Cost of Living in Dubai

While grandiose visions of tax-free wealth lure expats to the United Arab Emirates in droves, it is worth remembering that the cost of living in Dubai can still be high. The city ranks as one of the most expensive in the Gulf Region and was placed at 26th out of 209 cities around the world in the Mercer Cost of Living Survey for 2018, ranking as more expensive than the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi. 

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 living in 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 contract, but nowadays these perks aren't as easy to come by. Still, expats should try their best to ensure inclusions, if possible.

Cost of accommodation in Dubai

Although prices have stabilised in recent months, the cost of accommodation in Dubai remains expensive. Landlords usually 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.

Having arrived in Dubai, many people also find they can afford additional luxuries in their home, like 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 usually an option for expats, but there are plenty of international schools in the emirate. Tuition and fees for international schools can be exorbitant and have been on the rise in recent times.

Many expats choose to homeschool their children to avoid the extravagant 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 that are 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 new 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. However, imported products can be very expensive.

With Dubai’s extensive malls, expats will likely find themselves doing more shopping than they ever did before. Gadgets, international fashion brands and everything else in between is on offer in these massive shopping centres. Expats who enjoy shopping will relish the Dubai shopping festival where all sorts of bargains are to be found. In general, due to low import duties, household electronic goods are reasonably priced, but clothing can still be expensive.

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 reasonably priced, alcohol is expensive, and expats should remember that if wanting to drink or buy alcohol, they need to have a special permit to do so.

Cost of living in Dubai chart

(Note that prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices for November 2018.)

Accommodation (monthly rent in good area)

Furnished two-bedroom villa

AED 12,000

Unfurnished two-bedroom villa

AED 10,000

Furnished two-bedroom apartment

AED 8,000

Unfurnished two-bedroom apartment

AED 6,000


Eggs (dozen)

AED 12

Milk (1 litre)


Rice (1kg)


Loaf of white bread

AED 4.80

Chicken breasts (1kg)

AED 20

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

AED 20

Eating out

Big Mac Meal

AED 25

Coca-Cola (330ml)

AED 1.75


AED 18

Bottle of beer

AED 40

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

AED 160


Mobile to mobile call rate (per minute)

AED 0.70

Internet (uncapped ADSL or cable average per month)

AED 350

Basic utilities (per month for a small apartment)

AED 700


Taxi rate (per kilometre)


Bus/train fare in the city centre 


Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

AED 2.36

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Aetna International

Aetna is an award-winning insurance business that provides health benefits to more than 650,000 members worldwide. Their high quality health insurance plans are tailored to meet the individual needs of expats living and working abroad.

Get a quote from Aetna International


Cigna Global

With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.

Get a quote from Cigna Global