Dubai rated world's 3rd best city for expats to live and work in

Abu Dhabi was ranked 16th in the Expat City Ranking 2021 by InterNations


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Wed 1 Dec 2021, 4:02 PM

Dubai has improved its global ranking among the best cities to live and work in 2021, as it has been rated the third best city for expats in the world.

Dubai’s rating jumped from 20th last year to 3rd best in 2021 out of 57 cities, with expatriates saying they find it very easy to settle in and find the quality of life exceptionally good, according to InterNations, a community for expatriates and global minds.

Importantly, expats also find Dubai the easiest city in the world to live in without speaking the local language. Moreover, more than eight out of 10 describe the local people as generally friendly towards foreign residents, which account for more than 80 per cent of the UAE’s population.

The survey found that more expats feel at home in Dubai than in other cities and also find it easier to make new friends in the emirate, thanks to its diversity as it’s home to more than 190 nationalities across the globe.

Dubai also performs very well in the quality of the urban living index. Expats are happy with the political stability and feel safe here.

A recent study by Gallup's 2021 Global Law and Order also rated the UAE first in the safety index as about 95 per cent of the residents said they feel safe walking alone at night.

The InterNations survey covered 12,420 respondents, analysing five areas of expat life - quality of urban living, getting settled, urban work life, finance and housing, and local cost of living. Together, the first four topics make up the Expat City Ranking, which reveals the best and worst cities for expats to live in.

Romika Fazeli, the founder of Emirates World Club, said Dubai is full of opportunities.

“The respect, quality of life and work-life balance this city offers are unique. So many different kinds of nationalities, cultures and religions living in peace and harmony in one beautiful city are the best combination of a colourful life someone can wish for. The city never stops to grow, develop and improve in so many aspects. Also, Covid taught us that a ‘young’ country has managed a pandemic so much better and more efficiently than some countries with decades of history,” she said.

She added that the new visa categories also cover so many professional and creative fields which everyone can benefit from. “The newly-introduced visas make Dubai an even more attractive platform to grow personally and professionally.”

Anthony Peter, a long-time Dubai resident from India, among the many attributes, the most important is the inclusiveness and respect for people irrespective of where they come from.

“Strict implementation of the rules ensures discipline that provides a right balance of freedom to enjoy a safe and happy environment. Although I completed 29 years, I never felt as though my stay is transient in nature.

"But now, with the pragmatic implementation of the new visa rules it provides an added assurance to the expat community which will encourage both businessmen and working expats to think beyond the retirement age and settle in the UAE,” he said.

Monisha Krishna, also a Dubai-based expat, said the biggest contributing factor that raises Dubai’s profile among expats was its handling of the Covid-19 situation, successful vaccination drive and the use of technology and data to rein the pandemic.

“Most expats are eager to plan a long-term future here. The new visa rules and categories provide a sense of security and permanence and deepen the connection. In general, expats have great respect and regard for the leadership of the UAE and see these initiatives as a big step forward,” added Krishna.

According to InterNations study, Dubai received mixed results in the finance and housing index (21st).


The majority - 86 per cent - of the expats say it's easy to find housing in the emirate but 41 per cent claim it is unaffordable. InterNations survey revealed that 31 per cent of expats say their disposable household income is not enough.

Among the 57 cities rated in the survey, Abu Dhabi was ranked the16th best city to live and work for the expats.

In the GCC region, Dubai, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Riyadh have been rated the top cities for foreign workers.

Globally, Kuala Lumpur and Spain’s Málaga are the top two cities in the Expat City Ranking 2021 by InterNations. The other cities that made up the top 10 list include Sydney, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Prague, Mexico City, Basel and Madrid.

At the other end of the list, Rome, Milan, and Johannesburg are the worst cities worldwide, according to expats. They rank particularly poor in the urban work-life balance and low quality of life.

Why Dubai is rated the 3rd best city for expats

  • Expats feel at home
  • Find it easy to make friends
  • High quality of life
  • Best city to live without speaking local language
  • UAE nationals are very friendly towards foreigners
  • Expats laud political stability
  • Feel safe
  • Housing is easy to find

10 best cities for expats

  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Malaga
  • Dubai
  • Sydney
  • Singapore
  • Ho Chi Minh City
  • Prague
  • Mexico City
  • Basel
  • Madrid

10 worst cities for expats

  • Rome
  • Milan
  • Johannesburg
  • Istanbul
  • Tokyo
  • Cairo
  • Paris
  • Maastricht
  • Moscow
  • New York

5 best GCC cities for expats

  • Dubai (3rd)
  • Doha (15th)
  • Abu Dhabi (16th)
  • Muscat (17th)
  • Riyadh (44th)

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