Cost of living in Dubai: Your guide

Zorica Lončar
23.08.21
6 minute read

Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating or moving to Dubai for good, it’s helpful to have a picture of what life there will cost as an expat. The standard of living in Dubai is very high. In fact, the opportunity to live well in an interesting place is exactly why many foreigners go there. But this doesn’t come cheap.

Using a service like Wise could help you reduce your overall costs as now you can send, receive and organise your money internationally without hefty fees.

Dubai is always dubbed as one of the most expensive cities in the world for tourists to visit, but what are the costs to actually live there as an expat? Read on and find out!

How expensive is Dubai in comparison to the UK, the EU, the USA and Australia?

The official currency in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates is the dirham (written as AED - Arab Emirate Dirham - on currency exchanges).

You can find out the exact value of your money in AED, using an online currency converter - but the list below shows the approximate value of AED at the time of writing, compared to a few major currencies:¹

  • 1000 USD = 3,673 AED
  • 1000 GBP = 5,077 AED
  • 1000 EUR = 4,336 AED
  • 1000 AUD = 2,712 AED

One major factor that adds expense for expats in Dubai, is the cost of converting cash to AED from your home currency. Even if your bank says it offers fee-free money exchange, you can be sure that its cut is rolled up in the exchange rate it uses.

To get a better deal, you could use an exchange service like Wise, which applies the same mid-market rate you’ll find on Google and Reuters. Wise provides a quick service and low flat fees to transfer your cash so this can be a much better deal than relying on your home bank.

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Additionally, the following chart can give you an idea of general pricing for day to day expenses in Dubai compared to some other major cities in the world (shown in AED);

Comparing basic cost of livingOne bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Lunch for two (Three courses, mid-range restaurant)Transportation (monthly pass)
Dubai, UAE²5,431 AED250 AED300 AED
London, UK³8,371 AED303 AED798 AED
New York City, USA⁴11,205 AED367 AED478 AED
Berlin, Germany⁵4,121 AED216 AED355 AED
Sydney, Australia⁶7,167 AED270 AED587 AED

Cost of living in Dubai vs. UK

According to the Mercer’s Cost of Living survey, London is actually slightly more expensive than Dubai. While Dubai is at number 23, which is still pretty high, the UK capital is at the 19th spot.⁷

Rent prices in London are more than 50% higher than those in Dubai, while groceries cost around 35% more. Only a few things are cheaper in Dubai. Besides internet packages, it pretty much comes down to individual items.⁸

When it comes to Manchester, the prices are in general higher than in Dubai. An exception is the cost of rent, which is almost 40% higher in Dubai.⁹

What are general living expenses like in Dubai?

Where you choose to live is one of the major factors determining how expensive life in Dubai will be for you. Rental prices are fairly high, but move outside of the city, and you can rent in Dubai for much less.

However, let’s have a look at average expenses, but without rent. Below is an overview of the cost of living in Dubai for a single person and for families. The table can help you get an idea of how much money you’ll need monthly:

Living expenses in Dubai (excluding rent)²Average cost
Single person, per monthAED 3,406
Four person family, per monthAED 11,738

Cost of utilities in Dubai

Your overall cost of utilities will obviously depend on your personal choice of services. The type of internet and TV package, as well as your mobile plan, will determine your monthly expenses. However, there are some things that everyone in Dubai pays.

Your DEWA bill (standing for Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) is the most important one of them. For example, for a 900 sq. ft. apartment, the DEWA bill is around 600 AED a month.¹⁰ Of course, the exact number depends on your consumption.

Next, internet and TV packages are mainly provided by Etisalat and du. Their offers change frequently, but the basic internet and TV package is upwards of AED 300 a month. On the other hand, premium packages cost over AED 1,000.¹⁰ In order to sign up for these services, some companies require you to be at least 21 years old.¹¹

Finally, your cellphone bill will most likely range from AED 125 to over AED 500. Like anywhere else, this depends on the amount of data and number of minutes you get per month.¹⁰

Here’s a summary of the average cost of utilities in Dubai:

Utilities in DubaiAverage costs
DEWA bill for 900 sq ft apartment¹⁰AED 608
Internet and TV packages¹¹AED 299 to AED 2,999
Cellphone bill¹⁰AED 125 to over AED 500

What are the average salaries for Dubai?

The salaries in Dubai in general are fairly high. Additionally, for skilled and in demand professions, they’re extremely good. If you’re a software developer, then Dubai is among the best places in the world to pull in a high salary, especially now.¹² However, pay isn’t so high for more administrative or entry level positions.

Check out what you could earn on average in Dubai here:¹³

Salary averages for DubaiAverage salary
AccountantAED 55,000
Civil engineerAED 74,000
Mechanical engineerAED 73,000
Project managerAED 234,000
Operations managerAED 184,000
Business development managerAED 182,000
Finance managerAED 219,000

How expensive is housing and accommodation in Dubai?

Dubai has a very well-developed rental sector, meaning you can find pretty much any sort of housing you could wish for. Prices in the city centre and in exclusive expat areas outside of the centre have always been rather steep. However, rent prices have dropped during 2021, so apartments are not as pricey.¹⁴

No matter what you want to know - the living cost in Dubai on a minimum salary style or with a bit more luxury - this should give you a general idea of what to expect. See what it might cost you to live in Dubai here or check out our handy guide to renting in Dubai

Renting in DubaiAverage monthly cost
One bedroom apartment (city centre)AED 5,431
One bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)AED 3,642
Three bedroom apartment (city centre)AED 10,613
Three bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)AED 7,099
InternetAED 356
Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)AED 672

What about healthcare and dental costs in Dubai?

The healthcare system in Dubai and throughout the UAE is very strong. When it comes to expats living in Dubai, their employers have to provide health insurance for them and their families. So, if you fall into this category, you should be taken care of.¹⁵ Also, since basic health insurance is now mandatory in Dubai, there are certain plans that are available to those that aren’t employed or have a lower income.¹⁶

The basic plan, called the EBP (Essential Benefits Plan), has pretty decent coverage. The yearly limit is AED 150,000 and it includes surgeries, lab tests, physiotherapy sessions, emergency care etc. Also, pregnant women have all tests covered, as well as the delivery, where the insured only pays 10%.¹⁶

Even though public healthcare in Dubai is good, there’s always an option to get private health insurance. This way, you’ll get premium care and skip any waiting. The prices are high, but they vary, so you really need to check with individual companies. Some of the well known ones are AXA Gulf Insurance, Allianz, Daman Health Insurance and ASCANA Takaful.

Here are the average prices of some health-related services:¹⁷

Healthcare serviceAverage cost to you
Short visit to private doctorAED 261
Cold medicine for six daysAED 24
A box of antibioticsAED 45

How much is travel and transportation in Dubai?

UAE is a country made famous by oil - so it’s hardly surprising that driving here is quite cheap. However, Dubai is a congested city, so hopping on public transportation might be your best bet if you have a daily commute.

Here are some average transportation costs in Dubai

Transportation and vehicle prices for DubaiAverage cost
Fuel (One litre / 0.25 gallon)AED 2.08
Monthly bus/transport passAED 300
Bus ticket, single useAED 5
Taxi tariff, 1kmAED 2.25
Toyota Corolla, newAED 70,670
VW Golf, newAED 90,000

How much does education cost?

The huge numbers of expats in Dubai means that there are excellent schools here, following many different educational systems. However, expats have to pay tuition fees, no matter if the school is public or private.¹⁸ This year, it has been decided that public schools won’t charge more than AED 6,000 per year.¹⁹

You might choose an international school which follows the International Baccalaureate programme or a school using the curriculum taught in your home country. Whatever is best for your family is likely to be on offer in Dubai.

SchoolAverage cost
Public school¹⁹up to AED 6,000
Private school²⁰AED 3,567 - 107,928
Zayed University (international students, one year)²¹AED 2,500 per credit hour
British University of Dubai tuition (international students, one year)²²AED 56,250 - 62,500

Dubai is a great expat destination, whether you’re considering a permanent move, or just looking to spend a year or two exploring somewhere new. The facilities and lifestyle on offer are world class and although the cost of living is fairly high, the experiences you can get here are truly memorable.

Good luck with your new life in Dubai!

Sources:

  1. Wise - currency converter
  2. Numbeo - cost of living in Dubai
  3. Numbeo - cost of living in London
  4. Numbeo - cost of living in New York
  5. Numbeo - cost of living in Berlin
  6. Numbeo - cost of living in Sydney
  7. Mercer - cost of living ranking
  8. Numbeo - cost of living comparison Dubai vs. London
  9. Numbeo - cost of living comparison Dubai vs. Manchester
  10. Bayut - What’s the cost of living in Dubai?
  11. Bayut - home internet packages in Dubai
  12. Khaleej Times - Dubai jobs: Demand for software developers skyrockets
  13. Payscale - average salaries in Dubai
  14. Khaleej Times - UAE becomes more affordable as stimulus cuts cost of living
  15. UAE Government - health insurance
  16. Gulf News - complete guide to mandatory health insurance in Dubai
  17. Expatistan - cost of living in Dubai
  18. Internations - education system in UAE
  19. Khaleej Times - UAE public school fee capped at AED 6,000
  20. Edarabia - best schools in Dubai
  21. Zayed University - tuition fees for international students
  22. British University in Dubai - undergraduate fees

*All sources checked on August 18, 2021


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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