Dubai is a glamorous city, and as glamorous cities go, quite expensive. Actually, one of the most interesting facts about Dubai is that visitors spend more money here than in any other city in the world (according to MasterCard).
The star hotels are expensive, several attractions are expensive, and goods at the malls are expensive. If you are given to budget traveling, you might wonder how it is going to be possible to visit Dubai on a budget. Never fear.
As with many other expensive cities, all the good stuff in Dubai is either cheap or totally free! Take our guidelines for how to visit Dubai on a budget to heart, and you’ll have a wonderful trip in the fabulous city of a trillion lights.
Look out for cheap plane tickets on low-budget airlines such as FlyDubai, Alitalia, KLM, Emirates, Air France, and Wizzair. Look for cheap rates on price comparison sites and keep looking till you manage to fly to Dubai on a budget.
Budget local transportation
The cheapest way to travel within Dubai is via the Dubai Metro. Purchase a day ticket for 14 AED and hop off at any spot, explore all you can and hop on the next bus. In fact, if the climate seems friendly, you can grab a map and some bus routes and treat yourself to a tour of Dubai on your own. Purchase a Nol card (www.nol.ae), load it with cash, and use it to pay for both the bus and the Metro service. Another way to travel on a budget is to rent a bike, either on Dubai Marina or Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Boulevard and travel the city at leisure.
P.S. You can also travel from Dubai to Muscat by bus if you want to continue exploring this area overland.
Budget stay options
Take care of the most expensive factor first – that of accommodation. One might think, given Dubai’s superfluity of star hotels, that there just aren’t any modest stays at all. Wrong. Try your luck at one of these fairly economical stays and you’ll be surprised at how much you save:
- Deira: Al Uruba Hotel
- Al Barsha: Grandeur Hotel Dubai, Gulf Pearl Hotel and Citymax
- Al Nahda Rd: Youth Hostel
- Al Quasis Rd: Youth Hostel
- Sheikh Zayed Road: My Dubai Stay Apartments
- Al Muraqabat Street: Dream Palace Hotel
- Al Fahidi Road: New Peninsula Hotel
- Dubai Marina: The Marina Byblos Hotel
Check out economy-priced dhow cruises and safaris run by Rayna Tours. These are enjoyable and won’t cost the earth. Here are several attractions for your visit in Dubai on a budget.
- Pyramids Rooftop Gardens: Enjoy free movies on Sunday evenings with a drink, under Dubai’s brilliant stars.
- Jumeirah Beach Residence: The beaches here are not entry-free but the wonderful restaurant-lined waterfront promenade is. Check out the uber-expensive cars lined up opposite and grab a free drink on promotion at one of the bars.
- Deira and Bur Dubai: Cross the Dubai Creek in a traditional abra vessel, and visit Bur Dubai and Deira on either side. Deira is known for its famous souqs – perfume, spices and gold, and more gold. Be sure to visit Bur Dubai’s Meena Bazaar for its pashmina shawls and handicrafts.
- The Dubai Fountains: Hire a dhow and get as close as you can to the famous dancing fountains on the Burj Lake, and for free.
- Dubai Heritage Village: Check out the wonderful set up at the Heritage Village of life as it was before the oil boom. There are old mud houses, water towers, old tools, and methods of making crafts for daily life. It’s enchanting.
- Societe Pub in Marina Byblos Hotel: This savvy hotel at Dubai Marina hosts a free dance once a week where everyone is welcome. One drink is on the house while the music and the ambiance are free to enjoy.
- The Dubai Mall: Unless you plan to splurge, the Dubai Mall is free to enjoy from top to bottom. Do check out the 1200 retail outlets, the many eateries, the 22-cinema multiplex, and the SEGA Republic and KidZania that are just a small port of all Dubai Mall attractions. The aquarium and the underwater zoo is not entry-free, but you can watch the marine creatures from the main tank outside for free. The nightly broomball games at Dubai Mall’s ice rink are completely free. You can also drive a purpose-built F1 simulator in the Ferrari Store on Level 1, for free. Plus, it’s a place where you can hide and relax for a while during the summer in Dubai.
- Al Shindagha Camel Museum: Totally entry-free and full of interesting dioramas, sculptures, and paintings that depict the correlation of man and camels in the desert. in has
- Jumeirah Mosque: Mosque tours are free on all days, except when the mosque is closed to visitors on Friday. Enjoy the sight of the glimmering white marble during the day and the lit spectacle of the 4 domes and minarets at night.
- Public Parks: Dubai’s beautifully landscaped parks are free to enjoy. Visit the lovely sandy-shored Creekside Park and Safa Park’s pristine gardens. The Dubai Desert Conservation Area has a lovely heritage corner complete with desert adventures. Dubai’s excellent parks are fully equipped with BBQ and picnic areas, great parking facilities, and play areas.
- Al Fahidi Museum: This entry-free museum in the old Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai’s oldest building has excellent colorful dioramas that detail life before the oil boom. The museum’s many galleries recreate date farms, Arab houses, old souqs, mosques, and traditional sea vessels.
The food at Dubai’s star hotels is expensive, so best head out to waterfront stalls and food court eateries at malls. Food in Dubai is prepared hygienically and cooked well, no matter where you eat. If you hanker for a drink, best visit bars and clubs on weekly ladies’ or gents’ nights. You’re bound to get free complimentary drinks and the rest will be at good budget prices. Check out the bars at the Dubai Marina area and at Downtown Dubai for the best deals.
You cannot come back from Dubai without shopping, so here’s how to shop on a budget. Purchase items from the Heritage Village, and from the famous souqs in downtown Dubai – Bur Dubai and Deira. You can bargain at these places but not at the malls. Buy smart and you can still enjoy shopping in Dubai on a budget.
And there you have it, the secret revealed. It is possible to visit every place on a budget if you plan your trip right.
Have you been to Dubai? Do you have any other tips to add to the list?
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This is a guest post by Neha from DubaiWikia
As a Mass Comm postgraduate, Neha naturally has an artistic take on everything about life. This is quite evident in her writings as well. An avid trekker, explorer, and a true foodie; She finds happiness in small endeavors of life and loves to pen them down as a cherished memory. A firm believer that “we have just one life to live and so much to do”, Neha lives every moment to the fullest.
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