Living & Working Overseas – Taking a Job in Dubai

Dubai is a popular destination for those looking for Middle East jobs for a variety of reasons. The pay is significantly higher than that of an expat in his or her home country. Dubai is one of the Middle East’s more open cities. Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is a mix of Las Vegas and Disney World. While most of the Middle East is much more conservative, with laws prohibiting the use, import, or purchase of alcoholic beverages, Dubai has many nightclubs and bars where visitors can unwind on weekends and enjoy a few drinks. From enjoying the nightlife to skiing on their indoor ski slope, you can do pretty much anything you could do in any other part of the world. All of this, however, comes at a cost. The cost of living in Dubai is higher than in most other places where expats can find work. Their apartment prices are among the highest in the world, and some landlords require you to pay the entire year’s rent in advance rather than month to month as in most other places. If you take a job in Dubai, make sure you’re not in debt because if you lose your job and still owe money to a Dubai company, you’ll be placed on a no-fly list and forced to stay in the country until you can pay it off.

Apartment Costs

Many companies that hire you to work in Dubai provide you with either company housing or a housing allowance. Because the cost of living in Dubai is so high, I would not recommend taking a job with a company that does not provide you with a cost of living allowance, housing, or a vehicle allowance. A furnished three-room apartment costs $7,090 to $3,950, while an unfurnished three-room apartment costs $4,930 to $2,880. According to the UBS Prices and Earnings report for 2009, the average rent paid by locals is $2,160. Smaller apartments in Dubai will be the most affordable, and they may cost the same as a larger place in a Middle Eastern country like Kuwait, where a three-room villa with a large second room set up as an office can be had for under $1,800. The average price of a villa in Kuwait is $1,225, and a two- to three-room apartment costs around $875. Kuwaiti salaries are generally higher than those in Dubai. Due to the high cost of living in Dubai, if you are responsible for your own housing, ensure that your salary is sufficient to cover the cost of your apartment and that living in a more liberal country is worth the extra money you will spend to live in Dubai.

Food Costs

According to a UBS report that examines the cost of living in 73 cities around the world, Dubai is the 27th most expensive city to buy groceries. It is much less expensive than Tokyo, which is the most expensive city according to the UBS report, but it is still on the expensive side when compared to Brussels, Toronto, Sydney, and Bangkok.


A women’s outfit with shoes costs around $510, while a men’s outfit with shoes costs around $720. According to the UBS report, these costs are slightly higher than the global average, so if you have a cost of living allowance that more than covers your apartment and vehicle costs, you should be able to compensate for any differences in clothing and food prices.


The average hourly wage in Dubai is around $10.10, but due to the high cost of living, you’ll need to earn much more than that to save money or pay off debt while maintaining a comfortable standard of living. If you want to work here, you’ll need a cost of living allowance or company housing, as well as a company car. Working here has favourable tax implications, as there are no local income taxes, but there are numerous costs tacked onto services in Dubai.

Services are provided.

The cost of services in Dubai is higher than in any of the other cities surveyed by UBS, which included 73 cities worldwide. When you add up all of the services you’ll use monthly or weekly, such as Cable, DSL, haircuts, dry cleaning, and other similar services, this cost can add up quickly.

Appliances and Electronics

When it comes to electronics and appliances, chances are they will be significantly less expensive in Dubai than they are in your home country. These items will be cheaper in Dubai than in your home country unless you are from Mumbai, Jakarta, Bogota, Sofia, Santiago de Chile, Doha, Bucharest, Shanghai, Barcelona, Lisbon, Bangkok, Los Angeles, Delhi, or Miami.

Getting around

Compared to most other places on the planet, the cost of transportation in Dubai is meagre. Owning a car in Dubai is affordable, with a popular vehicle, the Honda Civic, costing around $17,400 and an annual registration fee of about $136. With gas prices as low as $0.40 per litre, if you can afford it, you’ll save a lot of money compared to what you’d pay in your home country, or most any other country for that matter.

When it comes to getting around in Dubai, public transportation is just as inexpensive as filling up your car with gas. A bus ticket costs about $0.73 for a 10 km journey with at least ten stops, and a taxi ride costs about $4.27 for a 5 km journey within city limits. On the UBS report’s list of 73 cities, Dubai is near the bottom regarding transportation costs.

Expat’s Point of View

Because you can net your gross income, the lack of income tax increases the value of your salary in comparison to other countries. If you can get your employer to pay for your housing and vehicle, Dubai is an excellent place to work if you are making Middle Eastern money. It would help if you were wary of companies that try to get you to work in Dubai for less money than you are worth. Although Dubai is a more liberal country where you can enjoy many of the same things you can in your home country, it is still located in the Middle East. Kuwait may be a better option for you if you want to work in the Middle East and earn a good salary while avoiding alcohol and nightclubs. You’ll most likely make more money and have a lower cost of living in Kuwait. If you land a good job in Dubai, make sure you stay out of debt, as mentioned at the start of this article. When you lose your job, Dubai is not the place to be in debt. Stick to credit cards issued by your home country and avoid taking out loans that you would not be able to repay in cash if necessary. If you take out a car loan and lose your job halfway through, you’d better be able to pay the rest off, or you’ll be put on a no-fly list.


The prices are in US dollars (prices between March – April 2009)

Prices in Kuwait were derived from the author’s research in Kuwait.

The UBS Prices and Earnings 2009 report, which can be found at, was used to gather prices for various living expenses in Dubai for this article. We recommend that all ex-pats take a look at the UBS Prices and Earnings Reports. It’s jam-packed with helpful information on the cost of living in different cities around the world. The towns they cover provide a good benchmark for the cost of living in various parts of the world.

The author also travelled to Dubai to conduct environmental research.

For the past ten years, Joseph M. Jones has worked in the aerospace and defence industry. He began his career in the US Marine Corps as a Microwave Technician. He then began his overseas career with Raytheon as a communications technician on the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Range, later moving to their Telemetry department. He later transferred to the Eastern Test Range, where he worked for Raytheon as a Telemetry Technician under the 45th Space Wing. ITT currently employs him in Asia as a technician for the Global Broadcast System.