While grandiose visions of tax-free wealth lure expats to the United Arab Emirates in droves, it is worth taking note of the fact that the cost of living in Dubai is rather high. The city ranks as one of the most expensive in the Gulf Region.

In the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2023, Dubai was placed 18th out of 227 cities around the world, ranking 25 spots higher than its neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi (43rd). 

There are no taxes on salaries or wages in Dubai, and sales tax is, for the most part, minimal. Despite the favourable tax climate, living expenses can add up, and many expats find themselves spending money on luxuries that they would not normally have splurged on back home.

Accommodation, transport and education are the biggest expenses expats moving to Dubai are likely to encounter. In the past, many expats have been able to reconcile these costs by stipulating subsidies and allowances in their expat contracts, but nowadays, these perks aren't as easy to come by. Still, we recommend expats try their best to negotiate inclusions such as housing and school fees, where possible.

Cost of accommodation in Dubai

Although prices have stabilised somewhat with more real-estate developments springing up, the cost of accommodation in Dubai remains expensive. Landlords sometimes even require rent to be paid upfront in advance for a year. Utilities are reasonably priced, but constant air conditioning can add to the cost, especially in the hot summer months.

In Dubai, many people also find they can afford additional luxuries in their homes, such as domestic help and childcare, due to the somewhat inflated salaries. It is commonplace for families to have a nanny and a housekeeper, and others may also have gardeners and drivers. Most villas have small maids' quarters attached. Families who choose to employ a maid are responsible for paying their residence permit costs and healthcare in Dubai.

Cost of education in Dubai

Public schools in Dubai are not often used among expats, but there are plenty of international schools in the emirate. Fees for international schools can be high, and they are continually on the rise, but the facilities and quality of education offered at these institutions are generally excellent. 

Many expats choose to homeschool their children to avoid the steep pricing structures, especially if their stay is short.

Cost of transport in Dubai

Having a car is the fastest and cheapest way of getting around Dubai. As petrol and maintenance prices are greatly reduced, many expats find they are able to buy cars of a better make and model than what they would be able to afford at home. Hiring a car is also an option.

Catching a bus or taxi is also a possibility, while Dubai's metro system also offers expats a reasonably priced transport option.

Cost of food and household goods in Dubai

Groceries in Dubai are reasonably priced compared to other cities, but imported products can be very expensive.

With Dubai's extensive malls, expats will likely be doing more shopping than they ever did before. Gadgets, international fashion brands and everything else in between are on offer in these massive shopping centres. In general, due to low import duties, household electronic goods are reasonably priced, but clothing can still be pricey.

Food is relatively well priced in Dubai, and with a variety of eating establishments catering for all budgets, it's easy to eat out on a regular basis in the emirate. Many bars and restaurants also have happy hours and special deals. While food is generally affordable, alcohol is expensive.

Cost of living in Dubai chart

Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for March 2023.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

AED 7,250

One-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

AED 4,125

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

AED 12,800

Three-bedroom apartment outside of city centre

AED 7,800


Eggs (dozen)

AED 12

Milk (1 litre)


Rice (1kg)

AED 7.50

Loaf of white bread

AED 5.50

Chicken breasts (1kg)

AED 32.13

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

AED 22

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

AED 30

Coca-Cola (330ml)



AED 19.81

Bottle of beer

AED 49

Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant

AED 300


Mobile-to-mobile call rate (per minute)

AED 0.58

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable average per month)

AED 363

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

AED 730


Taxi rate (per kilometre)

AED 3.05

Bus/train fare in the city centre 

AED 5.75

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

AED 3.43

Expat Health Insurance

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