Settling in the UAE: Driving, things to do, exploring, holidays and golden visas

Our guide to settling in to becoming a long-term resident of the UAE and really getting to know the country

Cars are an important part of life in the UAE. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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You have now spent a month or so in the UAE.

In that time, you have completed what first seemed like a daunting set of tasks – making the initial move, setting up a bank account, buying a car, renting a house and starting to make friends.

Now that you have time to breathe and are familiar with some of the country, you're probably starting to feel more settled.

Here is our guide to reaping the benefits of life in the UAE and making that all-important transition from a newbie to a veteran.

Getting used to the roads

Cars are an important part of life in the UAE.

But while you may have acquired a driving licence and purchased a car after researching the market, it takes time to learn how to master the roads here.

Although the UAE offers relatively cheap fuel, costs can still add up for drivers who use their cars frequently. Here's nine tips for how to save on fuel costs.

Driving in the UAE is also affected by the seasons. During the summer months, it's important to keep your car safe from the heat – here's our guide on how to avoid any sun damage.

Heavy fog can lead to dangerous conditions on the road – follow our guide to minimise the risk.

If you do witness or experience an accident, here's how to report one.

And for those without a car who want to travel between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, here's a guide to the free shuttle bus.

The National's tips for driving safely in fog

The National's tips for driving safely in fog

Finding the best deals

The UAE is one of the most popular shopping destinations in the world, and there is no shortage of world-class malls and markets to find treasured goods.

In the UAE, the mall isn't just a place for shopping – there are a whole range of attractions within, ranging from roller coasters to an aquarium and even an indoor ski slope.

Grocery shopping will also be a central part of life in the Emirates. In 2022, Abu Dhabi introduced a ban on single-use plastic bags. Find out here what this means for shoppers, and which bags are excluded from the rule.

Online shopping is booming in the UAE and can be done from the comfort of your mobile phone. Here's our list of the most useful apps, ranging from food delivery to essential services.

And to avoid those unwanted offers, here's how to block cold calls and sale offers over the phone.

Mastering the weather

Having spent a month in the Emirates, there's a high chance you will have been treated to the UAE's most common weather – blue skies and sun.

But the country does occasionally experience more extreme bouts of weather, ranging from sandstorms to dangerous low-lying fog.

If you suffer from hay fever, you may also want to check out our guide to avoiding symptoms.

Enjoying the Emirates

The UAE boasts a wide variety of things to do.

It's impossible to list the full range of activities here, but we've collected some highlights to help you decide how to spend your leisure time.

For families, here's our ultimate guide to keeping your kids entertained in Abu Dhabi.

If culture is more your thing, these are some of the best museums to spend an afternoon meandering through.

Abu Dhabi's most popular cultural attractions include Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Qasr Al Hosn, Ferrari World and SeaWorld. Here's our guide to the top 15 things to do in the capital emirate.

Dubai also offers a vast range of activities and attractions. Here's our top 20, including the Museum of the Future, Global Village, and the Mohammed bin Rashid Library. To familiarise yourself with the UAE skyline, here's a quick guide to Dubai's 30 most famous buildings.

Eating the UAE way

Food is a massive part of UAE culture.

Emirati cuisine is just one part of the country's diverse culinary landscape, with rich offerings from India, the Philippines, and more.

Dubai has 14 Michelin-starred restaurants while Abu Dhabi has three one-star venues and four included in the Bib Gourmand category.

Check out our guide to the best restaurants in the UAE here. For those looking for less well-known options, here's our list of hidden gems. And here's the verdict from our readers.

Experiencing Eid and Ramadan

The UAE observes a number of public holidays and religious festivals.

Unlike in some parts of the world, the start of religious holidays such as Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha is determined by the Islamic lunar calendar, which changes each year.

However, National Day and Commemoration Day take place in early December every year.

Check out our guide to UAE public holidays or our rolling update on when the next public holiday is taking place.

Exploring further afield

One of the attractions of the UAE is its location as a central travel hub for the world.

Many residents first start their travels by exploring the UAE's southern neighbour, Oman.

It only takes an estimated four-and-a-half hours to drive from Dubai to Muscat – here's everything you need to know before embarking on your road trip. Another option is to explore the stunning greenery of the khareef season in Salalah.

And for those wanting to get a plane and go further afield, here's a list of ten destinations within a five-hour flight of the UAE.

Applying for a golden visa

For those who want to stay in the UAE for the long-term, the golden visa is the ideal option.

The 10-year residence permits are given to people who have made an outstanding contribution to the country, have highly prized skills or work in key industries that are crucial to economic growth.

Hundreds of thousands of UAE residents have been awarded a golden visa since the scheme was first introduced in 2019.

There are several categories of people who are eligible to apply for the golden visa.

Check out our full guide on how to apply for the golden visa here.

See you soon …

We hope this has helped you feel more at home in the Emirates. When the time comes, make sure to check out our next guide: Leaving the UAE

Previous guides:

Before Moving to the UAE

Just Arrived in the UAE

First Month in the UAE

Updated: September 11, 2023, 1:01 PM