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Housing & Accommodation

The UAE: Which Emirate Is Right for You?

The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are popular among expats and have much to offer. However, it is worth taking a look at other communities in these and other emirates. You might be surprised at the difference in housing costs and landscapes!


Expats looking for accommodation in the UAE will find comfort in international communities and, for those with children, neighborhoods with international schools. Located on the western coast of the UAE, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah are its most populated cities. Ras al-Khaimah and Al Ain, although smaller and the latter being on the border with Oman, also have relatively large expat communities.

The Main Emirates: Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Housing in Dubai — Trouble in Paradise?

Different areas in Dubai offer expats a choice when it comes to housing type, schooling, and transportation links. For families moving to Dubai, it is common to go for the villa style of housing or even a gated community, which both come with walled off gardens and opportunities for leisure activities. If this sounds appealing, the housing areas of Jumeirah and Umm Suqeim along the beachfront provide these features. These areas also have good access to international schools. Keep in mind that accommodation in these neighborhoods consists mostly of villas, placing them towards the upper end of the price ladder.

If your ideal is a centrally located apartment in a neighborhood with a younger demographic, the Marina district will be better suited to you. However, in this area in particular, as well as in Downtown Dubai, there are signs of trouble in paradise when it comes to affordable housing: renting a two-bedroom apartment in Marina can cost about 145,000 AED a year, compared to Downtown Dubai where it will cost you around 165,000 AED.

Abu Dhabi — Beachfront and City Center in One Location

The Corniche is the beachfront in Abu Dhabi. The district of Al Khalidiya near the Corniche is popular with expats and profits from all the amenities of the waterfront, not to mention the beach itself. This area has both apartment complexes and houses: the latter are mainly concentrated in the Khalidiya Village gated community.

One of the more central areas in Abu Dhabi preferred by expats is the Al Karamah district. This small neighborhood lies on the outskirts of the downtown area and houses many expat families in villa accommodation. 

The Khalifa community is one to consider when looking for housing in the UAE. Everything about this area sounds appealing: good transport connections, outside of the hustle and bustle of the city, plenty of international schools, and lower housing prices than in the city center. 

If you can look past the inherent noise of central Abu Dhabi and the nightmare that is finding a parking space, the Al Zahia area — formerly known as Tourist Club Area — is perfect for single expats or young couples looking to be at the center of things and are comfortable in high-rise apartments.

Al Ain — The Historic City to the East

Al Ain is located on the other end of the vast Abu Dhabi emirate, near the border with Oman, and is often described as an oasis due to the comparatively large amount of green in the city.

Al Kuwaitat is a popular, primarily residential area with a central location and plenty of leisure facilities such as sports complexes. Those looking for accommodation outside these family neighborhoods can turn to the industrial area of Sanaiya or Mayzad Road, where many companies are located. The Al Muwaiji area hosts most of the international schools in the city.

There are great things in store for Al Ain: the Al Ain Urban Structure Framework Plan implemented in 2009 looks to turn Al Ain into a “model desert community” by 2030. Improvements in the quality of life in Al Ain are inevitable with things such as economic development, affordable housing, community centers, and improvements to infrastructure included in the plans.

Don’t Forget about the Smaller Emirates!

Sharjah — Dubai’s More Affordable Neighbor

This particular emirate is perfect for expats working in Dubai who are willing to commute roughly 20 km as it offers cheaper rents than its neighbor. Fortunately, due to Sharjah’s many international schools, this commute is not necessary for expat kids.

The Al Qasimia suburb has many modern facilities attracting locals, expats, and tourists. The Al Nahda community provides affordable housing for expats and offers plenty of amenities such as medical centers and shopping facilities.

Ras al-Khaimah — The UAE’s Desert Oasis

Having water coming both from the Hajar Mountains and the Gulf, Ras al-Khaimah has a lot more green areas and places a larger focus on agriculture. As for residential areas, the Al Hamra Village is well sought after for its location outside the city center and the luxury amenities it offers. The Cove is situated only eight kilometers from the city center and offers luxury accommodation and facilities to holiday guests and tenants alike.


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