Dubai poised to become the new Costa del Sol

The UAE’s recent initiative to ease residency requirements for expat retirees, paired with its quality healthcare, safety and accessibility, and excellent weather, is helping Dubai become the winter-home choice for retirees around the world.

Beth Hirshfeld

For years, European retirees have flocked to Spain’s Costa del Sol for the winter. Its warm climate, professional healthcare, easy travel routes, and active social scene, provided a welcoming and enjoyable place for retirees to spend part of the year. Dubai’s strategic planning and recent initiatives, however, have introduced an attractive and compelling alternative for retirees looking to escape the winter season and have positioned Dubai to become the destination of choice for expat retirees from not just Europe, but from around the world.

Nikki Beach
Photo: Nikki Beach dubai


Dubai is blessed with a fabulous climate for expats wanting to escape a harsh winter back home. From September through April, the weather is bright and warm, but not too hot. Unlike other popular escapes such as Florida or California where the weather can be moody, Dubai’s temperature is remarkably consistent and its forecast almost always sunny and bright. Its temperature is perfect for outdoor dining, all types of outdoor activities, and for making the most of Dubai’s long stretches of pristine beach and coastline.


Beyond its natural advantages, Dubai has also taken active steps to create a safe and fully welcoming environment for expat retirees. In November 2021, for example, the UAE Cabinet approved an initiative to grant residency status to expat retirees, if they fulfill one of the following requirements:

  • * Owning a single property or more than one property worth Dh1 million (~275,000 USD).
  • * A bank deposit of no less than Dh1 million (~275,000 USD).
  • * An active income of no less than Dh180,000 (~50,000 USD) per annum.

This announcement built on the Cabinet’s 2018 retiree visa initiative by reducing the financial minimum requirements and making it easier for retirees to spend time in the country.


As an Aging In Place Specialist and Instructor, I have seen first hand the importance of a confluence of factors coming together to enable people to age comfortably, safely and enjoyably in the place of their choosing. Dubai has taken steps to create an accessible physical space, along with the corresponding services and activities needed to help older adults thrive, and to reduce worry for their families.

Downtown DUbai
Photo: Downtown Dubai


As we age, our mobility, vision, hearing, and cognitive needs and realities change, which can make travel more difficult. More than half of people with accessibility concerns avoid going to new places if they don’t consider them accessible. While many European cities offer ample historical charm and character, their older architecture includes narrow and uneven pathways, ample stairs, and tighter spaces, all of which can make it difficult for an aging population to navigate.

As the UAE celebrates its Golden Jubilee later this year, its incredible how the UAE has gone from inception to one of the world’s leading countries in just under 50 years. As part of this, much of Dubai’s infrastructure and transportation networks are newer than other cities and were built integrating global best practices and accessibility measures.

Dubai’s public spaces are better equipped to support older adults, including brighter lighting, more ramps and handrails, fewer stairs, easier to read signage, and more frequent toilets, all helping to reduce the anxiety that some older adults may feel when considering whether to go out. In addition, in 2017, Dubai introduced the Dubai Universal Design Code to ensure that new buildings and transportation systems are designed and constructed to enable people of all abilities to independently use them. This intention was reinforced in Dubai Strategic Plan 2021 in which the Emirate is modifying 1,000+ buildings, from hotels to heritage sites, to make them universally accessible.

With newer city infrastructure also comes newer and more functional homes. Most homes have integrated design choices such as levered door handles which are easier for arthritic hands to open than doorknobs, walk-in showers versus just a tub, better sound-insulation for easier-to-hear conversations, and right-height appliances, which all contribute to a more comfortable and safe living space.

In addition, there are many different locations and types of homes; the sun-lover who wants a villa on the beach, or a foodie who wants to be in a high-rise in Downtown Dubai can all be accommodated. Furthermore, most housing is located close to essential services such as supermarkets, clinics, pharmacies and outdoor spaces, which can be reached either by a short walk or an affordable cab ride.

Dubai Marina
Photo: Dubai Marina

Services and Activities:

One of the biggest concerns for retiree travellers is healthcare. Dubai’s skillful response to, and navigation of, the pandemic drew global attention to the country and its world-class healthcare system. There are a number of local and international hospitals in Dubai which may provide additional comfort. In Kings College Hospital London in Dubai, for example, all its Department Heads, the majority of its doctors, and a third of its clinical staff have been recruited from the UK. In addition, most healthcare professionals in Dubai have trained overseas, which helps expats feel a bit more of home when dealing with health issues, by offering medical professionals who speak their native language and have either practiced in or understand their home health system.

Beyond this, Dubai offers a host of other conveniences that make expat retiree living easier. Though most amenities are local, anything ranging from home services to online purchases to food delivery, can be delivered to a one’s doorstep in seemingly record time. For those who wish to go out and experience the Emirate, Dubai offers beautiful beaches, world-class golf courses, numerous hiking trails and walking paths, and is becoming a regional hub for the Arts. Dubai is also home to one of the best dining scenes in the world, offering authentic dishes inspired by the more than 200 nationalities living in the UAE, catering to all tastes and budgets.

Even better, retirees can enjoy all that Dubai has to offer, while still feeling the comforts of home. Many international brands such as Waitrose, Carrefour, Boots, Marks & Spencer, and The Gap, as examples, are all here in Dubai. And this is true of services as well. Christie’s International Real Estate, the world’s leading luxury real estate agency has a corporate office in Dubai, and advisors representing all corners of the globe. Expat retirees interested in exploring a home in Dubai can find a local Christie’s International Real Estate advisor who speaks their language and understands their home country, making the process of buying an international home more familiar and comfortable.

With modern technology to stay connected with home, the time has never been better for expats to explore spending part or all of their retirement in the UAE. But with all the amenities that Dubai has to offer, we suggest getting a property with a guest room for family and friends.

Beth Hirshfeld is a Private Client Advisor with Christie’s International Real Estate | Premier Estates. A Canadian lawyer based in Dubai since 2014, Beth has spent her career working with some of the highest-profile executives, politicians and investors. Her clients rely on her honesty, attention to detail, discretion, sense of style and personable nature to optimize their outcomes and enhance their experience. Her qualifications as a Lawyer, Certified Staging Professional, Interior Decorator, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, and her Certificate and Diploma in Company Direction provide her with the background to handle the various facets of the industry.