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Living In Dubai As An American

Living in Dubai as an American means adjusting to cultural differences, a new cost of living, and applying for residence visas. It also grants Americans the chance to live in an innovative city with unparalleled luxury and a high quality of life. Dubai is a major attraction for American expats.

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Expats from the USA will want to read this article to learn about what it’s like living in Dubai as an American, how the average cost of living in Dubai compares to the US average, and what visa you need to move to Dubai.

You may also find value in our general guide about what to expect when living in Dubai and our article with a deep dive into the cost of living in Dubai.

What It’s Like Living In Dubai As An American

American expats living in Dubai will discover plenty of opportunities for luxury, innovation, and family-oriented atmospheres. The official language is Arabic, so it may take some adjustment to seeing and hearing this language everywhere, though there is still signage in English.

Americans may need to adjust to using the metric system (meter, gram, liter), wearing more conservative clothing, and preparing for the dry, desert heat that lasts year-round. There is a very high quality of life in Dubai, and this is a big draw for expats.

Future Museum, Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai

To help you get a feel of what it’s like living in Dubai as an American, let’s discuss some of the cultural differences between Emiratis and Americans.

Individualism vs. Communalism: In the USA, Americans are more individualistic, independent, and self-reliant. In the UAE, Emiratis are more communal, interdependent, and reliant on one another.

Direct vs. Indirect Dialogue: Americans are generally more direct and blunt when talking with one another, which isn’t considered rude. On the other hand, Emiratis are more indirect and subtle and may be taken off guard or offended by an American’s boldness.

Equality vs. Hierarchy: In the United States, there is a softer level of hierarchy between individuals, and equality for all is highly emphasized. This is different from the United Arab Emirates where there is a strong hierarchy system in place with nuanced ways of showing respect to those with more power than you.

Liberal vs. Conservative: Across a field of topics, Americans are generally more liberal than Emiratis when it comes to issues such as marriage, sex, and dress. Americans will need to learn to respect the conservatism of their Dubai neighbors.

Cost Of Living In Dubai Vs. USA

The average monthly cost of living in Dubai for one person is USD $1,975 and $4,546 for a family. The average monthly cost of living in the United States for one person is USD $2,317 and $5,291 for a family. Dubai’s average cost of living is cheaper than in New York and Miami.

Have you wondered if it’s cheaper to live in Dubai or the United States? Let’s take a close look!

Because it is difficult to compare the cost of living in one city to an entire country, we will compare Dubai’s living expenses to those in New York and Miami. This will help you see a range of how Dubai compares to a variety of cities in the United States.

The crowd-sourced data we will cite comes from LivingCost.org and is intended only to give you an idea of what costs may be like in each of these cities. Local prices are constantly changing, so please keep that in mind. All of our monetary values are in USD.

Below is a chart that compares the average Dubai monthly cost of living with the United States averages in New York and Miami.

 

Overall Living Expenses Dubai Price New York Price Miami Price
1 person for a month $1,975 $3,879 $2,988
A family for a month $4,546 $8,148 $6,543

 

Housing Expenses in Dubai vs. USA

Rent for one person in Dubai costs about USD $1,193 a month on average. Rent in Dubai for a family costs about USD $2,125 a month on average. In the United States, rent on average for one person costs about USD $2,541 in New York and $1,979 in Miami.

Royal Mirage Palace Hotel, Dubai

Below is a chart that compares the average Dubai housing expenses with the United States averages in New York and Miami. These are listed as monthly fees.

 

Type of Housing Fee Dubai Price New York Price Miami Price
Rent for 1 $1,193 $2,541 $1,979
Rent for a family $2,125 $3,789 $3,300
1-room apartment downtown $1,461 $3,256 $2,345
Cheap 1-room apartment $855 $2,148 $1,650
3-room apartment downtown $2,763 $5,076 $3,971
Cheap 3-room apartment $1,616 $3,179 $2,812

 

Read this blog post to learn about the average price of rent in Dubai, and read this article to learn about finding a job in Dubai as an American.

Food Expenses in Dubai vs. USA

On average, individuals living in Dubai spend about USD $451 on food expenses each month while individuals in the United States spend about USD $589 on food expenses each month. Groceries are significantly more affordable in Dubai than in the United States.

Food expenses for expats in Dubai will largely depend on the way they choose to spend their money and whether or not they usually buy groceries or eat in a restaurant. 

Average Grocery Expenses in Dubai

Below is a chart that compares the average Dubai grocery prices with the United States averages in New York and Miami.

 

Type of Food Dubai Price New York Price Miami Price
1 qt of milk $1.74 $1.34 $1.16
1 lb of bread $1.25 $4.02 $3.40
1.2 lb of rice $1.82 $5.94 $3.99
12 eggs $3.51 $5.41 $5.93
2.2 lb of cheese $14 $17.10 $13.40
2.2 lb of chicken breast $9.04 $16.40 $13.40
2.2 lb of apples $2.11 $5.63 $6.03
2.2 lb of oranges $1.85 $5.34 $4.91
2.2 lb of potatoes $1.05 $3.77 $2.97

Average Restaurant Prices in Dubai

Below is a chart that compares the average Dubai restaurant prices with the United States averages in New York and Miami.

 

Type of Restaurant Meal Dubai Price New York Price Miami Price
Lunch $10.20 $20.30 $20.80
Dinner for two $68.10 $86.40 $86.30
Fast food meal $8.35 $11.60 $10.50

Transportation Expenses in Dubai vs. USA

The average monthly transportation expenses in Dubai are USD $190. The average person in the United States will spend $104 a month on transportation. A monthly public transportation ticket in Dubai is more expensive than public transportation in the United States.

Some of the most popular methods of transportation in Dubai are their metro system, bus system, and taxis.

Business Bay, Dubai Skyline

Below is a chart that compares the average Dubai transportation prices with the United States averages in New York and Miami.

 

Type of Transportation Dubai Price New York Price Miami Price
Local transport ticket $2.04 $2.96 $2.23
Monthly transport ticket $81.90 $129 $112
Taxi ride for 5 miles $11.80 $28.60 $15.60
¼ gallon of gas $0.89 $1.12 $0.92

 

Moving To Dubai From The USA

Americans moving to Dubai from the USA will need to secure a residence visa. Depending on the type you apply for, the residence visa can last for 1, 2, 3, 5, or 10 years. To apply, you will need a copy of your passport, a recent colored personal photo, and an entry permit.

This is the full list of required documents to apply for a UAE visa for Americans.

Here are the types of residence visas for expats from the USA moving to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates:

  1. Golden Visa: The Golden Visa is for long-term residents who have foreign talent coming to the UAE to live, work, or study.
  2. Work Visa (inside the UAE): There are three types of work visas for expats moving to the UAE to work inside the UAE. These are the Green Visa, the Standard Work Visa, and the Domestic Worker’s Visa.
  3. Work Visa (outside the UAE): The Virtual Work Residence Visa is for expats who move to the UAE and work virtually from inside the UAE.
  4. Retirement Visa: Retired expats from the USA who are over age 55 residing in Dubai or the UAE can get a long-term Retirement Visa for 5 years.
  5. Student Visa: Expat students who move to Dubai to study apply for a Student Visa that lasts for up to one year at a time.
  6. Residence Visa for Family Members: Employers and employees who have a valid UAE residence visa can sponsor residence visas for their family members. There are specific requirements for who can be sponsored.

Read here to learn more about the general provisions for residence visas in the UAE, and read this comprehensive guide about moving to Dubai.

Long-term expats in Dubai may want to learn how to become a citizen of Dubai.

Mandatory Health Insurance in Dubai for Americans

Health insurance in Dubai is mandatory for all residents, including American expats. You can secure a health insurance plan through a private insurance company using an insurance broker, such as Pacific Prime. Become aware of your Dubai insurance plan options and compare quotes today!

Learn what happens if you don’t have health insurance as an expat in Dubai and whether or not Dubai has the best hospitals in the world.

Dubai's The Beach Scene

Frequently Asked Questions

What visas are there for Americans living in Dubai?

Americans living in Dubai as resident expats can get a golden visa, work visa, retirement visa, student visa, or residence visa as sponsored family members of working expats. Every visa has its own requirements and qualifications.

Conclusion

There may be a lot to adjust to when living in Dubai as an American, but by preparing yourself, such as by reading this article, you are making the adjustment easier! As part of your preparation for your move, discover the best places to live in the UAE for expats.

You may be interested to learn about what it’s like living in Dubai as a Canadian.

If you have questions about living in Dubai or about Dubai health insurance, contact Pacific Prime and we’ll give you free expert advice.

Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime
Serena Fung is a Senior Content Creator at Pacific Prime, a global insurance brokerage and employee specialist serving over 1.5 million clients in 15 offices across the world. With 2+ years of experience writing about the subject, she aims to demystify the world of insurance for readers with the latest updates, guides and articles on the blog.

Serena earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of British Columbia, Canada. As such, she is an avid advocate of mental health and is fascinated by all things psychology (especially if it’s cognitive psychology!).

Her previous work experience includes teaching toddlers to read, writing for a travel/wellness online magazine, and then a business news blog. These combined experiences give her the skills and insights she needs to explain complex ideas in a succinct way. Being the daughter of an immigrant and a traveler herself, she is passionate about educating expats and digital nomads on travel and international health insurance.
Serena Fung