Considering a move to the Middle East and weighing up the pros and cons of living in Dubai? I get it. I was in your shoes over eight years ago. 

Living in the United Arab Emirates can be an exciting and life-changing experience. But, as with any major decision (and it is major decision), you need to know all the positives and negatives before making the move.

You’ll likely have heard of some of the pros of living in Dubai – wonderful tax-free income, great job opportunities, sunny beach weather – but I’m willing to bet that some of the cons you’ve heard about aren’t actually true. You’ll see further on…

I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I’ve now been living in Dubai for over 8 years, so the pros obviously outweigh the cons for me. 

I could go on and on about how Dubai is a great place to live, but hopefully this guide helps you make an informed decision about whether Dubai is the right place for you to call home.


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What Are The Pros And Cons Of Living In Dubai?

Pros of Living in Dubai

Tax Free Earnings

First up is probably the biggest reason Dubai is such an attractive destination to live and work in – you don’t have to pay any income tax!  That’s right, the salary you negotiate with your prospective employer is all yours to keep (after all your expenses, that is). 

This makes a huge difference to your take-home pay and can make it easier to save up for major purchases or investments (who am I kidding, more money to travel with!).

Need to send items to or from Dubai but don’t want to pay hefty airline costs? Use Send My Bag (find out more here). 

High Standard of Living

Not only is your income tax-free, but with high salaries, you likely be earning more than you were in your home country, meaning you can afford a higher standard of living. 

The luxurious Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai is showcased on a clear, sunny day, with its white sail-like structure towering above a tranquil poolside setting. Lush greenery, palm trees, and sun loungers with umbrellas surround the shimmering blue pool in the foreground, offering a serene oasis for relaxation.

You may think you’ll come to Dubai and not fall into the ‘consumerist’ trap – that you’ll save the majority of your salary and only eat out once a week – but the amazing restaurants and shopping malls (I’m looking at you, Dubai Mall) may prove you wrong.

It’s also quite common for every household to have a cleaner come in once a week. And  with the affordable prices of food and services, you may find yourself living a much more comfortable, or even luxurious lifestyle than back home.


I moved from Ireland, where it rains almost all the time. So, moving to Dubai was a no-brainer for me – guaranteed year-round sunshine (almost – we’ll get to that later)! 

If you’re someone who loves the outdoors and warm weather, then Dubai is definitely the place for you, with over 300 days of sunshine a year.


When anyone asks me what my favourite thing about Dubai is, my answer is always the same. How safe it is. 

I’ve walked home from the pub at 3am by myself in the dark and never felt unsafe or scared. I can leave my handbag on a chair while I go dance and know it’ll still be there when I get back.

A woman is standing on a bridge over Dubai Marina during the evening. She is smiling and posing for the photo with the night lights of the city reflecting off the water behind her. The woman is wearing a black top and denim shorts, with her long hair flowing over her shoulders. The atmosphere is lively with illuminated boats on the water and people visible in the distance enjoying the promenade.

All the towers have security guards and cameras, as do the villa communities. 

Dubai has super low crime rates, which means you can feel at ease knowing you and your belongings are safe.

Cultural Diversity

Moving to Dubai will mean you’re surrounded by people from all over the world. 

It’s a melting pot of cultures, religions and nationalities, making it an incredibly diverse place to live.

This also means you’ll get to experience different customs and traditions, try new foods and learn about different cultures without even leaving your city.

Travel Opportunities

Because of its central location in the Middle East, Dubai is a fantastic travel hub for exploring new places. 

You can easily fly to other countries in the region such as Oman, Bahrain, or Qatar for quick weekend getaways. 

I barely travelled before I moved to Dubai, and now I’ve been to over 30 countries (and counting). 

Sneaking away to other Emirates for the weekend is also common for expats. You can be at the Louvre in Abu Dhabi within one hour,  or go to the mountains in Ras Al Khaimah within two hours.


Here’s a promise. You’ll never be bored in Dubai. 

There’s always something happening, whether it’s a new restaurant opening, a concert, yacht parties, or cultural festivals. 

A bustling evening scene at the Global Village in Dubai, with a crowd of visitors moving through a vibrant festival setting. Colorful, illuminated facades of pavilions are designed to mimic architectural styles from around the world, with a prominent blue and white structure resembling an elaborate Russian cathedral. The motion blur of the crowd conveys the lively energy of the place.

You can also find every type of entertainment imaginable – theme parks, water parks to world-class shopping malls and luxurious spas.

Every weekend in Dubai is like a mini-vacation, and there’s no shortage of things to do.


Dubai has excellent healthcare facilities, with top-notch hospitals and clinics that provide world-class medical services. Honestly, some of the hospitals here look nicer than 5 star hotels. As a Spoonie, I’ve had my fair share of hospital visits. 

As part of your employment contract, your company has to offer private medical insurance, covering medical expenses and treatments. 

This is a huge plus for expats who are used to paying high fees for healthcare in their home countries.

There’s also no waiting for appointments in Dubai. You could have an appointment within a couple of hours, instead of having to wait months (I’m talking to you Ireland). 

Some health insurance comes with dental and optical too, although that’s usually not standard.

Friendly Expat Community

With over 88% of Dubai’s population being expats, Dubai is an incredibly diverse and welcoming city. 

Everyone has a similar story to yours, so it’s easy to find common ground with others and make new friends. Plus, there are plenty of expat events and groups to join, making it easy to meet new people and make friends.

Public Transport

Dubai’s public transportation system is pretty efficient, reliable, and affordable. 

The Dubai Metro covers most areas of the city, and there are also buses, trams, and taxis available. Not to mention the monorail which runs through the man-made Palm Jumeirah island. 

 A modern metro train approaches on an elevated track in the bustling city of Dubai. Skyscrapers with glass facades tower over the scene, reflecting the bright sunlight. The cityscape features a mix of futuristic and sleek architectural designs, showcasing Dubai's skyline. The clear blue sky indicates a sunny day, typical of the region.

You can also use ride-hailing apps like Uber and Careem for a convenient mode of transportation. FYI Careem is slightly cheaper than Uber for the same type of car. You can also book RTA taxis through the Careem app.

With these options, you won’t have to worry about buying or maintaining a car. Although, is also a reasonable option, and is especially handy if you plan on doing weekend trips to explore other emirates in the UAE.

Cons of Living in Dubai


I know we’ve already covered this in the pros section, but honestly the weather can definitely be a con at times. During the summer months, between July and October, it’s often too hot to even go outside due to the heat and humidity. 

Outdoor leisure activities during this time are a no-no. And if you wear glasses, they’ll fog up as soon as you open the door (hence why I had laser a few years ago)! 

A view of a stormy night in Dubai, showcasing the city's illuminated skyline against dark clouds with a faint lightning bolt in the distance. The roads below are sparsely trafficked, highlighting the city's architecture under a turbulent sky.

The worst thing about the extreme hot weather is that the air conditioners in buildings can be quite extreme (a.k.a. freezing), making it hard to adjust when going outside and inside.

Speaking of extreme, it’s not always sunny in Dubai. Every so often, they cloud seed to create artificial rain because it’s so dry. But, when the rain actually does come, it tends to cause major flooding and disruptions in the city. Schools are shut and offices tend to go to remote working for a few days. 

On the plus side, the thunder and lightning storms are spectacular to watch!

High Cost of Living

Yes, your salary is tax-free, and it’s probably a lot more than what you would be earning back home. But, living in Dubai can be quite expensive. 

Rent, groceries, utilities, and transportation costs are all significantly higher compared to other cities. 

And if you want to live in the more luxurious areas or have a certain lifestyle, then be prepared to pay even more.

Dubai has some fantastic international schools, but if you have kids, you also need to be prepared to pay for their schooling, which is crazy expensive. 

Cultural Differences

While the cultural diversity in Dubai is a pro, sometimes the cultural differences can be hard to navigate. 

Different customs, traditions, and beliefs may take some time to get used to. 

A diverse group of professionals engaging in a friendly conversation outdoors in Dubai, with a mix of business attire and traditional Emirati clothing, set against a backdrop of modern skyscrapers and palm trees.

For example, when I moved to Dubai the workweek was from Sunday to Thursday instead of the standard Monday to Friday in most countries. It has since changed, but other countries in the Middle East still follow a Sunday to Thursday week.

And during Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims, shorter work hours and restrictions on eating or drinking in public during daylight hours are observed.

Some religious holidays are ‘dry’ from sun down to sun down the following day – which means no alcohol can be sold anywhere during these times. And it may not be announced until the last minute, so plans can change in an instant. 

Dubai Often Gets A Bad Rap

If I had a Dirham (UAE currency) for every time someone told me that alcohol consumption was illegal in Dubai or that living in Dubai as a woman meant that I had no rights, that I couldn’t drive and I’d have to wear an abaya…. well I’d have a heck of a lot of Dirhams. 

Don’t believe everything you read about Dubai! Before moving here a ‘friend’ told me I’d need to be very careful. I’m not sure what he thought would happen to me as a solo female, but I can assure you – whatever it was, it’s not the case. 


Moving abroad is isolating. Fact. 

Moving to a foreign country, leaving family and friends behind can be tough. You’re no longer just down the road or even a few hours flight away – you are possibly on the other side of the world! 

It’s not uncommon to feel homesick, especially during holidays and important events back home. It’s a bummer, but it’s a harsh reality of living abroad

Employment Dependency

Don’t have a job? Then you won’t have a work visa. You can get a tourist visa but you’ll have to do border runs until you’re a resident.

Your residency visa depends on you having a job. In the eyes of the UAE government, you are here to work and contribute to society.

Unfortunately, if you lose your job in Dubai, you’ll have to find another job before your savings disappear, or you may have to leave. 

This can be incredibly stressful and challenging for expats, especially if they have families and dependents with them.

However, it also means that job security is highly valued in Dubai and employers are often willing to provide competitive benefits and salaries to retain their employees.

Limited Political Freedom

If you’re from a country where peaceful protests are a common form of expression, you may feel stifled living in Dubai. It’s not that protests don’t happen – they do, but they are significantly restricted. 

Even naming and shaming a company for bad service on social media could  land you in hot water, as there are strict laws on defamation and slander. 

Cultural Restrictions

Dubai follows UAE laws, which may restrict certain social behaviours and censorships which might be challenging for those from more liberal countries. 

Let’s be clear. Being drunk in Dubai won’t get you in trouble. Being drunk and disorderly, however, may get you in trouble.

Certain medications, Codeine for example, is controlled here so you can’t bring it into the country (unless you have a prescription for same). 

Some public displays of affection could also get you into trouble. Don’t get me wrong, you can hold hands with your significant other, hug and even give a kiss or two in public places. But anything more than that should be saved for the privacy of your own home.


Group of friends celebrating with champagne on a boat in Dubai Marina with skyscrapers in the background. The text overlay "What are the benefits to living in Dubai" is prominently featured with the website "" below.


Have I convinced you to move to Dubai yet?

Dubai is an incredibly popular destination for expats, and for good reason. Its booming economy and tax-free salaries make it a fantastic place to work and live. 

However, as with any major move, there are challenges and adjustments that must be made. 

From cultural restrictions to high living costs, you should be prepared for potential difficulties in Dubai. 

But with the right mindset and proper research, these challenges can be overcome and turn into a rewarding experience. 

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