Best Places To Live In Abu Dhabi

Places To Live In Abu Dhabi illustration

In this insight, we’ll run through some of the top places for expats to live in Abu Dhabi and what to expect from the properties and living styles.

Living in Abu Dhabi is a unique lifestyle adventure, set on an island in the clear waters of the Arabian Gulf.

The capital of the United Arab Emirates has a population of around 1.45 million, including about 200,000 British expats.

As an international destination, Abu Dhabi boasts incredible amenities, excellent public transport, limitless entertainment, and many great places to live.

The city is expanding rapidly, and it can be tricky to find accommodation with rental demand and rising prices. 

So it’s crucial to know where to look and which places in Abu Dhabi best meet your lifestyle.

Open-minded about where to live in the Gulf region? Check out the Top 10 Middle East Countries For Expats.

If you’re keen on living among fellow British expats, your go-to destination is likely to be Khalidiya, the famous suburb around Sheikh Zayed.

The population here is a mix of expats from around the world, with gated villas and high-rise apartments. 

One of the best aspects of living in Khalidiya is that you’ll find every kind of food you could imagine. In addition, bus services run to and from the local schools, picking up and dropping off from the gated residential areas.

Nearby, Abela Supermarket stocks all the groceries you’ll need, and you can walk to the beach to cool off from the glaring desert sun.

The top city malls are a stroll away for shoppers, and it’s a great neighbourhood if you’re keen on fresh air since there are lots of parks and squares.

Khalidiya shisha restaurants and Internet cafes attract teens and young people to meet and hang out from across the city.

Khalidiya in numbers

  • 12 minutes driving distance from downtown Abu Dhabi
  • 8 minutes away from The Corniche
  • The cost of renting an apartment is 6,250 AED a month (£1,222)
  • Renting a villa costs 18,000 AED a month (£3,520)

Mangrove Village – Best Family-Friendly Suburb for Expats

Expats moving to Abu Dhabi with children often opt for Mangrove Village, a peaceful complex full of plush villas and near to a quiet stretch of beach.

The village is at the edge of the city, bracketed by Maqta Creek and the Arabian Gulf. 

Most foreign nationals in Mangrove Village are from Europe or North America. Properties are mainly three to four-bedroom homes in a gated community with outdoor and indoor swimming pools, tennis courts, play areas for kids, and a health club.

For water sports enthusiasts, the port is a great place to spend the weekend, and there is a nursery and daycare service for expats with younger children who aren’t yet at school.

Traffic is light, and there is zero nightlife, but you’re close to the Shangri-La Hotel and Souk Qaryat Al Beri if you fancy a five-star date night.

Parking in Mangrove Village is plentiful; there is 24-hour security and a supermarket and cafe for picking up coffee and shopping.

Mangrove Village in numbers

  • 21 minutes driving distance from downtown Abu Dhabi
  • 25 minutes away from The Corniche
  • Renting a villa costs 19,000 AED a month (£3,710)

Al Bateen – A Suburb Where Expats And Locals Mix

Most people living in Al Bateen are UAE locals, but a fair number are expats as well.

The neighbourhood has a different feel from the residential complexes designed for expat professionals.

Homes are mainly villas and townhouses. In addition, you can visit Al Bateen Mall for affordable shopping or Al Bateen Marina, which has a nightclub, restaurant and sports club.

While Al Bateen isn’t one of those Abu Dhabi suburbs where you’ll find most expats, it is an excellent place to live if you’re happy with a quiet neighbourhood. The area is increasingly popular with foreign nationals looking for somewhere to live that offers a taste of more traditional life in Abu Dhabi.

Al Bateen in numbers

  • 17 minutes driving distance from downtown Abu Dhabi
  • 10 minutes away from The Corniche
  • The cost of renting an apartment is 4,500AED a month (£880)
  • Renting a villa costs 16,000 AED a month (£3,130)

Al Markaziyah – City Centre Living For Working Expats 

The 17 city centre apartment blocks in Al Markaziyah stand in the heart of Abu Dhabi above countless shops, cafes and restaurants lining the streets.

You can buy anything from carpets to holy water here and get everywhere in the city quickly.

Al Markaziyah has two zones – southern and eastern.

Most schools lie in the south, along with restaurants and shopping centres such as Spinneys and Lulu.

One of the downsides to living here is parking is a challenge, while taxis are scarce. It pays to have your wits about you if you’re crossing the road, but Al Markaziyah is a perfect place to live if you thrive on the buzz and vibrancy of the busy streets.

Expats working in central Abu Dhabi have a short commute into work, provided they plan their journeys around the chaotic traffic.

Al Markaziyah in Figures

  • 10 minutes driving distance from downtown Abu Dhabi
  • 7 minutes away from The Corniche
  • The cost of renting an apartment is 4,000 AED a month (£780)
  • Renting a villa costs 15,800 AED a month (£3,090)

The Best Places To Live In Abu Dhabi For Young Professionals 

As the fastest-growing UAE emirate after Dubai, Abu Dhabi sees an influx of foreign investment and expat professionals moving for career opportunities.

Considering moving to the UAE but haven’t decided on the location? Then, make sure you get the latest insights about living in Dubai.

Many employers provide accommodation allowances and will assist new foreign national workers with finding a suitable place to live.

Among the most popular spots, the below districts are worth exploring. Both are around 10 to 15 minutes from the city centre (outside of rush hour). The journey takes about 45 minutes during the busiest times of the day.

Madinat Zayed

This area is in a prime central position in downtown Abu Dhabi, with modern residential units, mainly good quality apartments.

You can visit the coast in a short drive, and it’s a reasonably affordable place to live, with lots of parks, malls, schools and supermarkets.

The architecture in Madinat Zayed is contemporary, and there are mid and high-rise buildings, most with gyms, swimming pools and private parking spaces.

Madinat Zayed in numbers

  • 8 minutes driving distance from downtown Abu Dhabi
  • 4 minutes away from The Corniche
  • The cost of renting an apartment is 5,000 AED a month (£970)
  • Renting a villa costs 14,000 AED a month (£2,750)

Al Wahda

Al Wahda is a little further out from Madinat Zayed, in midtown Abu Dhabi and home to the Al Nahyan Stadium. 

There aren’t many schools here; although it’s a central location so travelling distances aren’t huge. However, you do need to be mindful of the city traffic.

The Al Wahda Mall has repeatedly won awards as Abu Dhabi’s best shopping mall, and you’ll find a cinema, international brands and a massive hypermarket for all the essentials. 

Al Wahda in Figures

  • 9 minutes driving distance from downtown Abu Dhabi
  • 10 minutes away from The Corniche
  • The cost of renting an apartment is 4,200 AED a month (£820)
  • Renting a villa costs 15,000 AED a month (£2,930)

Comparing The Costs Of The Best Places To Live In Abu Dhabi

The table gives the average monthly rental costs for expat accommodation in all the areas we’ve explored.

SuburbAverage apartment rental cost AEDAverage apartment rental cost GBPAverage villa rental cost AEDAverage villa rental cost GBP
Khalidiya6,250 AED£1,22218,000 AED£3,520
Mangrove VillageN/AN/A19,000 AED£3,710
Al Bateen4,500 AED£88016,000 AED£3,130
Al Markaziyah4,000 AED£78015,800 AED£3,090
Madinat Zayed5,000 AED£97014,000 AED£2,750
Al Wahda4,200 AED£82015,000 AED£2,930

Note that there can be a substantial difference in rental prices, depending on the floor area of your apartment, private parking facilities, outdoor space and location.

It’s worth shopping around if you’re looking for accommodation in Abu Dhabi as you can go to lots of agents, some specialising in expat housing. 

You can browse properties online, with some of the options including:

Comparing Abu Dhabi to other places to live in the Gulf can be an eye-opener. For example, living in Oman or Bahrain is far more affordable.

Best Places to Live Abu Dhabi FAQ

Here we list several commonly asked questions:

What’s the cost of living in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi living costs are relatively high, but a lot depends on where you live and your lifestyle. 
 
High-skilled expats and senior managers earn considerable salaries. The absence of income tax means you may have a higher expendable income than you’d expect in the UK.
 
Accommodation and schooling costs are usually the heaviest outgoings for expats in Abu Dhabi, so budgeting for these expenses will usually mean your living costs are well controlled.
 
The average living costs in the city are around 10,577 AED a month (£2,067) for a family of four, excluding rent.
 
3,065 AED for a single person (£599), also excluding accommodation.
 
Rents are an average of 4,579 AED a month (£895) for a central apartment and 7,162 AED a month (£1,400) for a three-bedroom family home further out.
 
Rent here is around 40 per cent cheaper than in Britain, although it’s relative to your income and factors such as education fees for children.

Can I take my pets to Abu Dhabi?

Yes, you can transport pets to Abu Dhabi, and there aren’t any quarantine laws, so it’s a relatively simple process – if not cheap.
 
However, it’s worth considering whether the quality of life in Abu Dhabi would be suitable for a pet. Most expats live in apartments, and the heat can be extremely tough for animals to cope with, so it’s usually not recommended to bring larger breeds.

Can I rent a property close to The Corniche?

The Corniche is one of the best parts of Abu Dhabi, a beautiful stretch of white sandy beaches. It has been substantially redeveloped, with activities nearby, including Abu Dhabi Formula One.
 
Al Mina Port is on one end, and Emirates Palace and Marina Mall on the other, so it’s a hugely popular place on the weekends.
 
You’ll find family beaches, showers and washrooms, restaurants, boardwalks and lots of cafes.
 
As with any high-demand suburb in Abu Dhabi, living near The Corniche inevitably is more expensive than less popular areas. However, over the last few years, the skyrocketing rental prices have stabilised.
 
It’s also worth considering your commute, as while living costs are sometimes cheaper further out, a 90-minute commute twice a day down the Sheikh Zayed Road might not be worth the lower monthly outgoings.

What’s a reasonable commute in Abu Dhabi?

Taxis and ride-sharing services are cheap, so it isn’t expensive to get around. But, the traffic is chaotic, and there are continual massive roadwork projects.
 
While the work aims to ease the congestion, many are only partially completed.
 
Rush hour is the worst time to travel, and the streets are complex with a grid system, multiple lanes, overcrowded back roads and aggressive driving.
 
If you live close to The Corniche or downtown areas, the traffic is worse, so many expats look for quieter places like Khalifa City or developments near the Shangri-La Hotel.
 
The average commute is around 45 minutes, but almost half of Abu Dhabi residents spend over two hours a day using public transport.

Where’s the best nightlife in Abu Dhabi?

Life in Abu Dhabi is relatively reserved. Bars and clubs sell alcohol, but expats need a government-issued permit to buy it, even to possess it in their own home.
 
If you’re looking for the liveliest parts of the city, Saadiyat Island is a good bet, with extensive transformations to provide world-class entertainment.
 
Emirates Palace is a great place to watch shows and visit exhibitions.

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