Dubai On A Student Budget: The Cost Of Living Unveiled

Manavi Agarwal

Last Updated: September 20, 2023
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Dubai, the city of soaring skyscrapers, posh lifestyles, and desert dreams, often draws students like a magnet, promising world-class education and an unforgettable experience. But let’s face it – along with the promise of adventure comes the pressing question: Can you actually afford to live here as a student? In this blog, we will dissect the various facets of student life expenditures in Dubai, seeking to shed light on whether it aligns with the financial realities of aspiring scholars. We’ll discuss the financial intricacies that define a student’s life in this vibrant metropolis. So let’s get started.

Setting Sail: Understanding The Basics

Before we dive headfirst into the mystical realm of Dubai, let’s lay down the groundwork with some essential information.

  1. Tuition Fees: The first gem on our list is the cost of education itself. Dubai boasts a diverse range of universities, each with its unique fee structure. On average, expect to pay between AED 37,500-70,000 per year for undergraduate programmes, depending on the institution and programme.
  2. Accommodation: Finding the right treasure chest (read: accommodation) can be a game-changer. Dormitories, shared apartments, and even homestays are common options. Prices vary widely, with shared apartments starting at around $500 per month.
  3. Food and Groceries: Sustenance for your academic journey can be affordable or extravagant, depending on your choices. Dining out frequently at lavish restaurants can set you back, but cooking at home or grabbing a shawarma from a street vendor can keep your budget in check.
  4. Transportation: Dubai’s public transportation system, including buses and the metro, is both efficient and cost-effective. A monthly metro pass costs around 350 AED, providing you with unlimited rides.
  5. Leisure and Entertainment: Dubai offers a vast array of leisure activities, from exploring its grand malls to taking a desert safari. Your spending on leisure largely depends on your personal choices and interests.

The Key To Affordable Accommodation


One of the biggest chunks of your student budget in Dubai will likely be accommodation. Here are some options to consider:

  1. University Dormitories: Many universities in Dubai offer on-campus dormitories, which can be a cost-effective and convenient choice. Prices vary, but you can find options starting at around $500 per month.
  2. Shared Apartments: Sharing a flat with fellow students can significantly reduce your monthly expenses. Rent for shared apartments typically ranges from $500 to $1,500 per month, depending on the location and amenities.
  3. Homestays: Some students opt for homestays with local families, which can provide a unique cultural experience while being relatively affordable, with prices starting at around $800 per month.

Cracking The Food Budget

Eating in Dubai can be a delightful experience for your taste buds, but it doesn’t have to break the bank. Here’s how you can keep your food budget in check:

  1. Cook at Home: One of the most effective ways to save money is by preparing your meals at home. Groceries are reasonably priced, and cooking can also be a fun way to bond with your fellow students.
  2. Explore Local Eateries: Dubai is known for its diverse culinary scene. Opt for local eateries, street food, and affordable restaurants to enjoy delicious meals without burning a hole in your pocket.
  3. Meal Plans: Some universities offer meal plans that can help you save on dining expenses. These plans usually cover meals on campus at a fixed monthly cost.

Navigating Transportation Costs


Dubai’s transportation system is not only efficient but also budget-friendly. Here’s how you can make the most of it:

  1. Metro and Bus: Dubai’s metro and bus services are well-connected and cost-effective. Invest in a monthly metro pass for around 350 AED to enjoy unlimited rides during your stay.
  2. Walk and Cycle: Dubai’s urban planning is pedestrian-friendly, so take advantage of walking or cycling for short distances. It’s not only healthy but also eco-friendly and wallet-friendly.
  3. Carpooling: If you decide to share accommodation with fellow students, consider carpooling to split the cost of fuel and parking.

Balancing Leisure And Academics

Dubai isn’t just about textbooks and lectures; it’s a collection of experiences waiting to be uncovered. Here’s how you can enjoy leisure activities without emptying your wallet:

  1. Free Attractions: Dubai offers several free attractions, such as public beaches, parks, and cultural festivals. Spend weekends exploring these gems without spending a dime.
  2. Student Discounts: Keep an eye out for student discounts at museums, cinemas, and entertainment venues. Your student ID can be a magic key to savings.
  3. Group Activities: Explore the city’s vibrant social scene by joining student clubs, sports teams, or community events. Many of these activities are budget-friendly or even free.

Emergencies And Health Care

healthy food

While we’re on this epic quest, let’s not forget about the importance of staying healthy and financially secure:

  1. Health Insurance: Make sure to have comprehensive health insurance coverage during your stay in Dubai. Most universities provide health insurance plans for their students, which is a convenient and cost-effective option.
  2. Emergency Fund: It’s wise to maintain an emergency fund for unexpected expenses. This can provide peace of mind in case of unforeseen situations.
  3. Part-Time Work: Some students choose to work part-time to supplement their income. However, make sure to check the regulations and obtain the necessary work permits.

Charting Your Course: Final Tips

Before we conclude our adventure, here are some quick tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable student life in Dubai:

  • Budget Wisely: Create a detailed budget plan and stick to it. Monitor your expenses regularly to ensure you’re on track.
  • Explore Scholarships: Look for scholarships and financial aid opportunities offered by universities or external organisations to ease the financial burden.
  • Make Local Friends: Building relationships with local students can provide valuable insights into cost-effective living and cultural immersion.
  • Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with the latest news and regulations regarding student visas, work permits, and healthcare to ensure a hassle-free stay.

Mentoria: Your Guide To Student Life In Dubai

Navigating the financial aspects of studying in Dubai can be challenging, especially for international students. This is where Mentoria comes in. We understand the importance of budgeting and making the most of your resources. Our team of experts can provide you with personalised financial guidance, tips on managing expenses, and strategies to make your student life in Dubai both affordable and enjoyable. With Mentoria by your side, you can focus on your studies and exploration of this incredible city.