Singapore has a long tradition of being a central location for foreign businesses and workers to expand their operations and portfolio. Newer cities are developing in a similar model, providing additional opportunities for expats to take off for an adventure.
Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and home to luxury shopping, ultramodern architecture, and oil & gas fortunes is one such example.
With headquarters in both cities, many times expats are given the opportunity to choose, or leave once city for another.
There are many important things to consider when deciding between Singapore and Dubai.
One of the most important, of course, is the comparison in the cost of living. The tax rates for foreigners play a large role in this decision.
Singaporean tax structures for foreigners are among the most reasonable in the world – remaining below 28%. However, there is no income tax for foreigners in the United Arab Emirates. Having significantly more take-home pay will readjust the budget concerns of anyone deciding between the two.
The United Arab Emirates dirham converts to about .40 Singaporean dollars. To live roughly the same quality of life, you will need around S$8,299.01 (21,738.28 AED) in Singapore to maintain the same standard of life that you can have with 20,000.00 AED in Dubai. This difference is averaged out, as there are several key differences in the distribution of a budget between the two locations.
One of the first things that will make an impact is the way the differences between living styles change expenses. Singapore offers a diversity of character when it comes to housing and neighbourhood structures – which means a decent amount of variety when it comes to rent prices.
Location, square footage, and amenities all have a variable effect on rates. It is not the same case in Dubai, where options are limited, and compound structures located far apart tend to be the norm.
That said, housing prices in the UAE have been dropping steadily for a decade, while Singapore’s real estate market is only beginning to slow down. Rents there still remain among the top worldwide, so prepare to pay a premium in the Lion City if you want to stay close to the center of town.
If you are planning on staying in Dubai a long time, buying a home is a worthwhile consideration – however, because of government regulations protecting housing for locals, in Singapore it is almost impossible.
When it comes to utilities, you will save in Singapore – the same monthly bills for gas, water, and electric will cost about 30% less, and internet service will save you even more money – around 60%.
The cost of a metro ticket in Dubai and Singapore is almost the same – between S$1.70 and S$1.90. However, there are fewer public transport options in Dubai. While the city has been taking great development steps toward instituting a Singaporean-style fleet, the metro and bus systems are notably less robust. So, with fewer public options available, overall cost of transportation is higher.
That said – part of the overall Singaporean transportation scheme is high fees and tariffs on car ownership. Ownership, insurance, parking, and fees can add up to a prohibitively expensive price tag.
By comparison, Dubai is remarkably less expensive when it comes to having a car. A liter of petrol in Dubai is less than half of the cost of that same liter in Singapore, and car ownership is subsidised. For example, a new Volkswagen Golf will go for around S$28,650 (75,000 AED) in Dubai, while the car in Singapore will cost around S$128,000 (355,000 AED).
If you are seeking to relocate to either Singapore or Dubai with school age children, education expenses will be of significant concern. You should be sure to keep this in mind when negotiating your salary and relocation package.
Most expatriate families send their children to private international schools, which provide high level education that meets qualifications for most international certifications, including the IB, British GCE, O and A levels, and American Advanced Placement curriculum.
Though there is some range in each city, all this comes with a significant price tag. In 2016, a new student beginning in the high school (grades 9-12) at the very well regarded Singapore American School would entail a S$51,000 tuition fee per year – not including books or activity fees.
However, Singapore does have an excellent public schooling program, with local students consistently ranking quite high in worldwide performance measures. Many expatriate parents, especially those who are planning long-term stays, find it the best balance of price and value to send their children to local schools.
It is an added bonus that their child is also likely to develop a strong understanding of Mandarin Chinese, Malay, or Tamil – the other official languages of Singapore besides English.
Dubai pricing, while slightly more reasonable, is still fairly remarkable. A high school student in the GEMS Wellington School faces tuition of about S$36,500 (96,000 AED). Dubai government schools do not accept foreign students.
Food and Drinks
Alcohol is expensive Singapore, but due to Muslim regulations that seek to limit consumption, it is almost prohibitively so in the UAE. An ice-cold bottle of beer will cost about 50% more in Dubai.
But for other beverages – coffee, bottles of Coca Cola, and water – prices jump by comparison in Singapore. Groceries are expensive across the board, especially imported Western foods and fresh produce that must be shipped in from other parts of the world.
Some other offhand sundries and items you might want to consider:
|Pack of Cigarettes||S$3.82||S$13.00|
|Local Cheese (1kg)||S$12.38||S$23.01|
|Summer dress in a chain store||S$82.29||S$60.03|
|One hour tennis court rental||S$41.47||S$15.01|
Price references provided by Numbeo