If you’re an entrepreneur with designs on living and working in Dubai, you might wonder how expensive it is to set up here. For long-term investors and business owners, it’s worth doing some research to learn what the cost of living in Dubai is really like.
No matter how successful you are in business, the expense of living in any major city can be a difficult hurdle to overcome. Things like accommodation, food, medical needs, public transport and utilities all need to be factored into your monthly spending. So, is living in Dubai as expensive as you think? Is it an expensive city?
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Much like the city’s towering metro buildings along the Dubai Marina, the options for business opportunities in Dubai are sky-high. The vibrant energy of Dubai attracts many expats from around the world who want to take advantage of the many perks it has on offer. Skilled workers, students and professionals of all walks of life flock to this bustling and diverse centre each year.
Interestingly, the monthly cost of living in Dubai isn’t as crazy as you may think. In fact, the living expenses here have become more affordable in recent years, thanks to the UAE’s incentives to draw in top global talent and entrepreneurs into the region. This coupled with deflation seen in Abu Dhabi and Dubai over the past two years has caused sectors such as real estate to become cheaper for expatriates. As a result, Dubai now sits at the #42 spot in the annual Cost of Living Survey. In truth and in price difference, it’s nowhere near as expensive as other major cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai and Singapore. Because Dubai caters for singles and families from all over the world, it suits most budgets, whether it’s a frugal or luxurious lifestyle you’re looking for.
Let’s look at a range of basic monthly and annual living costs and how they apply to a single person, a couple and even a small family looking to settle in Dubai.
Okay, you’ve made your move to Dubai (or will soon) and now it’s time to think about how you’ll afford your new life and everything in it. It caters to everybody, whether you’re on a minimum salary or a decent salary. Regardless how much salary you make or your average monthly salary, it’s valuable to understand the basic monthly expenses for expats living in this prosperous city.
So, to answer the important question – ‘how much does it really cost to live in Dubai?’, let’s break it down into these typical categories:
- Food & Groceries
- Travel & Transportation
- Housemaid Services
Rental costs and house/ property prices are usually top of the list for residents of Dubai when considering their living expenses. This is because rental costs usually take up around 30% of your overall monthly salary and living costs. Luckily, the constantly evolving infrastructure, buildings and services in Dubai have meant that older parts of the city are experiencing a real estate boom. So there’s now more choice than ever for accommodation in Dubai.
It’s true that newer residential spaces in areas surrounding Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road or apartments in the Jumeirah Beach Residence are typically considered more affluent, with more expensive accommodation and housing options. However, there are plenty of accommodation options to suit every person and their budget.
Did you know that the average cost of rent in Dubai is actually 6.72% lower than rent in Sydney?
Areas such as Barsha, Jumeirah and the Dubai Marina tend to attract high-net-worth individuals and entrepreneurs looking for luxurious housing options. As such, the prestige of this region comes with a higher price tag. If you’re after something slightly more affordable to save money, suburban areas like Dubai Silicon Oasis or Deira and Al Nahda are great minimum cost options as well.
So, here’s some figures to consider for your estimated monthly costs. A one-bedroom apartment in the city centre is around AED 6000 per month. Whereas, a similar-sized apartment outside of the city is half that, at around AED 3600 in monthly expenses.
Now, if you’re in the market for purchasing property in Dubai, you can expect some much bigger numbers. In Dubai CBD, apartment pricing is calculated per square metre. So, the price range is anything from AED 8000 to just under AED 25000.
Other than the monthly rent to have a roof over your head, food is considered an essential living expense for everyone. In Dubai, groceries can take up a decent portion of anyone’s monthly salary, at around 15%. How you eat will also determine how much money you spend on food shopping each month as well.
It’s simple enough to make use of the various supermarket chains in Dubai and stock your fridge and pantry with basic essentials. For a luxe grocery shopping experience, check out Union Coop which is known for providing premium quality products and fresh food to Dubai residents. The French-owned retailer Carrefour is another convenient supermarket option that will suit all budgets. And for a unique shopping experience, there’s Choithrams. This retailer found in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi suits a mid to high-range budget and carries a variety of household items as well as perishable items. Expect to find gourmet pastries, cakes, fresh produce, meat and organic foods here. From Waitrose to 7 Eleven, there’s plenty of food outlets to be found in all Dubai shopping malls across the city.
To get an idea of the cost of groceries, here’s a cost breakdown of some key essentials for a typical single person. 1 litre of milk, a loaf of bread and a 1kg bag of rice will cost around AED 17.50 each. Then, a 1kg bag of fresh produce such as tomatoes, oranges or bananas is in the region of AED 6.50 each. Of course, meat and dairy will invariably be more costly, with a dozen eggs fetching AED 10.60 and 1kg of chicken breast costing AED 28.00 on average.
Keeping the lights on and the water running at home is vitally important for anyone. It’s another essential living cost in Dubai. The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) is responsible for connecting residents with both water and electricity.
The average cost of utilities in Dubai varies according to the time of year and the type of property within which you live. For instance, in summer and winter, the electricity bill will likely be higher if you’re using air conditioning to cool and heat your home. Also, if your residence has a pool or spa, electricity costs will also increase.
These days, having a reliable internet connection at home is considered an essential living expense. It’s certainly no different for residents in Dubai. The same goes for TV and mobile phones. Locals can choose from different packages for both services, provided directly by Etisalat and du.
An entry-level package offers a connection with internet download speeds at 250 mbps, over 200 TV channels and free UAE landline calls. This package costs around AED 390 per month. Of course, for larger families there are premium packages available, which are invariably more costly. A package offering 500 mbps download speeds, top sports, movies and entertainment channels will cost AED 1000 per month, or likely more. If you’re after a simple data mobile phone plan, the average cost would be between AED 125 and AED 500 per month.
If you’re a Dubai resident commuting to work or travelling throughout the month, you’ll know it can consume a decent chunk of your budget. For many people, transportation costs can be as much as 15% of your total monthly Dubai living expenses. However, with more and more people working remotely from home, this figure is variable.
Most car owners anywhere in the world appreciate that even the smallest increase in petrol prices can impact your overall expenses and therefore increase your total cost of living. Then, add on the basic costs of servicing and maintenance of your own car plus car insurance, and it can quickly become a huge cost of daily life. Dubai residents are acutely aware of this, and therefore factoring in transportation costs becomes an important part of managing your living expenses in Dubai.
According to the UAE fuel price committee, petrol prices are set to stabilise in line with global price fluctuations that happen concurrently across the world. Petrol prices can vary quite drastically, from anything between AED2.30/L and AED3.40/L in 2022.
Those Dubai residents who don’t own a car and instead make use of public transportation typically opt for a Nol card to get around. A Nol card is a monthly pass that’s applicable to Dubai’s innovative public transport system, including buses, taxis, ferries and the Dubai Metro train line. This card costs around AED350 per month and facilitates easy travel across all Dubai’s city zones.
Another fairly important aspect of Dubai’s cost of living is healthcare and medical expenses. For all UAE residents, health or medical insurance is mandatory. If your employer is sponsoring your residency in Dubai, the company is responsible for providing health insurance to you, and in some instances your whole family. Alternatively, if you’re in the country on an investor visa, you’ll need to acquire health insurance independently. either way, it is important to have a health and medical essential benefits plan of some kind or the other.
Fortunately, there’s several Dubai medical insurance companies to choose from that offer a host of policies at affordable prices. Among some of the top health insurance companies in Dubai include AXA Insurance, Dubai National Insurance & Reinsurance P.S.C. (DNIRC), Metlife, Allianz – Orient Insurance and Oman Insurance Company.
The cost of insurance coverage and premiums depend largely on the type of coverage you’re after. For example, for singles, many Essential Benefits options have prices starting at AED 600 per annum. Then of course, a more comprehensive cover can cost around AED 5500 per annum. Families looking for health insurance cover are looking at spending around AED 17000 on average. Remember, if you employ a housemaid, you’re responsible for providing medical insurance for them as well.
Now is the all-important decision around school and university education for kids and young adults. This can certainly be a big part of your monthly living cost in Dubai. There is a bevy of schooling options for parents settling their families in Dubai. In fact, there are 17 defined different school curricula to consider. Among some of these include British, Indian, American, International Baccalaureate (IB), French, Pakistani, German and Japanese.
The price of school fees can vary widely, depending on what schools or educational institutions in which your children are enrolled. Usually, British, IB and American schools attract higher school fees, with some schools costing on average AED 7500 per month.
Conversely, those generally more affordable schools such as The English Elite School, Central School Dubai and Crescent English High School can be around AED 4000 per month, depending on the year level. But, don’t forget that transport costs, uniforms, extra-curricular activities and books are all on-top costs. These costs can also add up for a family, and need to be accounted for as part of your Dubai cost of living.
So what about university fees? Well, Dubai has 65 colleges that offer a diverse mix of subjects and qualifications. The average per-student cost for an undergraduate degree is around AED 173400.
Is there room in your Dubai budget for some fun now? Once you’ve taken care of the things that keep you alive and thriving, it’s important to build in some funds for reaction. so you can enjoy yourself while you spend money. As part of your living expenses in Dubai, it’s wonderful to go to the movies, eat out at a mid range restaurants, visit food trucks and make the most of what this beautiful city has to offer.
Truthfully, there’s so much to do in Dubai, you’ll really want to budget for some leisure activities. So what does going out on the town look like? Well, on average a night at the movies for 2 will set you back AED 80, while a casual couple’s dinner at a standard restaurant can cost around AED 60. But if you’re looking for a touch of luxury, a three-course dinner for two at a fine dining restaurant can be as expensive as AED 1000. Go on, you only live once!
This may not be a typical expense for every Dubai resident, however it’s certainly something that many locals enjoy. Built into the cost of having a full-time housemaid is your responsibility to sponsor them and renew their visa every year. This, of course, adds to your total living expenses per month in Dubai. It can cost between AED 1500 and AED 3500 per month to employ a maid. Then, sponsorship fees are around AED 5500 per year.
Furthermore, if your housemaid doesn’t live in your place of residence, you also need to assist with paying for accommodation. So, in total, it can be upwards of AED 10000 per month to pay for housemaid services. If this seems far too lavish and simply doesn’t fit into your costs of living in Dubai, then part-time cleaners are also an affordable alternative. One or two hours of cleaning can cost residents AED 30 to AED 40 per hour on average. Either way, there’s certainly options to suit any budget while you’re living and working in Dubai.
So what does it really cost to live in Dubai for a single person, couple and a small family? Taking into account the average costs for rent, utilities, groceries and transport as the main expenses, the monthly expenses of living varies greatly for each demographic.
In Dubai, singles can expect to part with AED 5k per month, couples will likely spend AED 9k per month and a family of four are looking at AED 18k per month. Remember, this is a guide only to get an idea of general living expenses and your situation may differ depending on your individual needs and spending habits.