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Living in the UAE, from Switzerland

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Housing & Accommodation

Making Your House in the UAE a Real Home

Choosing between a flat or a villa in the UAE, and whether to opt for a gated community or not, is part of the process of finding accommodation in the UAE. Another thing to consider is whether to hire domestic help and how best to go about this.

Housing Type: Location over Comfort?

Apartments are more likely than free-standing villas to be in a central location. Central locations come with all the amenities that the big cities in the UAE such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi are known for. Lively neighborhoods with easy access to stores and restaurants make this option very attractive. However, expat families will appreciate villas as they come with their own garden and sometimes even a pool of their own.

Those opting for a villa can choose to live in a gated community. Safety is a huge pull-factor for gated communities: not only do most have guards checking visitors, but there is no traffic running through. One drawback, however, are the restrictions when it comes to making changes to your home or garden. Gated communities can have strict regulations when it comes to uniform landscaping. In the interior of the house, renovations and painting the walls might prove to be a problem.

Location relative to the city is another thing to keep in mind. Consider how important a commute into the city will be when searching for accommodation in the UAE. Living close to the business centers probably limits your choice of accommodation to apartments, but the time you spend in traffic and subsequently trying to find a parking spot will be less.

Conversely, living outside the city means more space and family friendly neighborhoods, but a trade-off has to be made when it comes to commuting into the city. Keep public transport in mind if you are not planning on driving yourself. For those with a vehicle, tenants of apartments and villas alike often have reserved parking spaces. However, in the case of apartments, this is usually restricted to one spot per accommodation.

Need Help in the Household?

It is common practice to hire domestic staff in the UAE. Word-of-mouth, classifieds in newspapers, and even bulletins in popular places such as malls and supermarkets are popular ways to recruit domestic help. You can also go through an agency:

Using an agency can be advantageous as they often have a large selection of candidates and they know their way around any bureaucratic processes, which is especially useful for those sponsoring a maid from abroad.

The cost of a full-time maid, be they live-in staff or not, is something to take into account in your household budget. If your maid is recruited from abroad, their minimum wage will be set by their respective home countries. For example, a maid from India has a minimum wage of 1,100 AED per month whereas a Filipina maid would get just over 1,450 AED a month. If you do intend to sponsor a maid from abroad, be sure to get the latest regulations from their respective diplomatic mission in the UAE.

Sponsoring a Maid

To deal with the great demand for domestic help, it is certainly not unheard of to sponsor a maid to come over to the UAE from abroad. The following countries are open to such sponsorship: India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. Although many families choose to sponsor a maid, the fiscal and bureaucratic responsibilities involved should not be underestimated. For example, there is a 5,000 AED yearly sponsorship fee and more fees for things like an entry permit and residence visas.

Typically, the process of bringing a household help over to the UAE involves securing a residence visa (employment permit), passing a fitness test, applying for an Emirates ID, and applying for a Domestic Worker Card, in that order. For the write-up of the official application form you need to go to your nearest typing center.

It is also possible to transfer the sponsorship of a maid from one employer to the next. Considering the relatively large turnover rate, with expats coming and going regularly, this option is very suitable for the expat community.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine