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Moving to Dubai: a checklist

A sprawling desert city crowned with gleaming high-rises, the modern city of Dubai symbolises middle-eastern ambition. With its modern foundations built upon the dried-out riverbed of a tiny fishing village, Dubai is a hive of innovation, diversity and opportunity and, with its beautiful sandy coastline, is an attractive location for a global community of expats.

It is a city determined to improve itself and its attractiveness to business, residents and visitors. Examples of this commitment include projects such as Expo 2020 Dubai¹ and the 2021 Dubai Plan², which focuses on six key areas: people, society, experience, place, economy and government, to make Dubai the city the best it can be.

For expats currently planning a move to Dubai, or considering moving there in the future, we have compiled a checklist that provides a quick guide to what you need to know before you go.

Find out more about the future development of Dubai

Checklist Icons

What visas do I need before I move to Dubai?

Before moving to Dubai, you need to obtain a UAE residence visa to legally live in the city. A residence visa is valid for two years if you work in the private sector, and three years in the public sector, and you should be able to renew it indefinitely. Once you have your residence visa, you will then be able to open a bank account and obtain a driving licence, as well as sponsor the visa applications for your immediate family

As an expat, you should check that the company that employs you is willing to sponsor your UAE residence visa and your work permit. You must have a health check before application, which will include a blood test and chest X-ray

For your company to sponsor your application, you will need a passport valid for at least six months, recent colour photos, your medical test results and any additional proof of identity requested. If your company applies for you, you should receive your visa in two to three weeks. This may take slightly longer without employer sponsorship

Once you have received your residence visa, you will be able to sponsor, and apply for, visas on your family’s behalf. Once they arrive, they will need an entry residence visa (usually free on entry), and you then have 30 days to attain their residence passport stamp

In March 2016, laws regarding the visa application process changed, and you can now apply online, making the application process even easier. Visit amer.ae3, the UAE government portal4 or download the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs of Dubai’s GDRFA Dubai app5 to guide you through the application process

In terms of application fees, a refundable deposit of AED 5000 per person is required, plus around AED 360 for the visa itself and between AED 200-300 for medical tests.

More information on residence visas can be found here.6

Health Exam Icon

Health insurance in Dubai

As of 1 January 20177, new visas will not be issued or renewed for Dubai residents unless they have health insurance. So, you need to think about the kind of health insurance you require when you are organising your visa

By law, employers are now required to provide health insurance cover for their employees, so you may find that this has been arranged for you by your company before you arrive, along with your visa application and work permit

Check what level of health insurance your employer offers. They may only offer the basic level of cover – known as an Essential Benefits Plan3 – which covers up to AED150,000 (US$40,839) per person per annum. You may wish to arrange additional cover to provide additional benefits and higher limits

Currently, Dubai employers do not have to provide cover for dependants and spouses, so you may need to arrange this yourself8. It is worth checking policies that offer a family health insurance plan, as this may end up as a better option if your family is travelling with you.

Find out more about health services in Dubai9

Villa Apartment Icon

Accommodation options in Dubai

Some companies will provide long term accommodation for you as part of your international transfer, while others may only offer a tenancy for a few months, or alternatively a living allowance.

While living costs in Dubai10 are reasonable compared with other major cities, accommodation prices in the city centre are increasing and are approaching London prices. So, while lunch for two will cost around AED 150 (US$40) and a monthly transport pass will cost AED 250 (US$68), a one-bedroom flat in the city centre will cost around AED 7,324 (US$1,994) a month.

  • Choose your location based on proximity to your job, or schools if you have children, as traffic congestion is a common problem. It is also worth noting that the accommodation in Dubai city centre and popular areas can be very expensive, which may limit your options
  • While expats can be found in all areas of the city, Dubai Marina is seen by many as the best place to live as an expat, and Jumeirah or Umm Suqeim are well-suited to families. You may want to do some initial research into the different areas of Dubai11 before you move
  • Additionally, it is worth noting that ‘traditionally’ accommodation is paid for up-front in one annual payment – which can come as a shock. Thankfully, landlords are becoming more flexible with different payment options
  • Make sure you are aware of all fees and maintenance charges upfront, and factor-in additional utilities costs, as well as registering your tenancy online12 to make use of your full tenant’s rights.

TOP TIP: Always ask your landlord whether the water from the taps in your accommodation is filtered or if you should buy bottled water

 

Academic Icon

What is the international school system in Dubai?

  • There are many private international schools in Dubai. Some schools follow the British education system, and teach the National Curriculum of England. Other schools follow the US, Indian or UAE public school syllabus, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. There is also a local syllabus requirement in Dubai international schools, so your children will also have the opportunity to study Arabic and Islamic studies or UAE social studies
  • The Knowledge and Human Development Authority13 (KHDA) offers general guidance on choosing schools and applications. For example, it warns that schools, particularly primary schools, often have long waiting lists, so you should apply as soon as possible, and you may be able to apply online before leaving your home country
  • Which School Advisor14 publishes the KHDA’s school rankings table15 each year, which is a useful resource to help you identify the school that will best suit your children and their needs
  • During the application process, you will be asked for a copy of your child’s and parents’ passports and residence visas, a copy of the child’s birth certificate if their passport does not give the exact date of birth, eight passport-sized photographs, immunisation records, and attested certificates and/or transfer certificate. Each school will have its own application process, so you should check the school’s website for details. Source: Government of Dubai16

The KHDA’s online school directory17 is also a source of inspection reports, programmes and curricula for each school.

TOP TIP: For Indian, Pakistani and Japanese curriculum schools, the academic year is from April to March. For all other curricula, it begins in September and ends in June or July

 

Group chat icons

What kind of expat communities are there in Dubai?

Dubai is home to a great number of expats, and over the years, many expat clubs and communities have sprung up all over the city:

Meet like-minded professionals through business groups – such as the International Business Women’s Group18, which holds regular networking lunches and workshops

Connect with people from your home country, with nation-specific groups and clubs from a host of countries, including Australia and New Zealand19, Turkey20 and India21. Dubai’s only Thai restaurant, Café Isan22, draws many Thai expats to experience a taste from home, as well as celebrating Thai holidays with the wider Thai expat community

Join a sports community, such as the 5,000-strong group of cyclists, Dubai Roadsters23

For mothers, Expat Woman24 holds regular meet-ups as well as hosting an active forum25

You can often find communities using social media, via Facebook – see the Expats Club26

Download an expat app, such as InterNations27, which can help you meet like-minded internationals in the city

Apps such as Downtown Dubai28 or The Dubai Mall29 show you where to find the highlights of Dubai’s shopping and nightlife culture, while the Time Out Dubai30 app will make sure you don’t miss the best restaurants, music and events in the city.

We hope this checklist arms you with the basic information and resources for your move. To find out more get in touch with other expats and ask them about their experiences. The other articles in this guide are also a good place to start and may help you prepare for your new life in Dubai.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

Find out more about life in Dubai.

Sources
  1. https://www.expo2020dubai.com/
  2. https://www.dubaiplan2021.ae/dubai-plan-2021/
  3. https://amer.ae/application
  4. https://echannels.moi.gov.ae/echannels/web/client/default.html#/login
  5. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gdrfa.GDRFA&hl=en
  6. https://www.government.ae/en/information-and-services/visa-and-emirates-id/visa-provisions
  7. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/dubai/no-dubai-visa-without-insurance-warns-official
  8. https://www.thenational.ae/business/money/how-to-pick-the-right-health-insurance-for-your-dependants-in-the-uae-1.613342
  9. https://www.dha.gov.ae/en/pages/dhahome.aspx
  10. https://transferwise.com/gb/blog/cost-of-living-in-dubai
  11. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/guide/discover-dubai/how-to-decide-where-to-live-in-dubai
  12. http://www.ejari.ae/
  13. https://www.khda.gov.ae/en/Website
  14. https://whichschooladvisor.com/
  15. https://whichschooladvisor.com/uae/guides/khda-dubai-2017-school-rankings-table-complete
  16. http://www.dubai.ae/en/Lists/HowToGuide/DispForm.aspx?ID=39
  17. https://www.khda.gov.ae/en/directory
  18. http://www.ibwgdubai.com/
  19. http://www.anzauae.org/
  20. https://www.facebook.com/BilgiDubai
  21. https://www.facebook.com/indiaclubdubai
  22. https://www.facebook.com/cafeisan/events/?ref=page_internal
  23. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dubai-Roadsters/103748826325488
  24. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/things-to-do/events
  25. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/forum/dubai-northern-emirates
  26. https://en-gb.facebook.com/theexpatsclub/
  27. https://itunes.apple.com/app/internations/id1059342646?mt=8
  28. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/downtown-dubai/id431045353?mt=8
  29. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-dubai-mall/id430795858?mt=8
  30. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/time-out-dubai/id375636978?mt=8

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Managing a long-term condition

Having a chronic condition shouldn’t stand in your way of pursuing a life overseas. But what research should you do before you leave and what questions need to be asked?

With an estimated five million Britons now living or working abroad, it’s becoming increasingly likely that people will need to explore their options for long-term therapy at some point.

Used to describe a range of conditions that can be classified as ‘chronic’ –such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, depression or back pain, long-term therapy represents any ongoing treatments that naturally fall outside your health insurance plan.

While comprehensive policies offer varying levels of cover that encompass a certain number of sessions, period of time or cost for specific conditions, insurance is essentially designed for curative treatment – offering immediate support in the event of an acute illness or accident.

Surgery

Can I still more overseas?

That doesn’t mean that having a chronic condition should preclude any ambition to live abroad – far from it. However, the awareness of any issue will call for some detailed research in advance to ensure that there is an adequate support structure ready and waiting.

Likewise, it doesn’t automatically follow that developing a chronic condition will necessitate an early return – with excellent local facilities, treatments and available medication often available at reasonable prices.

What questions should I ask?

In the first instance, any pre-existing conditions should be discussed in-depth with a GP. The next step is to understand exactly what’s available to you once you make the move.

If you are travelling with a pre-existing condition or would just like to build an accurate picture of health facilities in your chosen destination, key questions to ask include:

  • Is your chronic condition routinely catered for?
  • Does any one facility specialise in your condition?
  • If so, what are the facilities like?
  • How do the standards of care differ between facilities?
  • Is it possible to get good standards of care at a reasonable cost?
  • Is your prescribed medication available in this country?
  • If so, what will your annual costs be for treatment/medication?
  • How will these costs compare if you source your prescription via a hospital pharmacy or private doctor?
  • How do these payments work?
  • Are they part- or fully-funded by any state contributions you make – and if so, when would you become eligible?
  • How do waiting times vary if you pursue state-funded treatment?
  • Where do the locals/expats typically go for treatments? (for example, it’s common for Hong Kong residents to visit Thailand for therapies)
  • What advice/support is your employer willing to offer?
  • If required, what support structure would be available for your family?

 

Having a good grasp of cultural/religious differences is also vital to ensuring you get the care you want in your adopted country. For example, mental illness is rarely talked about in the Far East, so finding a clinic that specialises in depression could prove difficult.

Hospital

Seek local advice

Expats and locals are a rich source of information, offering newcomers crucial recommendations and reviews. Additional web searches will help you poll further opinions and focus on your own condition.

Be sure to ask:

  • For other expats’ experiences of local healthcare facilities and doctors
  • What pitfalls you need to be aware of – for example, the best way to cut down on waiting times/or access the best care

Expert view

Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer with William Russell

“Continuing advances in medicine mean that there’s a lot more doctors can do these days for people with chronic conditions. This effectively means that people heading abroad have far more options when it comes to where they choose to live. Expat hubs such as Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong all offer excellent facilities and expertise at reasonable cost, so for patients looking for long-term therapies, sourcing the right care will come down to researching your own needs and finding the best evidence-based treatment.”

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How does physical activity affect your health?

How important is it to stay active as we age and what kind of activity brings the most benefits?

For an expat with a busy schedule, finding the time to exercise can be challenging.

However, there is an infinite wealth of evidence to show that finding that time is vital, especially for the over 50s.

As we all know, exercise is good for the body and the mind. But, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and there are lots of factors that should influence a person’s approach.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

There is the obvious benefit of helping control weight, which becomes more difficult as you get older due to your metabolism slowing down.

A few hours of moderate-intensity physical exercise each week also lowers the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the risk of endometrial and lung cancer is lower in people who exercise regularly than in those who don’t.

This is backed up by the results of a long-term study by University of Minnesota researchers. They gave questionnaires to 36,929 cancer-free women from Iowa, and then followed them for 16 years. They found that the women with high exercise levels were less likely to develop lung cancer than those with low exercise levels.

The Australian study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that aerobic exercises, resistance training and less-strenuous forms of exercise such as T’ai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, all had positive effects on different parts of the brain’s functions ranging from the ability to organise and plan, to reading and reasoning.

The authors of that study examined 36 wide-ranging studies and found that exercising moderately for around an hour on as many days as possible improved memory and thinking skills of those aged over 50.

Pilates

How long should I exercise for?

Britain’s National Health Service recommends different sorts of exercise for different ages. It says children under the age of five should be physically active for at least 3 hours a day; this includes walking, playing outside, chasing balls, playing in water or riding a bicycle.

However, healthy adults should do a minimum 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week as well as strength exercises that focus on the major muscles such as in the leg and back.

According to the CDC, those who do seven hours of exercise a week have 40% less chance of an early death than those who do just half an hour a week.

What are moderate and intensive forms of exercise?

Moderate aerobic activity includes things such as fast walking and mowing the lawn; so this kind of activity can easily be incorporated into a normal day.

Your heart rate needs to be raised to have an affect on your health so shopping and slow walking unfortunately won’t count. Vigorous or intensive activities are running, hiking, swimming or playing sports such as tennis.

Do some activities bring particular benefits to over 50s?

Low impact aerobic exercise and bone-strengthening activities can slow down the natural decline in bone density which occurs as a person ages.

This reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, according to the CDC. The organisation says that doing just two hours of moderate exercise a week lowers the risk of hip fracture and improves the quality of life for people living with arthritis.

For the over 50s, these lower weight-bearing and impact options help to reduce the risk of bone injuries or breakages, which is often higher in the older generation.

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Antibiotics resistance: what you need to know

Many countries have strict rules governing the use of antibiotics. In the UK, Europe and US, they will only be prescribed if a doctor is confident the cause of an illness is bacterial and not caused by a virus or other pathogen. However, not all countries are so vigilant.

A 2016 study published by the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand revealed that antibiotics in Thailand are “widely available and inappropriately sold and given by grocery stores and retails shops”.

The inevitable affect, the researchers note, is that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are commonly and freely circulating through the population, meaning some illnesses are no longer treatable.

The situation is similar in the UAE, where prescription-required medicines are routinely sold without an accompanying prescription.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes this issue very seriously: “Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse.”

It warns that without urgent action, the world is heading for a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

The more antibiotics that are prescribed inappropriately, says Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer at William Russell, the more likely resistance is to develop.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

A common misconception is that it’s the individual who becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact, it’s the bacteria that adapts and develops resistance, rendering certain antibiotics entirely useless.

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is the biggest cause of antibiotic resistance and the rise of the so-called superbug (illnesses that no longer respond to treatment and are now potentially deadly).

Superbugs emerge when bacteria have not been properly treated with antibiotics and have learnt to become resistant; certain strains of tuberculosis and pneumonia have already developed resistance so can’t be treated easily, if at all.

The WHO calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

Doctor and Child

What do antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics should only be used to treat illnesses caused by susceptible infections, for example bacterial tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, whooping cough and skin infections. Different types of antibiotics target specific bacteria.

For example, Amoxicillin (a sort of Penicillin) is often prescribed to treat ear infections, while Trimethoprim is commonly given to treat urinary tract infections caused by E.coli.

Dr Clarke stresses there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to antibiotics. “Some bacterial infections can be self-limiting in fit, healthy people” he says, “for example Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning.” A doctor would therefore “establish sensitivity of the bacteria and allocate an appropriate antibiotic”.

Antibiotics are completely useless against viruses. A huge number of everyday illnesses are caused by viruses and therefore don’t need antibiotics. If you’re suffering with a cold at the change of season, chances are antibiotics won’t help.

 

pills

 

What to do if you think you need antibiotics

Even if you think your self-diagnosis is accurate, and as tempting as it might be to buy the tablets over the counter, you could do more harm than good. Antibiotics could interfere with other medicines you might be taking, or even damage your organs.

Dr Diab Maaruf Kurdi, head of pharmacy at Burjeel Hospital in the UAE, says: “It’s important that medication is not purchased without the doctor’s consultation, because the doctor will take into consideration your overall medical condition. Furthermore, the medication that you purchase may not be right for your condition and could cause further health complications.”

Dr Clarke also warns that a non-bacterial illness that goes undiagnosed, such as malaria, could get worse without formal identification and appropriate treatment from a doctor.

 

How to take antibiotics responsibly

Being prescribed a course of antibiotics by a medical professional is the first step, but there’s more that needs considering in order for the antibiotics to work effectively.

You must follow the instructions and finish the course even if you’re feeling better. It’s also important to note whether the medicine should be taken before or after food, or with water. Never share antibiotics and do not accept them if a pharmacist offers them without a prescription.

For all your global health insurance questions, go to the William Russell website, or call our dedicated team on +44 (0) 1276 486455.

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Dubai culture and lifestyle: what to expect

Modern Dubai is a multicultural and diverse city, that has developed rapidly since its origins as a fishing and trading port in the early 1900s.

By the 1930s, Dubai’s popularity was growing, with immigrants making up around one-quarter of the population. The city’s growth really took off when oil was discovered in the 1960s.

Over the past 50 years, Dubai has undergone unprecedented change, and large amounts of money have been invested into infrastructure and development. The city is now working towards achieving its 2021 Dubai Plan1, which focuses on six key areas: its people, society, experience, place, economy and government – to make Dubai the best city it can be.

Dubai’s cultural melting pot

Today’s Dubai is a fusion of more than 200 nationalities – with Emiratis making up only around 10% of the population of 9.5 million. Individuals pay no income, property or capital gains tax, which makes it an attractive financial proposition for many expats.

Dubai’s subtropical climate makes for great weather, but for many newly arrived expats, the summer can be a real shock. The hottest months are between June and September, when temperatures average 45C. A cooler 24-25C is usual in January and February.

British expatriate Jennifer Bell, 32, says: “When I arrived here, I was surprised by how open the country was. It felt like a home away from home. When it comes to socialising, such as experiencing the local nightlife, there is little difference to Europe.

“It’s an extremely safe place, with a zero-tolerance approach to bad behaviour and crime. As long as you stay respectful to the city and its modern, Middle Eastern traditions, this is one of the best places to live.”

Discover Dubai’s culture

Canadian Anna Stevens, 34, has lived in the UAE on and off for more than 20 years. She says: “The culture today has a deep respect for religion, time with family, and intangible heritage like poetry, storytelling and falconry; it can be tricky to navigate on your own. At the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding2 in Dubai you can learn about local customs at special events. Modest dress and a few words in Arabic open a lot of doors and make it easier for others to approach you.”

Newcomers should be considerate of the country’s traditions. Avoid wearing revealing clothes in public and any public displays of affection. It’s particularly important to be respectful on national and religious holidays such as Eid, Commemoration Day and Ramadan; this includes dressing modestly and being mindful of your behaviour.

Convenience and practical issues

British expatriate James Langton, 55, says: “As a Western expat, everything seems to exist for your convenience, from fast food deliveries to someone packing your groceries at the supermarket, and even pumping petrol.

“However, if you have legal problems – consumer rights issues or tenancy disputes – there may seem to be very little redress.”

The court system operates in Arabic, which sometimes makes it difficult for expatriates to navigate. Understanding the laws – most of which are in Arabic – and finding a good lawyer and/or translator is essential for those involved in a court case.

James also suggests that expats making the move to Dubai sit down and work out what their living costs are likely to be in relation to their salary: “It’s easy to spend all your earnings. The country has become more expensive recently, and lots of companies have cut back heavily on things like housing and education allowances.”

A fit and healthy lifestyle

There’s a growing emphasis on health and fitness in Dubai, and it is a great place to get and stay fit. Most apartment blocks and compounds popular with expatriates have gyms and swimming pools exclusively for residents. One of the goals of ‘Dubai 2021’ is to offer a “diverse set of cultural and recreational options” including beaches, green spaces, and sporting facilities.

Working Week

The working week in Dubai runs from Sunday to Thursday, so Friday is the first day of your weekend – though some professions, such as banking or trading, adjust this to align with international markets.

A welcoming culture

As its population grows, along with its aim to improve the health and wellbeing of its residents, Dubai is seen as the top city in which to live in the Middle East3 and North Africa. Expats need to be aware of Dubai’s cultural and religious norms – and an increasing cost of living – but they will be rewarded with a diverse and welcoming place to live and work.

 

Discover more about staying healthy in Dubai

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

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Is it possible to have a healthy diet in Dubai?

Food has become a hot topic across the UAE in recent years, although not always for the right reasons. The country’s love of fast food and rich ingredients has led to a sharp rise in obesity and associated illnesses. Today, things are changing, with healthy eating fast becoming a growing trend.

It’s fair to say that both expats and Emiratis love eating out, with an estimated 7,000 – 8,000 restaurants1 open for business in Dubai alone. However, the country has become associated with a more sedentary lifestyle; long office hours spent at a desk and time spent indoors, combined with the hot climate also creating barriers to exercise, have led to increasing levels of Type 2 diabetes2 and heart disease3.

Percentage iconAccording to the Global Burden of Disease Study 20134, more than 66% of men and 60% of women in the UAE are now overweight or obese, with a recent UAE University study5 reportedly estimating the same figures applied to around 40% of children.

94% of Emiratis and expats say they like to try new cuisines and restaurants.5

What are the local eating habits in Dubai?

Thanks to its vast expat population, Dubai boasts an array of dishes from around the globe.

Cusines

Many Emiratis and expats eat out at least once a week, according to the KPMG 2017 UAE Food & Beverage Report, with brunch a hugely popular pastime on Fridays (the first day of the weekend). Something of a Dubai tradition, it is enjoyed by residents and tourists alike

Quick service and casual dining restaurants are both popular and economical ways to eat out, with burgers and shawarma wraps hugely popular and fine dining is generally viewed as an occasional treat

Eat out percentages

23% order takeaway more than 8 times a month
(Source: Survey respondents in the KPMG 2017 UAE Food & Beverage Report)

 

Due to the extensive number of international dishes available at any time of day, takeaways and restaurant visits are a real temptation

The average amount of overtime worked in Dubai is five hours according to UBS Prices and Earnings 2015. This means that many people are working the maximum 48-hours a week allowed – or even longer – making a lack of time and convenience primary reasons for eating out or ordering in

Due to the higher costs associated with importing certain items, grocery shopping can be expensive – leading many single residents and couples to grab fast food options or visit low-cost eateries

Scorching summer temperatures can easily reach 50oC,6 causing residents to spend more time indoors – combined with reduced levels of exercise increases the likelihood of snacking

A new 5% VAT charge7 now applies to many products, and could increase day-to-day costs. All food will be subject to this levy, which is part of a move by the Gulf Cooperation Council to strengthen the region’s economic position in the wake of a period of lower oil prices.

Is eating out bad for your health?

Restaurant or fast food meals are typically high in salt, sugar, carbs or fat

A growing trend towards healthy food8 in Dubai means more eateries are catering for guests looking to discover new ingredients and fresh takes on traditional cuisines

Dubai’s governing authority is taking steps to promote greater transparency with a dedicated Food Watch9 app and digital platform, which enables residents to track their food from ‘farm to fork’ and check the nutritional information of around 20,000 eateries, as well as school cafeterias

Diners will soon be able to check the nutritional claims of restaurant meals, using a new Healthy Food10 logo.

What are the best ways to have a healthy diet in Dubai?

The World Health Organisation11 suggests limiting your daily intake of fat to no more than 30% of your daily food intake, and substituting saturated fats (such as ghee or coconut oil) with non-saturated oils (such as olive or sunflower varieties)

Aim for a balance in your daily intake by eating the right proportions of a variety of foods

Explore healthier options. For example, Emirati cuisine is influenced by Arabic, Iranian and Lebanese cuisine that includes plenty of grilled meats, one-pot stews, pulses and salads

Avoid fried foods and creamy sauces, and view desserts such as Luqaimat (sweet fried dough balls) and Knafeh (sweetened cheese) as very occasional treats.

35% Fruit

35% of 1,000 UAE residents surveyed12 say they now regularly incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables in their meals.

Finding healthy food in Dubai is easy, and there are plenty of nutrition-led delivery options such as Eat Clean Me13 or Fruitful Day14 around to facilitate better habits

While the vast array of cuisine in Dubai can challenge everyone’s good intentions, the city is taking steps to reverse the trend towards obesity.

There is a growing awareness that the more sedentary lifestyle associated with residing in the city has negative health effects. A love of dining out and takeaways, the hot climate and typically long working hours may remain a constant, but the Dubai menu is now laden with nutritionally-focused cuisine that matches its residents’ good intentions.

This is underpinned by moves from the government to encourage a much more open approach to food – with an increasing number of restaurants enabling people to make more informed decisions about what they eat.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

Read about how healthcare works in Dubai.

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How to stay healthy in Dubai

Dubai offers fantastic opportunities to enjoy a high-end lifestyle that many people can only dream of, but it also has its own unique set of challenges that call for greater levels of awareness about health and wellbeing.

A variety of factors such as the hot climate makes it difficult to exercise, a prevalent smoking culture, the dining out and takeaway culture, and long working hours, have led to rocketing levels of ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)1, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for one-third of all deaths in the UAE each year, with fatalities from diabetes also on the rise. Around 20% of adults now live with diabetes. On 1 October 2017, the UAE imposed significant increases2 on the cost of sugary drinks and tobacco in an effort to encourage consumers to cut down on unhealthy products. The cost of carbonated drinks increased by 50%, while energy drinks and tobacco rose by 100%.

Things are changing, however, with ‘wellness’ rapidly becoming the buzzword in the city. Dubai’s commitment to helping its residents to better health is clear, with bespoke spaces for different forms of exercise starting to spring up around the city.

Last October, local authorities launched the Dubai Fitness Challenge3, designed to encourage residents to factor-in 30 minutes of exercise a day. This initiative aims to encourage better year-round habits and attracted 12,000 people on the first day alone.

 

How does the Dubai lifestyle affect wellness?

Between avoiding the scorching heat and working long hours, many struggle to find the time or motivation to exercise

A dining out and takeaway culture is well established in Dubai, with portion sizes at odds with the more sedentary lifestyle. This shared love of eating among both Emiratis and expats has been linked to elevated levels of Type 2 diabetes4, heart disease5, obesity and even spine problems6 in the region

Due to the extreme temperatures, taking taxis or driving cars instead of walking is common – even for short distances

Tobacco remains popular in the UAE, with an estimated quarter of adult males classified as cigarette smokers7, while other forms of smoking such as the Shisha, or water pipe, are also common

With people looking to dodge the sun during the summer months – due to its sheer intensity or a fear of developing skin cancer – vitamin D levels can easily become deficient in Dubai. Left unchecked, this can weaken the bones and lead to osteoporosis, and rickets in children.

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One session with a traditional Shisha, or water pipe, can equate to ingesting the tobacco from 100 cigarettes or more, according to the WHO8.  More than 66% of men and 60% of women in the UAE9 are now classified as overweight or obese, with 40% of children10 also in this category.

Sun Vitamin D iconWhile the exact levels of vitamin D required by the body is a source of debate, experts typically set a target of 10 microgrammes of vitamin D per day11 for anyone over the age of four. It is recommended that vitamin D supplements12 are taken by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, as well as vulnerable groups, such as the elderly.

 

How can the local environment in Dubai affect your health?

Flanked by the Persian Gulf on one side and vast deserts on the other, Dubai is a city of extremes – with heat, humidity and dust common causes of health issues for residents.

The city’s infamous dust devils – swirling updrafts of dust13 – are frequent, and release micro-particles that can pose a particular problem for those with allergies or pulmonary issues

Though rare, the city’s high humidity levels can sometimes cause monsoon-like rain – 100.4mm of rainfall14 was recorded in southern parts of the UAE in August 2013

During the intense summer months, when temperatures can exceed 50OC, heatstroke15 is a real danger – with children and the elderly16 particularly at risk. However, official legislation, introducing a mandatory break for outdoor workers17 during peak hours from July to September, is helping to raise awareness

MERS18 (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a form of coronavirus native to the Arabian Peninsula. It typically causes fever, cough and shortness of breath and can be fatal, and treatment should be sought. MERS is spread through contact with sick animals or people.

Heat exhaustion19 is characterised by thirst, fatigue, headache and twitching. If left unchecked, it can lead to heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition.

Tap Icon

Not all tap water in Dubai is drinkable, and residents may worry about bacteria in the water. Water tanks should be cleaned regularly, and installing a water filter on your household tap may remove impurities and enhance the flavour.

 

Top tips for health and wellbeing in Dubai:

  1. Take advantage of the parks and other bespoke areas that are now springing up across the city. Many public beaches in Dubai now boast soft, sponge-like surface tracks that are great for running. Residents are also able to make use of the desert setting at the famous 86km-long Al Qudra20 cycle track
  2. Avoid peak heat. Due to the heat and working culture, exercise classes are often held at sunrise and sunset, including pool-based21 activities, such as Aqua Zumba
  3. Offset any lack of direct sunlight by eating oily fish or other fortified foods containing vitamin D22
  4. Maintain a healthy diet and monitor your fluid intake (including salt levels) during the hottest months of July and August.

Appropriate clothing

In public spaces, UAE dress codes apply. To respect Dubai’s culture, men and women should keep their shoulders covered and ensure clothing extends below the knee.

With a culture that can mean longer working hours, eating out and a naturally more sedentary lifestyle, expats moving to Dubai can easily fall into a cycle of poor nutrition and lack of exercise. However, increasing moves by governments across the UAE to reduce associated illnesses – such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and various cancers – are raising awareness of the problem.

Better nutritional information about local dishes and restaurants, and an increasing emphasis on the importance of exercise – with dedicated, and free spaces springing up across the city – should see a major change in the Dubai lifestyle over the coming years. As the culture changes, residents will be able to combine this unique sand-and-sea setting with their personal wellness plans.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

How healthy are Dubai diets? Find out more.

 

Sources
  1. http://www.who.int/features/2017/uae-beating-ncds/en/
  2. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/economy/this-is-how-much-soft-drinks-cigarettes-will-cost-from-sunday
  3. https://dubaifitnesschallenge.com/
  4. http://www.icldc.ae/about-us/p/UAE-Diabetes-Trends-And-Numbers
  5. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/health/heart-disease-is-still-the-no-1-killer-1.192685
  6. http://gulfnews.com/xpress/news/sedentary-lifestyle-triggering-spine-problems-in-uae-1.1873100
  7. http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2014/10/23/tobaccocontrol-2013-051530?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TC_TrendMD-0#ref-13
  8. http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_interaction/tobreg/Waterpipe%20recommendation_Final.pdf
  9. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/the-unhealthy-lifestyle-choices-that-are-plaguing-our-population-1.211383
  10. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/the-unhealthy-lifestyle-choices-that-are-plaguing-our-population-1.211383
  11. http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/skin-cancer/vitamin-d
  12. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant/
  13. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/environment/extreme-weather-in-the-uae-tales-of-sun-sand-and-even-snow-1.621527
  14. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/this-isnt-the-hottest-year-in-uae
  15. http://whatson.ae/dubai/2017/08/how-to-stay-healthy-in-the-heat/
  16. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/labourers-midday-break-hailed-for-fewer-heat-exhaustion-cases-1.127929
  17. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/midday-break-begins-in-for-uae-s-outdoor-workers-1.9283
  18. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/mers-cov/en/
  19. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/beware-of-heat-exhaustion
  20. https://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/al-qudra-cycling-track
  21. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/our-five-favourite-aqua-based-fitness-trends-in-the-uae-1.617167
  22. http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/skin-cancer/vitamin-d

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Dubai: a global medical tourism destination

Throughout history, people have sought cures and better health by travelling abroad. Whether to visit the healing waters of a natural spa, embark on a pilgrimage to receive a blessing at a religious site, or to simply spend time in a warmer or cooler climate, the practice of travelling to improve health isn’t anything new.

The global spread of modern medicine might appear to diminish the necessity of this practice, but in recent years, there has been an upsurge in interest in ‘medical tourism’. In fact, the Global Medical Tourism Market report1 predicts a rise of over 12.55% year-on-year of ‘medical tourism’ between 2017 and 2021. But what exactly is it?

The term ‘medical tourism’ refers to people who travel to a foreign country with the primary purpose of making use of that country’s medical, dental or surgical facilities. This might be for services ranging from preventive and health-conductive treatment, to rehabilitation and curative.

While there, visitors will often also behave as leisure tourists, taking in the sights, staying in hotels and eating in local restaurants.

Backing for medical tourism

For governments, medical tourism can be an attractive prospect. Globally an estimated $45.5-72bn2 is being spent annually in this industry, providing many economic benefits3.

As well as injecting foreign exchange earnings to the local economy and contributing to government revenues, medical tourism also boosts the local healthcare industry, creating new jobs and business opportunities, and encouraging investment in healthcare services.

Additionally, the need for better infrastructure to support the influx of tourists means that money is put back into local communities, which in turn encourages more tourism.

In 2014, the UAE announced plans to make Dubai the number one location for medical tourism in the world, pledging ambitious goals and initiatives for the medical tourism and healthcare industry as part of a wider 2020 vision.

Dubai aims to attract 500,000 medical tourists annually by 20204, hiring thousands of new healthcare professionals, and investing in 18 new private and four new public hospitals. In April 2016, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA)5 launched the world’s first comprehensive electronic medical tourism portal, the Dubai Health Experience Programme (DXH)6, providing an easy path for medical tourists to plan their journey, treatment and stay in one package.

The portal offers the services of more than 600 packages from 43 healthcare facilities and 344 doctors. The DHA also aims to grow its list of partners, such as the Health Bank, offering end-to-end services, from research to treatment, accommodation, translation services and follow-up care.

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs – Dubai (GDRFA-D) has also played its part, signing an agreement7 with the DHA to ease visa procedures for medical tourists so they can visit Dubai more frequently and for longer – strengthening Dubai’s position as a global destination for medical tourism.

Medical tourism in Dubai

Dubai is currently the number one destination in the United Arab Emirates for medical tourism and 16th globally, according to the Medical Tourism Index8.

The city has seen a dramatic growth9 in numbers of medical tourists in recent years. According to the DHA, in 2016, Dubai welcomed 326,649 medical tourists10 into the city, a growth of 9.5% from 2015, generating AED 1.4bn for the economy.

Of these medical tourists, 37% were from Asian countries11, 31% from surrounding Arab and Gulf Cooperation Council countries and 15% were Europeans. The most popular treatment areas were orthopaedics, dermatology and ophthalmology.

 

The future for healthcare in Dubai

Technology and collaboration are key for Dubai’s approach to medical tourism and its overall vision of healthcare excellence for all residents. Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC)12 is one example of what this vision looks like.

DHCC features close to 160 clinical partners across more than 150 specialties – including hospitals, outpatient medical centres and diagnostic laboratories – hosting licensed medical professionals from almost 90 countries.

Describing itself as a ‘free zone’13, DHCC also benefits from special tax, customs and import rules that links state-of-the-art medical facilities with cutting-edge academic work.

In addition, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment are two priority sub-sectors of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 203014, which aims to elevate the city as a global platform for knowledge-based, sustainable and innovation-focused businesses.

Alongside this, the DHA continues the rollout out of its current 12-year master plan, which includes the addition of 40 primary healthcare centres and three new hospitals.

For Dubai nationals and expats, the rise of medical tourism brings many advantages in terms of access to better healthcare services. Following such a huge investment in the sector, Dubai’s residents are perfectly placed to access world-class medical facilities and treatments and improve their general health and wellbeing.

Discover more about staying healthy in Dubai

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

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Get to know Dubai’s healthcare system

Understanding how to access quality healthcare is an important factor when relocating abroad. For anyone considering Dubai, the good news is that the city not only offers a high standard of medical care in state-of-the art facilities, but that improving residents’ health and wellbeing is also a government priority1

In order to ensure that you and your family have access to Dubai’s healthcare, it’s important to familiarise yourself with some of the specific rules and regulations that apply.

Accessing Dubai’s healthcare system

Since Dubai’s Health Authority (DHA) implemented its new healthcare insurance scheme, expats can choose between a wide network of private hospitals and treatment centres. Dubai’s public hospitals are also now starting to accept private health insurance patients for medical treatment, a service that was previously only available to nationals or those holding a DHA health card.

Expats wanting to use public hospitals should apply for a health card2 from the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS). Even if you have health insurance, the annual DHA health card is still worth applying for, as it entitles all residents to low-cost in-patient and outpatient medical and emergency treatment at public hospitals and clinics. The annual cost for an expat ranges from AED120 (US$33) to AED320 (US$87) depending on age.

For primary care, it is not necessary to register to see one of the many GPs located in medical centres, which are often based within hospitals and clinics. While you can visit different doctors, it’s a good idea to stick with the same GP so that they become familiar with your medical history.

It’s also advisable to bring copies of your medical history from home. In terms of specialist treatment, referrals from a GP are not generally required, but are increasingly encouraged to ensure you receive the correct treatment and that you don’t invalidate your health insurance cover.

You can search and make a GP appointment online3. Alternatively, the Dubai Healthcare City4 portal offers a GP and specialist search service. The DHA’s website also allows you to search for doctors and dentists5 by nationality, although English is widely spoken.

Vital Emergency Numbers in Dubai
  • Police – 999
  • Fire Department – 997
  • Ambulance – 999
  • Electricity – 991
  • Water – 991

Should you need a doctor or paramedic for a home emergency, the Government of Dubai recommends calling 800-DOCTOR (800-362867), which is run by a private company.

Click here for hospital contact information6.

Be aware of restrictions

In terms of access to medication, pharmacies are readily available and open 24 hours a day in many hospitals. However, while there are certain items, such as antibiotics, that you can get without a prescription, be aware that certain medications available over the counter at home may require a prescription in Dubai. Additionally, certain drugs – including tranquilisers, anti-depressants and some sleeping tablets – are banned. A list of unauthorised medicines7 is listed on the government website.

This can be confusing for expats, but important to consider when entering the country if you are currently receiving treatment or normally travel with medication. However, the UAE Ministry of Health says it is possible for visitors to bring up to three months’ supply of a prescribed medication into the country (download guidelines for travellers pdf here8) – or 12 months’ supply for a resident – on production of a doctor’s letter or a copy of the original prescription.

Health insurance in Dubai

A key change in recent years is the legal requirement for companies to provide a minimum level of health insurance for all employees. Introduced in 2014 by the DHA, which oversees both public and private healthcare, the change is part of the Dubai Health Strategy (DHS) 2021 which aims to provide sustainable healthcare to all residents.

The requirement was rolled out in stages, with a deadline to have mandatory health insurance in place by 31 March 2017 for anyone who works and resides in Dubai, including any dependents and domestic staff.

The cost of providing mandatory health insurance cover for anyone who works in Dubai is the responsibility of employers. But, while companies will be encouraged to cover dependants, they will not be obliged to do so. Ultimately, it may therefore be your responsibility to arrange health insurance cover for any family dependants, which includes your employees, such as domestic staff, maids or nannies.

You will need to have the minimum level of health insurance in place to apply for work or residency visas. And those who do not renew insurance for employees or dependants every year will be fined AED500 per person per month.

Basic cover is available for residents earning less than AED4,000 (US $1,000) per month through an Essential Benefits Plan (EBP) that provides treatment and emergency care up to an annual limit of AED150,000 (US $40,000). Screening and treatment for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer will be covered beyond this limit. However, individual limits and excesses on other treatments will apply.

Employment benefits

Employers can, of course, choose to provide enhanced health insurance cover that gives benefits in excess of the minimum legal requirements. Many expatriates working throughout UAE will often enjoy more comprehensive health insurance cover as part of their overall employment benefits package, which can also extend to immediate family.

Expats will want to ensure that any health insurance they have in place, either through their employer or arranged independently, is realistic in terms of the level of cover and benefits provided. You should also be aware that it’s mandatory for all married women in Dubai to have maternity cover as part of their insurance plan.

Healthcare in Dubai

A good standard of healthcare, in a city where health and wellbeing are increasingly important, is a big plus for anyone moving to Dubai. When it comes to healthcare, it’s vital not to leave anything to chance.

A good understanding of Dubai’s healthcare system, its restrictions and how to access it, are crucial when it comes to taking care of your health and that of your family.

When you know that you and your family can access the care you may need if problems arise, you can relax and make the most of your new life in this beautiful city.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

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Dubai – the future business capital of the world?

In recent years, Dubai has emerged as a leading global hub for financial services, logistics, hospitality and trade, making it a popular destination for people to work, live and invest.

A continued commitment to diversify the city’s economy, set out in its Dubai Plan 20211, aims to further improve business opportunities and move Dubai to a sustainable economic model driven by innovation and supported by a business-friendly environment.

Expo 2020 Dubai

Business tourism is one sector that is becoming increasingly important for the city’s economic success. A major event planned for 2020 is a six-month-long exhibition of trade, innovation and products from around the world. Expo 2020 Dubai2, is expected to attract 25 million visitors to the city, with 70% of visitors coming from outside the UAE. The event, described as “a festival of human ingenuity”, aims to “provide a platform to foster creativity, innovation and collaboration globally”.

In line with Expo 2020’s visionary themes of “opportunity, mobility and sustainability”, investments of AED 10.8bn construction and AED 411m non-construction contracts have already been awarded to provide major infrastructure projects for the event, such as air and road improvements. These will benefit the economy long term, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth expected to rise from 1.3% growth in 2017 to 3.4% growth in 20183, according to the International Monetary Fund.

A history of embracing change

“Human ingenuity” has always been key to Dubai’s success. From its origins as a fishing and pearling village, to the financial and business hub it is today, Dubai has consistently recognised that embracing exciting new developments and opportunities is essential in creating a strong dynamic centre. Projects like the building of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, to the world’s biggest indoor theme park,IMG Worlds of Adventure, and the city’s man-made Palm Island archipelagos, are all excellent examples of human ingenuity.

Dubai – a history

3000 BC

The first human settlement in Dubai

1833

Dubai’s natural harbour is established as an independent settlement, becoming the principal port on the Persian coast and a centre for fishing, pearling and trade

1930

Dubai becomes a successful port, with a population of nearly 20,000, and is already popular with expats

1950

The waterway is dredged, increasing the amount of ships able to use the port

1966

Oil is discovered in the Dubai region, with revenue from oil exports is used to finance major investment in transport links and establish schools, hospitals and telecommunications networks

1971

Dubai, along with Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujayrah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain gain independence from Great Britain and form the United Arab Emirates. Dubai International Airport officially opens

1979

World’s largest man-made port, Jebel Ali, and Dubai World Trade Centre open

1980

Dubai begins its strategic investment in tourism and sets up a Free-Trade zone offering tax concessions and custom duty benefits to expat investors

1999

The world’s only seven-star hotel, Burj Al-Arab opens

2003

Projects to build the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, and 200 man made islands, known as Palm Island, begins

2017/18

Dubai becomes one of the world’s top five centres for trade, logistics, finance and tourism, and the Capital of Islamic Economy

2021

Implementation of the Dubai Plan

 

Camel walking on the dunes of the Sahara Desert at sunset in Merzouga - Morocco

 

A background of economic and political stability has provided the foundation for Dubai’s continued progress as a leading centre for trade, logistics, finance and tourism.  Its future is looking bright, as it moves away from the region’s dependency on oil to a more diverse economic make-up.

Oil production, which once accounted for 50% of Dubai’s GDP, contributes less than 1% to GDP today. Data compiled by Bloomberg shows the transformation of the economy accelerated as oil surged to a record $147 a barrel in 2008, but continued in the aftermath of the financial crisis when oil plummeted to a low of $26 in 2016.

Ambitions for 2021 and beyond

It’s this creation of a more sustainable economy that is at the heart of the Dubai Plan 2021. Driven by innovation and productivity gains in both capital and labour, and supported by its aim to become the “most business-friendly city in the world,” the plan promotes a diversified set of value-added economic activities that would make Dubai more resilient to internal and global economic changes.

Dubai 2021

Dubai Plan 2021’s ambitious strategy includes focusing investment and economic policy on a number of key areas:

  • Aerospace and Maritime industries in Dubai aim to support its longstanding competitiveness by localising manufacturing capabilities in relevant sub-industries like commercial airlines and the Port of Jebel Ali, respectively
  • Pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. Dubai offers opportunities to host some of the many international pharmaceutical companies looking to transfer parts of their plants and research centres abroad, to take advantage of international market expansions and ensure lower business costs
  • Consumer goods. Including developing Halal manufacturing as part of its Capital of Islamic Economy strategy
  • Increasing passenger traffic into Dubai International Airport
  • Boosting its position as a leading financial centre
  • Reducing CO2 emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy.

 

The latest economic outlook published by Dubai Economy, underlines the continued dominance of a diverse economy in the city over the coming years. It also plans to accelerate the transition towards a knowledge economy by allocating 8% of the total government spend to develop performance and establish a culture of excellence and innovation, particularly in cutting-edge technology such as nanotechnology and the Internet of Things.

As well as providing economic opportunities, technology is expected to increasingly impact the workplace with more flexible working patterns and collaboration.

There is also increasing support for startups such as, JustMop, a successful 2017 Dubai-based company that uses technology to provide on-demand cleaning services in the region, which, according to GulfNews4, is recording monthly growth rates of 20%.

A city of growth

These are exciting times for Dubai, and with investment and economic activity set to flourish in the coming years, the city’s place as a leading international business hub looks certain.

Dubai is bringing businesses closer to the world’s fastest-emerging markets, while developing a framework that will shift the traditional model of procurement to one that is based on collaboration.

With such exciting new developments and opportunities on the horizon, it’s no surprise that Dubai remains the number one choice for expats looking to work in the region.

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Top tips for good mental health as an expat

While it’s easy to picture the excitement of being somewhere new, the reality can be very different. As an expat, you might face problems that you may not have previously encountered, and which could affect your mental health.

Top tips for good mental health

In 2012, a ground-breaking study1 explored the levels of stress faced by expatriates. It found that expats were three times as likely to express or endorse feelings of being trapped or depressed. On a broader level, 50% of expats surveyed were found to be at a high risk of internalising problems, such as anxiety and depression.

“The tricky thing for expats is differentiating between the very normal process of cultural adjustment – which takes time and some patience, but which often resolves itself – versus difficulties adjusting that don’t seem to be getting better over time, or where suffering is taking a toll in other areas of life and so requires attention.”

Dana Nelson PH.D, American psychotherapist based in Lyon, France. She produces a series of podcasts for The Mindful Expat2, which seek to highlight the issues facing people who move overseas.

So, what are some of the challenges that you might face when moving to a new country?

Top of the list for many is being homesick – even if you are really looking forward to living abroad you may miss family, friends, or simply the everyday life that you were used to.

You may also experience the fear that everyone at home will quickly forget you.  Some choose not to share these fears with their usual confidants because they want them to think they’re new life is perfect and that they’ve made the right decision in moving.

It can be tough making new friends, especially if you have built up friendships over many years in your home country. Building friendships in a new country where the local language is not your native tongue can make it even harder to meet new people.

What can you do about it?

  • Seek a connection. Attending a language class or joining an activity group is a great way of learning to love something about a new country as well as making friends3 locally
  • Set some boundaries. Don’t compromise on quality time4 with your family or doing other things that are important to you
  • Remember to sleep and exercise. Physical activity5 and sleep6 have both been linked to mental wellbeing
  • Ask for advice. Join online communities and ask for advice well before you go, and find out about what issues you’re likely to encounter in your chosen destination. Expat Forum7, Expat Exchange8, The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide9 and Mumsnet10 are all great sources of information
  • Treat your mind like your body. Find out what help is available locally in case you ever have need of it and time is not readily available. Help can be sourced through the International Therapist Directory11
  • Don’t spend your life online. Keep up with friends and family at home as much as possible, but also try going out and making new friends locally
  • Recognise expat depression. Being able to act on negative feelings is an essential part of the expat’s toolkit. If you feel depressed and suspect that you may be suffering any mental health issue, seek help at the earliest opportunity
  • Manage your expectations. If you’ve experienced mental health issues in the past, make sure you have support in place before you go.

Expat mother-of-three Tavy says: “My advice would be to never underestimate what an upheaval expatriation is, especially with small children in tow. You need to prioritise self-care so that you can face the challenges that each day inevitably brings.”

Money can also be a worry when you move abroad, particularly early on when you will have to make a lot of payments on essential items and deposits. You may also have to wait for items such as furniture to be shipped from home, and incur extra expenses to source similar ‘comforts’ while you wait for your own to arrive.

Be self-aware

The unique, and often unexpected, pressures associated with living abroad can come as a shock, which could lead to mental health issues, stoked by feelings of isolation – which, in turn, can stem from a fear of confiding in other expats or loved ones back at home.

So, some good forward planning can go a long way to help mitigate some these challenges, with online forums like Expat Forum7, Expat Exchange8, The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide9 and Mumsnet10 helping to paint a realistic picture of what life will really be like.

Understanding depression and taking measures to guard against it will help ensure expats in their adopted country make the most of their time overseas.

Signs of depression:

  • Consistent feelings of being sad or down (or the absence of positive feelings) for most of the day, nearly every day, lasting at least a couple of weeks
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Sleep issues
  • Changes in energy levels
  • Unexplained changes in appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest or inability to take pleasure in things previously enjoyed
  • Unexplained physical ailments
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Source: American Psychiatric Association12

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

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Moving to Dubai: a checklist

A sprawling desert city crowned with gleaming high-rises, the modern city of Dubai symbolises middle-eastern ambition. With its modern foundations built upon the dried-out riverbed of a tiny fishing village, Dubai is a hive of innovation, diversity and opportunity and, with its beautiful sandy coastline, is an attractive location for a global community of expats.

It is a city determined to improve itself and its attractiveness to business, residents and visitors. Examples of this commitment include projects such as Expo 2020 Dubai¹ and the 2021 Dubai Plan², which focuses on six key areas: people, society, experience, place, economy and government, to make Dubai the city the best it can be.

For expats currently planning a move to Dubai, or considering moving there in the future, we have compiled a checklist that provides a quick guide to what you need to know before you go.

Find out more about the future development of Dubai

Checklist Icons

What visas do I need before I move to Dubai?

Before moving to Dubai, you need to obtain a UAE residence visa to legally live in the city. A residence visa is valid for two years if you work in the private sector, and three years in the public sector, and you should be able to renew it indefinitely. Once you have your residence visa, you will then be able to open a bank account and obtain a driving licence, as well as sponsor the visa applications for your immediate family

As an expat, you should check that the company that employs you is willing to sponsor your UAE residence visa and your work permit. You must have a health check before application, which will include a blood test and chest X-ray

For your company to sponsor your application, you will need a passport valid for at least six months, recent colour photos, your medical test results and any additional proof of identity requested. If your company applies for you, you should receive your visa in two to three weeks. This may take slightly longer without employer sponsorship

Once you have received your residence visa, you will be able to sponsor, and apply for, visas on your family’s behalf. Once they arrive, they will need an entry residence visa (usually free on entry), and you then have 30 days to attain their residence passport stamp

In March 2016, laws regarding the visa application process changed, and you can now apply online, making the application process even easier. Visit amer.ae3, the UAE government portal4 or download the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs of Dubai’s GDRFA Dubai app5 to guide you through the application process

In terms of application fees, a refundable deposit of AED 5000 per person is required, plus around AED 360 for the visa itself and between AED 200-300 for medical tests.

More information on residence visas can be found here.6

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Health insurance in Dubai

As of 1 January 20177, new visas will not be issued or renewed for Dubai residents unless they have health insurance. So, you need to think about the kind of health insurance you require when you are organising your visa

By law, employers are now required to provide health insurance cover for their employees, so you may find that this has been arranged for you by your company before you arrive, along with your visa application and work permit

Check what level of health insurance your employer offers. They may only offer the basic level of cover – known as an Essential Benefits Plan3 – which covers up to AED150,000 (US$40,839) per person per annum. You may wish to arrange additional cover to provide additional benefits and higher limits

Currently, Dubai employers do not have to provide cover for dependants and spouses, so you may need to arrange this yourself8. It is worth checking policies that offer a family health insurance plan, as this may end up as a better option if your family is travelling with you.

Find out more about health services in Dubai9

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Accommodation options in Dubai

Some companies will provide long term accommodation for you as part of your international transfer, while others may only offer a tenancy for a few months, or alternatively a living allowance.

While living costs in Dubai10 are reasonable compared with other major cities, accommodation prices in the city centre are increasing and are approaching London prices. So, while lunch for two will cost around AED 150 (US$40) and a monthly transport pass will cost AED 250 (US$68), a one-bedroom flat in the city centre will cost around AED 7,324 (US$1,994) a month.

  • Choose your location based on proximity to your job, or schools if you have children, as traffic congestion is a common problem. It is also worth noting that the accommodation in Dubai city centre and popular areas can be very expensive, which may limit your options
  • While expats can be found in all areas of the city, Dubai Marina is seen by many as the best place to live as an expat, and Jumeirah or Umm Suqeim are well-suited to families. You may want to do some initial research into the different areas of Dubai11 before you move
  • Additionally, it is worth noting that ‘traditionally’ accommodation is paid for up-front in one annual payment – which can come as a shock. Thankfully, landlords are becoming more flexible with different payment options
  • Make sure you are aware of all fees and maintenance charges upfront, and factor-in additional utilities costs, as well as registering your tenancy online12 to make use of your full tenant’s rights.

TOP TIP: Always ask your landlord whether the water from the taps in your accommodation is filtered or if you should buy bottled water

 

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What is the international school system in Dubai?

  • There are many private international schools in Dubai. Some schools follow the British education system, and teach the National Curriculum of England. Other schools follow the US, Indian or UAE public school syllabus, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. There is also a local syllabus requirement in Dubai international schools, so your children will also have the opportunity to study Arabic and Islamic studies or UAE social studies
  • The Knowledge and Human Development Authority13 (KHDA) offers general guidance on choosing schools and applications. For example, it warns that schools, particularly primary schools, often have long waiting lists, so you should apply as soon as possible, and you may be able to apply online before leaving your home country
  • Which School Advisor14 publishes the KHDA’s school rankings table15 each year, which is a useful resource to help you identify the school that will best suit your children and their needs
  • During the application process, you will be asked for a copy of your child’s and parents’ passports and residence visas, a copy of the child’s birth certificate if their passport does not give the exact date of birth, eight passport-sized photographs, immunisation records, and attested certificates and/or transfer certificate. Each school will have its own application process, so you should check the school’s website for details. Source: Government of Dubai16

The KHDA’s online school directory17 is also a source of inspection reports, programmes and curricula for each school.

TOP TIP: For Indian, Pakistani and Japanese curriculum schools, the academic year is from April to March. For all other curricula, it begins in September and ends in June or July

 

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What kind of expat communities are there in Dubai?

Dubai is home to a great number of expats, and over the years, many expat clubs and communities have sprung up all over the city:

Meet like-minded professionals through business groups – such as the International Business Women’s Group18, which holds regular networking lunches and workshops

Connect with people from your home country, with nation-specific groups and clubs from a host of countries, including Australia and New Zealand19, Turkey20 and India21. Dubai’s only Thai restaurant, Café Isan22, draws many Thai expats to experience a taste from home, as well as celebrating Thai holidays with the wider Thai expat community

Join a sports community, such as the 5,000-strong group of cyclists, Dubai Roadsters23

For mothers, Expat Woman24 holds regular meet-ups as well as hosting an active forum25

You can often find communities using social media, via Facebook – see the Expats Club26

Download an expat app, such as InterNations27, which can help you meet like-minded internationals in the city

Apps such as Downtown Dubai28 or The Dubai Mall29 show you where to find the highlights of Dubai’s shopping and nightlife culture, while the Time Out Dubai30 app will make sure you don’t miss the best restaurants, music and events in the city.

We hope this checklist arms you with the basic information and resources for your move. To find out more get in touch with other expats and ask them about their experiences. The other articles in this guide are also a good place to start and may help you prepare for your new life in Dubai.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

Find out more about life in Dubai.

Sources
  1. https://www.expo2020dubai.com/
  2. https://www.dubaiplan2021.ae/dubai-plan-2021/
  3. https://amer.ae/application
  4. https://echannels.moi.gov.ae/echannels/web/client/default.html#/login
  5. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gdrfa.GDRFA&hl=en
  6. https://www.government.ae/en/information-and-services/visa-and-emirates-id/visa-provisions
  7. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/dubai/no-dubai-visa-without-insurance-warns-official
  8. https://www.thenational.ae/business/money/how-to-pick-the-right-health-insurance-for-your-dependants-in-the-uae-1.613342
  9. https://www.dha.gov.ae/en/pages/dhahome.aspx
  10. https://transferwise.com/gb/blog/cost-of-living-in-dubai
  11. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/guide/discover-dubai/how-to-decide-where-to-live-in-dubai
  12. http://www.ejari.ae/
  13. https://www.khda.gov.ae/en/Website
  14. https://whichschooladvisor.com/
  15. https://whichschooladvisor.com/uae/guides/khda-dubai-2017-school-rankings-table-complete
  16. http://www.dubai.ae/en/Lists/HowToGuide/DispForm.aspx?ID=39
  17. https://www.khda.gov.ae/en/directory
  18. http://www.ibwgdubai.com/
  19. http://www.anzauae.org/
  20. https://www.facebook.com/BilgiDubai
  21. https://www.facebook.com/indiaclubdubai
  22. https://www.facebook.com/cafeisan/events/?ref=page_internal
  23. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dubai-Roadsters/103748826325488
  24. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/things-to-do/events
  25. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/forum/dubai-northern-emirates
  26. https://en-gb.facebook.com/theexpatsclub/
  27. https://itunes.apple.com/app/internations/id1059342646?mt=8
  28. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/downtown-dubai/id431045353?mt=8
  29. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-dubai-mall/id430795858?mt=8
  30. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/time-out-dubai/id375636978?mt=8

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Managing a long-term condition

Having a chronic condition shouldn’t stand in your way of pursuing a life overseas. But what research should you do before you leave and what questions need to be asked?

With an estimated five million Britons now living or working abroad, it’s becoming increasingly likely that people will need to explore their options for long-term therapy at some point.

Used to describe a range of conditions that can be classified as ‘chronic’ –such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, depression or back pain, long-term therapy represents any ongoing treatments that naturally fall outside your health insurance plan.

While comprehensive policies offer varying levels of cover that encompass a certain number of sessions, period of time or cost for specific conditions, insurance is essentially designed for curative treatment – offering immediate support in the event of an acute illness or accident.

Surgery

Can I still more overseas?

That doesn’t mean that having a chronic condition should preclude any ambition to live abroad – far from it. However, the awareness of any issue will call for some detailed research in advance to ensure that there is an adequate support structure ready and waiting.

Likewise, it doesn’t automatically follow that developing a chronic condition will necessitate an early return – with excellent local facilities, treatments and available medication often available at reasonable prices.

What questions should I ask?

In the first instance, any pre-existing conditions should be discussed in-depth with a GP. The next step is to understand exactly what’s available to you once you make the move.

If you are travelling with a pre-existing condition or would just like to build an accurate picture of health facilities in your chosen destination, key questions to ask include:

  • Is your chronic condition routinely catered for?
  • Does any one facility specialise in your condition?
  • If so, what are the facilities like?
  • How do the standards of care differ between facilities?
  • Is it possible to get good standards of care at a reasonable cost?
  • Is your prescribed medication available in this country?
  • If so, what will your annual costs be for treatment/medication?
  • How will these costs compare if you source your prescription via a hospital pharmacy or private doctor?
  • How do these payments work?
  • Are they part- or fully-funded by any state contributions you make – and if so, when would you become eligible?
  • How do waiting times vary if you pursue state-funded treatment?
  • Where do the locals/expats typically go for treatments? (for example, it’s common for Hong Kong residents to visit Thailand for therapies)
  • What advice/support is your employer willing to offer?
  • If required, what support structure would be available for your family?

 

Having a good grasp of cultural/religious differences is also vital to ensuring you get the care you want in your adopted country. For example, mental illness is rarely talked about in the Far East, so finding a clinic that specialises in depression could prove difficult.

Hospital

Seek local advice

Expats and locals are a rich source of information, offering newcomers crucial recommendations and reviews. Additional web searches will help you poll further opinions and focus on your own condition.

Be sure to ask:

  • For other expats’ experiences of local healthcare facilities and doctors
  • What pitfalls you need to be aware of – for example, the best way to cut down on waiting times/or access the best care

Expert view

Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer with William Russell

“Continuing advances in medicine mean that there’s a lot more doctors can do these days for people with chronic conditions. This effectively means that people heading abroad have far more options when it comes to where they choose to live. Expat hubs such as Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong all offer excellent facilities and expertise at reasonable cost, so for patients looking for long-term therapies, sourcing the right care will come down to researching your own needs and finding the best evidence-based treatment.”

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How does physical activity affect your health?

How important is it to stay active as we age and what kind of activity brings the most benefits?

For an expat with a busy schedule, finding the time to exercise can be challenging.

However, there is an infinite wealth of evidence to show that finding that time is vital, especially for the over 50s.

As we all know, exercise is good for the body and the mind. But, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and there are lots of factors that should influence a person’s approach.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

There is the obvious benefit of helping control weight, which becomes more difficult as you get older due to your metabolism slowing down.

A few hours of moderate-intensity physical exercise each week also lowers the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the risk of endometrial and lung cancer is lower in people who exercise regularly than in those who don’t.

This is backed up by the results of a long-term study by University of Minnesota researchers. They gave questionnaires to 36,929 cancer-free women from Iowa, and then followed them for 16 years. They found that the women with high exercise levels were less likely to develop lung cancer than those with low exercise levels.

The Australian study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that aerobic exercises, resistance training and less-strenuous forms of exercise such as T’ai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, all had positive effects on different parts of the brain’s functions ranging from the ability to organise and plan, to reading and reasoning.

The authors of that study examined 36 wide-ranging studies and found that exercising moderately for around an hour on as many days as possible improved memory and thinking skills of those aged over 50.

Pilates

How long should I exercise for?

Britain’s National Health Service recommends different sorts of exercise for different ages. It says children under the age of five should be physically active for at least 3 hours a day; this includes walking, playing outside, chasing balls, playing in water or riding a bicycle.

However, healthy adults should do a minimum 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week as well as strength exercises that focus on the major muscles such as in the leg and back.

According to the CDC, those who do seven hours of exercise a week have 40% less chance of an early death than those who do just half an hour a week.

What are moderate and intensive forms of exercise?

Moderate aerobic activity includes things such as fast walking and mowing the lawn; so this kind of activity can easily be incorporated into a normal day.

Your heart rate needs to be raised to have an affect on your health so shopping and slow walking unfortunately won’t count. Vigorous or intensive activities are running, hiking, swimming or playing sports such as tennis.

Do some activities bring particular benefits to over 50s?

Low impact aerobic exercise and bone-strengthening activities can slow down the natural decline in bone density which occurs as a person ages.

This reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, according to the CDC. The organisation says that doing just two hours of moderate exercise a week lowers the risk of hip fracture and improves the quality of life for people living with arthritis.

For the over 50s, these lower weight-bearing and impact options help to reduce the risk of bone injuries or breakages, which is often higher in the older generation.

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Antibiotics resistance: what you need to know

Many countries have strict rules governing the use of antibiotics. In the UK, Europe and US, they will only be prescribed if a doctor is confident the cause of an illness is bacterial and not caused by a virus or other pathogen. However, not all countries are so vigilant.

A 2016 study published by the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand revealed that antibiotics in Thailand are “widely available and inappropriately sold and given by grocery stores and retails shops”.

The inevitable affect, the researchers note, is that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are commonly and freely circulating through the population, meaning some illnesses are no longer treatable.

The situation is similar in the UAE, where prescription-required medicines are routinely sold without an accompanying prescription.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes this issue very seriously: “Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse.”

It warns that without urgent action, the world is heading for a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

The more antibiotics that are prescribed inappropriately, says Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer at William Russell, the more likely resistance is to develop.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

A common misconception is that it’s the individual who becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact, it’s the bacteria that adapts and develops resistance, rendering certain antibiotics entirely useless.

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is the biggest cause of antibiotic resistance and the rise of the so-called superbug (illnesses that no longer respond to treatment and are now potentially deadly).

Superbugs emerge when bacteria have not been properly treated with antibiotics and have learnt to become resistant; certain strains of tuberculosis and pneumonia have already developed resistance so can’t be treated easily, if at all.

The WHO calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

Doctor and Child

What do antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics should only be used to treat illnesses caused by susceptible infections, for example bacterial tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, whooping cough and skin infections. Different types of antibiotics target specific bacteria.

For example, Amoxicillin (a sort of Penicillin) is often prescribed to treat ear infections, while Trimethoprim is commonly given to treat urinary tract infections caused by E.coli.

Dr Clarke stresses there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to antibiotics. “Some bacterial infections can be self-limiting in fit, healthy people” he says, “for example Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning.” A doctor would therefore “establish sensitivity of the bacteria and allocate an appropriate antibiotic”.

Antibiotics are completely useless against viruses. A huge number of everyday illnesses are caused by viruses and therefore don’t need antibiotics. If you’re suffering with a cold at the change of season, chances are antibiotics won’t help.

 

pills

 

What to do if you think you need antibiotics

Even if you think your self-diagnosis is accurate, and as tempting as it might be to buy the tablets over the counter, you could do more harm than good. Antibiotics could interfere with other medicines you might be taking, or even damage your organs.

Dr Diab Maaruf Kurdi, head of pharmacy at Burjeel Hospital in the UAE, says: “It’s important that medication is not purchased without the doctor’s consultation, because the doctor will take into consideration your overall medical condition. Furthermore, the medication that you purchase may not be right for your condition and could cause further health complications.”

Dr Clarke also warns that a non-bacterial illness that goes undiagnosed, such as malaria, could get worse without formal identification and appropriate treatment from a doctor.

 

How to take antibiotics responsibly

Being prescribed a course of antibiotics by a medical professional is the first step, but there’s more that needs considering in order for the antibiotics to work effectively.

You must follow the instructions and finish the course even if you’re feeling better. It’s also important to note whether the medicine should be taken before or after food, or with water. Never share antibiotics and do not accept them if a pharmacist offers them without a prescription.

For all your global health insurance questions, go to the William Russell website, or call our dedicated team on +44 (0) 1276 486455.

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Dubai culture and lifestyle: what to expect

Modern Dubai is a multicultural and diverse city, that has developed rapidly since its origins as a fishing and trading port in the early 1900s.

By the 1930s, Dubai’s popularity was growing, with immigrants making up around one-quarter of the population. The city’s growth really took off when oil was discovered in the 1960s.

Over the past 50 years, Dubai has undergone unprecedented change, and large amounts of money have been invested into infrastructure and development. The city is now working towards achieving its 2021 Dubai Plan1, which focuses on six key areas: its people, society, experience, place, economy and government – to make Dubai the best city it can be.

Dubai’s cultural melting pot

Today’s Dubai is a fusion of more than 200 nationalities – with Emiratis making up only around 10% of the population of 9.5 million. Individuals pay no income, property or capital gains tax, which makes it an attractive financial proposition for many expats.

Dubai’s subtropical climate makes for great weather, but for many newly arrived expats, the summer can be a real shock. The hottest months are between June and September, when temperatures average 45C. A cooler 24-25C is usual in January and February.

British expatriate Jennifer Bell, 32, says: “When I arrived here, I was surprised by how open the country was. It felt like a home away from home. When it comes to socialising, such as experiencing the local nightlife, there is little difference to Europe.

“It’s an extremely safe place, with a zero-tolerance approach to bad behaviour and crime. As long as you stay respectful to the city and its modern, Middle Eastern traditions, this is one of the best places to live.”

Discover Dubai’s culture

Canadian Anna Stevens, 34, has lived in the UAE on and off for more than 20 years. She says: “The culture today has a deep respect for religion, time with family, and intangible heritage like poetry, storytelling and falconry; it can be tricky to navigate on your own. At the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding2 in Dubai you can learn about local customs at special events. Modest dress and a few words in Arabic open a lot of doors and make it easier for others to approach you.”

Newcomers should be considerate of the country’s traditions. Avoid wearing revealing clothes in public and any public displays of affection. It’s particularly important to be respectful on national and religious holidays such as Eid, Commemoration Day and Ramadan; this includes dressing modestly and being mindful of your behaviour.

Convenience and practical issues

British expatriate James Langton, 55, says: “As a Western expat, everything seems to exist for your convenience, from fast food deliveries to someone packing your groceries at the supermarket, and even pumping petrol.

“However, if you have legal problems – consumer rights issues or tenancy disputes – there may seem to be very little redress.”

The court system operates in Arabic, which sometimes makes it difficult for expatriates to navigate. Understanding the laws – most of which are in Arabic – and finding a good lawyer and/or translator is essential for those involved in a court case.

James also suggests that expats making the move to Dubai sit down and work out what their living costs are likely to be in relation to their salary: “It’s easy to spend all your earnings. The country has become more expensive recently, and lots of companies have cut back heavily on things like housing and education allowances.”

A fit and healthy lifestyle

There’s a growing emphasis on health and fitness in Dubai, and it is a great place to get and stay fit. Most apartment blocks and compounds popular with expatriates have gyms and swimming pools exclusively for residents. One of the goals of ‘Dubai 2021’ is to offer a “diverse set of cultural and recreational options” including beaches, green spaces, and sporting facilities.

Working Week

The working week in Dubai runs from Sunday to Thursday, so Friday is the first day of your weekend – though some professions, such as banking or trading, adjust this to align with international markets.

A welcoming culture

As its population grows, along with its aim to improve the health and wellbeing of its residents, Dubai is seen as the top city in which to live in the Middle East3 and North Africa. Expats need to be aware of Dubai’s cultural and religious norms – and an increasing cost of living – but they will be rewarded with a diverse and welcoming place to live and work.

 

Discover more about staying healthy in Dubai

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

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Is it possible to have a healthy diet in Dubai?

Food has become a hot topic across the UAE in recent years, although not always for the right reasons. The country’s love of fast food and rich ingredients has led to a sharp rise in obesity and associated illnesses. Today, things are changing, with healthy eating fast becoming a growing trend.

It’s fair to say that both expats and Emiratis love eating out, with an estimated 7,000 – 8,000 restaurants1 open for business in Dubai alone. However, the country has become associated with a more sedentary lifestyle; long office hours spent at a desk and time spent indoors, combined with the hot climate also creating barriers to exercise, have led to increasing levels of Type 2 diabetes2 and heart disease3.

Percentage iconAccording to the Global Burden of Disease Study 20134, more than 66% of men and 60% of women in the UAE are now overweight or obese, with a recent UAE University study5 reportedly estimating the same figures applied to around 40% of children.

94% of Emiratis and expats say they like to try new cuisines and restaurants.5

What are the local eating habits in Dubai?

Thanks to its vast expat population, Dubai boasts an array of dishes from around the globe.

Cusines

Many Emiratis and expats eat out at least once a week, according to the KPMG 2017 UAE Food & Beverage Report, with brunch a hugely popular pastime on Fridays (the first day of the weekend). Something of a Dubai tradition, it is enjoyed by residents and tourists alike

Quick service and casual dining restaurants are both popular and economical ways to eat out, with burgers and shawarma wraps hugely popular and fine dining is generally viewed as an occasional treat

Eat out percentages

23% order takeaway more than 8 times a month
(Source: Survey respondents in the KPMG 2017 UAE Food & Beverage Report)

 

Due to the extensive number of international dishes available at any time of day, takeaways and restaurant visits are a real temptation

The average amount of overtime worked in Dubai is five hours according to UBS Prices and Earnings 2015. This means that many people are working the maximum 48-hours a week allowed – or even longer – making a lack of time and convenience primary reasons for eating out or ordering in

Due to the higher costs associated with importing certain items, grocery shopping can be expensive – leading many single residents and couples to grab fast food options or visit low-cost eateries

Scorching summer temperatures can easily reach 50oC,6 causing residents to spend more time indoors – combined with reduced levels of exercise increases the likelihood of snacking

A new 5% VAT charge7 now applies to many products, and could increase day-to-day costs. All food will be subject to this levy, which is part of a move by the Gulf Cooperation Council to strengthen the region’s economic position in the wake of a period of lower oil prices.

Is eating out bad for your health?

Restaurant or fast food meals are typically high in salt, sugar, carbs or fat

A growing trend towards healthy food8 in Dubai means more eateries are catering for guests looking to discover new ingredients and fresh takes on traditional cuisines

Dubai’s governing authority is taking steps to promote greater transparency with a dedicated Food Watch9 app and digital platform, which enables residents to track their food from ‘farm to fork’ and check the nutritional information of around 20,000 eateries, as well as school cafeterias

Diners will soon be able to check the nutritional claims of restaurant meals, using a new Healthy Food10 logo.

What are the best ways to have a healthy diet in Dubai?

The World Health Organisation11 suggests limiting your daily intake of fat to no more than 30% of your daily food intake, and substituting saturated fats (such as ghee or coconut oil) with non-saturated oils (such as olive or sunflower varieties)

Aim for a balance in your daily intake by eating the right proportions of a variety of foods

Explore healthier options. For example, Emirati cuisine is influenced by Arabic, Iranian and Lebanese cuisine that includes plenty of grilled meats, one-pot stews, pulses and salads

Avoid fried foods and creamy sauces, and view desserts such as Luqaimat (sweet fried dough balls) and Knafeh (sweetened cheese) as very occasional treats.

35% Fruit

35% of 1,000 UAE residents surveyed12 say they now regularly incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables in their meals.

Finding healthy food in Dubai is easy, and there are plenty of nutrition-led delivery options such as Eat Clean Me13 or Fruitful Day14 around to facilitate better habits

While the vast array of cuisine in Dubai can challenge everyone’s good intentions, the city is taking steps to reverse the trend towards obesity.

There is a growing awareness that the more sedentary lifestyle associated with residing in the city has negative health effects. A love of dining out and takeaways, the hot climate and typically long working hours may remain a constant, but the Dubai menu is now laden with nutritionally-focused cuisine that matches its residents’ good intentions.

This is underpinned by moves from the government to encourage a much more open approach to food – with an increasing number of restaurants enabling people to make more informed decisions about what they eat.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

Read about how healthcare works in Dubai.

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How to stay healthy in Dubai

Dubai offers fantastic opportunities to enjoy a high-end lifestyle that many people can only dream of, but it also has its own unique set of challenges that call for greater levels of awareness about health and wellbeing.

A variety of factors such as the hot climate makes it difficult to exercise, a prevalent smoking culture, the dining out and takeaway culture, and long working hours, have led to rocketing levels of ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)1, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for one-third of all deaths in the UAE each year, with fatalities from diabetes also on the rise. Around 20% of adults now live with diabetes. On 1 October 2017, the UAE imposed significant increases2 on the cost of sugary drinks and tobacco in an effort to encourage consumers to cut down on unhealthy products. The cost of carbonated drinks increased by 50%, while energy drinks and tobacco rose by 100%.

Things are changing, however, with ‘wellness’ rapidly becoming the buzzword in the city. Dubai’s commitment to helping its residents to better health is clear, with bespoke spaces for different forms of exercise starting to spring up around the city.

Last October, local authorities launched the Dubai Fitness Challenge3, designed to encourage residents to factor-in 30 minutes of exercise a day. This initiative aims to encourage better year-round habits and attracted 12,000 people on the first day alone.

 

How does the Dubai lifestyle affect wellness?

Between avoiding the scorching heat and working long hours, many struggle to find the time or motivation to exercise

A dining out and takeaway culture is well established in Dubai, with portion sizes at odds with the more sedentary lifestyle. This shared love of eating among both Emiratis and expats has been linked to elevated levels of Type 2 diabetes4, heart disease5, obesity and even spine problems6 in the region

Due to the extreme temperatures, taking taxis or driving cars instead of walking is common – even for short distances

Tobacco remains popular in the UAE, with an estimated quarter of adult males classified as cigarette smokers7, while other forms of smoking such as the Shisha, or water pipe, are also common

With people looking to dodge the sun during the summer months – due to its sheer intensity or a fear of developing skin cancer – vitamin D levels can easily become deficient in Dubai. Left unchecked, this can weaken the bones and lead to osteoporosis, and rickets in children.

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One session with a traditional Shisha, or water pipe, can equate to ingesting the tobacco from 100 cigarettes or more, according to the WHO8.  More than 66% of men and 60% of women in the UAE9 are now classified as overweight or obese, with 40% of children10 also in this category.

Sun Vitamin D iconWhile the exact levels of vitamin D required by the body is a source of debate, experts typically set a target of 10 microgrammes of vitamin D per day11 for anyone over the age of four. It is recommended that vitamin D supplements12 are taken by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, as well as vulnerable groups, such as the elderly.

 

How can the local environment in Dubai affect your health?

Flanked by the Persian Gulf on one side and vast deserts on the other, Dubai is a city of extremes – with heat, humidity and dust common causes of health issues for residents.

The city’s infamous dust devils – swirling updrafts of dust13 – are frequent, and release micro-particles that can pose a particular problem for those with allergies or pulmonary issues

Though rare, the city’s high humidity levels can sometimes cause monsoon-like rain – 100.4mm of rainfall14 was recorded in southern parts of the UAE in August 2013

During the intense summer months, when temperatures can exceed 50OC, heatstroke15 is a real danger – with children and the elderly16 particularly at risk. However, official legislation, introducing a mandatory break for outdoor workers17 during peak hours from July to September, is helping to raise awareness

MERS18 (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a form of coronavirus native to the Arabian Peninsula. It typically causes fever, cough and shortness of breath and can be fatal, and treatment should be sought. MERS is spread through contact with sick animals or people.

Heat exhaustion19 is characterised by thirst, fatigue, headache and twitching. If left unchecked, it can lead to heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition.

Tap Icon

Not all tap water in Dubai is drinkable, and residents may worry about bacteria in the water. Water tanks should be cleaned regularly, and installing a water filter on your household tap may remove impurities and enhance the flavour.

 

Top tips for health and wellbeing in Dubai:

  1. Take advantage of the parks and other bespoke areas that are now springing up across the city. Many public beaches in Dubai now boast soft, sponge-like surface tracks that are great for running. Residents are also able to make use of the desert setting at the famous 86km-long Al Qudra20 cycle track
  2. Avoid peak heat. Due to the heat and working culture, exercise classes are often held at sunrise and sunset, including pool-based21 activities, such as Aqua Zumba
  3. Offset any lack of direct sunlight by eating oily fish or other fortified foods containing vitamin D22
  4. Maintain a healthy diet and monitor your fluid intake (including salt levels) during the hottest months of July and August.

Appropriate clothing

In public spaces, UAE dress codes apply. To respect Dubai’s culture, men and women should keep their shoulders covered and ensure clothing extends below the knee.

With a culture that can mean longer working hours, eating out and a naturally more sedentary lifestyle, expats moving to Dubai can easily fall into a cycle of poor nutrition and lack of exercise. However, increasing moves by governments across the UAE to reduce associated illnesses – such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and various cancers – are raising awareness of the problem.

Better nutritional information about local dishes and restaurants, and an increasing emphasis on the importance of exercise – with dedicated, and free spaces springing up across the city – should see a major change in the Dubai lifestyle over the coming years. As the culture changes, residents will be able to combine this unique sand-and-sea setting with their personal wellness plans.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

How healthy are Dubai diets? Find out more.

 

Sources
  1. http://www.who.int/features/2017/uae-beating-ncds/en/
  2. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/economy/this-is-how-much-soft-drinks-cigarettes-will-cost-from-sunday
  3. https://dubaifitnesschallenge.com/
  4. http://www.icldc.ae/about-us/p/UAE-Diabetes-Trends-And-Numbers
  5. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/health/heart-disease-is-still-the-no-1-killer-1.192685
  6. http://gulfnews.com/xpress/news/sedentary-lifestyle-triggering-spine-problems-in-uae-1.1873100
  7. http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2014/10/23/tobaccocontrol-2013-051530?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TC_TrendMD-0#ref-13
  8. http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_interaction/tobreg/Waterpipe%20recommendation_Final.pdf
  9. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/the-unhealthy-lifestyle-choices-that-are-plaguing-our-population-1.211383
  10. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/the-unhealthy-lifestyle-choices-that-are-plaguing-our-population-1.211383
  11. http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/skin-cancer/vitamin-d
  12. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant/
  13. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/environment/extreme-weather-in-the-uae-tales-of-sun-sand-and-even-snow-1.621527
  14. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/this-isnt-the-hottest-year-in-uae
  15. http://whatson.ae/dubai/2017/08/how-to-stay-healthy-in-the-heat/
  16. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/labourers-midday-break-hailed-for-fewer-heat-exhaustion-cases-1.127929
  17. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/midday-break-begins-in-for-uae-s-outdoor-workers-1.9283
  18. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/mers-cov/en/
  19. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/beware-of-heat-exhaustion
  20. https://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/al-qudra-cycling-track
  21. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/our-five-favourite-aqua-based-fitness-trends-in-the-uae-1.617167
  22. http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/skin-cancer/vitamin-d

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Dubai: a global medical tourism destination

Throughout history, people have sought cures and better health by travelling abroad. Whether to visit the healing waters of a natural spa, embark on a pilgrimage to receive a blessing at a religious site, or to simply spend time in a warmer or cooler climate, the practice of travelling to improve health isn’t anything new.

The global spread of modern medicine might appear to diminish the necessity of this practice, but in recent years, there has been an upsurge in interest in ‘medical tourism’. In fact, the Global Medical Tourism Market report1 predicts a rise of over 12.55% year-on-year of ‘medical tourism’ between 2017 and 2021. But what exactly is it?

The term ‘medical tourism’ refers to people who travel to a foreign country with the primary purpose of making use of that country’s medical, dental or surgical facilities. This might be for services ranging from preventive and health-conductive treatment, to rehabilitation and curative.

While there, visitors will often also behave as leisure tourists, taking in the sights, staying in hotels and eating in local restaurants.

Backing for medical tourism

For governments, medical tourism can be an attractive prospect. Globally an estimated $45.5-72bn2 is being spent annually in this industry, providing many economic benefits3.

As well as injecting foreign exchange earnings to the local economy and contributing to government revenues, medical tourism also boosts the local healthcare industry, creating new jobs and business opportunities, and encouraging investment in healthcare services.

Additionally, the need for better infrastructure to support the influx of tourists means that money is put back into local communities, which in turn encourages more tourism.

In 2014, the UAE announced plans to make Dubai the number one location for medical tourism in the world, pledging ambitious goals and initiatives for the medical tourism and healthcare industry as part of a wider 2020 vision.

Dubai aims to attract 500,000 medical tourists annually by 20204, hiring thousands of new healthcare professionals, and investing in 18 new private and four new public hospitals. In April 2016, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA)5 launched the world’s first comprehensive electronic medical tourism portal, the Dubai Health Experience Programme (DXH)6, providing an easy path for medical tourists to plan their journey, treatment and stay in one package.

The portal offers the services of more than 600 packages from 43 healthcare facilities and 344 doctors. The DHA also aims to grow its list of partners, such as the Health Bank, offering end-to-end services, from research to treatment, accommodation, translation services and follow-up care.

The General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs – Dubai (GDRFA-D) has also played its part, signing an agreement7 with the DHA to ease visa procedures for medical tourists so they can visit Dubai more frequently and for longer – strengthening Dubai’s position as a global destination for medical tourism.

Medical tourism in Dubai

Dubai is currently the number one destination in the United Arab Emirates for medical tourism and 16th globally, according to the Medical Tourism Index8.

The city has seen a dramatic growth9 in numbers of medical tourists in recent years. According to the DHA, in 2016, Dubai welcomed 326,649 medical tourists10 into the city, a growth of 9.5% from 2015, generating AED 1.4bn for the economy.

Of these medical tourists, 37% were from Asian countries11, 31% from surrounding Arab and Gulf Cooperation Council countries and 15% were Europeans. The most popular treatment areas were orthopaedics, dermatology and ophthalmology.

 

The future for healthcare in Dubai

Technology and collaboration are key for Dubai’s approach to medical tourism and its overall vision of healthcare excellence for all residents. Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC)12 is one example of what this vision looks like.

DHCC features close to 160 clinical partners across more than 150 specialties – including hospitals, outpatient medical centres and diagnostic laboratories – hosting licensed medical professionals from almost 90 countries.

Describing itself as a ‘free zone’13, DHCC also benefits from special tax, customs and import rules that links state-of-the-art medical facilities with cutting-edge academic work.

In addition, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment are two priority sub-sectors of the Dubai Industrial Strategy 203014, which aims to elevate the city as a global platform for knowledge-based, sustainable and innovation-focused businesses.

Alongside this, the DHA continues the rollout out of its current 12-year master plan, which includes the addition of 40 primary healthcare centres and three new hospitals.

For Dubai nationals and expats, the rise of medical tourism brings many advantages in terms of access to better healthcare services. Following such a huge investment in the sector, Dubai’s residents are perfectly placed to access world-class medical facilities and treatments and improve their general health and wellbeing.

Discover more about staying healthy in Dubai

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

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Get to know Dubai’s healthcare system

Understanding how to access quality healthcare is an important factor when relocating abroad. For anyone considering Dubai, the good news is that the city not only offers a high standard of medical care in state-of-the art facilities, but that improving residents’ health and wellbeing is also a government priority1

In order to ensure that you and your family have access to Dubai’s healthcare, it’s important to familiarise yourself with some of the specific rules and regulations that apply.

Accessing Dubai’s healthcare system

Since Dubai’s Health Authority (DHA) implemented its new healthcare insurance scheme, expats can choose between a wide network of private hospitals and treatment centres. Dubai’s public hospitals are also now starting to accept private health insurance patients for medical treatment, a service that was previously only available to nationals or those holding a DHA health card.

Expats wanting to use public hospitals should apply for a health card2 from the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS). Even if you have health insurance, the annual DHA health card is still worth applying for, as it entitles all residents to low-cost in-patient and outpatient medical and emergency treatment at public hospitals and clinics. The annual cost for an expat ranges from AED120 (US$33) to AED320 (US$87) depending on age.

For primary care, it is not necessary to register to see one of the many GPs located in medical centres, which are often based within hospitals and clinics. While you can visit different doctors, it’s a good idea to stick with the same GP so that they become familiar with your medical history.

It’s also advisable to bring copies of your medical history from home. In terms of specialist treatment, referrals from a GP are not generally required, but are increasingly encouraged to ensure you receive the correct treatment and that you don’t invalidate your health insurance cover.

You can search and make a GP appointment online3. Alternatively, the Dubai Healthcare City4 portal offers a GP and specialist search service. The DHA’s website also allows you to search for doctors and dentists5 by nationality, although English is widely spoken.

Vital Emergency Numbers in Dubai
  • Police – 999
  • Fire Department – 997
  • Ambulance – 999
  • Electricity – 991
  • Water – 991

Should you need a doctor or paramedic for a home emergency, the Government of Dubai recommends calling 800-DOCTOR (800-362867), which is run by a private company.

Click here for hospital contact information6.

Be aware of restrictions

In terms of access to medication, pharmacies are readily available and open 24 hours a day in many hospitals. However, while there are certain items, such as antibiotics, that you can get without a prescription, be aware that certain medications available over the counter at home may require a prescription in Dubai. Additionally, certain drugs – including tranquilisers, anti-depressants and some sleeping tablets – are banned. A list of unauthorised medicines7 is listed on the government website.

This can be confusing for expats, but important to consider when entering the country if you are currently receiving treatment or normally travel with medication. However, the UAE Ministry of Health says it is possible for visitors to bring up to three months’ supply of a prescribed medication into the country (download guidelines for travellers pdf here8) – or 12 months’ supply for a resident – on production of a doctor’s letter or a copy of the original prescription.

Health insurance in Dubai

A key change in recent years is the legal requirement for companies to provide a minimum level of health insurance for all employees. Introduced in 2014 by the DHA, which oversees both public and private healthcare, the change is part of the Dubai Health Strategy (DHS) 2021 which aims to provide sustainable healthcare to all residents.

The requirement was rolled out in stages, with a deadline to have mandatory health insurance in place by 31 March 2017 for anyone who works and resides in Dubai, including any dependents and domestic staff.

The cost of providing mandatory health insurance cover for anyone who works in Dubai is the responsibility of employers. But, while companies will be encouraged to cover dependants, they will not be obliged to do so. Ultimately, it may therefore be your responsibility to arrange health insurance cover for any family dependants, which includes your employees, such as domestic staff, maids or nannies.

You will need to have the minimum level of health insurance in place to apply for work or residency visas. And those who do not renew insurance for employees or dependants every year will be fined AED500 per person per month.

Basic cover is available for residents earning less than AED4,000 (US $1,000) per month through an Essential Benefits Plan (EBP) that provides treatment and emergency care up to an annual limit of AED150,000 (US $40,000). Screening and treatment for breast, colorectal and cervical cancer will be covered beyond this limit. However, individual limits and excesses on other treatments will apply.

Employment benefits

Employers can, of course, choose to provide enhanced health insurance cover that gives benefits in excess of the minimum legal requirements. Many expatriates working throughout UAE will often enjoy more comprehensive health insurance cover as part of their overall employment benefits package, which can also extend to immediate family.

Expats will want to ensure that any health insurance they have in place, either through their employer or arranged independently, is realistic in terms of the level of cover and benefits provided. You should also be aware that it’s mandatory for all married women in Dubai to have maternity cover as part of their insurance plan.

Healthcare in Dubai

A good standard of healthcare, in a city where health and wellbeing are increasingly important, is a big plus for anyone moving to Dubai. When it comes to healthcare, it’s vital not to leave anything to chance.

A good understanding of Dubai’s healthcare system, its restrictions and how to access it, are crucial when it comes to taking care of your health and that of your family.

When you know that you and your family can access the care you may need if problems arise, you can relax and make the most of your new life in this beautiful city.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

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Dubai – the future business capital of the world?

In recent years, Dubai has emerged as a leading global hub for financial services, logistics, hospitality and trade, making it a popular destination for people to work, live and invest.

A continued commitment to diversify the city’s economy, set out in its Dubai Plan 20211, aims to further improve business opportunities and move Dubai to a sustainable economic model driven by innovation and supported by a business-friendly environment.

Expo 2020 Dubai

Business tourism is one sector that is becoming increasingly important for the city’s economic success. A major event planned for 2020 is a six-month-long exhibition of trade, innovation and products from around the world. Expo 2020 Dubai2, is expected to attract 25 million visitors to the city, with 70% of visitors coming from outside the UAE. The event, described as “a festival of human ingenuity”, aims to “provide a platform to foster creativity, innovation and collaboration globally”.

In line with Expo 2020’s visionary themes of “opportunity, mobility and sustainability”, investments of AED 10.8bn construction and AED 411m non-construction contracts have already been awarded to provide major infrastructure projects for the event, such as air and road improvements. These will benefit the economy long term, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth expected to rise from 1.3% growth in 2017 to 3.4% growth in 20183, according to the International Monetary Fund.

A history of embracing change

“Human ingenuity” has always been key to Dubai’s success. From its origins as a fishing and pearling village, to the financial and business hub it is today, Dubai has consistently recognised that embracing exciting new developments and opportunities is essential in creating a strong dynamic centre. Projects like the building of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, to the world’s biggest indoor theme park,IMG Worlds of Adventure, and the city’s man-made Palm Island archipelagos, are all excellent examples of human ingenuity.

Dubai – a history

3000 BC

The first human settlement in Dubai

1833

Dubai’s natural harbour is established as an independent settlement, becoming the principal port on the Persian coast and a centre for fishing, pearling and trade

1930

Dubai becomes a successful port, with a population of nearly 20,000, and is already popular with expats

1950

The waterway is dredged, increasing the amount of ships able to use the port

1966

Oil is discovered in the Dubai region, with revenue from oil exports is used to finance major investment in transport links and establish schools, hospitals and telecommunications networks

1971

Dubai, along with Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujayrah, Sharjah and Umm al Quwain gain independence from Great Britain and form the United Arab Emirates. Dubai International Airport officially opens

1979

World’s largest man-made port, Jebel Ali, and Dubai World Trade Centre open

1980

Dubai begins its strategic investment in tourism and sets up a Free-Trade zone offering tax concessions and custom duty benefits to expat investors

1999

The world’s only seven-star hotel, Burj Al-Arab opens

2003

Projects to build the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, and 200 man made islands, known as Palm Island, begins

2017/18

Dubai becomes one of the world’s top five centres for trade, logistics, finance and tourism, and the Capital of Islamic Economy

2021

Implementation of the Dubai Plan

 

Camel walking on the dunes of the Sahara Desert at sunset in Merzouga - Morocco

 

A background of economic and political stability has provided the foundation for Dubai’s continued progress as a leading centre for trade, logistics, finance and tourism.  Its future is looking bright, as it moves away from the region’s dependency on oil to a more diverse economic make-up.

Oil production, which once accounted for 50% of Dubai’s GDP, contributes less than 1% to GDP today. Data compiled by Bloomberg shows the transformation of the economy accelerated as oil surged to a record $147 a barrel in 2008, but continued in the aftermath of the financial crisis when oil plummeted to a low of $26 in 2016.

Ambitions for 2021 and beyond

It’s this creation of a more sustainable economy that is at the heart of the Dubai Plan 2021. Driven by innovation and productivity gains in both capital and labour, and supported by its aim to become the “most business-friendly city in the world,” the plan promotes a diversified set of value-added economic activities that would make Dubai more resilient to internal and global economic changes.

Dubai 2021

Dubai Plan 2021’s ambitious strategy includes focusing investment and economic policy on a number of key areas:

  • Aerospace and Maritime industries in Dubai aim to support its longstanding competitiveness by localising manufacturing capabilities in relevant sub-industries like commercial airlines and the Port of Jebel Ali, respectively
  • Pharmaceuticals and medical equipment. Dubai offers opportunities to host some of the many international pharmaceutical companies looking to transfer parts of their plants and research centres abroad, to take advantage of international market expansions and ensure lower business costs
  • Consumer goods. Including developing Halal manufacturing as part of its Capital of Islamic Economy strategy
  • Increasing passenger traffic into Dubai International Airport
  • Boosting its position as a leading financial centre
  • Reducing CO2 emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy.

 

The latest economic outlook published by Dubai Economy, underlines the continued dominance of a diverse economy in the city over the coming years. It also plans to accelerate the transition towards a knowledge economy by allocating 8% of the total government spend to develop performance and establish a culture of excellence and innovation, particularly in cutting-edge technology such as nanotechnology and the Internet of Things.

As well as providing economic opportunities, technology is expected to increasingly impact the workplace with more flexible working patterns and collaboration.

There is also increasing support for startups such as, JustMop, a successful 2017 Dubai-based company that uses technology to provide on-demand cleaning services in the region, which, according to GulfNews4, is recording monthly growth rates of 20%.

A city of growth

These are exciting times for Dubai, and with investment and economic activity set to flourish in the coming years, the city’s place as a leading international business hub looks certain.

Dubai is bringing businesses closer to the world’s fastest-emerging markets, while developing a framework that will shift the traditional model of procurement to one that is based on collaboration.

With such exciting new developments and opportunities on the horizon, it’s no surprise that Dubai remains the number one choice for expats looking to work in the region.

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Top tips for good mental health as an expat

While it’s easy to picture the excitement of being somewhere new, the reality can be very different. As an expat, you might face problems that you may not have previously encountered, and which could affect your mental health.

Top tips for good mental health

In 2012, a ground-breaking study1 explored the levels of stress faced by expatriates. It found that expats were three times as likely to express or endorse feelings of being trapped or depressed. On a broader level, 50% of expats surveyed were found to be at a high risk of internalising problems, such as anxiety and depression.

“The tricky thing for expats is differentiating between the very normal process of cultural adjustment – which takes time and some patience, but which often resolves itself – versus difficulties adjusting that don’t seem to be getting better over time, or where suffering is taking a toll in other areas of life and so requires attention.”

Dana Nelson PH.D, American psychotherapist based in Lyon, France. She produces a series of podcasts for The Mindful Expat2, which seek to highlight the issues facing people who move overseas.

So, what are some of the challenges that you might face when moving to a new country?

Top of the list for many is being homesick – even if you are really looking forward to living abroad you may miss family, friends, or simply the everyday life that you were used to.

You may also experience the fear that everyone at home will quickly forget you.  Some choose not to share these fears with their usual confidants because they want them to think they’re new life is perfect and that they’ve made the right decision in moving.

It can be tough making new friends, especially if you have built up friendships over many years in your home country. Building friendships in a new country where the local language is not your native tongue can make it even harder to meet new people.

What can you do about it?

  • Seek a connection. Attending a language class or joining an activity group is a great way of learning to love something about a new country as well as making friends3 locally
  • Set some boundaries. Don’t compromise on quality time4 with your family or doing other things that are important to you
  • Remember to sleep and exercise. Physical activity5 and sleep6 have both been linked to mental wellbeing
  • Ask for advice. Join online communities and ask for advice well before you go, and find out about what issues you’re likely to encounter in your chosen destination. Expat Forum7, Expat Exchange8, The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide9 and Mumsnet10 are all great sources of information
  • Treat your mind like your body. Find out what help is available locally in case you ever have need of it and time is not readily available. Help can be sourced through the International Therapist Directory11
  • Don’t spend your life online. Keep up with friends and family at home as much as possible, but also try going out and making new friends locally
  • Recognise expat depression. Being able to act on negative feelings is an essential part of the expat’s toolkit. If you feel depressed and suspect that you may be suffering any mental health issue, seek help at the earliest opportunity
  • Manage your expectations. If you’ve experienced mental health issues in the past, make sure you have support in place before you go.

Expat mother-of-three Tavy says: “My advice would be to never underestimate what an upheaval expatriation is, especially with small children in tow. You need to prioritise self-care so that you can face the challenges that each day inevitably brings.”

Money can also be a worry when you move abroad, particularly early on when you will have to make a lot of payments on essential items and deposits. You may also have to wait for items such as furniture to be shipped from home, and incur extra expenses to source similar ‘comforts’ while you wait for your own to arrive.

Be self-aware

The unique, and often unexpected, pressures associated with living abroad can come as a shock, which could lead to mental health issues, stoked by feelings of isolation – which, in turn, can stem from a fear of confiding in other expats or loved ones back at home.

So, some good forward planning can go a long way to help mitigate some these challenges, with online forums like Expat Forum7, Expat Exchange8, The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide9 and Mumsnet10 helping to paint a realistic picture of what life will really be like.

Understanding depression and taking measures to guard against it will help ensure expats in their adopted country make the most of their time overseas.

Signs of depression:

  • Consistent feelings of being sad or down (or the absence of positive feelings) for most of the day, nearly every day, lasting at least a couple of weeks
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Sleep issues
  • Changes in energy levels
  • Unexplained changes in appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Loss of interest or inability to take pleasure in things previously enjoyed
  • Unexplained physical ailments
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Source: American Psychiatric Association12

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

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Moving to Dubai: a checklist

A sprawling desert city crowned with gleaming high-rises, the modern city of Dubai symbolises middle-eastern ambition. With its modern foundations built upon the dried-out riverbed of a tiny fishing village, Dubai is a hive of innovation, diversity and opportunity and, with its beautiful sandy coastline, is an attractive location for a global community of expats.

It is a city determined to improve itself and its attractiveness to business, residents and visitors. Examples of this commitment include projects such as Expo 2020 Dubai¹ and the 2021 Dubai Plan², which focuses on six key areas: people, society, experience, place, economy and government, to make Dubai the city the best it can be.

For expats currently planning a move to Dubai, or considering moving there in the future, we have compiled a checklist that provides a quick guide to what you need to know before you go.

Find out more about the future development of Dubai

Checklist Icons

What visas do I need before I move to Dubai?

Before moving to Dubai, you need to obtain a UAE residence visa to legally live in the city. A residence visa is valid for two years if you work in the private sector, and three years in the public sector, and you should be able to renew it indefinitely. Once you have your residence visa, you will then be able to open a bank account and obtain a driving licence, as well as sponsor the visa applications for your immediate family

As an expat, you should check that the company that employs you is willing to sponsor your UAE residence visa and your work permit. You must have a health check before application, which will include a blood test and chest X-ray

For your company to sponsor your application, you will need a passport valid for at least six months, recent colour photos, your medical test results and any additional proof of identity requested. If your company applies for you, you should receive your visa in two to three weeks. This may take slightly longer without employer sponsorship

Once you have received your residence visa, you will be able to sponsor, and apply for, visas on your family’s behalf. Once they arrive, they will need an entry residence visa (usually free on entry), and you then have 30 days to attain their residence passport stamp

In March 2016, laws regarding the visa application process changed, and you can now apply online, making the application process even easier. Visit amer.ae3, the UAE government portal4 or download the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs of Dubai’s GDRFA Dubai app5 to guide you through the application process

In terms of application fees, a refundable deposit of AED 5000 per person is required, plus around AED 360 for the visa itself and between AED 200-300 for medical tests.

More information on residence visas can be found here.6

Health Exam Icon

Health insurance in Dubai

As of 1 January 20177, new visas will not be issued or renewed for Dubai residents unless they have health insurance. So, you need to think about the kind of health insurance you require when you are organising your visa

By law, employers are now required to provide health insurance cover for their employees, so you may find that this has been arranged for you by your company before you arrive, along with your visa application and work permit

Check what level of health insurance your employer offers. They may only offer the basic level of cover – known as an Essential Benefits Plan3 – which covers up to AED150,000 (US$40,839) per person per annum. You may wish to arrange additional cover to provide additional benefits and higher limits

Currently, Dubai employers do not have to provide cover for dependants and spouses, so you may need to arrange this yourself8. It is worth checking policies that offer a family health insurance plan, as this may end up as a better option if your family is travelling with you.

Find out more about health services in Dubai9

Villa Apartment Icon

Accommodation options in Dubai

Some companies will provide long term accommodation for you as part of your international transfer, while others may only offer a tenancy for a few months, or alternatively a living allowance.

While living costs in Dubai10 are reasonable compared with other major cities, accommodation prices in the city centre are increasing and are approaching London prices. So, while lunch for two will cost around AED 150 (US$40) and a monthly transport pass will cost AED 250 (US$68), a one-bedroom flat in the city centre will cost around AED 7,324 (US$1,994) a month.

  • Choose your location based on proximity to your job, or schools if you have children, as traffic congestion is a common problem. It is also worth noting that the accommodation in Dubai city centre and popular areas can be very expensive, which may limit your options
  • While expats can be found in all areas of the city, Dubai Marina is seen by many as the best place to live as an expat, and Jumeirah or Umm Suqeim are well-suited to families. You may want to do some initial research into the different areas of Dubai11 before you move
  • Additionally, it is worth noting that ‘traditionally’ accommodation is paid for up-front in one annual payment – which can come as a shock. Thankfully, landlords are becoming more flexible with different payment options
  • Make sure you are aware of all fees and maintenance charges upfront, and factor-in additional utilities costs, as well as registering your tenancy online12 to make use of your full tenant’s rights.

TOP TIP: Always ask your landlord whether the water from the taps in your accommodation is filtered or if you should buy bottled water

 

Academic Icon

What is the international school system in Dubai?

  • There are many private international schools in Dubai. Some schools follow the British education system, and teach the National Curriculum of England. Other schools follow the US, Indian or UAE public school syllabus, or the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. There is also a local syllabus requirement in Dubai international schools, so your children will also have the opportunity to study Arabic and Islamic studies or UAE social studies
  • The Knowledge and Human Development Authority13 (KHDA) offers general guidance on choosing schools and applications. For example, it warns that schools, particularly primary schools, often have long waiting lists, so you should apply as soon as possible, and you may be able to apply online before leaving your home country
  • Which School Advisor14 publishes the KHDA’s school rankings table15 each year, which is a useful resource to help you identify the school that will best suit your children and their needs
  • During the application process, you will be asked for a copy of your child’s and parents’ passports and residence visas, a copy of the child’s birth certificate if their passport does not give the exact date of birth, eight passport-sized photographs, immunisation records, and attested certificates and/or transfer certificate. Each school will have its own application process, so you should check the school’s website for details. Source: Government of Dubai16

The KHDA’s online school directory17 is also a source of inspection reports, programmes and curricula for each school.

TOP TIP: For Indian, Pakistani and Japanese curriculum schools, the academic year is from April to March. For all other curricula, it begins in September and ends in June or July

 

Group chat icons

What kind of expat communities are there in Dubai?

Dubai is home to a great number of expats, and over the years, many expat clubs and communities have sprung up all over the city:

Meet like-minded professionals through business groups – such as the International Business Women’s Group18, which holds regular networking lunches and workshops

Connect with people from your home country, with nation-specific groups and clubs from a host of countries, including Australia and New Zealand19, Turkey20 and India21. Dubai’s only Thai restaurant, Café Isan22, draws many Thai expats to experience a taste from home, as well as celebrating Thai holidays with the wider Thai expat community

Join a sports community, such as the 5,000-strong group of cyclists, Dubai Roadsters23

For mothers, Expat Woman24 holds regular meet-ups as well as hosting an active forum25

You can often find communities using social media, via Facebook – see the Expats Club26

Download an expat app, such as InterNations27, which can help you meet like-minded internationals in the city

Apps such as Downtown Dubai28 or The Dubai Mall29 show you where to find the highlights of Dubai’s shopping and nightlife culture, while the Time Out Dubai30 app will make sure you don’t miss the best restaurants, music and events in the city.

We hope this checklist arms you with the basic information and resources for your move. To find out more get in touch with other expats and ask them about their experiences. The other articles in this guide are also a good place to start and may help you prepare for your new life in Dubai.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

Find out more about life in Dubai.

Sources
  1. https://www.expo2020dubai.com/
  2. https://www.dubaiplan2021.ae/dubai-plan-2021/
  3. https://amer.ae/application
  4. https://echannels.moi.gov.ae/echannels/web/client/default.html#/login
  5. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.gdrfa.GDRFA&hl=en
  6. https://www.government.ae/en/information-and-services/visa-and-emirates-id/visa-provisions
  7. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/dubai/no-dubai-visa-without-insurance-warns-official
  8. https://www.thenational.ae/business/money/how-to-pick-the-right-health-insurance-for-your-dependants-in-the-uae-1.613342
  9. https://www.dha.gov.ae/en/pages/dhahome.aspx
  10. https://transferwise.com/gb/blog/cost-of-living-in-dubai
  11. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/guide/discover-dubai/how-to-decide-where-to-live-in-dubai
  12. http://www.ejari.ae/
  13. https://www.khda.gov.ae/en/Website
  14. https://whichschooladvisor.com/
  15. https://whichschooladvisor.com/uae/guides/khda-dubai-2017-school-rankings-table-complete
  16. http://www.dubai.ae/en/Lists/HowToGuide/DispForm.aspx?ID=39
  17. https://www.khda.gov.ae/en/directory
  18. http://www.ibwgdubai.com/
  19. http://www.anzauae.org/
  20. https://www.facebook.com/BilgiDubai
  21. https://www.facebook.com/indiaclubdubai
  22. https://www.facebook.com/cafeisan/events/?ref=page_internal
  23. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dubai-Roadsters/103748826325488
  24. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/things-to-do/events
  25. https://www.expatwoman.com/dubai/forum/dubai-northern-emirates
  26. https://en-gb.facebook.com/theexpatsclub/
  27. https://itunes.apple.com/app/internations/id1059342646?mt=8
  28. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/downtown-dubai/id431045353?mt=8
  29. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/the-dubai-mall/id430795858?mt=8
  30. https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/time-out-dubai/id375636978?mt=8

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Managing a long-term condition

Having a chronic condition shouldn’t stand in your way of pursuing a life overseas. But what research should you do before you leave and what questions need to be asked?

With an estimated five million Britons now living or working abroad, it’s becoming increasingly likely that people will need to explore their options for long-term therapy at some point.

Used to describe a range of conditions that can be classified as ‘chronic’ –such as diabetes, high blood pressure, renal failure, depression or back pain, long-term therapy represents any ongoing treatments that naturally fall outside your health insurance plan.

While comprehensive policies offer varying levels of cover that encompass a certain number of sessions, period of time or cost for specific conditions, insurance is essentially designed for curative treatment – offering immediate support in the event of an acute illness or accident.

Surgery

Can I still more overseas?

That doesn’t mean that having a chronic condition should preclude any ambition to live abroad – far from it. However, the awareness of any issue will call for some detailed research in advance to ensure that there is an adequate support structure ready and waiting.

Likewise, it doesn’t automatically follow that developing a chronic condition will necessitate an early return – with excellent local facilities, treatments and available medication often available at reasonable prices.

What questions should I ask?

In the first instance, any pre-existing conditions should be discussed in-depth with a GP. The next step is to understand exactly what’s available to you once you make the move.

If you are travelling with a pre-existing condition or would just like to build an accurate picture of health facilities in your chosen destination, key questions to ask include:

  • Is your chronic condition routinely catered for?
  • Does any one facility specialise in your condition?
  • If so, what are the facilities like?
  • How do the standards of care differ between facilities?
  • Is it possible to get good standards of care at a reasonable cost?
  • Is your prescribed medication available in this country?
  • If so, what will your annual costs be for treatment/medication?
  • How will these costs compare if you source your prescription via a hospital pharmacy or private doctor?
  • How do these payments work?
  • Are they part- or fully-funded by any state contributions you make – and if so, when would you become eligible?
  • How do waiting times vary if you pursue state-funded treatment?
  • Where do the locals/expats typically go for treatments? (for example, it’s common for Hong Kong residents to visit Thailand for therapies)
  • What advice/support is your employer willing to offer?
  • If required, what support structure would be available for your family?

 

Having a good grasp of cultural/religious differences is also vital to ensuring you get the care you want in your adopted country. For example, mental illness is rarely talked about in the Far East, so finding a clinic that specialises in depression could prove difficult.

Hospital

Seek local advice

Expats and locals are a rich source of information, offering newcomers crucial recommendations and reviews. Additional web searches will help you poll further opinions and focus on your own condition.

Be sure to ask:

  • For other expats’ experiences of local healthcare facilities and doctors
  • What pitfalls you need to be aware of – for example, the best way to cut down on waiting times/or access the best care

Expert view

Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer with William Russell

“Continuing advances in medicine mean that there’s a lot more doctors can do these days for people with chronic conditions. This effectively means that people heading abroad have far more options when it comes to where they choose to live. Expat hubs such as Dubai, Bangkok and Hong Kong all offer excellent facilities and expertise at reasonable cost, so for patients looking for long-term therapies, sourcing the right care will come down to researching your own needs and finding the best evidence-based treatment.”

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How does physical activity affect your health?

How important is it to stay active as we age and what kind of activity brings the most benefits?

For an expat with a busy schedule, finding the time to exercise can be challenging.

However, there is an infinite wealth of evidence to show that finding that time is vital, especially for the over 50s.

As we all know, exercise is good for the body and the mind. But, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach and there are lots of factors that should influence a person’s approach.

What are the benefits of physical activity?

There is the obvious benefit of helping control weight, which becomes more difficult as you get older due to your metabolism slowing down.

A few hours of moderate-intensity physical exercise each week also lowers the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and colon cancer.

The US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that the risk of endometrial and lung cancer is lower in people who exercise regularly than in those who don’t.

This is backed up by the results of a long-term study by University of Minnesota researchers. They gave questionnaires to 36,929 cancer-free women from Iowa, and then followed them for 16 years. They found that the women with high exercise levels were less likely to develop lung cancer than those with low exercise levels.

The Australian study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that aerobic exercises, resistance training and less-strenuous forms of exercise such as T’ai Chi, a traditional Chinese martial art, all had positive effects on different parts of the brain’s functions ranging from the ability to organise and plan, to reading and reasoning.

The authors of that study examined 36 wide-ranging studies and found that exercising moderately for around an hour on as many days as possible improved memory and thinking skills of those aged over 50.

Pilates

How long should I exercise for?

Britain’s National Health Service recommends different sorts of exercise for different ages. It says children under the age of five should be physically active for at least 3 hours a day; this includes walking, playing outside, chasing balls, playing in water or riding a bicycle.

However, healthy adults should do a minimum 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week as well as strength exercises that focus on the major muscles such as in the leg and back.

According to the CDC, those who do seven hours of exercise a week have 40% less chance of an early death than those who do just half an hour a week.

What are moderate and intensive forms of exercise?

Moderate aerobic activity includes things such as fast walking and mowing the lawn; so this kind of activity can easily be incorporated into a normal day.

Your heart rate needs to be raised to have an affect on your health so shopping and slow walking unfortunately won’t count. Vigorous or intensive activities are running, hiking, swimming or playing sports such as tennis.

Do some activities bring particular benefits to over 50s?

Low impact aerobic exercise and bone-strengthening activities can slow down the natural decline in bone density which occurs as a person ages.

This reduces the risk of chronic conditions such as osteoporosis and arthritis, according to the CDC. The organisation says that doing just two hours of moderate exercise a week lowers the risk of hip fracture and improves the quality of life for people living with arthritis.

For the over 50s, these lower weight-bearing and impact options help to reduce the risk of bone injuries or breakages, which is often higher in the older generation.

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Antibiotics resistance: what you need to know

Many countries have strict rules governing the use of antibiotics. In the UK, Europe and US, they will only be prescribed if a doctor is confident the cause of an illness is bacterial and not caused by a virus or other pathogen. However, not all countries are so vigilant.

A 2016 study published by the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand revealed that antibiotics in Thailand are “widely available and inappropriately sold and given by grocery stores and retails shops”.

The inevitable affect, the researchers note, is that antibiotic-resistant bacteria are commonly and freely circulating through the population, meaning some illnesses are no longer treatable.

The situation is similar in the UAE, where prescription-required medicines are routinely sold without an accompanying prescription.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) takes this issue very seriously: “Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse.”

It warns that without urgent action, the world is heading for a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

The more antibiotics that are prescribed inappropriately, says Dr Jace Clarke, Chief Medical Officer at William Russell, the more likely resistance is to develop.

What causes antibiotic resistance?

A common misconception is that it’s the individual who becomes resistant to antibiotics. In fact, it’s the bacteria that adapts and develops resistance, rendering certain antibiotics entirely useless.

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics is the biggest cause of antibiotic resistance and the rise of the so-called superbug (illnesses that no longer respond to treatment and are now potentially deadly).

Superbugs emerge when bacteria have not been properly treated with antibiotics and have learnt to become resistant; certain strains of tuberculosis and pneumonia have already developed resistance so can’t be treated easily, if at all.

The WHO calls antibiotic resistance “one of the biggest threats to global health, food security and development today.”

Doctor and Child

What do antibiotics treat?

Antibiotics should only be used to treat illnesses caused by susceptible infections, for example bacterial tonsillitis, urinary tract infections, respiratory tract infections, whooping cough and skin infections. Different types of antibiotics target specific bacteria.

For example, Amoxicillin (a sort of Penicillin) is often prescribed to treat ear infections, while Trimethoprim is commonly given to treat urinary tract infections caused by E.coli.

Dr Clarke stresses there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to antibiotics. “Some bacterial infections can be self-limiting in fit, healthy people” he says, “for example Salmonella, a common cause of food poisoning.” A doctor would therefore “establish sensitivity of the bacteria and allocate an appropriate antibiotic”.

Antibiotics are completely useless against viruses. A huge number of everyday illnesses are caused by viruses and therefore don’t need antibiotics. If you’re suffering with a cold at the change of season, chances are antibiotics won’t help.

 

pills

 

What to do if you think you need antibiotics

Even if you think your self-diagnosis is accurate, and as tempting as it might be to buy the tablets over the counter, you could do more harm than good. Antibiotics could interfere with other medicines you might be taking, or even damage your organs.

Dr Diab Maaruf Kurdi, head of pharmacy at Burjeel Hospital in the UAE, says: “It’s important that medication is not purchased without the doctor’s consultation, because the doctor will take into consideration your overall medical condition. Furthermore, the medication that you purchase may not be right for your condition and could cause further health complications.”

Dr Clarke also warns that a non-bacterial illness that goes undiagnosed, such as malaria, could get worse without formal identification and appropriate treatment from a doctor.

 

How to take antibiotics responsibly

Being prescribed a course of antibiotics by a medical professional is the first step, but there’s more that needs considering in order for the antibiotics to work effectively.

You must follow the instructions and finish the course even if you’re feeling better. It’s also important to note whether the medicine should be taken before or after food, or with water. Never share antibiotics and do not accept them if a pharmacist offers them without a prescription.

For all your global health insurance questions, go to the William Russell website, or call our dedicated team on +44 (0) 1276 486455.

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Dubai culture and lifestyle: what to expect

Modern Dubai is a multicultural and diverse city, that has developed rapidly since its origins as a fishing and trading port in the early 1900s.

By the 1930s, Dubai’s popularity was growing, with immigrants making up around one-quarter of the population. The city’s growth really took off when oil was discovered in the 1960s.

Over the past 50 years, Dubai has undergone unprecedented change, and large amounts of money have been invested into infrastructure and development. The city is now working towards achieving its 2021 Dubai Plan1, which focuses on six key areas: its people, society, experience, place, economy and government – to make Dubai the best city it can be.

Dubai’s cultural melting pot

Today’s Dubai is a fusion of more than 200 nationalities – with Emiratis making up only around 10% of the population of 9.5 million. Individuals pay no income, property or capital gains tax, which makes it an attractive financial proposition for many expats.

Dubai’s subtropical climate makes for great weather, but for many newly arrived expats, the summer can be a real shock. The hottest months are between June and September, when temperatures average 45C. A cooler 24-25C is usual in January and February.

British expatriate Jennifer Bell, 32, says: “When I arrived here, I was surprised by how open the country was. It felt like a home away from home. When it comes to socialising, such as experiencing the local nightlife, there is little difference to Europe.

“It’s an extremely safe place, with a zero-tolerance approach to bad behaviour and crime. As long as you stay respectful to the city and its modern, Middle Eastern traditions, this is one of the best places to live.”

Discover Dubai’s culture

Canadian Anna Stevens, 34, has lived in the UAE on and off for more than 20 years. She says: “The culture today has a deep respect for religion, time with family, and intangible heritage like poetry, storytelling and falconry; it can be tricky to navigate on your own. At the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding2 in Dubai you can learn about local customs at special events. Modest dress and a few words in Arabic open a lot of doors and make it easier for others to approach you.”

Newcomers should be considerate of the country’s traditions. Avoid wearing revealing clothes in public and any public displays of affection. It’s particularly important to be respectful on national and religious holidays such as Eid, Commemoration Day and Ramadan; this includes dressing modestly and being mindful of your behaviour.

Convenience and practical issues

British expatriate James Langton, 55, says: “As a Western expat, everything seems to exist for your convenience, from fast food deliveries to someone packing your groceries at the supermarket, and even pumping petrol.

“However, if you have legal problems – consumer rights issues or tenancy disputes – there may seem to be very little redress.”

The court system operates in Arabic, which sometimes makes it difficult for expatriates to navigate. Understanding the laws – most of which are in Arabic – and finding a good lawyer and/or translator is essential for those involved in a court case.

James also suggests that expats making the move to Dubai sit down and work out what their living costs are likely to be in relation to their salary: “It’s easy to spend all your earnings. The country has become more expensive recently, and lots of companies have cut back heavily on things like housing and education allowances.”

A fit and healthy lifestyle

There’s a growing emphasis on health and fitness in Dubai, and it is a great place to get and stay fit. Most apartment blocks and compounds popular with expatriates have gyms and swimming pools exclusively for residents. One of the goals of ‘Dubai 2021’ is to offer a “diverse set of cultural and recreational options” including beaches, green spaces, and sporting facilities.

Working Week

The working week in Dubai runs from Sunday to Thursday, so Friday is the first day of your weekend – though some professions, such as banking or trading, adjust this to align with international markets.

A welcoming culture

As its population grows, along with its aim to improve the health and wellbeing of its residents, Dubai is seen as the top city in which to live in the Middle East3 and North Africa. Expats need to be aware of Dubai’s cultural and religious norms – and an increasing cost of living – but they will be rewarded with a diverse and welcoming place to live and work.

 

Discover more about staying healthy in Dubai

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

 

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Is it possible to have a healthy diet in Dubai?

Food has become a hot topic across the UAE in recent years, although not always for the right reasons. The country’s love of fast food and rich ingredients has led to a sharp rise in obesity and associated illnesses. Today, things are changing, with healthy eating fast becoming a growing trend.

It’s fair to say that both expats and Emiratis love eating out, with an estimated 7,000 – 8,000 restaurants1 open for business in Dubai alone. However, the country has become associated with a more sedentary lifestyle; long office hours spent at a desk and time spent indoors, combined with the hot climate also creating barriers to exercise, have led to increasing levels of Type 2 diabetes2 and heart disease3.

Percentage iconAccording to the Global Burden of Disease Study 20134, more than 66% of men and 60% of women in the UAE are now overweight or obese, with a recent UAE University study5 reportedly estimating the same figures applied to around 40% of children.

94% of Emiratis and expats say they like to try new cuisines and restaurants.5

What are the local eating habits in Dubai?

Thanks to its vast expat population, Dubai boasts an array of dishes from around the globe.

Cusines

Many Emiratis and expats eat out at least once a week, according to the KPMG 2017 UAE Food & Beverage Report, with brunch a hugely popular pastime on Fridays (the first day of the weekend). Something of a Dubai tradition, it is enjoyed by residents and tourists alike

Quick service and casual dining restaurants are both popular and economical ways to eat out, with burgers and shawarma wraps hugely popular and fine dining is generally viewed as an occasional treat

Eat out percentages

23% order takeaway more than 8 times a month
(Source: Survey respondents in the KPMG 2017 UAE Food & Beverage Report)

 

Due to the extensive number of international dishes available at any time of day, takeaways and restaurant visits are a real temptation

The average amount of overtime worked in Dubai is five hours according to UBS Prices and Earnings 2015. This means that many people are working the maximum 48-hours a week allowed – or even longer – making a lack of time and convenience primary reasons for eating out or ordering in

Due to the higher costs associated with importing certain items, grocery shopping can be expensive – leading many single residents and couples to grab fast food options or visit low-cost eateries

Scorching summer temperatures can easily reach 50oC,6 causing residents to spend more time indoors – combined with reduced levels of exercise increases the likelihood of snacking

A new 5% VAT charge7 now applies to many products, and could increase day-to-day costs. All food will be subject to this levy, which is part of a move by the Gulf Cooperation Council to strengthen the region’s economic position in the wake of a period of lower oil prices.

Is eating out bad for your health?

Restaurant or fast food meals are typically high in salt, sugar, carbs or fat

A growing trend towards healthy food8 in Dubai means more eateries are catering for guests looking to discover new ingredients and fresh takes on traditional cuisines

Dubai’s governing authority is taking steps to promote greater transparency with a dedicated Food Watch9 app and digital platform, which enables residents to track their food from ‘farm to fork’ and check the nutritional information of around 20,000 eateries, as well as school cafeterias

Diners will soon be able to check the nutritional claims of restaurant meals, using a new Healthy Food10 logo.

What are the best ways to have a healthy diet in Dubai?

The World Health Organisation11 suggests limiting your daily intake of fat to no more than 30% of your daily food intake, and substituting saturated fats (such as ghee or coconut oil) with non-saturated oils (such as olive or sunflower varieties)

Aim for a balance in your daily intake by eating the right proportions of a variety of foods

Explore healthier options. For example, Emirati cuisine is influenced by Arabic, Iranian and Lebanese cuisine that includes plenty of grilled meats, one-pot stews, pulses and salads

Avoid fried foods and creamy sauces, and view desserts such as Luqaimat (sweet fried dough balls) and Knafeh (sweetened cheese) as very occasional treats.

35% Fruit

35% of 1,000 UAE residents surveyed12 say they now regularly incorporate fresh fruit and vegetables in their meals.

Finding healthy food in Dubai is easy, and there are plenty of nutrition-led delivery options such as Eat Clean Me13 or Fruitful Day14 around to facilitate better habits

While the vast array of cuisine in Dubai can challenge everyone’s good intentions, the city is taking steps to reverse the trend towards obesity.

There is a growing awareness that the more sedentary lifestyle associated with residing in the city has negative health effects. A love of dining out and takeaways, the hot climate and typically long working hours may remain a constant, but the Dubai menu is now laden with nutritionally-focused cuisine that matches its residents’ good intentions.

This is underpinned by moves from the government to encourage a much more open approach to food – with an increasing number of restaurants enabling people to make more informed decisions about what they eat.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

Read about how healthcare works in Dubai.

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How to stay healthy in Dubai

Dubai offers fantastic opportunities to enjoy a high-end lifestyle that many people can only dream of, but it also has its own unique set of challenges that call for greater levels of awareness about health and wellbeing.

A variety of factors such as the hot climate makes it difficult to exercise, a prevalent smoking culture, the dining out and takeaway culture, and long working hours, have led to rocketing levels of ‘lifestyle diseases’ such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Percentage icon

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO)1, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for one-third of all deaths in the UAE each year, with fatalities from diabetes also on the rise. Around 20% of adults now live with diabetes. On 1 October 2017, the UAE imposed significant increases2 on the cost of sugary drinks and tobacco in an effort to encourage consumers to cut down on unhealthy products. The cost of carbonated drinks increased by 50%, while energy drinks and tobacco rose by 100%.

Things are changing, however, with ‘wellness’ rapidly becoming the buzzword in the city. Dubai’s commitment to helping its residents to better health is clear, with bespoke spaces for different forms of exercise starting to spring up around the city.

Last October, local authorities launched the Dubai Fitness Challenge3, designed to encourage residents to factor-in 30 minutes of exercise a day. This initiative aims to encourage better year-round habits and attracted 12,000 people on the first day alone.

 

How does the Dubai lifestyle affect wellness?

Between avoiding the scorching heat and working long hours, many struggle to find the time or motivation to exercise

A dining out and takeaway culture is well established in Dubai, with portion sizes at odds with the more sedentary lifestyle. This shared love of eating among both Emiratis and expats has been linked to elevated levels of Type 2 diabetes4, heart disease5, obesity and even spine problems6 in the region

Due to the extreme temperatures, taking taxis or driving cars instead of walking is common – even for short distances

Tobacco remains popular in the UAE, with an estimated quarter of adult males classified as cigarette smokers7, while other forms of smoking such as the Shisha, or water pipe, are also common

With people looking to dodge the sun during the summer months – due to its sheer intensity or a fear of developing skin cancer – vitamin D levels can easily become deficient in Dubai. Left unchecked, this can weaken the bones and lead to osteoporosis, and rickets in children.

Percentage icon

One session with a traditional Shisha, or water pipe, can equate to ingesting the tobacco from 100 cigarettes or more, according to the WHO8.  More than 66% of men and 60% of women in the UAE9 are now classified as overweight or obese, with 40% of children10 also in this category.

Sun Vitamin D iconWhile the exact levels of vitamin D required by the body is a source of debate, experts typically set a target of 10 microgrammes of vitamin D per day11 for anyone over the age of four. It is recommended that vitamin D supplements12 are taken by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, as well as vulnerable groups, such as the elderly.

 

How can the local environment in Dubai affect your health?

Flanked by the Persian Gulf on one side and vast deserts on the other, Dubai is a city of extremes – with heat, humidity and dust common causes of health issues for residents.

The city’s infamous dust devils – swirling updrafts of dust13 – are frequent, and release micro-particles that can pose a particular problem for those with allergies or pulmonary issues

Though rare, the city’s high humidity levels can sometimes cause monsoon-like rain – 100.4mm of rainfall14 was recorded in southern parts of the UAE in August 2013

During the intense summer months, when temperatures can exceed 50OC, heatstroke15 is a real danger – with children and the elderly16 particularly at risk. However, official legislation, introducing a mandatory break for outdoor workers17 during peak hours from July to September, is helping to raise awareness

MERS18 (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is a form of coronavirus native to the Arabian Peninsula. It typically causes fever, cough and shortness of breath and can be fatal, and treatment should be sought. MERS is spread through contact with sick animals or people.

Heat exhaustion19 is characterised by thirst, fatigue, headache and twitching. If left unchecked, it can lead to heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition.

Tap Icon

Not all tap water in Dubai is drinkable, and residents may worry about bacteria in the water. Water tanks should be cleaned regularly, and installing a water filter on your household tap may remove impurities and enhance the flavour.

 

Top tips for health and wellbeing in Dubai:

  1. Take advantage of the parks and other bespoke areas that are now springing up across the city. Many public beaches in Dubai now boast soft, sponge-like surface tracks that are great for running. Residents are also able to make use of the desert setting at the famous 86km-long Al Qudra20 cycle track
  2. Avoid peak heat. Due to the heat and working culture, exercise classes are often held at sunrise and sunset, including pool-based21 activities, such as Aqua Zumba
  3. Offset any lack of direct sunlight by eating oily fish or other fortified foods containing vitamin D22
  4. Maintain a healthy diet and monitor your fluid intake (including salt levels) during the hottest months of July and August.

Appropriate clothing

In public spaces, UAE dress codes apply. To respect Dubai’s culture, men and women should keep their shoulders covered and ensure clothing extends below the knee.

With a culture that can mean longer working hours, eating out and a naturally more sedentary lifestyle, expats moving to Dubai can easily fall into a cycle of poor nutrition and lack of exercise. However, increasing moves by governments across the UAE to reduce associated illnesses – such as obesity, diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease and various cancers – are raising awareness of the problem.

Better nutritional information about local dishes and restaurants, and an increasing emphasis on the importance of exercise – with dedicated, and free spaces springing up across the city – should see a major change in the Dubai lifestyle over the coming years. As the culture changes, residents will be able to combine this unique sand-and-sea setting with their personal wellness plans.

 

Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is designed as a guide and reference point to what you might expect in Dubai. Please be sure to check any information with local Dubai authorities to ensure information is valid and timely.

How healthy are Dubai diets? Find out more.

 

Sources
  1. http://www.who.int/features/2017/uae-beating-ncds/en/
  2. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/business/economy/this-is-how-much-soft-drinks-cigarettes-will-cost-from-sunday
  3. https://dubaifitnesschallenge.com/
  4. http://www.icldc.ae/about-us/p/UAE-Diabetes-Trends-And-Numbers
  5. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/health/heart-disease-is-still-the-no-1-killer-1.192685
  6. http://gulfnews.com/xpress/news/sedentary-lifestyle-triggering-spine-problems-in-uae-1.1873100
  7. http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/early/2014/10/23/tobaccocontrol-2013-051530?utm_source=TrendMD&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=TC_TrendMD-0#ref-13
  8. http://www.who.int/tobacco/global_interaction/tobreg/Waterpipe%20recommendation_Final.pdf
  9. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/the-unhealthy-lifestyle-choices-that-are-plaguing-our-population-1.211383
  10. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/the-unhealthy-lifestyle-choices-that-are-plaguing-our-population-1.211383
  11. http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/skin-cancer/vitamin-d
  12. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/vitamins-minerals-supplements-pregnant/
  13. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/environment/extreme-weather-in-the-uae-tales-of-sun-sand-and-even-snow-1.621527
  14. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/this-isnt-the-hottest-year-in-uae
  15. http://whatson.ae/dubai/2017/08/how-to-stay-healthy-in-the-heat/
  16. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/labourers-midday-break-hailed-for-fewer-heat-exhaustion-cases-1.127929
  17. https://www.thenational.ae/uae/government/midday-break-begins-in-for-uae-s-outdoor-workers-1.9283
  18. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/mers-cov/en/
  19. https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/general/beware-of-heat-exhaustion
  20. https://www.visitdubai.com/en/pois/al-qudra-cycling-track
  21. https://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/wellbeing/our-five-favourite-aqua-based-fitness-trends-in-the-uae-1.617167
  22. http://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/skin-cancer/vitamin-d

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Dubai: a global medical tourism destination

Throughout history, people have sought cures and better health by travelling abroad. Whether to visit the healing waters of a natural spa, embark on a pilgrimage to receive a blessing at a religious site, or to simply spend time in a warmer or cooler climate, the practice of travelling to improve health isn’t anything new.

The global spread of modern medicine might appear to diminish the necessity of this practice, but in recent years, there has been an upsurge in interest in ‘medical tourism’. In fact, the Global Medical Tourism Market report1 predicts a rise of over 12.55% year-on-year of ‘medical tourism’ between 2017 and 2021. But what exactly is it?

The term ‘medical tourism’ refers to people who travel to a foreign country with the primary purpose of making use of that country’s medical, dental or surgical facilities. This might be for services ranging from preventive and health-conductive treatment, to rehabilitation and curative.

While there, visitors will often also behave as leisure tourists, taking in the sights, staying in hotels and eating in local restaurants.

Backing for medical tourism

For governments, medical tourism can be an attractive prospect. Globally an estimated $45.5-72bn2 is being spent annually in this industry, providing many economic benefits3.

As well as injecting foreign exchange earnings to the local economy and contributing to government revenues, medical tourism also boosts the local healthcare industry, creating new jobs and business opportunities, and encouraging investment in healthcare services.

Additionally, the need for better infrastructure to support the influx of tourists means that money is put back into local communities, which in turn encourages more tourism.

In 2014, the UAE announced plans to make Dubai the number one location for medical tourism in the world, pledging ambitious goals and initiatives for the medical tourism and healthcare industry as part of a wider 2020 vision.

Dubai aims to attract 500,000 medical tourists annually by 20204, hiring thousands of new healthcare professionals, and investing in 18 new private and four new public hospitals. In April 2016, the Dubai Health Authority (DHA)5