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Relocating from Australia to Abu Dhabi – Smart Financial Planning Essentials

Australian Expats in Abu Dhabi - Ally Wealth Management - Australian Expat Financial Advisers

Welcome, Australian expats, to your comprehensive guide on smart financial planning essentials for your big move to Abu Dhabi! This blog is tailored to ensure your transition is as smooth as possible, covering all the vital aspects of financial planning in the UAE’s dynamic capital.

1. Understanding Abu Dhabi’s Financial Landscape

Abu Dhabi’s economy is a study in contrasts. While it’s known for its wealth derived from oil reserves, there’s an ongoing push towards diversification. The city is increasingly investing in sectors like real estate, tourism, and renewable energy. This shift aims to reduce reliance on oil and create a more sustainable economic future. As an Australian expat, understanding this dynamic can be crucial for long-term financial planning. While the oil sector still plays a dominant role, new opportunities are emerging in these growing sectors, potentially opening doors for employment and investment.

The absence of personal income tax is a significant draw for expats. However, this benefit must be balanced against the relatively high cost of living. It’s important to factor in expenses like housing, education, and healthcare, which can be higher than in Australia. Despite these costs, Abu Dhabi’s tax-free income allows for potentially higher savings and investment returns. As the economy diversifies, opportunities in real estate, tourism, and green energy are worth exploring for those looking to invest or build careers.

2. Housing: Renting and Buying

When it comes to housing in Abu Dhabi, you have options both in renting and buying. For rentals, the average monthly cost for a one-bedroom city centre apartment is approximately AED 5,770, while a similar apartment outside the city centre costs around AED 3,559. If you’re considering buying, the average purchase cost per square meter in the city centre is AED 9,345, and AED 6,989 elsewhere. Remember, estate agents typically charge about five percent of the annual rent for their services, and it’s advisable to deal with brokers registered with the government.

In Abu Dhabi, the housing market offers a variety of options ranging from luxurious villas to modern apartments. Expats often prefer areas like Al Reem Island, known for its high-rise apartments with stunning waterfront views, and Khalifa City, popular for its spacious villas and proximity to international schools and amenities. For those seeking a more authentic Arabian experience, the Al Raha Beach area offers a blend of traditional and modern living styles. When buying property, it’s important to note that expats can purchase freehold rights in designated areas, allowing them to own property for up to 99 years.

Renting and Buying Costs

The cost of renting or buying varies significantly depending on the area and type of property. High-demand areas like Al Reem Island and Yas Island tend to have higher rental and purchase prices. For more budget-friendly options, consider areas like Mohammed Bin Zayed City or Al Khalidiya. When renting, be prepared to pay the annual rent upfront or in a few instalments, which is a common practice in Abu Dhabi. In terms of purchasing, understanding the local real estate market is key, and it’s advisable to consult with registered estate agents to navigate the process effectively.

Living Areas for Expats

Expats in Abu Dhabi tend to gravitate towards certain areas based on lifestyle preferences, budget, and family needs. Some popular expat neighbourhoods include:

  • Al Reem Island: Known for its luxurious apartments, it offers modern living with excellent amenities.
  • Yas Island: Offers a mix of entertainment, luxury, and residential living, ideal for those seeking an active lifestyle.
  • Saadiyat Island: Popular among those looking for upscale living and cultural experiences, with proximity to the Louvre Abu Dhabi and beautiful beaches.
  • Khalifa City: A favourite for families, known for its spacious villas, international schools, and community feel.

These areas offer a range of amenities and community environments, catering to the diverse needs of the expat population in Abu Dhabi.

3. Budgeting for Daily Life

Living in Abu Dhabi requires a well-thought-out budget due to its high cost of living. While specific costs can vary depending on lifestyle choices, a general range for monthly living expenses is approximately AED 5,841.50 to AED 47,848 (about A$2,410.07 to $19,741). For a more moderate lifestyle, expect to spend around AED 5,720 to AED 11,960 per month for a single person, and between AED 11,960 to AED 23,920 for a family of four. This includes rent, utilities, food, transportation, and other daily expenses.

Key Items to Budget For

  • Food and Dining: The cost for a basic lunch in the business district is around AED 39, and a combo meal in a fast-food restaurant costs about AED 32. Grocery items such as 500 gr of boneless chicken breast and 1 litre of milk cost AED 16 and AED 6, respectively.
  • Housing: Rent for a furnished 85 m2 accommodation in an expensive area is about AED 10,772 per month, while in a normal area it’s approximately AED 8,005. Utility costs for two people in an 85m2 flat are around AED 795 per month.
  • Transportation: The monthly public transport ticket costs about AED 79. If you prefer driving, the cost of 1 litre of gas is approximately AED 3.05.
  • Lifestyle and Entertainment: Abu Dhabi offers various entertainment options, from dining out to visiting theatres and cinemas. The cost for a basic dinner for two in a neighbourhood pub is around AED 204, while movie tickets for two cost about AED 91. These figures provide a snapshot of what you can expect to spend on leisure activities in the city.

4. Transport

Abu Dhabi’s public transportation is efficient and affordable, making it a viable option for daily commuting. The monthly cost for public transportation ranges between AED 207 and AED 551. The system is well-connected, covering various neighbourhoods and key areas in the city.

For those considering buying a car, a new Volkswagen Golf 1.4 TSI, for instance, costs around AED 87,999. Gasoline is relatively inexpensive in Abu Dhabi compared to many other countries, with 1 litre costing around AED 3.05.

Besides owning a car, there are carpooling and ride-sharing options like Uber and Careem, which can be more cost-effective than owning a vehicle. Taxi trips also provide a convenient way to travel, with a basic fare for an 8 km journey costing about AED 28. For expats, balancing between public transport, car ownership, and ride-sharing services can offer a flexible and budget-friendly way to navigate the city.

These insights provide a comprehensive view of what to expect financially when living in Abu Dhabi, covering essential aspects of daily life and transportation. Making informed decisions about your budget and transportation choices will help ensure a smooth transition to life in Abu Dhabi.

5. Financial Planning and Management

Financial planning in Abu Dhabi involves several key components to ensure that the basics are covered, and you and your family are protected.

Emergency Funds

It is critical to have an emergency fund, ideally covering 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses. This fund acts as a financial safety net for unexpected events like medical emergencies, job loss, or significant repairs.

Insurance Planning

Insurance is an essential aspect of financial security. Health insurance is mandatory in Abu Dhabi, with various plans available to suit different needs and budgets. Life, Total and Permanent Disability, Trauma and Income Protection insurance and property insurance also play vital roles, providing protection for your family and assets.

Retirement Plans

Given the absence of state pensions for expatriates in the UAE, private pension plans or retirement savings schemes become crucial. Consider exploring options like offshore pensions or continuing contributions to retirement schemes in Australia such as your superannuation.

Managing Debts

Exercise caution with credit cards and loans. High-interest rates can escalate debts quickly, so aim to clear dues regularly. Mortgages and education loans should be within manageable limits to prevent financial strain.


Diversify investments between local and global markets to minimise risks and optimise returns. Real estate in Abu Dhabi can be another consideration in the right circumstances,. However, it’s essential to understand the market dynamics and consult with financial advisers for tailored advice.

6. Australian Finances & Taxes

While the UAE is largely tax-free for personal income, value-added tax (VAT) at a standard rate of 5% applies to most goods and services. It’s important to understand the tax implications of your investments, especially those that might generate income taxable in other countries.

The UAE has implemented new tax residency criteria, which are vital for those wishing to benefit from the Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs) that the UAE has with over 130 countries. These criteria help in determining tax residence for individuals and legal entities. Australian expats should understand these criteria to ascertain their tax status and any benefits under DTAs.

Australian expats must stay informed about the new Australian Tax Office (ATO) Tax Residency rules. Even while living abroad, you may have tax obligations in Australia, especially if you retain economic ties there. Understanding these rules is crucial to avoid double taxation and to comply with legal requirements. At the time of writing, we are awaiting further updates on possible changes to the tax residency rules.

Superannuation Considerations

Review your superannuation (retirement fund) in Australia. Decide whether to continue contributing to it while abroad, as this can have long-term implications for your retirement savings. You could considering adjusting your superannuation fund investments, continuing to contribute, or even adjusting the asset allocation depending on your investment strategies elsewhere. It’s important to remember that superannuation is one of the most tax efficient vehicles that we have available to us as Australians, so it certainly shouldn’t be ignored.

Property Investment in Australia

Investing in property back in Australia can be a strategic move. However, it requires understanding the market trends, tax implications, and financing options. Consider consulting with property investment specialists to make informed decisions. It’s also important to be aware of the tax implications of investing in Australian property as an expat, and ensure that it aligns with your long-term financial goals.

Investing in property in Australia can be a powerful way to accumulate wealth in the long-run, but it’s important to seek the right advice and identify the right properties for you. A borderless-investing approach building up a portfolio across Australia can also help you to shelter from land tax exposure, and diversify your portfolio over the long-run.

Health Insurance

Consider what you should do with your Australian health insurance, such as suspending it or putting it on hold while you’re living and working abroad. Most health insurers will impose a maximum time that they will allow you to suspend it for, so it’s important to review this. In some cases, they will require you to reactivate it for a period, make a premium repayment before you can suspend it further. The benefit of this is avoiding waiting periods or possible exclusions if your health deteriorates while you’re living and working offshore.

Tax & HECS

Further, it’s important to be aware of whether you’re required to be submitting a tax return in Australia if you have taxable Australian income each year. This is typically in the form of an investment property generating rental income, but may be due to the sale of an investment property or other assets in Australia. If you have a HECS/HELP loan in Australia, you still must ensure that you’re declaring your worldwide income each year and paying the minimum required off your student loan.

7. General Living in Abu Dhabi

Living in Abu Dhabi as an Australian expat offers a plethora of entertainment and lifestyle options, including a mix of familiar Australian elements and local Emirati culture.

Entertainment and Leisure Options

Abu Dhabi’s entertainment scene is lively, catering to a wide range of preferences. The city is known for its nightlife, with numerous bars and restaurants offering various cuisines and experiences. For those interested in more cultural pursuits, there are several museums, art galleries, and theatres. Additionally, the city hosts a range of events and festivals throughout the year, providing plenty of opportunities to explore and enjoy the local culture.

  • Yas Island: This is a prime destination for entertainment and leisure, featuring the famous Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, and Warner Bros. World.
  • Louvre Abu Dhabi: Art lovers can explore a wide range of artwork from around the world.
  • Corniche Beach: Offers a beautiful setting for relaxation and water activities.
  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: A must-visit for its architectural beauty and cultural significance.

Australian Cuisine and Restaurants

Finding Australian products in Abu Dhabi is relatively easy, thanks to the city’s international outlook and the presence of various global and specialised stores. For those moments when you’re craving a taste of home, there are stores and outlets that stock Australian food products. Furthermore, many pubs and restaurants in the city cater to diverse international tastes, including Australian cuisines, ensuring you don’t miss out on your favourite dishes. For those craving a taste of Australian cuisine, Abu Dhabi has several options:

  • Jones the Grocer: An Australian-origin food emporium known for its gourmet offerings, including artisan cheese, organic products, and a range of Australian wines.
  • BOCA: While not exclusively Australian, this restaurant offers a Mediterranean menu with a selection of dishes and ingredients familiar to Australians.
  • Aussie-themed Pubs and Grills: There are various establishments offering Aussie-style barbecues and beverages, where expats can enjoy a familiar dining experience.

Shopping for Australian Products

To find Australian products, expats can visit:

  • Spinneys and Waitrose: These supermarkets often stock Australian food products, including meats, dairy, and snacks.
  • Lulu Hypermarket: Known for its wide range of international products, including some Australian brands.
  • Organic Foods and Café: While focused on organic products, this store sometimes carries items imported from Australia.

General Living Information

Living in Abu Dhabi as an Australian expat involves adapting to the local culture and customs. The city is accommodating to expats, with English widely spoken, making daily life and communication relatively easy. However, it’s important to respect local traditions and laws, particularly regarding dress codes and public behaviour.

In summary, Abu Dhabi offers Australian expats a comfortable and engaging living experience with ample opportunities to enjoy both local Emirati culture and familiar Australian comforts. Whether it’s through food, entertainment, or socialising, the city provides a well-rounded expat life.


Relocating from Australia to Abu Dhabi is an exciting journey that comes with its own set of financial considerations. By understanding the local financial landscape, managing your daily expenses wisely, and engaging in strategic financial planning, you can make the most of your expat experience in this dynamic city.

Remember, embracing the local culture, connecting with the expatriate community, and savouring the moments that make up your unique expatriate adventure in Abu Dhabi will enrich your experience beyond measure.

If you’re considering a role in Abu Dhabi as an Australian expat, or you’re already living there, reach out to our specialist expat team for a complimentary call.

Ally Wealth Management is the trusted ally in finance for Australians at home and across the globe. As both Australian expats and residents, the founders of Ally have a unique understanding of the common personal financial challenges faced.

Book your complimentary appointment with our team at Ally Wealth Management to discuss how we can help you to achieve your financial goals.

Ally Wealth Management Pty Ltd is a Corporate Authorised Representative of Sentry Advice Pty Ltd ABN 77 103 642 888. Sentry Advice holds an Australian Financial Services Licence (AFSL) No. 227 748.

General Advice Warning: The information contained herein is of a general nature only and does not constitute personal advice. You should not act on any recommendation without considering your personal needs, circumstances, and objectives. We recommend you obtain professional financial advice specific to your circumstances.

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