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Housing is one of the great challenges of setting up in the UAE, and although you may receive a housing allowance from your employer, you’ll probably need to top it up from your own pocket to cover the rent or mortgage.


If you're looking for the hustle and bustle of apartment living, then Abu Dhabi and Dubai have plenty of waterfront, beachside and city central pads to choose from.


Apartments in the UAE are generally quite spacious, with everything from studios to seven bedrooms available. Master bedrooms in new builds often come with an en-suite bathroom, walk-in wardrobe and lounge space. Newer apartments usually have central air conditioning, while older buildings can have noisier air-conditioning units built into the walls. Some are linked up to district cooling, a system where all buildings in an area receive cold water from a central cooling plant. In this scenario, residents sign an agreement with the cooling company and pay monthly instalments. In winter, you won’t need air conditioning much, so make sure it’s possible to turn it off. Chilled water costs can creep up in the hotter months too.

Top of the range apartments generally come with white goods, have 24-hour security, covered parking (check if you get a space), a gym and a pool. Expats from some parts of the world tend to prefer villas to apartments, especially when they have families, but some of the facilities in the larger apartment complexes make for fun, comfortable and safe family living.


Particularly if you have a family, a villa located within a compound with leisure facilities, could be the right move for you.

Finding a villa

The villa lifestyle doesn’t come cheap, however, and smart villas are snapped up pretty quickly. The good news is that if you look hard enough and use the grapevine, you might find the perfect villa that won’t break the budget. Depending on the location, size and age of the property, it may be cheaper than some apartments, even if air-conditioning costs will be higher. Villas differ greatly in quality and facilities. Independent ones often have bigger gardens, while compound villas are usually newer and most have shared facilities like a pool or gym.

In Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island is a popular area for villas, as are Al Bateen and Mohammed Bin Zayed City, while Arabian Ranches, Al Barsha South, The Meadows and Springs in Emirates Living, and Jumeirah are established communities in which to start your search in Dubai.