Weekly Travel Q&A: Advice for Future Dubai Expats

My boyfriend and I have recently secured 1-year contracts to work in Dubai, with an architectural and engineering firm and international school, respectively. With all the paperwork and red tape hurdles finally out of the way, we’re about ready to pack and leave for the U.A.E. The question, however, is what to pack? I have a hard enough time with weekend trips, let alone a lengthy sojourn in the Persian Gulf. There’s a deluge of information out there on what/what not to bring to Dubai, either from a practical, legal or weather standpoint. Can you offer some advice? Also, my boyfriend’s company is going to put us up at a mid-range hotel in Dubai for two weeks before our furnished flat is ready. Any places in particular that we should suggest?

Cheers in advance,

- Kate M., Melbourne

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Last question first. Despite the plethora of five-plus star hotels, Dubai hotels run the gamut. You may want to check out the Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa or the Majestic, in Bur Dubai. Both provide excellent service, spacious, comfortable rooms and other extras at reasonable rates.

Length of stay determines a lot when it comes to what to pack for Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, and the like. Obviously, if your expat experience will run in the vicinity of 12 months, minimum, and you have a full-service apartment at your disposal, you can omit certain items and pack light – to a point. The one caveat to keep in mind is that Dubai can be prohibitively expensive for some and malls/shops may not carry certain items/creature comforts from home. Nonetheless, one assumes the compensation terms of your contracts will afford a good quality of life in the Emirates city and, as a result, the insane price of sunblock will not induce heart palpitations.

While Dubai teems with expats and is, on the whole, liberal, mind your wardrobe outside of the house. As a woman, err on the side of caution and keep bare skin to a minium. Cover your shoulders, tummy and no cleavage please, even in malls and shops. Pack loose, comfortable clothes and when in doubt, layer, layer, layer. AC blasts can be deadly in the U.A.E. and after the sun dips, the desert climate can get cool. Your boyfriend should avoid shorts, save for the beach or pool, and bring a few light khakis or, if his body type permits, linen pants. Linen works well under the intense Dubai sun. For clubs or swanky restaurants where expats outnumber locals (which is almost everwhere now to be honest), you can both let your hair down. At the office and work, keep it conservative. Another patently obvious tip: no alcohol, pornography or drugs.

In the personal care department, Dubai has it all but, again, your fave shampoo or skin-care product will most certainly be more expensive. If you want to haul a tidy stash with you, remember airline safety laws about liquids, lotions, creams and the like. Sun protection is of paramount importance in Dubai. Ultraviolet rays are simply intolerable in the Arabian Peninsula and without some help, your epidermis will be toast. One sad, ubiquitous feature of Dubai is the number of red, burnt-to-a-crisp expats out and about. Avoid the stereotype: cover up, use sunblock, hydrate like mad and wear a hat.

If you plan to pack electronic devices, Dubai has the same outlet and voltage system as the United Kingdom.

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