Cost of Living in the United Arab Emirates: An Expatriate’s Guide

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven emirates including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan hub that attracts expatriates from around the world with its tax-free salaries, luxurious lifestyle, and high standard of living. However, life in the UAE comes with its own set of financial considerations. This guide aims to provide expatriates with a detailed overview of the cost of living in the UAE, helping you plan and budget for a comfortable life in this dynamic country.


Housing is one of the most significant expenses for expatriates in the UAE, with costs varying widely depending on the emirate, location, and type of accommodation.

  • Rent: In Dubai, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center may cost between AED 5,000 to AED 10,000 per month, while similar accommodations in Abu Dhabi can range from AED 4,500 to AED 9,000. Prices tend to be lower in other emirates like Sharjah and Ajman.
  • Utilities: Monthly utility bills, including electricity, water, and cooling, can range from AED 500 to AED 1,500, depending on usage and the size of your accommodation.

Food and Groceries

The UAE offers a wide range of culinary options, from affordable eateries to high-end restaurants. Groceries can be costlier than in other countries, particularly for imported goods.

  • Groceries: A monthly grocery bill for a single person can range from AED 300 to AED 600.
  • Dining Out: A meal at an inexpensive restaurant may cost around AED 30 to AED 50, while a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant can range from AED 200 to AED 400.


While public transportation options are available, particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, many expatriates choose to own or lease a car due to the convenience and the relatively low cost of fuel.

  • Public Transport: A monthly pass can cost around AED 300 to AED 500.
  • Car Ownership: Monthly costs, including loan payments, insurance, fuel, and maintenance, can range from AED 1,500 to AED 3,000.


The UAE has a high standard of healthcare, with a mix of public and private facilities. Health insurance is mandatory in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and many employers offer this as part of the employment package.

  • Health Insurance: For private health insurance, premiums can vary widely but expect to pay from AED 500 to AED 1,500 per month for comprehensive coverage.


The UAE is home to a wide range of international schools offering various curricula. Tuition fees can be high, making education a significant expense for expatriates with children.

  • International Schools: Annual tuition fees can range from AED 30,000 to AED 90,000, depending on the school and the level of education.

Leisure and Entertainment

The UAE offers a plethora of leisure and entertainment options, catering to all tastes and budgets, from shopping in world-class malls to desert safaris and beach clubs.

  • Entertainment: Cinema tickets cost around AED 40 to AED 70, and a monthly gym membership can range from AED 200 to AED 500.
  • Leisure Activities: Budgeting AED 500 to AED 1,000 per month should cover various activities.

Miscellaneous Expenses

The cost of Living in the UAE includes clothing, personal care, and telecommunications, which are generally in line with or slightly higher than other major cities worldwide.

  • Clothing: A pair of jeans might cost around AED 250 to AED 500, while a summer dress could be around AED 150 to AED 300.
  • Internet and Mobile: Monthly internet bills are typically around AED 300 to AED 500, and mobile phone plans can start from AED 150 to AED 300 per month.

Tips for Managing Living Expenses in the UAE

  • Housing: Consider sharing an apartment or villa to reduce housing costs, a common practice among expatriates.
  • Food: Take advantage of the numerous food markets for fresh and affordable produce.
  • Transportation: Evaluate the cost-benefit of owning a car versus using public transport, especially in cities with efficient public transportation systems like Dubai.
  • Entertainment: Look out for numerous free or discounted events and attractions throughout the year.

Additional Resources

  • Numbeo UAE: Provides user-contributed data on the cost of living in various cities in the UAE.
  • Ministry of Human Resources & Emiratisation: Provides official information on labor laws, employment rights, and other resources for workers in the UAE.

Living in the UAE can offer a luxurious lifestyle, but it’s crucial to plan and budget carefully to ensure financial comfort and stability. By understanding the cost of living and managing expenses wisely, expatriates can enjoy the myriad opportunities and experiences that life in the UAE has to offer.

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