Get connected in Dubai

So you’re new in town, you have your digs and you need to get set up with the comforts of modern life. Here’s how to get started

The Knowledge
The Knowledge
The Knowledge
Electricity & water

Never mix electricity and water our electrocution-aware parents used to tell us. It is a message that escaped the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. To get connected, head to any Dewa office with your Dewa number (found on your front door frame for apartments or your gate if you’re in a villa), copies of your passport, tenancy agreement and a deposit of either Dhs1,000 for an apartment or Dhs2,000 for a villa (which is redeemable when you end your tenancy). Or you can register online at, and send scanned copies of the relevant documents.

Bills are calculated by monthly metre readings. You can pay your bill in person at any Dewa office, at most petrol stations, or set up an online account.

The electricity supply in Dubai is 220/240V, and sockets are generally the three-pin British version. If you have an appliance with a two-pin plug, buy an adaptor from Carrefour or Ace Hardware. Water from taps is desalinated sea water. It’s safe to drink, but most people buy it bottled, as it is very cheap.

Air conditioning

If your pad is located in flashy complexes such as Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), your air conditioning supply is sourced from a district cooling plant, such as Empower or Palm District Cooling. You will usually need to pay a refundable service connection fee of around Dhs2,000 and pay quarterly consumption charges based on how much you use – in addition to your Dewa bills. If you are renting, the landlords will pay the set-up fee, but you will need to transfer the A/C into your name and pay the deposit. You will need your passport and the original sales and purchase agreement or tenancy contract. (Some places do include a/c in the rent, so be sure to check with the landlord.) If you are in ‘old Dubai’, your air conditioning costs will be tied in with your electricity bill.


There are no gas mains in Dubai, so you have to buy individual canisters if you have a gas cooker. Those orange trucks rattling round town like little weapons of mass destruction will deliver to your door and connect/re-fill a canister for you. A new can costs about Dhs300. A refill can cost a modest Dhs60-70. Delivery firms include Oasis Gas Suppliers (04 396 1812), Salam Gas (04 344 8823) and Union Gas Company (04 272 7014).

Phone & internet

Etisalat ( and du ( both offer landline and internet deals. The Etisalat bundle costs range from Dhs164 to Dhs464 per month, depending on your choice of bandwidth (256k to 4MB), plus Dhs180 for connection (and additional costs for modem and sockets, if you don’t have them). You just need to pitch up at an Etisalat office with copies of your passport, residence visa and tenancy agreement. Prices at du are similar, but bandwidth goes to 12MB for Dhs749 per month. Both have sporadic special offers worth enquiring about.

Get mobile

Again, Etisalat and du supply a mobile phone network, landline and internet connection. To decide which one’s best for you, visit and, which both offer pre-paid cards. You will need a copy of your passport. If you want to set up a cheaper ‘contract’ arrangement (known as ‘postpaid mobile’), then you will need to have your residency visa, plus a passport and salary certificate from your employer. You may find your company can handle getting a contract sim card for you. If not, then you’ll need to head down to an Etisalat office (check website for locations), fill in a form, wait in line and pay the fee. Or you can buy online with du (you will need to supply the relevant document numbers and a form of identification to the courier). Tariffs vary so check their websites for more info. Paying your bill is simple: you can either set up a direct debit, pay by cash at one of the phone companies’ offices or at one of the payment machines, which you’ll find in most malls across the city.


There are free TV channels in Dubai, but the quality is generally dire. Although One TV has recently raised the bar, with popular shows such as Desperate Housewives and Prison Break, along with its own local news programme. You can also get MBC2 – showing back-to-back movies 24 hours a day. For comprehensive TV listings, get a copy of Time Out Dubai magazine.

For a better selection of channels, you’ll need satellite TV. The two main providers, Show Time and Orbit have merged to offer viewers more channels than ever. All you need to do is go to your building’s provider, Du or Etisilat, and select a package depending on what you like to watch. They vary in price depending on how many channels you go for and the packages are usually defined by the types of channels included, i.e. sports, movies, educational, kids and so on. Programming mostly revolves around American shows, but there are plenty of Arabic shows, too, and even Eastenders and Top Gear for the homesick British expats.

Rubbish disposal & recycling

Dubai has a good rubbish disposal system, with Municipality trucks emptying skips regularly. If you have a villa, there will be skips on each street for you to empty your rubbish bin into (contact the Municipality to request one), or if you have an apartment simply empty your refuse into the rubbish chute. If you live in an apartment, there are internal chutes on each floor that drop to a skip on the lower ground floor. Recycling is (very) slowly catching on, though it’s remarkably woeful how few opportunities exist. There are recycling points at various locations around the city, usually at schools and branches of Spinneys. You can also organise recyclable waste to be collected from your home; go to


There is currently no door-to-door postal delivery service in Dubai. All post is delivered to a PO Box address. For convenience, many expats simply give their work PO Box details for bills and correspondence. But it is possible to set up your own. For details see the Resources chapter.

Cargo & storage

Air freight can be collected at Cargo Village, sea freight at Jebel Ali port. In both cases you need to be present, as your belongings will be checked by customs. Items such as books, DVDs or videos may be taken to the Department Of Information to check their content. Anything contradicting the UAE censorship laws – generally this covers pornography and material promoting other religions – will be destroyed.

Sea freight may take longer, but is cheaper, meaning you can transport more. The process for collecting your belongings can be time-consuming, but using an agency can help things along. When you receive notice your items have arrived, go to the agent’s office to pay the administration and handling charges. Documentation here needs to be taken to Dubai Customs House on Al Mina Road to be processed – more money needs to be handed over here. When port clearance is granted, you can go to the warehouse at Jebel Ali to collect it. Transportation of your goods can also be arranged from here. To save yourself the hassle, hand all the admin over to relocation experts before you leave your home country, and if your luggage and furniture arrives before you have a home, you can arrange storage too. Various companies are detailed in our Listings.


Dubai is full of casual removal firms or ‘man with a van’ set ups. Check classified listings in Gulf News or ask around. Also check online forums for recommendations. As is the case with these man and van outfits, prices vary, so make sure to negotiate. It may be worth photographing expensive items for a record of their condition, but these smaller outfits don’t tend to come with insurance. It is generally worth spending a bit extra and using well-known firms.

Alcohol licence

You need to have an alcohol licence as soon as you have a residency visa in order to sup on a tipple or two. Generally, this rule is ignored in hotel bars and clubs, although should you get into any bother and the police discover you do not have a licence, this will count against you. It’s also wise to have one if you have a party, in case police turn up.

To get an alcohol licence, you need a tenancy contract, visa and passport copies, a letter of no objection from your employer, labour card copy, passport photos and a form available from MMI (04 209 5000) and African &Eastern (04 222 2666), where you apply. These stores (scattered around Dubai) are also the only places you can buy your booze from, once you have your licence, aside from an off-licence outlet in Umm Al Quwain.

The annual cost of the licence is around Dhs200 (MMI refund this in the form of a voucher). Your monthly allowance for alcohol purchases will depend on your salary, but ranges from Dhs500 to Dhs1,000.


Can’t call a house a home without a furry little bundle of lovable to greet you? Getting Fido or Tiddles to Dubai can be a troublesome process. Firstly, have your animal vaccinated and its passport updated by a vet. Then you need to obtain a pet health certificate from the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries of the country from which the animal is being exported, and get it certified by a vet. Book a space for your pet with your airline (note that not all airlines will carry animals). If you need to obtain a pet import permit, Dubai Kennels & Cattery (04 285 1646) or Al Zubair Animal Care (06 743 5988; can help. They’ll also sort the customs clearance, collection from the airport, delivery and (if needed) boarding.
For other pet services and vets see Resources.

More from News

Neighbours, waiters, phone users and people with sunglasses on their heads

Onesies, cold swimming pools, sports cars in traffic jams and more of life's disappointments

Home-cooked food, new outfits, midweek nights out, paddleboarding and more

Motivators, campaigners, hermits, stalkers and more unusual friends

Chocolate fountain technique, food combo experiments, menu rage and more

Weather forecasts, working in a cafe, changing rooms and more


Follow us