So you’re thinking of moving (or maybe you’ve moved already) to the Desert Diamond that is Dubai. The promise of glitz and glamour is alluring, the idea of year-round sunshine warms your soul and now you hear the bustling city calling your name.
There’s no doubt about it; opportunity awaits you at every corner, cultural experiences will enrich you and your idea of great shopping will never be the same again. But how much will all this cost?
Make no mistake; housing in Dubai is a major cost. That said, it is also largely based on your circumstances and your lifestyle preferences. If you’re setting out with sky-high ambitions of living in the Burj Khalifa, well, then the price will be eye watering.
If you have a family and you’re looking for an established community environment, then a 3 bedroom villa in the leafy Arabian Ranches costs about 250’000dhs a year in rent.
However, if you are content with a 1 bedroom apartment in an average neighborhood, you can get away with paying around 60’000dhs a year.
A word of warning; a lot of apartments and villas have to be paid for by cheque, often 6 or even 12 months in advance. It’s a big sum of money to part with on arrival.
For a better idea of what is available, check out the listings on Property Finder. You can use a website such as Mortgage Finder to work out whether purchasing a property is an option for you. They can also help you find companies that will arrange a rental loan so that you can spread out the payment as monthly installments.
Satisfying your appetite in Dubai can vary largely based on what’s on your shopping list, as well as where you choose to shop.
Western expats love stores such as Waitrose and Spinneys, which offer high quality fresh foods and stock many of the brands we know and love from back home. A weekly trip here for a family of 4 could easily set you back 1000dhs each time you fill your trolley.
Don’t despair! Alternative stores such as the French supermarket chains Carrefour and Geant offer a much better value for money while still offering plenty of choices and good quality. The weekly family trip here is more likely to set you back 700dhs.
Over the years, Dubai has become increasingly focused on improving its public transport system. The metro is a cheap and comfortable way to travel from A to B.
On the road, buses are also being well used, although I can’t say I’ve done the deed myself. Taxis are plentiful and are cheap (relative to other countries) so a journey from one end of the city, such as Dubai Marina, to the other end, let’s say the airport, will set you back about 90dhs (£15/$25) for a 30-40 minute journey. The taxi app Uber has also taken off in the city.
For Dubai residents (especially if you live off the main stretch) a car is almost a must. Distances are vast because of the layout of the city (one side of the city to the other is 60kms).
Although fuel is cheap (a medium sized car can be filled for under 100dhs) there are other costs, such as the e-toll Salik system which adds up over the month, depending on how much you use the toll roads. There are also yearly registration fees for your car.
All considered, you can expect the day-to-day running of your car to cost you anywhere in the region of 400-800dhs per month.
Schooling for expats in Dubai is private, and as with private schools the world over, the cost varies enormously (from 20’000dhs to 90’000dhs per child per year). To read the conversations about quality vs cost and other similar hot topics, go to Which School Advisor. Here you will also find an extensive list of Dubai schools and their fees.
Keep in mind there are still additional costs such as uniforms, textbooks and bus passes if necessary. Here’s the good news: a lot of Dubai employers will pay (or contribute significantly) towards the cost of schooling for up to 3 children.
Another essential investment for every Dubai resident is medical insurance. Again, most employers will offer their own medical insurance package to their employees, and sometimes also to the employee’s family members. It’s up to you to read the fine print to decide whether the medical coverage is extensive enough for you.
The hospitals and clinics in the city are excellent. High quality care is efficiently provided in a clean environment with state-of-the-art facilities. As always, private medical treatment is always an option, but prepare to pay heavily for it.
Let’s be honest, bills are a bit of a burden. They vary, as always, based on consumption. A significant expense arises from the use of air conditioning, and the bill will depend on the size of your home and the way you use it.
If you have a garden, you’ll have to water it daily, and even twice daily during the summer if you want your grass and plants to survive. This has a huge impact on your water bill. For a small apartment with no garden, you can plan to spend about 200dhs a month. For a large villa with a garden, it can be up to 2000dhs per month.
Another expense is your television and internet package. If you want the usual cable TV and sports package, with an average internet connection and landline rental, you can expect to pay in the region of 900dhs per month for the privilege. Mobile phone packages are not as freely available as in other countries. It is normally a requirement to buy the device and then to subscribe to a monthly package, which can include international minutes and data services.
You can expect your monthly bill to be anything in the region of 500-1500dhs a month.
Arguably, the best bit of Dubai is the varied social calendar and list of things to do. Take a look at what’s on in the city at Timeout Dubai. Unfortunately, a busy social life can make a dent in your wallet.
Membership to a golf or health club costs about 500dhs a month. Music concerts or tickets to special events such as the Grand Prix are normally in the region of 300-500dhs a ticket. A quiet dinner for 2 at a fine dining restaurant can set you back about 1000dhs.
Of course, there is plenty to do which is much more affordable. The Entertainer offers a book full of money-saving coupons.
Dubai has a funny relationship with money. You earn a lot, you spend a lot – but you’ll have a ball living your life in the process.