So, you have secured a travel job in Abu Dhabi, the exotic capital city of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Well done. You’re going to have the experience of a lifetime!
Before you book your flight and start packing your bags, however, you should take the time to do a little research about the place where you will be living and working. And unless you are lucky enough to have your employer arrange accommodations and transportation for you, you have a lot of decisions to make before you start packing.
No worries, though, as the resources listed below are an excellent starting point for planning your working vacation in Abu Dhabi.
Emirati Durham (AED)
Other Commonly Spoken Languages
English, Urdu, Persian, Hindi, Malayalam, Tagalog
Desert; cool mountain regions
Petroleum, natural gas
GDP (Per Capita)
Police – 999
Ambulance – 998/999
Fire - 997
Mercer Human Resource Consulting runs an annual Cost of Living survey. Their survey covers 143 cities across six continents and measures the comparative costs of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment.
For 2007, the survey ranked Abu Dhabi 45th among the most expensive cities in the world. Using New York as the index with a score of 100, Abu Dhabi scored 85.9.
Using data from Grapeshisha, an information Web site about the UAE, this table presents the approximate costs of items commonly purchased in the UAE:
Big Mac meal
Lux hand soap
Scottonelle toilet tissue
Tide laundry detergent
Panadol pain killers
Cut and blow-dry
Average for 2 people in a 2-bedroom apartment with central AC
Assuming a gas supply is installed in the building
Data source: http://www.grapeshisha.com
Renting property in the UAE generally requires the full payment for a twelve month lease upfront, although some landlords will accept an initial payment for the first six months of rent. In most cases, finding a rental property requires the assistance of a property agent who will typically require 5% of one year’s rent as payment, to be due at the lease signing.
Most landlords also require a refundable security deposit of anywhere between 500 to 5,000 AED (140 to 1,370 USD), plus another 1,000 to 2,000 AED (273 to 548 USD) deposit for utilities such as water, electricity and gas. A few premises will also require a payment of a 10% municipal tax, so it is best to be clear with the landlord about any additional fees prior to signing an agreement.
Property prices average around 40,000 AED (10,950 USD) annually for a 1-bedroom apartment, 70,000 AED (19,160 USD) for a 2-bedroom apartment, and as high as 140,000 AED (38,320 USD) for a 4-bedroom apartment for locations near the city. An extra 5,000 AED (1,370 USD) is typically paid for rooms in the upper floors of the building and a similar amount for underground parking. Some of the better-known, trustworthy real estate agents in Abu Dhabi are:
Electricity and water in Abu Dhabi is provided by the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, otherwise known as ADWEA. You can go to http://adwea.gov.ae/en/index.html to visit their Web site for more information.
The following items are required to open a bank account in Abu Dhabi:
• Your residence visa. (Some banks, however, will accept a letter from your employer stating that your visa is in the process of being applied for.)
• A letter of no objection from your employer, which is sometimes known as a No Objection Certificate (NOC). This letter generally needs to stipulate your salary.
• A copy of your passport.
• A second form of identification.
• Passport-sized photographs.
• Money to deposit to satisfy minimum balance limit (usually 1000 to 5000 AED for current accounts).
• Copies of your tenancy agreement and employment contract might also be required.
Go to the bank of your choice with these documents and ask to speak to a customer service representative about opening an account.
Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (Main Branch)
Al Salam Street, P.O. Box 939, Abu Dhabi
Al Salam Street, Abu Dhabi
Commercial Bank of Dubai
Corniche Street, P.O. Box 2466, Abu Dhabi
Commercial Bank International
Khalifa Street, Abu Dhabi
Al Baluchi Tower (Ground + Mezzanine floor), Electra Street, Abu Dhabi
First Gulf Bank (Main Branch)
Zayed 1st Street, Khalidiya Area, P.O. Box. 6316, Abu Dhabi
Omeir bin Yussuf Building, Airport Road, Abu Dhabi
Ground Floor, Blue Tower, Khalifa Street, Abu Dhabi
National Bank of Abu Dhabi
Intersection of Khalifa Street and Baniyas Street, Abu Dhabi.
National Bank of Dubai
Al Owais Building, Sheikh Zayed 2nd Street, Electra, Abu Dhabi
Standard Chartered Bank
Al Fardan Tower, Hamdan Street, P.O. Box 240, Abu Dhabi
Union National Bank (Main Branch)
UNB Building, Al Salam Street, P.O. Box 3865, Abu Dhabi
Electricity and water in Dubai is provided by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, otherwise known as DEWA.
There is no house address-based mailing system in the UAE. All mail is delivered to centrally-located post office boxes. While many people choose to use their company’s post office box, it is possible to rent your own.
Expatriates have two options with their cell phones in the UAE: the prepaid or the post-paid service. There are currently two providers available, Etisalat and Du.
At present, fixed-line phone services can only be obtained from Etisalat. For the different fixed-line services available, rates and application forms, visit the official Etisalat Web site at http://www.etisalat.ae.
Etisalat Internet & Multimedia is Etisalat’s division for all Internet issues and is the United Arab Emirates’ only ISP. It should be noted that internet web pages viewed in the UAE are routed through the Emirates Proxy (proxy1.emirates.net.ae:8080) which blocks sites that contain pornography, religious offensive material and criticism of the rulers. For more specific information, Etisalat’s Web site at http://www.etisalat.ae.
• Lyngemark Satellite provides satellite TV and radio channel details and frequencies for satellites around the world.
• Arab Radio and Television Network publishes the program schedules for Arabic movie, sports, religious, and family satellite channels.
• eVision (Emirates Cable TV and Multimedia) provides cable TV entertainment and educational programs.
• Ten Sports is a satellite sports channel that covers cricket, football, golf, tennis, hockey, and wrestling.
Statutory Holiday in the UAE
New Year's Day
Eid Al Adha *
Islamic New Year's Day *
Prophet Mohammed's Birthday *
Accession of H.H. Sheikh Zayed
Lailat Al Mi'raj *
Ramadan expected to begin
Eid Al Fitr (3 days) *
U.A.E. National Day
* Estimate of most important Islamic holidays
The most commonly used mode of public transportation in Abu Dhabi is the taxi system. Basic taxis are painted with white and gold colors and have green signs on their roofs. The more luxurious taxi is Al Ghazal, which can be found park in lines at most, if not all, hotels. Other reputable companies that run taxis include Cars Taxi, National Taxi, and Tawasul Transport. Fares will start at 2.60 AED and 0.65 AED per kilometer.
Abu Dhabi also has scheduled public bus services with large buses in the city. The public bus service is operated by the Abu Dhabi Municipality Transport. Although fares are cheap (3 AED paid upon boarding), one of the common complaints about the bus system is that it is slow and always stay on schedule.
People who are fond of walking should be cautioned that Abu Dhabi is NOT a pedestrian-friendly city. Many roads do not have sidewalks and pedestrian crossings. Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrols Department reported a shocking statistic of 40 pedestrians killed per year. The emirate is taking steps to reduce this statistic such as increasing patrols to prevent pedestrians from crossing roads in particularly dangerous places.