Cost of Living in Abu Dhabi 2018: It’s that time of year again where I’ve been traipsing around town to compare how prices of everyday goods have changed since last year. The biggest difference this year is in the implementation of 5% VAT at the start of 2018 – not to mention the other taxes that 2018 has seen introduced so far, so it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that since last year, most things have gone up…
While researching the information for this post (and hoping to take an online short cut this year!) I found that the prices offered in the supermarket and online are different, with the store being a fair bit cheaper, cheeky eh, especially when there’s often a delivery fee or minimum spend for online shopping! I’ve also noticed that prices can vary across the city, even within the same supermarket chain!
I’m also certain now that Lulu is no longer the cheapest supermarket out there and hasn’t been for some time, but the answer to which one is the cheapest is not clear cut. Items are priced differently at all the supermarkets, but one thing I do know is that although Spinneys used to absolutely be the most expensive, much of their own brand range and Waitrose products are actually a fair bit cheaper than the same comparable product in the other supermarkets. And although I don’t tend to like too many own brand products (Carrefour being the general exception), I’ve been impressed with both Spinneys and Waitrose own brands.
The short story seems to be that as usual, supermarket shopping is not that simple in the city and you’ve still frequently got to visit several places to get everything, and this certainly seems to be the case more than ever if you’re looking to keep your supermarket bill down.
As in previous years, for the sake of consistency I visited Lulu hypermarket for the prices and you can compare these to previous years by clicking on the cost of living posts for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 if you like.
To make it easy to see what’s gone up, down or stayed the same, I’ve used the following self-explanatory key:
Price up: ↑
Price down: ↓
Price stayed the same: →
Since the price deregulation which came into effect in August 2015, petrol prices have been all over the place with some months up and some down, though mostly prices are down overall since the deregulation began.
The price is currently set for August 2018 as follows: one litre of ‘Special’ fuel, the most common one will now set you back Dhs2.46. This is actually down from Dhs2.56 from the previous month.
So to give you an example, on our car – a Toyota Landcruiser Prado with a tank holding 150 litres, it would cost us Dhs369 to completely fill our tank from empty (vs Dhs267 this time last year).
There’s also a new charge now at the pump if you want to continue to have your petrol pumped for you. Introduced on June 15, the ‘premium’ fully attended service at the pump will cost you an extra Dhs10. Of course the option for self-service has also been introduced so if you want to get out and do it yourself in 45° heat to save Dhs10, the option is always there!
MISC GROCERY BASICS
↑ Milk 1 litre, Dhs5.80 (vs 5.50 last year)
↑ Pasta (Barilla brand) 500g, Dhs9.70 (vs 9.25 last year)
↑ Pasta (Lulu own brand) 400g, Dhs3.25 (vs 2.90 last year)
↑ Rice 2kg, varies depending on the brand and type from anything between Dhs8.25 to Dhs30 (vs Dhs7 to Dhs30 last year).
↑ Toilet paper (Fine brand) 10 rolls x 400 sheets, Dhs18.40 (vs 17.50 last year)
↑ Facial tissues (Fine brand) 200s x 2ply, Dhs6.50 (vs 4.50 last year)
↑ Ariel automatic washing powder 3kg, Dhs37.40 (vs 35.60 last year)
↑ Tea (Twinings fruit teas) 20 bags, Dhs16.66 (vs 15.25 for 25 bags last year)
↑ Tea (Lipton yellow label) 50 bags Dhs9.40 (vs 8.95 last year)
↑ Coffee (Nescafé red mug) 100g, Dhs15.60 (vs 14.50 last year)
↑ Granulated sugar 2kg, Dhs14.20 (vs 13.50 last year)
↓ Granulated sugar 2kg Lulu own, Dhs4.90 (vs 5.50 last year)
↑ Heinz Baked Beans 410g, Dhs5.50 (vs 5.25 last year)
↑ Large wholemeal loaf (Lulu bakery), Dhs7.10 (vs 6.75 last year)
↑ Large French stick, Dhs2.10 (vs 2 last year)
↑ Kellogg’s Corn Flakes 500g, Dhs14.70 (vs 14 last year)
↓ Eggs, six local (not free range) Dhs3.95 (vs 4 last year)
↑ Eggs, six French imported free range certified organic, Dhs16.55 (vs 15.50 last year)
↑ Whole grilled cooked chicken (served hot), Dhs14.50 (vs 13.90 last year)
↑ Uncooked chicken breasts, around Dhs9.95-26 per 500g depending on which local brand you buy (vs 13-26 last year)
↑ New Zealand beef rib eye steak, Dhs91.45 (vs 85.90 last year) per kg
× New Zealand beef round steak, not currently available
↓ New Zealand beef rump steak, Dhs48.45 (vs 62.90 last year) per kg
↑ New Zealand beef mince, Dhs53.45 (vs 50.90 last year) per kg
– Australian beef mince, Dhs47.45 per kg (vs not available last year)
↑ Australian rump steak, Dhs52.45 (vs 49.90 last year) per kg
↑ Australian round steak, Dhs53.45 (vs 47.90 last year) per kg
↓ Australian rib eye, Dhs65.90 (vs 75.90 last year) per kg
Brazilian and Indian beef is also available which tends to be quite a bit 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 goes 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 around GBP4 in the UK, but you’re looking at spending around Dhs35-50 for the same packet here (although I’m told Abela supermarkets have some great prices on Pork products).
FRESH FRUIT AND VEG
↑ Bananas, from Dhs6.95 (vs 6.45 last year) per kg
Navel oranges (Australia), Dhs5.95 (vs 6.95 last year) per kg
↑ Apples, Royal Gala (New Zealand), Dhs11.25 (vs 8.95 last year) per kg
↓ Carrots (Australian import mostly), Dhs4.50 (vs 4.95 last year) per kg
↓ Peppers / capsicums (local), green Dhs7.45 (vs 7.95 last year) per kg, orange Dhs12.95 (vs 13.95 last year) per kg
↑ Peppers / capsicums (Holland), range from ↑ Dhs26.95 (vs 21.95 last year) per kg for green and red↑ Dhs24.95 per kg and↑ Dhs26.95 (vs 22.95 last year) for orange peppers.
↓ Broccoli (Spain), Dhs11.95 (vs 13.95 last year) per kg
↑ Pineapple (Philippines), Dhs9 (vs 5.95 per piece last year) from Lulu – but if you buy them from Spinneys or Waitrose, pineapples are still more than this per kilo!
→ Potatoes (Lebanon), Dhs3.65 (vs 3.65 last year) per kilo
(I’ve included these items because they are easily available in almost every country and therefore act as a good indication of the difference in costs globally).
↓ McDonalds Big Mac medium meal, Dhs19 (vs 23 last year)
↓ McDonalds Big Mac Sandwich, Dhs13.75 (vs 14 last year) NOTE: if you order McDonalds online you’ll pay more than if you order in the store, online the individual sandwich will cost you Dhs15.75!
→ Ikea hot dog, Dhs5
↑ Ikea hotdog and drink combo, Dhs7 (vs 6 las year) with free refill
→ Ikea ice cream, Dhs1
↑ Coca Cola 500ml, Dhs3.15 (vs 2 last year)
↑ Cinema ticket normal, Dhs43 (vs 35 last year), ↑ VIP/Gold Dhs168 (vs 160 last year)
→ Hourly maid rate, Dhs35-45
→ 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 (but newly introduced for 2018 is a ‘half fare’ for under 10s and over 55s).
→ Taxi fares:
6am-10pm: flagfall Dhs5, 1km up to 50km Dhs1.82, booking fees (if you call and book in advance) Dhs4, minimum fare Dhs12
10pm-6am: flagfall Dhs5.50, 1km up to 50km Dhs1.82, booking fees Dhs5, minimum fare Dhs12
The first five minutes of waiting time are free, then it costs Dhs0.50 per minute
→ From the airport the flagfall is Dhs20 for small vehicles or Dhs25 for large
↑ EATING OUT & DRINKING
A tricky one to pinpoint 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 still 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 Dhs20-50 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 (maybe less in happy hour) to an average Dhs50-70 for a mid range wine and up to Dhs80-120 plus for a decent glass (yup, just one glass!).
↑ Another new municipality tax was also introduced on alcohol on June 15th making all alcohol sold in off-licence outlets 30% more expensive than previously, ouch!
This is another one that varies wildly according to where you look and what it is you are looking for. You can still find share accommodation for around Dhs5000 per room per month in Khalidiya including all bills based on three friends sharing, but it’s worth noting that officially, unmarried couples and members of the opposite sex not from the same family are not permitted to share by law.
Property is one thing in the emirate that people constantly complain about the price of, though according to official reports, both rent and sale prices have actually continued to decrease throughout 2017 and 2018. According to a report by Bayut, prices have dropped somewhere between 7 and 9 percent over the last year (vs a 3 and 5 percent decrease between 2016 and 2017) depending on the type of property and location. Read the full article and see the area price comparison charts here.
Another good place to check if you’re looking for information on property prices is also Property Finder.
Although the price of renting a home may have gone down over the past year, an important point to note when budgeting is the Municipality Fee that was introduced at the start of 2017 – all rental contracts now incur a fee of 3%, calculated on the value of the rental contract and payable through your utility bill. The municipality fee pays for public services including those such as landscaping and street cleaning.
And although VAT is not applicable on residential buildings or rentals, real estate broker fees and services are subject to 5% VAT.
Household utility costs rose in 2017 but have stayed the same in 2018, and are now also inclusive of VAT. According to The National expats saw a 31.76% increase in water bills and a 27.6% increase in electricity bills for 2017. The costs listed below are those for expats (different rates apply for Nationals).
- Water: for average daily consumption up to 5000 litres the price is Dhs7.84 per 1000 litres. For consumption over 5000 litres the price is Dhs10.41 per 1000 litres.
- Electricity: for average daily consumption up to 200kWh the price is fils26.8 per kWh. For consumption over 200kWh the price is fils30.5 per kWh.
- Water: for average daily consumption up to 700 litres the price is Dhs7.84 per 1000 litres. For consumption over 700 litres the price is Dhs10.41 per 1000 litres.
- Electricity: for average daily consumption up to 20kWh the price is fils26.8 per kWh. For consumption over 20kWh the price is fils30.5 per kWh.
I’ve added this in this year as I get asked about this quite a bit. Based on a small car (Toyota Yaris and similar), budgeting costs should be for around Dhs1500 per month (based on an annual lease). Occasionally there are lower offers but this tends to be the magic mark, though of course don’t forget to add that 5% VAT in now too!
At the end of the day, you’ll find some things more expensive here and some things cheaper (though the cheaper things are getting harder to find these days). Some things are much cheaper, and some much more expensive depending on where you shop and what you buy. I’ve become a fan of Kibsons in the past year for fruit and veg delivered straight to my door. I’ve found it’s often cheaper than the supermarkets and it’s definitely far better quality. But, if you have the time and inclination, you’ll still get the best deals (not to mention the freshest produce) at the markets.
For info on the markets of Abu Dhabi take a look at my previous posts for:
- Mina Port markets: Fishmarket, Iranian Souk, Fruit & Vegetable Market and the Plant Souk
- ‘The Market’ at Mushrif Mall – a permanent air-conditioned indoor market. This is still a great place to buy the freshest and cheapest fruits and veg, fish and meat though quite a few vendors have closed down since the original post was written. Meat is best pre-ordered in advance to get exactly what you want.
- Ripe Organic Market at Mushrif Park (not on during summer months)
- Ripe Organic Market at St. Regis, Saadiyat (indoors during summer, outdoors during winter)
- Mawasim Organic Market at WTCAD. Mawasim also have a permanent shop of their own which is great. You can find it on the corner of Al Dhafra Street & Al Khaleej Al Arabi streets, or call them on +971 2 554 4038.
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 local brands you will soon find your shopping can be very cheap – and discover a whole new world of tastes and ideas in the process!
IMPORTANT TO NOTE –
One of the quirks of supermarket shopping here is that you’ll often find two stacks of exactly the same product next to each other on the shelf… One 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 if you want to save some cash!
And that’s all until next year!
For more information on all things shopping in Abu Dhabi, check out my Online Shopping in Abu Dhabi post.