With a booming trade and tourism industry, Dubai has become incredibly popular in the last two decades. Every day, it sees hundreds of visitors from all walks of life around the world businessmen, families, and solo travellers. But, it isn't known as a cheap holiday destination. In fact, because of its higher-priced food and accommodation, Dubai is possibly one of the most expensive destinations for backpackers. However, this doesn't mean that fun has to come at a cost!
Traveling to Dubai on a budget is an excellent choice, as the city offers a variety of affordable options without compromising on the experience. Here's a comprehensive guide to help you make the most of your trip to Dubai without breaking the bank:
1. Planning and Research
Off-Peak Travel: Consider visiting during the shoulder seasons (April-May, October-November) to avoid the peak tourist season and secure better deals on flights and accommodation.
Budget Airlines and Deals: Look for budget airlines and subscribe to fare alerts to snag the best flight deals. Airlines usually release tickets six months in advance, so booking early can save you some money.
- Consider staying in areas like Deira, Bur Dubai, or Al Barsha, which have more budget-friendly hotels and guesthouses. Hotels on the beach always charge higher.
- Hostels and Airbnb are excellent choices for budget-conscious travelers. You can also consider aparthotels which are cheaper than hotels.
- The standard of hotels in Dubai is generally higher as compared to many other destinations around the world. A two-star hotel in Dubai is almost like a 3-star hotel anywhere else. So, you can also consider booking a budget hotel in Dubai.
- Purchase a Nol Card, which is available at metro stations and bus terminals, to use for public transportation (metro, bus, tram) at discounted rates.
- The Dubai Metro Red Line covers major tourist spots, offering a cost-effective and efficient way to get around. It connects to major locations like the airport, marina, and Old Dubai. The metro is open between 6 AM and 12 AM, and this extends to 1 AM on Thursdays and Fridays.
- Public buses are an affordable option to reach various parts of the city.
Dubai Tram: If staying in the Dubai Marina or nearby areas, the tram is a convenient way to explore that region.
Walking and Biking: Explore areas like Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Marina, or Downtown Dubai on foot or rent a bike for a low-cost and enjoyable experience.
Renting a Car: There is enough parking at every place in Dubai. So, renting a car might be a good option for families and groups who are expecting to travel a lot around the city. There are car-sharing services as well.
3. Food and Dining
- Explore local restaurants and eateries in areas like Al Dhiyafa Street, Al Muraqqabat, or Karama for affordable and authentic meals.
- Savor shawarmas, falafels, and other street food options that are tasty and budget-friendly. For less than AED 10 per person, you can enjoy filling meals of Pakistani, Lebanese, and Indian snacks.
- If you're willing to go on a mini street food tour, don't miss out on Sambosa House in Meena Bazaar, Ravi in Al Satwa, and Special Ostadi on Musallah Road.
- You can also find deals on fine dine restaurants on apps like The Entertainer. There is a fee (often discounted) for the app, but all its offers are searchable before purchase. Zomato also offers savings and discounts on various restaurants across the city.
Visit Global Village, a vibrant multicultural market, to sample affordable international cuisine and enjoy entertainment.
Bargain Shopping: Visit traditional souks like the Gold Souk, Spice Souk, and Perfume Souk to negotiate prices and buy unique gifts and souvenirs.
Malls & Markets:
- Head to Dubai Outlet Mall or Outlet Village for discounts on branded items and clothing.
- Dragon Mart is a dragon-shaped shopping mall on Al Awir Road that offers Chinese products in the Middle East. Spanning 150,000 square meters, it has over 3,500 outlets of products, and bargaining is welcome.
- Dubai Outlet Mall on Al Ain Road is another great option. With discounts from 30% to 90% off in their 240 stores, you won't feel guilty swiping that credit card with each purchase.
- Another wonderful location for bargain shopping is Al Karama Market, where you can buy top-notch quality handbags, clothes, gift items, and even shoes.
5. Sightseeing and Attractions
Here's a list of the best things to do in Dubai without breaking the bank:
Visit Jumeirah Beach and The Corniche
Enjoy a day at pristine public beaches like Jumeirah Beach and Kite Beach, offering free entry and beautiful views. As a public beach, there's no entry fee, which often means that it is pretty crowded on the weekends, but if you arrive on a weekday afternoon, it's a lovely place for picnics. For a less-crowded beach location with equally great views and similar amenities, you can alternatively visit Al Mamzar Beach Park at a nominal fee of AED 5. Another park to visit is Zabeel Park in Al Kifaf, which can be accessed by metro. For an entry fee of AED 5, you can take part in their fun activities like boat riding, space maze, cycling, and even catch some live music.
While shopping can be pricey, visiting the Dubai Mall is free. You can window-shop, witness the spectacular indoor Dubai Aquarium, and experience the fascinating human waterfall.
Dubai Fountain Show
Witness the mesmerizing Dubai Fountain show near The Dubai Mall, with spectacular water displays and music, completely free of charge. This light show takes place every half hour from 6 PM to 10 PM on weekdays and 6 PM to 11 PM on weekends. Although a closer look at the Dubai boardwalk will cost you AED 65, the fountain show can be seen for free from every point on the promenade.
Explore Old Dubai
Explore Old Dubai on budget by taking a traditional water taxi called Abra for AED 1 across Dubai Creek. On the other side, you'll visit the Old Dubai and Bastakiya Quarter. Also known as the Al Fahidi neighborhood, it is one of the oldest residential areas in Dubai, with plenty of historic buildings, winding alleyways, and Persian-influenced wind towers. You can spend hours altogether walking these streets, imagining Dubai as the once sleepy, seafaring town.
Dubai Marina Walk
Take a leisurely walk along the Dubai Marina Walk, offering stunning views of skyscrapers, yachts, and a range of dining options.
Hike at Hatta
Embark on a hiking adventure at Hatta, exploring its trails and experiencing the beauty of the Hajar Mountains.
Take a traditional abra ride across Dubai Creek for a minimal fee, offering a unique perspective of the city.
Book a budget-friendly desert safari that includes dune bashing, camel riding, and a BBQ dinner, providing an authentic Arabian experience.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
Visit Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, a wetland reserve, to witness flamingos and other migratory birds in their natural habitat for free.
Experience the vibrant atmosphere at Bollywood Parks Dubai, where entry is free, and you can pay for individual rides or attractions.
Dubai has plenty of museums that document various aspects of its diverse culture. Although some museums like the Dubai Moving Images Museum have highly-priced entry fees of AED 50 for adults, there are plenty of other options, too. Dubai Police Museum (which celebrates the accomplishments of the Dubai police), Pearl Museum (which traces the history of pearling in the UAE), and Camel Museum (which displays the history of camels in the UAE) do not have entry fees, but you should book appointments beforehand. Dubai Museum celebrates traditional Bedouin life in the region and has a nominal fee of AED 3 for adults.Despite Dubai's tag as a luxury shopping destination and its high standard of living, there are still ways to enjoy the city on a budget. For less than AED 30 (INR 500) per activity, it is possible to feed giraffes, explore Old Dubai, go ice-skating, and munch on delicious shawarmas to your heart's delight, while exploring the glorious Dubai on a budget!