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A beach in Dubai.

Cost of living in the UAE: UK expat

This article was written by Kim Cristian. Kim is a freelance writer specialising in all things expat. Having spent many years living and working overseas, Kim has built up the insights and experience for the expat advice found on her blog.

People all around the world often harbour the dream of moving to start a new life overseas.

For some, it’s the need to escape a dreary 9 to 5 and a cold climate that makes the warmer climes of a tropical location an expat hub. For others, it is the desire to make a fresh start on a continent known for sun, sand, new experiences and great opportunities.

In 2018, the UAE continues to be an attractive destination for expats from across the globe. But how expensive is it to live in the UAE compared to the UK?

A move to the UAE will allow you to earn more while exploring the Middle East. With the average monthly salary in the UAE coming in at approximately AED11,281 according to Numbeo, moving from the UK to the UAE looks very attractive when compared with an average salary of approximately AED 8,738 in the UK – an almost 30% increase when working in the UAE compared to the UK.

For a British expat living in the UAE, we breakdown the cost of living:

UAE versus UK Cost of Living Survey

cost of living uae versus uk

The UK is currently ranked in 24th position in a 2018 Numbeo cost of living survey, with an index of 55.38 for cost of living which considers groceries, restaurants, transport costs, plus accommodation costs like rent or a mortgage. In comparison in the same survey, the UAE is ranked in 12th position at 64.08 in the same survey, which means the UK is nearly 14% cheaper than the UAE for the cost of living plus rent.

Property in the UAE

Understanding the details of the cost of living in a country usually includes looking at the property market and budgeting what you might be paying on rent or the cost to buy a home.

We will examine the current conditions of the property market in the UAE.

Where do expats live in the UAE?

dubai marina nighttime

When planning a move to the UAE, expats are often drawn to the most well-known expat cities – Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

In 2018 Mercer published a survey that ranked the 39 factors that made a city most desirable to expats. The results ranked the top 21 cities in the world and the top 5 in each region, based on quality of life.

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai were featured in the Top 5 cities in the Middle East and Africa region.  With the stunning “The World Island” artificial archipelago and Burj Khalifa to visit in Dubai, or the Emirates Palace and Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, there are amazing activities, cultural attractions and a thriving expat community to enjoy in both cities.

How much does property cost in the UAE?

keys in hand building UAE

apartment costs in UAE money transfer

According to, property prices in the UAE declined in 2017.

In Dubai the property price index of all types of residential property (RPPI) dropped by 3.85%, with house prices dropping by 6.4%. In Abu Dhabi the RPPI dropped even further by over 9%, with apartment prices seeing the sharpest drop of over 10% in 2017.

This is good news for anyone planning on buying in the UAE. For example, Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai saw a 2.5% year-over-year (YoY) drop and Jumeirah Islands in Dubai recorded a 3% drop, the steepest decline in the villa category in the the emirate.

For the first quarter of 2018, the UAE property market saw a 2% year on year (YoY) decline with experts predicting that as stock levels increase, rents and property prices are expected to slowly decline before settling at the end of the year.

How expensive is it to rent in the UAE?

modern apartment to rent

If buying is not in your plans, renting is a more affordable option for most expats moving to the UAE.

rental costs in the UAE money transfer

Once again prices vary from city to city and even within the same neighbourhoods. Another advantage to renting in the UAE is that the law is pro-tenant according to

It is important to be aware of the value available and what type of property you can buy or rent  as an expat. According to UAE property experts, 2018 has shown it to be a tenant-led market, meaning there is room to negotiate and get a better property for less.

Comparing UAE rent with, the cost to rent in Dubai is similar to the rent you would pay in Abu Dhabi, but rent is almost 50% cheaper than both locations in a city like Sharjah.

When compared to the UK, renting a similar apartment in an “expensive” area of London would see you paying an estimated at AED 11,526 and AED 8,216 for a furnished apartment in a “normal” area.

Travel and commuting costs in the UAE

uae metro station indoors

When comparing the Emirati cities for the cost of living, it is important to include into your budget the cost of commuting every month.

You can commute or invest in a car to get around while you are living in the UAE.

commuting costs in UAE

After choosing your accommodation type and finding a place to live, there are other monthly or weekly expenses you will have to consider depending on where you live.

Health and fitness in the UAE

uae rugby team

While there is such great weather to enjoy year round, it can often be too hot in the summer for outdoor pursuits. So often the Emirati people turn to indoor pursuits all done in the cool comfort of air-conditioning like the Dubai Sports world, to enjoy running, cricket, ping pong and more.

When it is too hot to head outside, there is always the gym. Prices for joining a gym range from city to city in the UAE, but generally you can enjoy working out indoors for AED 508 per month in Abu Dhabi, AED 413 in Dubai and AED 278 in Sharjah according to

For expats moving to the UAE another numbeo index to note is the Health Care Exp Index which shows a health care index such that it increases if the healthcare system is of better quality. Here the UAE had a score of 117.30, taking 41st position compared to the UK in 17th place ranking at 135.82.

UAE residents can thank the increase in resources and wealth over the past decade for leading to a very high standard of healthcare being available in the UAE.

All this means that for any illness or medical treatment you (hopefully won’t, but) may require while in the UAE, you are in good hands.

How expensive is dining out in the UAE?

expensive restaurant with fancy interiors

Another tasty way to enjoy the outdoors in the UAE is by dining in any of the world-renowned top restaurants there.

The UAE has embraced and adopted all types of international cuisine to cater to the huge expat community living there. It is never hard to sample some tasty evidence of this in any of the major UAE cities.

Dinner for two at an Italian restaurant in a typically expat area including appetisers, main course, wine and dessert, will cost you AED 389 in Abu Dhabi compared with approx AED 396 in Dubai and AED 308 in Sharjah. The same meal in London, UK would cost you approximately AED 306 according to Expatistan rankings.

The ultimate expat test in any city is the price of a cup of coffee. Your morning cappuccino in an expat area of Abu Dhabi is AED 25, but slightly cheaper at AED 20 in Dubai and AED 22 in Sharjah, and will cost you approximately AED 15 on average in London. (Source:

It’s not all work and no play when living in the UAE. For a Saturday night at the movies, two tickets will cost you around AED 82 in Abu Dhabi compared with the price of AED 77 in Dubai and AED 71 in Sharjah. So not a drastic difference there if you want to escape into the air conditioning for 2.5 hours.

Is moving to the UAE a good idea?

uae skyline dawn

With world-class healthcare, amazing weather and exciting growth in the tech and startup space, the UAE will continue to be a top choice for expats worldwide, and offer amazing opportunities for anyone living in the UK planning to move to the UAE.

For when you need to transfer savings to the UAE or send money from the UAE to the UK, CurrencyFair offer you the support, speed and great exchange rates for your money transfer

We hope this information will help you in your plans to move to the UAE from the UK  - now you have some honest tips and advice to make sure you are getting the best start to your move overseas.

CurrencyFair specialise in being transparent and fair at all times - like when we are sending money overseas.

See how much you can save when using CurrencyFair to exchange your AED.

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