Cost of living in UAE with a family

The UAE is known as an expatriate haven. British professionals are drawn to the excellent business opportunities, the luxurious lifestyle and the tax-free benefits. If you’re moving to the UAE for work with your family, you will need to consider finding an accommodation and school places, if relevant.
When moving to the UAE from London, it’s important to be aware of the cost of the lifestyle in the Emirates. It can vary depending on where you are moving to. In the well-respected annual Mercer Cost of Living Index 2018, Dubai ranks highest in 26th place (out of 209 cities); Abu Dhabi comes a little way behind in 40th place.
This cost is relative, however. Both cities have fallen down the rankings, from 20th and 23rd places respectively. The cost of living is less than in other popular expat locations, such as Hong Kong (which came first), Switzerland and China. London is in 19th place; British expatriates will therefore feel little impact on their expenditure and outgoings.

Luxury lifestyle

One of the reasons the cost of living is so high in the UAE is because of the top-quality lifestyle it’s famous for. Accommodation is the biggest overall expenditure and good properties are in demand. Homes closer to the business centres are more expensive than those further out, and often have less space too. However, condos have desirable extras, such as swimming pools, gyms, community spaces and security. For a large family home, prices are similar to London for both rental and purchasing.
Utilities are reasonable in the UAE, even a little less than in the UK. There are costs associated with things like upkeep, communal fees and air conditioning that need to be considered.
Overall, the daily cost of living in Dubai is about 21% cheaper than the cost of living in London, according to user-generated data on Expatistan. Abu Dhabi is around 23% cheaper. This data includes things like food, housing, clothes, transportation, personal care and entertainment.

Family costs

When moving to the UAE with family, the main costs to consider, once you have secured a property, are schooling and healthcare. The public schools are not available to expatriate children, meaning your options are private and international schools. The schools have world-class facilities and offer an internationally recognised teaching system. The British curriculum is popular and there are plenty of excellent schools that follow the UK’s programme for education. However, these schools are very popular and have long waiting lists. When it comes to cost, however, they are expensive but no more so than independent and private schools in the UK.
It is also mandatory to have health insurance for the whole family in the UAE. Your new employer should offer you medical cover as part of your relocation package, but be sure to read the terms. The cover offered may not extend to the whole family and it might not be as comprehensive as you would wish. You may prefer to purchase a full family plan to cover all medical and dental costs. Find out more about your healthcare options in the UAE in our detailed guide.
If you are planning a move to the UAE with children, find out how our international moving services can help you with your relocation.