Cost of Living in Dubai: Stretching Your Dirhams in Dubai


Cost of Living in Dubai, Imagine waking up every morning to sweeping views of the Arabian Gulf’s azure waters. After a quick dip in your building’s infinity pool, you head out to brunch at a lavish hotel buffet with a seafood spread that would make any sultan jealous. Your personal driver then drops you off downtown for an afternoon of shopping at the world’s largest mall, before you unwind at a beach club sipping cocktails and listening to DJs.

This glittering lifestyle draws expats from across the globe to Dubai. But all that luxury comes at a cost. Behind the flashy facade, Dubai has a high price tag attached to it.

Yes, those tax-free salaries look appealing. But to maintain the extravagant quality of life Dubai offers, you need some serious dirhams in the bank. Housing alone will eat up 45% or more of your monthly income. Add in dining out, entertainment, shopping sprees, and more, and your budget needs to be ironclad.

The good news? With smart planning, Dubai can still be affordable on most expat packages. This guide breaks down the real cost of living in Dubai and tips to stretch your dirhams further. From apartments vs. villas to public transit vs. taxis, learn how to budget like a pro in this playground of the rich.

Housing Costs

Housing takes up the most significant portion of your budget if you move to Dubai. Rental prices vary considerably depending on whether you opt for an apartment or a villa.

On average, you can expect to pay 45,000-70,000 AED ($12,250-$19,050) per year for a studio or one-bedroom apartment in places like Dubai Marina or JLT. Larger two or three-bedroom apartments in prime locations can cost 90,000-150,000 AED ($24,500-$40,800) annually.

Renting a villa is more expensive, with prices starting from 200,000 AED ($54,450) per year for a three-bedroom villa in areas like Arabian Ranches or Jumeirah. Luxury villas in communities like Emirates Hills or Palm Jumeirah can cost upwards of 500,000 AED ($136,000) per year.

When budgeting, remember that utilities like cooling and housing fees are usually excluded from Dubai rental prices.

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What is the Cost of Daily Necessities in Dubai?

Living in Dubai, you’ll need to budget more for daily purchases like groceries, dining out, and transportation. Even basic necessities tend to cost 20-40% more compared to Western countries. Imports especially get pricey.

Groceries and Dining Out

Grocery shopping in Dubai costs about 20-40% more than in the US. Imported items are especially pricey. Budget 15-20 AED ($4-$5.5) for things like bread, eggs, chicken, and produce. Imported cheese, cereal, or specialty products can cost 25-50 AED ($7-$14).

You can dine out affordably in Dubai. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant costs around 30-50 AED ($8-$14) per person. Mid-range restaurants cost 75-150 AED ($20-$40) per person. But dining at Dubai’s luxury restaurants and hotel brunch buffets averages 250-500 AED ($68-$136) per person.


Public transportation like the Dubai Metro, public buses, and trams are quite affordable. A one-way Metro ticket costs 3-7 AED ($0.80-$1.90), while bus fares are 2-7 AED ($0.55-$1.90) depending on distance traveled.

Taxis are convenient but pricier. Flagfall is 5 AED ($1.36), then fares are 1.82 AED ($0.50) per km. Uber and Careem offer lower rates. Expect to pay 25-50 AED ($7-$14) for most short taxi rides around town.

Petrol is cheaper in the UAE compared to North America and Europe. It costs around 2.20 AED ($0.60) per liter.

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DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) provides utilities in Dubai. Electricity is charged per kilowatt-hour (kWh), while water is charged per Imperial Gallon (IG).

Expect a monthly electricity bill of 150-350 AED ($41-$95) for a studio or one-bedroom apartment. Villa electricity bills are higher, averaging 500-1000 AED ($136-$272) per month.

Water bills are affordable, around 50-100 AED ($14-$27) per month for an apartment. Villas with gardens have higher water usage, so bills range from 150-350 AED ($41-$95).

Housing fees also cover amenities like AC chilling, swimming pool maintenance, etc. These average 10-30 AED ($3-$8) per sqft annually.


Dubai has high-quality healthcare from clinics to specialty hospitals. Public healthcare is available but most expats opt for private insurance.

Basic health insurance starts from $100 per month. This covers inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services at approved facilities. More comprehensive policies with wider provider networks cost $200 to $500+ per month.

Without insurance, doctor visits cost 200-500 AED ($55-$136) and medications are priced similar to the US.

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In Dubai, children attend private schools as the public education system mainly serves Emirati nationals. Expect school fees to be one of your largest expenses.

Annual tuition fees range from 20,000 AED ($5,450) for elementary schools, to 70,000 AED ($19,050) for elite schools offering IB and A-Level curriculums. Many also charge registration and facility fees.

University in Dubai costs 70,000-300,000 AED ($19,050-$81,600) depending on the institution and program. Local universities like the University of Dubai and Heriot-Watt University have the most affordable tuition.

Personal Care and Entertainment

Personal care services like haircuts and beauty treatments are priced on par with Western countries. Haircuts cost $25-60 USD for women and $15-30 for men. Manicures are $15-35. Gyms offer monthly memberships starting around $45-75 per month.

Dubai has endless dining, nightlife, attractions, and shopping options. But this comes at a cost. Expect to pay $20+ per movie ticket, $40+ to enter attractions like Burj Khalifa or theme parks, and $250+ for tickets to concerts or events.

Saving on Living Costs in Dubai

While certain basics like groceries and rent are unavoidably pricey in Dubai, you can save money in other areas:

  • Opt for an apartment instead of a villa to save substantially on rent
  • Use public transport instead of taxis
  • Look for discounts and sales at grocery stores
  • Shop at street markets and outlet malls for deals
  • Cook meals at home vs. dining out daily
  • Take advantage of Dubai’s free beaches, parks, and walking paths for entertainment
  • Seek out 2-for-1 deals and free events

With some smart financial planning, you can make the most of Dubai’s tax-free salaries and excellent lifestyle. Just be strategic about creating room in your budget for the essential big-ticket items like housing, schooling, and transportation.

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