The cost of living in The United Arab Emirates is not cheap. So while you’re out there teaching you’ll benefit from good tax-free salaries, accommodation allowances and free transport to work, but the rest of your life will cost a similar amount to your life now if you live in the UK, US or Australia. A Big Mac meal is going to cost you around £3.50/$5.50 and a 3-course meal in a mid-priced restaurant will cost around £28/$44.
If you buy clothes locally or at one of the Carrefour Hypermarkets, prices aren’t too bad but if you go to one of the international chains you’ll most likely find them more expensive than at home.
Alcohol is just plain pricey though. This is because there’s a lot of tax added to alcoholic drinks. Think £6/$9 for a locally brewed beer.
You’re not going to be missing the taste of home in the UAE, all the international chains you’d imagine are here and thanks to the large expat population the list of cuisines and restaurants in the UAE looks similar to a list of cuisines and restaurants you might see in a city in the UK or US.
The local food is a combination of Arabic and Asian flavours with menus likely to include Falafel, Shawarma, Kebabs and Kabsa (a stew comprising of rice, sultanas and often chicken cooked with garlic, saffron, cardamom, cinnamon and pepper).
You don’t have to be a weather expert to work out that The United Arab Emirates is a hot country. In its coolest month (January) it gets down to around 24 degrees Celsius and in the height of the summer in August the average temperature is around 41 degrees Celsius. There isn’t a lot of rain in the UAE, with less than 25mm a year you don’t need to pack your waterproofs when you head out to teach English in the UAE.
You won’t have to worry about the cost of accommodation as your school will either provide accommodation or provide you with an allowance, in addition to your salary. The apartments provided are always clean and tidy, but some people prefer the accommodation allowance as it allows them to get a nice apartment in a more modern block. 1 bedroom apartments in a complex with a pool and a gym start at around £680/$1090 a month.
Do consider the location of your school compared to your accommodation to keep your commute to a minimum. For instance in Abu Dhabi there are around 32 schools within a 5km area. But some are up to 30km outside of the city centre.
Most of the demand for English teachers in The United Arab Emirates is in the capital Abu Dhabi and the glittering city of Dubai. There are opportunities further afield in Al Ain and Al Gharbia also. In terms of the type of establishment you could teach in, there are a few options.
Language Schools – You’ll find yourself teaching adults looking to improve their English or younger students who are doing after-school classes because their parents want them to have more time practising English. For many of these, may well need some teaching experience as well as a TEFL certificate and Bachelor’s degree.
Private International Schools – Only 20% of the population of the UAE are Emiratis, the rest are expatriates, so there are a good number of schools in the country to cater to the educational needs of Expat students. You’ll need a teaching licence, TEFL qualification to teach in these schools and whereas the better schools will require you to have, ideally, 2 years teaching experience, opportunities do come up that are attainable for newly qualified TEFL teachers.
Public Schools – These are the most prevalent educational establishments in The United Arab Emirates and if you are lucky enough to teach in one, you could find yourself teaching children from 5-17 years. Who you teach though will most likely depend on what age group you have experience of teaching as to get these jobs you generally need a Bachelor’s degree, TEFL certification, teaching licence and a number of years of teaching children in a school environment.
Dubai is designed for cars, but there is still quite a bit of congestion. There is also a two line metro system and a bus service in the city that as you’d expect is clean and air conditioned.
Abu Dhabi only got a bus service is 2008, but most expats rely on their own cars or taxis to get about the city. Be aware that if using the bus service, the front few rows are reserved for ladies only.
If you opt to teach private lessons like the majority of TEFL teachers, you’ll most likely be working 25-30 hours a week in your normal job, plus extra hours outside of that so it’s likely your weekends will be free to explore all of the amazing things The United Arab Emirates has to offer!
The easiest way to travel round the country is by car; but you can easily visit nearby countries by plane – a return flight from Dubai to Riyadh for instance, costs £250/$395; or you can travel to Doha, Qatar for just £105/$165 return, taking just over an hour to get there.
There is no need to be able to speak Arabic as most of the population speaks English and the majority of expats over there are from English speaking countries. You’ll pick up a few words of Arabic along the way and it’s appreciated by Emiratis when you make the effort to use what you know.
While you’re out teaching English in The United Arab Emirates take some time to take a look beyond the glittering skyscrapers and malls, and visit the old-world souks and beautiful architecture that the older UAE has to offer.
Like Skiing? Ever done it on sand? No, didn’t think so. The UAE is a playground for all kinds of outdoor activities and one of those is Sand Skiing. Near Abu Dhabi there are sand dunes that are hundreds of meter high and there are slopes that experienced skiers will relish as well as beginners slopes for those who want to try it for the first time. Regular trips out there run daily.
If you’re keen to find out more about teaching in The United Arab Emirates then you’ll want to check out the i-to-i TEFL free guide. You’ll find out loads more useful information on finding your first job, where you can teach and how to negotiate the best salary package.
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