The most common question I get asked (and asked by me before moving to Dubai) is what is the minimum monthly income required to live in Dubai.
It is no secret that Dubai is among the most expensive cities in the world. It has so much to offer that anyone living in Dubai should be making enough money to be able to enjoy all of that, because otherwise there is no point in living in Dubai if you don’t go for desert safari once in a while, or ski dubai, or wild wadi, and so on.
That would be like living next to a huge reservoir of clean water and never drink from it.
So the million dollar question remains: What is the minimum monthly income to live a good life in Dubai?
I will try to answer this question here, even though it is not easy to come up with a concrete figure.
It really depends on what kind of lifestyle you want to adapt in Dubai. You can enjoy the most lavish lifestyle or you can choose to go frugal (although frugality doesn’t go very far in Dubai). It’s really up to you.
However, some of the expenditures are constant and everyone has to pay it no matter what you do. For example, rent (unless you own the place you live), bills, food, transport, and other unplanned expenses that you don’t think about.
So here is a rough breakdown of these expenditures.
Rent: If you are living in Dubai (not Sharjah, God forbid), and you are renting an apartment, it will cost you minimum 6000 Dirhams a month for a decent one bedroom apartment (lower for studio apartment but the difference is not huge. I will always recommend 1 bedroom apartment if you are single or married without kids). Remember, this is minimum. If you want to live in a prime location like Dubai Marina then rent for a one bedroom apartment can start from 10,000 Dirhams. But let’s stick to 6000 Dirhams since we are considering average living.
Note: The above is under the assumption that you are not sharing your place with anyone. You can live for really cheap if you are willing to live in a bedroom with three other people and share the same washroom. Not recommended by me.
Bills: Some of the bills are constant, like power and water. You can’t avoid those. But the good news is that DEWA bills are not a big burden. The average amount is less than 150 per month for a one bedroom apartment. My apartment has free air conditioning so I don’t know what difference it would make if that is also included in your bills. Other bills can be telephone connection, DSL internet (if you decided to get a connection), cable TV or satellite TV (again depends if you have it), newspaper, and whatever other luxury you subscribe to. Let’s say it costs 1000 dirhams for all the bills.
Food and groceries: You gotta eat and you gotta buy stuff to keep your home running. Let’s allocate another 1000 dirhams for all this.
Transport: If you own a car you will have to pay for the fuel and maintenance. Let’s allocate 500 dirhams a month for this and hope you car doesn’t break down every month.
The total so far is 8,500 per month. Let’s round it off to 10,000 per month to cover additional expenses not considered here (let’s be honest, there are always unexpected expenditures that we never think about).
So you need 10,000 dirhams every month just to survive in Dubai. But no one comes to Dubai just to survive. You ought to have a good life. Now there is no limit to how good your life can be, but let’s say you spend around 3000 every month to enjoy Dubai. This includes entertainment such as movies, shows, trips to theme parks, shopping, eating out two to three times a month, and anything else that fancies you.
Add another 2000 for extra cash cushion. If you get your car financed through bank you have to include that in your budget as well. So these 2000 bucks can easily go towards car payments.
So the grand total is AED 15,000 per month. That’s how much you should at least be making if you want to live in Dubai.
Disclaimer: These are just my estimates and hold true as of April 2008. Don’t sue me if your experience is different. Considering the inflation rate in Dubai, you can easily add 20% to this amount every year.
Update: The above costs are in addition to cost of relocating and settling down in Dubai. You need extra money to rent an apartment and purchase furniture and other household items for it.