Dubai is an expensive city and no doubt about it. Whether it’s accommodation, food, alcohol or activity, you’ll end up paying heftily. But that’s beside the point. If you want to travel in Dubai on a budget, you can, just as you can budget-travel in other expensive cities such as London or New York. There’s always a way to find a cheaper alternative to most things, and we’re here to tell you exactly how to travel in Dubai on a budget.
Tip: Health Care in Dubai
In Dubai, healthcare is private and extremely expensive. Carry a valid travel insurance with you when you travel. Don’t be caught there without any means to pay for your treatments.
Budget Activities in Dubai
If you want to experience the real Emirati culture, attend a camel race. These cantankerous creatures can run very fast – it’s rather comical to watch them run. Camel races happen on Fridays from 06.00 to 08.00, from November to March at the Dubai Camel Racing Club.
Bur Dubai and Deira’s Souqs
You can stroll through the Gold Souq, the Spice Souq and the Textile Souqs, soaking in the atmosphere at these two places. Crossing the Dubai Creek is a matter of spending 1 AED. The rest is all free – the atmospheric souqs, the beautiful black coral structures of Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood and so on. Be sure to take a selfie in front of the store window containing the biggest ring in the world, at Deira.
If you like races, here’s another free one you can enjoy in Meydan – horse racing. It’s the national sport and is completely free. Get to Meydan on Thursdays by 19.00, from November to March. It’s the ideal place to people watch, with their grand clothes and their fancy cars.
This is a traditional Arab souq built in the style of old but with a twist. You can stroll the souq for free and enjoy the beautiful fountains that contain giant turtles. Enjoy the great views from here of the inimitable Burj Al-Arab.
Dubai Marina with its exquisite skyscrapers is a lot of fun. You can walk or bike along this 8 km long marina stretch, and admire the fancy yachts moored along the waterfront. The two mosques on each side of the Marina are also worth exploring.
Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk
The area next to the Dubai Marina is known as the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR). Here you’ll see people tagging their domestic and not-so-domestic pets along, plus camels. There are grand buildings on each side, lovely wall murals, free Wi-Fi, toilets and plenty to see.
The Burj Khalifa Boardwalk
You don’t need to pay a king’s ransom to go up to the observatory deck. At the bottom of the Burj Khalifa is a walk that goes around the building. You can walk here for free and enjoy beautiful views of the building. Plus, you get to enjoy the free Dubai Fountain show that puts on spectacular performance every 30 minutes after 18.00.
Budget Stays at Dubai
Check out the prices offered at some of Dubai’s best hostels such as At The Top Hostel, Moon Valley Hotel Apartments, Backpacker 16 Hostel, Backpackers Hostel, Avari Hotel Apartment, Jannah Marina Bay Suites and others. Use HostelWorld.com to locate more hostels and compare prices and location. You want to be close to public transportation and the best of free attractions.
The Dubai Couchsurfing community is pretty active. You can easily find options at the weekly Couchsurfing meeting every Tuesday at 20.00 at the Italian Coffee Shop, Hotel Crown Plaza, in Downtown Dubai.
Check our Airbnb offers online. Dubai has a thriving Airbnb community, and you will get some excellent options.
Budget Eating in Dubai
In Dubai, you can get a filling Vietnamese soup for only $5, or a really bad sandwich for over $30. It depends on where you go and what you choose to eat. For those who want to travel in Dubai on the cheap, it’s best to avoid hotels and restaurants which serve alcohol. Just by ordering a beer along with your meal, you can end up paying double. Use The Entertainer to get 2×1 offers in most Dubai restaurants, even the expensive ones.
Opt for eating cheap at mall food courts, food trucks and the street stalls in Downtown Dubai. Another option is to buy cheap ingredients and cook at your hostel kitchen. You can also pick up ready to eat meals cheaply at Al Barsha’s LULU or Carrefour. For drinks while traveling Dubai on a budget, visit bars during the Happy Hour time from Sunday to Thursday, from 17.00 to 20.00. Best bars to visit are the Tribeca at Ocean View Hotel, and the Westin Hotel’s Barasti, and Garden 7 at Media One Hotel. If you have a lady as your partner, you can score free drinks on Ladies Nights.
Purchase a NOL Metro card as soon as you land in Dubai. For 20AED, you get 15AED of extra credit. You’ll be paying 3AED for short trips and only 8AED for the longest trips on this card. Note that the Metro goes only to tourist destinations such as the Marina, Burj Khalifa, Deira or Bur Dubai. Use the Metro to get to these sites and grab a taxi from there to wherever you want to go. The other cheap option is to rent bicycles by the hour – there are bike rentals all over Dubai – and use them to get to places. If you’re traveling as a group, renting a car is the best option as gas is really cheap. If you want to use the bus, there’s just one line that’s useful – Bus #8, which passes by the Marina, Souq Madinat and other interesting places.
Grab All the Discounts You Can Get
If you’re a traveling party staying in Dubai for long, obtain a copy of The Entertainer, which offers a plethora of discounts for hundreds of bars, activities, restaurants and more. The discounts are mostly 2 for 1 and valid for the calendar year. You can download a mobile format of the publication as well. Use Groupon if you plan to stay only for a few days. From Desert Safari Dubai to spa treatments and restaurants, you can find the best deals on Groupon. Purchase the Time Out Dubai newspaper to leverage cheap and free events.
Go over our blog here and compute just how much money you’ll need for a day in Dubai. You’ll need the math to survive there. If you’re traveling alone, you might be able to get by on less. However, if you are traveling in a group, you can rent a car, use options from The Entertainer and benefit from 2 for 1 dining options.
About the Author
An avid trekker, explorer and a true foodie; Neha 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.