Monday, 17 April 2017

Life: Money Diary - Dubai Edition

So, I promised I'd write a Dubai money diary once I was settled and while I'm not yet 100% settled its soon going to get very hot here (like 45 Celsius hot) and I don't think a diary of staying in blasting the air-con will make for a good read. My London spend diaries are here and here if you want a nose at spending habits past. I am still addicted to the Refinery 29 Money Diaries (and NY Magazines "not money" diaries because maybe I'm really nosy all round?).

Before I delve in to the spending, ex-pat life isn't cheap and despite constantly hearing how expensive London is...well, it's pretty expensive here and that may not be exclusive to Dubai. The UAE's currency is pegged to the US Dollar so its taken a fall against the pound post-Brexit (depressing graph here) - I've converted the amounts to pounds to make it more relevant for my (mostly) UK readership and to anyone who might be considering a move out here but day-to-day I'm trying to compare the reasonableness of prices for here rather than converting back and just accept that things are expensive. 

I am paid in local currency and there is no income tax here - something to bear in mind if some of the amounts seem £££. Obviously I haven't included my earnings, rent, savings etc. because the Refinery 29 diarists have the benefit of anonymity. I guess I can never submit an anonymous diary now! 

Sunday (a working day):

9am: Arrive at the office after a half hour walk to work (it will soon be too hot for this). Morning coffee from the cafe in my office building, the barista already knows my usual order of a single shot soy cappuccino and I frequently feel like The Worst Person while ordering this and a fruit pot for breakfast. Today the girl behind me orders an espresso with "a teaspoon of hot water" and I feel like a child ordering a bambinochino. £7.93

1pm: Lunchtime and as I'm not manic with work today I walk to the financial district and go to Starbucks (I know I know but it's my home comfort over here like going to McDonalds in Spain as a kid was) - a veggie wrap, an iced soy latte and a read of my book club book (we are reading Chronicle In Stone by Ismail Kadare). £10.57

4pm: I'm trying to curb my 4pm snack habit. Work provide free fruit so I grab the greenest banana in the fruit bowl and fill up my water bottle.

7pm: Leave work and walk home via Dubai Mall where I try to alleviate the Sunday-as-a-working-day thing with sushi. I go to Yo Sushi which is exactly the same as it is in London - not terrible, not amazing but overpriced for what it is (I only had three plates). £15.11


6am: Apartment gym for my morning workout - whatever time of day I visit its always full of sweaty grunting men which I try to ignore by turning up my podcast. I partly chose my apartment because of the huge gym as memberships are (you've guessed it!) expensive. Eat a Quest bar while getting ready for work which I paid far too much for last week. 

9.15am: Soy cappuccino at the office after walking in. £4.41

12.30pm: My office is trialing a new lunch delivery service which has an introductory offer and a different restaurant each day. The vegetarian choices are variable but today it's a veggie quinoa salad which is a bargain with the offer. £4.19

7.15pm: Leave the office and go to the mall (again). I go to Waitrose (again a sweet reminder of home!) and buy a small chopping board, a small sharp knife, a plug extender thing and a salad and pot of hummus for dinner all for £26.63


9am: Soy cappuccino and fruit pot at desk. £7.93

1pm: walk to financial district for lunch, consider not going to Starbucks. Go to Starbucks and eat same lunch as Monday. Continue book reading. Lunch breaks are not really the norm in my line of work so enjoying the chance to take them while I can and while outside isn't a furnace. £10.57

7.30pm: a "twenty minute task" has taken me three hours and counting. Desk dinner it is. I still don't have a working phone here so can't use Uber Eats / Deliveroo (taking this as a blessing in disguise really) but there are cafes downstairs in my building so I get a veggie salad with slightly sad avocado. £8.81

9.30pm: walk home craving Diet Coke (I literally never drink it anymore) but luckily / unluckily there is no where directly en route to purchase it. 

Wednesday (remembered to take pictures of spending today):

9am: Coffee time! I have a loyalty card so every 6th coffee is free which slightly softens the blow of how pricey they are. Banana from work fruit bowl.

12.30pm: We have a lunchtime training session in the office on so work provide lunch - today the veggie option is a falafel wrap. We have these sessions maybe once a fortnight.

4pm: Sparkling water from vending machine in the office while smugly remembering the days when I drank between 2 and 5 cans of Diet Coke at my desk. 33p 

7.30pm: Dubai Mall again - I need to get a smart blazer in case of serious grown up work meetings but I hate suits with a passion. I end up in Topshop after rejecting all the black blazers and find a grey long-line one. In the sale. In the petite range. In my size. Chain stores are usually massively marked up here but this is a steal for £12.99

8.30pm: I remember my Diet Coke craving from yesterday and head to the mall food court for a large Diet Coke (fountain Diet Coke is the best). £1.10 Also realise that I am starving after enforced shopping and so I get a yaki soba with tofu from a Japanese counter in the food court, I judge myself for getting "mall food" but it's  (relatively) cheap and almost like Wagamamas. £8.91


6am: Gym in my building.

9am: Coffee at desk. £4.41

12pm: I have a dentist appointment at lunchtime which unlike in London is not a five minute walk from the office. I take a taxi there and the traffic is a nightmare so despite thinking I left myself loads of time I arrive at exactly the time of my appointment. As a type-A Virgo this is stressful. My new dentist here is super lovely though and hopefully this is my penultimate dentist trip before I get my "invisible braces" off (I wrote about them here) and can bite into crunchy food without fear. £4.41 for taxi (and £225 for dentist but as I've already budgeted for my appointments this doesn't count towards my weekly total).

1.30pm: The dentist's office is opposite Boxpark so I dash across the road for a zaa'tar wrap and mint lemonade before jumping in a taxi back to work. £3.31 for taxi and £8.73 for lunch.

5pm: Thursday afternoon life admin. I check that my electricity and water bill payment has gone through. Browse ASOS but feel glad that I don't know how to return items here.

6.45pm: Post-work drinks with a small group of female colleagues. We go to a bar in the financial district with outdoor seating and share some nibbles. I have three vodka sodas and decline (!) a fourth because I've barely drank since moving here and suddenly worry about stumbling through the door of my still not-familiar apartment. With no friends (yet!) drinking is not a regular occurrence (yet!). £48.46 

10pm: Share a taxi home with a colleague who lives opposite me. £1.10


9am: Every Friday I seek out a new brunch spot, preferably one serving avocado on toast, on the pretense of "finding somewhere nice for when visitors stay" but really I just love solo brunch (maybe being a sociopath is a pre-requisite to moving to a country where you don't know anyone). I take a taxi to the delightful Comptoir 102. There's not a huge tipping culture here but it's polite to round taxi fares to the nearest note which is why a lot of the amounts are the same. £4.41

11am: Pay for my avocado on toast and almond milk matcha latte. £24.23

12pm: Dubai Zoo is down the road so I pop in - it's not a huge zoo but there are peacocks and some monkeys which are fun to watch and entry was only 66p

12.30pm: Bottle of water from zoo shop - restaurants don't do tap water here and I refuse to pay the equivalent of £5 for bottled water in a restaurant. 44p

2pm: It's so so hot and I can't be in the sun for more than twenty seconds. Walk to the public beach, despair at lack of shade so walk to Mercato Mall instead and find a spot in Starbucks (again!) and flop in a comfy chair with an iced soya latte and my Kindle - I am getting through a lot of books here. £4.41

5pm: Living somewhere new is a steep, sometimes exhausting learning curve. Today's lesson: there are no taxis anywhere on a Friday afternoon. One finally appears (at the moment I start to call an Uber) and I head to Urban Yoga and learn that taxi drivers change shift between 4pm and 5pm. £7.70

6.15pm: Pay for my yoga class. Increasing my zen and flexibility doesn't come cheap but the class is 90 minutes and much more challenging than my home practice (pretentious alert!). £19.92

7.45pm: Walk home from yoga. Netflix (Sherlock and Tokyo Stories: Midnight Diner), blogging and a bowl of cereal for dinner (cereal and almond milk purchased in last week's shop).


11am: I head to a barre class at Physique 57 - the first class is free! The class is really fun in an I'll-ache-for-days sort of way (usual price £28.63).

12.15pm: Head to The Coffee Club opposite for brunch - avocado on toast with poached eggs and a soy cappuccino. I start to read Midnight's Children but the first few chapters are a struggle. Order a second cappuccino. Go on Instagram where a friend is drinking Bloody Marys. Decide that I hate this friend. Back to book. £26.43

3pm: Wander in and and out of Sephora.

4pm: Taxi to Dubai Mall. £3.30

5pm: Waxing appointment - grooming is cheaper here as a consolation prize for constantly feeling like a sweaty mess maybe. I politely decline eyebrow threading, top lip waxing and eye-lash extensions. £49.56 (including tip to my waxer because she's great)

7pm: Dinner from Waitrose (constantly going in to Waitrose and only buying food for the next meal was something I did in London too) is a salad bar salad (too much time spent considering the order of veggies to cram as much into the bowl as possible), Vitamin Water Zero and a copy of Time Out Dubai which promises Dubai's best free activities. £10.57

8pm: I do an online order for some groceries to be delivered during the week - I never did online grocery shopping in the UK so simple delight in being able to schedule a delivery for 9pm on a weeknight. I order bottled water (a must when de-salinated tap water comes out unappealingly lukewarm but is technically drinkable), a bulk pack of light soya milk (which turns out to be tiny child-sized cartons with straws), what I think is a large quantity of apples (five tiny child-sized apples), bananas to make vegan ice cream with, honey in a bear-shaped container, lemon juice in a lemon-shaped container, laundry powder and 20 toilet rolls. £27.22

Total damage: £364.65

Ok, so most of my spending was on food - that hasn't changed from London at least! I should maybe go to Starbucks less often but Raj the barista is practically my friend. The exchange rate definitely makes my spending look "worse" than it is - maybe the hotter days and getting settled into my job more (I don't think the above really represents what my typical working schedule will be somehow...) will result in a little less spending... That said I didn't move to a new city to stay inside and would like more G&Ts back in my life. I'll do another one of these once the "cooler" weather is back to check-in with how my spending habits change once I'm less new.


  1. Ohh I find these so interesting too! It does seem expensive, especially for coffee etc but you're right - moving somewhere new and exciting doesnt include staying in all the time!!

  2. It is so interesting- and I had no idea that Dubai had quite so many chains as it does- I suppose it makes sense with all the expats living there.

  3. It's so fascinating to read these - especially now you're living in Dubai, which I really have no clue about. Didn't realise they had Waitrose!
    But wow the Starbucks is expensive! I always feel guilty about buying coffees and mine are only £2 but it's all relative I guess.
    And YES to fountain Diet coke. Simply the BEST.


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