Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and the second largest city in the region after Dubai. Abu Dhabi was built on an island in the Persian Gulf, rather like Manhattan in New York. It has grown dramatically over the last 40 years and attracts people from around the globe who enjoy its year-round sunshine, the beach, the desert and a thriving economy.
If you are considering moving to Abu Dhabi, the various costs listed below will help you make an informed decision on what costs are involved when moving and living in the federal capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Quick Abu Dhabi Facts:
- Population: 1,540,000 (2022 estimate).
- Official Language: Arabic is the official language of Abu Dhabi but English is the most spoken languages. There are a host of other languages spoken, including Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Tagalog, Persian and Mandarin.
- GDP Per Capita: $44,315 USD (2021 estimate).
- Emirates Palace Hotel: This magnificent hotel is 0.6 miles from end to end and contains over a thousand Swarovski crystal chandeliers.
- Currency: Emirati Dirham (AED, Dh). As of early 2023, $1 USD = 3.67 AED, €1 EUR = 3.94 AED, $1 CAD = 2.75 AED, $1 AUD = 2.56 AED, £1 GBP = 4.47 AED.
1. Moving and Shipping Costs to Abu Dhabi
Below are some sample container shipping rates to the UAE.
2. Abu Dhabi Housing Costs
House and apartment prices are high. Prices obviously vary from area to area but the figures below will give you an indication of what’s available at what price.
Monthly Rental Prices in Abu Dhabi:
- 1 bedroom flat (apartment) in City Centre: 6,000+ AED
- 1 bedroom flat outside the City Centre: 4,300+ AED
- 3 bedroomed flat in City Centre: 10,300+ AED
- 3 bedroomed flat outside the City Centre: 7,700+ AED
Abu Dhabi Home Purchase Prices:
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy in City Centre: 13,720.49 AED
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy outside City: 12,621.55 AED
Abu Dhabi Housing Cost Comparison:
This is how rents in Abu Dhabi compare with other cities around the globe.
- London is 33.4% cheaper
- New York is 55.4% cheaper
- Los Angeles is 39.7% cheaper
- Toronto is 9.8% cheaper
- Vancouver is 16.4% cheaper
- Sydney is 22.9% cheaper
- Melbourne is 37.42% cheaper
- Dubai is 8.3% cheaper
- Paris is 2.8% more expensive
How to Save on Housing Costs:
- Share a Flat or House: It is possible to share accommodation in Abu Dhabi but it is frowned upon, especially if there are males and females sharing the same flat or house. With a house share you will have your own room, or, for a cheaper option, you can share a room. The bathroom/s will be shared with other people in the house. Have a look on Dubizzle, Expat.com and My Roommate and find someone you can get on with to share the costs with you.
- Different Areas – Different Prices: Flat and houses of all sizes and in all price ranges are available. Like all cities in the world some areas are more desirable than other. Downtown Abu Dhabi has many upmarket apartments where both families and singles live. Al Zahiyah and Al Markaziyah are very popular with expats due to their proximity to the Corniche, nightlife and malls. If you prefer a little more space and quiet, then consider Madinat Zayed, Al Wadha or Khalidya. Have a look at the section below on suitable areas for families. Before committing to a property, it’s a good idea to rent something for a month or two and have a good look around to get the feel of the city.
3. Abu Dhabi Food, Grocery and Restaurant Costs
Abu Dhabi has a good selection of restaurants, bars, clubs and food shops.
- Inexpensive Restaurant: 30.00 AED
- Takeout Coffee: 19.70 AED
- Bottle of Coke: 3.49 AED
- 1L of Milk: 6.46 AED
- Loaf of Bread: 4.76 AED
- 12 Eggs: 10.12 AED
- 1kg Chicken: 27.43 AED
- 1kg Beef: 40.86 AED
- 1kg Apples: 8.01 AED
- 1kg White Rice: 6.48 AED
This is how restaurants and food prices compare with other major cities in the world.
- New York restaurants are 40% more expensive and groceries are 56.5% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
- Los Angeles restaurants are 32.8% more expensive and groceries are 42.4% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
- Toronto restaurants are 32.2% more expensive and groceries are 57.7% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
- Vancouver restaurants are 25.9% more expensive and groceries are 62.4% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
- London restaurants are 32.9% more expensive and groceries are 25.7% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
- Sydney restaurants are 35% more expensive and groceries are 80.2% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
- Melbourne restaurants are 31.8% more expensive and groceries are 85.1% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
- Dubai restaurants are 22.8% more expensive and groceries are 10.2% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
- Paris restaurants are 18.1% more expensive and groceries are 68.8% more expensive than Abu Dhabi.
Bonus Tips for Cheaper Food, Restaurants and Groceries:
- Know Your Supermarkets: Accommodation is very expensive in Abu Dhabi but food and eating out is cheaper than in most cities around the world. Carrefour is one of the most popular supermarkets with expats as it not only has a good selection of local produce, it imports food from all over the world. Spinneys is another supermarket popular with expats, especially Brits, as it stocks a lot of imported food, and, you can get your liquor licence here. Lulu’s is a good supermarket for those shopping on a tighter budget. Abela is a supermarket where you can find a multitude of British goods and buy port.
- Find Cheap Eats: Zomato, Trip Advisor, Time Out and Dubai Information all have their own guides to cheap eats in Abu Dhabi, which include everything from Lebanese food to burgers and everything in between.
4. Abu Dhabi Alcohol Costs
Note that to purchase and consume liquor at home, you need a liquor license. Abu Dhabi is well known for its nightlife, restaurants and bars. The following is a list of basic prices of beer and wine from the supermarket and restaurants.
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a restaurant/pub: 40.00 AED
- Bottle of imported beer at a restaurant/pub: 40.00 AED
- Pint (0.6L) domestic beer at a supermarket: 9.77 AED
- Bottle of imported beer at a supermarket: 12.20 AED
- Mid-range bottle of wine at a supermarket: 60.00 AED
How to Drink for Less in Abu Dhabi:
- Keep an eye on the local papers and websites for specials over weekends and public holidays.
- There are many bars, restaurants and clubs that have happy hours at certain times of the day. Have a look at the following sites to find somewhere that appeals to you – Timeout, Journeum, and Zomato.
5. Abu Dhabi Transportation Fares
Abu Dhabi operates a bus service in the city. The buses are airconditioned and the front of the buses are reserved for women. A metro system is due to be introduced in 2020 to try and alleviate the traffic problem.
Here are some example ticket costs:
- Adult single – 2.00 AED
- One-day ticket – 5.00 AED
- Monthly season ticket – 80.00 AED
How to Save Money on Public Transport:
- Buy an Orja card which will give you discounts on transport.
- Cycling and walking are not an option for most of the year in Dubai because of the heat. There are cycle paths in certain parts of the city and a bike-sharing scheme was introduced in 2015. However, this has been unsuccessful in reducing traffic volumes during peak periods but successful for casual cycling at weekends.
6. Cost of Internet in Abu Dhabi
There are only two major internet providers in Abu Dhabi. Here are some sample broadband internet prices from early-2023 for unlimited downloads, based on a 12-month contract:
- Du: 749 AED a month (Download speed up to 24mb)
- Etisalat: 749 AED a month (Download speed up to 100mb)
7. Cost of Clothing, Personal Items, Gym and Leisure
There are only two seasons in Abu Dhabi – the summer is very hot but the ‘winter’ is pleasant. It has a topical desert climate with its hottest month, August, having an average maximum temperature of 36°C. January is the coolest month, with an average maximum temperature of 18°C. February is the wettest month, with an average of 20mm of rain falling.
Here are some clothing prices, together with other useful prices.
- Pair of Jeans: 195.00 AED
- Summer Dress: 181.00 AED
- Running Shoes (Trainers): 338.00 AED
- Business Shoes: 348.00 AED
- Short Doctor’s Visit (15 mins): 166.00 AED
- Deodorant: 18.00 AED
- Shampoo: 18.00 AED
- Toilet Paper (4 rolls): 13.00 AED
- Gym Membership (Per Month): 258.00 AED
- Movie (Cinema) Ticket: 45.00 AED
Source: Numbeo and Expatistan
8. Cost of Owning a Car and Driving a Car in Abu Dhabi
Everyone in Abu Dhabi drives on the right. Abu Dhabi has a good road system, but there are so many vehicles using it that traffic jams are a daily occurrence and driving standards are erratic.
If you’re moving to Abu Dhabi from within the UAE, you’ll be able to keep your license but need to update your address to your new Abu Dhabi one.
You can drive in Abu Dhabi on an International Driving Licence, however, if you have already been issued with a work permit, you need to apply for a UAE license immediately. It depends on which country you are coming from as to whether you will need to take a test or not.
Here are some other sample costs of owning and operating a car in Abu Dhabi:
- Volkswagen Golf: 89,500.00 AED
- 1 litre (¼ gallon) of Gas (Petrol): 3.83 AED
- Registration Fee (If Any): 450 AED – Includes testing, registration and number plates (Registration)
Ways to Save Money on Driving in Abu Dhabi:
- Car sharing or pooling is one way to save money. Try DARB, Carpoolworld and Dubizzle.
- Taxis can sometimes be a cheaper option, especially if you are going to have to park all day. At the moment, Uber and Careem have suspended their services in the city (see Arabian Business).
9. Taxes in Abu Dhabi
There is no tax payable in the UAE on your earned income. Just note that if you are receiving a salary in the UAE and you are a tax resident in another country, you may be legally obliged to declare that income and pay tax on it. Rules vary from country to country.
There is no sales tax or value added tax in the UAE. However, there are indirect taxes such as 10% tax on hotel accommodation and restaurant costs. A tax is also levied on utility bills, which is basically the equivalent of council tax. On the plus side, there is no tax on capital gains or inheritance and no stamp duty on house purchases.
10. Flight Costs from Abu Dhabi
If you do make the move to Abu Dhabi, here’s approximately how much it will cost to fly to other major world cities based on lowest, one-way fares from Skyscanner as of early 2023:
- New York: 1,671 AED
- Los Angeles: 1,806 AED
- London: 293 AED
- Toronto: 1,588 AED
- Vancouver: 2,442 AED
- Sydney: 2,350 AED
- Melbourne: 2,173 AED
- Cape Town: 1,154 AED
- Hong Kong: 1,438 AED
Other Tips on Moving to Abu Dhabi:
The costs and pricing above should give you a good idea of the cost of living in Abu Dhabi, but perhaps the following extra tips will make your move go smoothly.
11. Moving to Abu Dhabi Alone
Moving anywhere can be a lonely experience, but moving to a new city can be rather daunting. Here are a few tips about settling into Abu Dhabi:
- Meetups: Abu Dhabi has lots of free meetup groups you can find on Meetup.com. Join Raw-Yoga, UAE Trekkers, Abu Dhabi Wine Club, Monday Night Football and many more interesting groups.
- Attend Local Events: There is so much going on in Abu Dhabi. Have a look at the following sites to see how you would like to spend your free time – Whatson, Trip Advisor, Timeout, Abu Dhabi Events, Visit Abu Dhabi and Eventful.
12. Moving to Abu Dhabi with a Family
Abu Dhabi is a family-friendly city with a lot of history and culture. Here’s some extra food for thought:
- New Parents (or parents to be): Have a look at NMC Healthcare.
- Live In a Family-Friendly Area: One of the most popular and upmarket areas for expat families is Khalidya which is close to the Corniche. It has all the amenities and shops you need, including a very pretty park. Al Muroor has reasonably priced villas and good schools. It also has a health and fitness club with a pool and tennis courts and there’s an equestrian centre close by. Another plus point for this area is that the Corniche is within walking distance. Khalifa City is a cheaper area with newly built housing and schools which is growing in popularity. One of the quieter areas is Mangrove Village which has everything you need including schools and shops. Al Reed Villas is also attracting expat families who enjoy the fact that everything they need is on site.
- Find Things to Do With the Kids: Your Abu Dhabi guide, Wheressharon, Visit Abu Dhabi, TripHobo and Family Travel Scoop all have great ideas for activities and events your kids will love.
13. Moving to Abu Dhabi for Work
Moving to Abu Dhabi for work is one of the most common reasons people choose to move. While it is possible to move without a job, it makes sense to ensure there are jobs in your field before you make the move.
Obviously, the oil and gas industry and big employers in Abu Dhabi. The emirate of Abu Dhabi produces 9% of the world’s oil and 5% of its gas. Other major employers are the aviation and aerospace industry, hospitality and tourism, education and healthcare.
Here are a few things to consider when moving for work:
- Salary: Salaries in Abu Dhabi are not only tax free, they are also high. The costs we outlined above should give you a rough idea, how much more you’ll want to be making to make the move worthwhile. You can also check salary ranges on sites such as Glassdoor and Payscale.
- How To Find Work: If you want to have a job lined up before you move to Abu Dhabi, but aren’t sure where to begin, the following sites are good places to start: Dubizzle, Gulf Talent, Visa Hunter and We Find Jobs. You may also want to Google recruiters in your industry, as they can often help land you some initial interviews as well.
14. Moving to Abu Dhabi from Australia
Abu Dhabi is a popular place for Australian expats:
- Size Comparison: If you compare the population size of Abu Dhabi with a city in Australia, you’d be looking at a city half way in size between Adelaide and Perth.
- Join Expat Groups: InterNations, Aussies Abroad and Facebook offer ways of meeting up with other Australians in Abu Dhabi.
15. Moving to Abu Dhabi from Canada
There’s a large group of Canadians living and working in Abu Dhabi. If you’re considering making the move from Canada here are a few things to consider:
- Size Comparison: If you look at the population size of Abu Dhabi and compare it with a city in Canada, you’d be looking at a city half way in size between Ottawa and Vancouver.
- Join Expat Groups: If you are feeling a little homesick and want to meet some people from home, have a look at the following sites – InterNations, Canada International and Meetup.
16. Moving to Abu Dhabi from the United States
There’s a large American contingent in Abu Dhabi. If you’re considering joining them, here are a few bonus tips:
- Size Comparison: The population size of Abu Dhabi is a little larger than that of Philadelphia.
- Join Expat Groups: If you need a little help settling in, or would appreciate a few tips on various aspects of living in Abu Dhabi, get in touch with fellow Americans who have already settled in the city. Have a look at InterNations and Your Abu Dhabi Guide.
17. Moving to Abu Dhabi from the United Kingdom
Abu Dhabi is home to many Brits. Here are a few extra tips for those of you who are considering joining them:
- Size Comparison: If you compare the population size of Abu Dhabi with a city in the UK, you would be looking at a city 1.5 times the size of Birmingham.
- Join Expat Groups: It always help to meet like souls when settling into a new area or country. InterNations and Expat.com are for people from the UK who are living and working in Abu Dhabi.
Hopefully, the tips and costs above are helpful. If want to get started pricing out how much it will cost you to move to Abu Dhabi you can start by comparing moving quotes here.