Whether you’re retiring, temporarily relocating or moving to Dubai for good, it’s helpful to have a picture of what life there will cost as an expat. The standard of living in Dubai is very high. In fact, the opportunity to live well in an interesting place is exactly why many foreigners go there. But this doesn’t come cheap.
Dubai has been dubbed the most expensive city in the world for tourists to visit, but what are the costs to actually live there as an expat?
The official currency in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates is the dirham (written as AED - Arab Emirate Dirham - on currency exchanges).
You can find out the exact value of your money in AED, using an online currency converter - but here’s a rough guide:
- 1000 USD = 3,673 AED
- 1000 GBP = 4,692 AED
- 1000 EUR = 4,105 AED
- 1000 AUD = 2,794 AED
|Comparing basic cost of living||One bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)||Lunch for two (Three courses, mid range restaurant)||Transportation (monthly pass)|
|Dubai||7,324 AED||150 AED||250 AED|
|London, UK||7,847 AED||255 AED||607 AED|
|New York City, USA||10,938 AED||275 AED||430 AED|
|Berlin, Germany||3,023 AED||164 AED||331 AED|
|Sydney, Australia||7,187 AED||222 AED||444 AED|
One major factor that adds expense for expats in Dubai, is the cost of converting cash to AED from your home currency. Even if your bank says it offers fee-free money exchange, you can be sure that its cut is rolled up in the exchange rate it uses. To get the best deal, you should use an exchange service like TransferWise, which applies the same mid-market rate you’ll find on Google and Reuters. TransferWise provides a quick service and low flat fees to transfer your cash, this can be a much better deal than relying on your home bank.
Where you choose to live is one of the major factors determining how expensive life in Dubai will be for you. Rental prices are fairly high but move outside of the city, and you can rent in Dubai for much less.
|Living expenses in Dubai (excluding rent)||Average cost|
|Single person, per month||AED 3,190|
|Single person, per year||AED 38,280|
|University student, per month||AED 2,055|
|Four person family, per month||AED 11,137|
|Four person family, per year||AED 133,644|
The salaries in Dubai, in general are fairly high. Additionally, for skilled and in demand professions, they’re extremely good. If you’re a UX designer or mobile developer then Dubai is among the best places in the world to pull in a high salary. It’s also the city with the highest paid research scientists and office managers. However, pay isn’t so high for more administrative or entry level positions.
Check out what you could earn in Dubai here:
|Salary averages for Dubai||Average salary|
|Financial analyst||AED 175,421|
|Graphic designer||AED 140,007|
|Mobile developer||AED 381,643|
|Product manager||AED 277,744|
|Software engineer||AED 178,521|
|Web developer||AED 111,509|
Dubai has a very well-developed rental sector, meaning you can find pretty much any sort of housing you could wish for. Prices in the city centre and in exclusive expat areas outside of the centre are very steep - although you can still get more reasonably priced places if you don’t mind a bit of a commute.
See what it might cost you here or check out our handy guide to renting in Dubai:
|Renting in Dubai||Average monthly cost|
|One bedroom apartment (city centre)||AED 7,345|
|One bedroom apartment (outside of city centre)||AED 5,043|
|Three bedroom family home (city centre)||AED 14,442|
|Three bedroom family home (outside of city centre)||AED 10,100|
|Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)||AED 619|
The healthcare system in Dubai and throughout the UAE is very strong. Expats living in Dubai might be able to apply for a health card which entitles them to some free medical care, but it’s usually advisable to also purchase private health insurance to make sure you’re covered for all eventualities.
|Healthcare service||Average cost to you|
|Family doctor check-up (no insurance)||AED 274|
|Cold medicine for six days||AED 20|
|Antibiotic prescription (no insurance)||AED 96|
UAE is a country made famous by oil - so it’s hardly surprising that driving here is quite cheap. However, Dubai is a congested city, so hopping on public transportation might be your best bet if you have a daily commute.
|Transportation and vehicle prices for Dubai||Average cost|
|Gasoline (One litre / 0.25 gallon)||AED 1.81|
|Monthly bus/transport pass||AED 250|
|Bus ticket, single use||AED 5|
|Taxi tariff, 8km/5mile journey||AED 31|
|Toyota Corolla, new||AED 65,062|
|VW Golf, new||AED 70,000|
The huge numbers of expats in Dubai means that there are excellent schools here, following many different educational systems. You might choose an international school which follows the International Baccalaureate programme, for example, or a school using the curriculum taught in your home country. Whatever is best for your family is likely to be on offer in Dubai.
|Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)||AED 2,882|
|Private school for lower grades||AED 40,818|
|Dubai university tuition (undergraduate, one year)||AED 243,600|
|British University of Dubai tuition (MBA, one year)||AED 70,000|
Dubai is a great expat destination, whether you’re considering a permanent move, or just looking to spend a year or two exploring somewhere new. The facilities and lifestyle on offer are world class and although the cost of living is fairly high, the experiences you can get here are truly memorable. If you're interested in learning Arabic before you go, or whilst you're there, try a language learning app like busuu.
Good luck with your new life in Dubai!
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