Back

How Much Does It Cost to Live in Dubai? [Updated as of September 2022] 

Dubai is portrayed as a millionaire’s playground and the potential for a lavish lifestyle is too much for some to resist. Evidently, a lot of people had the same idea as 80% of the country’s population of 2.5 million is made up of expats.

Many assume that the cost of living in Dubai is significantly higher, but this is due to the supercars and penthouse apartments glamorised by the media. Compared to London, the cost of living in Dubai is actually 10.02% lower. Those expecting the life of a global star after a move to Dubai will be sorely disappointed. Granted, there are aspects of life in Dubai that will be kind to your bank balance but keeping a realistic frame of mind is essential. A move to Dubai will not take you from pauper to prince.

The Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank, releases its global Prosperity Index annually. The survey ranks the most prosperous countries in the world. Many assume prosperity is used in reference to the financial standing of a country and, while this is included, the Legatum Institute considers more factors in its ranking. In the most recent rankings, the UAE, which includes Dubai, placed 41st out of 167 counties.

This puts the UAE in the top 25% in the world, with its rankings for governance, economy and entrepreneurship and opportunities keep it afloat. Personal freedom is the thorn in the UAE’s side, for which it ranks 145th. The UAE, including Dubai, is predominantly made up of Muslim citizens and follows Islamic law. This includes limitations on clothing, alcohol, and public affection that Westerners may not be used to, which could account for why some expats may feel restrained.

With Dubai receiving minimal rainfall and boasting average temperatures above 30°C, as well as offering a great quality of life, it is not surprising that many dream of moving to the country. But how much does it really cost to live in Dubai?

Economy in Dubai

Visitors to Dubai often marvel at the man-made islands adorning the coast, dotted with luxury villas. These eccentric creations came to symbolise the emirate’s economic boom in the mid-2000s – and the crisis that followed in 2009.

To keep up with Abu Dhabi’s oil-rich economy, Dubai diversified from the 1950s onwards. It turned its economy into ports, trade, services and finance. These were successful. However, a liquidity-fuelled binge on property development and tourism left the country in $80 billion in debt.

However, the economy has rebounded, with debts being repaid and restructured. Although not without wobbles, with property prices surging dramatically in 2014, the government has taken steps to ensure that property and the economy remain stable.

Although many think oil is Dubai’s biggest export, it only accounts for 6% of its revenue. However, other petroleum based products makes up a huge 60% of exports, along with gold, aluminium and other metals. Dubai mainly imports cars, jewellery and clothing.

Dubai’s main economic drivers are now tourism, real estate, transport, construction, and information and communication technology. Overall, the Dubai economy represents a per capita gross domestic product of US $46,665 and looks to increase to US $48,822 in 2023.

Dubai Currency and Tax Overview

The currency used in Dubai, and the UAE, is the dirham (AED), also commonly abbreviated to Dhs or DH. The dirham is the currency that was initially adopted in the Arab world.

Notes come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 dirhams. The writing on the front of the note is in Arabic while on the reverse, it is English. There are 1 and 50 dirham coins in circulation, as well as a 25 fil coin, with 100 fils making up one dirham.

Many expats revel in the idea of living tax-free in Dubai. Whilst there is no income tax payable on wages in the UAE, some services and goods may require taxes, and there are some municipal taxes and customs duties.

Indirect taxes applicable to individuals are as follows:

  • 10% municipal tax applied to hotels and other entertainment facilities
  • 10% municipal tax on the rental of commercial spaces
  • 5% municipal tax on the rental of residential property
  • Road toll
  • Taxes on utility bills
  • 30% sales tax on alcohol

Housing in Dubai for Expats

Rent in Dubai is, on average, 24.22% lower than in London. Burj Khalifa has the most expensive rentals in the country, but Palm Jumeriah, DIFC and Jumeriah Beach Residence are not far behind. Many expats do live in these areas, but they tend to be working jobs with higher salaries.

Garhoud has a mix of older villas, and new and old apartments. Despite being considered the less trendy side of the Dubai, expats really enjoy living here. Barsha is one of the most popular areas for expats. It starts behind the Mall of the Emirates and head out towards the Emirates Hills. The Tecom area within Barsham has many new apartments at reasonable prices.

For young and relatively well-off expats, Dubai Marina is at the heart of what has become known as ‘New Dubai’. The Marina Walk feels like one of Dubai’s better-planned developments, with lots of shops and restaurants around the man-made marina. The development is populated by many freehold waterfront apartment towers.

For expats looking to buy, property prices vary depending on location. Roughly, per square meter, city centre homes are 13,850 AED (£3,317). Properties outside of the city centre are approximately 8,546 AED, per square meter (£2,046).

Expat Healthcare in Dubai

It is not possible to become a permanent citizen of Dubai if you were not born to parents who are both UAE nationals. For this reason, expats are not funded under the government-run health insurance scheme.

Expats wanting to use public hospitals and facilities need to apply and pay for a health card from the Department of Health and Medical Services (DOHMS). Some services will also require an additional fee.

Expats will not struggle to find a pharmacy in Dubai as there are plenty across the emirate; most are open 24 hours a day. Medicines are generally expensive in Dubai, and it’s best to keep the receipt if planning to claim from medical aid.

Expatriate Group offers a range of international health insurance plans to suit the needs of different expats. If you’re moving to Dubai, visit our page on moving to Dubai for more information or get a quote today.

Cost of Education in Dubai

Public schools in Dubai are not an option for expat children, as they are only open to Emirati children. However, there are a large number of private institutions in Dubai specifically catering to large foreign communities, as well as international schools.

There are schools following the British, American, French, Indian, Japanese and other national curricula, as well as the International Baccalaureate. To apply for entry to an international school, many schools will require a child’s academic record, and they may have to sit an entrance exam. Many of the international schools offer excellent educational facilities and some offer day-boarding.

Expat parents must remember to choose a school wisely, as a child cannot transfer schools once the academic year has begun. Furthermore, children will not be able to start school between 1st May and the end of June in any school year. They will have to wait until the new academic year begins.

The usual school week will be 4.5 days. Monday to Thursday, the day begins between 07.00 and 08.00 and finishes between 13.30 and 15.30. On a Friday, the day will begin between 07.00 and 08.00 and finish between 11.00 and 11.45.

All private establishments for expat children in Dubai are fee paying. There is an extremely wide variation in the fees for education, from around AED 10,000 to AED 100,000 per academic year. Fees are regulated by the Government, which will carry out inspections on each institution. Those that receive a ‘Very Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ rating will be able to increase their fees.

Employment Rates in Dubai

For some, work in Dubai will not be an issue as they have been relocated by their employer. Around 90% of the work force of the entire UAE are expatriate, making it a significant employment hotspot for those with the right skills.

Those who are travelling the country often take jobs in the major industries: petroleum and petrochemicals; fishing; aluminium; and construction. However, careers in education, healthcare, tourism and hospitality have recently blossomed. Major companies that are often recruiting in Dubai include The Emirates Group, PwC, HSBC, and KPMG.

As of 2022, according to Trading Economics, the unemployment rate in Dubai is at 3.9%, showing a marked recovery from the 6.7% unemployment rate seen during 2020 and the pandemic. Prior to that, the unemployment rate was at 2.64%, and with more developments in the economy, it looks as though Dubai might return to this lower number once again.

Salary in Dubai

The average salary in Dubai is 21,500 AED per month, which works out to around £5,163. It has the highest average salary of all the United Emirates, but it also has one of the highest costs of living, along with Abu Dhabi.

The UAE does not have a national minimum wage, and as such wages can vary significantly. Wages in Dubai can range from around 4,800 AED up to 99,000 AED. Financial, legal and technological industries usually pay more, whereas wages for roles in manufacturing can be very low. Your wage will also depend on your qualifications and education, with minimum salaries put forward by the Labour Ministry of the UAE for university graduates, skilled technicians, and skilled labourers.

To live comfortably in Dubai, you should expect a salary of at least 10,000 to 15,000 AED. This should allow you to cover your rent and bills and have enough disposable income to enjoy Dubai to the fullest.  

Comparison to UK

The world’s largest database, Numbeo, has a vast selection of user contributed data in regard to Dubai. Compared to the UK, the cost of food is generally more expensive, as are leisure activities. However, transportation and utilities out are cheaper in Dubai than in the UK.

The tables below provide an over view of the differences in costs between Dubai and London, UK. Please note that all Emirati prices have been converted into British pounds.

Groceries

UK Price (£)

Dubai Price (in £)

Cheaper Location

Milk (1l)

£1.09

£1.53

UK

White bread (500g)

£1.05

£1.29

UK

Eggs (12)

£2.35

£2.64

UK

Cheese (1 kg)

£6.44

£8.38

UK

Banana (1kg)

£1.28

£1.57

UK

Water (1.5l)

£1.16

£0.55

Dubai

Transport

UK Price (£)

Dubai Price (in £)

Cheaper Country

Petrol (1l)

£1.76

£1.02

Dubai

One-way ticket on public transport

£2.80

£1.20

Dubai

Monthly pass for public transport

£160.00

£83.82

Dubai

Taxi (1km)

£1.70

£0.72

Dubai

Utilities (Monthly)

UK Price (£)

Dubai Price (in £)

Cheaper Country

Electricity/Heating/Water for 85mapartment

£244.35

£158.46

Dubai

1 minute of PAYG talk time

£0.13

£0.14

UK

Internet (10 Mbps, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)

£29.91

£87.74

UK

Clothing

UK Price (£)

Dubai Price (in £)

Cheaper Country

Jeans (Levi or similar)

£74.69

£57.25

Dubai

Dress (chain store)

£34.08

£49.49

UK

Nike running shoe

£74.36

£72.35

Dubai

Leather business shoes

£92.03

£73.08

Dubai

Leisure

UK Price (£)

Dubai Price (in £)

Cheaper Country

Fitness club

£45.11

£66.64

UK

Tennis court (1 hour)

£11.60

£32.25

UK

Cinema (1 ticket)

£13.00

£10.78

Dubai

Eating Out

UK Price (£)

Dubai Price (in £)

Cheaper Country

Fast food meal

£6.80

£7.18

UK

Inexpensive restaurant

£16.50

£9.58

Dubai

3 course, mid-range

£33.19

£35.92

UK

Cappuccino

£3.26

£4.56

UK

Coke/Pepsi

£1.57

£1.07

Dubai

Imported beer

£5.00

£10.78

UK

Don’t forget, Expatriate Group offers a number of expat insurance products to help keep you protected overseas. Get a quote for your international health insurance today.

Related News