Moving to Dubai for Sri Lankans can be very challenging. In terms of real estate (finding a place to stay in UAE), securing jobs, schooling for children, the language barrier, and so on. However, in this article, we’re going to try to make truly simple for anyone in Sri Lanka to consider moving to Dubai or perhaps the UAE.

Contrary to what some people think, Dubai isn’t a country on it’s own. It’s rather, one of the seven major Emirates of the United Arab Emirates, a country in the Middle East that is bordered by Oman, and Saudi Arabia. Dubai is the commercial capital of the UAE, just like Colombo is the commercial capital of Sri Lanka. And just like Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte is the current actual capital of Sri Lanka, so is Abu Dhabi, which is the current actual capital of the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai no doubt attracts a large amount of media sensationalism for it’s tall towering buildings, flashy lifestyle of the rich, and so on. However, while Dubai does have a ton of people living exorbitant lifestyles, there’s also people who share apartments, and even rent out beds in a single room.

Interestingly, while living in the UAE is known to be expensive, believe it or not, sometimes it is cheaper to buy groceries in UAE than buying them in Sri Lanka.

One of the most expensive necessities however, is real estate. And when it comes to real estate, it’s all about location, accessibility, and so on, as these factors affect and effect the price of buying/renting property in the UAE.

Anyway, the key question, how do you move to the UAE?

The Visit Visa

Obtaining a visit visa to the UAE is pretty simple and any travel agent in Sri Lanka should assist, or direct you to obtaining the visit visa. Now, there are 2 visit visas that you’ll most likely be offered. The first is the 30 day visa, and the second is the 90 day visa. This is pretty much simple, and while you might think it’s cheaper to obtain the 30 day visa, it might be actually smarter to get the 90 day visit visa, and here’s why…

The UAE is a country that is home to around 200 nationalities. As like other financially richer (in terms of earning potential) to Sri Lanka, countries like Canada, Australia, the UAE and so on, attract a vast number of foreigners looking for work, for tourism purposes, and so on.

That means obtaining a 30 day visit visa may just not be enough time for you to make up your mind on moving to the Dubai, secure a job, have a better feel of the country and it’s systems, and so on.

A 90 day visa however, is thus the smarter option, although perhaps slightly more expensive.

Real Estate (Finding Property to Rent or a Place to Stay) – Part 1

While visiting the UAE is a sound idea to get a feel of the country prior to moving, real estate like we said can be pretty expensive. You should know that as a foreign visitor, as of date, you cannot officially rent an apartment. You can however book a room in a hotel pretty much effortlessly. However, you will probably end up paying about 200 Dirhams per night for one of the least expensive rooms in some of the least expensive hotels in UAE.

If you’ve cash to crash, then booking a hotel or hotels for the the whole of your visit is a fine straightforward idea.

If not, then be ready to at least book a hotel for 3 days as soon as you have obtained your visit visa and flight date. Booking a hotel, you can easily do via or other similar web sites online.

Now, you’ve obtained the visit visa ideally for 90 days (or 30 days), and booked your flight ticket via your travel agent (perhaps the easiest option at this stage). You’ve booked your hotel for 3 days (perhaps the smartest straightforward option unless you know someone else to stay with in UAE prior to flying).

The Food Solution

Groceries in the UAE like we mentioned can be pretty cheap, and sometimes way cheaper than Sri Lanka as at the current exchange rate at the time of this writing. Here’s a screenshot taken from one of the highly popular online marketplaces in the Emirates.

Screenshot of on 16-10-2022

However, if you plan on eating outside, the closest culinary alternatives to Sri Lanka food would perhaps be Indian food. Although our recommendations would be that you try Pakistani food, Afghani food, Arab food and so on. Now while the cost of buying groceries in the UAE can be pretty cheap, the balance on the economic scale due to real estate prices and salaries, means that the cost of buying food at restaurants is much higher. For a typical Sri Lankan to eat outside at say an Indian restaurant would cost him/her about 10 to 15 Dirhams a meal.

That means cooking at your place of residence would be far cheaper and more budget friendly.

Your costs and budgets at this stage should be looking like this:

  1. Cost of Plane Ticket
  2. Cost of Visit Visa
  3. Cost of Hotel Stay for 3 Nights
  4. Food Expenses for 30 to 90 Days

Real Estate (Finding Property to Rent or a Place to Stay) – Part 2

By now, you’ve hypothetically arrived in the UAE and are booked into your hotel for 3 nights. If you have a friend you know who’s been in the UAE, it’s also an option to request him to secure you a place to stay rather than booking a hotel. Although this can maybe be a bit burdensome to him as you will see.

In the UAE, although you may have a visit visa, this visa does not entitle you to book a long term property officially. That is, you cannot rent an apartment for a year without an Emirates ID.

The easy way thus to rent a place to stay, apart from hotels, is to rent it from individuals who are sub-renting apartments. Now while there may be, and probably are legal issues for the official apartment renter, this is actually one of the most affordable and highly popular options for short term stays or even long term stays for some certain individuals and families.

What many individual foreign workers from Asian countries do is they rent out what is popularly known as “bed spaces”. These individuals are sometimes bachelors, and on many occasions we’ve found that although they have the ability and earning potential to rent out an apartment, they prefer to rent out a bed in a room, or a room in a flat, and live with room/flat mates. This helps lower the overall cost of living, and they send their earnings back home to take care of family, build a house, buy property in Sri Lanka, and so on.

When considering moving to Dubai on a budget, this is your go to plan.

That is unless you’re someone with cash to crash, or have good knowledge of the UAE and a viable business plan and capital already, you likely will not want to stay in the hotel spending a fortune.

So within the 3 days that you’ve booked your hotel for, you need to find an apartment, a room, or a bed space to stay on a monthly basis.

The Emirate of Dubai is pretty costly. We would reckon 20%+ costlier than the Emirate of Sharjah in terms of real estate. Although of course, the costs depend highly on location.

Therefore, the smarter option may be to find a place to stay in the neighbouring Emirate of Sharjah. Sharjah although not as famous as Dubai, has a reputation globally, and is popularly known as the most Islamic Emirate, and a more than ideal location to live cheaper (real estate) and cross into Dubai only for work. Likewise, the Emirate of Ajman which is a smaller Emirate but further from Dubai.

In the 3 days/nights at your hotel, head over to for a apartment/room for rent on a monthly basis, or go to and search for a room for rent, or a bed space on a monthly basis.

This is by far one of the cheapest and most affordable options for those on a budget.

While you may have been paying 200 AED per night at the hotel, the bed space may cost you about 650 to 1000 Dirahams per month, for a sharing a room with 2-3 people in total in the Emirate of Sharjah.

For those on lower tighter budgets, you can definitely find places to stay for even less per month at 550.

And with that, you’re set for the 3 months of your visit visa.

And that concludes our first series of moving to Dubai.

Part 2 coming soon, so watch this space!

Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply