Thursday, October 28, 2010

Money talks

Everyone always asks me how expensive it is to live in the UAE. Well, I can’t really answer that question without posing another question: compared to what?

I guess it is all a matter of perspective and I wouldn’t really be accurate if I answered this question based on my reality. So, I’ve decided to put together some numbers for you. That way you will be able to make some comparisons and draw your own conclusions.

But, first things first. Let me get you acquainted with the local currency of the United Arab Emirates – the Dirham. As you will see in the examples below, the colorful Dirham comes in paper notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. You will also find coins of 1 Dirham and 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 fils (1 Dirham = 100 fils).

The UAE Dirham is fixed and pegged to the US Dollar. This means the following rate remains unchanged:

1 US Dollar (USD) = 3.67 United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED)

Now, moving on… A few examples to help you see how much things cost around here…

Please remember most of the numbers below are an average, based on my lifestyle. You will definitely be able to find cheaper or more expensive options.

·         3 bedroom apartment in a good, central neighborhood, in Abu Dhabi city (annual rent)

AED 200,000 to AED 450,000 = USD 54,500 to USD 123,000

·         Bill for two at a five star restaurant (appetizer + main course + dessert + bottle of wine):

AED 400 to AED 800 = USD 108 to USD 220

·         Bill for two at an average restaurant (appetizer + main course + dessert):

AED 80 to AED 150 = USD 22 to USD 41

·         Bill for two at a Japanese restaurant (appetizer + sushi + sashimi + dessert + sake)

AED 200 to AED 500 = USD 54 to USD 136

·         Friday bubbly brunch for two (open buffet + unlimited soft drinks and bubbly):

AED 400 to AED 900 = USD 108 to USD 245

·         Burger King Whopper Meal (whopper + fries + soft drink)

AED 18 = USD 5

·         Pizza Hut large pepperoni pizza

AED 43 = USD 12

Shopping and Services
·         Grocery store monthly bill (for a household of two)

AED 1000 = USD 272

·         Maid (two times a week – total of 32 hours)

AED 1300 = USD 354

·         Car wash (one-off)

AED 30 = USD 8

·         Fuel

AED 100 = USD 27 (to fill up the tank of a Volkswagen Tiguan)

·         Two movie tickets

AED 60 = USD 16

·         Two entrance fees to spend the day at a hotel health club (access to pool and beach)

AED 200 = USD 54 (weekdays)

·         Two tickets to a half day desert safari (including BBQ dinner)

AED 300 to AED 600 = USD 82 to USD 163

·         Two tickets to visit the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

AED 200 = USD 54 (dated and timed) or AED 800 = USD 228 (immediate entrance)

·         Two Grandstand F1 tickets (3 days + concerts by Kanye West, Linkin Park and Prince)

AED 4000 = USD 1090

Health and Beauty
·         Gym membership (annual)

AED 3000 = USD 817

·         Manicure and pedicure

AED 130 = USD 35

·         Facials and massages

AED 300 to AED 1000 = USD 82 to USD 272

·         Waxing/threading

AED 300 = USD 82 (eyebrow, underarms, bikini line, full legs)

·         Blow dry (medium length hair)

AED 100 = USD 27

·         Cut, wash, dry, style (medium length hair)

AED 250 = USD 68

For more information on what to do in Abu Dhabi and how much it will cost you, take a look at

I’d really like your opinion on this… According to the numbers I gave you and compared to your reality, would you say Abu Dhabi is an expensive place to live?


  1. Passando os olhos por estes cadernos semanais de viagens dos jornais e uma ou outra revista que aparece nas salas de espera fico com pena que este seu site - que é um espetáculo cultural na sua pouca pretensão mas objetividade e interesse dos temas- atinja tao pouca gente.
    De uma outra chamada no facebook e vamos para o twitter.

  2. With the average salary being .... ?

  3. Well, that really varies a lot... It will all depend on your educational and professional background + demand + a series of other variables. Any specific profession or role in mind?

  4. Mary,
    achei parte de beleza feminina carinha ,rs.unhãs e depilação,etc. no mais é bem parecido com o daqui...
    bjs e adorei,

  5. Hi Mariana, I found the information very interesting. Now, in reference to your question about the comparative cost of living of Abu Dhabi and where I live , I think Abu Dhabi is much more expensive. I would be interested in learning how the economy works there.
    What do they produce? You mentioned "maid services", is that very common too? How is the society stratified? What is the demographic make up of Abu Dhabi?
    Well, I will be looking forward to reading more about your life in that part of the world. Abracos. Mike Callender.

  6. Hi Mike, thanks for stopping by.

    Some of this information you might be able to find in my earlier posts, the initial ones posted in August (Abu who, Dhabi where / From the camel to the Porsche / Cultural Mix).

    In any case, to quickly answer your question, I can say the economy here highly revolves around oil. They are now, however, trying to diversify and ensure the country has other options to fall back on when they actually run out of oil.

    Abu Dhabi is investing agressively on culture, education and health. NYU, Insead and the Sorbonne already have campuses in the city. The Cleveland Clinic manages one of the main hospitals here while its own structure is not ready. And museums like the Louvre and the Guggenheim will open their doors in a few years to come. A lot going on!

    Regarding the maid service, yes this is a very common practice here. Although you have the highly pais expats you also have the less educated ones that come work in construction (usually from India and Pakistan) or as maids (Phillipines).

    Hope to hear from you soon! If you feel like it, click on follow to become a follower and receive updates whenever I update the blog.


  7. Great BurCarioca
    your blog is awesome and I feel sorry for the people that are still not following

  8. To achando o custo de vida bem razoável por aí. Mas é claro que tudo depende dos salários que as pessoas ganham.