How to navigate your first 5 days as a new expat in Dubai

Your first week in Dubai will be both exciting and exhausting. New country, new culture, new everything. As you find your bearings and navigate through the week, try to find a balance between business and pleasure (getting things done and enjoying your new home)

If you’ve confirmed a job prior to arriving, try to fly in a few days before your start date so that you get a headstart on setting yourself up as it's likely your days will be filled with all sorts of important information as you work through on-boarding.

If you are yet to confirm a job prior to your arrival, try and set up as many interviews as possible within the first week, and navigate the week's activities around this. We have some great tips on how to land interviews in Dubai, in Part 3: Working in Dubai. 

Day 1

Today is a momentous day as you touch down in your new city. As you arrive at the airport, grab what you need from duty-free, pick up a local sim card and currency, before making your way to your accommodation. 


Upon arriving, go through our orientation checklist below and take photos of everything, as you’ll be asked to pay for any damages you cannot prove were pre-existing. As you arrive, organise some food to be delivered before calling to let the family know you’ve arrived safely.

You’re probably exhausted, but try to soak in the moment, too.


Orientation checklist

  • Keys
  • Car park access
  • Car park position
  • Security contact information
  • Communicate any visitors coming to the accommodation
  • Communicate any deliveries coming to the accommodation
  • Doorbell
  • Fire exits – 2 points of exit
  • Fire alarm
  • Fire extinguisher (check date)
  • Fire blanket (check date)
  • Electrical switchboard
  • Check all electric sockets work
  • Position of the internet router and points
  • Rubbish/recycling procedures
  • All lights work
  • All taps work – hot and cold
  • Hot water switches
  • Check if the oven and hot plate work together
  • All appliances work
  • All doors/locks work
  • Any damages to fly screen doors
  • Any damages to tiles
  • Any damages to walls
  • Any damages to the ceiling
  • Any damages to the furniture
  • Make a list of everything that’s preexisting
  • Take photos of all the rooms


Day 2

You’ll want to hire a vehicle as fast as possible to save money on taxis and give you the freedom to explore when and where you want. Try and arrange this in advance so that the vehicle can be delivered to your accommodation in the morning. Today’s mission is to unpack your bags, take a trip to the supermarket to purchase essentials and an international 4-way plug, get another copy of your home keys cut, before visiting the Dubai Mall for dinner and showing the fountain show.


Day 3 and 4

Today is all about getting what you need to set up your home. Check out our Dubai store guide (Living in Dubai PDF) for some advice on the best stores to visit when buying items for your kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, electronics and some house plants for finishing touches. The shops tend to be quiet in the morning and get busier as the day goes, so aim to get in early before enjoying a night in.


Day 5 and beyond

From here on out, remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s likely your fitness may have been sidelined, but from today try and build some healthy routines as your body adjusts to the time zone and weather difference. Prioritise time for fitness and relationship building as you make new friends and fall in love with the city. 

Your first 3-4 months will be your hardest as you build new friendships, figure out business in the middle east, learn to drive on 10 lane highways, and get your Emirates ID. After that, you’ll love Dubai just as much as the rest of us do.

Remember everything is a new experience. Celebrate the small wins each week and tick off as many things as possible from your Dubai bucket list.

For more tips and tricks on how to navigate your first 3 months in Dubai, check out our 'Living in Dubai Guide'.