When I was looking to move out to the UAE, the cost of living is something that I was keen to find information on – and although there are a few bits and pieces around on the web about it, most of them seemed to be quite out of date or not cover the things I was interested in… So here’s my version of the cost of living in Abu Dhabi 2014 – I hope some of you out there find it useful.
You might also like to see the updated Cost of Living in Abu Dhabi 2015.
The good news is that petrol is cheap in the UAE thanks to it being an oil rich country. And on top of that, the price rarely changes – on checking at the local petrol station, the price is fixed and controlled by the government and has not changed in two years. This also means that every petrol station has the same price so no need to shop around, and the price is so cheap it’s not even advertised as you are probably used to at home.
One litre of ‘Special’ fuel, the most common one will set you back only Dhs1.72. So to give you an idea, on our car, a Toyota Prado Landcruiser with a tank range of around 990km, we average 13.5litres per 100kms, so it costs us around Dhs230 to completely fill our tank.
MISC GROCERY BASICS
Milk 1litre, Dhs5.50
Pasta (Barilla brand) 500g, Dhs9.50
Pasta (Lulu own brand) 400g, Dhs2.90
Rice 2kg, varies depending on the brand and type from anything between Dhs7 to Dhs30.
Toilet paper (Fine brand) 10 rolls x 400 sheets, Dhs15.30
Facial tissues (Fine brand) 200s x 2ply, Dhs4.70
Ariel automatic washing powder 3kg, Dhs33.50
Tea (Twinings fruit teas) 25 bags, Dhs10.90
Tea (Lipton yellow label) 50 bags Dhs8.50
Coffee (Nescafé red mug) 100g, Dhs13.90
Granulated sugar 2kg, Dhs13.50
Heinz Baked Beans 410g, Dhs4.75
Large wholemeal loaf (Lulu bakery), Dhs4
Large French stick, Dhs2
Kellogg’s Corn Flakes 500g, Dhs14.40
Eggs, six local (not free range) Dhs4.75
Eggs, six local free range, Dhs6.75
Eggs, six French imported free range certified organic, Dhs17.95
Whole grilled cooked chicken (served hot), Dhs13.90
Uncooked chicken breasts, around Dhs15-20 per 500g depending on which local brand you buy
New Zealand beef rib eye steak, Dhs79.90 per kg
New Zealand beef round steak, Dhs49.90 per kg
New Zealand beef shank, Dhs31.90 per kg
New Zealand beef rump steak, Dhs56.90 per kg
New Zealand beef mince, Dhs29.90 per kg (440g = Dhs13.15)
Australian beef rib eye steak, Dhs75.90 per kg
Australian beef mince, Dhs43.90 per kg
Australian rump steak, Dhs44.90 per kg
Australian round steak, Dhs40.90 per kg
Australian beef shank, Dhs35.90 per kg
Australian rib eye, Dhs75.90 per kg
Brazilian and Indian beef is also available which tends to be cheaper, it just depends what you prefer and are willing to spend on.
Pork – Pork is available in the ‘only for non-muslims’ section behind closed doors in some supermarkets (Spinneys and Waitrose), or what we like to call the ‘naughty pork section’. But – as you’d imagine in a country where eating pork is against the religion, it’s expensive. A small packet of Waitrose own brand proper fresh unsmoked back bacon, 12 slices (not that fatty processed stuff) would cost GBP4 in the UK, but you’re looking at spending around Dhs35-50 for the same packet here. Still, it’s good to know you can get it, it just means you eat it less than you might at home and it’s more of a treat!
FRUIT AND VEG
Bananas, from Dhs5.25 per kg
Navel oranges (Spain), Dhs6.95 per kg
Apples, Royal Gala (Argentina), Dhs7.65 per kg
Carrots (Australian import mostly), Dhs4.95 per kg
Peppers / capsicums (local), Dhs7.95 per kg
Peppers / capsicums (Holland), range from Dhs19.95 per kg for green and Dhs23.95 per kg for red. You can pick up a pre-packed mix colour pack of four small imported peppers for Dhs7.95
Broccoli (Spain), Dhs24.95 per kg
Pineapple (Philippines), 8.75 per piece if you shop in the right place (of course my favourite is Lulu!) – but if you do your shopping at Spinneys or Waitrose, pineapples will set you back an extortionate Dhs7.95 per kilo!
Potatoes (South Africa), Dhs3.95 per kilo
McDonalds Big Mac medium meal, Dhs18
McDonalds Big Mac Sandwich, Dhs11
Ikea hot dog, Dhs5
Ikea hotdog and drink combo, Dhs6 (with free refill)
Ikea ice cream, Dhs1
Coca Cola 500ml, Dhs2
Cinema ticket normal, Dhs35, VIP Dhs100
Hourly maid rate, Dhs35-45 though depending on where you live in Abu Dhabi, there may be a four hour minimum
Regular cappuccino coffee in branded coffee shop (Costa, Nero, Starbucks etc), around Dhs18
Bus fare, Dhs2 per single journey from any A to B anywhere in the city regardless of distance
6am-10pm: flagfall Dhs3.50, 1km up to 50km Dhs1.60, booking fees (if you call and book in advance) Dhs3
10pm-6am: flagfall Dhs4, 1km up to 50km Dhs1.69, booking fees Dhs4, minimum fare Dhs10
The first five minutes of waiting time are free, then it costs Dhs0.50 per minute
Over 50kms the price goes up to Dhs1.69 per km
From the airport the flagfall is Dhs25
This is a bit of a funny one as there are options at all ends of the scale. If you want to eat out exclusively in five star hotels then you’ll find eating out expensive, and very expensive! Even a sandwich at lunch time can set you back the best part of Dhs50 depending on where you buy it from! But, as with everything and everywhere in the world, there are a wide range of options available so you don’t have to spend a lot if you don’t want to. If you’re more willing to explore and try new things, you can eat extremely cheaply in many local independent restaurants around the city. You can pick up a filled roti bread direct from the backstreet bakery for Dhs2 at lunch time or a sandwich for Dhs5 from the Carrefour café as well as dropping between Dhs20-40 or so on branded high street coffee shop sandwiches – it just depends on you.
Alcohol also tends to be expensive but not always as bad as you might think (especially if you’re comparing prices to bars in a place like London), and again, it tends to vary depending on the standard of the hotel you’re drinking at. A (not necessarily very good) glass of wine can cost anything from a cheap Dhs35 to an average Dhs50 for a mid range wine and up to Dhs80-90 for a decent glass (yup, just one glass!).
This is another one that varies wildly according to where you look and what it is you are looking for. You can find share accommodation for around Dhs5000 per month in Khalidiya including all bills based on three friends sharing, but do note that officially, unmarried couples and members of the opposite sex not from the same family are not permitted to share by law (though many do and have no problems).
According to Property Finder, the average annual cost of renting a studio in Abu Dhabi is Dhs65,000, Dhs92,000 for a one bed and Dhs139,000 for a two bed apartment. Of course, this will vary according to what area you want to live in and can be much higher than these prices depending on age and quality of the building, location, facilities and so on.
I’m not a real estate agent so the price of property for rent or to buy is not my forté, so I’ll let you read this recent article from Arabian Business on the subject if you’re interested in further details on this.
Also, if property prices in the UAE (to rent and to buy) are something you are keen to know more about, www.propertyfinder.ae is a good up to date place to start and covers both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
At the end of the day, you’ll find some things more expensive here and some things cheaper. Some things are much cheaper, and some much more expensive! But it all comes down to your income and the type of life you want to lead. It is easy to get carried away and spend, spend, spend here if you want to (though I’d say that’s truer of Dubai and also more reflective of the general feel of the city than in Abu Dhabi), but by the same token, it’s also easy to spend very little if you want to. Most people fall somewhere in between and do a bit of everything – live the high life one day and try something new in an incredible value local restaurant the next. The same goes for supermarket shopping – if you only shop in the high-end supermarkets your shopping bill will be extortionate, but you’ll quickly get to know which supermarkets offer the best range and value. If you have the time and inclination, you’ll also get the best deals at the markets, though it pays to know the value of the items you want to buy before you go or you’ll be at the stall holder’s mercy as they bargain with you! (You can read what I’ve written previously on the markets of Abu Dhabi in my post about the Mina Port markets: Fishmarket, Iranian Souk, Fruit & Vegetable Market and the Plant Souk and the newer ‘The Market’ at Mushrif Mall. It also comes down to what you buy – if you have very specific tastes and only want to buy imported international brands (there’s not much you can’t find here!), then in any supermarket you’re likely to find your bill to be very high, but if you look around and start experimenting with local produce and brands you will soon find your shopping can be very cheap – and discover a whole new world of tastes and ideas in the process! And as I’ve said before, what’s the point of moving overseas if you’re not interested in trying anything new?!
And while we’re on the subject – one of the quirks of supermarket shopping here to note is that you’ll often find two stacks of exactly the same product next to each other on the shelf… One will be priced very high, and the other very reasonably. This is because one is the imported overseas version, and the one next to it is the same branded product, but produced in a regional factory. The products are exactly the same, just priced differently, so that’s something to watch out for!
Also just for your info, I got all of my food prices for this post from Lulu hypermarket. Find out why Lulu is my favourite supermarket by reading my older post on the subject here.
Thank you for reading, I hope you found this useful! Do let me know your thoughts or if there’s anything I’ve missed that you’d like me to add!