Moving to Downtown Dubai? Here’s What to Expect

Moving to Downtown Dubai? Here’s What to Expect

Moving houses is a really bold step, even when it’s within the same state or country. And then there are those who change nationalities entirely, moving to a completely different part of the world – it can only be described as a huge leap.

What do you expect? What happens next? What will daily life look like? The more you’ve spent in your former country, the more you need to adjust to your new home.

In this personal relocation story, we’ll cover the journey of Lady Gabrielle Ashong, aka Lady Ashong (a YouTuber, NYUAD alum, content creator/ strategist, and innovation associate for Dubai Business Associates), from London to Downtown Dubai, a city of opulence and opportunity, known as the The Centre of Now.

Lady Gabrielle Ashong
YouTuber, Content Creator/ Strategist, and Innovation Associate for Dubai Business Associates

Why I Moved to Dubai

Everyone knows Dubai as a city with a stunning skyline, a thriving economy, and a large multicultural environment. It’s also a coveted destination for those seeking long-term relocation and property investment. And if you generally ask, everyone has at least a reason for moving there.

As for my reasons, I feel like I have to talk about myself a bit before getting into that; bear with me. I went to New York University, Abu Dhabi. I am originally from the United Kingdom and of Ghanaian ethnicity. However, when I turned 18, I received a full-ride scholarship to attend NYUAD. In the course of all that, I started an advice vlog on my YouTube channel, intending to connect more students to NYUAD – it’s a great school, so you get why. 

After graduation, I wanted to stay in the UAE, but I was unsure what I wanted to do. Luckily, I got into the graduate management program, and there you have it. So, you could say my reasons for choosing Dubai are the learning opportunities, work experience, and countless opportunities to network in my field.

 Downtown Dubai. Photo: Riyas Mohammed (Unsplash)

Choosing Where to Live

Dubai, for me, has been school, work, and networking. Even though property investment or long-term living are not immediate plans, there was still the topic of picking where to stay. I believe the following checklist should be a great go-to:

  • It’s important to start early and to be careful with the contract. Read everything from what is included in the rent, how many checks are required, and any additional charges you might have to cover. 
  • The community is an excellent factor in choice, if not the most important. What’s it like? How are the people there? Is it quiet or full of hustle and bustle? Are they family and pet-friendly like Al Barari? Or an urban setting like Downtown Dubai?
  • How accessible is the transportation to and fro? Will you be close to the train station? Does the metro access the neighbourhood/ city? Or is commuting going to be a hassle?
  • Amenities! How close are grocery stores? Retail and shopping?
  • And, of course, some accommodation-specific questions, like will you have access to gyms in your building/ house? Pools? Leisure and relaxation? What about parking?

All of these things should help make a great decision.

Settling Down and Unexpected Challenges of Daily Life In Dubai

Every location has its perks and aspects of daily life that you may not really see coming. For me, it would be the traffic. There is a lot of traffic, so getting around can be a little hard. I would recommend your own means of transportation, like a car. The trains are okay, but they can get super-packed, especially during rush hour, and not a lot of people tend to have the capacity for that.

Then again, the downtown area is pretty famous for its traffic at these times. So, it’s all up to what you can manage, but that’s been the major challenge for me. 

Some folks might worry about what the cultural setting may look like. It’s no news by now that Dubai has a pretty diverse expat community. Coming from London, I have always lived in diverse communities. So, it was not new to me – I wasn’t very shocked by all of this in Dubai. And I was in Abu Dhabi before this, regardless. 

However, if I’m being honest, settling has been tough, not because of the multicultural environment but because of the busyness. In fact, I actually enjoy the culture, as it just means there are so many cool things to see and do.

 Downtown Dubai. Photo: Mohsin (Unsplash)

And then there’s the cost of living. I have heard several times that the cost of living in Dubai is something of concern to many people thinking of moving here. I agree that Dubai is expensive, but it’s also possible to budget. I try to cook a lot, which saves me money, and I also take the train most of the time. Taxis here can get expensive but they are not unaffordable (I tend to use a taxi when travelling on the weekend or going to areas inaccessible by train). 

Besides food, the cost of accommodation is the next item that can be a hot topic. Of course, getting property outside of Downtown Dubai is cheaper. Looking into places like Silicon Oasis or Deira can be cheaper (I’d say apartments are better for short-stays and expats new to the UAE. For families looking to stay longer, I’d probably recommend villas.) For long-term living, it really does depend on your goals. If the aim is to make money, there are a lot of opportunities to explore. As a bonus, there is an excellent opportunity to save more because there is no tax, at least for now.

Still, on cultural differences and comparing life here to what I’m used to, I haven’t experienced any huge cultural differences. I will say, though, that there’s a big hustle culture here. Everything is very go-go-go. You really need to be intentional about what you want, your purpose. I can’t speak for everyone, but for sure, I felt overwhelmed in my first few weeks of being in such a busy city.

What It’s Like In Downtown Dubai: Old Neighborhood vs. The New

I am currently in Downtown Dubai, which is much more touristy and corporate than some major areas. As a student, I went to NYUAD and lived in on-campus accommodation, which was basically on an island that still had various projects under construction. Hence, that community had many students and few residents.

While I didn’t exactly have a choice in choosing my current neighbourhood (my workplace provides accommodation), one thing I really like about being based in Downtown Dubai is the proximity of everything to me – it just captures the essence of living there. There are many restaurants, shopping malls, and stores to choose from. It is also very close to multiple train stations.

If I had to choose where to live, my ideal or “dream” neighbourhood would have all the required amenities, like a gym, grocery stores, and train access. I also like spacious areas with residential amenities like parks, etc. So, I guess Downtown Dubai ticks a lot of those boxes already.

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Advice For Folks Considering A Move to Dubai

I’d say don’t forget why you came here. Dubai is a very flashy and quick city; at times, you might feel like an imposter or need to get rich quickly, but that is completely untrue. Everyone is trying their best here – so don’t lose sight of the goal: your goal.

For those looking to move to Downtown Dubai specifically, research the neighbourhood and understand why you would prefer to live in the downtown area (which is much more expensive than other areas) over another community. Also, remember that Downtown Dubai is great because it is very touristy and accessible, but this also makes it fast-paced. You can find other great accommodations around this area that are slightly cheaper and provide great benefits.

Cover photo: Downtown Dubai. Ashish Mughal (Unsplash)

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