Home Abu Dhabi Abu Dhabi vs Dubai – Where Should Expats Choose?

Abu Dhabi vs Dubai – Where Should Expats Choose?

Where is Better to Live - Dubai or Abu Dhabi | The Vacation Builder

Middle East countries have established themselves as the most desirable expat destinations across the world. Both living and earning are pretty much better here than any other part of Asia.

When you are considering to take that big leap of faith to grab a well-paid job and ensure high living standard for your family, Dubai and Abu Dhabi must have been on your list.

If you are not sure which one to settle for, this classic Dubai vs Abu Dhabi comparison can be your saviour.

We found that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are blessed with equally good conditions of living when we compared both these cities on the scales of location, topography, weather, cost of living, salaries, career opportunities, things to do, crime rate, education, population density and public transport.


We will begin this classic head-to-head comparison post with the location advantages of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

First let us tell you that these are not just cities but two emirates with the same names. Yes, Emirates of Dubai and Emirates of Abu Dhabi are two of the seven emirates that constitutes the UAE.

Another surprising fact is that it’s not Dubai, but Abu Dhabi which the capital of the UAE, although Dubai is more popular and known to rest of the world.

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are located on the eastern coast of the Persian Gulf. They are about 140 kilometres apart from each other. It takes more or less 90 minutes to reach one city from another. Travelling between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is really quick and simple. There’s absolutely no need to take the flight to travel from one city to another.

Being two prominent cities from the Middle East region, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi have frequent daily flights to other major cities around the world. Thanks to the strategic location of these two cities, the east coast of Africa, southern parts of Europe and west coast of Indian continent are just a few hours in flight from both.

Verdict: It’s a tie.


Dubai vs Abu Dhabi - Where is Better to Live? | The Vacation Builder
The Al Hajar Mountain Ranges

Now, take a look at what Dubai and Abu Dhabi have got to offer from a topographic perspective.

Both these places showcase somewhat flat with very rare bounces of elevation. Located on the banks of Persian Gulf, these two cities allow you to explore a number of stunning beaches.

Apart from gorgeous beaches, these two cities are known to offer the best of desert tourism. If you don’t mind leaving the city boundary behind, then you can cherish the unusual beauty of mountains, sand dunes and a few lakes and oasis.

The city of Dubai is overloaded with tourist hot spots and it has some fantastic mountainous terrains in close vicinity. The Al Hajar Mountain Range is considered as one of the best places for adventure sport lovers. This mountainous terrain also nurtures a unique wildlife which is quite different from anything found anywhere in the world.

Dubai enjoys a better status when it comes to entertaining the tourists with both its man-made and natural landmarks.

Verdict: Dubai


Situated on the same side of the country and enjoying the similar set of climatic conditions, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi flaunt almost identical weather round the year. Thanks to the Persian Gulf, these two cities get sufficient doze of fresh breeze from the sea all through the year. This also cools down the temperature by one or two degrees.

Surrounded by the expansive sandy desert, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi experience extreme heat most of the year.

Average temperatures in Dubai ranges from 20 °C in January to 36 °C in August and the same in Abu Dhabi is 18 °C in January and 35 °C in August. Pleasant weather is the guest of winter months. That’s the reason, both the cities see huge surge in number of foreign tourists during winters.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi never experience much rainfall. Average yearly rainfall in Dubai is approximately 80 mm while Abu Dhabi records yearly rainfall of about 40 mm. So, both places are extremely dry.

Verdict: Both cities see the same with regards to weather each year.

Dubai vs Abu Dhabi – Cost of Living

One of the most prominent reasons to shift your base to a foreign land is to lead a better life. When it comes to living conditions, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi can compete effortlessly with global giants like London, Sydney, New York and many.

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are known to the world for their path-breaking technology, extraordinary architecture and swanky lifestyle. However, what shocks most people is the comparison to other super expensive cities like New York, Sydney or London.

The average cost of living in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are almost the same. To maintain a similar standard of life, you will need AED 16,000 monthly in Dubai whereas this cost will be around AED 15,050 per month in Abu Dhabi. Both the costs includes rent.

Consumer Prices in Abu Dhabi are around 9.85% lower than in Dubai. If you include rent, then it’s 5.94% lower in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai. Surprisingly, the Local Purchasing Power in Abu Dhabi is about 2.42% higher than in Dubai. Grocery prices in Abu Dhabi are 2.43% higher than in Dubai.

Don’t forget that both Dubai and Abu Dhabi don’t levy any income tax on an individual. So, expats can save huge by working at both these places.

If you compare these two cities, Abu Dhabi can help you to save a little more than what you can save in Dubai.

Verdict: Abu Dhabi

Dubai vs Abu Dhabi – Salaries

Money plays a very crucial factor while we look for a new destination in a foreign country to move in. How much you can earn or what salary package is offered to you is important to take the final call.

If this is the situation, you will be more than happy to know that there is no income tax applicable to individual incomes in the UAE.

We are mentioning below the average annual salary packages offered in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for the most sought-after professions.

ProfessionSalary DubaiSalary Abu Dhabi
Accountant156,000 AED172,000 AED
Civil Engineer212,000 AED224,000 AED
Electrical Engineer242,000 AED259,000 AED
Business Development Manager371,000 AED397,000 AED
Teacher174,000 AED187,000 AED
Administrative Assistant121,000 AED129,000 AED
Graphic Designer148,000 AED158,000 AED
Air Traffic Controller249,000 AED267,000 AED
Mechanic83,000 AED88,700 AED
HR Manager372,000 AED399,000 AED
Petroleum Engineer235,000 AED252,000 AED
Nurse184,800 AED198,000 AED
Doctor630,000 AED674,000 AED
Dentist578,400 AED619,000 AED
Hair Stylist99,840 AED107,000 AED
Occupational Therapist298,000 AED318,000 AED
Bar Manager157,200 AED168,000 AED
Real Estate Agent213,600 AED228,000 AED
Web Developer214,800 AED229,000 AED

The above-mentioned salaries for respective professional fields in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are collected from SalaryExplorer.com.

You should not forget that actual salary package can vary greatly from the list depending on the educational qualification, work experience and expertise skill of the candidate.

If we take a look at the above list of annual salaries offered in both these cities, you can spot a higher slab in every field in Abu Dhabi.

Verdict: Abu Dhabi

Career Opportunities

Be it Dubai or Abu Dhabi, expats can explore a huge range of career opportunities. It’s fascinating to see how both places have got something for every sector of the professional field.

The UAE have also designed a special immigration policy to encourage more and more skilled professionals to work and live in their country.

Although it is not at all that simple to determine the job opportunity offered in a city as the calculation involves several statistics and analytical results. As a lame man’s guide, we are mentioning here the Unemployment Rate from both cities.

Remember that COVID-19 pandemic has hit the job market hard. Therefore, any data from 2020 may seem seriously depressing. To offer a more realistic scenario, let’s take a look at 2019.

 DubaiAbu Dhabi
Unemployment Rate  
20192.35%6.90 %

Dubai is a better place in terms of securing a job compared to Abu Dhabi. For incoming expats, it is better to look for a job in Dubai.

Verdict: Dubai

Things To Do & See

Dubai vs Abu Dhabi - Where is Better to Live? Things to do - Warner Brothers World Abu Dhabi | The Vacation Builder
Warner Brothers World in Abu Dhabi

Moving from your hometown to a completely new city comes with lots of uncertainties and worries. People often find it difficult to get accustomed to a new environment and new people. Getting homesick is probably the first hurdle expats had to overcome while moving to a different city.

If you are looking to shift your base either to Dubai or to Abu Dhabi, you will be glad to know that both these cities offer innumerable tourist attractions, exhilarating activities and friendly people to minimize this struggle.

Both places are considered as two of the most celebrated travel destinations from the Middle East. But which place has got better things to do and see?

Best things to do and see in and around Dubai

Now, let’s check out the best things to do and see in Abu Dhabi

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi know best how to keep visitors glued. But Dubai definitely gets more points for its countless tourist attractions and plenty of things to do.

Verdict: Dubai

Crime Rates

One of the strongest motivations behind shifting one’s base from homeland to a foreign land is to ensure better living standards for the whole family. Settling down to a new city becomes much easier if crime rate is low there.

If you compare the crime rate data from major cities around the globe, both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are very safe places for living a peaceful life.

Dubai’s Crime Index is presently hovering around 16.35 whereas its Safety Index stands at 83.65. Both these data vouch for a safe and secure lifestyle in the city. For the last 3 years, increase in the rate of criminal offences is 40.44 which is again quite low compared to other global cities.

Crime related data obtained from the city of Abu Dhabi is really encouraging too. Being the capital of the nation, this city also enjoys best-in-class security facilities offered by the government. Crime Index of Abu Dhabi is 12.11 whereas Safety Index is 87.89. This data is enough to ascertain that living here comes with plenty of peace of mind.

To give you an example of how safe Dubai & Abu Dhabi are see our table below in comparison to other major cities of the world.

CityCrime IndexSafety Index
Abu Dhabi12.1187.89
New York47.5952.41

All the data mentioned here was collected from Numbeo.com. This site features easy tools to compare any two city or country in terms of cost of living, crime rates, healthcare, pollution index, quality of life, job opportunity and many more.

Verdict: Abu Dhabi

Where Has Better Education?

Migrating with school-going children needs more attention as you must secure good education to your kids no matter which place you are heading for.

Education systems throughout the UAE are treated as a priority and several authorities have come together to maintain world-class education standards in every educational institute.

Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi allow private and public schooling. A heard of places follow international curriculums so that a wonderful multi-national ambience can be maintained. In these cities, there is no dearth of good schools and colleges to get your child admitted but the only downside is kids of expats and foreign citizens are not allowed free public schooling.

The education sector in Dubai is dominated by private bodies. Average annual fee’s at top schools is around AED 100,000. This is huge! School fee’s are more or less same in Abu Dhabi. Of course, you can opt out for a school that doesn’t charge this much but overall cost of private schooling in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is on the higher side.

Verdict: It’s a tie.

Population Density

It’s not preferred by expats to move into somewhere overcrowded. Population density heavily influences living standard, access to civic facilities, healthcare benefits, traffic on road.

When you are more into peaceful and private life, Dubai and Abu Dhabi will certainly top the list of less-crowded cities with the best living standards.

Dubai’s population density is 860 per square kilometre, but Abu Dhabi is even lower at just 43 people per square kilometre. These numbers are far behind the data derived from other major cities like London, New York, Hong Kong or Berlin.

City NamePopulation Density
Abu Dhabi43 persons per sq. km.
Dubai860 persons per sq. km.
London5,701 persons per sq. km.
New York38,242 persons per sq. km.
Berlin4,227 persons per sq. km.
Hong Kong6,804 persons per sq. km.

Dubai offers an excellent standard of living but it is still the most populous city in the UAE. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi is less populous. Therefore, living in Abu Dhabi guarantees more peace to your heart and less noise to your ears.

Verdict: Abu Dhabi

Public Transport

Dubai vs Abu Dhabi - Where is Better to Live - Public Transport - The Dubai Metro | The Vacation Builder
Dubai Metro

We have reached the last segment of the comparison and it deals with the public transport. An efficient and effective public transport system is mandatory to make living simple. This actually reduces the time to reach your destinations on everyday basis.

Dubai’s public transport system is extremely upgraded and diversified. You can choose from several modes of transportation including bus, metro, taxi, monorail, ferry and even water taxi. Transportation costs to roam around the city is pretty reasonable.

Due to well maintained and nicely managed vehicle routes, Dubai doesn’t take much of your time to access any corner of the city.

Abu Dhabi also features several modes of public transport so that you never face any hiccup to get around the city. The city’s public transport majorly depends on local buses, water taxis, e-scooters, bike rentals, ferry services and intercity buses. However, Abu Dhabi lacks railways.

Dubai has a slightly better public transport system than Abu Dhabi and that’s primarily because of the large chunk of tourists it attracts every year.

Verdict: Dubai


Dubai and Abu Dhabi hail from the same country. This makes these two cities very similar when we are talking about local cultures, living standards and ethnicity.

We personally feel that Dubai has a more cosmopolitan vibe than any other city in world, let alone the UAE. So, immigrants face less hurdles while settling down here. However, when looking at a basic comparison of key aspects Abu Dhabi ties with Dubai which means that overall, you cannot favour one city over the other.

Overall, you need to give weight to the aspects which are most important to you when choosing to relocate. If salaries are most important, choose Abu Dhabi. For lifestyle, choose Dubai!

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