Best Places to Live in Dubai For Expats

Lisa Smith, BA (Hons), CeFA
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Dubai is well known for its dynamic architecture and tax-efficient lifestyle, but there is so much more to living in Dubai as an expat.

Whether you’re looking for ultra-slick city living, relaxed beachside style or to find a peaceful green oasis, Dubai has property to offer expats to suit every taste.

Let’s check out the most popular destinations for expats living in Dubai – and what takes them to the top of the list.

Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah island dubai

You’re likely familiar with the man-made Palm Jumeirah island; this is the iconic Dubai landmark with perfect beaches jutting out into the ocean.

Most properties in the area are apartments, but you can also rent and buy property including villas and beachside homes backing onto the sands.

Waterfront living is relatively affordable and offers a great balance between living as an expat and becoming a local, combining the tourist elements of a resort with a laid back culture.

The island offers a variety of properties from studio apartments through to large family villas, all close to some of the most popular bars, restaurants and entertainment venues in Dubai.

Its also home to the world famous Skydive Dubai

Mirdif

Mirdif villas in dubai

This residential neighbourhood is a fast-growing location of choice, with many reasonably priced two-bedroom flats. Mirdif has a busy community of expats, singles, and couples.

Over the past few years, Mirdif has come into its own, with plenty of shops, outdoor space and even a super mall. This has given rise to a booming rental sector, with plenty of investors choosing Mirdif to expand their property portfolios.

The only downside is that Mirdif does sit underneath an airport flight path, so it’s wise to visit a property at different times of day to be sure that you’re comfortable with the noise.

That said, it is popular as an alternative to the skyscrapers dominating the city. It is one of the few places in Dubai free from tourist attractions or densely built-up areas, making it feel serene, spacious, and relaxed.

Emirates Hills

Emirates Hills Villa in Dubai

As luxury neighbourhoods go, Emirates Hills is a big contender – for property buyers and expats with a budget.

The Hills is a gated community that offers the ultimate in security, overlooking the 18-hole Montgomerie golf course and with beautiful homes and landscaping. This upscale development has all the amenities you’d expect, including gyms, nurseries, and restaurants, so there is plenty to do without venturing further afield.

There are bargains to be had, but those most exclusive residences with a lake view come at a premium price. This is a friendly suburban area, with a lot of families taking advantage of the close-knit community.

Motor City

Motor City residencies in Dubai

Don’t let the name put you off – track days happen a handful of times a year and are some of the best times to be living in Motor City next to all the action.

The name comes from the racetrack, around which has sprung up a wide choice of properties including apartments and villas.

As themed cities go, Motor City takes it all the way, being a paradise for motorsports fans, and with the whole neighbourhood developed along the theme. The Dubai Autodrome itself is the first integrated facility of its kind in the region, hence its popularity.

Away from the track, Motor City is very peaceful, and the community has a big emphasis on healthy living and making the best of the outdoors with green open spaces and lower air pollution then you’ll find most places in Dubai.

Many expats choose Motor City since it is close to Arabian Ranches, but with a more budget-friendly price tag.

Arabian Ranches

Arabian Ranches villas in Dubai

Arabian Ranches is just down the road from Motor City, made up of a gated community along the Emirates Road. The development is entirely self-contained, with private shops and an English school on site.

There are also sports activities within the complex, including golf, polo, and an equestrian club. This is a popular complex with expats and has a sizeable Western community and a child-friendly vibe.

Residents enjoy discounted access to the amenities, and it is well known for excellent quality constructions as well as being pet friendly. That makes it a big draw for expats relocating with their beloved pets, which have access to generous back gardens and parks.

Al Barari

Al Barari in Dubai

If you’re looking for quiet and peaceful living, Al Barari will be right up your street.

The area stands in stark contrast to the noise and clamour of the city, with the lush greenery making it feel like an idyllic oasis in the middle of the desert.

The area isn’t the cheapest due to the high demand for a limited number of properties. Still, it is extremely popular with families being a safe neighbourhood and about a 20-minute commute to the nearest schools.

Jumeirah

Jumeirah Dubai

Not to be confused with Palm Jumeirah, this area is one of the longest established rental residences for expats in Dubai and is close to the beach for a relaxed pace of coastal living.

It’s worth noting that expats can’t currently purchase property in Jumeirah, as it is a non-freehold area, but there are plenty of houses and villas to let.

The area is particularly popular due to the proximity to Jumeirah beach, along with some top schools and colleges.

Green Community

Green Community Dubai

A little out of the way, Green Community is an ideal location for commuters needing to travel to Abu Dhabi and is next to Jebel Ali industrial zone.

As the name suggests, the area is all about greenery, so the villas in the gated community are surrounded by landscaped lawns and gardens.

The distance from the city makes this a quieter location. Still, the transport links are excellent being so close to industrial business hubs – that don’t have any impact on the serenity of the residential development.

Lots of the residents here work nearby, making it a settled place to live, and perfect for expats looking to settle and make new friends. There is also a Souk Extra Mall in Ewan Residence next door, with shops, restaurants, and medical facilities all on-site.

Jumeirah Village

Jumeirah Village residences Dubai

Within the Village are Jumeirah Village Triangle and Jumeirah Village Circle, both fast-growing in terms of popularity. As new developments, there are some parts under construction but plenty to enjoy for expats moving into the neighbourhood.

This presents an excellent opportunity for a bargain property investment, if you aren’t bothered by the proximity of the electricity pylons and some dusty roads.

The concept is to create a neighbourhood with all the facilities you could want on your doorstep and being close to the city but one step removed to offer a calmer way of living.

You’re only 25 minutes from Dubai International Airport, and 17 minutes from Dubai Marina, so it’s easy to travel back and forth for a taste of city life, or work and socialising.

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina ocean view

If you’re longing to find a pad in Dubai that mimics the iconic skyline, head for Dubai Marina. The marina offers everything you can imagine, with the large leisure complex offering luxury shopping, outdoor dining and of course that perfect coastline.

The homes here make up the backdrop of super-luxe high-rise buildings, offset by a beautiful marina and gentle waters. With the marina as the central focus, if you’re into water sports you’ll find activities like jet-skiing aplenty, and even sky diving excursions when you’re tired of spotting the superyachts.

Given the popularity of the area with British expats, there are even schools here following the UK curriculum, and properties include apartments, studios, and units in a variety of styles and settings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a collection of some of the frequently asked questions about the best places to live in Dubai for expats.

✅ Is it illegal to drink alcohol in Dubai?

No, it isn’t illegal, although there are specific rules to be aware of.

Dubai drinking culture is different from in the UK, so you won’t find boozers on every downtown street corner. What you will find is plenty of bars and restaurants with an alcohol licence, as well as familiar traditions like happy hours.

✅ How does the cost of living compare in Dubai?

There are no two ways around it – living in Dubai isn’t cheap.

Many expats find this easily offset by no income tax. If you are moving from a major city, you’ll find the prices similar and will quite probably live more comfortably without a hole in your pay check.

✅ Do many people in Dubai speak English?

The native language in Dubai is Arabic, but yes, most people do speak English. This is because Dubai is a firmly established global business hub, and so English is the most spoken language.

A whopping 75% of the population are expats, from all over the world, so you won’t have any trouble being understood or communicating.

✅ Is it difficult, living in Dubai as a woman?

Quite the opposite. We know that Dubai is a modest country, so you should expect to cover your shoulders and knees when you’re at work or going out in public. That doesn’t include the beach, by the way.

There are women’s sections on public transport but generally women expats find the culture extremely respectful, most likely because of the calm social culture and banned use of explicit language.

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