Many expats want to live in Dubai or Doha as these are the two metropolises with a well-developed economy and high standard of living. Both cities are equally vibrant, but each has its own features, rules, and cost of living. At first, it may seem there is barely any difference in living expenses in Dubai and Doha. However, it heavily depends on your lifestyle. Continue reading to find out the most cost-effective option for an expat among the most futuristic cities in the Middle East.
Buying and Renting Residential Real Estate
Housing expenses constitute a significant portion of the overall costs for expatriates worldwide. Renting a furnished 40-square-metre studio apartment in Dubai is 10% to 12% more expensive than in Doha. Specifically, the monthly rental rate for a city centre studio in Dubai is $1,955, compared to $1,800 in Doha. Studios located on the outskirts of the cities command rates of $1,143 in Dubai and $1,108 in Doha, respectively.
New buildings in the UAE
If you are contemplating purchasing a residential property, the dynamics change. In Doha, the cost is distinct, with one square metre priced at $4,722 in the city centre and $3,722 in the suburbs. Conversely, real estate prices in Dubai are notably more affordable, with a square metre in an affluent district priced at $3,867 and $2,344 in the suburbs.
West Bay, Doha, Qatar. Photo: Masarath Alkhaili (Unsplash)
The expenses associated with utilities in Doha are notably lower compared to those in Dubai. According to data from the analytical agency Numbeo, the combined water and electricity bill in Dubai averages around $195.40, whereas it stands at approximately $113 in Doha. It's essential to acknowledge that this figure doesn't incorporate the fees for utility connection and a security deposit, which tenants typically provide prior to occupying the property. In Dubai, water and electricity are set up by the state-owned company DEWA, while a Qatari agency named Kahramaa handles the same matters in Doha.
Mobile and internet plans incur higher costs in Dubai. The starting price for an unlimited internet package is around $92.30 per month. Similarly, a minute of mobile phone usage on a standard plan is priced at $0.14. In contrast, the corresponding expenses in Doha are approximately $86 for an unlimited internet package and $0.20 per minute for mobile phone usage.
Interestingly, you are unable to make voice or video calls through popular messenger applications in Dubai. However, this restriction does not apply in Doha.
Qatar and the UAE are renowned for their abundant oil reserves, resulting in relatively inexpensive petrol prices in both nations. In Doha, a litre of fuel is priced at approximately $0.60, while in Dubai, it hovers around $0.80.
Public transportation in Dubai also commands higher costs: a single fare is priced at $1.80, and a monthly pass costs $92.60. Conversely, in Doha, a metro ride begins at $0.55, with the option to purchase a monthly pass for $41.5. Taxi rates commence at $0.55 per kilometre in Qatar's capital and start at $0.90 in Dubai. It's important to note that taxis in both locations impose an initial boarding fee in addition to the per-kilometre charge.
If you prepare meals at home, the monthly food expenses are comparable in both cities. Opting to shop for groceries at local markets can help you save money. These markets typically offer the freshest and most budget-friendly fruits and vegetables. While fish and meat are readily available, it's important to note that pork is prohibited in Muslim countries. However, there is a diverse selection of mutton, chicken, beef, and even camel meat to choose from.
Let's compare the prices for the most popular food items in Doha and Dubai.
0.5 kilogram of bread
1 litre of milk
1 kilogram of potatoes
1 kilogram of rice
1 kilogram of cheese
A dozen eggs
1 kilogram of onions
1 kilogram of tomatoes
1 kilogram of bananas
1 kilogram of apples
1 kilogram of oranges
1 kilogram of chicken fillet
1 kilogram of steak
Doha, Qatar. Photo: ekrem osmanoglu (Unsplash)
The cost of drinking water is consistent in both Dubai and Doha, amounting to $0.50 for a one and a half-litre bottle. While tap water is generally clean, it is distilled, making bottled water a preferable choice for consumption.
Alcohol is prohibited in the capital of Qatar. It is not available for purchase in supermarkets, and the majority of restaurants and cafes do not offer it. In Doha, there is a single alcohol shop, exclusively accessible to expatriates who possess written authorization from their Qatari employers. Without this permission, only tourists have the option to purchase alcohol in restaurants located within five-star hotels that hold an alcohol licence.
Conversely, Dubai lifted its alcohol ban in 2020, albeit with the necessity of obtaining permission for its purchase. Those without permission frequently venture to the emirate of Ajman, where such authorization is not mandatory. The extremely negative attitude towards alcohol in the Middle East significantly influences prices. For instance, a 0.5-liter bottle of beer typically costs around $3.50 in shops, while a standard 0.75-liter bottle of wine is priced at $16.50.
Keep in mind that consuming alcohol or being drunk in public in Dubai is strictly prohibited, and such behaviour can lead to imprisonment.
Eating Out Expenses
Numerous expatriates, whether in Dubai or Doha, opt to dine out at cafes and restaurants. In Doha, Arabic, Turkish, and Indian cuisines are highly favoured. Street food cafes are abundant, offering options like a cappuccino for $5.70 or a burger for $6.90. A typical lunch at an affordable cafe in Doha typically amounts to around $8 per person, whereas a dinner at a restaurant averages around $55 for two people.
Dubai boasts a plethora of cafes showcasing traditional dishes from various global cuisines. Dining out in Dubai tends to be slightly pricier compared to Doha. A quick lunch could run you about $8.20, while enjoying a meal in a local cafe might cost around $10.50. For a dinner accompanied by wine for two people, you can anticipate a starting cost of $65. Should you wish to unwind at a pub, budget around $12.70 for a half-litre of beer.
Restaurant bills in Dubai and Doha often include tips, which can vary from 10% to 17% of the order's amount.
Clothes and Shoes Expenses
Dubai and Doha feature a variety of shopping malls showcasing renowned global brands. Clothing and footwear prices are comparable in both cities. For instance, a pair of jeans averages around $65, a summer dress costs approximately $54, and a pair of sneakers is about $93. Given the relatively mild climate, winter attire is less common, as temperatures rarely dip below 12°C even in the coldest months.
Sports and Entertainment Expenses
Engaging in fitness activities in Doha is nearly 70% pricier compared to Dubai. A monthly gym membership in Doha amounts to $123, whereas in Dubai, it's $73. While outdoor sports are a popular choice in both cities, the extreme heat mandates exercising primarily in the mornings to avoid risks. Sports are open to both men and women in Qatar and the UAE, with women having the option to train at mixed-gender or women-only gyms.
If you're keen on local trends, it's worth noting that tennis enjoys significant popularity in both cities. Renting a court in either city costs around $37 per hour on weekends. When it comes to golf, playing in Qatar is pricier compared to Dubai. This discrepancy is largely attributed to Dubai having more golf courses, making the sport accessible to a broader audience beyond the affluent. Prices for a round of golf on a natural course start at $240, while interactive platform games start at $50. In Doha, golfing rates vary depending on the day and time. Keep in mind that equipment costs are not included in the golf course booking price.
Attending a cinema premiere in both cities comes at a price of $11.50 per adult ticket. Overall, entertainment tends to be pricier in Doha. For instance, a jeep safari in Dubai costs around $50, while in Doha, the price is $70.