Decoding the Cost of Living in Dubai: What You Need to Know

Decoding the Cost of Living in Dubai: What You Need to Know


Ambia Hoque


Dubai is known worldwide for its luxurious lifestyle and vibrant culture. Still, it’s also notorious for being an expensive city. If you’re considering moving to Dubai, it’s essential to research and understand the cost of living to plan your budget accordingly.

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has named Dubai the second-most liveable city in the Middle East and Africa regions in 2022. However, what does this mean for the average person? What kind of costs should you expect to face when living in Dubai?

In this article, we’ll explore the cost of living in Dubai and provide some tips on how to save money. We’ll cover accommodation costs, food and groceries expenses, transportation fees, utility bills, education costs in Dubai, healthcare prices, entertainment options and amenities available. Let’s get started!

A stock image of Dubai

Source: Unsplash

Accommodation Cost for Living in Dubai

Accommodation costs will be one of your biggest expenses when living in Dubai. Rental prices vary widely by area and type of housing, with the most expensive rentals located in prime locations such as Downtown Dubai or Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT).

For example, apartments in the famous Dubai Marina area can cost upwards of AED 100,000 (approximately USD 35,300, 1 AED is roughly equivalent to USD 0.27 at the current exchange rate) per year, while villas in the Jumeirah area can cost over AED 1 million per year.

The average monthly rent in Dubai for a 2-bedroom apartment starts at AED 9,000. Smaller studio apartments start at around AED 6,500 per month, while larger 3-bedroom units can reach up to AED 30,000 per month on average.

If you want more affordable housing options, look outside the city centre. The city’s suburbs and outer areas offer more reasonable rental prices from AED 4,000 to AED 8,500 per month for a 1-bedroom unit.

Things to Keep in Mind

When calculating and estimating your living costs in Dubai, bear in mind the following:

  • Rent is usually due annually, though some landlords may offer quarterly or bi-annual payment plans.
  • Security deposits are usually equal to one or two months’ rent.
  • Agent fees can be up to 5% of the annual rent.
  • Don’t forget about utilities – you’ll need to pay for your own electricity, water and gas bills as well as any internet and TV services.

Food & Groceries Costs for Living in Dubai

Eating out in Dubai can be expensive, but with the right strategies, you can still enjoy delicious meals without breaking the bank. From casual restaurants to international chains, prices range from AED 30-50 for a meal at a casual spot to several hundred dirhams for more upscale eateries.

If home cooking is more your style, grocery stores like Carrefour, Spinneys and Lulu Hypermarket offer comparable prices to major cities worldwide. Look out for bulk purchases or sales promotions and local specialities such as dates, camel milk and Arabic sweets to get even better value.

You’ll also find many restaurants and cafes offering lunchtime deals and happy hour specials for a cost-effective way to sample different cuisines.

A meal at a casual restaurant costs around 40-50 AED, while a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant costs 200 AED.

Stock image showing the cost of fresh produce in Dubai

Source: Unsplash

Now let’s look at the cost of some essential groceries compiled from Numbeo:

Grocery Item Quantity Typical Price (AED) Range (AED)
Milk 1 Litre 6.79 4.50-12.00
Bread loaf 500g 5.48 3.60-11.50
White rice 1Kg 7.47 5.00-15.00
Eggs 12 pieces or 1 dozen 11.60 6.60-19.20
Cheese 1Kg 39.15 18.36-100.00
Chicken Fillets 1Kg 32.13 14.00-52.00
Beef 1Kg 39.90 24.00-60.00
Apples 1Kg 8.28 5.00-15.00
Banana 1Kg 6.54 4.35-12.00
Potato 1Kg 4.09 2.00-7.00
Onion 1Kg 3.50 2.00-8.00
Bottled water 1.5 Litre 2.22 1.50-4.00
Bottle of Wine 65.00 35.00-100.00
Bottled Domestic Beer 0.5 Litre 12.84 6.00-25.00
Bottled Imported Beer 0.33 Litre 24.25 8.00-48.00

Source: Numbeo

Weekend brunches are a popular pastime in Dubai, with many restaurants and hotels offering special deals. On average, you can expect to pay around AED 250 for an all-you-can-eat buffet brunch.

Transportation Costs for Living in Dubai

Transport in Dubai is relatively inexpensive compared to living in other cities. The city has a modern public transport system, with buses, trains, and taxis all available for reasonable prices.

The Dubai Metro is the city’s primary form of public transportation and consists of two lines: Red Line and Green Line. Tickets typically start at AED 2 per ride and may increase up to AED 7 depending on the distance travelled. Taxis are also affordable; you can expect to pay around AED 12 for a 5-kilometre journey within the city limits.

Several ride-sharing apps, such as Careem and Uber, are available in Dubai. Prices are typically higher than public transport but can be cheaper than a taxi if you use the app’s estimated fare calculator.

You can also opt for a car rental, which generally costs around AED 1200 monthly. However, it is essential to note that car insurance and parking fees can add up quickly.

Buying A Car in Dubai

As an expat, you can buy a car in Dubai with an Emirates ID and a valid residence visa. The cost of buying a car in Dubai depends on the make and model of the vehicle. You’ll also need to consider insurance costs, registration fees, road tax and petrol prices.

According to YallaMotor, a popular car buy and sell website based in the Middle East, here are some prices for the popular car models:

Car Model Condition and Year Starting Price (AED)
Toyota Corolla New, 2023 73,990
Hyundai Staria New, 2023 102,990
Hyundai Velostar N New, 2023 146,999
Mercedes-Benz GLB New, 2023 264,900
Mercedes-Benz A-Class New, 2023 170,200
Mercedes-Benz S-Class S550 Used, 2015 110,000
Toyota Corolla Used, 2019 53,799
Toyota Yaris Used, 2019 46,990
Toyota Rav4 Used, 2018 93,699
Hyundai Accent Used, 2020 48,990

Source: YallaMotor, UAE

In general, renting is more economical than buying a car if you are only planning on staying for a short period. However, if you plan on staying longer-term or permanently in Dubai, buying may be the better option for your budgeting needs. Currently, gasoline costs 3.42 AED per litre in Dubai.

Stock image white sedan in Dubai

Source: Unsplash

Utility Bills in for Living in Dubai

Utility bills in Dubai, including electricity, water, and internet, can quickly add up. The exact amount you pay depends on the size of your apartment or villa and how much energy you use.

Electricity Bills

Electricity bills are based on usage and slab tariff with rates ranging from AED 0.23 to AED 0.38 per kWh; one-bedroom apartments typically cost around AED 250-350 monthly while larger villas can run upwards of AED 1,000.

Water Bills

Water bills also depend on usage with charges starting at AED 0.23-0.38 per imperial gallon; one-bedroom apartments usually cost about AED 60-80 each month while villas might come with a hefty AED 300 bill.

Phone and Internet Bills

Internet and phone plans are provided by either Etisalat or du, with basic internet packages starting at AED 200 per month and phone plans with unlimited calls plus 10 GB of data costing around AED 120 monthly. A 60 Mbps internet connection with unlimited data costs 356 AED per month.

A 2-bedroom apartment will cost around AED 1,500 monthly for utilities, including water, electricity, phone bills, and garbage bills. To save on utility bills, opt for energy-efficient appliances, turn off lights and electronics when not in use, conserve water whenever possible, and check if your landlord covers utilities in the rent before signing a lease.

Education Cost for Living in Dubai

For expat families, private schools are typically the most common option for their kids’ education in Dubai. Private schools in Dubai offer a range of tuition fees – from AED 15,000 to AED 65,000 per year for primary and secondary schooling. International curriculum schools tend to be more expensive than local ones, with renowned institutions including Dubai International Academy, GEMS Wellington International School and Jumeirah English Speaking School.

Higher education in the Emirate is available at competitive prices, too; undergraduate and graduate programs can cost upwards of AED 60,000 annually at private universities such as The American University in Dubai, The British University in Dubai or the University of Wollongong in Dubai.

Bear in mind that tuition fees are not the only cost associated with education in Dubai; additional expenses such as uniforms, books and transportation may be needed to consider when budgeting for school. To save money, look into scholarships or financial aid offered by schools and universities, or take advantage of company-sponsored education allowances for employees with school-age children.

Healthcare Cost for Living in Dubai

Medical costs vary depending on the kind of treatment you receive and where you obtain it from. The government provides free healthcare to Emiratis, however, expatriates are not eligible for this service.

For expats, health insurance is mandatory and must be provided by your employer if you’re working in the UAE. Depending on your company’s plan, you may be required to pay part of the premium yourself or have it covered entirely by the employer.

The cost of private healthcare insurance plans can range from around AED 10,000 per year for individuals to AED 30,000 per year for more comprehensive family plans.

For expats without insurance, healthcare costs in Dubai can be even more expensive. Without insurance, a routine doctor’s visit can cost upwards of AED 500, and hospital stays can cost thousands of dirhams per day.

Stock image of hospital

Source: Unsplash

Cost of Entertainment and Amenities

Dubai is known for its vibrant nightlife, luxury shopping and entertainment. From concerts to world-renowned theme parks, the city has plenty of things to do. The cost of entertainment and amenities vary depending on what you’re looking for.

Here are a few entertainment activities and amenities you may consider:

Entertainment Type Cost (AED)
Access to premium beaches 5
Wild Wadi aqua park 200
Dreamland aqua park 135
Desert safari with Jeep 150-240
Sightseeing by bus Starts from 100
Buffet on boat-restaurant 280
Sightseeing by helicopter Starts from 740

Source: Global Price

Tickets to a movie theatre range from 15-30 AED. Dinner at an average restaurant for a small group of people can cost between 50-200 AED, while drinks are around 20 AED. Going out with friends can set you back anywhere between 150-500 AED.

If you’re looking for something more upscale, you can expect to pay a much higher price. For instance, a night at a five-star hotel could set you back anywhere between 500 – 1500 AED. The cost of some amenities may also vary depending on where they are located in the city.

Estimated Monthly Budget for Living in Dubai

The cost of living in Dubai will vary depending on lifestyle, accommodation, and other factors. However, for the average person looking to move to the city, here is a rough estimate of what monthly expenses might look like:

Family Structure Monthly Cost (AED) without accommodation Monthly Cost (AED) including accommodation Estimations
Single person 3,800 7,800 Accommodation in one-bedroom studio apartment outside city centre that costs AED 4,000/month
Couple 7,200 11,000 Accommodation in one-bedroom apartment outside city centre
Family of four 19,300 27,000 1. Accommodation in 3-bedroom apartment outside city centre that costs AED 7,700/month

2. One child goes to kindergarten/childcare and the other goes to private school.

Source: Numbeo Cost Calculator

Earning in Dubai for Professionals

Regarding earning money in Dubai, the city does not have a minimum wage law. This means that employers are free to set their own salaries for jobs. The average monthly salary for expatriates is around AED 12,000, while locals earn an average of AED 8,400.

We’ve compiled monthly salary data from PayScale for several professions in Dubai:

Profession Salary Range (AED) Average Salary (AED)
Accountant 5,000 – 121,000 54,585
Project Manager 22,000 – 396,000 213,106
Operations Manager 21,000 – 351,000 160,082
Finance Manager 29,000 – 77,000 46,500

Source: PayScale

Top executives such as CEOs can expect to earn between AED 800,000 and 2 million annually. Doctors can make anywhere from AED 400,000 to 1 million per year while lawyers receive an average pay of between 120,000 and 600,000 every year.

Wrap-up: Cost of Living in Dubai

Living in Dubai can be expensive, but with careful budgeting and planning, it is possible to make the most of your money. Accommodation costs can vary depending on where you live, while food and groceries expenses are relatively low compared to other cities. Transportation fees are also economical due to the abundance of public transportation options available.

Utility bills in Dubai tend to be higher than elsewhere. However, education costs remain competitive when considering international schools in particular. Healthcare prices are generally more affordable than in other parts of the world.

Finally, it’s important to remember that earnings in Dubai for professionals tend to be higher than in other cities worldwide. Ultimately, the cost of living depends greatly on individual preferences and circumstances, but with careful planning, you should find that enjoying a luxurious lifestyle in Dubai is still possible.

If you’re considering moving to Dubai or need assistance settling in Dubai, check out DUQE. As a leading business support services company, DUQE can provide you with expert advice and support to help make your transition to Dubai as smooth as possible. Contact us today to learn more.


Reach for your dreams.
Create your legacy.




Quarter Deck
QE2, Mina Rashid
P.O. Box 554789
Dubai, UAE

Copyright © 2024 Duqe. All rights reserved. | Website by Wild Creative