The United Arab Emirates is on the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula and consists of a federation of seven emirates. The largest of the Emirates is Abu Dhabi which occupies nearly three quarters of the UAE’s land mass. Dubai is the region’s commercial and financial centre, with multinationals from all over the world having a presence there.
If you are considering moving to the UAE, this guide on moving and living costs will be very useful.
Quick UAE Facts:
- Population: 89 million (2022 estimate)
- Official Language:The country’s official language is Arabic, but many other languages are spoken by the large expat community – English, German, French, Hindi and various Persian dialects to name but a few.
- GDP Per Capita:US$103
- Skyscrapers: There are over 250 skyscrapers (150m or taller) in the country with each emirate trying to outdo the next by building the tallest building. Currently, the world’s tallest building is Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It’s 828m tall, which is twice the height of the Empire State Building.
- Currency: United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED). As of October 2022, £1 = 3.96 AED, €1 = 3.56 AED, $1 US$ = 3.67 AED , $1 AUD = 2.40 AED
1. Moving and Shipping Costs to the UAE
The table below shows sample shipping container rates to the UAE from various countries around the world.
2. UAE Housing Costs
Only 30% of UAE residents own their property. Rent in the UAE is also relatively cheap because of the wide availability of flats to rent. The cheaper area to live in terms of housing costs in the UAE is Sharjah’s Al Butina. The most expensive areas are Pal, Jumeirah Island, Emirates Hills, Dubai Marina, Al Raha Beach, and Saadiyat where housing costs are extremely high.
- 1 bedroom apartment in City Centre: 1894 AED- 24 656 AED
- 1 bedroom apartment outside the City Centre: 1022 AED- 18 312 AED
- 3 bedroom apartment in City Centre: 3119 AED- 15 000 AED
- 3 bedroom apartment outside the City Centre: 2388 AED- 10 000 AED
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy in City Centre: 5234 AED- 19 375 AED
- Price per square metre (10.7 square feet) to buy outside City: 4611 AED- 10 763 AED
The U.A.E. Housing Cost Comparison
This is how rents in the UAE compare with other cities around the globe.
The United Kingdom is 18.02% cheaper
The United States is 39.91% more expensive
Australia is 1.69% more expensive
Singapore is 97.99% more expensive
France is 29.97% cheaper
Spain is 40.58% cheaper
How to Save on Housing Costs
- Share an apartment or house. Looking for a roommate or housemate is always a good way to save on housing costs, the following sites are usually pretty good: iRoomates, MyRoomate, Sulekha and Dubizzle
- Different areas – different prices. The two main cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are without a doubt the most expensive areas of the UAE as they both have very affluent neighbourhoods where rent is extremely expensive. However, they also have more low key and cheaper areas such as Deira, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Dubai Sports City, and Shakhbout City that still have very nice apartments and can be great for someone who is looking to save on housing costs.
3. UAE Food, Grocery and Restaurant Costs
The UAE has some excellent restaurants that serve first class cuisine from all over the world – Japanese, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, Moroccan, and Greek to name a few. The quality of the imported ingredients is excellent and dining out is an absolute pleasure.
- Inexpensive Restaurant: 15 AED- 60 AED
- Takeout Coffee: 10 AED- 26 AED
- Bottle of Coke: 2.50 AED- 10 AED
- 1L of milk: 4 AED- 12 AED
- Loaf of Bread: 2.98 AED- 9 AED
- 12 Eggs: 6 AED – 19.20 AED
- 1kg Chicken Filets: 14 AED- 46.57 AED
- 1kg Beef: 22 AED- 60 AED
- 1kg Apples: 4.50 AED- 10 AED
- 1kg White Rice: 4 AED- 20 AED
This is how restaurants and food prices compare with other major countries in the world.
- UK restaurants are 17% more expensive and groceries are 8.67% cheaper than in the UAE.
- United States restaurants are 25% more expensive and groceries are 49.14 more expensive than in the UAE.
- Australian restaurants are 8% more expensive and groceries are 46.12% more expensive than in the UAE.
- Singapore restaurants are 15% more expensive and groceries are 43.92% more expensive than in the UAE.
- French restaurants are 38% more expensive and groceries are 25.61% more expensive than in the UAE.
- Spanish restaurants are 15% cheaper and groceries are 21.47% cheaper than in the UAE.
Bonus Tips for Cheaper Food, Restaurants, and Groceries
- Know your supermarket: The UAE has plenty of markets, especially in Dubai, where the price tags on food are open to negotiation, with a bit of luck you could get a great deal on the ingredients you need, to then cook a scrumptious meal at home. The major supermarkets in the UAE are Choithrams, Carrefour, Union Coop and Lulu Hypermarket.
- Find Cheap Eats: The UAE definitely isn’t the cheapest place to eat out but there are affordable spots if you look for them. Always ask people who’ve been in area for a while for recommendations. Have a look at the following sites for inspiration: – Timeout, Tripadvisor, The Travel and Gulf News.
4. UAE Alcohol Costs
Even though the UAE has relaxed its laws on alcohol, it is still very restricted. It can only be sold by government approved vendors and it’s illegal to drink in public places. The country also has a zero-tolerance policy for public drunkenness so be careful because you could risk some serious sanctions.
- Bottle of imported beer at a restaurant/pub: 25 AED- 55 AED
- Pint (0.5L) domestic beer at a restaurant/pub: 20 AED- 50 AED
- Pint (0.5L) domestic beer at a supermarket: 5 AED- 37 AED
- Bottle of imported beer at a supermarket: 7 AED- 61.69 AED
- Mid-range bottle of wine at a supermarket: 23.37 AED- 100 AED
How to drink for less in the UAE
- Keep an eye on the local papers and flyers for cheap drinks, either in supermarkets or in bars, clubs and restaurants.
- Look for Happy Hours: Quite a few pubs and bars in the UAE have happy hours but they can sometimes still be expensive and hard to find due to alcohol being culturally taboo. Try Captain’s Arms, P J O’Reilly’s Irish Pub, Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant or take at look at the following suggestions: – Timeout Dubai, Trip Advisor, Zomato and Whats On.
5. UAE Transportation Fares
The UAE has a very advanced public transport network, it’s affordable and it covers almost the entire country. The network includes buses, trams, metros and trains which are all clean and reliable. Many UAE residents rely on taxis however, as they are cheap and convenient, especially for those who live in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Here are some example ticket costs.
- Single – 2 AED – 16 AED
- Monthly season ticket, unlimited – 88 AED – 668.88 AED
- Taxi start (normal tariff) – 7 AED – 20 AED
- 1km (normal tariff) – 1.90 AED – 8.37 AED
How to save money on public transport
- Get a travel pass: The UAE has many different options. Buying one can save you a lot of money.
- Walking is an alternative but due to the extreme heat, you can only comfortably do this early morning and late evening.
6. Cost of Internet in the UAE
The Internet in the UAE isn’t cheap but it’s extremely efficient. The country has the fastest mobile internet in Asia. Here are some sample internet prices from September 2022 for unlimited downloads, based on a 12-month contract:
7. Cost of Clothing, Personal Items, Gym and Leisure
Dubai’s temperatures don’t fluctuate a lot during the year. It rarely gets below 20C in the winter months and summer temperatures average around 35C. Rain is extremely scarce in the UAE with just under 100mm of rain per year. The country enjoys over 3570 hours of sunshine per annum. a
Here are some clothing prices, together with other useful prices.
- Pair of Jeans (Levis 501 or similar): 79 AED – 378.66 AED
- Summer Dress: 70 AED – 345.94 AED
- Running Shoes-Nike (Mid-range): 180 AED – 530 AED
- Business Shoes: 150 AED – 1153 AED
- Gym/fitness club, monthly fee for 1 adult: 120 AED – 500 AED
- Movie (cinema) ticket: 35 AED – 55 AED
8. Cost of Owning a Car and Driving a Car in the UAE
The number of people who own cars in the UAE has risen dramatically over the last couple of years. That said, if you plan on staying in a city, you really don’t need a car. However, the UAE’s road system is excellent, making it easy to get from A to B. If you live in the UAE, you’re only allowed to drive with an Emirates licence but, for most passport holders, it’s a straight swap. If your passport doesn’t permit you to do a straight swap, you will have to go through the very long and complicated process of obtaining a driving licence in the UAE, which includes a driving test.
Here are some other sample costs of owning and operating a car in the U.A.E.
- Volkswagen Golf:75 000 AED- 137 552 AED
- 1 litre of Gasoline: 2.53 AED- 4.60 AED
- Other fees (if any):The average cost of owning and running a car in is around 17 200 AED per annum
Ways to save money driving in the U.A.E.
- You could use taxis to get around, they are pretty cheap and convenient and you won’t have to deal with parking.
- Be careful: Carpooling is illegal!
9. Taxes in the UAE
There is no personal income tax in the United Arab Emirates so you don’t have to report how much you earn. VAT or sales tax is a low 5%. The country is in the process of imposing a corporate tax, but this won’t come into effect until 2023.
Check out the government’s official website for more info.
10. Flight Costs from the UAE
If you do decide to move to the UAE, here is how much it will approximately cost you to fly from Dubai to some other major world cities based on the lowest, one-way fares from Skyscanner as of late 2022.
- London: 663 AED
- Paris: 710 AED
- New York: 1,200 AED
- Los Angeles: 1,453 AED
- Sydney: 1,023 AED
- Melbourne: 1,328 AED
- Cape Town: 680 AED
- Hong Kong: 650 AED
Other UAE Relocation Tips
The costs and pricing above should give you a good idea of the cost of living in the U.A.E. but perhaps the following extra tips will make your move go smoothly.
11. Relocating to the UAE Alone
Moving is always a stressful time but moving on your own can be exceptionally difficult. The large expat community and the local people will help you ease into your new life. Here are a few tips on settling in:
- Meetups: Meetup is a very popular social media app that lets users know about events being hosted around them and can be a great way to make new friends. An alternative to this app is Bumble.
- Attend local events: There is always something going on in the UAE and many of the activities are free. Have a look at the following sites for inspiration: – Eventbrite, UAE, Khaleej Times and Sharjah Events.
12. Moving to the UAE with a Family
The UAE is a very safe country and an ideal place to raise a family. It has an excellent education system, accessible first rate healthcare, a lot of green areas, and many children-friendly fun activities.
- New parents (or parents to be): The Mama ME app is a great way to meet other mothers in the U.A.E. Have a look Timeout which lists ten different groups for parents to be and mothers.
- Live in a family-friendly area: The main cities Dubai and Abu Dhabi have quite a few family-friendly neighbourhoods like Arabian Ranches, Jumeirah, and Al Barari for Dubai and Al Mushrif, Al Khalidiya, and Al Reem Island for Abu Dhabi. Have a look at these sites for in depth information: – Metropolitan, The National News, Expat Parent and Expatica.
- Find things to do with the kids: A quick Google search will allow you to discover all the fun activities in your area. Have a look at Hotels, Family Travel, Trip Advisor and Our Globe Trotters.
13. Moving to the UAE for Work
Many people move to the UAE for work. Salaries are high and company benefits are great and, there’s no tax to pay. There is currently demand for medical staff, business development and sales specialists, e-commerce specialists, IT, marketing specialists, teachers and more. The job market is also extremely competitive and while it’s possible to move without a job, it makes sense to ensure there are jobs in your field before you make the move. This is especially true in the UAE.
Here are a few things to consider when moving for work:
- Salary: The U.A.E. doesn’t have a minimum wage but the median annual salary in the U.A.E. is 36 000 USD (or 132 213 AED) which is pretty high compared to the rest of the world.
- How to find work: I would recommend looking on LinkedIn, GrabJobs, GulfTalent, or Bayt if you are looking to line up a job in the U.A.E. before moving there.
14. Moving to the UAE from Australia
Approximately 15 000 Aussies live in the UAE and that is a number that is growing every year. If you’re thinking of joining them then you should consider the following.
- Size comparison: The UAE is a small country but it is tiny compared to Australia which is 9,160% larger in terms of area. However, Australia’s population is only 2.5 times the size of that in the UAE.
- Join expat groups: Internations, Expatica, Expat and Anglo Info offer a wealth of information on groups and clubs to join.
15. Moving to the UAE from the United States
It is estimated that over 50 000 American citizens live in the U.A.E. and if you’re considering joining them then here are a few things to consider.
- Size: The UAE is very small compared to the States. It’s roughly the same size as Maine and it fits almost five times into California. There is also a big difference in population, almost 325 million individuals live in the States.
- Expat groups: There are a myriad of activities and clubs that expats can join to make their move to the UAE as smooth as possible. Have a look at these sites for inspiration: – Internations, Meetup and Facebook.
16. Moving to the UAE from the United Kingdom
Until 1971 what is now the UAE was a British Protectorate. The UKs influence is still felt in the region. It is estimated that there are around 250 000 Brits living in the UAE and if you are thinking about joining them then you should consider the following things:
- Size: The U.A.E. is around three times smaller than the United Kingdom and it has around seven times fewer people.
- Expat groups: If you want to get to know some of the other Brits in the UAE, then join expat groups or clubs. Meetup, Facebook and Internations.
Also be sure to read our full guide on moving to the UAE from the UK.
Hopefully, the tips and costs above are helpful. If want to get started pricing out how much it will cost you to move to the United Arab Emirates you can start by comparing moving quotes here.
Guides to moving and living in other countries around the globe