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Home » Expat Life, Middle East, Relocations, headline

Relocation Guide: Dubai Utilities

A quick guide to arranging household utilities in Dubai, UAE

By Move One
September 7, 2010

utilities phone water powerOne of the least appetizing, but most important elements of relocation is getting to grips with the basic costs of living and setting up all the indispensable utility services. Living in the United Arab Emirates requires a little more preparation than other relocation destinations because much of the housing stock is both new and relies on high energy consumption to maintain a comfortable environment.

Electricity and Water

The urban residents of Dubai have one of the world’s biggest carbon footprints per capita. The average energy consumption is estimated by the Dubai Electricity and Water Agency (DEWA) to be around 20,000 kilowatt-hours per person per year and an enormous 130 gallons of water each day.

Tenants will have to pay DEWA bills monthly, which will include charges for water, electricity, sewerage and a housing fee. The fee is calculated as five percent of yearly rent divided into 12 installments, regardless of how much that rent is or its relation to market standard. Property owners will not be subject to the five percent charge.

A four bedroom villa without a swimming pool will have an average monthly utility bill of around 1,500 AED (approx. 410 USD) based on average consumption of water, electricity, sewerage and the housing fee. DEWA bills are usually higher during summer months, and also for properties with gardens and private swimming pools due to higher consumption of water and electricity.

When a new tenant signs up for DEWA connection, he needs to pay a deposit of around 2,000 AED (approx. 550 USD) for a villa and 1,000 AED (approx. 275 USD) for an apartment which is fully refundable (but make sure to keep the original receipt) plus 110 AED (approx. 30 USD) for connection.

DEWA charges a standard rate per unit, currently 20 fills per unit for electricity, 3 fills per unit for water and 0,5 fills per unit for sewerage. If you use too much electricity or water, DEWA will increase your rates. If you use over 2,000kWh of electricity in a month the rate increases to 24 fills per unit.

The documents required for DEWA activation are:

  • an application form
  • a tenancy contract or agreement of sale
  • a company trade license (if applicable)
  • a passport
  • a copy of your residence visa.

One of the utilities that new expats might overlook but will quickly find to be indispensable is the air conditioning service. Rather than being done by a distinct household unit, AC in Dubai is usually operated by a cold water system piped in by the utility provider. The cost of this is usually included in the DEWA electricity bill, but in newer developments such as the Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residences, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, and Palm Jumeirah it comes as a distinct charge.

Costs and the deposit depend on the size of your property and the cooling company. The approximate deposit required for a villa is 3,000 AED – 5,000 AED (approx. 825 – 1400 USD), a three bedroom apartment 3,000 AED (approx. 825 USD), a two bedroom apartment 2,000 AED (approx. 550 USD), and for a one bedroom apartment 1,000 AED -1,500 AED (approx. 275 – 410 USD) . The deposit is refundable within 30 days of the final bill payment.

AC, particularly in the height of the summer months, is generally regarded as an absolute necessity to survive in Dubai. However, disputes between AC service providers and measures by the government to reduce residents’ energy consumption have recently threatened services and increased costs. In June this year, two subsidiaries of Dubai World fell into a dispute that resulted in residents of the up-market Palm Jumeriah and Discovery Gardens developments receiving notice that their AC supply was to be disconnected. The threat failed to materialize, but not before the residents got as close to civil disobedience as people who live in elite communities are likely to.  Residents of Al Raha Gardens in Abu Dhabi, using a supplier called Demarco, have reported bills of up to 2195 AED (approx. 600 USD) for the chilled AC water, although other expats living in less central and less exclusively expat areas have said that bills for AC water in July this year were as little as 250 AED (approx. 70 USD).

In March 2008, Dubai authorities introduced legislation that significantly increased the cost of water and power for both expats and locally owned businesses. The cost of operating a medium sized office in a tower development went from around AED 2 million to AED 4 million, effectively overnight.

Saeed Mohammad Al Tayer, DEWA Managing Director and CEO, justified the increase saying “The new tariff system will encourage people to keep a closer eye on their electricity and water consumption. It will also pave the way towards a more responsible utilization of natural resources…The move will help Dubai to meet one of the major global challenges and to integrate a conservation culture within society.”

Understanding the exact technical details of a Dubai utility bill can take some practice. In September of last year, many residents started to complain that their utility bills as much as doubled from one month to the next for no obvious reason. The DEWA has continued to insist that no one’s bill actually went up, and that the residents in question simply did not understand how the bill was worded. However, the popular FaceBook group ‘My DEWA bill increased in September ‘09 by a crazy amount for no reason!‘ still strongly suggests otherwise.

Telephone and Internet

In order to get a residential telephone line, a mobile phone SIM or an internet connection, you will need to sign up with Etisalat or DU, the UAE’s only telecom companies. The cost of a landline connection is 125 AED (approx. 35 USD) for Etisalat or 200 AED (approx. 55 USD) for Du, plus around 200 AED refundable deposit.

Telecom companies will require:

  • a completed application form
  • a copy of your passport
  • a copy of your residence visa
  • a copy of your property lease
  • a ‘no objection’ letter from your sponsor.

A telephone line will normally take three to five working days to be activated. Telephone calls between landlines in Dubai are free. Depending of the time of day, calls to elsewhere in the UAE cost between 0.12 AED and 0.24 AED (approx. 0.035 – 0.07 USD).

A mobile SIM with DU will cost 55 AED (approx. 15 USD) and includes 10 AED credit (approx. 2.75 USD). An Etisalat line will cost 165 AED (approx. 45 USD) and also includes 10 AED credit. SIM prepaid cards should be working within a few minutes of registration. To get a line you will need a copy of your passport. Calls to mobile networks cost between 0.18 AED and 0.24 AED (approx. 0.05 – 0.07 USD).

Internet services in the UAE are provided by either Du or Etisalat.

All internet access in the UAE is routed and monitored, blocking sites that contain pornography, religious offensive material and political criticism. Etisalat has various packages available based on speed. A 1Mbps broadband connection with unlimited usage will cost 249 AED (approx. 68 USD) per month plus an 200 AED (approx. 55 USD) installation fee. Du offers a range of different internet packages, ranging from 256kbps for 149 AED (approx. 40 USD) per month to 2 mbps for 349 AED (approx. 95 USD) per month, all with a 200 AED installation fee.

Businesses users or expats wanting especially fast connections can contact the subsidiary BusinessOne, which will charge between 350 AED and 2000 AED monthly.

There are still no gas mains in Dubai, and individual gas canisters need to be purchased and attached to home systems. Gas bottles come in three sizes: small are better in apartments, most houses use the medium size and large are really only for industrial use. The canister initially cost from 350 AED to 550 AED (approx. 95 – 150 USD – keep your receipt so that you can get some of your deposit back – around 100 AED). Refill costs depend on cylinder size, and are between around 60 AED and 120 AED (approx. 16 – 35 USD).

A recent survey conducted by Landmark Advisory and CityScape Intelligence has shown that Dubai developers are putting increasing emphasis on developing residential and business districts with a greater energy and resource efficiency. When asked what the key driving force was behind making more energy efficient homes, 54 percent of Dubai developers said ‘lower utility bills’.

(approx. 275 USD)

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