In this month's issue
Excerpts from the diary of someone who's successfully emigrated to the UAE - Part III
Thursday, 22 January 2009
Novice expatriate Allen Quaye on life in Dubai, two months after stepping off the plane from London…
It’s been a couple of months now and I’m starting to find my way about Dubai and do not end up at the Trade Centre roundabout every other journey. I have the use of a company car now and since Dubai is well sign-posted I’m no longer phoning the office for directions every time I need to get somewhere. Bravely, I also volunteered to re-register the car.
In order for a car to be legal on the roads of Dubai it must be registered with Dubai police. For this the car must pass a simple road safety test which includes a visual inspection, testing of the brakes and an engine once-over – all of which is done at the police department. Once passed, you then proceed to the next section with the ubiquitous passport photocopy, your original insurance statement, AED305 for the annual re-registration charge and join one of the many queues.
The next step is one that makes sense to me and is perhaps something that other countries would do well to pay heed to. In order to re-register a car ALL fines, speeding and parking, MUST be paid. Once these are paid the rest of the procedure is simply a matter of moving between queues with the appropriate sheaf of papers until presented with new registration documents.
The longer I spend in Dubai the more I realise the importance first of all of being earnest and secondly the value of the passport photocopy. I’m still waiting for my residence visa to come through and although I’m assured it won’t be long, it seems to be that pretty much everything needs a copy of the visa page. In the meantime I’ve begun my quest for somewhere to live or for ‘executive furnished accommodation’ as the real estate people are wont to say.
The choice in Dubai is almost limitless. As can be the price. It really is possible to rent an apartment from around AED25,000 per year to the villas in exclusive locations for hundreds of thousands of dirhams per year. The trick is the same as anywhere - decide where you want to live and find something that’s in your budget, take recommendations from friends and keep looking. There are many real estate companies in Dubai and talking to them seems to be the best way. The days of approaching the landlord and agreeing on a price seem to be long gone.
As I said last month it really is location, location and location. Dubai has its exclusive areas, Jumeirah, Umm Suqueim and the like, as well as the less expensive areas such as Karama. It’s possible to rent accommodation with excellent facilities at a far more reasonable price than I would pay in London. I’m looking at spending around AED45,000 and I’m looking for a two- bedroom apartment. For this price I’m told that I should expect to find a place with centralised air-conditioning (rather than the older ‘window rattlers’, as they’re affectionately known), with it’s own parking space and perhaps even a gym and swimming pool for residents – plus a maintenance contract.
However the difference in Dubai to many other countries in the world is the fact that in general you need to pay six months rent in advance - plus a security deposit. However you look at it, and it is a large amount of money to pay out as a lump sum, you have to pay it in the end. As usual the banks are only too willing to help and there are many of them who offer property rental loans at competitive interest rates. With the above in mind I need to decide on ‘the one’ from my shortlist - and find another passport photocopy!
As regards the practicalities, the mechanism in place for utilities seems straightforward. The Emirates Telecommunications Corporation, Etisalat, use state of the art systems and offer all the phone and internet facilities I could ever need at reasonable prices. They even offer a new service called ‘Dial ‘n Surf’ which allows internet access without the need to subscribe to an email account. Ideal keeping up to date with friends via my hotmail account.
Gas is used but in bottles and delivered by the local shop so that’s one less thing to organise. Electricity and water are connected by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), who have just launched a scheme in conjunction with Citibank that allows the banks credit card customers to pay DEWA bills from anywhere in the UAE over the phone. The number is of course toll-free. I imagine Non-Citibank customers can look forward to similar schemes in the future from their own bank.
After owning your own home it is very hard to go back to renting and consigning away "x" amount each month. You need to live somewhere, however and perhaps the day will come when expatriates will be able to own or at least hold a long lease on property in the UAE. Rumours are abound that this is not far away and I for one will beat the front of the queue for a seafront villa! Winter holidays in the gulf? Retirement homes somewhere other than Spain? The friendly people, the golf, the water-sports, the restaurants. I can think of worse places!