Cost of living in Dubai

People are relocating to other countries in pursuit of a better career that will allow them to live comfortably. This is a difficult and potentially dangerous decision. You’ll need to educate yourself on essential topics such as career opportunities and other aspects of expat life. Wherever you belong in the world, you must have a thorough understanding of the area to which you are considering relocating. If you are considering relocating to a Middle Eastern country such as Dubai, you should be aware of the weather, environment, culture, job prospects, and, last but not least, the cost of living.

Dubai is known for its welcoming and multicultural atmosphere, as it provides expats from all over the world with the most open and pleasant lifestyle possible. Despite the fact that it is a Muslim city, non-Muslims have no difficulty finding work or conducting business. This city is included on a list of the world’s 300 most expensive cities to live. This demonstrates that life as an expat will be fairly costly. There is no minimum compensation set by any employer for any employee, so be careful to include your projected salary in your job interview. It is recommended that you define your own bottom line in order to avoid accepting a pay that is less than that.

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 UAE’s commitment to enacting regulations that will help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic has caused a decrease in the cost of living in Dubai in 2021. Furthermore, the cost of living has also decreased due to the UAE’s desire to attract top global talent. Dubai ranked #42 in Mercer’s annual Cost of Living Survey for 2021.

1. Accommodation Expenses 
2. Transport 
3. Dining Out 
4. Education
5. Weekly Shopping Expenses

6. Dubai Healthcare and Insurance

1. Accommodation Expenses

Accommodation expense is the biggest expense that everyone will have to pay to live in Dubai. Real estate Dubai is considered a tenant-friendly market due to a considerable reduction of property rents in this city. Most of the employers offer housing benefits to expatriates but they don’t provide full coverage to property rent. Landlords in Dubai don’t accept monthly rents rather renters have to make payments on an annual basis in the form of single and quarterly installments.
You can find a wide range of short term rental properties with different rent range that directly depends on the size and location of the property. For example, you can find a one-bedroom apartment in famous areas like Dubai Marina & Jumeirah Lake Towers on lesser rents. In contrast luxury, Dubai Villas with 3-4 bedrooms will be available at considerably higher rates. You can search residential rental properties in Dubai on our website.

Dubai Residential 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 expect a salary of AED 2,700 (USD 735) per month and a part-time domestic helper that comes in once a week (3-hour service) would cost around AED 390 (USD 106) per month.

2. Transport

Transport cost is the second essential expense everyone has to pay. Dubai has a good public transport system. You can find taxis and public buses to travel. Obviously you will be spending more if you are traveling via Taxi as compared to traveling on a public bus.

3. Dining Out

It all depends on your preferences. If you are not fond of dining out you can save a good amount of money. But if you are fond of dining out still you have several affordable options to eat good food in food street areas of Bur Dubai and Karama. Here you can find good food choices in as little as 20 AED. But if you want to spend like an elite person city’s top restaurants and hotels provide expensive food that costs more than 800 AED.

4. Education

Those migrants who are living in this city with their family and kids will find that it’s quite expensive to bring up your child in Dubai. The school fee is high and you will be consuming a huge part of your salary on education expenses. The government does not provide free education for migrant children. Although employers provide assistance in the form of education funds for their employees but again it does not provide total coverage of this expense. Fees may vary from school to school. If you have selected any top school in Dubai, you will find that some schools demand a non- refundable amount as a deposit to include your child’s name on the waiting list only.

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 emirates Dubai is the only one 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 and 21,400 AED per year (3,710–5,830 USD).

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 language development classes. 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.

For a full breakdown on Dubai University fees, click here.

5. Weekly Shopping Expenses

Every expat has to do some necessary shopping on a weekly basis to buy grocery items for the whole week. It depends on how much you will be spending to purchase items like eggs, bread, and milk. If you prefer to buy some imported bread from the UK or the USA, then you will be paying three times more amount as compare spending to purchase local items. If you like to consume special sausages again you will be spending huge money on such items as these things are only available in super markets. Thing is that weekly shopping expenses mainly depends on your purchasing power.

6. Dubai Healthcare & Insurance

Dubai Health Authority has implemented new legislation whereby all residents, including expats, must have private 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 emirates, 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

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 Dubai Health Authority 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 have. It provides essential benefits at affordable prices. Below is a breakdown of the annual premium package fee for an EBP based on gender, job and age:

  • 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. 

Living in Dubai: Is It 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, get our free ‘Dubai Free Zone Guide‘ to learn everything you need to know about moving and setting up in the right free zone.

Here are six tips and tricks you can use to save money while living in Dubai:

  1. Have a savings plan.
  2. Develop a budget and follow it religiously.
  3. Shop for groceries in bulk.
  4. Reconsider your use of plastic money.
  5. Use personal loans to consolidate debts. 
  6. Maintain an emergency fund.


These are some major factors that affect the cost of living in Dubai for every expat. It is necessary to calculate the cost of living in Dubai before making a final decision to relocate to this city. Try to make an estimate for the cost of living you will be paying there to live.

1 Comment

  1. jackson

    on said  

    They were always punctual and professional, and they were people
    you could work with confidently.


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