Cost of living in Dubai with children

Dubai is a haven for British expatriates, with workers flocking from all over the globe to make the most of the luxury lifestyle, tax breaks and high career prospects. With its ultramodern architecture, multicultural vibe and a large expat community, it’s easy to see why it remains a popular city to emigrate to.
As a successful international centre of business, the high intake of expatriates is likely to continue, with individuals and families making the move to the United Arab Emirates. Moving with children means factoring in additional costs, such as childcare, healthcare, higher living and accommodation prices, transportation and social activities. Here are some of the key factors to consider when looking at the cost of moving to Dubai with children.
Living costs 
Dubai is famed for having no taxes on salaries and low VAT on products, which is one of the reasons that it is a popular option for businesses and expatriates. However, the cost of living can be high, so this will eat into some of the savings. According to Expatistan, which compiles cost of living data for cities around the world, Dubai is 39th in the world on the Cost of Living Index and 2nd in the Middle East. People relocating from a European city will be less likely to find the living costs particularly high – London is 13th in the same index.
Dubai offers a particularly extravagant lifestyle, and it’s easy to get wrapped up in it and spend more on luxuries. Eating out is a normal family activity and the cost of that can soon add up. There are all manner of social activities, sporting pursuits and entertainment facilities to enjoy.
Shopping locally for essentials and groceries can help to reduce everyday living costs, but international brands are more expensive although widely available. Having a car to get around is a good option, as the cost of fuel isn’t particularly high. There are very good transport links too, with a metro, bus system and water taxis reaching most locations, and these are good value.
Accommodation is one of the biggest costs to think about. There are plentiful options to cover all budgets, but rental costs can be high. Some expat employers will include the cost of accommodation in the salary, or even provide a place to live during the contract. In order to rent a property, a residence permit is a must and often a full year’s rent will need to be paid upfront, as well as a security deposit.
Childcare and education 
By far the highest cost to consider when moving to Dubai with children is childcare and education. Expatriate children cannot go to public schools in the United Arab Emirates, which means that there is a heavy reliance on international schools.
There is a lot of choice for all ages, but there could be long waiting lists for some of the best international schools offering the British curriculum. With such a demand for school places, the fees are very high and they do not include things like books and uniforms, which can begin to add up. Some schools will also charge a hefty deposit against any damage to school property, which is refundable but is an upfront cost that needs considering, as well as application and registration fees.
According to the HSBC Expat Country Guide, private schooling in the UAE costs from 50,000 to 115,000 AED a year, which is equivalent to around £10,000 to £25,000. It’s also less likely that schooling will be included in an expat employee package than it used to be.
Back in 2013, it was announced that health insurance would be compulsory for all citizens, residents and visitors to Dubai, and this has been rolled out in stages over the last three years. As of 30 June this year, all Dubai businesses have to put health insurance in place for its expat employees, with severe consequences for not doing so. However, while many businesses will offer health insurance that covers both the employee and their family, not all do. With health insurance a requirement for all residents, it’s important to factor in the cost of this for the whole family. This needs to be a minimum level of cover that includes things like maternity, outpatient treatment, in-patient treatment, existing conditions and so on. Depending on personal circumstances, a more comprehensive level of cover might be more appropriate, which will again add more costs.
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Information correct at time of publication.