• 87% of placements
    were relocated from 19 countries

  • 230+ hires since launching
    Aspexx in 2021

  • 98% retention rate
    across all clients

Follow

London
00:00

Amsterdam
00:00

Riyadh
00:00

Dubai
00:00

Singapore
00:00

87% of placements
were relocated from 19 countries

230+ hires since launching
Aspexx in 2021

98% retention rate
across all clients

Have you ever been sold the dream of a tax-free existence in the sun? A place so magical that it never rains, the streets are paved with gold and everyone drives a Ferrari? Welcome to Dubai, where people come to be insta-famous, party 24/7 on a yacht and live in a Palm mega mansion.

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? Well, we’re probably not bursting your bubble too much if we call this out for what it is – utter crap. Sorry! We’re not ones to sugar coat things. Instead we’re here to offer open, honest and transparent advice for anyone considering the move.

The truth is Dubai is a great place to live, work and yes, party if that’s your thing, but there is so much more on offer too. The opportunities to thrive are plentiful if you are willing to put the work in, but equally, it’s important to keep your expectations in check too.

So before you decide to ditch the chill for good, we take a look at the REAL cost of living in Dubai. *Full disclosure before we get stuck in here: We know that this is a broad market and is subjective based on your circumstances, but based on our living experiences (+10 years here) we think we have some valuable insights to share.

Here goes…

Accommodation 

There is a real buzz in Dubai right now with the development of new areas. While established hotspots like the Dubai Marina, JLT and Arabian Ranches tend to be at the higher end of the market for rental, up and coming areas like Arjan, Silicon Oasis and JVC offer more affordable options without compromising on space and distance. Check out the DLD’s Residential Index to see the average cost of renting an apartment, townhouse or villa in the Emirate, and bookmark Property Finder & Bayut for more information on recent listings and area information.

Top Tip : To rent a property, you will need to have a copy of your passport, residence visa and Emirates ID to give to the agent. Also be aware that you’ll need to pay a security deposit upfront (5% of the rent total for unfurnished, 10% for furnished) and an agency fee, which is typically around 5% as well. All of these expenses will be paid by cheque – yes, really, so make sure you get set up with your bank account as soon as possible. In the short term, serviced apartments are a great and fairly cheap option while you get yourself set up and begin the property hunt.

Utilities 

Your electricity and water connection, also known as DEWA, A/C, TV, internet and mobile plans are the basic things you will need to budget for each month. Your usage will fluctuate during the winter and summer months too, particularly with things like A/C – it is essentially on 24/7 when the mercury hits 50 degrees from June onwards. It’s tough to estimate exactly the cost here, but roughly allocate 5% of your annual rent to cover charges, usage and a municipality fee.

Top Tip : Look out for ‘hidden costs’ when you first set yourself up in Dubai. For example, DEWA requires a refundable security deposit for connection, which is 2,000 AED for apartments and 4,000 AED for villas, plus supply activation fees of 130 AED.

As for your TV, internet and mobile plans, there are three service providers in Dubai; duEtisalat and Virgin. The latter is fairly new to the UAE and offers more flexibility than the other two, but realistically most people will go for the cheapest deal, and right now, all three are fairly competitive with their offers. Click or tap each of the providers to find out more.

Top Tip : Shop around for the best deal and don’t be swayed by added extras if you don’t need them. A decent amount of International minutes to call home is great and always go for more data than you think you need would be our advice. Oh and check your contract thoroughly – once you are locked in, it’s tough to get out early without a penalty or if you forget to cancel then it will automatically renew in some cases. And yes, we’ve been caught out with this.

Transport

  • Car Rental – Rather than jump straight into owning, short or long-term car hire is very popular here. Prices start from approx 1500 AED per month depending on the vehicle type. Check out this article from Bayut on the best rental car companies in Dubai. We’ve also heard good things about Invygo – a car subscription service.
  • Metro – An efficient, cost-effective and cashless way to get from one end of the city to the other, although the stations can be a fair walk from your end destination. Oh, and the station names can change based on which company holds the branding rights, so that’s a fun game to play (note the mild amount of sarcasm). The good news is that compared to the London Underground’s maze of lines, there are only two – the red and green – here. Check out the latest metro map and full list of ticket prices to begin planning your journey.
  • Taxi – The local taxi service here is RTA, one of the cheapest ways to get around quickly. Prices start from 5 AED from 6am – 10pm and 5.50 AED from 10pm to 6am. They can be hailed on the street, but can also be booked through the car-hailing apps UBER or Careem – the local equivalent, also owned by UBER.

Top Tip : Petrol prices are reviewed monthly, and generally they stay consistently low, however after a summer high, prices currently sit at 2.92 per liter (approx 0.72p ) and 3.03 per liter (approx 0.74p) for Diesel. There are plenty of petrol stations across the Emirate, but if you find yourself in urgent need you can order fuel wherever you are through the CAFU app. Trust us, this is a lifesaver.

Groceries 

Much like in the UK, there are lots of places to get your groceries depending on your budget. The biggest hypermarkets are CarrefourLulu and Union Cooperative, as well as more premium outlets like Waitrose (sells pork) and Spinneys. All of these guys now deliver too, so if you don’t fancy a trip to the mall, you can order from the comfort of your home. In terms of cost per week, on average a couple will spend anywhere from 300 AED – 700 AED, while a family should budget around 600 AED – 1200 AED.

Top Tip : Check out this article for the best days to buy certain foods and make a decent saving.

Smaller convenience stores like Zoom are great for stocking up on midweek essentials, while Kibsons is online-only and a total powerhouse in Dubai, offering a huge selection of products (including Sainsbury’s items) all available for same or next day delivery. Oh and when it comes to Easter and Christmas, Park’n’Shop stocks all of your favorites, imported directly from the UK. Great for feeling like you’re at home, less good for the wallet or waistline.

Top Tip : Download on-demand apps like NowNow and Instashop to get products delivered to your door in under an hour. Delivery is usually free, but a service charge of around 7 AED will be added. It’s generally good to keep a stock of 5 AED notes handy too to tip the driver.

Schooling 

Expat kids have the option to go to either public or private schools, however both have tuition fees that need to be paid. According to the DMCC, the annual tuition fee for public schools has been capped at AED 6,000 (USD 1,635) per year, while on average International/ Private school fees range between AED 13,630 and 21,400 AED per year (3,710–5,830 USD).

We will say this – school fees are one of the biggest expenditures to consider if you have a family, as the above costs are just a baseline to work from. School fees highly depend on the location and reputation, and can vary drastically from one to the next.

Top Tip : It’s worth checking out the top lists of schools from the last few years to see where the KHDA (the regulatory body for private education in Dubai) has ranked them. Also, speak to people! Don’t just rely on what you read, ask questions, meet up with other parents to see the pros and cons of particular schools. The more informed you are, the easier the transition is likely to be.

Entertainment & Activities 

You will never be bored here, that’s for sure!

  • Groups: We recommend joining some Facebook groups (Brits in Dubai and British Expats Dubai are two of the biggest) maybe even before you land in the sand pit to ask some questions and suss out how people like to spend their free time. These kinds of groups are huge here for connecting people to each other and matching interests, so if Facebook is up in the Cloud from lack of use, it’s time to bring it back to your homescreen.
  • Sports: Now that the weather is cooling down, sports like Padel Tennis and Top Golf are really popular. Expect to pay around 130 AED – 220 AED per hour at Top Golf, while Padel Tennis racks up at 75 AED per player for 60 minutes or if you want to rent the court, prices start at 300 AED. It’s not cheap, but like anything, can be budgeted for if you know the rest of your weekly/ monthly outlay.
  • Cinemas: Check out one of the many cinemas in Dubai where the cost of a single ticket is actually pretty cheap – approx 40 AED without popcorn & snacks, plus many of the banks like HSBC and Citibank run incentives to get 2-4-1 tickets midweek.
  • Dining Out: This can be as affordable or as expensive as you choose. For a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant, expect to pay anywhere from 250 – 500 AED or if you want to go for a fine dining option, then allocate up to and maybe even beyond 1000 AED. From our perspective, the culinary experiences in Dubai are incredible and so diverse, so whether you are grabbing a shawarma on the street (My Shawarma in Barsha since you asked – it’s 12 AED) or celebrating at Ossiano, there’s something for everyone’s pocket.

Top Tip : We’re not going to lie, you need to be smart with your money in Dubai, which is why it’s worth downloading apps that help make your budget stretch further. The Entertainer is still one of the best assets to do this and it’s come a long way since it was a book of cut out vouchers. Download the app for 2-4-1 offers on food and beverages, fitness, beauty, travel and more. Also check out the Repeat app – this rewards you based on frequency, so you get offers every time you visit a place.

And there you have it! Our collective wisdom shared with you all based on our many years living in Dubai. We know that things can change quickly, but this article should give you a baseline to work from and if you have any questions, just shout! We’re always up for a coffee or even a game of golf… after all, we know ALL the best and cheapest haunts.

Thanks for reading.

We love to help design futures for people & companies.
If that sounds good, complete our short form or email us below.

Read More