Dubai, the city of dreams is a must visit destination for any travel enthusiast. It is a model city where modernization has taken place while keeping its heritage and traditions intact.
It’s also a city that has a reputation for being expensive – and with the city’s luxury hotels, fabulous shopping malls and gourmet dining spots, that could very well end up being the case. However, Dubai is certainly still within reach of those travelling on a budget. If you are visiting Dubai and looking to save some money, here are some of the best ways to do it.
Plane Tickets | Dubai on a Budget
As a general rule, it’s always best to try and book your tickets a few months in advance. This will help you get the best rates. Since Dubai is such a popular tourist destination, many airlines offer special promotions, so try and keep an eye out for those. For example, Etihad keeps a running list of special fares on its website and the Emirates website constantly shows the featured fares for flights from your country. Budget airlines, such as Fly Dubai can offer even more great deals. Choosing one of the UAE’s local airlines can give you access to special tourist offers and discounts in Dubai, allowing for even more savings. For instance, if you visit Dubai before the end of August and show your Emirates boarding pass at certain dining establishments and spas, you are eligible for a discount of up to 40% off your bill.
Hotel Booking | Dubai on a Budget
Dubai’s most famous hotel is probably the Burj Al Arab, which is so luxurious people claim it was awarded 7 stars. However, there is a plethora of reasonably priced hotels available to the budget-conscious traveller. We have a run-down of our favorite budget hotels here.
Another great option for someone looking to save is to rent an Airbnb. Dubai has a thriving real estate market and there are plenty of gorgeous apartments out there. Airbnb provides the owners of those apartments the opportunity to rent them out to tourists, often for a cheaper per-night fee than they would pay at a hotel. If you don’t require a lot of amenities, Airbnb can provide you with cheap, comfortable housing for your stay.
And if you’re wondering when is the best time to visit Dubai on a budget, you’ll find that tourist traffic tends to be lower in the hot summer months and Holy Month of Ramadan. Because of this, hotels and airlines often give out special discounts to those visiting at this time.
Travelling within the city | Dubai on a Budget
If you intend to travel around Dubai, it is in your best interest to get an RTA NOL card. The best option for tourists is the red card or silver card which you can get for AED 6 and AED 25 respectively. The silver card is the best option in the long run as it can be used in all public transport services running within Dubai, from RTA buses to metros, trams and even water taxis. You can learn more about the Dubai Metro here.
In general, taxis are cheaper in Dubai compared to prices in other parts of the world. However, it is certainly not a low cost way of getting around, especially when you consider traffic in the city. A taxi ride will cost you a minimum of 12 AED, no matter how short the distance. If public transport if available, the budget traveller should strongly consider that alternative – especially since the public transport system in Dubai is so well maintained
Food | Dubai on a Budget
For food, you need to consider two things – what you are eating and where you are going to eat it. European, American and Japanese food tends to be on the higher end of the price scale, whereas you can get Arabic and Indian food for very low prices (if you know where to go!).
Furthermore, different areas of the city tend to operate at different price ranges. For low-cost food, Bur Dubai and Deira are your best bet. There, you will find a number of budget restaurants.
Some of our favorite reasonably priced restaurants are:
Al-Ustad Special Kebab: This is a very old restaurant, located in Dubai’s historical district (near where we do our Old Dubai Walking Tours). They serve amazing Iranian food and some of the best kebabs in Dubai.
Delhi Darbar: This restaurant serves Mughlai cuisine – food that was developed in Medieval India at the center of the Mughal Empire. There are several branches around Dubai (and worldwide). We’re fans of the chicken tikka masala and the biryani.
Arz Lebanon: As you can tell from the name, this restaurant serves Lebanese food. The falafel here is phenomenal, with a crisp exterior and flavorful interior. This restaurant also has several branches across Dubai.
Sightseeing in Dubai on a Budget:
Some sightseeing areas of Dubai require a hefty entrance fee, but there are plenty that do not. Here are some fun free and low-cost things to do in Dubai as a tourist.
Bastakiya is known as the heritage hub of Dubai. It is home to the Dubai Museum (AED 3 entry) and various examples of ancestral homes. The area also has a strong cultural vibe, with beautiful street art and trendy coffee shops dotting the area. We’ve written more about the attractions of Bastakiya here.
For those who love to bargain and shop, the Souqs – ranging from Gold Souq, Spice Souq, Perfume Souq to Textile Souq – are a must visit. While bargaining make sure to quote for around half the price that the shop keepers are asking and start negotiations from there to get cheapest rates. The gold, spice and perfume souqs are on the Deira side, which you can access via a fun abra ride across the Dubai Creek for only AED 1. Not only is it convenient, it’s a great way to explore the area.
Okay, we see you raising your eyes. Why has a shopping mall been listed as a low-cost place to visit in Dubai? Well, entrance to the mall is free and there is plenty to see inside without paying a thing. Make sure to get photos of the massive dinosaur skeleton, the marine life visible from the outside at the Dubai Aquarium and the beautiful light-and-water shows. Our self-guided tour of Dubai Mall will take you to all the highlights.
Dubai is home to beautiful beaches with clean sand and clear seas, including Kite Beach and Jumeirah Beach. Both offer fun options for tourists. If you are on a budget, why not head over to Kite Beach to marvel at the talented kite-surfers on the water? Or take a selfie with the Burj Al Arab in the background at Jumeirah Beach? Either way, you can enjoy sun, sand and surf without breaking your budget.
JBR The Walk:
This is a beautiful promenade to walk along, in one of Dubai’s most trendy areas. We love car watching here- you can see some really flashy vehicles. We talk more about The Walk in our self-guided tour of JBR Marina.
Dubai by Foot offers amazing walking tours that suit the budget of the conscious traveller. Because we don’t have the extra cost of hiring transportation, we are able to offer tours at a low cost. The Old Dubai tour is only 88 AED for a 2 hour tour! We also offer a no upfront cost, name-your-price tour on the second and fourth Thursday of every month in the off-peak season. You can learn more about the tours on our schedule here.
Dubai by Foot is constantly working with partner organizations to bring you discounted deals. We’re constantly updating this page, so be sure to keep checking it out.
A trip to Dubai doesn’t have to break your budget. With a bit of smart planning, you can enjoy a great stay in the city for a low cost. And if you decide to use your savings to do a bit of extra shopping, well, we won’t judge you for that.