Dubai on a Budget - Dubai Expats Guide (2022)

Living in Dubai on a budget is possible. Many people have to do it as not all the residents of Dubai are highly paid. Just ask the taxi drivers what they earn a month or the security guards in your building. Many people live on salaries of less than AED 3,000 a month although that usually means that their housing is provided.

The big costs in Dubai are housing and schooling. If you have these covered by your employer, then the costs you face are at your discretion. If not, single people can get relatively cheap housing by sharing an apartment or an older villa, but mixed flatting is frowned on. Some parts of Dubai are inexpensive to rent an apartment in because the accommodation is considered old. Apartments over twenty years old are usually cheap and these can be found in Deira near Bani Yas Square and Maktoum Rd, the old part of Dubai. They are often also quite large, but there may be problems with the air-conditioning or the fit of the windows making the electricity bill quite high in the summer. Newer but inexpensive apartments (for Dubai) can be found in the Al Warqa area near Mirdif. Mirdif used to be cheap and lacking in amenities, not now so look further out into the desert.

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Schools will be expensive if you opt for western expat models. But the Indian schools are far more reasonable. They use a traditional teaching methodology that encompasses a lot of the knowledge transmission mode, but students do graduate and often pass International Baccalaureate exams.

Owning a car is not particularly expensive in Dubai. There are often specials available on new cars that include servicing for one or two years. There are other deals, so do look around. There are also plenty of secondhand cars available. These can be found quite cheaply at the times when people tend to finish their contracts and leave, such as May/June and December/January. There are various online sites where you might find a bargain. The issue with older vehicles is that they tend to suffer from cracks in the plastic interiors that are nearly impossible to get affordable replacements for. This wear and tear is due to the heat.

Petrol is inexpensive compared to Europe and the US, but not in comparison to some other Middle Eastern countries. Still, you do not have to make your choice of an SUV or a sedan on the basis of gas prices. But car insurance seems expensive unless you also have to insure a jalopy in Italy, as I do. Someone has to be pay for the little knocks that occur on a daily basis not to mention the number of cars that are cancelled (written-off) each year. You will only get third party offered to you on older cars, although it is worth arguing your case. I still have comprehensive on my eight year old SUV.

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There are some revenue gathering charges, some of which are a form of road user tax. Every year you must have your car inspected and re-registered. The inspection fee is AED 120 and re-registration is AED 320. Parking meters have proliferated in Dubai, so if you do not get parking with your accommodation and work, factor this in. It is AED 2.00 an hour from 8.00-1.00 and 4.00-8.00. Also, Dubai has introduced a toll charge – Salik – on certain main roads, but it is possible to avoid this. You can cross the Creek on the magnificent Business Bay Bridge for free or take the revamped Garhoud Bridge at a cost of AED 4.00 a time. Sheikh Zayed Rd, the main road that you would take to move relatively quickly along the part of Dubai from Bur Dubai through to Jebel Ali is fully covered by Salik. The alternative ring road, the 611 (also now called the Emirates Rd) is free and usually has fast flowing traffic at all times unlike Sheik Zayed Rd, but it does swing out behind Dubai and means a longer journey.

Food varies considerably in price depending on where you shop and whether you buy local, regional or food with so many air miles it can travel first class forever.

Local food is grown in parts of the UAE. Previously, it was mostly herbs, peppers and tomatoes, but now it is possible to buy cucumbers, courgettes and eggplants as well. A lot of it is grown hydroponically and some of it is organic. The organic movement is really taking off here. And there is an organic supermarket/restaurant on Sheik Zayed Rd; however, I tend to buy my organic produce from the Co-op as it is cheaper.


By regional food, I mean food from nearby. A lot of food comes from Lebanon and Oman. The more reasonably priced potatoes come from Lebanon. Further afield, a lot of fruit and vegetables now come from Pakistan, India, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, South Africa or Kenya. It is an international experience on a daily basis eating in Dubai. But the pricier items come from the USA or Europe, and a lot of hydroponic food comes from Holland. Apples tend to come from the USA all year round. I do not know how they manage that. But they come seasonally from France, Italy and New Zealand. Spain is my country of choice for oranges at about a quarter the price of the bigger, less tasty American ones. I spend a lot of time comparing prices of fruit with country of origin, but in the end my decision is usually based on flavor, and it is not the case that the most flavorsome foods are the most expensive. How lucky is that?

Meat, like fruit and vegetables, varies according to country of origin. The cheaper meat comes from India and Kenya. But most of the meat comes from New Zealand, Australia and more recently the UK, Ireland and Argentina. The food miles really do add up, but I do not find the prices exorbitant when you consider the distances traveled. Cheese takes a similar route to the UAE, and seems expensive to me.

Pulses such as lentils and dried beans are a really good price. Nuts, especially almonds, have inflated in price greatly but that may be due to their reputed health benefits. Dried fruit is reasonably priced.

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It is possible to eat well for less than you might imagine considering the distance much of the food travels. Everything is available all year round, which is not necessarily a good thing but that is another article.

One of the choices you need to make when considering the cost of food is what supermarket to go to. The big names starting with the most expensive are: Waitrose, Spinneys, Carrefour, Hypermarket, Choitrams and the Co-op. Sometimes that food I really crave has to be bought no matter the price and that is when I head for Waitrose.

Finally, it is also possible to shop at fish markets as well as fruit and vegetable markets depending on the time of year and the area you live in. Apart from during the hellishly hot part of the summer, there are several organic markets in Dubai where you can buy from the grower.

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I have not even touched on clothes. You can spend as much or as little as you like on clothes in Dubai and have a wide range to choose from. But, on the whole, the price in dirhams will seem high if compared to the original price in the UK especially when you consider that there is no VAT in Dubai. Keep in mind that there are really good sales and an excellent Outlet Mall. It is all here, and half the fun is looking for it.


Where to live in Dubai as an expat on a budget? ›

5 most affordable areas to live in Dubai
  • Dubai International City. International city tops the list of most affordable rent areas in UAE. ...
  • Deira. For people having a low budget, Deira will be one of the best choices. ...
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis. ...
  • Dubai Sports City. ...
  • Jumeirah village circle (JVC)
Mar 3, 2021

What is a good salary for an expat in Dubai? ›

Expats in Dubai earn more than any other city in the Mena region and also higher than most of the global cities. According to the latest HSBC Expat Explorer survey released on Monday, average salary for expats in Dubai is $138,177 (Dh507,110) per annum, ranking the emirate at No. 11 among top 30 global cities.

What salary do you need to live comfortably in Dubai? ›

For those wishing to live in Dubai, a salary resulting in a monthly pay of AED 10,000 to AED 13,000 is relatively comfortable.

Can you live in Dubai on a budget? ›


You need to focus your house search on the areas where you can live on a budget in Dubai. Some of the most popular areas to rent cheap apartments include Al Nahda, Dubai Silicon Oasis and Deira, where the average annual rent for a 1-bedroom flat starts from AED 23k to AED 24k.

Where do most expats live in Dubai? ›

You'll find useful information on schools, healthcare facilities and the most popular neighbourhoods for expats.
  • Downtown. Location. ...
  • Jumeira and Umm Suqeim. Location. ...
  • Dubai Marina/Marsa Dubai. Location. ...
  • Barsha Heights/Al Barsha. Location. ...
  • Jumeirah Beach Residence. Location.

Why expats are leaving Dubai? ›

Job losses accelerated in the region last year as the pandemic spread. Expatriates make up the majority of the population in the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is a part. Residency permits in the country are usually tied to employment and many expatriates have to leave if they lose their jobs.

Is 40000 AED a good salary in Dubai? ›

Yes 40K is a decent salary per month. That's more than 11k US $. It is close to 140k per year.

Do Westerners get paid more in Dubai? ›

In the UAE, a Western expat makes 12.6 per cent more than an Arab expat and 40.5 per cent more than an Asian expat, while an Arab expat gets paid 24.7 per cent more than an Asian expat.

Is it cheaper to live in Dubai or England? ›

Cost of Living

In fact, Dubai is 28% cheaper to live than London! Rent prices in Dubai in 2021 were 32.6% lower than London. Grocery prices were 22.85% lower and consumer prices (without rent) were 24.5% lower too!

How do expats get financial help in Dubai? ›

Dar al Ber is a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance to underprivileged expats in the United Arab Emirates. Expats can find out when they can file a request by going to The phone numbers are +971 4 352 3333 and 052 6155550.

What is a good monthly salary in Dubai? ›

2. Average Salary Range. Dubai has a good average salary range, extending from a monthly salary of 4,810 AED (1,309.56 USD) to 99,000 AED (26,953.44 USD) per month. The average salary range only considers salaries that fall between the average minimum salary and the average maximum salary in Dubai.

How much is monthly rent Dubai? ›

Housing, Rental & Utilities
Type of ApartmentCost of rent per month
Apartment (1 bedroom) in City CentreAED 5,141.89 (USD 1 399.92)
Apartment (1 bedroom) Outside of CentreAED 3,281.72 (USD 893.47)
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in City CentreAED 9,766.53 (USD 2 659.01)
1 more row

Which is the cheapest area in Dubai? ›

Top 10 cheapest areas in Dubai
  • Al Qusais. ...
  • Dubai Investment Park. ...
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis. Studio Apartment Dh40,000 per year. ...
  • IMPZ. Studio Apartment Dh40,000 per year. ...
  • Jumeirah Village. Studio Apartment Dh42,000 per year. ...
  • Satwa. Studio Apartment Dh28,000 per year. ...
  • Discovery Gardens. Studio Apartment Dh45,000 per year. ...
  • Bur Dubai.
Sep 30, 2014

Is Dubai good for expats? ›

Dubai attracts expats from all over the world, with more than 200,000 new arrivals each year. While some may find the cost of accommodations expensive, the large supply of attractive housing units, high salaries and low taxes motivate many people to move to Dubai and live the expat lifestyle.

Can I live in Dubai permanently? ›

You may obtain a standard resident visa in the UAE under the following circumstances: Purchasing real estate: If you buy a residential property in Dubai or any other Emirate worth at least one million Dirhams, you can obtain a UAE residence visa valid for two years.

Is moving to Dubai a good idea? ›

Dubai can be a good place for those who love to work in a multicultural environment with numerous opportunities to work in a highly progressing environment. Besides offering good business and career opportunities, this city also possesses a rich history you can explore.

Where do most English people live in Dubai? ›

Based on trends observed overtime, the most popular places to live in Dubai for British expats for those who prefer flats, include Dubai Marina, Downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah and Jumeirah Beach Residence.

Which is the best community to live in Dubai? ›

Top 10 Best Places to Live in Dubai
  • Madinat Jumeirah Living. ...
  • Port De La Mer. ...
  • Emaar Beachfront. ...
  • Emaar South. ...
  • Downtown Dubai. ...
  • Dubai Marina. ...
  • Arabian Ranches. ...
  • Dubai Hills Estate. Dubai Hills Estate is sustainably designed and is the first of its kind.

Is Dubai better than Canada? ›

In short, UAE is a great place for work as well as business opportunities and so is Canada, but if you're looking for a wholesome living experience which is at the same time warm and welcoming, Canada is your best bet any day.

Is Dubai declining? ›

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Dubai's economy contracted by 10.9% year-on-year in 2020, data from the Dubai Statistics Center revealed, reflecting a city hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the halting of global travel.

Is there crisis in Dubai? ›

Dubai has suffered as the pandemic has decimated air travel and tourism, as well as other sectors like construction and real estate. Ratings agency S&P estimates that Dubai's gross general government debt will reach about 77% of GDP in 2020, a figure conflicting with that of the Dubai government.

Is 3500 AED enough in Dubai? ›

You can survive with AED 3500 per month salary in Dubai. You have to rent a bedspace which may cost you from AED 500 to AED 700 per month. Food expenses depends on your lifestyle but minimum food expense will not be less than AED 500 per month.

Is 7000 dirham a good salary in Dubai? ›

In Comparison to indian counterparts,7000 AED is a decent salary for unmarried junior level employees in UAE . You can find bed space ranging from 750–1500 AED depending on location and amenities provided. and you can cover all your basic expenses like foid,mobile, transport with another 1500.

Is 8000 AED enough in Dubai? ›

To live in a proper way depends on you and only on your way of life. But, if you ask, is the amount sufficient for living in Dubai. Yes.

What is the lowest paid job in Dubai? ›

Lowest Paying Jobs In Dubai:
  • Checker – Salary 1,500 AED.
  • Commis – Salary 1,700 AED.
  • Senior Teacher Engineer – Salary 1,900 AED.
  • Primary Teaching Jobs – Salary 2,000 AED.
  • Dishwasher – Salary 1,500 AED.
  • Child Care Worker – Salary 1,900 AED.
  • Hand Packers and Packagers – Salary 1,800 AED.

Are all salaries in Dubai tax free? ›

There is no income tax on salaries or wages paid in the UAE . Depending on the Emirate, there may be taxes on some services and goods, municipal taxes and customs duties. For information on corporation tax, contact the Ministry of Economy.

Is there poverty in Dubai? ›

The UAE is one of the top ten richest countries in the world, and yet a large percentage of the population lives in poverty — an estimated 19.5 percent.

Can people in Dubai drink alcohol? ›

UAE Residents can drink alcohol at home and in licensed venues. Liquor licences are still required for Residents in Dubai but are no longer required for Residents in Abu Dhabi and other Emirates (save for Emirate of Sharjah) to purchase alcohol for personal consumption.

Which is the poorest emirate in UAE? ›

Emirate of Ajman - Wikipedia.

What is the cheapest area to live in Dubai? ›

Top 10 cheapest areas in Dubai
  • International City. Studio Apartment Dh32,000 per year. ...
  • Deira. Studio Apartment Dh33,000 per year. ...
  • Al Qusais. Studio Apartment Dh40,000 per year. ...
  • Dubai Investment Park. Studio Apartment Dh40,000 per year. ...
  • Dubai Silicon Oasis. Studio Apartment Dh40,000 per year. ...
  • IMPZ. ...
  • Jumeirah Village. ...
  • Satwa.
Sep 30, 2014

How much is cheapest rent in Dubai? ›

Revealed: 5 most affordable areas to rent in Dubai
  • Most affordable areas to rent an apartment in Dubai (annual rent)
  • Studio: > Dh14,000 in International City. > Dh15,000 in Deira. ...
  • 1-bedroom: > Dh20,000 in International City. > Dh25,000 in Deira. ...
  • 2-bedroom: > Dh35,000 in Deira. ...
  • 3-bedroom. > Dh50,000 in International City.
May 31, 2021

Which area is good for living in Dubai? ›

Rated as one of the most preferred areas in Dubai to live, Sheikh Zayed Road is the arterial thoroughfare that connects the entire city of Dubai, offering residents and visitors easy access to the UAE. The iconic road is lined on both sides by skyscrapers, residential projects, and office complexes.

Which is the cheapest emirate in UAE? ›

The country's smallest emirate also has the best rental yields for apartments in the UAE, with a world-leading 9.6% per annum. Ajman is the cheapest place to rent property in the UAE, with costs three times less expensive compared to Dubai's median asking price, according to data from Propertyfinder's Trends report.


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