Gone are the days of most British families being offered attractive expat packages to move to Dubai, complete with generous accommodation allowances, school fees thrown in for multiple children, and exceptional healthcare policies for the entire family. So can the expat dream still work in the desert? And what can we do to spread that salary further?  


So you’ve flown the family over and are now settled in an apartment while you begin the hunt for a home. What costs will you have to pay upfront? Here’s a run down, which will help you to budget and find the perfect family nest… 

Rent – Your rental cheque (or first rental cheque, with the remainder being post dated cheques)

Agency Fees – 5% of the annual rent

Deposit – 5% of the annual rent

DEWA – 2,000 AED flat fee to have water and electric switched on (apartments and villas) but if you’ve got lots to do yourself, there’s a handy company www.therelocators.org who can handle all this for you for 150 AED. (They also save you running around for your Du or Etisalat accounts too.) 

Gas – If you are moving to a villa and need gas, (a canister for your oven or BBQ) there are lots of gas companies that deliver to your door. (You may just want to order a spare in case you run out mid-way cooking the Christmas dinner!) This needs to be paid upfront, including the deposit for the canister.

Air Conditioning – This varies per company, but you will need to pay to have the service switched on and to cover the first payment.  

Du or Etislat – if you would like Internet and television services, the initial fee is usually around 1,000 AED plus the first payment towards the package you choose.

Moving costs – If you have a lot of belongings, don’t forget to budget for the moving costs itself. This varies, but starts at around 2,500 AED for a two-three bed apartment.

Of course, there are ways to keep costs down. With expat packages dwindling, a fair amount of landlords will now accept more than one cheque for rent, allowing you to split the cost of rent into 2 or even 4 pre-written cheques throughout the year. You can also choose a budget TV and Internet package to keep costs down initially, then upgrade at a later date. Roping in friends (or hiring ‘a man with a van’) to help you move your belongings can save you a fortune on moving costs too (if you have the time and energy). And finally, you could avoid agency fees by contacting landlords directly (look our for listings on the British Mums website from expats who are leaving and want to help their landlords find new tenants).


All companies in Dubai must now provide healthcare for their employees by law – but (and this is a big ‘but’) they do not have to provide health insurance for your dependents too. In a city where healthcare costs a fair whack (think 500 AED for the average visit to a GP), it’s likely to be much more cost effective to take out packages for your family. Finding a package through a broker can be the most cost effectiveway to shop around, as they can advise you according to budget (with their fee more than covered by the saving you make). Consider adding UK coverage if you’re able that will ensure you’re fully insured for your trips back home. 


We remember the days when expat packages nearly always included school fees for your brood (and it didn’t matter if you had one of them or five). Precious memories… These days, however, it’s increasingly unlikely – and short of giving home-schooling a try (and believe us, we’ve been tempted!) what should we expect to pay upfront to the school of our choosing?

Waiting List – Expect to pay 500 AED per child to register each child at the school when you first submit their name to the waiting list.

Registration – Your child will be assessed and if they are offered a place, you will be asked to pay a registration fee and given a deadline to pay to secure their place (up to 12 months before they start school, but taken off the first month’s fees). This amount depends very much on the school and the year of your child, but the average figure is around 10,000 AED.

School Fees – Fees for the first term will be due by the first day of term, – and as such, for each term ongoing. This can usually be paid by bank deposit or cheque, and some schools offer credit card payment which can help build up your points or miles with your bank.

Re-enrollment – Most schools now charge a re-enrollment fee to guarantee your child’s place for the next school year. This is usually at the beginning of the Spring term (or thereabouts) and the figure will be deducted from the first term of the following year. Again, this very much depends on the school and year, but it usually starts at around 3,000 AED.

It sounds like a no-brainer, but the easiest way to save on education is to find a school within your budget, as fees here vary from the budget to the truly eye-watering. Some schools (and nurseries) offer the chance to pay on a monthly basis with post-dates cheques, whilst others but not all, offer sibling discounts. Some even offer a referral system where you can save money on your school fees, so looking closely at these budgeting options is the best way to stretch your salary.

Read more:

Feeling the pinch with Dubai’s school fees

 How to save money living in Dubai 

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