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, it still costs far less to live in Dubai compared to living in some of the world’s major expat hubs. In fact, Dubai ranked #21 in the Cost of Living index in 2019 — making it much cheaper than cities like Hong Kong, London, New York and Singapore, which have significant expat populations.
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 3,364 (USD 916)||AED 5,571 (USD 1,517)||AED 22 (USD 6)||AED 2.15 (USD 0.6)|
|Hong Kong||AED 3,598 (USD 979)||AED 17,522 (USD 4771)||AED 18.90 (USD 5.2)||AED 7.99 (USD 2.2)|
|London||AED 3,800 (USD 1,034)||AED 8,297 (USD 2,259)||AED 80.41 (USD 21.9)||AED 6.24 (USD 1.7)|
|New York||AED 4,565 (USD 1,243)||AED 11,579 (USD 3,153)||AED 41.83 (USD 11.4)||AED 10.65 (USD 2.9)|
|Singapore||AED 4,451 (USD 1,212)||AED 7,564 (USD 2,060)||AED 17.26 (USD 4.7)||AED 2.25 (USD 0.61)|
Information is from Numbeo (Most updated statistics: Dec 2019)
In this article, we will dive deeper into the cost of living for expats in Dubai within 4 key areas: rent, transportation, education and 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.
Family of Four
AED 8,972 (USD $2,443)
AED 16,478 (USD $4,486)
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.
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 60,000 (USD $16,335) per year or AED 5,000 (USD $1,361) per month. However, expats choose to live in these areas because of the community, and nearby amenities are usually more suitable for their needs.
Here is a table for a quick reference regarding residential rent.
Type of Apartment
Cost of rent per month
Cost of Utilities per month
85 m2 (900 sqft) furnished accommodation in an expensive area
AED 756 (USD $206)
85 m2 (900 sqft) furnished accommodation in normal area
45 m2 (480 sqft) furnished studio in an expensive area
AED393 (USD $107)
45 m2 (480 sqft) furnished studio in normal area
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
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, annual fees range around AED 6,000 (USD 1,635) per year.
International / Private Schools
Dubai has close to 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 13,630–21,400 per year (USD 3,710–5,830).
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.
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
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.
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.
|Transportation Fares/Prices in Dubai||Average Cost|
|Taxis (per 5 km)||AED 22 (USD 6)|
|Buses (single ticket)||AED 5 (USD 1.4)|
|Buses (monthly pass)||AED 270 (USD 73.6)|
|Average price of 1 L petrol||AED 2.15 (USD 0.6)|
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. 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:
- 0–9 years – AED 100 (USD 27)
- 10–17 years – AED 200 (USD 54)
- 18 years+ – AED 300 (USD 82)
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.
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.
Better yet, this coming year in 2020, Dubai is set to become a more affordable place to live for expats. Residents in Dubai are expected to enjoy lower rents this year despite a pick-up in economic activity. This is a major cost-saving factor for expats considering rent is the most significant expense for residents in Dubai.
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.