Cost of living in Dubai: Your guide

TransferWise content team
07.19.17
4 minute read

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?

How expensive is Dubai in comparison to the UK, the EU, the USA and Australia?

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 livingOne bedroom flat in city centre (monthly rent)Lunch for two (Three courses, mid range restaurant)Transportation (monthly pass)
Dubai7,324 AED150 AED250 AED
London, UK7,847 AED255 AED607 AED
New York City, USA10,938 AED275 AED430 AED
Berlin, Germany3,023 AED164 AED331 AED
Sydney, Australia7,187 AED222 AED444 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.

What are the general living expenses for Dubai? How much can you get by on?

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 monthAED 3,190
Single person, per yearAED 38,280
University student, per monthAED 2,055
Four person family, per monthAED 11,137
Four person family, per yearAED 133,644

What are the average salaries for Dubai?

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 DubaiAverage salary
CashierAED 43,869
CopywriterAED 182,994
Financial analystAED 175,421
Graphic designerAED 140,007
Mobile developerAED 381,643
Product managerAED 277,744
ReceptionistAED 55,097
Software engineerAED 178,521
TeacherAED 129,866
Web developerAED 111,509

How expensive is housing and accommodation in Dubai?

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 DubaiAverage 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
InternetAED 324
Utilities (gas, electric and water for a 85m2 apartment)AED 619

What about healthcare and dental costs in Dubai?

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 serviceAverage cost to you
Family doctor check-up (no insurance)AED 274
Cold medicine for six daysAED 20
Antibiotic prescription (no insurance)AED 96

How much is travel and transportation in Dubai?

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 DubaiAverage cost
Gasoline (One litre / 0.25 gallon)AED 1.81
Monthly bus/transport passAED 250
Bus ticket, single useAED 5
Taxi tariff, 8km/5mile journeyAED 31
Toyota Corolla, newAED 65,062
VW Golf, newAED 70,000

How much does education cost?

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.

SchoolAverage cost
Preschool / kindergarten (monthly fee)AED 2,882
Private school for lower gradesAED 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.

Good luck with your new life in Dubai!

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