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United Arab Emirates

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Your Guide to the UAE

Tradition and culture

The UAE is a cosmopolitan country with its culture firmly rooted in Islamic customs.

Islam is the official religion of the UAE and plays a big part in how Emiratis live their everyday life. The government follows a policy of tolerance toward foreigners and allows them to practice their own religion. By the same token, non-Muslims are expected to respect the religious customs of the country.

  • Dress
    Although many women wear the traditional hijab or abaya, expats aren't expected to follow this custom. But it's still important to dress modestly and cover your shoulders and legs when you're out in public.
  • Ramadan
    Ramadan is the holiest time of the year in the Islamic calendar - and you should avoid eating, drinking and smoking in public or in front of Muslim friends and colleagues during fasting hours. At sunset, expats are encouraged to join in the breaking of the fast. Many companies operate on reduced hours and provide special rooms where non-Muslim employees can eat during the holy month.

Expat life

The UAE offers expats a good quality of life, with modern accommodation, extensive medical facilities, good international schools and a highly developed infrastructure.

There's plenty to keep you entertained in the lively cities of Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, including beautiful beaches, multi-cuisine restaurants and world-renowned shopping malls.

  • Climate
    Getting used to the summer heat is one of the biggest challenges expats face when they move to the UAE. Buildings are air-conditioned to help ease the discomfort, but it may take time to adapt to the mostly indoor lifestyle.

    The UAE's arid subtropical climate makes for year-round good weather, but the heat in summer can surprise newly arrived expats. The hottest months are between June and September, when temperatures can reach 45°C (113°F) and the humidity is high. Many expats travel for their annual holidays during the hot summer months.
  • Working week
    The first working day of the week in the Emirates is Sunday and the weekend is Friday and Saturday. Many government and public offices are closed on Saturdays.

Getting around

Travelling by car or taxi is the easiest way to get around, but this is all changing with the improvement in the public transport system.

The UAE is a small country and getting from one emirate to another doesn't take long. Road conditions are good and multi-lane highways connect major cities. You may find you can afford a more luxurious car than you could back home.

Driving in the Emirates may take some getting used to and traffic congestion is frequent. Traffic regulations are strict and there's a zero-tolerance policy towards drinking and driving. You can drive with an international licence, but you'll need a local license if you have residency status.

With high temperatures, it goes without saying that the UAE isn't very pedestrian or cyclist friendly. You can catch a bus or taxi in the major cities and Dubai's metro system is fast and efficient.

  • If you need a Car Loan, we can help
    If you are an expat resident between the age group of 21 and 65 years and earn a minimum monthly salary of AED 7,500 per month, you are eligible for a car loan from HSBC. We also offer comprehensive vehicle insurance provided by our insurance partner, Zurich Insurance Middle East S.A.L.

    For more information on our Car Loans click here

    For more information on Vehicle Insurance click here

Currency and exchange rates

The official currency in the UAE is the Dirham (AED), which is divided into 100 fils. The UAE Dirham to USD exchange rate is approximately 3.67 dirhams to USD 1, which is equivalent to 1 AED = USD 0.272*.

AED is available in the following denominations:
Notes: 1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5 AED
Coins: 1 AED, 50 and 25 fils. Although smaller denominations of 10 and 5 fils are in circulation, they are very seldom seen or used.

  • Money Transfers
    In our 2014 Expat Explorer Survey, 60% of expats said their finances had become more complicated since they moved abroad.

    Our survey also found that some of the biggest challenges are having financial commitments in both home and host country, juggling finances in different currencies, moving money between countries, having more money to manage, and dealing with a more complex tax situation.

    Having the right banking arrangements is a key part of expat life. Your money should be easy to access and transfer between countries.

    At HSBC, we offer a range of money transfer services that allow you to transfer money from your HSBC account to many countries around the world whenever you need to. With transfers both within the UAE and around the world, you can use HSBC Money Transfers to pay bills, send money to your children studying overseas, for investments, savings and even transfer money instantly between your global HSBC accounts using Global View and Global Transfers**.

With Global View and Global Transfers you can:

  • Log on once to view and manage all your global HSBC accounts on one screen
  • Make instant transfers between your global accounts in different currencies***

For more information on HSBC Money Transfers, click here

*Source: www.dubai-online.com

** Global View and Global Transfers is only available for HSBC Premier & HSBC Advance

***For a list of supported currencies, please click here


Rents in the UAE have steadily increased in recent years - so accommodation is likely to be one of your biggest expenses. Although many companies allocate housing for expat employees, formal housing allowances aren't as common as they were a few years ago.

The UAE offers a high standard of living and you'll have a variety of options to choose from.

  • Furnished/unfurnished
    Both furnished and unfurnished housing are available. Many unfurnished apartments don't have basic appliances - so if you choose this option, be prepared for start-up costs. The transient nature of the UAE means there's a thriving second-hand market as expats get rid of their furniture and appliances before moving back home. These are advertised by word of mouth or on various classified websites.
  • Residency visa
    You'll need a residence visa to rent an accommodation in the UAE. When you sign the lease, you'll have to present a copy of your visa and passport and proof of income.
  • Renting property
    Leases are usually for a year. It's common to pay a full 12 months' rent upfront, although some landlords accept post-dated cheques. You'll also have to pay a security deposit to the landlord.
  • Getting a Home Loan as an expat
    If you are looking to buy a home in the UAE, we can help. Our mortgage advisers have the experience and expertise to help guide you through the process.

    We can also assist you with a 12-month personal loan to help pay for your upfront annual rent.

    For more information on our Home Loans click here

    For more information on our Personal Loans click here


Healthcare is mandatory in the UAE and employers are obliged to provide healthcare insurance as part of a benefits package.

The UAE has an advanced healthcare infrastructure and modern medical facilities. Both public and private services are available, but most expats opt for private hospitals.

  • Medical Insurance
    UAE companies have to provide medical insurance to expat employees - so this is one expense you don't need to worry about.
  • Pharmacies
    There are pharmacies across all cities - and some are open 24/7. Although many medications are available, the country has strict laws regarding certain medicines. You may need a prescription for certain medicines that are sold over the counter back home.
  • Emergency services
    Emergency services in the UAE are adequate and if you need an ambulance or for any other emergency, you should call.

    Police 999
    Fire 997
    Ambulance 998
    Water and electricity emergencies 991


The UAE offers a wide range of options for international schools that parents can choose from.

For a list and ranking of private schools in Dubai, you can visit the Knowledge and Human Development Authority website here

Planning ahead to cover the cost of university fees is important. If you need financial advice in helping you plan for your children's education, click here


With more than 80%* of the UAE's population made up of expats, you'll find yourself in a dynamic work environment. Despite its cosmopolitan feel, you should always respect Islamic rules and traditions.

English is widely spoken, but Arabic is the official language, so you may need an interpreter to translate some documents.

  • Business Culture
    The business culture of a company in the UAE will depend on its origins. An international organisation is likely to adopt the culture of its home country. Local organisations may be more traditionally Arabic.
  • Greeting
    A handshake (using your right hand) is the usual greeting between men. Placing your right hand on your chest after shaking hands shows respect. If you're greeting a Muslim person of the opposite gender, wait for them to extend their hand first - a simple bow of the head is acceptable if you're not sure.
  • Expat salaries
    There are no taxes on salaries in the UAE, but you'll need to consider the cost of living in the Emirates.

    Expat packages, at a minimum, include a basic salary. Other benefits may include bonuses, health insurance, education allowances, subsidised accommodation, a company car, a shipping allowance and annual air tickets home. Contracts for senior executive positions are still likely to include most of these benefits.


With beautiful beaches, a wide variety of shopping malls, unique theme parks and cultural gems throughout the country, the UAE has something for everyone.

  • Abu Dhabi
    The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the third largest mosque in the world and one of the most beautiful. The capital is also home to The Formula Rossa, the world's fastest roller coaster, located in the Ferrari World amusement park.

    • Al Ain
    From the iconic Jebal Hafeet to the Al Ain Zoo, this oasis town is also known as the Garden City due to its greenery.
  • Dubai
    Dubai is a shoppers' paradise. Amongst the many choices, patrons can visit the Dubai Mall, the world's largest by size, which has an Olympic size ice rink, or the Mall of the Emirates, which houses Ski Dubai, the world's largest indoor snow resort. Dubai is also blessed with many excellent beaches including Kite Beach, Jumeirah Beach Park and Mamzar Beach Park.
  • Sharjah
    The Al Majaz Waterfront is an ideal place for families to take a leisurely stroll while taking in views of the beautiful skyline. Yet another attraction is The Arabian Wildlife Centre, which showcases wild animals native to the region. The emirate has also emerged as the Cultural Capital of the UAE offering visitors the chance to revisit the country's past through its numerous museums.
  • Ras Al Khaimah
    Ras Al Khaimah is perfect for a weekend getaway. It's home to the famous Jebal Al Jais, the country's tallest mountain range, which offers wonderful views. Weary travellers can also relax at the therapeutic Khatt Springs, bordering the Hajar Mountains.
  • Ajman
    The Ajman Museum, which served as a fort in the late 18th century, is complete with archaeological artifacts and is the best place for those seeking a lesson in history.
  • Fujairah
    A trip to this mountainous emirate would be incomplete without paying a visit to the Fujairah Fort. It is one of the oldest forts in the UAE, built in the 16th century. Fujairah also has many hotels and beaches offering water sports including snorkeling, scuba diving and yachting.
  • Umm Al Quwain
    The Dreamland Aqua Park is a popular weekend attraction for families looking to beat the summer heat. Alternatively, tourists also flock to the Umm Al Quwain fort, which has now been converted into a museum. It provides a glimpse into the UAE's heritage and includes collections of ancient weapons and coins.


To find out how we can help you set up your finances in the UAE

Have us call you


Call us at your convenience

600 55 4722
within UAE

+971 4 228 8007
outside UAE

You are leaving hsbc.ae

This link may allow you to access a non - HSBC website. HSBC Bank Middle East Limited has no control over the linked website and is not liable for your use of it.

You are leaving hsbc.ae

This link may allow you to access a non - HSBC website. HSBC Bank Middle East Limited has no control over the linked website and is not liable for your use of it.

You are leaving hsbc.ae

This link may allow you to access a non - HSBC website. HSBC Bank Middle East Limited has no control over the linked website and is not liable for your use of it.

You are leaving hsbc.ae

This link may allow you to access another HSBC Group website. Please read the terms and conditions of the linked website, which may differ from the terms and conditions of HSBC Bank Middle East Limited website.