Cost of living in Dubai
: Sandwiched between the East and the West, Dubai is a major international trading hub that in recent times is working overtime to become an academic hotspot. The UAE government, for example, is aggressively promoting campuses of top foreign universities in the country in a bid to quickly bridge the gap between itself and top academic destinations like the USA. 

Cost of living in Dubai

One of the interesting features of studying in Dubai is that tuition fee is typically low compared to other major study destinations, which can be attributed to it being an emerging destination. But, when it comes to cost of living in Dubai, it is a bit on the higher side, which, in turn, has to do with Dubai being a commercial and tourist hub. So, if you plan to study in Dubai, it isn’t university tuition fee that you have to keep a close eye on, but rather the cost of living.

Cost of living in Dubai-Different components

When calculating cost of living in Dubai, the first item you have to take care of is accommodation, which incidentally is also the most expensive. And this is in addition to expenses on food, transport, entertainment etc.


Accommodation in Dubai: Cost and options

Accommodation in Dubai can be divided into on-campus and off-campus accommodation, as is the case with most study-abroad destinations.


On-campus accommodation in Dubai: The popular option in Dubai is on-campus accommodation. But considering the top universities in Dubai have limited number of seats, which, in turn ,

tend to fill up quickly, you have to start early to stand a chance. Also, starting your search early is the right approach if you want to have your pick of accommodation type. For example, in case of Middlesex University Dubai, early starters can choose from single, shared and shared (premium). Late arrivers, meanwhile, will be left with leftovers and can’t pick and choose.


Coming to costs and sticking with Middlesex University Dubai as a model; at AED 55,000, single Type A rooms are the most expensive. So, for students looking for cheaper options Type D, Type E and Type G, with their low costs can be ideal choices, provided they are ready to share space with other students. Students need to bear in mind that studying abroad is a costly exercise, and so being flexible can be a great virtue, like the money saved in accommodation can be spent in buying books or even entertainment. This is not to say that one shouldn’t pay attention to comfort and convenience, or even safety, as they are equally important. After all whether you are studying civil engineering in Dubai or studying MBA in Dubai, a lot is riding on your shoulders –whether it is money or future!


Cost of on-campus accommodation in Dubai (September- May) for new joiners (Middlesex University Dubai)

Room Type

Costs  (AED)

Type A - Single


Type B - Shared x2


Type C - Shared x 2 (premium)


Type D - Shared x3


Type E - Shared x3 (upgraded)


Type F - Shared x3 (premium)


TYPE G – Shared x4


Cost of student on-campus accommodation 1``11in Dubai during summers (June - Sep ) (Middlesex University Dubai)

Room Type

Costs  (AED)

Type A - Single


Type B - Shared x2


Type C - Shared x 2 (premium)


Type D - Shared x3


Type E - Shared x3 (upgraded)


Type F - Shared x3 (premium)


Private accommodation in Dubai: Though not the first choice of students, private accommodation is an unavoidable reality for many students studying in Dubai. So, if you are also gearing up to study in Dubai, it won’t be a bad idea to check out a few private accommodations in advance.

Here we bring you average annual cost of staying at a private or off-campus accommodation in Dubai ( Source: Canadian University Dubai):




Modest, 1 bedroom

AED 70,000 - 85,000

Modest, 2 bedrooms

AED 85,000 - 100,000

Good quality, 1 bedroom

AED 100,000 - 120,000

Good quality, 2 bedrooms

AED 120,000 - 140,000

Good quality, 3 bedrooms

AED 140,000 - 190,000

In case of private accommodation, you have greater choices than on-campus accommodation, but then again you need to be very careful with your research because accommodation rackets are a reality in Dubai. Some concerns you have to be deal with while finalizing your private accommodation in Dubai is how far it is from the university and what are add-on facilities being offered. You must also insist on a written agreement of the deal, one that is officially recognized.

As for the chart, we can repeat the same thing that we addressed in the earlier point. That is if you are ready to be flexible, you can save some valuable Dirhams. Also, even students who are studying in Dubai on scholarships can heed these suggestions as every penny saved will make life easier.


Expenses of items other than accommodation

Once you are done with the accommodation in Dubai, you are left with other expenses like food, entertainment, transport and other such miscellaneous items contributing their share to the overall cost of living in Dubai.


Here we bring you average cost of these everyday necessities and services (source: University of Wollongong in Dubai).



Loaf of bread    


Water (1.5 litre)

AED 1.50

Can of soft drink

AED 1.50

Dozen eggs

AED 10

Milk (1 litre)


Rice (1 kg)

AED 10


Taxi (5km trip)

AED 10.50

Metro trip (1 zone, standard fare)

AED 2.50

Car Hire (per week)

AED 600

Petrol (per litre)  

AED 1.72


Cinema Ticket 

AED 35

New release DVD

AED 65

International newspaper

AED 10

House wine (per glass)

AED 35

Pint of beer

AED 35


Dry cleaning (1 shirt/blouse)


Domestic cleaner (per hour)

AED 35

Mobile to mobile call (1 minute local)

AED 0.60

Text message (local)

AED 0.18

As you see from the above tables, it is almost impossible to come up with a fixed price or even a price range for the items listed above that is universally applicable to every student. It is because how much any of these items are consumed or put to use depends on individual preferences (or requirement). The underlying theme, then, is it puts the onus on you to keep a check on expenses. For example, if you start spending indiscreetly on entertainment, the bills will naturally inflate.


How Dubai compares with popular other academic cites

In the previous paragraph, we argued that individual preferences make it difficult to pin down the exact amount of cash you will need. However, it doesn’t stop us from comparing cost of living in Dubai with popular study-abroad destinations, as is done by Expatistan, who relied on parameters like food, housing, clothes, transportation and entertainment to give you some really insightful data. 

Toronto, Canada

Cost of living is 11% less expensive than in Dubai

Paris, France

Cost of living is about the same as in Dubai

Berlin, Germany

Cost of living is 30% less expensive than in Dubai

London, United Kingdom

Cost of living is 21% more expensive than in Dubai

Sydney, Australia

Cost of living is 10% more expensive than in Dubai

New York City, United States

Cost of living is 25% more expensive than in Dubai

What one can infer from the table above is while Dubai isn’t the most expensive city in the world, the cost of living in Dubai is also not cheap by any means, especially when it is equivalent to the likes of Paris and is more expensive than Toronto. So, you need to be careful with your money while studying in Dubai.


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