Things a UAE resident wished he'd known at the start of 2015

Spectators watch hot air balloons participating in the World Air Games as one soars past the Dubai Marina in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)

I have worked in 20 countries but 2015 is the first year I have lived all year in a place which isn’t the UK.

So I have set up a business, rented an apartment, moved my furniture from UK. And life would have been a lot easier if I had known:

1. If you need to nip into Oman via Hatta and you want decent cup of coffee at the Hatta Fort Hotel don’t go on a Friday. It will cost you 100AED just to enter the hotel driveway and in reality there is no-where else.

2. The difference between free zones and non-free zones and between Dubai and Abu Dhabi (and the other Emirates) when setting up a business.

3. You can’t contract with anyone without a company stamp – and you can’t get one of those without a company.

4. Always take a photo of your parking place at the Mall.

5. The nearest metro station to Dubai Marina Mall is JLT not Damac Properties (formerly Dubai Marina).

6. It’s so hot and humid in summer that if you are going to a meeting in business dress you will need to find a taxi within two minutes if you want to arrive at your destiny in pristine condition. Even at 47 degrees the laundry won’t dry on the balcony because of the humidity.

7. In common parlance ‘Sea side’ and ‘Desert Side’ mean what they say. When I asked my client by Financial Centre Metro, ‘ Sea Side or Desert Side?’ she replied ‘ RitzCarlton side!’ . Dubai coast line, metro and main roads follow a NorthEast – SouthWest line. So on the metro North means sea-side and on the roads West means sea-side.

8. Without a resident visa you can’t rent an apartment. And the best way to discover about vacancies in apartment blocks is to talk to the caretaker. It still won’t get you off paying agents fees though! A key consideration is which direction the balcony faces.

9. Dubai Tourist tax, is up to 20AED per night for the first 30 days of your hotel stay. So after 30 days it stops. But if you check out of your hotel, even for one night, then when you check back in it starts again for 30 nights.

10. There are at least three border crossings in Al Ain to Oman. For the one I used there was at least another 5 KM drive from the UAE exit to the Oman entrance. Then a friend advised a different one where the distance is 100 metres.

11. Just before the Mohammed Bin Zayed road (E311) road coming from Hessa St ( E61) there are two speed cameras 100 metres apart, limit is 60KPM. That cost me two fines totalling 1200AED.

12. Google Maps and similar applications are inaccurate. In Jeddah hotel locations can be several miles out. Here they are often on the wrong side of the road or the building entrance is on a different road than suggested.

13. Addresses: This year the government introduced unique identifiers for buildings. But most people and organisations refer to their location as no xxx, yyy building next to zzzz. It once took me 45 minutes to find the Dubai Branch of a large car rental company. The office was ‘next to’ a Burger joint on a main road. It was actually down the side of a laundry in the street behind the main road and no access to it from that main road.

And a bonus one…

Apart from old 60s Dubai, Dubai was built for cars and certainly not for walking. Much effort has been put in to rectify this but there are certain places it is still impossible to walk to – such as from one part to the other of internet city. I just heard there is a pedestrian tunnel from Bur Dubai to Deira – right at the tip of the Creek. Sometimes there are ways but it can take ages to discover or to know when to just give up.

These are lessons I learnt, sometimes painfully. Hopefully you found them useful. No doubt there will be an equal number of challenges to overcome in 2016.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
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