April 15, 2021

What is the Cost of Living in Dubai for Expats in 2021?

Family in Dubai watching the sunset

Whether you are moving to Dubai to set up a business or simply looking for better job prospects, it is helpful to have a good idea of what the cost of living in Dubai is before you move here. 

Although living costs in Dubai have risen substantially in the past decade, the impact of COVID-19 coupled with lower oil prices has actually caused a decrease in the cost of living in Dubai in 2021. Dubai ranked #23 in Mercer’s 26th annual Cost of Living Survey for 2020, a drop of two places since last year’s ranking. 

 

Compared to living in some of the world’s major expat hubs like Hong Kong, London, New York, and Singapore, Dubai costs far less in terms of cost of living. 

To put this price difference into perspective, here is how Dubai stacks up against these cities:

Location

Single person monthly cost without rent  Average rent in city centre (studio apartment) Taxi fare (5 km)  Petrol (1 litres)
Dubai  AED 3,443.97
(USD 937.70)

AED 5,527.83
(USD 1,505.07)

AED 12.00
(USD 3.27)
AED 1.99
(USD 0.54)
Hong Kong 

AED 3,894.00
(USD 1,060.23)

AED 8029.33
(USD 2,186.16)
AED 11.35
(USD 3.09)
AED 8.42
(USD 2.29)
London 

AED 4,383.96
(USD 1,193.63)

AED 8,747.65
(USD 2,381.74)
AED 15.43
(USD 4.20)
AED 6.13
(USD 1.67)
New York 

AED 4,957
(USD 1,349.65)

AED 11,348.94
(USD 3,090)
AED 13.96
(USD 3.80) 
AED 2.58
(USD 0.70)
Singapore 

AED 3,575.43
(USD 973.49)

AED 7,991.05
(USD 2,175.74)
AED 9.98
(USD 2.72)
AED 6.05
(USD 1.65)

Information is from Numbeo (Most updated statistics: May 2021)

In this article, we will dive deeper into the cost of living for expats in Dubai within 4 key areas: 

  1. Rent
  2. Transportation
  3. Education
  4. Healthcare

Average Cost of Living in Dubai

Living expenses are expenditures that are required for necessary survival. It would comprise of housing, food, clothing, healthcare, and transportation, to name a few. Any recreational fees would not be accounted for under living expenses.

When determining living expenses, housing makes up a considerable chunk of the budget. On average about 30% of living expenses will be put onto housing, followed by transportation and food, making up 15% each.

The monthly expenses vastly differ with family size as well. Here is a small overview for a quick reference for total costs depending on the size of your family.

Dubai has become more affordable in 2021 due to a consistent decline in rent, property prices, cost of education, transportation, and dining out, among others. Numbeo data showed that the average cost of living for a single person decreased by 89.2% in 2021 compared to 2020. Whereas, the estimated cost of living for a family of four decreased by 32.6%.

 

2020

2021

Single Person 

AED 8,972 (USD 2,443)

AED 3,435.71 (USD 935.35)

Family of Four

AED 16,478 (USD 4,486)

AED 11,863.31 (USD 3229.69)

 

Expenses of Living in Dubai

Housing, Rental & Utilities

Residential costs will depend on where you choose to live, and where you choose to live in Dubai will be highly dependent on where you will do business. 

Here is a table for a quick reference regarding residential rent.

Type of Apartment 

Cost of rent per month

Apartment (1 bedroom) in City Centre

AED 5,528.59 (USD 1,505.28)

Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of Centre

AED 3,687.32 (USD 1,003.95)

Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City Centre

AED 10,799.55 (USD 2,940.41)

Apartment (3 bedrooms) Outside of Centre

AED 7,490.97 (USD 2,039.58)


The Jumeirah Lakes Tower (JLT) is amongst one of the more popular residences in Dubai. This is a popular district area for expats, alongside Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), and Dubai's Old Town, which all have relatively similar rental prices.

Rents in these areas are relatively expensive compared to the rest of Dubai, with the average rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in JLT being around AED 66,236 (USD 18032.23) per year or AED 5,519.66 (USD 1502.68) per month. However, expats choose to live in these areas because of the community, and nearby amenities are usually more suitable for their needs.

Dubai Rental Price Comparison: Top Places to Live in Dubai for Expats

 

 

Cleaning Services

Cleaning services for accommodations also fall under the housing category in living expenses. This service is usually provided by hiring domestic help which is quite common in Dubai. The rates vary depending on the basis of cleaning but typically a full-time domestic helper would come in on average at AED 2,700 (USD 735) per month and a part-time domestic helper that comes in once a week (3-hour service) costs around AED 390 (USD 106) per month.

Dubai Education Costs 

Public Schools 

While expat kids are allowed to attend both public and private schools in the UAE, they must pay fees regardless of which type they select, as free government schooling is only available for Emirati nationals. For expats interested in public schools, the annual tuition fee has been capped at AED 6,000 (USD 1,635) per year

International / Private Schools 

Dubai has just over 200 private schools servicing around 300,000 Emirati and expat students. Out of all the UAE, Dubai is the only emirate that has implemented annual tuition caps forbidding schools from increasing their rates at unreasonable amounts every year. On average, International school fees range between AED 12,723–64,093 per year (USD 3,46.84–17,446.32).

It must be noted that school fees also depend highly on the school location, it varies with a significant deviation, and a complete overhaul can be seen here.

Higher Education

Dubai has 65 colleges with a multitude of different disciplines. They cater to both Emirati and expatriate students. However, public universities in Dubai use Arabic as the medium of teaching whilst most private universities teach using English. Regardless of the university, expatriate students are required to take Arabic classes for language development. The average cost for an undergraduate degree or a graduate degree in total would be AED 173,400 (USD $47,209) or AED 54,800 to 82,200 (USD $14,919-22,379) respectively.

Dubai Transportation Costs

Dubai Metro Train travelling through the city

Driving in Dubai is probably the easiest way to get around, and thanks to the cheap fuel prices, the cost of operating a car is inexpensive. It is also important to note that traffic congestion levels in Dubai are quite high, making it difficult to travel during peak hours of the day. Opting for public transportation is probably your best bet if you have to commute daily to and from work. 

Car Ownership

The cost of buying a car greatly depends on the condition. To give a benchmark, the 2018 Toyota Corolla is the most commonly driven car in the UAE and fetches a price of AED 70,900. Implementing a regular 20% down payment, a 5-year payback plan, and considering other costs, it would come in at AED 20,800 per year excluding the down payment. However, when buying a used car, depreciation usually takes 20-40% off the total price of the car. As of 2020, a used 2018 Toyota Corolla (2 years old) fetches an average price of AED 48,878 (a ~32% discount). The price of gasoline has been stable in Dubai and is significantly cheaper than the world average with Dubai’s gasoline costing 1.79 AED per liter whilst the worldwide average is 4.33 AED per liter.

Public Transportation

Transportation Fares/Prices in Dubai Average Cost
Taxis (per 1 km) AED 2.44 (USD 0.66)
Buses (single ticket) AED 5 (USD 1.4)
Buses (monthly pass) AED 300 (USD 81.67)
Average price of 1 L petrol AED 2.00 (USD 0.54)

In the JLT area, there are two Dubai Metro stations making it extremely convenient for employees, residents and visitors to access areas in the premium district, DMCC. There is also a bus service that travels around the community with stops throughout. 

For more information on Public Transportation in Dubai, you can visit the Dubai government's official website.

Dubai Healthcare & Insurance

Dubai Health Authority has implemented new legislation whereby all residents, including expats, must have medical insurance. While locals can be covered under the government-funded scheme, expats will need to be covered under private health insurance schemes, which are usually purchased through their employers. 

Out of all seven UAE areas, Dubai is especially recognised for its high standard healthcare system. As an expat, you will be able to take advantage of both public and private healthcare facilities.

Health Card

The majority of expats living in Dubai opt for private health insurance, primarily because English is commonly spoken, and most of the medical staff are foreign doctors. But while Dubai’s medical public facilities are free for locals, expats can receive a 50% discount with a health card. Health card fees are as follows:

  • Expatriate Fee up to 10 years – AED 120 (USD 32.67)
  • Expatriate Fee from 18 and above – AED 320 (USD 87.12)
  • Nationals Fee up to 10 years – AED 25 (USD 6.81)
  • Nationals Fee from 18 and above – AED 120 (USD 32.67)

The above fees are one-time payments to obtain a health card. Health cards must be reissued in place of an expired one (dependent on age). To apply for a health care card, expats can visit the Ministry of Health e-Services website.

The Essential Benefit plan

There’s also something in place for lower-income employees or non-working residents. Launched in 2014, the Essential Benefits Plan (EBP) is the minimum level of health insurance cover that all residents in Dubai must meet. It provides essential benefits at affordable prices. Below is a breakdown of the annual premium package fee for EBP:

  • Employees – AED 650-725
  • Dependents (aged 0-65) – AED 650
  • Non-working married females (aged 18-45) – AED 1,600
  • Elderly parents – AED 2,500
  • General domestic help  – AED 650

For more information, please visit Pacific Prime’s 2021 guide to mandatory health insurance in Dubai

Is Dubai really that expensive for expats?

Dubai has become a top contender for cities to live in for expats, yet remains one of the more affordable expat destinations.

Thinking of moving to Dubai for business? If you want to learn more, download our free '2021 Dubai Free Zone Guide' to learn everything you need to know about moving and setting up in the right free zone. 

Download '2021 Dubai Free Zone Guide'

Topics: Living in Dubai, Expat Life in Dubai

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