Canada vs Dubai: Cost of Living for Expats

Canada vs Dubai: Cost of Living for Expats

Dubai is famous for its economic stability and rich infrastructure. Canadian metropolises can compete with the most developed emirate in these respects.  Toronto, Canada’s financial and commercial centre, is the most attractive city for expats. We will compare here the cost of living in Dubai and Toronto.

Renting and Buying Residential Property

In any country, housing is the first priority for expats. If we talk about rent, the rates in the two metropolises are virtually the same. You can rent a one bedroom flat in such popular districts in Dubai as Dubai Marina, Downtown, and Dubai Hills for USD 1,900 to USD 2,100. Meanwhile, it would cost USD 2,000 to rent a flat in the centre of Toronto. 

Downtown, Dubai. Photo: Iwona Rege

In Toronto, rent in remote districts is just USD 200 to USD 250 cheaper than in the city centre. In Dubai, the difference is much bigger: it can cost USD 800 to USD 850 less to rent a property on the outskirts of the city.

However, there are nuances. It is far more difficult to rent a property long term in Toronto than in Dubai. The property owner may request a whole package of documents proving your income and solvency: a certificate of employment, your credit history, and a recommendation from the owner of your previous place of residence. 

An expat wishing to rent a flat in Toronto should pay attention to detail. There, they like to rent out rooms and not the whole property. In addition, flats tend to be built below ground level, something which might not be mentioned in the ad because it is considered normal. You should also consider the floor area of the property: studios in Toronto are not as spacious as in Dubai. As a result, if we compare similar flats, rent in Toronto tends to be far more expensive.

When it comes to buying real estate, the prices in the two cities are very different. According to Numbeo, a website researching the cost of living in cities around the world, residential properties in Toronto are 2.5 to 3 times more expensive than in Dubai. The price per square metre of real estate in the centre of Toronto costs about USD 9,700 compared to starting prices of USD 4,100 in the centre of Dubai. The price per square metre of real estate on the outskirts of Toronto costs USD 7,785, and in Dubai’s suburbs, for instance, in Dubai South or Discovery Gardens, USD 2,400.

Toronto, Canada. Photo: Udayaditya Barua (Unsplash)


Utility prices are higher in Dubai. Essentials (electricity and water) will cost at least USD 192 a month, not including the security deposit and the connection of utilities via the DEWA system (in Dubai, tenants connect themselves and in their name).

By contrast utility prices in Toronto average USD 152 a month, and this is usually included in the rent.

Mobile Communications and the Internet

In Dubai a package with calls and Internet access will cost an expat at least USD 60 and USD 92 a month for high-speed Internet for your home. In Toronto, a home Internet package costs USD 58 and mobile communications USD 46 a month.

Expats should keep in mind that the use of messengers is limited in Dubai: audio and video calls do not work on WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, and other apps. So only text messages and voice messages can be used.


As the UAE has significant oil reserves, fuel here is cheap: one litre costs USD 0.9. In Toronto, one litre costs USD 1.1. The relatively low fuel costs in the emirates influence transport fares. For instance, a one-way metro ticket in Dubai costs USD 1.6 (one zone), and a card for a month USD 92.6. Taxi rides start at USD 3.27. You will also have to pay USD 0.8 for each kilometre of the trip. 

In Toronto, one trip on public transport costs USD 2.5, and a card for a month USD 117. A standard taxi ride costs USD 3.4, and each kilometre of the trip costs USD 1.3.

Dubai. Photo: Noah Bikoro (Unsplash)

Food in Shops and Markets

To save money on food, it is advisable to cook at home. Both Toronto and Dubai have many shops and markets where you can buy fresh produce, meat, fish, bread, and other products. However, due to the peculiarities of the climate and the geographical location, prices for some of them will be higher. This concerns primarily fruit and vegetables in Canada. In Dubai, in turn, it is difficult to find pork, as Muslims do not eat it.

Let us compare average prices for essential foods in Dubai and Toronto as of July 2023:

Food products
Dubai (USD)
Toronto (USD)
Bread, 1 loaf
Milk, 1 litre
Potatoes, 1 kg
Rice, 1 kg
Home-made cheese, 1 kg
Eggs, a dozen
Onions, 1 kg
Tomatoes, 1 kg
Bananas, 1 kg
Apples, 1 kg
Oranges, 1 kg
Chicken fillet, 1 kg
Tenderloin, 1 kg

1.5 litres of bottled water cost USD 0.6 in Dubai and USD 1.8 in Toronto. Fizzy drinks like Coca-Cola are a little cheaper in Toronto. A 2-litre bottle of Coca-Cola costs USD 2.1 against USD 2.3 in Dubai.

In order to buy alcohol in Dubai, an expat will need to obtain a personal license. Such drinks are only sold in specialised shops in the emirate and the prices are much higher than in non-Muslim countries. For instance, 0.5 litres of home-brew beer is USD 3.5, while a 0.33-litre bottle of imported beer costs USD 6.4. A 0.75-litre bottle of wine costs USD 17.7 on average.

In Toronto, alcohol prices are much lower. A 0.5-litre bottle of home-brew beer costs USD 2.4 and USD 2.67 for imported beer. One bottle of wine costs USD 13.1 on average.

Toronto, Canada. Photo: Ferdinand Stöhr (Unsplash)

Cafes and Restaurants

In Dubai, many people prefer eating out or ordering takeout. You will find restaurants and cafes at every corner and can find any cuisine you want. Lunch for one at an inexpensive cafe costs USD 11. A combo at a fast-food outlet costs about USD 9. A three-course dinner for two with wine at a medium-price restaurant costs USD 82.

In Toronto, eating out is in general more expensive. For example, lunch for one at an inexpensive cafe costs USD 17, lunch at a fast-food outlet costs about USD 10. A full dinner for two would cost you about USD 90.

Clothes and Shoes

Prices for clothes and shoes are virtually the same in Toronto and Dubai. A pair of jeans of the same brand costs around USD 57.7 and USD 63.2 respectively. Trainers cost the same in both cities: USD 90 on average.

When calculating expenses for clothes and shoes, keep in mind the difference in climate. Unlike in Canada, it is always warm in the UAE. The temperature never falls below 15°C even in winter. If you live in Canada all year round, you will need summer clothes, winter clothes, as well as clothes for other seasons. You will not need that in Dubai.

Sports and Entertainment

Doing sports in Toronto is twice as less expensive than in Dubai. A gym membership costs USD 49 in Toronto and USD 73 in the emirate. The same is true for renting a tennis court: USD 20 in Toronto and USD 36,5 in Dubai

In Toronto as in all of Canada, they love sports. It is also the main source of entertainment. You can watch a baseball game at a stadium: tickets start at USD 18. You can go to a rock-climbing centre (from USD 30) or a wellness centre (from USD 25) or just ride a bike in a park. Hockey tickets are expensive here: fans are willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a seat at the stadium.

Among other things, city quests are popular (from USD 20), as well as theatres (from USD 30 for a major show). 

In Dubai, entertainment is mostly centred around shopping centres and amusement parks. For instance, a ticket to the Aquaventure starts at USD 80, one to the IMG Worlds of Adventure based on the Marvel universe USD 90, and a game of golf at an interactive course, USD 50.

In a Nutshell

Canada is equal to Dubai in terms of economic development, but the cost of living is higher. According to Numbeo, you need USD 5,837 a month to live a comfortable life in Canada. This is enough for rent in old Toronto, utility invoices, mobile communications, the Internet, transport, food and clothes, as well as minor expenses. In Dubai you would need USD 5,445 to maintain the same lifestyle in Dubai. So the cost of living in Toronto is 8% higher than in Dubai. And you should keep in mind that it is more difficult to find a property for rent in Toronto due to the peculiarities of the local market.

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