Dubai is synonymous with luxury and all things expensive. Be it visiting the tallest building in the world or enjoying a drink at one of the bars or nightclubs or perhaps spending time in the Dubai Mall, you would find yourself reaching out for your wallet more than you would like. While the city is known for its expensive tastes, it is still possible to visit Dubai on a budget. All it needs is a lot of research and detailed planning.
Before You Go
Before you plan your visit to Dubai, you need to apply for a visa first. Citizens of most countries can apply for a Dubai visa online. Apart from this, you also need to get an “ok to board” from the airline you are traveling with. If you want to save money on your air ticket, make sure that you book your ticket several months in advance. Apart from this, there are several budget airlines that have regular flights to Dubai from around the world. Also, if you plan to visit Dubai during the off-season (between April and August), you would be able to save a lot of money on air tickets and accommodation. However, the temperature is really high during this time of the year, and you need to consider this before you plan your holiday.
When it comes to accommodation in hotels, Dubai is pricey. However, it is still possible to find accommodation for low budget travelers. If you have friends or relatives in Dubai, it would be great if you could crash at their homes. This would save you a lot of money. There are also several budget hostels and hotels which offer decent accommodation at low prices. Most of these low price hotels and hostels are located in the old part of Dubai which is cheaper compared to the new, modern Dubai. You can also opt for Couchsurfing through the CS community in Dubai. Apart from this, there is also Airbnb where you can find a place to stay as per your budget and requirements.
Dubai is home to several Michelin star and classy restaurants in the world. It is also a place where you would be able to enjoy international cuisine like nowhere else. Right from Arabic and Lebanese to Asian, American and European cuisine, you would be spoilt for choice here. However, most of these restaurants are expensive and eating out at them every day can burn a huge hole in your pocket. But it is possible to save money on food when you are traveling in Dubai.
Check out the eateries in Bur Dubai and Deira which offer meals at low rates. It is easier to find restaurants and eateries that serve Indian, Pakistani and Chinese dishes at reasonable prices. While these meals do not cost much, the quantity and taste are good too. You would find delicious Indian, Pakistani, Iranian and Lebanese food at Al Dhiyafah Road.
Some of the best budget restaurants in Dubai include Delhi Darbar, Shetty Lunch Home Restaurant, Al Ibrahimi Palace, Chinese Connection, Arz Lebanon, Calicut Paragon, Ravi, etc. If the place you are staying at has a kitchen, it would be best to shop at the supermarket and cook your own meals. You will also find simple and low-cost ready-eat- meals at most supermarkets in Dubai. Eating out in Dubai can be economical with these simple tips during your budget travel Dubai.
What to See and Do?
Most of the places to see and interesting activities to do in Dubai are quite expensive. Check out the things you want to see or experience and prioritize. For instance, you would want to go for the Burj Khalifa tour or perhaps visit the newly opened Dubai Frame or you may want to experience high tea at the Burj Al Arab. You can definitely add one or two of the things that you really want to see and do in Dubai in your itinerary. Once this is done, you can check out cheap Dubai activities, i.e. the places to see and things to do for free or at a really low cost.
Dubai may look like a concrete jungle but the city has some amazing parks which are huge and green. Most of them are free while you may have to pay a nominal fee to visit some of them. You can take a stroll, have a BBQ picnic and have great fun at these parks.
The Dubai Fountain show is one of the most amazing experiences you will have in the city. The sound and light show that happens multiple times, every day, is a sight to behold and is absolutely free. Moreover, it also gives you a chance to view the mighty Burj Khalifa.
Dubai has some amazing beaches. You may have to pay a fee to access some of the beaches, most of them are free. You can visit the Jumeirah Beach for free. While this sun-kissed beach is perfect for relaxation and adventure, it also gives a great view of Hotel Burj Al Arab.
Dubai may be an ultra-modern city, but it is still deep-rooted in culture, and it is important to understand this aspect of the city. Head to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding where you get to go on a tour of the Jumeirah Mosque and also know about Islam and Emirati culture. Complete with a delicious Arabic meal, this tour would give you an insight into the culture and traditions of the Arabs at a good price.
If you want to know the fascinating history of Dubai, i.e. how it went from being a modest fishing village to one of the richest cities in the world, a visit to the Dubai Museum is a must. With a price ticket of AED 3, the museum portrays the earlier life of the Arabs in an interesting way. After the visit to the museum, you can also check out the Bastakiya Quarter. This is the heritage hub of the city.
The dhow cruise on the Dubai Creek is one of the most popular tourist activities. However, if you do not want to spend money on a dhow cruise dinner, you must at least take an abra ride on the Dubai Creek. You get to travel from Bur Dubai to Deira or vice versa at just AED 1. And it is a unique experience.
The desert is an integral part of Dubai and your itinerary should definitely include a desert safari experience. The best thing is that you would find several companies offering desert safari and you can easily find one that fits your budget. You can choose from regular, overnight, morning or adventure desert safari as per your budget and interests.
If you find the heat too much for sightseeing in Dubai, there are many malls in Dubai that can help you to beat the heat. While they protect you from the harsh heat, they also entertain you. The entry is free and there are tons of things to see and do here. Even if you do not want to spend money, taking a walk in these malls is in itself quite entertaining.
The easiest way to get from one location to another in the city is by cabs; you would find plenty in Dubai. But cabs are expensive, so it would be better to find an alternative. Metro in Dubai is inexpensive and is a great way to travel to the major tourist locations. There is also the bus service although it is not very regular and hence not always recommended.
If you have a lot of time, you can travel across the city on rented bikes. It is a great way of touring the city although you need to check the weather before hopping on to the bike. If you are traveling with a group or can find other
travelers to share with, renting a private vehicle would be quite economical.
Shopping is the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of Dubai. It is the city that hosts the largest shopping in the world, every year, i.e. the Dubai Shopping Festival. Moreover, there are numerous malls in the city, the biggest being the Dubai Mall which has more than 1200 retail stores. In short, this the best place for retail therapy. But this can add burden to your budget.
However, this does not mean you should take off shopping from your itinerary. On the other hand, you can look for
cheaper options. Instead of the malls, head to the traditional souks and local markets of the city. Karama Market is the perfect place to shop for gifts and souvenirs to take back home.
Additional Tips to Save Money
Book tour tickets online in advance to get good deals and discounts. For instance, you can buy Burj Khalifa tickets at a much a lesser price online than the price you would have to pay directly.
Remember that you cannot fly to Dubai or anywhere in the UAE with only a visa. It is mandatory to get ok to board permission from the airline you choose to fly with.
Buy the magazine “The Entertainer” as soon as you reach the city. The magazine offers a lot of great deals on some of the popular restaurants, nightclubs, pubs, theme parks and other attractions of Dubai.
The expats and locals rely a lot on Groupon which offers a lot of great discounts and deals on hotels and restaurants. So, check the website before you plan your day.
Alcohol is expensive in the city and is only available at licensed restaurants and bars. The best way is to stock up on your alcohol at the duty-free stores at the airport. Moreover, if you are a woman, you would be able to get free drinks at the nightclubs on ladies night which is usually held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You can also check out happy hours at restaurants to enjoy a drink without spending too much.
Traveling in Dubai on a shoestring budget may look difficult but it is not impossible. With great planning, you would definitely have an amazing and memorable holiday without emptying your bank account.