Thinking about a move to Dubai for a fresh start? It’s no surprise! Every year, our British Mums’ Facebook community welcomes thousands of new members, eyeing up this fantastic place for their next adventure. If that’s you, fantastic! But hold on a sec. Before you pack your bags for paradise, let’s get real about the costs – financial and emotional – of living in Dubai.

Costs for a typical family of four:


Rental rates have risen considerably over the last fewyears since the pandemic, as the real estate market continues to grow.  An average standard four-bedroom villa in a popular expat area will cost anything from AED 200,000 in a community such as Mira Oasis, or AED 300,000+ in Arabian Ranches. 

If you are looking at larger villas with a private pool and maids’ room, you should budget AED 350,000+.  For something with more of a WOW factor, you can be looking at AED 500,000 upwards.

There are great deals to be had in some of the newer, upcoming communities that are that bit further out. Like a four-bed villa in Damac Hills 2 or Dubai South will set you back around AED 75,000.

Bayut is the leading property website in the UAE, with the largest portfolio of villas and apartments available in the market. It is the perfect place to start your search, get a feel for the different communities.

Members of the British Mums community can take advantage of a priority service offered by Bayutexclusively for our members. You can reach out to a dedicated expert by emailing with the link of the property you are interested in, along with a screenshot of your first message to the particular agent/agency and they will make sure you have the best experience and service when it comes to looking for a new home!

Dewa & Bills

The bills for services can run really high, especially if you have a large villa and a pool.  For a 4-bedroom villa you’re looking at an average of AED 5,000 over the summer months when the AC is pretty much on constant, but nearer AED 2,000 per month in winter. This will increase a little if you have a pool and a lot if you have real grass.  Don’t forget that DEWA require an AED 4,000 deposit to set up too.

DEWA now have a great app that you can use to manage your household and you can receive alerts if they notice a sudden spike in your usage which could indicate a water leak for example.

TV and internet packages with Du start from around AED 250 per month for a basic television and internet connection. and mobile phone plans range from AED 220 for basic packages up to AED 500-600+ for the latest phone, data and minutes.

Virgin Mobile offers 50% off yearly plans as well asflexible sim only deals and family plans.


Depending on what car you want, you should expect to pay about AED 3,000 a month to lease a vehicle including car insurance, but if you have bought a car, depending on its value, an average amount of insurance would be about AED 3,500 per year (average amount for a Nissan X-Trail).  Petrol, whilst on the rise, is still relatively cheap and for a small car, you can expect to spend as little as AED 700 per month, which can increase to nearer AED 2,00 depending on car size and how far and often you drive.  Car service is approx. AED 2,000 – 3,500 every six months.


There have been so many new schools opening in Dubai over the last few years, giving more options for parents than ever before. It means school fees are competitive and some settings are even offering discounts for founding families. 

School fees vary for British Curriculum schools but on average they start at AED 50,000 for FS1 per school year per child and can be more than AED 100,000 in secondary, depending on which school you choose.

Children are expected to start FS1 the September after they turn three, but there is no requirement to attend school until Year 1. Some nurseries also offer more flexible FS options which are approximately AED 15,000 per term.

School uniforms should be budgeted at approximately AED 3,000 per child (including school shoes, PE & Swimming Kits). School lunches are usually around AED 40 – AED 50 a day and many children have packed lunches.

After-school activities are normally not supplemented like in the UK and it is normal to pay up AED 2,500 a term for activities like horse riding which can be approximately AED 280 a lesson, with music and normal tuition fees between AED 300-450 per hour. Some schools do offer free after-school activities but this is often from Year 3 upwards.

Many schools offer a school bus system, and this is separate from the fees you pay.  This could cost in the region of AED 4,000 per school term per child, although this varies from school to school.

Health Insurance

It’s a legal requirement to have health insurance in the UAE, and if you are employed, your company will provide this for you. Most employers will cover you and your family with a basic package, but if they don’t, be aware that you need to buy this yourself. Personal health insurance can range from AED 25,000 to AED 80,000 for a family (with no special benefits) and much of it will operate on a pay-and-claim basis in the better hospitals.

Note that a lot of medical insurance does not include dental cover unless specifically stated. Consultations typically cost AED 450 each and if your child requires orthodontics (brace yourself – pardon the pun!) the approximate cost will be AED 13,000 upwards. 

Maternity is also not often covered so if you’re planning more children, check if your insurance covers this.

If you have a helper, it is now mandatory to provide her with private health insurance, which will cost around AED 1,000 for an essential benefits plan, it will be much higher if you choose another plan.

For animal lovers, vet fees are pricey too! You should budget around AED 2,200 per year for registration, annual injections, and vet appointments per pet. Beware that if you relocate your pet, it can cost anywhere between AED 7,000 – AED 60,000 depending on the size and weight of your animal.

Home help

A benefit to living in this part of the world is having access to inexpensive home help, such as a helperand/or driver and gardener. To employ a helper as an expat, you have to renew their visa and contract every one or two years, which costs approximately AED 13,000.  A helper’s salary may vary but is on average AED 3,000 – AED 4,000 per month and every two years you are responsible for paying for her flight, although most people do try and do this annually.

If you do not have accommodation in your villa, a helper to “live in” with your family, a further AED 1,500 – AED 2,000 per month is expected to contribute towards accommodation costs.

A gardener is AED 200-AED 300 per month, and most people employ one through a gardening company rather than putting theirs on a contract and paying for a visa etc.

A full-time driver will be approximately AED 7,500 for a visa plus a further AED 3,000 minimum salary a month.

Food Shopping

A weekly shop can vary greatly in cost depending on your preferences. If you embrace local flavours withpulses, rice and affordable cuts of meat, this choice is more budget-friendly. But if you crave Western food, be prepared for higher prices. Budget at least AED 1500 per week, when you think a pack of imported sausages can set you back AED 65, condiments like ketchup areAED 22 and a box of salad AED 25, you can see how it mounts up. Save money by shopping locally instead of going with European brands, and online providers likeKibsons, Carrefour and Lulu have good deals on food, including imported items.

Eating Out

While there so many lovely local cafes to try in Dubai, with varying prices. It’s likely that youll want to try the range of fantastic restaurants in Dubai too. 

Dubai’s famous brunches, complete with flowing alcoholic drinks, can set you back around AED 550 per adult. A casual meal for a family of four typically runs around AED 500 (sans alcohol) and AED 800 with drinks.

The good news? Dubai embraces discount apps and promotions, so you can save on both restaurant dining and takeaway!


There are so many options for exercise in this beautiful city that don’t cost a penny. In the cooler months from October – April, it’s possible to make the most of running and cycling. Then theres swimming of course, either in the ocean or in one of the pools offered in gated communities. Depending on where you live, other facilities include tennis an padel courts and even golf courses.

If you’re more of a gym bunny, membership can range from AED 200 to AED 1,000 per month depending on the venue and package that you choose.

Thing to remember

  • While some companies still offer generous packages with housing, utility, and travel allowances, these are becoming less common as the city attracts more expats.
  • Expect long work hours (think 10-hour days), but weekends are filled with exciting activities.
  • Be prepared for upfront costs! Landlord policies vary, with some accepting quarterly rent payments and others requiring the full year upfront. Similarly, companies may or may not offer accommodation loans to help bridge this gap. This means you might need to have enough saved to cover a year’s rent upon arrival.
  • The summer in Dubai brings a double-edged sword for expats. While the heat might tempt you to escape and visit family back home in the UK, be prepared for pricier flights – paying between AED 14,000 and AED 20,000. If you choose to stay in Dubai during the summer, keeping your kids entertained can also be costly, with summer camps ranging from AED 700 to AED 1000 per week.
  • Make an effort: Join an Arabic language course, visit other emirates and respect the culture. You have to learn to love the quirkiness and embrace the difference, and if you do this you will love your time here.

So how much does it cost?

Dubai offers a fantastic family life, but it comes with a price tag. Whilst to live comfortably you will probably need to bring in a combined income of AED 50,000, you can make it work on less. Just be ready to adjust your lifestyle a bit.

A final note from us

Despite the expense, the sunshine, amazing social scene, excellent schools and chance for your kids to become global citizens make it all worth it. Just do your research and be prepared.

And if you want to connect with other families and like mind mums? The British Mums Dubai Facebook groupis the perfect platform to ask any questions you may have about Dubai life!

Good luck xxx

Read More:

How to save money on your flights home

How to save money living in Dubai 

Dubai: Total Truths or Tall Tales 

Feeling the pinch with Dubai school fees

Hired Help – A Miracle or a Minefield 

From 0-60 on the friendship front 

Choosing a Neighbourhood in Dubai

10 things I wish I had known before moving to Dubai



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