how much cost living in dubai

Living in Dubai, UAE: The Essential Expat Guide [2024]


Over the past two decades, Dubai has established itself as one of the world’s leading expat destinations. Attracted by tax-free salaries, luxurious amenities and abundant job opportunities, expats have flocked to this once sleepy emirate that has transformed into a bustling, cosmopolitan metropolis.

Dubai’s population now stands at over 3.3 million, with expats making up nearly 90% of the city-state’s residents. The expat enclaves provide a diverse, multicultural environment where almost every ethnicity and culture is represented.

For professionals looking to advance their careers or entrepreneurs looking to set up a lucrative business, Dubai offers an attractive base with its strategic location, advanced infrastructure, low taxes and minimal red tape. The lavish lifestyle and stable political climate also make Dubai attractive to retirees.

However, Dubai is still located in an ultra-conservative Islamic country, and Arab culture permeates expat life. The scorching desert climate is a challenge. And Dubai’s glitzy lifestyle comes at a high price, with the city ranked as one of the world’s most expensive places to live.

This comprehensive guide provides everything you need to know as an expat planning to make Dubai your new home. We explore all aspects of living and working as an expat in Dubai so that you can make an informed decision.

dubai palm hotel

Why relocate to Dubai?

Let’s first understand why Dubai has become such a magnet for expatriates from around the world:

Tax-Free Income One of Dubai’s biggest attractions is the fact that it offers tax-free personal income. There is no tax on your income as an expatriate living in Dubai. This allows you to save and invest significantly more of your hard-earned money.

Whether you’re an employee, freelancer, investor or entrepreneur, there is no personal income tax in Dubai. Corporate tax was introduced in 2018 at 9%, but it is only levied on revenues, not personal income.

Even capital gains from investments and rental income are tax free for expats. This truly encourages wealth creation in Dubai.

Career Opportunities Dubai is home to the headquarters and regional offices of countless multinational corporations in all major sectors. Global banks such as HSBC, Citibank and Standard Chartered have large offices in Dubai, as do major management consultancies such as McKinsey, Bain and BCG.

Technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Cisco and IBM also have a strong presence, while new unicorns such as Careem have emerged locally. In addition, Dubai is a hub for healthcare, energy, tourism, real estate, trading, and professional services firms.

High-paying jobs are plentiful for skilled professionals, especially in in-demand fields such as technology, finance, healthcare and education. Ambitious executives use Dubai to launch their careers. Tax-free income also means higher take-home pay.

Business Environment Dubai offers an excellent environment in which to start and grow a business. The economy is robust and thriving, with a GDP growth rate that exceeds that of many developed nations.

Starting a business in Dubai is straightforward with minimal red tape, simple registration procedures, low compliance costs and pragmatic business regulations. 100% foreign ownership is now permitted outside of a few key strategic sectors.

Dubai offers excellent connectivity and transport links, making it a strategic base for reaching global markets. The cost of living is reasonable for entrepreneurs. A stable currency, low inflation, easy credit and access to talent provide startups with the platform to scale successfully.

luxury dubai

Luxurious lifestyle

One of Dubai’s biggest draws is the ultra-luxurious lifestyle on offer. Everything is world-class, whether we are talking about malls, restaurants, hotels, entertainment or leisure facilities. For those with deep pockets, Dubai offers the chance to indulge and live life to the fullest.

Dubai has a thriving fine dining scene with outposts of celebrity chefs and award-winning restaurants representing every major global cuisine. Luxurious bars and nightclubs attract visitors from all over the world.

There is unlimited shopping in huge air-conditioned malls that house every fashion brand imaginable. From skiing on indoor slopes to yacht parties to golfing on championship courses, the recreational options are endless.

For real estate, Dubai offers ultra-luxury apartments and villas with every amenity imaginable. The city continues to push the boundaries of modern architecture and interior design.

Family Environment Dubai offers an excellent environment for raising a family as an expatriate. It’s an incredibly safe city with a very low crime rate. Streets are clean and well maintained. State-of-the-art healthcare facilities offer prenatal care, pediatric services, specialized treatments and more.

Children can receive a world-class education at Dubai’s many international schools. Renowned institutions such as GEMS Wellington Academy, Dubai British School Jumeirah Park, and Jumeirah English Speaking School offer curricula based on British, American, IB, or various combinations. The schools have state-of-the-art facilities including swimming pools, tennis courts, technology labs and more.

The city is dotted with parks and playgrounds. Major attractions such as Ski Dubai, Wild Wadi Waterpark, IMG Worlds of Adventure cater specifically to families. Beaches offer plenty of kid-friendly fun. Malls and restaurants have play areas. Events and shows such as the Global Village Festival are designed for families.

Multiculturalism Dubai prides itself on being a highly cosmopolitan, inclusive society where people from all corners of the world live and work together in harmony. Over 200 nationalities peacefully coexist in Dubai.

Interaction between cultures is encouraged through city-led events and initiatives. Racism and discrimination will not be tolerated. Respect and openness to different religions and cultural practices are emphasized.

This multicultural environment makes it easy for expats to integrate, make friends and feel at home. Most expats live in international enclaves and enjoy amenities that meet global standards.

Infrastructure Dubai has a first-class infrastructure that matches or exceeds what’s found in developed Western countries. Roads are well constructed and maintained. An efficient metro system, along with public buses and trams, makes navigation easy. Taxis are widely available and affordable.

Dubai International Airport is a major regional hub with direct flights to all major cities around the world. Seaports such as Jebel Ali facilitate global trade. Utilities such as electricity, water and telecommunications are world-class and uninterrupted. Free Zones provide ready-made offices, warehouses and residences for businesses.

These modern amenities and conveniences make life easier for residents and enable economic activity. Infrastructure development continues in preparation for hosting the World Expo 2025.

Healthcare Dubai has a state-of-the-art healthcare infrastructure and some of the best hospitals in the Middle East, such as the Dubai Hospital, the Rashid Hospital and the American Hospital Dubai. Patients have access to highly qualified doctors and nurses representing all medical specialties.

Private clinics such as Medcare Hospital, Aster Clinics and Saudi German Hospital provide international standard care. Pharmacies are well stocked with the latest medicines. Medical insurance is mandatory for residents. While costs are not cheap, the quality of healthcare is on par with top global cities.

Safety and Security Despite its cosmopolitan character, Dubai maintains a low crime rate, with strict policing reducing major crimes such as murder, kidnapping and burglary. Violent crime is rare.

Women are free to move about without fear, even at night. Public spaces are well lit. CCTV cameras cover the city and act as a deterrent. Harassment, lewd behavior and drug abuse are cracked down on.

The UAE government also actively works to disrupt terrorist groups to keep residents safe. This environment of safety and security makes Dubai ideal for families.

Weather Dubai has a hot desert climate with clear blue skies for most of the year. Rain is rare. The cooler months of November through April are pleasant, with average daytime temperatures in the mid 20s.

Summers are extremely hot and humid with temperatures sometimes exceeding 45°C. It is a challenge to spend long periods outdoors during this season. But shopping malls, cars, offices and homes are well air-conditioned. In winter, hordes of European tourists come to escape the cold.

The most important neighborhoods for expats in Dubai

Let’s take a look at the top neighborhoods in Dubai where expats prefer to live:

Downtown Dubai The bustling heart of the city, Downtown Dubai is where you’ll find Dubai’s most iconic landmarks. The Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building – is located here. Surrounding the Khalifa is the vibrant Dubai Mall, famous for luxury shopping and dining.

Adjacent is the massive Dubai Opera and Fountain. Living in Downtown puts you in the heart of the city, close to offices, restaurants and amenities. Areas such as Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard and Old Town offer high-end apartments. Budget options exist a little further out.

The Palm Jumeirah This man-made archipelago in the shape of a palm tree is an exclusive neighborhood that attracts wealthy expats. Villas here have private beaches with stunning views of Dubai’s coastline. 5-star resorts such as Atlantis feature aquariums, nightclubs and celebrity chef restaurants.

Living on the Palm allows you to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The downside is the 30-45 minute commute to downtown or Internet City for work. Real estate and rents are exorbitant, catering to the upper class. Privacy and tranquility in a beach setting are the main attractions.

Dubai Marina The area for community living, Dubai Marina is popular with singles and younger couples. High-rise towers such as Cayan, Silverene and Princess offer shared amenities such as gyms, pools and lounges. With a lively boardwalk lined with cafes and restaurants, a bustling promenade and a beach club scene, the vibe is energetic.

The Dubai Metro runs through the district, making commuting convenient. Residential options range from mid-range studios to luxury penthouses. Proximity to Media City and Internet City is a big plus, along with walkable access to restaurants and nightlife.

Jumeirah Comprising areas such as Umm Suqeim, Al Sufouh and Jumeirah Islands, this popular family-oriented neighborhood offers spacious villas and townhouses. Properties come with gardens, pools and parking. With quiet streets, green open spaces and playgrounds, Jumeirah offers suburban living.

Mall of the Emirates, Mercato Mall and Lulu supermarket cater to shopping needs. Schools are nearby. A short drive takes you to Downtown, Media City or the Marina. More affordable than the Palm, Jumeirah appeals to expat couples with children looking for community.

Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) JLT’s high-rise towers such as Lake Terrace, Lake City and Lake Shore Towers are home to thousands of expat professionals. With scenic views of the lake and Marina skyline, close proximity to the Metro, vibrant nightlife and around 70 dining options, JLT is self-contained.

Studios to 3-bedroom apartments range in price from the mid to high end. The neighborhood is close to major office areas, reducing commute times. JLT tends to attract younger, work-focused expats. Families may find the dense high-rise community somewhat isolating.

Arabian Ranches This popular villa community attracts families with its townhouse-style homes surrounded by gardens and community pools. Developed by Emaar, the neighborhood offers a tranquil suburban feel. Schools, retail and parks are integrated.

With amenities such as golf courses, horse stables and biking trails, Arabian Ranches caters to outdoorsy expat couples with children. Premium 3-4 bedroom villas cost AED 9,000-12,000 per month. It is further from the main business districts, requiring a commute of 30+ minutes.

The Greens Leafy parks interspersed between low-rise apartment buildings make The Greens an attractive option for expats who prefer greenery. The community is home to over 17,000 residents in 37 mid-rise towers. Amenities include tennis courts, retail arcades and playgrounds.

Studios start from AED 45,000 per annum and 1-bedroom apartments from AED 60,000. Located between Internet City, the Marina and the main highway, commuting times to Media City or Downtown range from 15 to 25 minutes by car. Proximity to the Mall of Emirates is a bonus.

Meadows With a mix of low-rise apartments and townhouses set amidst green spaces, Meadows targets families looking for community living. Each cluster of buildings includes a swimming pool, playgrounds and barbecue areas. A small shopping center caters to daily needs.

Spacious 3-bedroom apartments cost from AED 140,000 per annum. The leafy, walkable neighborhoods allow children to play outside safely. Meadows is further out with a 30+ minute commute, but appeals to families who want a quieter suburban atmosphere.

costs of living dubai

Cost of Living in Dubai for Expats

Dubai has a reputation for being an expensive city, which is not far from the truth. The glitzy lifestyle comes at a price. Here’s a realistic breakdown of the cost of living as an expat in Dubai:

Housing Rent is the biggest expense. For a high-end 1-bedroom apartment in Downtown or Marina, annual rent starts at AED 96,000. Villas in Arabian Ranches or Palm Jumeirah can cost upwards of AED 200,000.

More affordable options are available in places like International City or Discovery Gardens, where studio apartments cost around AED 45,000 per year. Budget AED 80,000-150,000 for family rentals, depending on size and neighborhood.

Education International schools in Dubai are expensive. Fees vary according to curriculum, facilities and age group. Expect to spend AED 35,000-50,000 per child per year for reputable British or American curriculum primary schools.

High school fees at top institutions such as Dubai British School or JESS Dubai range from AED 70,000-150,000+ per year depending on grade. Books, uniforms, meals and transportation etc. add to the cost.

Healthcare With mandatory health insurance, premiums vary depending on the plan’s coverage. A mid-range policy for a couple starts at around AED 4,000 per year. Co-pays for doctor visits or prescription drugs are additional.

Cosmetic treatments or major surgery can be very expensive. Quality maternity and pediatric care is expensive. Have adequate health insurance if you live with family.

Utilities Expect to pay approximately AED 2,000-3,500 per month for utilities, depending on usage. DEWA bills for residential units include electricity, water, and housing fees. Internet through Etisalat or Du costs AED 300-500 per month for fast fiber broadband.

Owning a car also incurs costs for registration, insurance, maintenance and fuel, although public transport is very affordable.

Supermarkets such as Carrefour, Lulu or Spinneys offer a good selection at reasonable prices. Imported products are more expensive, while local produce is inexpensive. A family of four spends around AED 6,000-8,000 per month on groceries. Eating organic or buying premium imported brands will add to the grocery bill.

Eating out

Eating out 3 to 4 times a week at mid-range restaurants will cost a couple around AED 8,000 to AED 12,000 per month. Stick to happy hours and you can eat for AED 300-400 per meal including drinks. At higher-end restaurants or for drinks at bars, the cost per head is AED 500-1,000+.

Entertainment Going to the movies once a week for two costs AED 300-400. Attending concerts or events on a monthly basis can cost AED 500+ per ticket. Leisure activities such as visiting attractions or skiing also add up. Budget AED 2,000-3,000 per month for a couple to enjoy regular entertainment.

Miscellaneous Other monthly expenses such as gasoline, taxis, cell phone bills, salon or spa treatments, recreational activities, etc. can add up to AED 5,000-8,000 for a couple and more for a family. Include these in your Dubai budget.

Dubai Lifestyle and Culture

While rooted in its Arab heritage, Dubai has developed a cosmopolitan culture that incorporates influences from its expatriate population. Here’s an overview of daily life and cultural norms:

Languages Arabic is the official language, but English is more widely spoken. Street signs, restaurant menus, mall signs, etc. are in English. Arabic and English are used interchangeably by locals.

As an expat, you can easily get by speaking only English. In professional settings, English is the common business language. When living in Dubai, learning key Arabic phrases will help break the ice with locals.

Religion Islam is central to Emirati cultural identity and shapes local laws and social customs. Mosques serve as community centers. Friday is a holiday, and Ramadan has a direct impact on public life. However, Dubai’s culture encourages religious tolerance.

Churches, temples and other places of worship serve the expatriate community. You are free to practice your faith in private. Public displays of affection and intoxication are frowned upon.

Dining and Entertainment Dubai’s dining scene is world-class, with more than 9,000 international restaurants. Delhi Darbar offers authentic Indian cuisine. Zuma offers contemporary Japanese. La Serre Bistro offers French favorites. High-end restaurants compete to impress.

Nightlife is vibrant, centered around hotel bars and beach clubs. On weekends, tourists flock to the exertion hotels. Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Summer Surprises and Dubai Food Festival offer family-friendly entertainment.

Mall culture Shopping is an integral part of the Dubai lifestyle. Huge air-conditioned complexes such as Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and Mercato Mall could keep you busy for days. Fashion, electronics, household goods, souvenirs – every category is covered.

Food courts and entertainment such as cinemas and theme parks ensure that malls are all-encompassing destinations. Expect crowds on holidays and weekends.

Recreation and Sports From skydiving to go-karting, bungee jumping to hot air ballooning, Dubai caters to the adventurous. Ski Dubai and Wild Wadi Waterpark offer family fun. The Desert Conservation Reserve offers dune bashing.

Dubai’s beaches, yacht clubs and resorts offer water sports. Golf courses host PGA events. Major sports leagues such as cricket

Frequently asked questions about living in Dubai

What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in Dubai?

Pros include:
– Tax free income
– Luxurious lifestyle with amenities
– Exciting career opportunities
– Multicultural and family friendly
– Low crime rate
– World-class infrastructure
– Access to luxury real estate

– Scorching summers
– Very high cost of living
– Difficult commute times
– Can feel isolating being far from home country/culture
– Work culture emphasizes long hours
– Bureaucracy and red tape

What is the average salary in Dubai?

Salaries vary depending on profession, experience level and employer. Average monthly salaries in Dubai range from:
– Entry level positions: AED 8,000 – 15,000+.
– Managers: AED 20,000 – 35,000+.
– Engineers: AED 15,000 – 30,000+.
– Teachers: AED 12,000 – 22,000+.
– Accountants: AED 17,000 – 28,000+.
– Nurses: AED 13,000 – 25,000+.
– Software Developers: AED 18,000 – 40,000+.
Remember, income tax is zero, so take-home pay is higher.

How much savings do you need to move to Dubai?

You should plan to have a minimum of AED 100,000 – 150,000 in savings when relocating to Dubai as a single professional. This will cover expenses such as:
– 3 months rent in advance
– Refundable deposit for the apartment
– Costs of setting up a household
– Living expenses for the initial period without income
– Insurance, visa and relocation costs
For families, plan on saving AED 200,000+ to cover initial housing, school fees, car, appliances, basic amenities, etc.

Will you need a car in Dubai?

Having a car makes life more convenient, but it’s not essential, thanks to public transportation such as the metro, buses and taxis. Living in an area well served by the metro, such as Dubai Marina, reduces the hassle of commuting without a car.
Taxis are inexpensive for getting to and from the Airport or for making occasional trips. For frequent trips, a car offers flexibility and saves time. Avoid driving during rush hours if possible.

Is Dubai safe for women?

Yes, Dubai is considered very safe for women. Violent crimes against women are rare. Public spaces are well lit and secure. Harassment is taken seriously by the authorities. Many women are comfortable taking taxis alone at night. Basic precautions are recommended.

Can I obtain permanent residency in Dubai?

No, the UAE does not currently offer permanent residency or citizenship. The longest residency visa available is a 10 year investor visa for real estate investments over AED 5 million. Otherwise, be prepared to renew your visa periodically.

Children born in Dubai are not eligible for citizenship. The lack of permanence and security can make long-term residency a challenge.

Are there good schools in Dubai?

Dubai has a well-developed private education sector with dozens of highly rated international schools. Most follow UK or US curricula and are staffed by qualified teachers. Facilities are first class. Competition for admission to the most sought-after schools is fierce.

Which is the best area to live in Dubai?

Popular residential areas include Downtown Dubai, Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah, Arabian Ranches, Jumeirah and The Greens. Choose based on your lifestyle, commuting needs and budget. Proximity to amenities and a child-friendly environment are the most important factors for families.

How much does a house in Dubai cost?

– 1-bed apartments cost from AED 600,000+ in Downtown, AED 800,000+ in the Palm.
– 2-bed apartments cost AED 1.5 million+ in the Marina, AED 2.5 million+ in the Greens
– 3-bed townhouses in Arabian Ranches or Meadows from AED 2.5 million
– 4-bed luxury villas on Palm Jumeirah cost over AED 10 million

Renting is more common than buying in Dubai. Prices vary widely depending on location and amenities.

What languages are spoken in Dubai?

While Arabic is the official language, English is more widely used in Dubai, especially in business and professional contexts. Street signs and menus are often in both languages. Among locals, Arabic and English are often mixed.

As an expat, you can usually get by with English alone, but learning basic Arabic phrases and greetings can help in daily interactions. Among the expat population, you will find people who speak every world language

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