Choosing Between Free Zone and Mainland Business Setup in Dubai

When embarking on a business venture in Dubai, one of the pivotal decisions entrepreneurs face is whether to opt for a free zone or mainland setup. Each option comes with its unique advantages and considerations, making it essential to align the choice with the specific goals and nature of the business.

Free Zone Business Setup

business setup dubai



  • 100% Foreign Ownership: One of the most significant advantages of setting up a business in a free zone is the ability to have 100% foreign ownership. This is particularly appealing for international entrepreneurs seeking full control over their business.
  • Tax Benefits: Free zones often offer tax exemptions, including corporate tax holidays and zero import or export duties. This can lead to significant cost savings for businesses.
  • Quick Setup Process: Free zones are known for their streamlined and efficient business setup processes. The time required for company registration and licensing is relatively quick compared to mainland setups.
  • Infrastructure and Facilities: Free zones provide state-of-the-art infrastructure, modern office spaces, and facilities tailored to specific industries. This can enhance the overall business environment and image.
  • Business-Friendly Regulations: Free zones have business-friendly regulations and provide a supportive environment for startups and international businesses. This includes simplified documentation requirements and minimal bureaucratic processes.


  • Restricted Market Access: While free zones offer numerous advantages, businesses may face restrictions in conducting business outside the free zone. If your target market is primarily within the UAE, this may not be a concern.
  • Higher Operating Costs: Some free zones may have higher operating costs, including leasing fees for office spaces. It’s crucial to consider the overall cost structure when choosing a free zone.
  • Meydan Free Zone: Entrepreneurs seeking a dynamic environment with a strategic location might consider Meydan Free Zone. With its modern infrastructure and proximity to key business hubs, Meydan Free Zone provides an ideal setting for various industries, including technology, commerce, and manufacturing.

Mainland Business Setup

mainland business setup



  • Access to Local Market: Setting up a business in the mainland allows unrestricted access to the local UAE market. This is essential if your business primarily targets local consumers.
  • Versatility in Business Activities: Mainland businesses have more flexibility in conducting various business activities without the restrictions faced by free zone businesses.
  • Diverse Business Locations: Businesses in the mainland can choose from a wide range of locations, including prime commercial areas. This flexibility in choosing a business location can be advantageous for retail or service-oriented businesses.
  • No Restrictions on Market Share: Mainland businesses do not face restrictions on the percentage of market share they can achieve. This can be crucial for businesses aiming for a significant presence in the local market.


  • Local Ownership Requirements: In the mainland, there are requirements for a local partner or sponsor, who typically holds 51% ownership in the business. This is a key consideration for businesses seeking full foreign ownership.
  • Complex Licensing Process: Mainland business setups may involve a more complex licensing process and regulatory requirements compared to free zones. This can result in a longer setup time.
  • Possibility of Import/Export Duties: Mainland businesses may be subject to import and export duties, impacting the overall cost structure. This is a consideration for businesses involved in international trade.
  • Labor Regulations: Mainland businesses must comply with UAE labor regulations, including providing specific labor benefits. This can impact the overall cost of human resources.


The choice between a free zone and mainland business setup in Dubai is a critical decision that requires careful consideration of the business’s specific needs and objectives. Whether opting for the flexibility of Meydan Free Zone or the versatility of the mainland, entrepreneurs should conduct thorough research, seek professional advice, and weigh the pros and cons to make an informed decision that aligns with their business strategy.

Ivan Hancko
Ivan Hancko

I am Ivan Hancko, a content editor at My interests revolve around website design, photo editing, front-end development, and working on Adobe Illustrator, Canva, and similar tools. I enjoy fixing broken things and taking on household tasks, including interior and exterior design and adaptation. Currently, as a professional, I actively participate in the sport of 9-pin bowling (not the classic American bowling). I'm a family man and father to a wonderful daughter. I love long, brisk walks, cycling, and being in nature.