Cost of Living

Most expats enjoy a higher quality of living in Dubai than back home, but it’s worth calculating how far that salary can take you.

Property prices and rents are increasing, but you should still be able to keep the cost of your accommodation to a maximum of a third of your income. If you want to rent, as most expats initially do, spend a couple of months searching because you have to sift through some less desirable properties and prices before you find what you want. You’ll need to search for newly advertised abodes on a daily basis to find the best deals because they get snapped up the same day (especially if you’re looking to rent a room in a shared house). Be aware that many landlords ask for quarterly, half-yearly or annual rent up front – so you’ll need some savings to get started. For a detailed breakdown of property prices see the Housing section.

Transport costs
The good news is that taxis are dirt cheap and readily available. A 15 minute journey comes in at around Dhs.25. Likewise, the metro and buses are also affordable and you can expect to pay in the range of Dhs.2 and Dhs.7 for a single journey, depending on the distance travelled and the type of card purchased.
Special Deals 
Residents soon learn that there are many ways to get discounts on everything from restaurant meals, to beauty treatments and holidays. There are several online companies offering special deals, such as and as well as The Entertainer books full of vouchers, available to buy at most supermarkets and bookshops.
Food and drink
Depending on your tastes, eating out can be cheap as chips if you visit some of the authentic Indian eateries in Bur Dubai, or you can pay top dollar for a Michelin-star meal at a number of the city’s poshest restaurants. Every weekend, many restaurants offer all you can eat and drink brunch for a fixed price, which is a good way to dine out cheaply as the best-priced deals begin at Dhs.150 per person. See the Going Out section for our pick of budget eateries.

As with restaurants, supermarkets also vary – the most affordable include stores such as Choithrams and LuLu, and the more upscale stores are Spinneys and Waitrose. Much of the fruit and veg have to be imported and so costs slightly more than back home, but other groceries are comparable in price what you are used to. A family of four will need about Dhs.2,400 to buy monthly groceries.

As alcohol is taxed it’s advisable to set a budget for your social tipples because otherwise those nights on the town can end up putting a big hole in your pocket. Girls should look out for special ‘ladies nights’ where females get free or discounted drinks, while everyone should check which bar is holding a happy hour. Full price, it can cost as much as Dhs.50 for a pint of beer.

Despite the recent rise in petrol prices, fuel is still extremely affordable compared to other parts of the world. The increase effective of 1 August 2015 means the cost of a full tank for a mid-range family car will likely rise from Dhs.100 to about Dhs.125. A Jeep Liberty 4WD may rise from about Dhs.120 to Dhs.150, and Mazda 2 hatchback from about Dhs.60 to Dhs.75. Don’t forget to tip the petrol pump attendant.

Renting a car
Many new arrivals choose to rent a car, and it’s worth haggling over prices as rental companies will negotiate. For an older saloon-type car you can find deals starting at Dhs.1,300 per month if you commit to six months or more. Renting a new family sized saloon will set you back about Dhs.1,800 monthly. Make sure you opt for the best insurance package you can to cover the dents you'll pick up from inconsiderate door-openers in neighbouring parking spaces.

Buying a car
If you’ve always dreamed of owning an expensive sports car or 4WD, living in the UAE might be your opportunity. Many expats find the cost of cars is much lower in the UAE than in their home country. Try test driving one of the latest sports models or 4WDs at one of the dealers or in the city centre. You’ll also find good quality second-hand cars with low mileage being sold by expats who are packing up and moving on. Visit a dealer or check out the used vehicles for sale on websites such as

Maids and nannies
A maid may cost Dhs.1,600 to Dhs.3,000 a month plus a food, clothes and toiletries allowance. You’ll also need to cover their flight home at least every two years, their annual visa costs and basic health insurance.

For a good school you can expect to pay Dhs.25,000 plus per year for the nursery years, Dhs.30,000 and up for the middle primary years, and as much as Dhs.60,000 per year for secondary school. Ouch! On top of this you will usually need to pay around Dhs.500 to put your child’s name on a school’s waiting list, and a registration fee (around Dhs.2,000), which comes off the fees.

Health insurance
By 2016, all employers must provide employees with basic health insurance. However, you may want to pay extra for more comprehensive health insurance, with extra cover for dental, maternity etc. This can cost about Dhs.180 a month. Without insurance, a medical consultation will cost you around Dhs.150-300, a dental check-up Dhs.250, and a hip replacement Dhs.50,000.

Additional costs
Consider also the expense of travelling on your annual holidays and back home to visit family and friends. Most employers provide one flight per year back home for expat employees, but the whole family is not always covered. The good news is that Dubai is surrounded by countries where you can enjoy very cheap holidays, such as India, Sri Lanka or SE Asia.

Average Prices
Cappuccino (regular)  Dhs.15
Water (small bottle) Dhs.1
Milk (regular, 1 litre)  Dhs.5.50
Glass of wine  Dhs.40
Pint of beer Dhs.35
Eggs (12)  Dhs.9
Average monthly utility bills
for one-bed apartment 
Taxi (5km trip) Dhs.10
Monthly internet bill Dhs.250
Monthly gym membership Dhs.300
Cinema ticket Dhs.40
Fuel Dhs.2.14 per litre
Gym membership, monthly Dhs.700-Dhs.800


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