Thursday List: Things to Bring and Not to Bring

I have to begin by saying 2 things: firstly, I was planning to write this sooner, hoping it would be a bit of help to the people moving to the UAE for the new school year. Sorry if I’m a bit too late, guys! Secondly, this is my very personal opinion, and I’m sorry if this list takes too-girly a turn.

Don’t Bring:

1. Electronics and small appliances that don’t have dual voltage (speaking to Americans here, mostly). First of all, they may not work here even with the converter (Shon’s razor worked, his clippers didn’t), and even if they do work, there’s a good chance they’ll just blow out one day (RIP, my lovely hair-straightener!)

If dual voltage is not a problem, consider weight/price. Will it be cheaper to buy said appliance here or pay for an extra/overweight bag?

If you are curious, we brought our laptops & camera. We bought everything else here (most of it used).

The only exception to this list is a router. Do consider bringing a VPN-compatible router.

2. Books. They are so freaking heavy. Consider investing into e-books or purchasing books online from They ship worldwide for free.

3. Crafting tools unless you are bringing the supplies as well. For whatever reason, “making things” is not a favorite pastime here. You may have some luck with yarn and embroidery floss for a reasonable price, but expect to pay a pretty penny for the scrapbooking/card-making supplies, and not be able to find any jewelry-making stuff at all.

Consider Bringing:

1. Your favorite outfit even if doesn’t fit the “clothes acceptable in the UAE” category. There will be all sorts of expat get-togethers plus you can always wear it to a hotel restaurant or just on a trip to Dubai.

2. Non-drugstore cosmetics. Clinique and MAC stuff is available, but costs 2-3 times more, ladies. I have a sneaking suspicion this is true for other brands, as well.

3. A bottle of your favorite hair product, if you have difficult hair. Chances are, it will take you a bit of time to find a replacement here (Americans, try Boots pharmacies). Personally, I still bring my favorite hairspray.

4. Clinical strength deodorant. No, you cannot get it here.

5. US ladies, if you are into Victoria’s Secret underwear, bring some along. Two words: unnecessarily expensive.

6. A small/lightweight/flat piece of your current house decor. It’s really nice to have something from home. We brought 2 plywood people with the maps of our hometowns on them, and we haven’t regretted it.

7. A VPN-compatible router.

8. A traveler’s credit card. We are quite fond of Capital One’s Venture. Most likely, you will not get paid until the end of September, so keep this in mind.

9. If you know you are planning to travel internationally during your time in the UAE, think about bringing some winter clothes. We knew we were going to Russia for Christmas, so we brought our jackets, boots, and a couple of sweaters thus saving a fortune.

A lot of people bring food. I have heard of suitcases packed full of grits (no kidding). While I do notoriously miss my Cheez-Its now and then, I have surely found new favorites (plus, most of the stuff you can’t get is not the best thing for you, anyway, and the healthy stuff can be easily purchased at – they ship to the door).

This said, you can find nearly everything here. You will see brands you recognize, and brands you don’t (some of them are just a different name for something familiar). Don’t be afraid of trying new stuff! It’s part of the fun.

Also, if you are curious about baby-related stuff I bring from the States, let me know.

Expat friends, what would you add?


4 thoughts on “Thursday List: Things to Bring and Not to Bring

  1. Hi! I am getting ready to come over with an 8 month old. She’s in cloth diapers and still drinks breast milk, so diapers and formula aren’t a problem. What else would you recommend we bring for her? We bought a convertible carseat to bring and will probably purchase an umbrella stroller over there (we can wear her in the airport). Thanks!


    • Bettina, sorry it took so long – we are on the road!
      We use cloth diapers as well. A word of caution: the high efficiency front loaders hey use here use a lot less water, so you may need to rinse those diapers more than you usually do. Also, you may want to bring a bit of your detergent if you use a special one with the diapers, until you find a replacement.
      You can get almost everything here, really. There are a lot of used things in good shape, too (we picked up a used umbrella stroller before our trip for $5). But most things are more expensive. This summer, I’m bringing back footed pj’s, a swimsuit, some shoes, and utensils for our 15-month-old, because I could find the for a fraction of the cost. Last year, we brought a baby mirror, because we could not find one in the UAE that would attach to a seat without a headrest. If you have a nice snot sucker (a battery-operated one), do bring it. I think it costs 4 times as much here for some reason. Leg warmers (think tile floors everywhere and no heaters in winter). If you have a tried-and-true teething or fever treatment, I’d bring 1 tube/bottle as well, because there is no telling if the exact same thing will be available here. I’ll keep thinking about this!


  2. Hi! I have been reading through your blog the last few days and had a couple of questions. I figured this post was as good as any to ask. In regards to the VPN router you mention bringing I had a question on your experience with the internet in general. How fast of a connection did you have, how much did you pay per month and was the connection consistent? My wife will be the one teaching, but I will be working remotely from home for my company back in the US. I will be bringing a firewall/router to set up a direct vpn connection to my office in the states. I will need a reliable internet connection as my work involves managing an eCommerce website. Can you shed some light on that for me?

    Also, is there a way that I can access your locked posts with the password? There have been a few I would have like to read and couldn’t. Is this more for personal friends or just to keep certain information from being so public?

    Great blog by the way. I look forward to hearing about your new adventures!!



    • Hi Camden, we paid just under $100 a month (350 dh) for our Etisalat service. It was quite fast, as long as we didn’t use the VPN. With the VPN running, ping back slowed drastically; less than 1/4 the non-VPN speed. We didn’t need it all the time, fortunately. The main things that are censored are pornography and the odd YouTube video deemed offensive. In other words, the Internet is not too restricted to use for everyday things. However, Skype also doesn’t work, so the VPN gave us the ability to talk with family and friends easily. Typically we used the VPN to access services such as Netflix that weren’t available from an overseas IP address. As for reliability, you’ll come across horror stories about how long it takes to get connected, outages, and such. Comparing it to service back in Georgia, I’d have to say it was probably a bit faster and certainly no more troublesome. We had a few problems, but normally they were resolved quite quickly. What is hard is sometimes simply communicating across a (relatively slight) language barrier. I’d say you’re likely to have pretty good service and, especially if you opt for the more expensive higher speed access, decent speed.


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