Average Cost of Living in Dubai: Living Expenses

Average Cost of Living in Dubai: Living Expenses

Dubai attracts people from all over the world and more and more expats move here every year. It is safe and offers multiple opportunities to lead a comfortable life. However, before you buy a one-way ticket, you need to work out how much it costs to live in Dubai. In this article we will tell you about the main expenses of the city’s residents.

Housing

This is the biggest expense. The Dubai real estate market offers a wide range of options at different prices. You can rent or buy a small studio, a flat (with two to seven bedrooms or more), a townhouse, a modest or luxury villa.

It goes without saying that housing expenses depend on your lifestyle and preferences as well as the area where you rent or buy property.

Expensive real estate is offered primarily in areas by the coast or close to the Sheikh Zayed Highway. Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Al Barsha and Arabian Ranches are the districts to choose if you are looking for luxury housing. 

However, the city is rapidly developing and new areas and new complexes are coming on line, including residential buildings where the flats are less expensive. For example, you can find cheaper properties along the Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, Al Khail Road, and Emirates Road. If you are on a tight budget, it is worthwhile looking at the suburbs: Al Reem, Dubai Silicon Oasis or Mirdif. We would also advise you to search Dubai's historical areas, Deira and Al Nahda, for a flat at a reasonable price. 

Renting a studio will cost you from AED 2,600 (USD 700) a month, while a one-bedroom flat will cost from AED 4,200 (USD 1,100) a month. Two-bedroom or three-bedroom flats start at USD 5,000 (USD 1,300) a month. Villas are offered for rent for AED 8,800 (USD 2,400) to AED 11,700 (USD 3,200) a month. 

Please note that landlords in Dubai tend to ask tenants to sign a long-term tenancy agreement (from six months and more) and to pay upfront for the entire tenancy period.

Food

This is another category of expenses defined primarily by your lifestyle and needs. It depends on whether you prefer to cook at home and buy products often at a discount or eat out.

Dinner in an expensive restaurant can cost from AED 250 to AED 1,000 (USD 68 to USD 272). Dinner in a cheaper restaurant costs on average AED 150 (USD 49) per person. You can find very cheap options in Deira or Bur Dubai, where breakfast costs AED 20 (USD 5.5), while a dinner for two people costs only AED 40-50 (USD 11-14). Chinese, Lebanese, Thai, and Indian cafes offer cheap and tasty dishes.

If you prefer to cook yourself, you can buy groceries from different supermarket chains, from expensive options like Spinneys or Waitrose to low-cost alternatives such as Lulu Hypermarket, Carrefour and Union Cooperative. You can cut your food costs by looking out for special offers and discounts and buying seasonal produce.

Union Cooperative Hypermarket. Photo by Dennis Sylvester Hurd (Flickr)

We provide here the average prices of certain products:

      500 g of chicken fillet — AED 15 (USD 4);

      1 litre of milk — AED 7 (USD 2);

      a dozen eggs — AED 15 (USD 4);

      1 kg of tomatoes — AED 5 (USD 1);

      1 kg of apples — AED 7 (USD 2);

      1 kg of potatoes — AED 4 (USD 1);

      500 g of cheese — AED 23 (USD 6);

      a loaf of bread — AED 4 (USD 1);

      a bottle of red table wine — AED 59 (USD 16).

As a rule, the monthly grocery shopping bill averages AED 480 (USD 130) per person.

Utilities

DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) is the state authority responsible for water and electricity supplies and wastewater disposal services.

 DEWA. Photo by dewa.gov.ae

The average monthly utility invoice equals: 

  • AED 750 to AED 1,000 AED (USD 200 to USD 270) per person living in a studio or a one-bedroom flat, including payments for DEWA and internet services;
  • AED 1,000 to AED 1,400 (USD 270 to USD 380) for two people in a one-bedroom flat; and
  • AED 2,000 to AED 3,500 (USD 545 to USD 950) for three people living in a two-bedroom or three-bedroom flat.

It is highly likely that your invoices for DEWA services will be higher in the summer than in the winter, as it is so hot in Dubai in the summer that you cannot survive without keeping the air conditioner on all the time. This invoice also depends on the floor area and type of premises: payment for utility services will differ for a small studio and for a villa with a pool.

Etisalat and du provide TV and internet packages in Dubai. Be ready to pay about AED 400 (USD 110) a month for a standard 250 MB data package, over 200 TV channels and free calls to landlines in the Emirates. A premium 500 MB data package will cost AED 1,000 (USD 270) a month.

Mobile communications services in Dubai cost between AED 125 and AED 500 (USD 34 to USD 136) a month or more.

Healthcare

All residents of the United Arab Emirates must take out health insurance. Otherwise, you can be fined. Employers usually pay for the insurance of their employees, sometimes including the relatives of employees. However, if you are not covered by corporate insurance or have an investor visa, you should take out insurance from one of Dubai’s insurance companies.

The cost will depend on the services covered by your insurance. An Essential Benefit Plan or similar plans will only cover basic medical services and have many limitations. It will cost AED 550 to AED 650 a year (USD 150 to USD 177). If you want more professional services, you should take out an extended individual plan. This could cost you about AED 5,500 (USD 1,500) a year.

Transport

Car drivers will like the UAE as petrol costs less than in other countries. One litre is about AED 1.75 (USD 0.50). However, remember to factor in car insurance and maintenance expenses.

Dubai has a well-developed public transport system. You can get around the city by underground, bus and taxi. To pay for tickets on the city’s public transport network, use Nol, a single transport card. There are different types of Nol in terms of price, validity period, and the number of trips. They cost from AED 2 to AED 25  (from USD 0.5 to USD 7).

Photo by Michiel2005 (Flickr)

Approximate fares:

  • One trip on the underground costs AED 3.5 to AED 6 (USD 1 to USD 1.5). It depends on how far you are going and what type of Nol you use.
  • A bus trip costs AED 3 to AED 7.5 (USD 0.8  to USD 2).
  • The taxi fare consists of two components: the base fare equals AED 5 to AED 10 or USD 1.5 – USD 2.7, while the price per kilometre equals about AED 2 (USD 0.5). You can pay in cash, by card or Nol.

Schools

As public schools in Dubai are free and only available for Emiratis, expats must pay tuition fees. Expats prefer their children to study at American, British or Indian schools or on IB (International Baccalaureate) study programmes. It goes without saying that school education is not cheap. The fees can reach up AED 29,000 (USD 7,900) a year.

Household Staff

Many expats employ household staff in Dubai. If you hire a housekeeper, you must sponsor them and renew their visa annually as most housekeepers in the UAE tend to be foreigners. In general, the amount of AED 5,500 (USD 1,500) a year is sufficient to sponsor them. However, you must also pay a deposit of AED 2,000 (USD 545). Housekeeper's salaries vary from AED 1,500 to AED 3,500 (USD 400 to USD 950) a month.

You can also hire a full-time housekeeper through specialist agencies. In this case, however, you will have to pay for their services at once. As cleaning companies provide maids for several hours, you can either hire them on a one-time basis or for regular cleaning. They charge from AED 30 to AED 45 (USD 8 – USD 12) per hour.

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In a Nutshell 

Living in the UAE costs an arm and a leg. So you need to consider your means and options before moving there. Make a list of potential expenses and add them up, taking into account the size and requirements of your family.

Cover photo: Yogendra Singh (Pexels)

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