Overview of the UAE cities
Dubai is the country’s most expensive city to live in. As a luxury tourism destination, Dubai offers high living standards: a single-person estimated monthly expenses are AED 3,700 or $1,000, excluding rent. A family of 4 would spend 3 times more — AED 13,000 or $3,540 monthly.
The cost of living in the capital, Abu Dhabi, is a bit lower than in Dubai, about AED 3,300 or $900 without rent.
To maintain the same standard of living you have with AED 19,000 or $5,175 in Dubai, you would need AED 17,000 or $4,629 in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi can offer high living standards, business opportunities, and cultural experiences. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the largest mosque in the country, are located there.
Sharjah, the third-most-populous city in the UAE, is both famous and affordable. A single-person estimated monthly cost is AED 2,800 or $762 without rent. A family of 4 would spend AED 9,200 or $2,500 a month.
Life in Sharjah is not as quick-paced and busy as in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, which makes Sharjah a better place to move to if a moderate lifestyle is your priority.
Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the most common options for tourists as well as investors since the latter can invest in real estate there and obtain a 2- or 10-year residence permit.
Property purchase, rent, and utilities in the UAE: real estate prices in the most popular cities
Foreigners can buy real estate in the UAE in special areas, freehold zones. In any other areas, only a tenancy over an object is possible.
Real estate prices in Dubai. To buy a property in the city center in Dubai, be ready to pay AED 13,000 or $3,540 per sqm.
Pricing for the property outside the city center is more affordable: AED 8,000+ or $2,180+ per square meter. The popularity of the city influences the cost of living in Dubai.
Dubai has areas where investors buy property more frequently, such as Business Bay. They also often choose areas with the most expensive property, for example, Burj Khalifa. If an investor is willing to buy property in Burj Khalifa, they need to consider paying the average price of AED 2,500,000 or $680,800.
One of the most affordable options in Dubai is in Jumeirah Village Circle, with the average price for rent and purchase of a property being AED 10,450 or $2,846 a month and AED 580,000 or $159,000, respectively.
Utilities cost in Dubai. The cost of utilities in Dubai is about AED 1,100 or $300 a month. Basic utilities include electricity, heating, cooling, water supply, and garbage collection.
Real estate prices in Abu Dhabi. According to a crowd-sourced database Numbeo, average prices for real estate in Abu Dhabi are:
- AED 14,000 or $3,800 per sqm for property outside the city center;
- AED 15,000 or $4,100 per sqm for property in the city center.
Rent in Abu Dhabi starts from AED 4,400 or $1,204 per month — for example, the cost of a three-bedroom apartment in the city center is AED 11,300 or $3,077, which is 11% cheaper than in Dubai. There the same apartment costs AED 12,600 or $3,430 a month.
Utilities cost in Abu Dhabi. The monthly cost of basic utilities plus internet and mobile services is AED 1,100+ or $300+.
A single person in Abu Dhabi needs a minimum of AED 5,500 or $1,500 to pay for rent and utilities, whereas a family needs AED 11,000 or $3000+.
Real estate prices in Sharjah. Average prices for real estate in Sharjah are:
- AED 6,500 or $1,770 per sqm for property outside the city center;
- AED 8,150 or $2,212 per sqm for property in the city center.
A three-bedroom apartment in the city center of Sharjah costs AED 4,800 or $1,300 a month, which is almost 3 times cheaper than in Dubai.
Utilities cost in Sharjah. Basic utilities for a three-bedroom apartment in Sharjah cost AED 630 or $171 per month. Internet and cell phone services add another AED 350 or $100 to the bill.
Monthly budget needed for rent and utilities in Sharjah is a minimum of AED 5,500 or $1,500 for a family of 4 and AED 380 or $1,000 for a single person.
The overall cost with rent included is higher in Dubai: a single person needs a minimum of AED 7,300 or $2,000, and a family of 4 would pay about AED 13,000 or $3,540.
The average cost of rent and utilities in the UAE is AED 9,600 or $2,600 a month.
To buy a property and accommodate a family, an investor should consider a budget of a minimum of AED 1,101,630 or $300,000, excluding taxes and fees.
Monthly food expenses in the UAE
Prices on groceries in the UAE vary by region: the cost of living in Dubai is generally higher than in Abu Dhabi or Sharjah.
An average food basket includes white rice, 1 liter of milk, white bread, eggs, apples, and chicken filets. The cost of an average food basket by city:
- Dubai — AED 71 or $19.3;
- Abu Dhabi — AED 64 or $17.4;
- Sharjah — AED 51 or $14.
Dining out is another option. In Sharjah, to have a three-course meal for 2 people in a restaurant costs about AED 75 or $20. The same meal in Abu Dhabi costs 3 times more, AED 250 or $68. As a city with higher living standards, Dubai offers the same meal for AED 300 or $82.
Assuming that a single person’s daily menu consists of a quick breakfast with scrambled eggs and bacon at home, a cup of cappuccino to go, a lunch at a restaurant and a three-course dinner at an expensive restaurant, one spends about AED 161.5 or $44 a day, and AED 4,847 or $1,320 monthly on food.
Average single-person daily menu cost in the UAE:
- Dubai — AED 216 or $59;
- Abu Dhabi — AED 187 or $51;
- Sharjah — AED 84 or $23.
Monthly transportation prices in the UAE
The UAE has a well-developed and affordable public transport system and taxi services. The price depends on the distance — a quick single trip by metro or bus costs about AED 5.5 or $1.5.
Average transportation prices in the UAE are:
- Dubai — AED 330 or $92 for a monthly pass for public transport, and AED 3 or $0.82 for a taxi, 1km;
- Abu Dhabi — AED 80 or $22 for a monthly pass for public transportation, and AED 2 or $0.55 for a cab, 1km;
- Sharjah — AED 279 or $76 for a monthly pass for public transport, and AED 3.5 or $1 for a taxi, 1km.
When using the metro, remember there are “women-only“ train carriages for women and children. Pink signs on the doors of the carriages are easily distinguishable. Men are welcome to use common carriages.
A trip to Dubai from Abu Dhabi takes 1 hour and 20 minutes and costs AED 20 or $5. You will spend AED7 or $2 on a long-distance bus from Dubai to Sharjah.
You can buy a car for AED 74,000+ or $20,100+, fuel will costs about AED 4 or $1 for a liter. Car service price depends on the type of repair needed — the average is from AED 202 or $55 up to AED 1,469 or $400 and more.
The cost of parking in Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai is on the same level, about AED 7.3 or $2 for 3 hours.
The average cost of public transport services in the UAE is AED 231 or $63 a month. A car costs AED 37,000 or $10,000 per annum, including fuel, maintenance, and insurance.
Healthcare prices for foreigners in the UAE
The UAE is well-known worldwide for its healthcare quality: there are more than 200 JCI-certified hospitals in the country.
Healthcare is provided on a paid basis; the only exception is emergency help. There are public healthcare services, but only for the Emirate’s nationals.
It is mandatory to have private medical insurance in the UAE. A fine of AED 500 or $136 will be imposed for every month without it.
The cost of medical coverage for a single person varies depending on the healthcare company and the coverage plan provided, and the average annual price starts from AED 550 or $150 for one person.
It is recommended to have insurance with an extended coverage of about AED 184,000 or $50,000 per year. These types of plans cost AED 1,836+ or $500+ a year per person.
Medical insurance options in the UAE:
- GIG Gulf Medical Insurance, from AED 675 or $184 per person a year;
- Sukoon Health Insurance, from AED 558 or $152 per person a year;
- Abu Dhabi National Insurance Company, from AED 660 or $180 per person a year;
- Emirates Insurance Company, from AED 734 or $200 per person a year;
- Ras Al Khaimah National Insurance, from AED 734 per person a year.
To get a personal quote, visit a chosen company’s website, fill in the claim, and await feedback. A family of 4 can expect to spend AED 3,672 or $1000 a year on extended medical cover, and a single person — about AED 1,836 or $500 a year.
Abu Dhabi employers must provide medical cover for their employees and four dependants while in Dubai only provide medical cover for their employees. In Sharjah a person must buy insurance themselves.
Education prices in the UAE
Education of any level is free for UAE citizens only. In any other case, there is a fee, which is calculated individually. It depends on the level of study and a chosen school or university.
Preschool education in the UAE. Full-day private kindergarten in Sharjah costs AED 950 or $260 monthly — for one child. It is 2 times cheaper than in Abu Dhabi — a month for one child costs AED 2,280 or $621.
The most expensive preschool education is in Dubai. Parents pay AED 2,750 or $750 a month for one child there.
Preschool education in the UAE is available in English. It makes it easier and more convenient for expats to educate their children.
Kindergartens in the UAE accept children from 45 days old up to 5 years.
The school system in the UAE is dominated by private schools, and tuition rates vary. The average is AED 82,600 or $22,500 per year.
Public schools are free for UAE citizens. Non-UAE nationals can be enrolled in a public school for a fee.
Private schools in Dubai often provide school bus services — to have a child travel to and from school by bus costs AED 8,900 or $2,423 a year.
Every school offers a unique curriculum, which mainly includes all primary school subjects, such as Maths and English, and additional ones, such as other languages.
Parents of an international primary school in Sharjah pay AED 19,000 or $5,175 a year for one child. Some schools offer preschool and school education programs — for example, Beaconhouse Al Khaleej International School, for AED 20,000 or $5,450 a year.
In Abu Dhabi, school education is more expensive — AED 36,300 or $9,900 a year for one child.
These are some top-ranked schools in Abu Dhabi. Most of them follow the British curriculum model.
- Al Muna Primary School.
- Al Yasmina School.
- Bloom Academy Al Ain.
- Brighton College Abu Dhabi.
- Cranleigh School Abu Dhabi.
The cost of a year in these schools for one child starts from AED 30,000 or $8,170.
In Dubai, there are more than 200 private schools to choose from. Fees vary from AED 13,000 or $3,540 to AED 65,000 or $17,449 per annum. These usually do not include admission fees, uniform and student books expenses.
As of 2023, the top-ranked schools in Dubai are:
- Kings’ School;
- Dubai International Academy;
- Gems Wellington International School;
- Repton School;
- Dubai College.
Higher education in the UAE. According to QS World University Rankings 2023, three UAE universities are in the top-400 best world universities — Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain, and American University of Sharjah.
Non-UAE nationals pay fees to be enrolled. Fees depend on the university, level of study, and chosen program and range between AED 38,000 or $103,483 to AED 70,000 or $19,062 annually.
Many universities in the UAE provide internationally recognized degrees, and there are international branches of foreign institutions — for example, eight UK universities have campuses in the UAE.
Among them is the University of Birmingham in Dubai, which has the same curriculum and standards as the University of Birmingham in the UK. A diploma from the UAE university is valid in the UK.
The cost of studying at the University of Birmingham in Dubai is between AED 77,030 or $21,000 and AED 104,520 or $28,463.
The UAE universities often offer scholarships for international students — for example, the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence in Abu Dhabi.
Entertainment prices in the UAE
Spending quality time in any famous UAE city is easy — as international hubs Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai offer many leisure and shopping options.
A ticket to a movie in Sharjah costs AED 45 or $12; in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the price is the same.
The most cost-effective shopping is in Sharjah: for example, a pair of running shoes costs AED 200 or $55, whereas, in Dubai, which is known for its luxurious shopping centers, the same pair of shoes costs AED 350 or $95.
Sharjah and Dubai are more affordable than Abu Dhabi in sports clubs — monthly fees in Sharjah and Dubai start from $200.
If you plan a busy week with visits to museums and cinemas in the UAE, expect to pay AED 1100+ or $300+ for a family of 4.
What is the most expensive city in the UAE, and what is the cheapest one
The most expensive city in the UAE is Dubai. A single person's living cost in Dubai is AED 4,000 or $1,100 without rent. A family of 4 spends 3 times more: AED 13,000 or $3,540 without rent. Dubai also offers the most expensive property.
Sharjah is both affordable and developed. A family of 4 estimated monthly costs are AED 9,200 or $2,500 without rent.
The sum required to live in Sharjah alone is AED 2,800 or $760 without rent. However, proof of monthly income of AED 3,000—5,000 is sometimes required — for example, to open a bank account.
The cheapest cities to live in are Ajman, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm Al Quwain — the cost of living there is about 30% lower than in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
Cost of living in the UAE vs. the USA and the UK
Living in Dubai is almost 50% cheaper than in New York. $9,000 is required to live in New York, with rent for a month included. At the same time, you can have the same comfort level for $5,000 a month in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
The smallest US cities are more affordable than Sharjah, but generally, the USA is more expensive than the UAE. The exception is utilities — the cost of basic utilities for an 85 sqm apartment in the UAE is 18% higher than in the USA.
The average salary in New York is $6,300 a month. In the UAE, it is lower, $4,300 a month — this difference might influence the price gap.
Dubai is 30% cheaper than London. Unless the criterion is the price of domestic beer — in this case, London is more affordable than Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
Rent and utilities expenses are significantly higher in London — on average, paying bills is 2 times more expensive than in Dubai. You would need to pay AED 720 or £157 a month for a three-bedroom apartment in Dubai; the same apartment’s utilities in London cost AED 1,400 or £305 a month.
Notably, there is little difference in monthly salary: AED 15,550 or £3,400 a month in Dubai and AED 14,400 or £3,140 in London, which implies that it is more cost-effective to live in the UAE.
How to move to the UAE?
One of the easiest ways to move to the UAE is to obtain a UAE Golden Visa by purchasing real estate there.
A minimum investment of AED 750,000 or $204,000 is needed to get a 2-year residency visa, and that of AED 2,000,000 or $545,000 — to get a 10-year residency visa.
The UAE Golden Visa has multiple benefits. These are top-5:
- an opportunity to travel to and reside in the UAE, one of the most well‑developed countries in the world — at any time;
- lower taxes — for example, corporate profit in the UAE is taxed at 9%, which is significantly lower than in many other countries.
- no need to reside in the country to keep the Golden Visa;
- possibilities of self-realization: the UAE has been inviting skilled specialists from all over the world to boost the country’s economy;
- an opportunity to purchase a property and then get profits from renting it out.
Key takeaways on the cost of living in the UAE
- Cities with the lowest cost of living in the UAE are Sharjah, Ajman, and Ras al-Khaimah, but the most popular cities to live in are Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
- A three-bedroom apartment in the city center of Sharjah costs AED 4,800 or $1,300 a month, and the same apartment in Dubai and Abu Dhabi costs AED 10,000+ or $2,700+ a month.
- One spends about AED 160 or $44 a day, or AED 4,900 or $1,330 monthly on food in the UAE.
- A family of 4 can expect to spend AED 3,700 or $1000 a year on extended medical cover, and a single person — about AED 1,900 or $520 a year.
- Higher education fees depend on the university, level of study, and a chosen program and range between AED 20,000 or $5,446 to AED 70,000 or $19,062 annually.
- A family of 4 spends around AED 1,100 or $300 on entertainment.
- To live in the UAE is generally cheaper than to live in the UK or the USA.
- Purchasing real estate in the UAE is a way to secure your future and benefit from a profitable investment.
Frequently Asked Questions
It depends on the chosen city. In Sharjah, a single-person estimated monthly cost is AED 2,732 or $744 without rent. A family of 4 would spend AED 9,176 or $2,499 a month. The cost of living in Abu Dhabi is about AED 3,258 or $887.3 without rent.
Dubai is the country’s most expensive city to live in. A family of 4 would spend 3 times more than in Sharjah — AED 12,918 or $3,518 a month. To maintain the same living standard of AED 17,000 or $4,629 in Abu Dhabi, they need around AED 18,824 or $5,126 in Dubai.
Cities with the lowest cost of living in the UAE are Sharjah, Ajman, and Ras al‑Khaimah — the sum needed to live there starts from AED 1500 or $400 without rent.
Dubai is 30% cheaper than London and 50% cheaper than New York, but it is the most expensive city in the UAE.
Living standards in Dubai are high but require less money than in the USA or the UK: the basic utilities cost of a three-bedroom apartment in Dubai is AED 720 or £157 a month, and the same apartment’s utilities in London are AED 1,391 or £304 a month.
A family of 4 spends about AED 12,925 or $3,520 a month in Dubai without rent; a single person spends 3 times less.
Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are generally cheaper than the US big cities, but there is a difference in salaries: the average salary in New York is $6,258 a month. In the UAE, the average salary is lower, $4,236 a month — this difference influences the price gap.
Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are cheaper than most of the cities in the UK, and notably, living there is more cost-effective since there is little difference in salaries: AED 15,557 or £3,400 a month in Dubai and AED 14,402 or £3,148 in London.
It mainly depends on the chosen lifestyle, but a single person’s monthly expenses in Dubai are AED 3,000+ or $1,018+ without rent.
One of the easiest ways to move to the UAE is to obtain a UAE Golden Visa by purchasing real estate there.
A minimum investment of AED 750,000 or $204,000 is needed to get a 2‑year residency visa in the UAE, and that of AED 2,000,000 or $545,000 — to get a 10-year residency visa.