Many say that the cost of living in the UAE is rather high. On the one hand, the salaries in the UAE are higher than in many other countries. But on the other hand, many essentials that you use daily like food, electricity, and water are quite expensive.
Is it really that expensive to live in the UAE? How much do the utility services cost? How much does it cost to rent and purchase an apartment in the UAE? How much do food and clothing cost here? How much does it cost to travel by public or private transport? When and where can you find big discounts in the UAE? Let’s have a look at this and more by reading through the rest of this article.
Table of contents:
- Accommodation and utility bills
- Food and clothing
- Transport and mobile phone
- Other expenses
- Healthcare services
- We will assist you in choosing the best property in the United Arab Emirates!
Earning an income of between $1,600 – $2,000 per month in the UAE is considered low (this is the typical salary for workers without qualifications). Furthermore, the average income in the UAE is around $3,500, while higher salaries reach an amount of about $7,500 - $8,500. However, some people earn salaries of more than $70,000 or $80,000.
Following this then, it’s clear that there are more opportunities available to experienced and qualified professionals. Especially since they can more easily find well-paid jobs in the UAE.
But, what does this mean for the expats in the country? What is the cost of living like for them? Let's find it out.
In the UAE, the price for a square meter of residential property starts at $2,000. For example, in one of the districts in Dubai, Silicon Oasis, a square meter of property costs an average of $2,150. While in other more popular and affluent areas of Dubai these residential property prices per square meter increase. For example, in Palm Jumeirah, a square meter of property costs about $5,000 and in Dubai Marina, it costs $4,500.
Renting property in the United Arab Emirates is not cheap. For instance, the most affordable rental options for expats are located in the district of Deira. Also, it should be noted that there are no new accommodations available for expats in this area. What’s more, Deira is a popular choice among expats from India and Pakistan as very often there are up to five or six tenants living in one small apartment at the same time. In addition, they (or their employer) pay about $400 a month for an apartment here in this area, which includes a wardrobe and a bed.
There are studio apartments that can be rented for between $1,000 - $1,100 per month, which is the most low-cost accommodation on the real estate market in the UAE (a unit with this price tag does not include furniture and household appliances, so the tenant will have to purchase all of these items themself).
Also, renting an apartment in Jumeirah Beach Residence and Dubai Marina will cost you from $2,500 to $3,000 per month. While villa and apartment rental options located in the areas of Mirdif and Al Qusais are a bit more affordable than this. For instance, a one or two-bedroom apartment in either area can be rented for between $1,300 - $1,600.
Alternatively, rental accommodation in Ajman is cheaper. For instance, here a studio or one-bedroom apartment by the ocean can be rented for between $600 - $800 per month.
Utilities in the UAE are not cheap (there are high price rates for water and electricity). Therefore, to save money, especially in hot weather, it’s better not to run the air conditioners on full blast. This way, you don’t waste water. Otherwise, you can pay about $1,000 per month for water alone.
What’s more, the water and electricity bills are calculated according to the readings of the meters. So if one person is living in a studio apartment, then the payment for electricity, water (plus extra fuel charge) will be about $70 per month. And if two people live in a bigger apartment (not a studio), then they will have to pay at least between $120 - 150 per month for utilities.
In addition, there is also a so-called housing fee, which is dependent on the amount that the tenant pays for the villa or apartment.
This fee is 5% of the property’s rental price and is added to the cost of rent and utilities. For instance, if an apartment is rented for $1,500, then an additional $75 will be charged to the tenant every month based on this housing fee.
Also, another monthly bill to look out for is the internet ($100).
So when taking all of this into account, one can expect monthly utility bills to be between $300 - $320 (for two people living in an apartment).
In the United Arab Emirates, there are a wide variety of supermarkets available for both locals and tourists. What’s more, the prices across the UAE differ completely.
In Dubai, the cheapest grocery stores are located in Deira (food in this district is cheap since mainly those who earn little money, like expats, live here. ). While conversely, in the heart of Dubai, in the most popular areas in the city center for tourists, the prices in supermarkets are two or even three times higher than those on the outskirts of the city.
For more on this, here is a short list of what the average prices of essential items cost in dollars in Dubai:
- • A liter of milk - $1.
- • Drinking yoghurt - $1.
- • Sweet curd (100 gr) - $2.
- • Sour cream (20%, 200 gr) - $3.
- • Ice cream (80 gr) $1.5-$2.
- • Eggs - $3.
- • Butter (400 gr) - $4.
- • Cheese (kilogram) - $8-$10.
- • Chicken breast (kilogram) - $3.
- • Chicken - $3-$4.
- • Beef (kilogram) - $8.
- • Lamb (kilogram) - about $10.
- • Salmon (kilogram) - $15.
- • Sardines (kilogram) - $2.
- • White bread (500 gr) - $1.
- • Rice (kilogram) - $1-$2.
- • Bananas (kilogram) - $2.
- • Apples (kilogram) - $2.
- • Papaya (kilogram, high season) - $1.
- • Melon, watermelon (kilogram) - $2.
- • Carrots (kilogram) - $2.
- • Pumpkin (kilogram) - $1.
- • Eggplant (kilogram) - $2.
- • Potatoes (kilogram) - $1.
- • Tomatoes (kilogram) - $2.
- • Juice (one liter) - $2.5.
- • Water (one and a half liters) - $1.
- • A bottle of wine - from $12.
- • Beer - from $5.
Also, grocery stores offer locally baked pastries that are quite inexpensive compared to imported products. For example, buns cost $0.4 (the lowest price), while samsa can be bought for $0.7. Plus, you can purchase soup there at an affordable price of around $1.
You can easily grab some delicious yet affordable street food from anywhere in the Emirates. For instance, a stuffed flatbread will cost you about $1, falafel about $2, and a shawarma about $1.5. In addition, a large pizza bought from a street vendor will cost you about $10, while a pizza bought in a shopping center will be a bit more expensive and cost you about $16. Furthermore, you can generally expect to pay more for the following items in a shopping center, namely: a burger at about $8, a coffee at about $4.5, and freshly squeezed juice at about $3).
In Indian cafés in the United Arab Emirates, you can order a cheap dish called masala dosa.
There are plenty of such cafés in Dubai, in the district of Deira.
What’s more, in the heart of Dubai, restaurants can easily charge you up to AED 29 for a sandwich and a cup of coffee while a dessert can cost between AED 40-50. A cheaper alternative would be to opt for a coffee with a bun instead.
Furthermore, in regular cafés in Dubai, you can easily end up paying between AED 200-300 for a lunch or dinner for two (three courses).
So, if you cook yourself, but sometimes eat out at Indian and/or Arab cafés, then your monthly food budget will be between $500-$600.
The United Arab Emirates are famous for their iconic shopping malls and most of them are located in Dubai with the most prestigious malls being Dubai Mall, Mall of Emirates, and Gold and Diamond Park to mention a few.
To purchase shoes and clothes, it is best to go to the shops of the “Day to Day” chain which is popular both among locals and tourists. Here, you can bargain and purchase clothing at much lower prices than at the clothing market of Karama.
Here, you will also be able to find reasonably priced clothing items such as jeans for no more than $7, a T-shirt for $1.5, and a sweater for between $3-$4.
In addition, in the larger shopping malls, you can find a wide variety of items on display that caters to everyone’s budget and taste. This is true since there is usually something to satisfy everyone.
Moreover, if you’re looking to save any money while clothes shopping, it is better to your purchases at the Dubai Shopping Festival. This takes place in January and lasts almost a month. Also, discounts at this festival can reach up to a whopping 70%!
Furthermore, during the months of May and June, which is Ramadan, there are also sales festivals with even lower discounts. Perhaps this is because these types of festivals are more about entertainment and lotteries.
In the UAE, the cost of a metro ticket depends on the distance a passenger needs to travel.
Alternatively, a bus ticket will cost you about $1.5. Or for a more reduced price, you can purchase a monthly pass.
In the UAE, taxi fare costs between $1.5 - $2, while per kilometer the fare is between about $0.7-$1. In addition, if you end up having to wait in a taxi for whatever reason, maybe for a client or you’re stuck in a traffic jam, this will cost you about $7.5 per hour.
Moreover, taxi fare from the airport to Dubai’s city center will have you paying anywhere from $10 to $30 (you can bargain).
Furthermore, when crossing borders within the UAE (borders of the emirates), you must pay a fee of $5.
The cost of gasoline in the UAE is low (about $0.5). Although, fuel expenses can still be rather high when traveling around in the bigger cities. For example, in Dubai, a lot of gasoline is consumed when waiting in traffic jams and when using the air conditioner to cool down the car.
In addition to all of this, one still has to pay for toll roads.
There are two main mobile phone operators in the UAE, namely: Etisalat and Du. Etisalat offers SIM cards at $40, while Du SIM offers SIM cards at a lower $15.
What’s more, a minute outgoing call in the country costs $0.2. Also, to make an international call you should be prepared to pay $1 a minute.
So to purchase a SIM card from any local operator in the UAE, all you need is your passport and to make a top-up. For this, you need a payment card, which you can purchase in any shop in the UAE.
Furthermore, mobile internet is paid for on a per-second basis at about $3 per hour. However, if this is still a bit pricey for you or you’re just looking to save some money, there are many free Wi-Fi hotspots in the UAE.
In the UAE, a membership in a fitness center or gym will cost you about $85 per month. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something cheaper but still athletic (or just more fun), then there’s ice-skating, It only costs around $10-$11 a ticket.
Also, if you’re interested in sightseeing, there are tours available in large cities. For instance, in Dubai, these types of tours cost about $50. Although, the Burj Khalifa tour is a more expensive option, for obvious reasons, at $150.
What’s more, Dubai Mall has a wonderful aquarium that you can visit for free! In addition, you can enjoy the colorful dancing fountains for free as well.
In addition to this, visiting the public beaches are also free. However, if you would like to visit private beaches, you will have to be prepared to pay an entrance fee of between $1.5-$2. Furthermore, to use a beach umbrella and a sunbed, you will have to pay an additional fee of about $8.
At the beginning of 2014, Dubai, one of the largest cities in the UAE, introduced a compulsory type of health insurance.
The basic package costs $170 per annum, which is quite affordable and allows people with even a minimum income of $1,000 to be insured. What’s more, according to the insurance law, which has been in effect since 2014, clients of insurance companies can expand this particular package by adding on specific types of insurance services.
Alternatively, with regards to a minimum health insurance package, the insurance coverage is only $40,000. In addition, the insured patient is responsible for paying 20% of the cost of the healthcare service provided by a clinic every time they visit a doctor.
This is usually why people over the age of 60 years old end up purchasing another type of insurance package, which costs about $670 per year.
Although, it should be noted that this type of insurance will not cover any treatment expenses within the first six months after signing an insurance contract. However, once these six months expire, the insurance will cover all types of treatment including chronic diseases.
Surprisingly, if a person is not insured in the UAE, then they will be fined. This fine costs about $150 per month. This is why it would be wise to get insurance well in advance.
So if you are looking to relocate to the United Arab Emirates, the expected minimum budget for two persons is estimated at between $2,700-$3,000. Provided that the person or people in question are renting an average apartment, use public transport instead of purchasing a car, cook for themselves and don’t eat out very often, have medical insurance, and don’t purchase expensive clothes or shoes.
Furthermore, renting a studio apartment in Dubai will cost approximately $2,000 per month.
Emirates.Estate will assist you in choosing and purchasing the best property for sale in the United Arab Emirates.
Not only do we offer a great selection of villas and apartments from only the top construction companies and real estate agencies in the UAE, but we also guarantee that you get to experience only the best of what we here at Emirate.Estate have to offer. So go on, check out the latest property deals on our website today because with Emirates.Estate purchasing a property has never been this easy or safe.