Cost of Living: Dubai vs London

Cost of Living: Dubai vs London

Dubai and London are both cities with high living standards. Both are among the top 10 in the 2022 Top 100 City Destinations Index. A high ranking on the list shows a city’s investment and business potential, as well as its economic prosperity and appeal to tourists.

For expats, however, the key factor in choosing a place to live is the cost of living. We are going to compare the cost of rent, groceries, transportation, and entertainment to find out whether the cost of living in Dubai is lower than in London.

Renting or Purchasing Property

Property is available to rent or buy in both cities. According to Numbeo, a data analytics company that studies the cost of living in different countries, renting an apartment in the Arab Emirates is 30% cheaper than in the UK. Rent in central London districts (Westminster, Chelsea, Kensington, etc.) starts at $3,000 per month. In the outer suburbs, you can rent a studio for as little as $1,600 a month.

In central Dubai in areas like Dubai Marina, Downtown or Business Bay, rent for studio apartments starts at $1900 per month, and in areas slightly further from the city centre (International City, Jumeirah Village Circle and Deira), rent starts at $1150.

The difference is even more significant when it comes to buying property. The price per square metre is more expensive in central London than in Dubai, $16,800 and $3900 respectively, and $9800 and $2300 on the outskirts. However, UAE laws allow foreigners to purchase property only in designated freehold zones.

Photo: Ilya Grigorik (Wikimedia)

Utilities

Household bills in Dubai are comparable to those in London. Water and electricity bills for two people in a one-bedroom apartment in London or Dubai will cost around $170 to $210 a month. Gas is not used in the UAE as they tend to prefer electric ovens. Electricity bills tend to go up in the summer because of air conditioning, but there is no such expense in houses with a central chiller-free system.

Some apartments in London have gas fireplaces. This increases monthly bills by $30 to $40 during the winter.

Food

Fruit and vegetables in Dubai are either produced locally in vertical farms or imported from Egypt, Iran, or Saudi Arabia, and so are relatively cheap. The British climate is not suitable for exotic and warm-season plants, and this affects prices. A kilo of oranges is $1 cheaper in the UAE than in London, and a kilogram of tomatoes is $2 cheaper.

Pork is not cheap or easy to find in Dubai: it is not consumed for religious reasons, but you can find poultry, beef, and lamb from local farms for a low price. For example, a kilogram of beef costs $11 in Dubai and $13 in London.

Photo: Freepik

Dairy products are not popular with Dubai locals, but expats still can find cheese and butter in supermarkets. One litre of cow milk costs $1.80 in the UAE versus $1.60 in London.

UAE citizens are more used to camel milk. They drink it, use it for yoghurts and cheese, and add it to coffee. Camel milk is said to be easier to digest than cow’s milk and it is richer in vitamins. Therefore, the price is higher, $4.60 for a litre. 

Let’s compare the prices of basic foodstuffs in Dubai and London:

Product
London
Dubai
Bread, 0.5 kg
$1,72
$1,50
Milk, 1 litre
$1,66
$1,84
Potatoes, 1 kg
$1,43
$1,09
Rice, 1 kg
$2,57
$2,09
Cheese, 1 kg
$8,76
$11,29
Eggs, a dozen
$3,93
$3,18
Onion, 1 kg
$1,41
$0,91
Tomatoes, 1 kg
$3,56
$1,56
Bananas, 1 kg
$1,53
$1,77
Apples, 1 kg
$2,61
$2,31
Oranges, 1 kg
$2,65
$1,88
Chicken fillet, 1 kg
$9,16
$8,77
Beef, 1 kg
$13,6
$10,93

According to Numbeo, groceries in Dubai are 17% cheaper than in London.

Cafes and Restaurants

Eating out is cheaper in the UAE. Dinner at a budget-friendly place costs around $11, while it will set you back around $25 in London. A combo-meal at a popular fast-food chain will cost $8.50 and $10.20, respectively.

A proper dinner for two people at a mid-range restaurant costs $80 in the UAE and $100 in London. A cup of coffee is cheaper in London: $4 versus $5 in the UAE.

You can buy alcoholic beverages in special shops in Dubai. To buy a beverage, you need a drinking licence, which you can get from a cashier.

Approximate alcohol prices in Dubai and London:

Beverage
London
Dubai
Bottle of wine
$11,5
$17,7
Domestic beer, 0.5 litres
$2,37
$3,5
Imported beer, 0.33 litres
$3,13
$6,41

Phone and the Internet

Phone services and the Internet are expensive in Dubai. In 2022, Cable.co.uk, a British web portal, rated countries according to the cost of mobile Internet. The UAE occupied 187th place in the rating with an average cost of $4.29 per gigabyte, and the UK made it to 59th place, with $0.79 per gigabyte.

On average, a monthly mobile service package with 10 Gb of traffic costs $60.4 in Dubai and $16.17 in London. Unlimited home Internet costs $93.20 and $38.70 per month, respectively.

Transportation

The UAE is the eighth-largest country in the world in terms of oil reserves, and the seventh in yearly extractions of oil. Petrol is cheap. Prices start at $0.88 per litre versus $2 in London.

Public transportation in Dubai is also cheaper. The total cost of a trip depends on the number of zones you have crossed. The most expensive transport ticket is $2.50. In London, ticket prices can get more expensive depending on the distance and the time of day. If you pay by credit card or Oyster transportation card, you can spend up to $6.67 per day.

Taxi fares in London are complicated. The minimum cost of a trip is $4.83, and there are three tariffs:

  1. Monday–Friday 05:00 to 20:00, $4.28 per 1.6 kilometre
  2. Monday–Friday 20:00 to 22:00 and weekends 05:00 to 20:00, $5.22 per 1.6 kilometre
  3. Night hours (22:00 to 05:00) on all days and during holidays, $5.52 per 1.6 kilometre

Both distance and travel time count. If a taxi covers 95 metres in more than 20.5 seconds on the first tariff, the taximeter will charge extra.

After 10.6 kilometres, charges are more frequent. For example, on the first tariff the taximeter will charge every 87 metres and 18.7 seconds. 1.6 kilometres will cost you approximately $4.58 instead of $4.28.

You can read more about taxi fares in London on the official London transport website.

This system increases the cost of a trip by three times during rush hour. A ride to the centre of London from the Heathrow airport (24 kilometres) usually costs around $80.

Photo: Peggy_Marco (Pixabay)

Taxis in Dubai are cheaper. There are several services with different tariffs: Dubai Taxi Corporation, Hala Taxi, Yango, Uber. The cost is also measured by taximeter:

  • pick-up, $1.3 to $6 (at the airport)
  • per kilometre, $0.50 to $0.80

A ride to the centre of Dubai from the airport (24 kilometres) costs around $10.

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