In making the decision to come to the UAE we took a look at the cost of living as compared to Canada.  For the most part the UAE looks less expensive to live.  The things that appear to be more expensive: alcohol, sports club memberships and rent don’t really apply to us.  We don’t drink and the university provides housing and sports facilities.  So I was hopeful that the cost of living would be significantly less than what we are used to.

While we’ve only been here about 3 weeks and I am still cautious about costs things do appear less expensive here.  The other day Lisa asked that I stop by the corner store on the way home for lunch.  Yes, I am close enough that I can walk home for lunch.  At the store I bought a loaf of whole wheat bread, a pack of 6 pitas, a couple bell peppers and a bottle of Coke.  The cost was 9.5 dirhams.  A dirham is worth approximately .27 Canadian dollars.  This means I spent about 2.57$ for everything.  In Canada just the Coke would cost nearly that… especially purchased at the corner store.

While we don’t yet have a car I’ve learned that the cost of gas is fixed.  We are used to keeping a look out for the best deal at the pump.  Here every station charges the same.

Special is the low grade gas. The only kind vehicles I drive ever get.

What do they charge?  Approximately 46 cents (CAD) a litre.  When we left Canada I believe the cost was about 1.36$ a litre!  I have no idea what the cost of insurance is but I can tell you I fear for my life every time we get in a car.  I think the lines on the road are just suggestions here.  Maybe I’ll fit in well… I get my driver’s license on Monday.

I’m not used to the prices yet.  When I look at a price tag and see 100 on it I have an instant repulsive reaction.  However, 100 dirham is the equivalent of about 27$.  It’s not a natural calculation.  So when you see that a Subway sandwich costs 23 dirham you immediately think perhaps only a 6 inch sandwich will do.  Of course, 23 dirham is about 6.21$.  Fast food is cheap and plentiful.  Everyone delivers (probably a consequence of cheap petrol prices)!  It didn’t take long to find the student created website on campus,, which features menus from local restaurants that deliver to campus. At the time of writing this there is something wrong with the site – only 3 menus are available.  Usually there are over 30.  Let’s hope they fix it soon – someone could starve to death.  At dinner time each night there are dozens of delivery guys on motorcycles with food boxes perched on the back.

A blurry picture of fast food delivery keeping campus residents fed, its an important job.

We’ve only ordered in once but it was an interesting experience in efficiency.  I rang the number for KFC and ordered their family meal (15pcs chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, a couple salads and a 2 litre of Pepsi) for 74 dirham – thats 19.98$ for the mathematically challenged.  Don’t worry I have a calculator.  The KFC operator must have a database of callers because she called me by name – not my name but I suspect the name of the fellow that lived at K33 before.  She promptly updated the info and took our order.  In 40 minutes one of those motorcycles was pulling up in front of the door.  In Canada you are lucky to get your KFC order in 40 minutes when in the store – KFC doesn’t deliver back home.

Taxes.  Where are all the taxes I’m used to.  There is no income tax here and no sales tax.  Imagine going to the counter in a store.  The item in your hand has a price tag that reads 75.  The teller rings it in and you hand her a 100 dirham note.  Now focus for a moment my Canadian friends, I know this may be hard to believe, the teller gives you not only your product back but 25 dirham in return.  In Canada 75 is really 84 you see or depending on what you might be purchasing or which province you are in 75 could actually be 78.75 or something else all together.

The shape of all the bottles is strange – long and skinny.

The real question though is what is the relative price of Coca Cola?  I’ll start by saying that Coke is just not as accessible here as it is in Canada.  They don’t keep mini-refrigerators at the checkouts in supermarkets stocked with it and not every single establishment carries it or even that knock-off label… what’s it called… Pepsi?  In
Canada we enjoy several sizes of single servings of Coke.  I believe the sizes begin at about 591ml.  At least, that is the standard or regular size.  Here in the UAE the standard seems to be 500ml.  The cost though is generally 2 dirhams or, you guessed it, about 54 cents Canadian.  Okay – stand back – I’m going to attempt some math.  At about a cost of 2.25$ for a bottle of Coke in Canada the price is .38 of a cent per millilitre.  In the UAE at 2 dirham for 500 millilitres the cost would be about  .11 cent per millilitre?

So far all the important stuff is less expensive by a big margin.  Of course, this means I’m going to really like it here. 🙂