I've paid roughly $1,500 a month to live in both London and Dubai — here's how the apartments compare
I've paid roughly $1,500 a month for the past two places I've lived — a bedroom in an apartment in Dubai's Princess Tower, and a small studio at London's The Collective Canary Wharf. They're similar in many ways, since they both have pools, common areas, and communal kitchens, and are located in similar neighborhoods. My apartment in Dubai was much higher up than my current one in London (on the 88th floor compared to 17th), and considerably larger. However, I prefer my apartment in London, which is cozier, has a library and co-working spaces, and is closer public transport. Here's how the two places measure up. Visit Insider's homepage for more stories. Before moving to London, I lived in an apartment on the 88th floor of Dubai's Princess Tower. I paid about $1,362 per month for a bedroom, and the view was jaw-dropping.
The price for my apartment included unlimited utilities, high-speed internet, and daily maid service. The contract was also month-to-month, making cancellation easy. I had my own bedroom.
My room wasn't enormous, but it was big enough for just me. The balcony was a nice touch — especially for letting in fresh air on a hot day, which was every day since Dubai is in the desert. I shared a kitchen with five flatmates, and a bathroom with three people.
All appliances were provided. Since we had different schedules, it was rare for more than one person to be in the kitchen at a time. On the sixth floor was an outdoor pool and hot tub.
Open to residents and their guests, the pool was always a refreshing place to relax — and surprisingly never too crowded. Up on the 97th floor was a "sky lounge" for residents and their guests.
With commanding views out to the sea for 180 degrees, plenty of soft couches, and free high speed internet, the sky lounge was my favorite place in the Princess Tower to relax. There were also multiple game rooms.
The game rooms on the 97th and sixth floors had lots of activities, but were never very busy. The lobby was nicely decorated, too.
Access to the building was controlled by a key card, but the lobby was also staffed around the clock. With 97 floors, there were eight sets of elevators.
Even with so many, wait times to catch one could sometimes be long — after all, the Princess Tower, with a roof height of 1,286 feet, is taller than the roof of the Empire State Building. For being so high up, the elevator was quite fast.
One set of four elevators went up to the 50th floor. Another set of four "high speed" elevators went to floors 51 and above. Once the elevators started moving, it still usually took about a minute to reach my floor. The building itself used to be the tallest residential building in the world.
The Princess Tower was the tallest apartment building in the world, recognized as such by the Guinness World Records, from 2012 to 2015, when its crown was swiped by 432 Park Avenue in New York City. The location was also convenient.
Surrounded by shops and services of all kinds in the Dubai Marina and the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, I could walk to work, even in the summer when temperatures were well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) every day. For further journeys, tram and metro stations were close by, too. The Princess Tower and the surrounding area had a pop culture moment, even appearing in a "Star Trek" movie.
Parts of 2016's "Star Trek: Beyond" were filmed in the Dubai Marina, and the Princess Tower appears in several scenes. Producer Jeffrey Chernov said the decision was made to film in the Dubai Marina because the architecture already looked like something from a sci-fi film, according to Emirates Woman. My current apartment in London is smaller and costs about $1,553 per month, but has its own kitchenette and private bathroom.
My room isn't large by any means, but I like the coziness. The bed is comfy, and big enough for me.
I had to buy extra blankets and have to wash my own sheets, but it's worth it for a cozy bed with a soft headboard behind the pillows. My room is very narrow, but I like the wood floors.
My room is too small to have a party in, but The Collective has more than enough common rooms for entertaining. The bathroom is also quite small, but big enough for one person.
Like the rest of my apartment, my bathroom is very narrow. But space is used so efficiently that it feels larger than it is. Space is used efficiently, with plenty of shelving.
There are lots of hidden storage areas, so space isn't an issue. The shelves are right next to my bed — convenient when reaching for reading material before going to sleep. There is also a small table for working or having tea or coffee.
Another advantage of the table is the power outlet next to it, which makes it easy to plug in coffee makers, laptops, or phone chargers. The view of glittering Canary Wharf isn't as high up as Dubai, but it's still pretty spectacular.
Looking out my window at night is like its own version of television. Unfortunately, I don't have a balcony like I did in Dubai. While my room has a small kitchenette, there's also a large communal kitchen for cooking meals.
Another great thing about the kitchen: pots and pans are provided. Sometimes other residents will also ask if you'd like to eat with them, too — meaning it's a great place to make new friends and connections. With mostly young professionals living in the building, there's an emphasis on community.
Making new friends is also made easier by the sheer number of activities on offer. From film nights to cooking classes, boxing lessons, yoga, salsa dancing, and more, there's always something on — and a calendar in the lobby and on Facebook to tell you what's happening. The lobby is nicer than the one in Princess Tower.
Wood floors and indoor plants are features throughout The Collective. But the lobby also has a cafe at the far end, and plenty of spaces to sit and work or socialize. The pool is indoor, and has great views.
Not only is there hardly ever anyone in the pool, but the water is nice and warm. There's also a hot tub, sauna, and steam room. They're great for unwinding after a long day. Other amenities include a nice den.
With soft couches and chairs, plenty of small coffee tables, a veritable jungle of indoor plants, and a wide selection of magazines and newspapers updated regularly, the den is also a bit like an airport lounge. Some areas have great views of London.
The 20th floor viewing area is next to the pool — but you could be forgiven for watching the docks and city below instead. My favorite place is the library.
Like all the common areas, the library is always open for residents. The selection of books is very diverse, too, from classic novels and decades-old travelogues to modern thrillers and romances. It's heaven for bibliophiles on a budget. There are plenty of workspaces.
A lot of the people staying at The Collective are young professionals, and many of them are digital nomads, own their own business, or have jobs that allow them to work from home. Because of this, the workspaces are always abuzz with activity. They're a great place to also make professional connections without having to buy a coffee like at a cafe, or pay to rent space at a co-working facility. You can find art in common areas throughout the 20-storey building.
On almost every floor is art of some kind. Most of it has a similar theme, such as "community" or "connection." The hallways have a lot more character than my Dubai apartment.
There's something interesting to see almost everywhere you turn in The Collective. The elevators are smaller and not as fast as the Princess Tower, but more high-tech.
There are only four elevators, and each has differently-colored lights inside — red, blue, yellow, and green. After the floor you want is pressed before you get in, the elevators take you to where you need to go. The outside of the building looks modern and fresh.
The Collective Canary Wharf opened in 2019 — and it shows. Cracked, dirty surfaces are difficult to find in the building, and all the appliances are new. The hallways even still smell new — or at least more like a hotel than an apartment building. I also prefer the location to my former apartment, with its many scenic docks to walk along and easy access to public transportation and shops at Canary Wharf.
Canary Wharf is a major financial hub. With modern, tall buildings surrounded by water, it's very similar to the Dubai Marina. It hasn't been in "Star Trek," but my neighborhood is in a "Star Wars" movie.
Parts of 2016's "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" were filmed at Canary Wharf Underground station, according to Travel + Leisure. Overall, although my London apartment costs more, I prefer its amenities and location to my place in Dubai.
The Collective is very similar to the Princess Tower in many ways. But it's the beautiful common areas, the library, places to work, and art all around that help push it over the edge. Sure, it's a lot smaller, but my apartment at The Collective is nicer in almost every way, like wood floors instead of tile. The coziness also gives it a more homely feel. Space is used much more efficiently with the shelving and storage space. There's also something to be said about the emphasis on community and making new connections at The Collective — perfect when in a new city and you don't know anyone. Together, it all makes the $1,500 a month price tag seem like a bargain. Read more: I recently moved from Dubai to London. Here are the similarities — and the differences — that have most surprised me I lived at the top of the second-tallest apartment building in the world for less than $1,400 a month, and I felt like royalty I visited London's famous Borough Market, and the food was so diverse that supermarkets now seem boring I visited the Tower of London, the most popular attraction in the UK, and I couldn't believe people actually live there I hate shopping, but after a visit to London's iconic Harrods I have a new outlook on department stores