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The cost of living in Dubai: A guide

Dubai remains an attractive destination for many international workers. A LinkedIn study2 found that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — and in particular the city of Dubai — ranked as the world’s most popular overseas destination for those looking for work.

But before moving to any country it is important to paint a picture of what your life will be like, and working out the cost of living should be the first port of call. What you will earn is important, but what those wages buy you is arguably more important: a £50,000-per-year salary buys far more in Hanoi than it does in London. For many people, Dubai is an expensive destination.

This article will help you understand the relative cost of various important products and services. It will also highlight aspects of life in the emirate which you may not have considered and will impact how far your salary goes. 

What is the basic salary in Dubai?

Dubai attracts workers from all around the world for a broad range of roles, from bankers to builders. As such, salaries can vary wildly. There are extremely high-paying jobs in Dubai, for example in booming industries such as technology and hospitality. Conversely, there are also extremely low-paying jobs. A 2012 report found that manufacturing wages in the UAE were among the lowest in the entire world3.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) does not have a minimum wage in place. However, in 2013, the government issued the following guidance:

Minimum monthly salary guidance4:

Personnel

AED

USD

GBP

University graduates

12,000 

$3,267

£2,525

Skilled technicians

7,000

$1,905

£1,473

Skilled labourers

 5,000

$1,361

£1,052

Figures correct at 1 Nov 2019

How expensive is it to live in Dubai?

Dubai was ranked as the 21st most expensive city to live in in 20195, with cities such as Victoria, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong being more expensive. However, the city is pricier than London, Moscow and Chicago.

Expensive is a relative term — in this case, relative to salary. How expensive you find it will depend on where you’re from and how much you earn.

External view showing rooms inside of glass building in Dubai External view showing rooms inside of glass building in Dubai


Is rent expensive in Dubai?

On average, rent in Dubai is around 26.99% cheaper, restaurants are 25.97% cheaper and groceries are 27.25% cheaper when compared to Chicago6. Public transport is also cheaper7, and the unemployment rate is lower.

However, the average salary in Chicago is greater than Dubai, so you may have more income to spend on the pricier food and rent.

Cheapest rent in Dubai

We have checked a number of apartment rental websites to look for the cheapest rents:

 

1 bedroom

2 bedrooms

3 bedrooms

Dubai Dubizzle8

AED 45,000

AED 75,000

AED 80,000

propertyfinder.ae9

AED 19,000

AED 36,000

AED 58,000

Bayut.com10

AED 24,000

AED 24,000

AED 50,000

Data collected on Nov 1 2019

The average cost of an apartment in Dubai per neighbourhood

Maybe you want to know the average cost11 of rent per year for an apartment in different neighbourhoods of the emirate. 

Neighbourhood

Price (per year)

Al Barari

AED 165,000

Al Barsha

AED 55,000

Business Bay

AED 70,000

Emirates Hills

AED 100,000

Deira

AED 54,000

Dubai Marina

AED 78,000

Dubai Sports City

AED 45,000

Jumeirah Beach Residence

AED 85,000

Jumeirah Lake Towers

AED 65,000

Mirdif

AED 58,473

Palm Jumeirah

AED 110,000

Dubai house prices

In late 2019, it was reported that “Dubai’s housing market remains ‘oversupplied’ despite the drop in prices over the last few years — real prices have fallen by almost 35% since mid-2014.”12

In mid-2019, an average Dubai house cost13 AED 2.46 million ($670,000, £517,752). The lowest end of the market bottoms out at around $168,000/£130,00014 for a two-bed flat, with mid-range options of around $388,000/£300,000 – with choices reaching more than $647,000/£500,000.

Professional engineer wearing hardhat reviewing building plan with business client Professional engineer wearing hardhat reviewing building plan with business client


What is the average income in Dubai?

The table below mentions the average monthly salaries for various job categories in Dubai, according to The Middle East Salary Survey 2019.15

Sector or industry

AED

USD

GBP

Finance and accounting

Finance Director

60,000

16,335

12,500

Finance Analyst/Associate

17,500

4,764

3,646

Assistant Accountant

12,000

3,267

2,500

Junior Accountant

10,000

2,722

2,083

Tax Manager

32,500

8,848

6,771

Digital

Digital Marketing Manager

29,000

7,895

6,042

Digital Art Director

24,000

6,534

5,000

3D Designer

21,500

5,853

4,479

eCommerce Manager

35,000

9,528

7,292

Technology

Head of IT

42,500

11,570

8,854

Security Analyst

17,500

4,764

3,646

IT Project Manager

30,000

8,167

6,250

Oil and Gas

Health and Safety Manager

38,000

10,345

7,917

Mechanical Manager

32,000

8,712

6,667

Project Controls/Project Management

40,000

10,890

8,334

Human Resources

HR Manager

28,000

7,623

5,834

HR Officer

20,000

5,445

4,167

Learning & Development/Training Manager

35,000

9,528

7,292

Talent Acquisition Manager

30,000

8,167

6,250

Legal

(In House) Legal Counsel

45,000

12,251

9,375

(In House) Junior Counsel

24,000

6,534

5,000

(Private Practice) Senior Associate

55,000

14,973

11,459

(Private Practice) Paralegal

25,000

6,806

5,208

(Private Practice) Legal Secretary

22,000

5,989

4,583

Retail

Sales Manager

26,000

7,078

5,417

Retail/Area Manager 

27,000

7,351

5,625

PR Manager 

30,000

8,167

6,250

Brand Manager

28,000

7,623

5,834

Merchandise Manager/Buying Manager

30,000

8,167

6,250

Junior Merchandiser/Buyer

12,000

3,267

2,500

Sales and Marketing (Consumer)

Head of Sales/Sales Director

55,000

14,973

11,459

Key Account Executive

19,000

5,173

3,958

Sales and Marketing (Business to Business)

Regional Sales Director

60,000

16,335

12,500

Business Development Manager

35,000

9,528

7,292

Project Sales Manager

30,000

8,167

6,250

Manager – Sales Analytics

35,000

9,528

7,292

Marketing Research

20,000

5,445

4,167

Group of women enjoying a meal together at a restaurant Group of women enjoying a meal together at a restaurant


What are Dubai food prices like?

When assessing what food costs in any country, a good rule is that local food will be cheaper, i.e. food that’s produced or grown there. If food has to be imported it will be more expensive. Access is also a key factor — for example, food on smaller islands tends to be more expensive.

Some key facts:

  • Restaurants can be cheap, but alcohol and coffee are expensive
  • Eating out can be expensive compared to the rest of the Middle East16, with Dubai being the second most expensive city in the region after Tel Aviv.

Gasoline price in Dubai

Cost per litre:

 

in AED

in USD

in GBP

Super 98

2.20

$0.60

£0.46

Special 95

2.09

$0.57

£0.44

Diesel 

2.38

$0.65

£0.50

Figures correct at Nov 1 201917

How does this compare to the US and UK? 

  • Petrol prices in the UK can be more than double the UAE prices (£1.27/$1.64 per litre of petrol and £1.31/$1.70 per litre of diesel at Nov 201918)
  • Petrol prices in the US are also more expensive, but cheaper than the UK ($0.78/£0.60 per litre at Nov 201919).
Doctor administering shot to young boy in clinic Doctor administering shot to young boy in clinic


The cost of health care in Dubai

A key living expense is health insurance. For American expats, and those coming from countries without national health systems, this is often already front of mind. For those from countries with socialised medicine or national health/insurance systems, it may not be. 

In Dubai, all migrants must legally have health insurance, but this is provided by an employer. Many companies include health insurance cover as part of a salary package; however, this may only constitute basic cover and an additional international health insurance policy may be required to fully cover the needs of you and/or your family.

What to consider when you move

Dubai is the 21st most expensive city in the world. However, as the 14th best paid city across the globe20, these prices are relative.

If you’re planning to relocate, you will have to consider prices that you may not elsewhere. If you’re from the US, paying for health care insurance won’t come as a shock — this probably won’t be the same if you’re from the UK. When planning your relocation, don’t forget any one-off costs you may have: for example, buying a car.

Read our guides to the tax system in Dubai and what the Dubai lifestyle is like for more information on what it’s like to live in the emirate.

SOURCE: Currency data provided by Morningstar for Currency and Coinbase for Cryptocurrency

Aetna® is a trademark of Aetna Inc. and is protected throughout the world by trademark registrations and treaties.

Additional sources:

1 http://www.emirates247.com/business/uae-manufacturing-workers-wages-among-lowest-in-the-world-2012-01-23-1.438932
2 http://www.cityam.com/222631/linkedin-top-20-countries-were-professionals-are-moving-work
3 http://www.emirates247.com/business/uae-manufacturing-workers-wages-among-lowest-in-the-world-2012-01-23-1.438932
4 https://transferwise.com/gb/blog/minimum-wage-guide-dubai
5 https://www.me.mercer.com/newsroom/mercers-annual-cost-of-living-survey-reveals-higher-cost-of-living-as-uae-currency-performs-strong-on-the-back-of-usd.html
6 https://moverdb.com/moving-to-chicago/
7 https://versus.com/en/chicago-vs-dubai-city
8 https://dubai.dubizzle.com/en/property-for-rent/residential/apartmentflat/?sort=lowest
9 https://www.propertyfinder.ae/
10 https://www.bayut.com/to-rent/apartments/dubai/?property_types=4&location_ids=5002&ad=1&awpf=tko&awc=29&awag=18362&awk=%2Bdubai%20%2Brent%20%2Bapartment&awad=303347956463&awn=g&awd=c&awdm=&awap=1t2&awce=&awadp1=&awadp2=&awpc=&clksrc=ad&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIk8DY-_rG5QIViLbtCh30AgwwEAAYAiAAEgLlx_D_BwE
11 https://www.propertyfinder.ae/
12 https://gulfbusiness.com/dubais-housing-market-oversupplied-despite-drop-prices-ubs/
13 https://www.arabianbusiness.com/news/423969-revealed-average-dubai-house-price-falls-to-670000
14 https://www.rightmove.co.uk/overseas-property-for-sale/Dubai.html?minBedrooms=2&sortType=1&propertyTypes=&mustHave=&dontShow=&keywords=
15 https://gallery.mailchimp.com/2574de8fa7f7121360f81d26e/files/712c6128-530a-4f6e-8365-0ce59dfd1f90/Michael_Page_2019_Middle_East_Salary_Survey_LOW_RES.pdf
16 https://www.me.mercer.com/newsroom/mercers-annual-cost-of-living-survey-reveals-higher-cost-of-living-as-uae-currency-performs-strong-on-the-back-of-usd.html
17 https://gulfnews.com/uae/latest-uae-fuel-prices-november-2019-1.1541503824209
18 https://www.confused.com/on-the-road/petrol-prices
19 https://www.globalpetrolprices.com/gasoline_prices/
20 https://www.dbresearch.com/PROD/RPS_EN-PROD/PROD0000000000494405/Mapping_the_world%27s_prices_2019.pdf

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