Cost Of Living In Abu Dhabi

Cost Of Living In Abu Dhabi illustration

Abu Dhabi is the gleaming glass and steel capital of the United Arab Emirates that has risen out of the desert on the back of the country, earning billions supplying oil and gas to the world’s hungry economies.

Expats throng to the city to earn tax-free salaries – with 90% of Abu Dhabi’s 420,000 residents abroad.

Abu Dhabi is said by some to be the world’s richest city, sitting astride oil and gas that add up to around 10% of the world’s reserves that make each citizen worth $17 million. But, unfortunately, expats and other foreigners do not share the massive wealth beneath the sands.

Neither do they have a call on the $1 trillion the government and royal family have invested in other countries.

Whether Abu Dhabi is a cheap or expensive location for expats depends on the comparison.

Make sure to read our in-depth guide to learn more about living in Abu Dhabi.

For this cost of living guide to Abu Dhabi, the comparison city is London.

How much day to day living costs in Abu Dhabi

You would need to spend around £4800 a month in London to maintain the same standard of living that you can have with £3170 in Abu Dhabi.

  • Prices in Abu Dhabi are 32% cheaper than in London (excluding rent)
  • Renting a home in Abu Dhabi is 40% less than in London
  • Eating out costs 33% less in Abu Dhabi than London
  • The weekly grocery shop is 26% cheaper in Abu Dhabi than London
  • Spending a pound in Abu Dhabi buys 14.5% more than spending a pound in London

The table compares living costs for similar goods and services bought in London and Abu Dhabi, with Sterling and the UAE dirham costs.

Eating Out

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
Meal, inexpensive restaurant1576.655.8730     -60.86 %
Meal, mid-range restaurant, 3-course60306.639.14200     -34.77 %
McDonald’s (combo meal)630.665.8730     -2.15 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre draught)525.557.8340     +56.56 %
Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)525.557.8340     +56.56 %
Cappuccino (regular)2.9214.913.4817.79     +19.29 %
Coke/Pepsi (0.33 litre bottle)1.57.670.623.16     -58.85 %
Water (0.33 litre bottle)1.135.760.261.35     -76.64 %

Day-to-day groceries

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
Milk (regular), (1 litre)0.954.871.165.91     +21.50 %
Loaf of fresh white bread (500g)     -6.96 %
Rice (white), (1kg)1.437.291.497.61     +4.48 %
Eggs (regular) (12)2.2211.351.919.77     -13.91 %
Local Cheese (1kg)6.734.246.734.23     -0.04 %
Chicken fillets (1kg)6.2231.775.1126.09     -17.88 %
Beef Round (1kg) (or equivalent back leg red meat)10.0951.567.4438.04     -26.23 %
Apples (1kg)2.2611.551.527.76     -32.78 %
Banana (1kg)1.115.691.236.28     +10.44 %
Oranges (1kg)2.0410.431.366.94     -33.47 %
Tomato (1kg)2.5613.091.055.36     -59.04 %
Potato (1kg)     -44.61 %
Onion (1kg)     -48.98 %
Lettuce (1 head)     +74.40 %
Water (1.5 litre bottle)0.894.530.432.17     -52.01 %
Bottle of Wine (Mid-Range)840.8811.7460     +46.77 %
Domestic Beer (0.5 litre bottle)1.829.282.5312.91     +39.05 %
Imported Beer (0.33 litre bottle)2.1110.773.0615.62     +45.09 %
Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro)12.563.874.3122     -65.56 %

Getting around

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
One-way Ticket (Local transport)2.814.310.392     -86.02 %
Monthly Pass (Regular price)156.83801.3715.6680     -90.02 %
Taxi Start (Normal tariff)315.332.3512     -21.72 %
Taxi 1km (Normal tariff)1.78.690.392     -76.98 %
Taxi 1hour Waiting (Normal tariff)28.8147.175.8730     -79.61 %
Gasoline (1 litre)     -67.14 %
Volkswagen Golf 1.4 90 KW Trendline (Or equivalent new car)230181176181614582500     -29.86 %
Toyota Corolla Sedan 1.6l 97kW Comfort (Or equivalent new car)230121175881426272880     -38.02 %

Utilities (Monthly)

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
Basic (Electricity, heating, cooling, water, garbage) for 85m2 apartment176.95904.22102.8525.28     -41.91 %
1 min. of prepaid mobile tariff local (No discounts or plans)0.130.660.110.55     -16.47 %
Internet (60 Mbps or more, unlimited data, cable/ADSL)31.77162.3374.49380.63     +134.48 %

Sports And Leisure

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
Fitness Club, monthly fee for 1 adult44.4226.8752.25267.01     +17.69 %
Tennis Court Rent (1 hour on the weekend)10.453.1424.42124.78     +134.80 %
Cinema, international release, 1 seat1471.548.8145     -37.10 %


LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
Preschool (or Kindergarten), full-day, private, monthly for 1 child1420.047256.3387.41979.58     -72.72 %
International Primary School, yearly for 1 child18092.3192450.646704.7234260.71     -62.94 %

Clothing And Shoes

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
1 pair of jeans (Levis 501 or similar)59.97306.4546.59238.06     -22.32 %
1 summer dress in a chain store (Zara, H&M etc.)29148.1933.93173.38     +17.00 %
1 pair of Nike running shoes (Mid-range)71.3364.3562.46319.17     -12.40 %
1 pair of men’s leather business shoes81.54416.6659.41303.57     -27.14 %

Abu Dhabi – Cost Of Renting Or Buying A Home

Expats can buy property in Abu Dhabi but not land.

Homeownership is granted to expats in Yas Island, Saadiyat, Reem, Mariya, Lulu, Al Raha Beach, Sayh Al Sedairah, Al Reef and Masdar City suburbs.

Before buying an off-plan home, check that the developer is registered with the Department of Economic Development in Abu Dhabi.

Any purchase agreement should include the delivery date and compensation available if the project is not finished on time.

Expats buying a pre-owned home should not pay any money without a sale agreement.

Rent Per Month

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
Apartment (1 bedroom) in the city centre1661.038487.76890.274549.23     -46.40
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of the centre1253.886407.26713.43645.44     -43.10
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in the city centre3257.1416643.811884.269628.45     -42.15
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of the centre2074.410600.061425.327283.3     -31.29

Buying an apartment

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
Price per square metre to buy an apartment in the city centre11230.7857388.652234.5611418.47     -80.10
Price per square metre to buy apartment outside of the centre5546.3228341.381862.699518.23     -66.42


LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
The mortgage interest rate in percentages (%), yearly, for 20 years fixed-rate0.02540.0304-0.1969

Average salary (monthly)

LondonLondonAbu DhabiAbu DhabiDifference
Average monthly net salary (After-tax)3127.2515980.072291.0311707.04     -26.74

Abu Dhabi Cost of Living FAQ

What is the currency and exchange rate in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, and the main currency is the Emirates Dirham (AED). The exchange rate at the time of publication is 5.10 to the Pound.

How much can I earn tax-free in Abu Dhabi?

The average gross salary is AED252000 a year (£49,388), or AED21,000 (£4,115). The salary is tax-free for expats, according to web monitor Salary Explorer. On Average, salaries increase 8% every 17 months.

The best salaries are linked to revenue-generating jobs, so a graphic designer working directly with clients can expect a higher salary than a graphic designer in a support role, like working in the marketing department of a company.

Can expats retire to Abu Dhabi?

Expats can retire to Abu Dhabi on a five-year renewable visa, providing they can show:

A property investment costing at least AED2 million (£392,000)
Savings of at least AED1 million (£195,000)
A monthly income of AED20,000 (£3,925)

Can I collect my UK state pension in Abu Dhabi?

The UK government pays the state pension to expats in Abu Dhabi, but the amount is frozen at the level of the first payment as no cost of living increases apply.

Do expats pay for healthcare in Abu Dhabi?

Emergency care in Abu Dhabi hospitals is usually free, but another treatment comes at a cost.

Expats should have comprehensive private medical cover before entering the country, which covers medical costs plus medivac.

For more information, the UAE government publishes a leaflet with advice about healthcare for expats, including Abu Dhabi.

Middle East Guides

Make sure you read the guide on moving abroad before you decide. In addition, you can find other middle east country guides following the links below.

Below is a list of some related articles, guides and insights that you may find of interest.

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