The cost of living in the UAE depends on where you live, as it does all over the globe. Dubai is by far the most pricey city to live in with Abu Dhabi following right on its heels. Sharjah, Fujairah, and Al Ain are all less expensive options.
However, compare the cost of living of Dubai to London and you have no contest – Dubai is 21% cheaper than London, according to Expatisan, a website that allows you to compare the cost of living around the world.
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Currency and expenses in the UAE
The official currency in the United Arab Emirates is the dirham, or AED (Arab Emirate Dirham).
The biggest expense will be rent, which can vary drastically depending on your standards. Adding on bedrooms will jack up the price, but those costs will go down in less expensive cities.
In general, in Dubai, you’ll be paying more, but venture further afield and you may find one-bedrooms for closer to 45,000 AED ($12,250 USD) per year for two bedrooms or 25,000 AED ($6,800 USD) per year for a studio.
Utilities are typically not included in the rent, and those will be set up with the authority in your emirate. In Dubai, this would be the DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority). One site estimates about 500-600 AED ($136 – $163 USD) for your monthly utility bill, although of course this will fluctuate – higher in the heat of the summer months, lower in the winter, when you won’t need to blast the A/C.
Food in the UAE
The next biggest expense is food. You’ll need to budget around 1000-1500 AED ($270 – $410 USD) each month, but in the cities, there are fairly inexpensive options to eat. You can easily find food in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for 10-15 AED ($2 – $4 USD).
Using phones and the internet in the UAE
You’ll need a working phone, of course, so shop around for deals from the various providers. You can get 3GB data + minutes for 100-150 AED/month ($27 – $40 USD). Make sure to compare various costs between providers and take into account what your specific needs are.
You’ll also want to have internet – look around for good deals, but plan to spend around 300 AED/month ($80 USD).
UAE transportation costs
Transportation can also be a big cost, and it varies between cities. In Dubai, a monthly transportation pass will be approximately 250 AED ($68).
Taxes in the UAE
There is now a country-wide value-added tax (VAT) of 5%, implemented in January 2018, so this should be factored in when considering larger purchases.