Globally, UAE was ranked 18th out of 59 destinations for expats to live. The UAE is a thriving nation for expats and tourists, where the region has large numbers of the wealthiest entrepreneurs from Asia. The area is the best place to attract expats because of the booming industries, tax-free income, and foreign investment. Made up of seven Emirates, Abu Dhabi is the capital city where as Dubai is also known as ‘City of Gold’. Over the past few years, 90% of the UAE population has been expats, where the expat community has soared in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

There is no doubt that the UAE is an ideal tourist destination as distinct features and tourist destinations further increase the region’s worth. Not only this, UAE, especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai are considered perfect destinations for business owners and entrepreneurs for living.

Abu Dhabi vs. Dubai: Which is Better for Expats

Moving away from home is the hardest part that needs a great source of advice and information for anyone. In the following guide, we will compare Abu Dhabi and Dubai as destinations for expats. Let’s explore the differences, cost of living, and quality of living.

1.Key attractions

The capital city is situated in the Persian Gulf, near the edge of the Rub Al Khali desert.Many extravagant resorts, apartment blocks, shopping malls, skyscrapers, and the most famous Ferrari World attract tourists. The key attractions also include the natural landscape, such as nesting sports and mangroves alongside the coastline.

Some beautiful places are its beaches and numerous attractive turquoise waters, such as Al Sahil Beach and Corniche Beach. The city also preserves cultural and heritage sites that reflect a deep connection with Islamic tradition and offers an opportunity for tourists to explore the landscape.

On the other hand, Dubai is known as the true city of expats. The survey revealed that life in that city is one of the existing experiences one can ever enjoy. Likewise, the city is great destination for expats and tourists that include many wonderful areas like Burj Khalifa, Dubai-Mall, Dubai-Museum, Al Fahidi Quarter, and many more places. Dubai is well-known with ultra-modern buildings, luxury living standards and has seen a rapid increase in population over the last few years. Numerous areas with distinct flavors are there for expats such as Downtown, Mirdif, Arabian Ranches, Motor City, Al Barsha, Business Bay, and Jumeirah Islands.


UAE has numerous markets for reasonable shopping ranging from traditional bazaars, authentic souks to high-trend shopping malls. Undoubtedly, Dubai offers a variety of shopping places and has now become one of the most famous shopping destinations in the world.

It is clear to observe that shopping scenes in the city are fun and amazing as the city hosts numerous shopping-related festivals like DDS. Being the King of Shopping, the city boosts the color of bazaars and malls and gives the essence of joy to tourists. It is amazing to know that shopping malls in Dubai are of the size of a small city with other facilities like art galleries, amusement parks, theaters, and even mosques. These all are located inside the mall. So whether it’s for tourists or expats, shopping in Dubai is a must. Even if you are out of budget and searching for something reasonable, you can easily find a local mall or souk in Dubai to satisfy your shopping craving.

Expats, as well as tourists, can enjoy traditional Arabic shopping experiences by roaming around sprawling malls. Likewise, the City of Gold, the ginormous malls, and the overwhelming experience of shopping in largest city can be an extravagant affair for visitors. Some of the right places to shop while you are on a trip to Abu Dhabi are Abu Dhabi Mall, Avenue at Etihad, Yas Mall, Marina Mall, Souk Central Market, and the list goes on.


With around 365 days of sunlight and a warm climate, the crystal clear water in the form of beaches is the perfect spot for expats to enjoy and cool down with family, friends, and loved ones. In the UAE, the stunning coastline stretch alongside the Arabian Gulf is enough to attract tourists and both emirates have private beachfront with luxury hotels.

In Abu Dhabi, there are many public beaches with free entry that increase the opportunity for people to enjoy. Some of these beaches are Corniche, Saadiyat Public Beach, and Al Bateen Beach. All these beaches have a family-friendly vibe with the facility to do plenty of fun-related activities. The most attractive aspect about beaches in that region is strict protection while considering all environmental measures. The safe and family-friendly beaches in the city suit every traveler. For expats, the beaches of are a vital source to escape from tough life routines.

Similarly, Dubai beaches are clean and safe too. Even beaches are officially known as the cleanest beaches all over the world and that’s will be enough to attract people, whether to visit or to live in. Unlike beaches in Abu Dhabi, Dubai beaches have strict rules.

Some of the beaches in the City of Gold, including private and public, are Jumeirah Beach Residence Beach, Mamzer Beach Park, Jumeirah Beach Park, La Mer, Al Sufoh Beach, and many more. One negative aspect related to the beaches is the lack of facilities for food and water. Despite this, the city has invested a lot in public beaches that facilitate people to enjoy and upgrade the tourism value of the city.


As per the information, UAE visas are valid for 60 days from the date of issue. Before comparing the visa facility of both emirates, you need to note that visa holders of both Emirates cannot travel elsewhere. But yes, Dubai visa holders can land in Abu Dhabi or vice versa. Also you can apply for a long term UAE golden visa if you an entrepreneur, business owner or a startup.

Some of the visa types valid for all Emirates of UAE are;

  • 48-hour type
  • 96-hour type
  • Tourist type– short term (for singly entry)
  • Tourist type – short term (for multiple entries)
  • Tourist type– long term (single entry)
  • Tourist – long term (multiple entries)

All visas have distinct valid duration and rates inclusive of VAT.

  • 48-hour type visa has a duration of 48 hours with the rate of US$10
  • 96-hour visa type has a duration of 4 days from arrival date with the rate of US$30
  • 96-hour visa type has a duration of 4 days from arrival date with the rate of US$30
  • Tourist type– short term (for singly entry) has a duration of 30 days from arrival date with the rate of US$930
  • Tourist type – short term (for multiple entries) has a duration of 30 days from arrival date with the rate of US$175
  • Tourist type– long term (single entry) has a duration of 90 days from arrival date with the rate of US$190
  • Tourist – long term (multiple entries) has a duration of 90 days from arrival date with the rate of US$460

5.Working pattern and opportunities

Being an expat, it is important to compare working patterns and opportunities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Considering the capital city, it is one of the wealthiest emirates with a fast-growing economy. Over the past few years, most expats have attracted to Abu Dhabi meanwhile an opportunity of tax-free aspect opens new doors for the expats. You can visit the official website of he department of economic for Abu Dhabi for more details and reports.

Likewise, the City of Gold also has low tax rates and high wages that excite people to want and earn big bucks. Being cities following Islamic values, both cities prefer to respect relative culture and environment in working practices.

The average wage to work in Abu Dhabi is around 177,696 AED; however, Dubai offers 258,000 AED per year. It is to consider that capital city is more formal and structured when it comes to the employment contract; however, Dubai is comparatively lenient in this aspect. Apart from this, the most important factor included as the working pattern is the conservative dress code that every expat should consider while moving abroad for a new country , especially the Golf Arab where there is too much social restrictions on terms of dress and habits.

6.Public Transport

Public transport plays an important role in encouraging tourists and expats to visit the place. Before moving away abroad, expats consider the aspect of public tourist as this contributes to improving the mobility, satisfaction related to the destination, and growth of development.

If you are thinking of shifting to the City of Gold, one must have known the best way to get around in Dubai by metro or taxi. This source of public transport will give you the freedom to move from one place to another. Although the prices of public transport are high, expats can still avail themselves of the services of Dubai-Metro.

Dubai Metro is the cheapest way to travel for a comfortable journey and is also considered a standard class. The most beautiful thing about public transport is a separate section for women and various classes like gold classes, silver classes, etc. For the expats and tourists, one cannot ignore the bus service network consists of a large fleet of around 1,518 buses. The best way to get around in Dubai is Taxi services (Dubai Taxi Corporation, Uber), bus services (RTA buses), Dubai Metro, boats (Abras, Dubai waterbus), and cars.

Likewise, Abu Dhabi has public transport, which operates over 95 bus routes by offering extensive services in the city. The survey conducted by laymen revealed a taxi as the best way to get around in the city. The city has different taxi companies that regulate the taxi services and booked complete trips to ensure ease and convenience for visitors. It is amazing to know that recently the capital city has launched free bus services for the public. In between places, people are easy to travel free by using tickets for a day.

On comparing, Abu Dhabi is counted as a relatively easy city for public transport and specifically free-traveling. Some of the public transports are Abu-Dhabi Taxi services (TransAd and Careem) and Abu-Dhabi bus service (Yas Express).


The lifestyle in both emirates has a strong link with the dress code because fashion is actually a way of life. UAE is officially a Muslim state, but it is lenient on its dress code compared to other nations in the Middle East. But that does not mean that one can walk around in whatever dress or style. Most of the women in both cities wear headscarves and abayas.

Expats found differences in lifestyles of both cities when it comes to the strictness of cultural and religious aspects. The capital city is more strict than the City of Gold and yet more cultural, religious, and traditional. There is no enjoyable nightlife for the people of Abu Dhabi like other cities.

Other than this, both cities of UAE have a high cost of education that needs to consider by expats before moving to the region. On comparing both emirates, the capital Emirate is a much calmer and traditional city. Unlike Dubai, Abu Dhabi has a good work-life balance; meanwhile, tourists love to visit there to have some fun and relax.


UAE, having a mild, pleasant, and mostly hot climate, the environment mostly falls into humid summers. Likewise, the climate of both emirates depends on scorching hot summer temperatures.

Comparing both Emirates, it is pretty clear to decide Dubai is an environment-friendly city to live in or visit. The city has two distinct seasons, winter and summer; however, the other city has a hot climate in which months of June to September are extremely hot with a maximum temperature of 41 °C. No one likes to survive in harsh physical conditions with drying winds and rocky environments.

In contrast to this, if you think about moving over to Dubai, you may experience the summer season of April to October. Another favorable point to notice is the greenery of a city that boosts the environment of the city. What else someone wants instead of parks and flowerbeds, palm-lined avenues, luscious lawns, and deserts on the Earth? Unlike, Abu Dhabi has a desert climate where there is virtually no rainfall.


Although the City of Gold has more weight than Abu Dhabi for the environmental aspect, it is tough to decide which one is better for entertainment. Considering flexible options for nightlife, entertainment, luxury hotels, Dubai is a slightly better place for tourists. Although the city is slightly more expensive in comparison, definitely the best option to relax. On the other hand, the city is more religious and traditional and ultimately strict with night life options and dress code. These restrictions annoy some of the expats and tourists but still the uniqueness of the city.

Related to the safety aspect, both cities are extremely safe to live in even though these emirates are ranked as the safest cities globally. Expats found both of the cities safe as muggings and crime rates are extremely rare.

10.Cost of Living and Leisure

Comparatively, Abu Dhabi is cheaper than other Emirates for expats because of the overall low cost of living. This includes transport, clothes, entertainment, and even personal care. However, it is believed that the cost of living in Abu Dhabi is high, but as compared with Dubai, the city is around 6% cheaper. Yet, the housing cost in Abu Dhabi is 11% more expensive in comparison. Housing costs in Abu Dhabi set back the expense of around 50% of the monthly wage and affordable utilities. As per the rough estimate, the average cost of utilities in Abu Dhabi is 445AED for a month. With the perk of reasonable fuel cost in Abu Dhabi, the city is preferably the choice of expats to live in.( 1USD=3,67AED in the day we publish this article ).

Comparatively to Abu Dhabi, living in Dubai is quite expensive as expats need to earn at least Dh 4,000 per month. To lead a decent life, it might be difficult for people to survive with little money. The City of Gold is ranked as the 23rd most expensive city out of 209 destinations. The cost of utilities in Dubai is 750AED for a month. However, the housing cost is more affordable than Abu Dhabi.

If you are an expat, understanding income tax is one of the significant aspects to consider, but if you are moving to UAE emirates, there is no point of discussion. In Emirates whether Abu Dhabi or Dubai, there is no tax imposed for both expats and tourists.


Clearly, it is not easy to select one city over another as this completely depends on the interest of expats or tourists that what they want or prefer from the place. By comparing, it can be considered that Dubai is the home for modernization, tall buildings and entertainment; however Abu Dhabi is a far more conservative emirate. Despite many differences in both emirates, the best part of living or visit both cities is the quality of life and the opportunities of affordable life along with the unusual weather.

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