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Families in Abu Dhabi: What Expat Parents Should Know

If you’re an expat moving to Abu Dhabi with children, you’ll find yourself among the many foreign families that have relocated to the city. While Dubai draws in visitors who are looking to splurge and indulge, Abu Dhabi is the place where many expat families prefer to settle down. 

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The large expat community provides everything you need for raising kids and enjoying life as a family. In this Pacific Prime Dubai article, we discuss what expat parents should know about raising a family in Abu Dhabi.

Living in Abu Dhabi with a Family

The first thing you’re going to want to consider is the best place for your family to live in Abu Dhabi. The city can be divided into two parts: on- and off-island. 

Abu Dhabi doesn’t have much of a city center since most office buildings and government departments are spread across the city. That means the best location to live for your family should be based on how convenient it is to get to work and school. 

Off-island housing tends to be larger and newer, making it a popular option for families. There are also more nurseries, schools, supermarkets, and facilities in general opening up off-island, making it increasingly convenient to live. Some of the most popular developments include: 

If on-island living sounds ideal for your family, there are plenty of options, ranging from standalone houses and townhouses to apartments. 

Newer developments like Mangrove One and Bloom Gardens are located close to Brighton College, and are perfect for those after some space. However, older developments like Mushrif Gardens and Al Karama are conveniently situated near the popular British School Al Khubairat. 

The Cost of Renting Property in Abu Dhabi

The most popular locations to rent property among expat families in Abu Dhabi are Al Khalidya, Yas Island, Al Reem Island, Mohammed Bin Zayed City, and Saadiyat Island. Each of these areas is special in its own way and offers a solid base for families. 

Here is the average cost of rent for each property type across all the locations:

Studio AED 35,200
1 Bed Unit AED 43,800
2 Bed Unit AED 63,800
3 Bed Unit AED 90,800
4 Bed Unit AED 171,800


Al Khalidiya

Many Abu Dhabi expat families call Al Khalidiya home. Situated in a prime location near the Corniche, this neighborhood is perfect for outdoor activities like cycling and hiking. You can find all kinds of lodgings here, from cheap to fancy, and every one of them has a breathtaking view of the city. 

The average cost of rent is as follows: 

By number Beds Apartment Villa Penthouse
1. Studio AED 29,000+
2. 1 Bed Unit AED 40,000+
3. 2 Bed Unit AED 45,000+
4. 3 Bed Unit AED 55,000+ AED 110,000+
5. 4 Bed Unit AED 80,000+ AED 125,000+ AED 330,000+


Yas Island

Yas Island is a popular destination for expatriate families looking for a vibrant, exciting, and welcoming environment for their children. There are opulent apartments and villas available for rent. Major flagship stores, a waterfront, and amusement centers for children are all located there.

The average cost of rent is as follows: 

By number Beds Apartment Villa Penthouse
1. Studio AED 41,000+
2. 1 Bed Unit AED 50,000+
3. 2 Bed Unit AED 80,000+ AED 175,000+
4. 3 Bed Unit AED 125,000+ AED 205,000+
5. 4 Bed Unit AED 254,000+ AED 240,000+


Al Reem Island

Expat families seeking a lively lifestyle with picturesque waterfront views will find paradise on Al Reem Island. With a variety of housing options, including penthouses, apartments, and villas, the island is a great place to call home and raise a family.

The average cost of rent is as follows: 

By number Beds Apartment Villa Penthouse
1. Studio AED 36,000+
2. 1 Bed Unit AED 47,000+
3. 2 Bed Unit AED 70,000+
4. 3 Bed Unit AED 93,000+ AED 249,000+ AED 280,000+
5. 4 Bed Unit AED 190,000+ AED 250,000+ AED 235,000+


Mohammed Bin Zayed City

Expats flock to MBZ City, named after Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, the first Prince of Abu Dhabi, to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and raise their families in peace. With a gated community and more affordable accommodations, the city takes family-friendly to a whole new level.

The average cost of rent is as follows: 

By number Beds Apartment Villa Penthouse
1. Studio AED 25,000+
2. 1 Bed Unit AED 28,000+
3. 2 Bed Unit AED 44,000+ AED 55,000+
4. 3 Bed Unit AED 60,000+ AED 70,000+
5. 4 Bed Unit AED 95,000+ AED 100,000+


Saadiyat Island

One of the greatest places to live in Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat Island is home to expat families from all over the world and boasts an idyllic setting that will blow your mind. The island of Saadiyat is a popular spot for expats in the capital, so even though it is a developing area, it is considered luxurious.

The average cost of rent is as follows: 

By number Beds Apartment Villa Penthouse
1. Studio AED 40,000+
2. 1 Bed Unit AED 58,000+
3. 2 Bed Unit AED 80,000+
4. 3 Bed Unit AED 130,000+ AED 180,000+
5. 4 Bed Unit AED 330,000+ AED 340,000+

Family Activities in Abu Dhabi

Known for its warm weather, the combination of parks and swimming pools in Abu Dhabi and the large expat community offer more than enough to keep your children busy. Abu Dhabi might have many parks, but they aren’t very spread out. 

For instance, Khalidiya has three parks, while Al Wahda has none. It’s advisable to familiarize yourself with park rules and hours. Some parks only allow women and children, while others are only open in the afternoon.

Locals often gather for evening picnics in the park, making it a good opportunity to meet other families. A museum and aquarium can be found in Sheikh Khalifa Park, while barbeques and ball games are possible in Khalidiya Park. Summer heat drives families to indoor play areas like mall “fun zones” 

As every parent knows, school holidays can quickly turn boring for children if there aren’t enough things to do to occupy the time. Fortunately, Abu Dhabi has lots to offer when it comes to fun family activities, such as:

Nursery Schools

With over 100 nursery schools in Abu Dhabi, it’s possible to find curriculums of all types – including UK, US, French, Arabic, and Indian. Services are offered up to five days a week, and some schools accept children from one month old. Fees for nursery schools in Abu Dhabi range from AED 10,000 at a standard nursery school to AED 70,000 per year for esteemed Montessori nurseries.

Abu Dhabi Mums

Abu Dhabi Mums is a popular volunteer-based group that caters to parents and their children. Through their platform, Abu Dhabi Mums provides everything from relevant information and cultural activities to inspiration and support. For instance, they organize Stay & Play sessions that allow children to learn, socialize, and play for AED 21 per visit. They also host educational sessions and workshops, competitions, and more.

The Cost of Living in Abu Dhabi with a Family

Abu Dhabi’s cost of living depends on where you are from. Gas is considered cheap, while electricity, water, internet, and other basic utilities are reasonable. Eating out can quickly add up, and rent is known to be expensive. Schools set you back quite a bit since expats need private schooling.

In addition, 5% VAT has resulted in price inflation. If you want to go for a nice meal at a hotel, you’ll have to pay approximately 25% more in tax. Similarly, a 30% tax is normal when purchasing alcohol for home consumption.

For a more comprehensive list, as of 2023, the Abu Dhabi hotel taxes comprise of:

  • VAT: 5%
  • Property Service Charge: 10%
  • Tourism Fee: 4%
  • Municipality Fee: 4%

Dining taxes in Abu Dhabi comprise of:

  • Service Charge: 10%
  • Municipality Fee: 4%
  • Tourism Fee: 4%
  • VAT: 5%

Another thing to consider is health insurance. While employers in Abu Dhabi must provide health insurance for employees, dependents are not always included. That means you’ll have to buy family health insurance if it isn’t covered. Read on how to choose the best family health insurance in our guide!

Since it’s easy to live a luxurious lifestyle in Abu Dhabi, it’s important to be careful not to overspend. As long as you budget wisely, you should be able to make the most of your Abu Dhabi experience.

Pacific Prime Dubai is Here to Help

Looking for medical insurance in Abu Dhabi and the UAE or globally? As a leading insurance broker with over 20 years in the industry, Pacific Prime Dubai has the knowledge and expertise to help you find the best plan for your unique requirements. 

We also have expat-focused resources and blog posts to get you up-to-speed on important topics such as UAE family visa rules

Contact us for a free quote or impartial advice today!

Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime Dubai
Jantra Jacobs is a Senior Copywriter at Pacific Prime with over 10 years of writing and editing experience. She writes and edits a diverse variety of online and offline copy, including sales and marketing materials ranging from articles and advertising copy to reports, guides, RFPs, and more.

Jantra curates and reports on the results of Pacific Prime’s monthly newsletters, as well as manages Pacific Prime’s Deputy Global CEO’s LinkedIn posts. Complemented by her background in business writing, Jantra’s passion for health, insurance, and employee benefits helps her create engaging content - no matter how complex the subject is.

Growing up as a third-culture kid has given her a multicultural perspective that helps her relate to expats and their families while 8 years of working remotely have given her unique insight into hybrid work arrangements and enthusiasm for employee benefits.
Jantra Jacobs