I lived in Dubai for just over a year and it was one of the best times of my life, despite working a job that I wasn’t particularly in love with. However, I have put together a rundown of what it cost me to live there in terms of accommodation, activities, transport, groceries.
Where to Live or Stay?
When I first arrived the company I worked for placed me in an apartment free of charge on the outskirts of Dubai in an area called Al Nahda, however it wasn’t the place for me as it was too remote and to live in the middle of desert with no amenities around me was not what I came to Dubai for. I came for the glitz and glamour and so I moved to the Dubai Marina.
Dubai Marina is the place to be if you’re an expat. Everything you need is here – skyscraper apartments, malls, bars, beach, clubs, restaurants, supermarkets. To rent an apartment which is shared with other expats and dependent upon the size of the room, plus if it has its own bathroom, the top end price would be 9000-7000AED/£1600-1250 per month, inclusive of all bills. This would typically get you a master bedroom in an upscale apartment building with its own bathroom, but it would be shared.
I paid 7000AED/£1250 a month for the master room in a duplex, penthouse apartment (crazy amount of money). My friend however, managed to rent a smaller room in a shared apartment down the road for just 5500AED/£1000, but she had to share a bathroom and the room was much smaller than mine.
So you can start to see the price scales from this – pretty expensive right? But this is the going rate for a fully furnished, all inclusive room in most shared apartments in Dubai and if you were to get your own apartment it would be considerably more. It would more than likely be paid by the year – so you’d need to have a massive lump sum to handover and be pretty sure that it is the place you want to live in for a full year.
Other places to live which are very popular with expats are Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR) and Down Town. SZR is slap bang in the middle of the Dubai Marina and Down Town Dubai. It is a huge highway famous for being lined with huge skyscrapers (which are mostly apartment blocks) and has a view of the Burj Khalifa. It is a very accessible place to live with lots of amenities around and just a walk away from the biggest mall – Dubai Mall. Then you also have Down Town Dubai which is just down from Sheik Zayed Road towards the airport, but I think apartments are harder to find here and are very, very expensive.
How to get about?
Taxis, taxis, taxis. This is the best way to get around this stunning city. Taxi’s are normally identified as having either, red, green, blue or yellow roofs and are metered. The meter starts at 5.50AED/£1 and I’d say to get from Down Town Dubai to the Dubai Marina you’re talking about 60AED/£10 for a half an hour drive – but please make sure you confirm and then RECONFIRM that the driver knows exactly where he is going, if he doesn’t you’ll be taken on a wild goose chase that costs you time and more importantly, money!
You can also hire Uber taxis which are very popular here and good for a special occasion, but obviously, you pay a slight premium for these. I personally wouldn’t recommend getting into one of these black Lexus taxi’s that you can flag down off the road unless ordered via the app as they tend to be rip off’s and I’ve heard some pretty bad things about them – like being kicked out half way into a journey or having your money stolen.
You can also use the Metro which is so, so cheap and very easy to use. It takes you all over Dubai and a single ticket costs about 7AED/£1.20. You have the choice of riding in Silver class or Gold class. I’d recommend purchasing a Gold class ticket at peak times because seriously, the Metro gets really full and Gold class tends to be more quiet. I regularly used the Metro when I was going out to the mall or needed to get Down Town and I’d highly recommend it.
Another common way to get around is to simply hire a car. There are lots of rental companies to go with and all tend to be competitive, but I’d say it’s cheaper to book a car online than it is to walk in and hire straight from there. For your standard small, run around you’re looking at about 50-60AED/£10 per day and I think monthly you’d get a slight discount, but like I said check online. I think we used Kayak.com most of the time. Or if you want real luxury you can hire a super car for the day – for my boyfriend’s birthday I hired him a Corvette Stingray for 24 hours and it cost a lot (3000AED/£550), but the experience was unforgettable!
What to do?
There is literally so much to do. I can’t even write down how much stuff there is to do. But, it terms of eating and drinking there is way too much choice. Me and my friends, or boyfriend used to hang out, mostly around the Marina. A meal for two people without drinks would probably cost you around 300AED/£55 and then extra on top for drinks, then even more extra on top for alcoholic drinks! A beer would cost you 50AED/£9.00 or if you can find a special deal, like at Barasti then it’d be 35AED/£6.30. A cocktail would cost you on average about 75AED/£13 or more. When you convert these prices to Pounds or Euros you can see how expensive it all really is, especially for me now – I’m in Koh Samui, Thailand and a beer costs 60TBH/£1.10 and a cocktail costs 120THB/£2.20. Crazy.
There is the beach at JBR Walk in the Dubai Marina and a tonne of beach clubs to enjoy. The beach offers lots of water sports like paddle boarding, surfing (but there’s no waves), paddle boats etc. I think I paid 100AED/£20 to rent a paddle board once for an hour or so. Normally you have to pay for admission into a beach club which can be pricey, but I think it’s standard practice that you can redeem the amount you paid to get in against food and drink whilst you’re there – popular beach clubs include Eden on the Palm, Nissimi Beach at The Atlantis, Meydan (although not sure if it’s under renovation now) and Puro Beach at the Conrad.
Other stuff to do would be to take a trip up the Burj Khalifa (125AED minimum per/person), Atlantis Water Park (250AED plus extras like a locker, towels, lunch), head to Abu Dhabi for the day to visit The Grand Mosque, charter a Yacht (generally two hours or so and prices would be upon request).
Clothes, Groceries etc.?
Although the malls are incredible and you can’t help but shop your little heart away the majority of items, like clothes are imported from different countries so inevitably they do cost more. For example, I once bought a top for about 200AED/£40 and took off the sticky label to see the European price underneath and that showed up as £26. Heartbreaking, but it just goes to show the mark up clothing brands like River Island, Topshop, Miss Selfridge etc put on the items in comparison to the rest of the world. I think the only affordable places which I tended to do most of my shopping at, that didn’t seem to put a £20 mark up on merchandise were H&M and Zara.
With regard to groceries something’s in Dubai are more expensive than the UK and something’s are pretty similar:
Loaf of Bread – 5AED/90p/€1.25
4 litres of Milk – 18AED/£3.20/€4.50
12 Eggs – 15AED/£2.70/€3.70
Chicken Breast 1KG – 35AED/£6/€8.70
1.5 litre bottle of water – 2AED/36p/50 cents
Bunch of bananas – 6AED/£1/€1.50
Deodorant Spray – 16AED/£2.90/€4
Biscuits – 12AED/£2.20/€3
Overall it is no secret that Dubai is one of the most expensive cities to live in the world, and all in all each month I think I must have spent the majority of my wage. It’s a tough lifestyle, but you get what you pay for indeed.