date information and people’s actual recent experiences
Also you can take a drive round the area you are looking at- vacant properties quite often have a sign with a phone number for you to call to make enquiries.
Popular areas to live in Dubai
This is quite a varied subject, and so the most popular place to live in Dubai for other families, couples and individuals may not necessarily mean it's the right place for you and your needs.
To help you understand what each popular Dubai community offers however, we've listed the main characteristics of each popular expat area for you here, from North to South, to try and help you pin point the ideal place for you.
Remember, Dubai is constantly changing
Dubai is a constantly changing Emirate- areas that were once considered too far away are now in the new centre of Dubai. Places that currently have no services can develop the most amazing ones in six months and become very desirable locations. So don’t necessarily let the way something is today put you off- have a look at their future plans.
We hope this guide has helped you and you are very happy in your new home- be it a flat or villa- old or new- near or “far”!