With five-star hotels and luxury shopping dominating the skyline, Dubai has made a name for itself as being a playground for the rich and famous. Travelling to Dubai can be very expensive, but if you feel that you don’t have the budget and you wish to visit, don’t give up too fast. Want free drinks, almost-free boat rides and some of the greatest views across town? Here’s our guide to Dubai on the cheap.
1. Budget accommodations in Dubai
We suggest you find a hotel somewhere in Al Barsha, a low-cost place that is great because the hotels are modern and it’s connected well with a metro. But if Al Barsha is still too expensive for you, your best bet will be Deira, a very traditional place in Dubai. Low budget hotels here are mostly older than in Al Barsha, but it’s still a nice place to stay in.
2. Life’s a beach
Dubai has plenty of golden sandy beaches, but most have been land-grabbed by fancy hotels that charge a pricey daily rate for access. However, you don’t need to be staying at the Burj Al Arab to see the beaches: there’s actually a public strip pretty much next door. Bu Qtair Beach, Kitesurfing Beach and 4×4 Beach are other examples of free stretches. Plus, they’re all less crowded – bonus.
3. Ditch taxis for the metro
To visit Dubai on a budget you will need to use its metro. Don’t panic – it’s very well organised and easy to handle. A daily ticket will only cost you 14 AED, which is less than £3! If you do ever need to get a taxi anywhere, avoid rush hours.
4. Go local for budget food
Due to lots of foreign workers from India, Pakistan, Philippines, etc. there’s no better place than Dubai to sample around-the-world cooking. Resist the swanky upscale dining and make a beeline for the 2nd of December Street. This mile-long stretch has street cafes, shawarma stalls and more, all at affordable prices.
5. Hit the bars on “ladies’ night”
Sorry men, this one’s just for the ladies. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays almost every bar in the city suddenly becomes affordable to the rest of us. Some bars offer a couple of free drinks, while a few are known to give free bubbly all night. For a view over the Dubai Marine and the beach, try Maya at Le Royal Meridien on a Sunday.
6. Go to Old Dubai
This one isn’t just for budget-conscious holidaymakers, but for people who really want a slice of culture. Jump in an abra (a traditional boat) for as little as 1 AED, just 16p to you and I. Then cross the creek to see a completely different side to the glamourous city.
7. Take in the Burj Khalifa from below
Don’t get us wrong, it would be a shame to miss a trip up the famous Burj Khalifa. Tickets online cost at least £30 depending on how long you visit for. But if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you can watch the famous dancing fountain show for free from the ground a Dubai Mall’s outside area – be there early to get good views.
8. Get a history lesson at a museum
Yes, there’s more to Dubai than shopping! If you thought Dubai lacked history – think again. Dubai Museum is the city’s oldest existing building, and has ancient archaeological finds from 1,000 BC. And you can’t go wrong with a 50p entrance price.
9. Visit the Jumeirah Mosque
You can’t really come to Dubai and not visit a mosque. The Jumeirah Mosque is the only one open to the public, where you can take a 75-minute tour of the place for just £2. It’s also a chance to learn about the Emirati culture. Dressing modestly (i.e. covering knees and shoulders) is required inside the mosque.
10. Swap shopping malls for markets
A visit to the souks is a must-do if you want to pick up some cheap souvenirs. It also has a fish market, spice souks and even gold souks if you want to take home some bling. If you’re after some designer items without the hefty price tag, Karama Market is the place to go.
Other top tips
- There are certain areas in Dubai that are geared to the more budget conscious and have lower priced places to eat and shop – keep an eye out for these names: Satwa, Karama, Bur Dubai and Deira.
- Plan ahead and map out where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do; the last thing you want is to be wandering around aimlessly and end up spending triple what you should on an excursion! A bit of prep will save you money worries.
- Bring sun cream with you – for some unknown reason it seems to be more expensive here.
We hope you found this guide useful, and that Dubai now seems like a place you can visit without breaking the bank!
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