Life in Dubai: Best Areas for Expats

Life in Dubai: Best Areas for Expats

Dubai is experiencing an immigration boom. The demand for real estate, as well as rental rates and property prices, have significantly increased. Dubai is one of the most popular cities in the world and remains attractive to expats. Read on to find out about the best places for expats in Dubai, districts suitable for singles and families and how much it costs to buy or rent a flat or a villa there.

How to Buy Property in Dubai If You Are an Expat 

Dubai welcomes expats because attracting investment and skilled workers is one of the goals of the government. Migration legislation was amended in 2022 and it is now easier for talented workers and investors to obtain residence in the UAE. However, expats can still only buy properties in certain areas of Dubai called freehold zones.

Freehold is a common form of property ownership which is popular in most countries. It means that the owner has complete tenure of property and freedom to dispose of it whenever they want. The authorities compile and approve the list of freehold zones. It currently includes 65 areas, even such famous districts like Dubai Marina and Palm Jumeirah. If you want to learn more about freehold zones in Dubai, check out this article.

Fortunately, expats can also buy properties in areas outside that list, but only on leasehold terms. It means that they do not have full tenure, but can own a property for up to 99 years. The ultimate real estate owner in leasehold zones must be a citizen of one of the countries included in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf. Leasehold zones are in close proximity to the historical centre of Dubai and serve to preserve these historic areas.

How to Rent a Property in Dubai If You Are an Expat 

Dubai is very expat-friendly. Foreign nationals can drink alcohol in bars and restaurants and are free not to observe Ramadan (restaurants and cafes for expats are open during the day even in this holy month). Furthermore, in 2020 the government abolished the laws that used to prohibit unmarried couples, including expats, from renting a property or staying in one hotel room.

The local authorities regulate rental rates and only allow landlords to change them once a year. A property owner cannot raise rent for their current tenants even if there is a surge in demand in the market. The rate can be changed only when the contract is renewed. In addition, rental rates must correlate to market rates. The Dubai Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) ensures that all property owners obey these rules. Each lease contract is registered in a special Ejari system.

Tenants usually have to pay 12 months of rent upfront. In some cases, property owners may allow you to pay quarterly or monthly. 

Dubai is a very diverse city, so you need to consider your needs and lifestyle before choosing an area to live in. Another thing worth thinking about in advance is whether you will need to commute to Dubai's Downtown because the city is famous for its traffic jams during rush hour.

Popular Areas in Dubai for Expats

Despite high demand for housing, Dubai offers a great choice of flats or villas in different areas. However, 80% of expats live in these seven districts: Dubai Marina, Arabian Ranches, Downtown, Al Barsha, Mirdif, Business Bay, and Emirates Hills. Let's study them in detail.

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina is one of the most popular areas among expats and tourists and it is located on the coast but close to the centre. Dubai Marina boasts various amenities: there are lots of bars, restaurants, clubs, nice beaches, and a big Marina Mall.

This area is perfect if you prefer everything to be within walking or cycling distance. One of the features of this district is a large pedestrian area where Dubai Marina residents jog in the morning. The area is densely built up with skyscrapers offering flats for rent or sale, some of them come with a view of the Persian Gulf. However, if you have children, you’ll need to find a school for them in a neighbouring district.

Marina Vista, Dubai Marina (Housearch)

Rent Rates 

You can rent a studio in Dubai Marina for an average of 40,000 AED a year ($10,900). A two-bedroom apartment would cost you 80,000 AED a year ($21,800).

Purchasing Prices

The prices for studios start at 600,000 AED ($163,500), the lowest price for a one-bedroom apartment is 950,000 AED ($259,000). You can buy a villa for a minimum of 2.2 million AED ($599,200).

Arabian Ranches

This is another popular area with expats who move to Dubai with their families. Here you will mostly find villas of all sizes: from small to quite spacious options, up to four or five bedrooms. 

Arabian Ranches will suit people who prefer luxury sports. The area boasts an international golf club as well as several polo clubs. Expat families will appreciate the range of schools in Arabian Ranches, including international educational facilities. Arabian Ranches also features many restaurants and a local shopping mall. The area has everything you need for a comfortable and active life.

Rent Rates

An average rental price for a two- or three-bedroom villa in Arabian Ranches is from 110,000 AED to 130,000 AED a year ($29,950 to $35,400).

Purchasing Prices

You can buy a two-bedroom villa from 1.4 million AED ($381,300), while four-bedroom villas will cost you from 2.1 million AED ($571,885).


Downtown is a modern continuation of Dubai's old city. Downtown Dubai used to be the main business and financial part of the city, but these activities are now associated more with the Business Bay area.

Downtown has a lot of shops, cafes, and restaurants. The main attraction of Downtown is the famous Burj Khalifa tower. You can also visit the world's biggest shopping centre, Dubai Mall. Downtown is always full of tourists from all over the world, day and night.

Most expats prefer to live in small studios or in two-bedroom apartments in Downtown. By the way, you can rent or buy an apartment even in Burj Khalifa.

W Residences Downtown (Housearch)

Rent Rates

The rental prices for apartments in Downtown vary between 48,000 to 900,000 AED a year (from $13,100 to $245,000). Average prices for studios in this area are from 48,000 AED to 145,000 AED a year (from $13,100 to $39,500). Two-bedroom apartments cost from 80,000 AED to 490,000 AED a year ($16,340 to $133,500).

Purchasing Prices

The starting price for buying a studio in Downtown Dubai is 490,000 AED ($133,500), 630,000 AED ($171,600) for one-bedroom apartments, and 920,000 AED ($250,600) for apartments with two bedrooms.

Al Barsha

Al Barsha is one of the newest and most modern areas of Dubai, located to the west of the emirate, near Dubai Marina. It is much cheaper to rent an apartment here than in the city centre. 

The area has great transport accessibility. It will take you 25 minutes to get to the airport and the famous man-made archipelago of Palm Jumeirah is just a five-minute drive from here.

Al Barsha features a race track and Mall of the Emirates, where you can go to the cinema or ski down an indoor ski slope.

Q Gardens (Housearch)

Rent Rates

Expats usually pay 40,000 AED a year to rent an apartment in Al Barsha ($10,900) and 65,000 AED a year for a two-bedroom apartment ($17,700).

Purchasing Prices

If you want to buy a studio here, be prepared to pay from 350,000 AED to 870,000 AED ($95,350 to $237,000). Townhouses cost on average about 2.6 million AED ($708,000).


Although Mirdif is on the outskirts of Dubai, you can get to the city centre in just 25 or 30 minutes, so this area is also quite popular with expats. On the other hand, Mirdif is close to the airport and sometimes it can be rather noisy here.

The area has a multi-purpose complex called Dubai Festival City which has a big mall, a golf course, and fountains with light shows.

Mushrif Village (Housearch)

Rent Rates

Renting a two-bedroom villa in Mirdif costs an average of 70,000 AED a year ($19,060) and three-bedroom options start at 90,000 AED a year ($24,500).

Purchasing Prices

Prices for one-bedroom apartments range from 942,000 AED to 1.3 million AED (from $256,600 to $354,000). Two-bedroom villas cost around 1.5 million AED ($408,500) and villas with four bedrooms start at 2.8 million AED ($762,500).

Business Bay

Business Bay is built up with some of the tallest skyscrapers in Dubai and in the world. Local residents can enjoy panoramic views of Downtown, the canal and Burj Khalifa.

The name of the area, Business Bay, stands for itself: many major companies have their offices here and the district is quite popular with business owners and top managers. Business Bay boasts good transport links to other areas of the city. There is a metro station and several bus stops here.

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