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Excerpted from the United Arab Emirates Guide.

Cost of Living

The growth of international business in the UAE has prompted a sharp rise in the number of expatriates living there, and the UAE is now among the world’s top 15 expat destinations. In fact, expatriates make up more than 80 percent of the UAE’s population of 8.26 million.

Typically, the largest expense for expatriates in the UAE is housing, followed by automobile costs. For families with children, education also will be a major expense, as free public schooling is generally not available to expatriate children.

Although the cost of living in Dubai and Abu Dhabi has risen recently, neither city is as expensive as it was ten years ago. In fact, living costs in Dubai are in the bottom one-third among global cities, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s most recent Worldwide Cost of Living survey. The UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, is only slightly more expensive than Dubai, ranking 84th globally, in the second half of the 131 cities surveyed.


Among the many types of accommodation in the UAE are serviced apartments, furnished and unfurnished standard apartments, and villas. Some accommodations are more plentiful than others; three- and four-bedroom housing is the most difficult to find. Rental prices often are advertised at their yearly rates, and usually are paid in advance for a full year. One of the biggest challenges in the housing market can be landlord cooperation, according to relocation specialist Cartus.


Even though public transportation is available and economical, many expatriates prefer to drive themselves. The UAE boasts an extensive, well-maintained, high-quality road network. Traffic drives on the right. Although driving regulations vary from emirate to emirate, a temporary driving permit from one emirate is accepted throughout the UAE. To hire a car in the UAE, a valid international driving license, a national driving license, two photographs and a passport are required. (An international driving license is required to obtain a temporary driving permit in Abu Dhabi.)  Most foreign drivers’ licenses are accepted, provided the holder is a citizen or resident of the country issuing the license. If not, an international drivers’ license is required.

Medical Care and Health Insurance

Both public and private health care are available in the UAE, and the standards of care are quite high. The public care system is free for UAE nationals and available to expatriates. The private health sector throughout the Emirates, and in Dubai in particular, also delivers a high standard of health care.

This is just a sample of what you'll find in the complete United Arab Emirates Guide.

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