Cost of living in the UAE

When planning to relocate, it is important to consider the cost of living in the UAE. This can include how much you will spend on renting or buying housing, how much you will have to pay for electricity, water and gas, how much money you are going to spend on food, and so on. Here we offer a detailed review of the cost of living in the UAE.

Home expenses

These expenses include:
  • Utility bills
  • apartment or villa rent
  • buying a property.

Utility bills

The cost of utilities is rather high in the UAE. During the hot season, which lasts for more than six months, you can pay about $1,000 per month for water and electricity.

Electricity and water are charged according to meter readings. One person pays approximately $70 per month living in a studio apartment in Dubai. If two people live in such an apartment, they have to pay $120 – $150 per month.

Moreover, there is a housing fee of 5% of the rental price of a villa or apartment. For example, tenants who pay $1,500 a month must pay an additional $75.

A monthly home internet fee is about $100.

Renting a property

Most expats prefer to live in Dubai. Therefore, the property market in Dubai offers a wide range of rent rates. For instance, you can rent an apartment for at least $2,500 in the elite areas of the city such as Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence.

One-bedroom apartments can be rented for $1,300 and two-bedroom apartments cost $1,600 in less expensive districts, for example, in Al-Qusayr and Mirdif.

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Buying a property

If you have money, it is better not to rent an apartment, but to buy it. If your budget is very limited, you can apply for a mortgage loan in a local bank.

A square metre of an apartment or villa costs at least $2,000 in the major cities of the Emirates. For example, a square metre of a property in Silicon Oasis costs $1,500 while the average price rates in Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina are $5,000 and $4,500 respectively.

Property tax for foreigners and other additional expenses when buying a house

Buying a villa or apartment can incur the following expenses:
  • A registration fee, equal to 4%, and paid after signing the contract. It can be paid by the buyer or split by both parties to the transaction. Sometimes developers cover part of the fee to attract new customers.
  • The state fee that the buyer pays after obtaining a certificate of ownership.
  • The payment for the documents confirming the property ownership ($70).
  • The payment for real estate agency services. Realtors usually charge 2% of the price of a villa or apartment for their work. This fee is paid either only by the buyer, or by both the buyer and the seller. If a new property is purchased, the investor pays the fee. If it is a pre-owned property, both parties pay the expenses.
  • If the property is bought with a mortgage loan, the future owner is charged a bank commission which is 1% of the total loan.

How much does it cost to live in the UAE?

The prices for everyday goods (food, clothing, shoes, gasoline, etc.), as well as for utilities and public transport are relatively high.

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Grocery supermarkets

In the city centre and other popular tourist spots, the prices can be more than two or three times higher, compared to prices in the outskirts. Here are the average prices for food (prices in US dollars): Dairy products and eggs:
  • Milk (liter) – 1.
  • Yogurt – 1.
  • Cottage cheese (sweet, 100 g) – 2.
  • Sour cream (20%, 200 g) – 3.
  • Ice-cream (80 g) – 2.
  • Butter (400 g) – 4.
  • Cheese (kg) – 8-10.
  • Eggs – 3.
Meat (per kilogram):
  • Chicken breast – 3.
  • Chicken – 3-4.
  • Beef – 8.
  • Lamb – 10.
Fish (per kilogram):
  • Salmon – 15.
  • Sardines – 2.
Fruit (per kilogram):
  • Apples – 2.
  • Papaya – 1.
  • Bananas – 2.
  • Watermelon, melon – 2.
Vegetables (per kilogram):
  • Pumpkin – 1.
  • Carrot – 2.
  • Aubergine – 2.
  • Tomatoes – 2.
  • Potatoes – 1.
  • A bottle of wine – from 12.
  • Beer – from 5.
And also:
  • Juice (litre) – 2.5.
  • Water (one and a half litres) – 1.
  • White bread (500 g) – 1.
  • Rice (kilogram) – 1-2.
The shops sell inexpensive local pastries. For example, buns cost only $0.4, and samsa costs $0.7. In addition, there are a variety of soups on sale, which cost a little more than $1.

Cafes and restaurants

In restaurants in the centre of Dubai, a sandwich can cost $8, and a cup of coffee – about $5, while a dessert can cost $11-14. A cheaper option can be a coffee with a bun.

For a lunch or dinner for two (three courses), in an average cafe in Dubai, you will have to pay about $55-80.

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There are many shopping centres throughout the country, but the world-famous landmark malls are located in Dubai. The most prestigious ones include:

  • Dubai Mall;
  • Gold and Diamond Park;
  • Mall of Emirates and some others.

Local malls offer things for every taste and budget. As a rule, each floor at a shopping mall will sell products priced within a certain range. You can also haggle and get a bargain price at the Karama clothing market.


Public transport

The metro fare depends on the distance that the passenger needs to travel.

A bus ticket costs about $1.5, but you can buy a monthly travel card.

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There is base rate for taxis of $1.5- 2, and then a charge per kilometre of around $0.7- 1.Waiting for a passenger as well as being in a traffic jam costs about $7.5 per hour.

To get from the airport to the centre of Dubai, you will have to pay from $10 to $30 (you can barter).

When crossing borders within the country (borders of the emirates), you must pay $5.


The cost of gasoline is low (about $0.5). However, your fuel expenses can be rather high when moving around large cities in the United Arab Emirates. For example, in Dubai (a lot of gasoline is spent on cooling the car with an air conditioner, as well as waiting in traffic jams).

You also have to pay for toll roads.

Mobile phone

There are two main mobile phone operators in the UAE: Etisalat and Du. Etisalat offers SIM cards at $40 and a Du SIM card will cost you $15.

A minute of an outgoing call within the country costs $0.2, and to talk to a person who is not in the United Arab Emirates, you have to pay $1 per minute.

To buy a SIM card from a local operator, you need to provide your passport. You can top-up your phone in any shop in the UAE but you need a payment card to do so.

The Internet

Mobile Internet is paid on a per second basis: about $3 per hour, but there are many free Wi-Fi hotspots.

Other expenses


A membership in a fitness centre or gym will cost you about $85 per month.

Entertainment options

Despite the constant heat in the UAE, you can go skating on an ice rink, which costs about $10-11.

A sightseeing tour in large cities, for example, in Dubai, costs about $50. However, the Burj Khalifa tour is a more expensive option – you will have to pay $150. On the other hand, there are some alternatives that you can enjoy for free. For instance, an oceanarium as well as the colourful singing and dancing fountains.

To lie on a public beach, you do not need to pay anything. However, if you want to visit private beaches, you will have to pay around $1.5-2 for entry. To use a beach umbrella and a sunbed, you will need to pay an additional fee, which is about $8.

Medical care

At the beginning of 2014, Dubai, one of the largest cities in the country, introduced a compulsory health insurance.

The basic package costs $170 per year, which is quite affordable and allows people, with even a minimum income of $1,000, to get insured. According to the insurance laws in force since 2014, the insured can expand and alter their medical packages to add certain bespoke types of cover.

With a minimum package, the insurance coverage is $40,000, with the insured paying 20% of the cost of a healthcare service provided by a clinic every time they visit a doctor.

People over 60 years old need to buy another type of insurance, which costs about $670 per year.

This type of insurance will not cover any treatment expenses within the first six months after signing an insurance contract. However, when these six months expire, the insurance will cover all types of treatment, including chronic diseases.

If a person is not insured, they will be fined. The fine is about $150 per month. Therefore, it is reasonable to get an insurance in advance.

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