Cost of Living in Abu Dhabi in 2020

As the capital of the UAE (United Arab Emirates), Abu Dhabi is one of the most exciting, rapidly developing cities in the globe. The city provides locals and tourists diverse lifestyle options because it’s evolved into a top-notch metropolis that continues to thrive. However, Abu Dhabi’s cost of living is steep for an expat and it’s expected to increase because of the flourishing economy. Many people relocate to Abu Dhabi in order to save money in the income-tax-free area. But, foreigners should know that the quality of life comes at a high cost.

So, what is the cost of living in Abu Dhabi in 2020? Abu Dhabi’s cost of living ranks at 49th position out of 326 worldwide cities according to Expatistan. It ranks at 4th place out of 26 Middle East cities. In this city, accommodation, schooling and transport are the most expensive, whereas entertainment, clothing and food are more affordable.

Similar to other places in the world, a person’s cost of living in the UAE capital varies. The chance to lead a life of opulence is available, and so is the opportunity to live cheaply and conveniently. With proper research, foreigners can accurately determine their expenses and thus lead to a better life in Abu Dhabi. So, for those who are wondering, what’s the cost of living in Abu Dhabi for Bachelors? What’s average salary in Abu Dhabi? How does Abu Dhabi compare to the US or UK in terms of cost of living? How are the taxes in Abu Dhabi? Read on to know more.

Monthly Cost Of Living in This City for a Family

Abu Dhabi is the largest Emirate among the seven United Arab Emirates. The UAE is still a relatively young country, having been established on 2nd December 1971. Abu Dhabi has experienced vast growth over the past 50 years and is now home to over 2 million people. It has at least 150 nationalities and just about 11.5% of the population is comprised of the native Emirati people. The vast majority of the Abu Dhabi’s residents are expat s from Pakistan, India, Philippines and other GCC nations

The United States and European foreigner population is roughly equal to the size of the Emirati population. Most of the people from US/Europe hold white-collar occupations and live tax-free.

The cost of living in this city versus one’s home country varies. In general, petrol is affordable, utilities are reasonable, dining out is expensive and rents are extraordinarily pricey. According to Numbeo.com, the monthly cost for a four-person family can add up to $2,937.71.

A Value-Added Tax of 5% was introduced in 2018, and it led to some price inflation. Eating out at restaurants incurs extra taxes equating to 25% and alcohol for home consumption comes with a 30% tax.

Foreign parents with children need to incorporate high tuition fees into their yearly budget. Abu Dhabi’s private international schools charge a fortune. School fees range from $600 to $26,300 per year. That amount does not include the extra charges for school uniforms, textbooks, enrolment fee and transportation. Several variables such as location, type of curriculum, academic track record and amenities affect the range in school costs. .

Regardless of a person’s social status, the expenses arising from accommodation in Abu Dhabi are extreme. Foreign families should anticipate their biggest expense to be housing; the rent may eat up almost 50% of one’s monthly wage.

Generally, on-island accommodation in this city is pricier than off-island living, and the same applies to furnished and unfurnished housing. Abu Dhabi is home to numerous mortgage lenders and credit companies. For those who want to own a home on credit, the mortgage interest rate for a 20-year plan is roughly 4.19%.

Alongside accommodation, renting or purchasing a car in Abu Dhabi is another major expense for people moving here from abroad. Public transportation is available and economical, but most people who’ve relocated here prefer to use a car to move around. Shipping one’s car to the emirate can reduce the costs depending on one’s home nation and import duties. The overall price of import and export might be significantly lower than purchasing or leasing a car in this city.

When it comes to health insurance, employers are legally obliged to give foreign nationals medical cover. So, fortunately, this is one expense assignees don’t need to worry about. However, employers utilize local health coverage plans, which might not be suitable for those with significant medical problems. Older people or those in poor health might have to maintain medical cover in their country of origin. Otherwise, Abu Dhabi’s healthcare system is up to standard for the minor health problems.

Monthly Cost Of Living in Abu Dhabi for Bachelors in 2020

The monthly costs for a single person in Abu Dhabi may add up to $842.52 without rent according to Numbeo.com. The basic utilities cost about $130.36 per month for a 915sqft apartment. For those who love to stay fit, the monthly membership fee at an Abu Dhabi fitness club is around $89.05. One seat at a local cinema for an international release comes with a price of $10.89. A pair of men’s leather business shoes cost about $87.13.

When talking about housing for bachelors in Abu Dhabi, the available accommodation options include studios, one-bedroom apartments and shared housing. The choice of bachelor accommodation will greatly depend on one’s budget and way of life. To live comfortably in this Emirate as a single person, one should budget housing costs of between $816.77 and $1,089.02 per month. Such a budget will allow him to find rental studios and one-bed apartments easily.

The best areas in Abu Dhabi with apartments for bachelors include Airport Street, Al Muroor, Mohammed Bin Zayed City, Al Mushrif, and Khalifa City A. Other ideal areas for a bachelor living in the Emirate are Hamdam Street, Al Khalidiya and Al Reem Island.

Utilities in Abu Dhabi come at reasonable prices, but foreigners moving to the area should adequately plan for the costs.

House sharing is an excellent solution to the exorbitant rents, but care should be maintained when renting a room in a divided villa. That’s illegal in the Emirate.

Food and clothing in Abu Dhabi can monopolize large portions of a person’s wage or cost next to nothing. That’s because the area offers an impressive collection of cuisine and shopping choices to fit all budget types. The local foodstuffs are reasonably priced in comparison to imported products.

Additionally, Arabic, African, Indian and Chinese restaurants in the city are more affordable than hotel eateries and pubs. Organic foods and Western goods are on the pricey end, so bachelors shouldn’t be afraid to eat the Emirate equivalents to reduce expenses.

In addition to that, alcoholic beverages are costly; therefore it helps to purchase duty-free brands at the airport instead.

Clothing sold at Carrefour and any of the downtown stores are pocket-friendly. On the other hand, popular clothing labels in Abu Dhabi malls are more expensive.

Furthermore, books and electronic gadgets tend to cost more in this Emirate than most foreigners are accustomed to. Hence, many buy those products during a rare trip back home.



Average Salary in Abu Dhabi

Undoubtedly, Abu Dhabi is one of the most illustrious cities for a foreigner to pursue a job. Although securing a well-paying occupation in this Emirate may turn out to be extremely competitive, it’s not impossible.

Home to a thriving population of mixed nationalities, Abu Dhabi gives foreigners a chance to earn a tax-free income. More people are seeking to secure employment here to enjoy abundant job opportunities, vibrant way of life, and scenic beauty.

Abu Dhabi’s job market is booming and career opportunities in a range of industries are in plenty. Countless foreign nationals dream of working in this city because it’s culturally diverse with strong customs and traditions.

The main languages used in the UAE are Arabic and English. Therefore, job applicants should be fluent in at least one of those languages. Additionally, candidates applying for jobs should remain up-to-date on the required prerequisites for the position they want to secure. Thorough research on the job profile via career websites or recruitment agencies is a good start. Moreover, information on job-hunting is also available at one’s respective embassy or consulate.

Over the past 10 years, numerous large companies and international corporations have set up business in Abu Dhabi. That has led to many job openings for skilled workers.

The largest contributor to the economy of Abu Dhabi is the petrochemical industry. Apart from the petrochemical sectors, residents also find work in industries such as construction, healthcare, tourism, teaching, and real estate. The largest employers include Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Etihad Airways, NMC Hospital and National Bank of Abu Dhabi.

People also find employment in major companies such as Dar Al Riyadh, Sofomation, Emirates Global Aluminum and Abdulla Fouad Holding.

The average salary in Abu Dhabi is about $32,920.83 per year. Registered Nurses make about $26,517.32, mechanical engineers earn $31,881.44, and accountants take home around $16,978.75 annually. The annual salary for civil engineers, electrical engineers, and project engineers ranges between $23,600.08 and $32,500.37.

In terms of academic degree, Bachelor of Engineering graduates earns an average of $41,037.77 per year. Bachelor of Science degree holders makes $39,775.70 whereas Bachelor of Technology graduates earn $29,920.67. Bachelor of Business Administration comes with a salary of $32,213.38. Moreover, a Masters in Civil Engineering pays out with a wage of $70,455.43 per year.

Teachers in Abu Dhabi have a salary of between $3,348.81 and $5,554.12 per month depending on work experience and credentials. The average chef salary is $827.13 per month in Abu Dhabi while Executive Chefs make $47,312.16 per year.

Average Monthly Costs Of Living in Abu Dhabi

  • Rent For An Apartment

The capital of the UAE is a flourishing center for business, food and culture. However, it’s usually overlooked by visitors in favor of the neighboring Emirate of Dubai. But, Abu Dhabi has plenty to offer tourists looking for a splendid holiday or seeking to stay long term in the city’s apartments. The emirate is more spread out in comparison to Dubai, providing more distinct neighborhoods and a sense of communities for the residents.

Furnished apartments in Abu Dhabi tend to be pricier because of the furnishings and services given to the renters. One of the most luxurious neighborhoods in the area is Saadiyat Island, which offers some of the priciest apartments. Despite the high rent, residents get to enjoy a beautiful exclusive community near the beach and lovely amenities (e.g., pool, gymnasium and underground parking). Another popular neighborhood in Al Reem Island, which attracts many city workers.

For those tourists who aren’t sure of how long they’ll be staying, hotel apartments or furnished serviced apartments are ideal. Such accommodation options provide the peace of mind for visitors. Some of the facilities on offer at Abu Dhabi’s hotel apartments are 24-hour security, underground parking, gym, sauna, and pool. Serviced apartments offer guests daily or weekly janitorial services.

Foreigners living in Abu Dhabi, who don’t have much disposable income, opt to rent a room. The city’s rooms for rent have some of the cheapest rental charges. That’s because they involve the sharing of common areas among multiple people. A room for rent is an excellent way to make new friends, but disputes on cost-sharing may also occur.

For those people who do not wish to share accommodation, then an ideal option is to rent a studio apartment. Such places are usually cheaper than a whole one-bedroom flat, but not as inexpensive as a shared apartment.

The table below gives an outline of average yearly rent for 1, 2, 3 and 5-bed apartments in some parts of Abu Dhabi.

Area1-bedroom2-bedroom3-bedroom5 bedroom
Khalifa City$7,351.01$18,513.65$29,948.54$32,671.14
Hamdam Street$10,890.38$32,671.14$36,755.03$54,452.20
Al Reem Island$17,696.87$20,419.46$39,477.63$70,787.86
Corniche Road$23,142.06$31,309.56$38,116.40$68,064.88
Saadiyat Island$21,917.01$38,116.54$43,561.76$103,459.18
  • Monthly Cost For Internet Provider

The United Arab Emirates’ domestic broadband internet is among the priciest in the Arabian Gulf. In fact, the country ranks at 55th globally for broadband affordability.

The price of 8 Mbps Internet for one month in Abu Dhabi is $79.23. Internet of at least 60 Mbps, Unlimited Data, Cable or ADSL costs $106.27 per month.

Here’s a rundown of the average rates for some of the main internet providers in the city.

Internet Provider TypeAverage Rate
EtisalatFiber to the home$54 to $162
Xfinity {DSL, ADSL, SDSL, VDSL}$44.99
DuHome Internet$90.45 to $202.30
  • Cost for Mobile Phone Provider

Etisalat is the largest Telco operator in the UAE with 13 million customers. They offer the best mobile 3G&4G coverage in the country and the company is partially state-owned. Their Prepaid SIM known as Wasel supports 4G/LTE. The table below offers information on some of Etisalat’s SIM card offers.

Prepaid Sim Card for EtisalatBuying priceData Rate
Wasel$14.97 (plus VAT)$0.27 per MB
Visitor Line $27.23$0.27 per MB

Du Mobile is the second biggest mobile network operator in the Arab nation and its 39.5% state-owned. The platform caters to around 9 million clients and is a favorite of most foreign nationals.

Prepaid Sim Card for Du MobileBuying priceData Rate
Prepaid Plan $14.97 (plus VAT)$0.29 per MB
Tourist Line$14.97$0.29 per MB

Virgin Mobile UAE is a subsidiary of Du Mobile and only offers completely customizable monthly bundles controlled by their app. All bundles are prepaid through Visa or MasterCard credit cards.

Additionally, Swyp is a subsidiary of Etisalat and is a youth-centric brand with a major focus on mobile data. Similar to Virgin Mobile, Swyp is also app-centric, and users need to download the Swyp app for Android or iOS.

  • Cost For Health Insurance

Abu Dhabi’s healthcare facilities are top-notch, but the prices are steeper for foreigners than for locals. In this city, it’s mandatory for employers to provide healthcare plans for employees and their dependents. It’s worth noting that dependents are one spouse and a maximum of three children below age 18. For any more children, the employee pays for medical coverage.

Additionally, whether a person has a job or not, the law mandates all residents to have a health cover. Every uninsured month comes with a fine of about $136.

Most firms in the UAE include healthcare as part of their wage package. But, that is not always the case. The average cost of medical insurance in this country is $2,720 per annum. The premiums range between $1,500 and $9,120. A basic healthcare coverage plan for a four-person family comes at a price of $4,630 per year.

  • Cost For Groceries

The table below shows the prices of some of the main groceries in Abu Dhabi.

ProductPrice
1 liter of regular milk$1.66
A loaf of white bread$1.28
1kg of white rice$1.73
A dozen eggs $2.61
1kg of chicken breasts$6.21
1kg of beef round $11.27
1kg of apples$2.44
1kg of potatoes$1.06
1 head of lettuce$1.88
Water (1.5-liter bottle)$0.68
  • Cost For Eating Out

Here’s what foreigners can expect to pay for some of the leisure activities in Abu Dhabi.

ActivityPrice
Basic lunch menu in the business district$19.33
A meal at an inexpensive restaurant $6.81
A combo meal in a fast-food restaurant$7.35
A three-course meal for two people in a mid-range restaurant $54.45
Basic dinner for two in a neighborhood bar$53.91
Two tickets to the movies$23.96
Two tickets to a theater$102.37
Dinner for two people at an Italian restaurant$98.83
A cocktail drink in a downtown club $15.79
A beer in a local bar $12.25
  • Monthly Cost of Public Transport

Public buses in Abu Dhabi were introduced in 2008. The Department of Public Transportation provides commuters with new, modern buses fitted with air-conditioning and access for persons with disabilities. Bus services are available every day from 5:00 am to 12:00 p.m and until 2:00 am on weekends.

Fares vary depending on the traveling frequency and distance. Passengers must buy a bus pass before boarding the vehicle. The pass is available at the Abu Dhabi main bus station, and Emirates Red Crescent branches. The bus passes are in four different types: weekly, monthly and special tickets for seniors, persons with special needs and students.

Generally, the price of a monthly ticket for public transportation is $26.41 in Abu Dhabi. A monthly bus pass costs around $21.78.

Cost Of Living in Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai

Abu Dhabi’s cost of living is 7% cheaper than in the neighboring city of Dubai. Dubai’s rental prices, consumer prices, restaurant prices, and grocery prices are also higher by 18.07%, 7.6%, 5.61%, and 5.55% respectively. However, the emirate’s local purchasing power is 3.80% lower than for Abu Dhabi.

The following table shows a price comparison of products or activities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Product/ActivityAbu DhabiDubai
1 liter of regular milk $1.66$1.62
Water (1.5-liter bottle)$0.68$0.61
A loaf of white bread$1.28$1.34
1kg of white rice$1.73$1.99
A dozen eggs$2.61$2.94
1kg of chicken breasts$6.21$7.78
1kg of beef round$11.27$12.28
1kg of apples$2.44$2.33
1kg of bananas$2.03 $1.84
1kg of potatoes$1.06$1.07
1 head of lettuce$1.88$1.86
One way ticket -public transport$0.54 $0.54
Monthly bus pass$21.78$68.06
1 liter of gasoline $0.63$0.61
Basic Monthly utilities$130.36$161.22
1 min of a prepaid mobile tariff$0.14 $0.12
Monthly internet$106.27$98.96
Gym monthly fee for one person$89.05$81.86
1 cinema ticket$10.89$12.00
Average Monthly net salary$2,685.46$2,888.69
International primary school fee for 1 child$10,479/year$10,605/year

From the table above, it’s clear to see that some aspects of Abu Dhabi are costlier than for Dubai and vice versa. Additionally, the price per square meter to purchase an apartment in Abu Dhabi is $3,303.25 compared to $3.389.12 in Dubai. The mortgage interest rate for a 20-year fixed plan is 4.19% in Abu Dhabi while Dubai’s interest rate is 4.13%

Cost of Living in This City Compared To UK

A report by numbeo.com shows that consumer prices in the UK are 0.70% higher than in the UAE. On the other hand, rent and groceries costs are lower in the UK by 36.11% and 1.15% respectively. However, the UK’s restaurant prices and local purchasing power are higher by 12.63% and 0.74% respectively compared to the UAE.

Renters in Abu Dhabi would need about $4,247.57 to maintain the same lifestyle they would have with $5,672 in London. Consumer prices in London are approximately 19.34% higher than in Abu Dhabi. Rental prices, restaurant costs, and groceries prices are lower in Abu Dhabi by 32.52%, 23.95% and 5.57% respectively. However, the local purchasing power in London is lower by 25.30% compared to Abu Dhabi.

Here’s a price comparison of different products/activities in Abu Dhabi, UAE and London, UK.

Product/ActivityAbu Dhabi London
1 liter of regular milk $1.66$1.18
Water (1.5-liter bottle)$0.68$1.06
A loaf of white bread $1.28$1.38
1kg of white rice$1.73$1.56
A dozen eggs$2.61$2.49
1kg of chicken breasts$6.21$7.17
1kg of beef round$11.27$10.35
1kg of apples$2.44$2.31
1kg of bananas$2.03$1.38
1kg of potatoes$1.06$1.37
1 head of lettuce$1.88$0.93
One way ticket for public transport$0.54$3.08
Monthly bus pass$21.78$184.96
1 liter of gasoline$0.63$1.59
Basic Monthly utilities$130.36$210.50
1 minute of a prepaid mobile tariff$0.14$0.15
Monthly internet$106.27$38.26
Gym monthly fee for one person$89.05$49.12
Cinema ticket$10.89$14.80
International primary school for one child $10.479/year$21,948/year
Average Monthly net salary$2,685.46$2,861.87

Also, the interest rate for a 20-year home loan is 3.24% in London, which is cheaper than for Abu Dhabi (4.19%).

Cost of Living in Abu Dhabi Compared To US

All in all, the United States’ consumer prices are 12.30% more expensive than for the UAE. However, the rental prices for the US are 8.42% lower than for the UAE. But, the US restaurant and groceries prices are 14.40% and 35.87% higher than in the Arab country respectively. Additionally, the local purchasing power in the United States is higher by 18.66%.

When it comes to the capital cities, consumer costs in Abu Dhabi are cheaper than for Washington, DC by 29.22%. A renter would need $4,279.85 in Abu Dhabi to maintain the same living standards with $6,500 in Washington, DC. In comparison to Washington, Abu Dhabi’s rent, restaurant and groceries costs are cheaper by 40.52%, 25.81% and 43.53% respectively.

The table below compares prices of several products in Abu Dhabi and Washington, DC.

Product/ActivityAbu DhabiWashington, DC
1 liter of regular milk$1.66$0.91
Water (1.5-liter bottle)$0.68$2.32
A loaf of white bread$1.28$3.65
1kg of white rice$1.73$3.76
A dozen eggs$2.61$2.90
1kg of chicken breasts$6.21$13.73
1kg of beef round$11.27$14.39
1kg of apples$2.44$6.60
1kg of bananas$2.03$1.62
1kg of potatoes$1.06$3.35
1 head of lettuce$1.88$2.52
One way ticket for public transport $0.54$2.75
Monthly bus pass$21.78$104
1 liter of gasoline$0.63$0.77
Basic Monthly utilities$130.36$127.81
1 minute of prepaid mobile tariff$0.14$0.11
Monthly internet$106.27$70.57
Gym monthly fee for one person$89.05$69.06
cinema for an international release$10.89$14
Intl. primary school for 1 child$10479/year$29,000/year
Average Monthly net salary$2,685.46$5,559.97

Without a doubt, Washington, DC’s cost of living is more expensive than for Abu Dhabi. A 20-year home loan plan comes with an interest rate of 4.30%, which is higher than for the Emirate (4.19%)

How Is Life in Abu Dhabi

Like in other cities in the world, life in Abu Dhabi is a blend of ups and downs. But, all in all, the upsides of living and moving to Abu Dhabi outweigh the downsides.

One of the biggest advantages of living in this Emirate is the mix of cultures. People living in this city are from different nationalities. Every nationality contributes to the jumble of languages, fashion, talents and cuisine. Navigating through the mix can be one of the best aspects of staying in the UAE capital.

However, the mixture of different nationals potentially brings problems with communication and culture shock. That’s why it’s important for one to maintain empathy and an understanding attitude to navigate the set up in Abu Dhabi.

Another upside of the emirate is the Corniche. It’s a stretch of fine white sandy beaches close to the Gulf and was developed to host Formula One. Corniche is the place to be on weekends because it is home to Al Mina Port, Emirates Palace and Marina Mall. Loved by exercise gurus, families and swimmers, the area has stretches of the boardwalk, kid-friendly beaches, showers, washrooms, shops and cafes. Additionally, residents can access bicycle rentals and frequent art displays and events for kids.

On the downside, the rent in Corniche and most parts of Abu Dhabi is high. Villas with pools are usually out of a majority of the people’s budgets but are still highly sought after. Additionally, the street addresses in the emirate are somewhat confusing.

Nevertheless, Abu Dhabi’s proximity to some of the most breathtaking locations in the globe offers numerous travel opportunities. Such destinations include Addis Ababa, other Middle East countries, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Greece.

In addition to that, the city offers a wealth of hospitality choices. It is home to numerous five-star hotels, and exquisite bars and night clubs. Abu Dhabi also provides a mind-boggling variety of foods at eateries at reasonable costs. Residents get to enjoy Pakistani, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Indian, Nepalese, Chinese, Ethiopian and another cuisine. Take-out meals are also cheaper than other places in the world.

It’s worth noting that the population of men is higher than for women in the UAE. That is mostly due to the male-dominated petroleum-producing industry. Men who relocate to this country often complain that it’s difficult to meet women. That is especially true for those employed in government firms and who mostly socialize with native Emiratis. The foreigners who work in private ventures also usually find themselves being more than ladies as well. But joining a local gym or social club can help.

Taxes in Abu Dhabi

The UAE is undeniably a tax haven. Currently, there’s no income tax, corporate tax, withholding or capital gains tax in this country. Certain businesses, particularly those in the finance and petroleum sectors are subject to a tax. But most corporations are exempt from taxation. However, a new 2018 VAT of up to 5% on products now applies, unless for special exemption cases.

For individuals in Abu Dhabi, no income tax is collected, and filing returns is not necessary. Furthermore, foreign income from outside the UAE is not subject to taxation. That simply means foreign nationals just need to worry about their home country taxes. For instance, US residents living in the UAE are expected to file US foreigner taxes with their federal government yearly.

When it comes to Social Security in the emirate, foreign employees are not obligated to make contributions. Again, for the US citizens or permanent residents, their USA taxes go toward their home country’s social security.

It’s also worth mentioning that the UAE has tax treaties with several nations, but not with the United States.

Marta Kovachek
About Marta Kovachek 86 Articles
Marta is a true digital nomad, traveling across the USA for the last 10 years and sharing her expertise with a wide range of readers. Read more articles by Marta Kovachek

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