Living in Dubai

If you are new to Dubai, you'll have a big to-do list on your first day. See below for essential information on how to get your life up and running in our city.

Banking in Dubai

Every resident in the UAE is eligible to open a bank account and international students are no exception. Opening a student account is a straightforward process and many local banks offer a student package for students studying their course in a registered university in the UAE.


The dirham is the currency of the country and is abbreviated as “AED”, “DH” or sometimes “Dhs”. The dirham is subdivided into a 100 “fils”. 

Coins come in three denominations:

  • 25 fils
  • 50 fils
  • 1 dirham

Paper currency comes in eight denominations:

  • 5 dirhams
  • 10 dirhams
  • 20 dirhams
  • 50 dirhams
  • 100 dirhams
  • 200 dirhams
  • 500 dirhams
  • 1000 dirhams

You can use XE’s currency exchange website for an up-to-date currency conversion.

What do I need to open a bank account?

Banks ask for a standard set of documents in order to start the application for opening a bank account. This usually includes:

  • Copy of your personal passport
  • Copy of your Emirates ID*
  • Copy of your residency visa* on your passport
  • Copy of your university ID card or your letter of enrolment from the university

You may find that some banks will also ask you for additional documents, such as a letter confirming you have registered as a full-time student, information about your current residence or information about your funding arrangements if you are sponsored by your employer or government.

*Obtained after the visa process is complete

Where can I open a bank account?

There are many local banks that offer a similar student package. Examples of such banks are:

Download the respective app for your bank of choice to budget your spending, access important online services through the bank and keep your information safe.

You can also apply for one of the digital, branchless banking cards:

Budgeting in Dubai

Moving internationally to a new university might be your first time handling your finances on your own. Budgeting your income and expenses is the best way to keep track of your spending.

We have created an approximation of expected spending for students making the move to Dubai and what they can expect for spending for everyday items, grocery and dining along with other things.


The diversity of cultures makes Dubai the perfect places to sample a wide range of cuisines. You can indulge in local, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, south Asian and many more. From internationally known fast food chains like McDonald’s, KFC and many others to authentic fine dining experiences, the options are limitless. The table below is a rough estimation of prices.
Dining Cost
Fast food meal (for one) 20-40 AED
Home delivery meal (for one) 20-50 AED
Typical dine-in restaurant (for one) 50-150 AED
Fine dining restaurant (for one) 150+ AED
Coffee 10-20 AED


Dubai has a large variety of indoor, outdoor, aquatic and desert activities that you can book online or call up ahead of time for availability.

Enjoy wakeboarding, jet-skiing, dune bashing safari, quad bikes and sand skiing and much more. Indoor activities can range from cinemas to trampoline parks to indoor theme parks. From general admission to the platinum VIP experience, you can tailor your experience to how you want it to be.

Cinemas: (an average regular ticket costs 40 AED)

Grocery shopping

One of the best ways to budget is to cook your own food and purchase your own ingredients. You can find a lot of what you’re familiar with just a few website clicks or a few kilometres away.

Throughout Dubai you can find branches to the main supermarkets available, such as:

There are also some providers for your usual groceries who strictly offer online delivery like:

Aside from the main supermarkets, there are third party delivery apps (found on Google Play Store and the Apple Store) that provide local services and deliver grocery shopping as well, such as:

  • elGrocer
  • InstaShop

For your first shopping trip you will be spending a bit extra while you collect all your essentials for cooking like a set of pans, pots, spoons, knives and spices. An initial investment that will save you a lot of money on take-out meals in the long run.

Weekly shopping costs can range between 200-400 AED depending on your dietary choices. We advise that you buy some of your everyday staples in bulk like sugar, rice, pasta and others to save money.