Cost of living in Dubai: Your guide

Gert Svaiko

Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating or moving to Dubai for good from the UK, 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.

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!

And, if you want to manage your money easily in both Dubai and the UK, check out the Wise account. Wise lets you manage your money in multiple currencies – including British pounds and UAE dirhams – always at the mid-market exchange rate.

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How expensive is Dubai compared 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 see an example the list below showing the approximate value of AED at the time of writing, compared to a few major currencies:

  • 1,000 GBP = 4,506 AED
  • 1,000 USD = 3,673 AED
  • 1,000 EUR = 3,955 AED
  • 1,000 AUD = 2,442 AED

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 GBP for ease of comparison):¹

Comparing basic cost of livingOne bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Lunch for two (Three courses, mid-range restaurant)Transportation (monthly pass)
Dubai, UAE£1,550£66£76
London, UK£2,057£70£160
New York City, USA£3,184£82£105
Berlin, Germany£1,084£53£75
Sydney, Australia£1,587£73£118

Average cost of living in Dubai vs. UK

According to the Mercer’s Cost of Living survey, London is actually more expensive than Dubai. While Dubai is at number 31, which is still pretty high, the UK capital is at the 15th spot

Rent prices in London are more than 40% higher than those in Dubai, while groceries cost around 15% more. Only a few things are cheaper in London. Besides internet packages, it pretty much comes down to individual items.³ When it comes to Manchester, the prices are in general on the same level with Dubai. An exception is the cost of rent, which is over 50% higher in Dubai.⁴

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

You could get a better deal by using an exchange service like Wise, which applies the fair mid-market exchange rate with no margin added on top and no hidden fees. Wise provides a quick service and low, transparent fees to transfer your money, so this might be a much better deal than sending money with your home bank.


Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

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:⁵

Living expenses in Dubai (excluding rent)Average cost
Single person, per month£832
Four-person family, per month£2,875

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 flat, the DEWA bill is around £133 (600 AED) a month.⁶ 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 around £78 (AED 350) a month. On the other hand, premium packages cost over £115 (AED 520) a month. In order to sign up for these services, some companies require you to be at least 21 years old.⁶

Finally, your cellphone bill will most likely range from £28 to over £110 (AED 125 - AED 500). Like anywhere else, this depends on the amount of data and number of minutes you get per month.⁶

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

Utilities in DubaiAverage costs
DEWA bill for 900 sq ft flat£133
Internet and TV packages£78 - £115+
Cellphone bill£28 - £110+

How expensive is housing and rent 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.

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:⁵

Renting in DubaiAverage monthly cost
One-bedroom flat (city centre)£1,550
One-bedroom flat (outside of city centre)£896
Three-bedroom flat (city centre)£2,750
Three-bedroom flat (outside of city centre)£1,671

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.⁷

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. The basic plan, called the EBP (Essential Benefits Plan), has pretty decent coverage. The yearly limit is AED 150,000 (~£33,300) and it includes surgeries, lab tests, physiotherapy sessions, emergency care etc.⁸

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:⁹

Healthcare serviceAverage cost to you
Short visit to private doctor£63
Cold medicine for six days£5.50
A box of antibiotics£9

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:⁵

Transportation and vehicle prices for DubaiAverage cost
Gasoline (One litre)£0.76
Monthly bus/transport pass£75.65
Bus ticket, single use£1.28
Taxi tariff, 1km£0.67
Toyota Corolla, new£17,084
VW Golf, new£22,028

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. You can expect the school fees to be around £1,333 (AED 6,000) per year for each grade.¹⁰

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 school¹⁰£1,333
Private school¹¹£550 - £25,357
Zayed University (international students, one year)¹²£556 per credit hour
British University of Dubai tuition (international students, one year)¹³£12,500 - £13,890

What’s the average salary in Dubai?

The salaries in Dubai in general are fairly high. Additionally, for skilled and in demand professions, they’re extremely good. However, pay isn’t so high for more administrative or entry level positions.

Check out what you could earn in a year on average in Dubai:¹⁴

Salary averages for DubaiAverage salary (GBP)Average salary (AED)
Accountant£12,128AED 54,585
Civil engineer£15,372AED 69,186
Mechanical engineer£15,341AED 69,049
Project manager£47,348AED 213,106
Operations manager£35,567AED 160,082
Business development manager£36,297AED 163,367
Finance manager£44,470AED 200,152

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!

And, if you’re looking for ways to manage your finances in multiple countries, check out the Wise account. You can send and hold money in 50 currencies, and spend in 175 countries around the world using the Wise card.

Register with Wise today

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Sources used:

  1. Numbeo - Cost of living
  2. Mercer - Cost of living ranking
  3. Numbeo - Cost of living comparison Dubai vs. London
  4. Numbeo - Cost of living comparison Dubai vs. Manchester
  5. Numbeo - Cost of living in Dubai
  6. Bayut - What’s the cost of living in Dubai?
  7. UAE Government - Health insurance
  8. - Essential benefits plan
  9. Expatistan - Cost of living in Dubai
  10. Internations - Education system in UAE
  11. Edarabia - Best schools in Dubai
  12. Zayed University - Tuition fees for international students
  13. British University in Dubai - Undergraduate fees
  14. Payscale - Average salaries in Dubai

Sources last checked on date: 27-Mar-2023

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This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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