I think we can all agree that by now everyone has heard of the limitless benefits of living in Dubai, after all a city that boasts plenty of progressive opportunities, tax-free high standards of living, good education and quality healthcare sounds like a great place to be…
The question we get asked on many occasions: Just how manageable is it to live in this ultramodern city?
Let’s start with the main statistics of Dubai and some general information and dive deeper into the cost of living for expats in 2022.
Dubai is home to hundreds of nationalities, cultures and diverse backgrounds and has the highest population in the UAE.
Population: 3,488 million
Area: 4,114 km2
Official Language: Arabic & English
Currency: UAE Dirham (AED)
Time Zone: Gulf Standard Time (GMT +3 Summer, GMT +4 Winter)
Numbeo- a well-trusted website compares international cities and proves Dubai to be a very reasonable place to live amongst some of the top countries to relocate to worldwide.
Dubai is 35% less expensive than living in New York (without rent) and is 58% lower in rental prices on average. Rent prices are 32% lower than Singapore and 24% less than London. Furthermore, Copenhagen is 13% and Zurich 43% higher for consumer prices without rent.
It's true that rent will be one of your biggest outgoings living in the UAE, but that will also be the case in many major cities worldwide, and this can be made cheaper depending on the area that you decide to stay in.
Starting from the top, the most popular locations are typically The Palm, Dubai Marina, JLT, Downtown and Business Bay. Annual rent for a one-bedroom will range from AED 50-85K ($13-$23K) depending on quality. A similar one-bedroom in Soho, New York would cost AED 110K+ (26K and up).
If you decide to rent just outside of the city 15/20 min drive away in JVC, Sports City or Silicon Oasis you’ll be looking at approx. 30-50K AED ($8-$13K) and usually, you will get more value for money.
You may also opt for villa/apartment share with two or more residents, usually for a monthly payment of between AED 3-5K. Another option is hotel living in a fully furnished room for around 5K including bills, internet and daily cleaning.
Recent changes in Dubai have made it easier for people to choose their payment plans when it comes to renting, ranging from one cheque to two/four cheques spread over the year or more recently: monthly rental options.
*Property Finder rent prices as of October 2022
Electricity and water (known as DEWA) differ during the summer and winter months when A/C is being used but will typically cost around 500-800 AED per month for a 900 sq ft apartment. Another 300-400 AED for an internet package and a mobile plan will cost around 150 AED.
You can shop for affordable furniture in one of many shopping malls in Dubai; IKEA and Home Centre both have great prices and deals for in and outdoor furniture that can be delivered to your door in 24 hours. Dubizzle is another popular option where people sell their goods online at mostly inexpensive prices.
There are a few options to get around this bustling city at a fair cost:
Taxis- are usually easy to flag down on the street, but are also available via apps and can be with you in as little as 3 minutes, prices are very reasonable even for longer distances, starting from 5 AED.
Dubai Metro- a modern and efficient way to get around the city, with 49 operational stations and fares starting at just 1 AED, this is a popular choice of transportation for many.
Private cars- the main way people move around Dubai, (especially if you live slightly outside of the city) prices are very competitive. Many expats rent a car on a monthly bases from 1200AED all-inclusive. A more recent option is also a daily rental car service from Udrive or Ekar; you can find a car at a designated parking near you, pay, unlock and drive.
The question on everyone’s lips; am I going to go hungry in Dubai?
On average, groceries will cost you a very reasonable 500-800 AED per month for one person.
There are many great budget supermarkets, including Viva, Union Coop, Carrefour, and Geant. There are more premium stores too including Marks & Spencer’s, Waitrose and Spinneys.
The average price of essential items to add to your shopping list:
Milk- 6 AED
Loaf of bread- 5 AED
Potato- 3 AED
Eggs- 10 AED
Apples (1KG)- 8 AED
Bananas (1KG)- 7 AED
Water (1.5l)- 2.5 AED
Cheese (1KG)- 35 AED
Chicken (1KG)- 28 AED
Leisure & Dining:
Dubai never fails to amaze when it comes to activities and dining, there are an astounding 20,000 plus restaurants to choose from, the question is where do you start?
There’s so much on offer on the activities side, lots of outdoor fun such as water sports, cycling, hiking and climbing for under 99 AED. Indoors, you can visit the cinema, shopping malls, gyms, classes and more. Here is a run-down of what you can do in your spare time.
2 x tickets to the movies- 50 AED
Lunch in a mall- 25 AED
A pub dinner for two- 180 AED
1 latte at a nice café- 22 AED
1 beer in a pub- 45 AED
1 cocktail in a fancy bar- 75 AED
1 gym membership- 300 AED
1 circuit class- 50 AED
Public Beach access- FREE
School fees & education:
Families from around the world are increasingly choosing education in Dubai, with a great selection of top-quality schools, globally praised amenities and curricula across a range of fees. Ten schools in the UAE feature amongst the top 100 private schools in the world as listed on the 2022 Spears School Index.
Many schools in Dubai are home to amazing facilities including state-of-the-art football fields, indoor sports courts, performing arts studios, multiple lane swimming pools, multi-gyms, science labs and large auditoriums.
Due to the increasing number of schools and competition in the Emirate, many school fees have been driven down to attract more students.
Some schools are also offering payment plans to take off the pressure of an annual fee.
There are 213 schools to choose from with 4 more opening at the end of this year, teaching curricula from numerous countries including the UK, USA, India and more.
School fees can range from 4,333 to 50,000 AED depending on the academic track record, location, curriculum, and facilities. You can see more here.
Dubai has one of the best public and private health systems in the world with very high standard, state-of-the-art facilities. Healthcare in Dubai will be covered by your employer, they will have specific hospitals that you can use and will cover basics and more depending on the plan they have in place.
Before moving to Dubai, I was sceptical about the costs of living, especially eating out, but was very pleasantly surprised, actually, it works out similar if not cheaper than where I was living before in Manchester, UK.
By using discount apps like the Entertainer (offering 2-4-1 meal deals across Dubai), Privilee for beach access, alongside ladies' days and nights, (there are gents’ nights too!) free art exhibitions, comedy shows, public beach access, Dubai can be done at a very reasonable price!
So, if you are considering a move to a big city, why not think about Dubai? With the financial incentive of tax-free living, affordable luxury, extremely low crime rates and the best standards of healthcare and education there are not many places that can top this!