COST OF LIVING IN DUBAI
Before embarking on a career jump and relocation to Dubai, it is best to do due diligence by reading up on what to expect in Dubai in terms of lifestyle, and most importantly, cost of living. This is so as not to get caught redhanded in the face of financial demands in an exotic land. Surely, there are countless articles and blogs that are helpful in one’s preparations and decision making as to choices and budgets. The internet yields substantial information on cost of living in Dubai with figures invariably written in various relevant currencies: American Dollar (USD), Euro and Arab Emir Dirham (AED) or plain Dirham (abbreviated as DRM). The use of each of these currencies depends on the perpective of the writers of the articles and blogs and on their target readers/audience. But all of the reference materials available point to one reality: Housing expenses take up the largest chunk of one’s budget in Dubai. No wonder, among the low-to-medium-wage employees and workers, flat sharing has become quite a fad for practical reasons. But this is workable only for those who do not live with their families in Dubai. You will be surprised how cramped a flat can get with this arrangement. A rental-sharing arrangement comes in handy particularly in coming up with required payment of deposits and advance rentals which by the way must be budgeted for. Expatriates who have their families with them, however, or singles who value their privacy and can afford to pay for the rental of a flat/apartment or a villa, and those entitled to housing allowance, have diverse choices among these: studio flats or one- or two-bedroom apartments or villas, but these are mostly of some distance from the central business district. Depending on one’s chosen location for housing, whether it be in Deira or in Bur Dubai or in plush Jumeira or elsewhere, monthly rental costs vary sharply and can move up anytime. Rental information gathered include these ranges:
Apartment rental (studio monthly rental): 2,000 AED – 5,000 AED
*Average rent in this category is at 3,500 AED (almost 1,000 in US Dollars). In Euro, this is more or less 700.
Apartment rental (1-bedroom monthly rental): 2,500 – 6,700 AED *Average rent is at 4,600 AED (about 1,200 US Dollars or 900 more or less in Euro].
Apartment rental (2-bedroom monthly rental): 3,300 – 10,000 AED
*Average is at 6,650 AED (about 1,800 US Dollars or roughly 1,300 in Euro).
[*Exchange rate as of time of writing is at 1 USD = 3.67 AED]
[*Exchange rate of 1 EU = 5.03 AED]
Meanwhile, more affluent lifestyle in a villa would cost one as much as 3,000 – 4,000 US Dollars (11,000 – 15,000 DHS). The housing budget would depend on one’s financial capacity and lifestyle choices. This will not be an issue for companies that offer staff housing or allowance for housing for their expats. This saves one the trouble of having to look for rental units in the outskirts of the metro area of Dubai.
A brilliant idea is to negotiate for housing benefit with one’s prospective employer. This saves both time and money and affords precious peace of mind and ease of relocation. Chances are, a qualified applicant will have his chance to negotiate because Dubai employers normally cap their interview with a question on what an applicant’s minimum acceptable salary is. Often, for supervisory posts of certain industries, what is offered varies anywhere from 5,000 AED and 7,000 AED. This is right within budget for a single expatriate with average lifestyle, but for married ones who desire to immediately relocate their family to Dubai, such salary range may not suffice. A family man would need at least 10,000 – 15,000 AED to be able to relocate to Dubai or he could accept a lower offer if housing is provided by the employer. For those whose employers offer housing benefits, even a 5,000 AED salary would be comfortable enough. This is indicative of how much housing allocation eats up out of one’s budget.
Modest living is manageable for Dubai’s ordinary wage earners. One must dog the habit of dining out too often since it is costly to dine out in Dubai’s premium restaurants. There are restaurants, however, that reportedly allow one to eat for only 35 – 95 AED. Home-cooked food with lots vegetables tops this option. This would enable one to substantially stretch family budget as this would mean spending only 4,000 – 5,500 AED on food for a family of 3 – 4 , and 2,500 AED with some scrimping. Weekends may be taken as exceptions. On weekends, the family can dine out in restaurants for the maintenance of their enjoyment of the good life and some family bonding amidst plush surroundings. Dubai boasts of having almost all kinds of ambience and cuisines inspired by all nations of the world. This smart, disciplined lifestyle is the way to go for some of Dubai’s expats in order to beat the high cost of living where they are. Anyway, they get to attend meetings in many of the city’s fine restaurants any time, any day.
Sending children to school is the next major concern. Relocating to Dubai bringing along school-age children is a challenge. Someone with two children of school age learns soon enough that Dubai’s high cost of private education renders family incomes less than 10,000 AED inadequate for educational needs as well as for the demands of a cosmopolitan lifestyle. It is good to look up tuition rates in several private schools before plunging. A study on tuition fee hike trending would reveal that tuition fee increases are to be anticipated any time.
There are directories and profiles of Dubai’s private schools available online that can be consulted. These materials will bear out that private institutions run by American and British nationals generally have steep tuition fees. There are some that are operated by Asians. These are usually more affordable. Grade school tuition fees typically range from 5,000 and 90,000 AED for a full school year. Higher-end counterparts cost as much as 100,000 AED. It would be a good idea to land in Dubai some 30 – 60 days before school opening in order to get the children acclimatized for some time in Dubai before enrolling them for regular schooling. It would pay off to enroll newly-arrived children in a language school for them to get to learn the basics of the native language. They would need to learn conversational Arab enough for them to get by in communicating with other kids and for them to be become familiar with the culture of the Midde East which has peculiarities western-bred kids relocated to the area ought to know about. This language learning will boost kids’ self-confidence thus aiding in their social skills development amidst a starkly-different culture in foreign surroundings. It is best to hire a part-timer to tutor the kids on basic spoken Arabic language. There is no standard rate for this since rates are as per one-on-one negotiations between the kids’ parents and tutors who may be anyone from a mom of an Emirati kid to an expat who has been staying in Dubai long enough to have developed Arab language fluency. Just make sure, however, that the tutor has a bankable recommendation from trustworthy endorsers both in terms of competence and moral values. It pays to proceed with prudence and caution, anywhere one is in the world.
Getting to work on time each working day is the next challenge. Choose to go by cab or by bus probably at only 10 – 20 AED or less daily transportation costs. Gasoline is cheaper than water in Dubai and so transportation costs are really not a cause for concern. It is more the punctuality issue that one has to be conscious about. Getting by with one’s own car is still the best in Dubai since gasoline is super-cheap anyway. Save up and budget something like 50,000 – 100,000 AED for an ordinary second-hand car or as much as 60,000 – 300,000 AED for brand-new cars. Factor in also car insurance cost at 4 – 7 percent of acquisition cost or at 50,000 AED at minimum rate. Having a car is definitely an advantage in Dubai so it is best to factor it in as part of the cost of living in Dubai. After all, fuel budget is only at 1.50 USD (around 5.50 AED) per kilometer. While still saving up for a car purchase, an option is to rent a car at an average monthly cost of 1,500 – 3,000 AED.
Drive on! But a little caution here. Dubai’s laws on the street are pretty steep and these are non-negotiable. Also, never dare to drive around carrying a bottle of liquor without a license. Liquor purchase in Dubai requires a license and only men can be issued one subject to certain requirements. What’s more, tax is slapped on every liquor purchase. That’s not so bad. The intention is good. (Sharjah, I heard, sells liquors tax-free but getting by bringing these to Dubai without a license will be an offense.)
Now, if one has to make calls, these are happily for free within the Emirates and with very low toll fees charged for outside calls. This means, communication won’t be an issue in Dubai. Monthly connectivity costs in Dubai amounts to about 250 AED. Other utilities would cost between 1,200 and 5,000 AED per month, water and electricity included.
“Forewarned is forearmed,” as the old folks say; so it is best to dig up on the latest available prices of goods and services in the corner of the world one wants to nestle in. Luckily, so much has been written about Dubai, but to see the significant ones fashioned into one neat whole that presents reality in a nutshell is something else. Cost is living is one vital aspect that must not be missed in the dig-out. I hope this article helps. (MV)
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About the author
Author: Admin- Uaehrzone
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