How on earth do those poor Dubai mailmen deliver the mail in that fifty-degree summer heat? Simple answer – they don’t.
More accurate answer: they do if you pay for it, and they deal with the heat exactly the same way you do. Forget about a uniformed mailman trudging from house to house with a large sack of mail on his back; the mail arrives at your residence in a fully air-conditioned Emirates Post vehicle.
It didn’t used to be that way, and still isn’t for the majority of people living in Dubai and the other Emirates of the United Arab Emirates. So, how do newly arrived expatriates get their mail soon after their arrival in Dubai?
Your office is your mailbox
As far as officialdom in Dubai and other UAE locations is concerned, your primary address is your place of work. It’s quite logical really, since your employer is also your sponsor.
Legally, your sponsor is liable for you and your actions while you’re a resident in the UAE. No sponsor, no Residency Visa: simple as that. So it follows from this that the most reliable way to make contact with you is always via your sponsor, usually your employer.
How does this work in practice? If you work for a medium to large organization, it will almost certainly have a Post Office Box at a local Emirates Post Office. Someone within the company will be delegated to collect the mail from this PO Box every day, or every second day, depending on the expected volume of mail.
The mail will be returned to the workplace, sorted, and either delivered to you at your desk, or more likely, placed in a personal post box or pigeon hole assigned to you.
Recipe for chaos? Every second or third letter lost or misplaced? In sixteen years, I can’t point to a single letter that I should have received and didn’t. I have such confidence in the safety and security of what I have described above, that I never once felt the need to upgrade to a more personalized service, which I will describe a little later.
For the majority of expatriate workers, this mail delivery and distribution system will meet all your needs. Use your employer’s address as your address, and upon starting work, enquire what the arrangements for mail delivery within the organization are. It will almost certainly be one of the two methods I mentioned above, depending on the size of the organization or institution.
A personalized pick-up and delivery system
This is a fairly new initiative for the federal post service, Emirates Post Group, usually just referred to Emirates Post, or Empost. Now, if your needs dictate, you can opt for a whole range of mail delivery options, starting from a three-times-weekly delivery to your registered home address.
All the options available are listed here, on the Empost English website, in the “My Home” subsection.
As well as delivery, you can arrange for Empost to collect your outgoing mail. You can also arrange courier services, insurance for parcels, and mail tracking for extra speed and security. The link above describes all the incoming and outgoing mail enhancements that modern businesses and consumers require and desire.
Of course, this all comes at a cost, and schedules of charges and tariffs are given on the “Individual PO Box Services” link above – but rather confusingly, it doesn’t clearly state how often these fees are levied.
A little further digging reveals the actual PDF Application Form which does finally state that all fees are annual. It also looks as though there’s no rebate on charges if you take up this service partway through the year: you’ll still be expected to pay your fees for the following year when the 1st of January rolls around.
Website worth looking at
A lot of UAE governmental websites do tend to be rather “busy.”
…Too much information on the home page, too many little animations, too many links to places you don’t really want to go to, and navigational links that make it difficult to get back to where you really wanted to be.
It’s a pleasant surprise to find that the Emirates Post Group is one of the better designed ones, and if you are going to be using the postal services (incoming and outgoing), it’s well worth taking time to really familiarize yourself with what’s on offer and what can be done.
The links I have included will take you to the English versions of the site, but don’t be alarmed if you Google Emirates Post and get the default Arabic version of the site. Click the link to the English version in the very top bar (it’s the only part in Latin alphabet, and it will all be in English from this point on).
Under the two logos, the Falcon Shield and flag of the UAE on the left, and the Emirates Post Group on the right, hover over the “Services” tab and all the subsections of the site appear in an easily accessed drop-down menu.
Finally, one thing that can go wrong
Let’s assume that your name is George H. Washington – H for Herbert. You’ll very quickly learn on commencing to live in the UAE that subordinates from either other Arab countries or the Indian sub-continent, Pakistan in particular, will address you very politely as “Mr. George,” and sometimes you’ll find yourself being called “Mr. George Herbert.”
When it’s face to face, it’s very charming, but there’s one government department in particular that has a habit of addressing letters to you by just your first and second name (in Arabic culture, your second name, whether you are male or female, is always your father’s name).
An important letter containing a very important document, arrives for you, but it’s addressed not to Mr. George Washington, or Mr. George H. Washington, or even Mr. George Herbert Washington, but to Mr. George Herbert.
The mail sorter quite correctly notes that there’s no Mr. George Herbert in this organization and the letter is returned to sender as undeliverable.
It happens. Not all that often, but if you are expecting a delivery of your Emirates Identity Card (we all have to have them) and it doesn’t arrive within the expected delivery times, that would be the number one likely reason why.
If the letter is from inside the UAE and it doesn’t arrive as expected, it’s more likely to be some error like this with the name, rather than the address.
To sum up
The system is thoroughly modern and efficient. You can trust the work delivery address for your personal mail. If you need more, Emirates Post will provide, but these services aren’t free.
And one last thing: no ZIP or Area codes. The UAE doesn’t have them – if you have to enter a ZIP code as part of your address for say, an online order, just enter 000 in the box provided, but make sure the PO Box number is included as part of the actual physical address because that’s the way we all receive our mail, whether we have a personal PO Box or not.