Dubai on a Budget
Connotations of Dubai – glamorous, luxurious, magnificent, affluent, ultramodern. Not usually associated with budget travel, cheap authentic food or affordable accommodation. But, that’s what I’m here to help with: the ultimate guide to Dubai on a Budget.
The main factors to look at when attempting to experience Dubai on a budget are; ensuring flights and accommodation are cheap, being smart with your travel while in the city, and being thoughtful when it comes to eating and sightseeing. As a general rule too, as it gets so hot in the summer it tends to be much quieter for tourists which means cheaper deals! The holy month of Ramadan is again a quieter time for the city which allows for the chance to snap up some bargains.
Cheap flights are key
Cheap flights are paramount to keeping your trip to Dubai budget-friendly as it isn’t exactly close-by. The key to finding cheap flights is to keep an eye out months in advance on the Etihad and Emirates websites as they are the main providers for travel to Dubai. They often advertise deals so keep a watch on their sites. It’s always worth doing a quick search on Skyscanner and CheapFlights just in case there’s something you’ve missed!
Ahh, the Burj Al Arab – the absolute epitome of luxury and one of the most attractive sites of Dubai. Yes, it is very impressive and we’d all love to spend a few nights there – however, if budget is your priority, I would advise against this specific hotel. The best option for cheap accommodation in Dubai is to rent a place to stay from Airbnb or Booking.com as hotels in Dubai charge extra taxes too. There are plenty of cheap hotels to be found across the city but after municipality fees (7%), service fees (10%), VAT (5%) although this should be included anyway, and a nightly room fee of 10 DHS. It adds up! The older areas of Dubai tend to be cheaper and while avoiding the beach and major shopping malls, be sure to stay close to a metro station so you can get around easily and save on taxis.
Travelling within the city
For travelling within the city you’ll find it useful to use an RTA Nol card. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to get about and covers most public transport without having to use cash or worry about counting your pennies to the right change – so will hopefully save you money! Taxis are relatively cheap in Dubai in comparison to many other countries but they aren’t as cheap as they used to be and certainly aren’t the most cost-effective way to get about. However, they are there and ready if you need them!
Dubai has an amazing range of food from Western, East Asian and more but to stick with an authentic experience and save some money opt for the tastiness of Arabic or South Asian cuisine. The least expensive areas to visit for dining are Bur Dubai and Deira and here are the highlights you need to look out for;
- Fatteh (pictured) – flatbread with chickpeas, yoghurt and oil.
- Margoogat – a hearty, rich tomato-based stew.
- Camel meat and milk – although not traditional these camel products have found their way into the Dubai diet.
- Khameer – tasty date-sweetened bread.
- Tabbouleh – a fresh salad of chopped parsley, tomato, onion, bulgur, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
- Luqaimat – small, sweet dumplings served with sticky date sauce.
- Gahwa – Arabic coffee with a cardamom flavour.
There is much to see in Dubai with souqs, malls, beaches and mosques. These are the must-sees;
- Burj Khalifa – it’s unlikely that you won’t see it at 828 metres or 163 floors. Admire it from afar or take a trip inside if you can handle heights!
- Dubai Mall – this shopper’s paradise is home to 1,200 shops and 150 restaurants as well as an ice-rink, indoor theme park, aquarium and indoor waterfall meaning plenty to see at this huge mall!
- Palm Jumeirah – the manmade palm island is something from a dream – definitely worth checking out.
- Light Show – the stunning light show is very impressive with water jets reaching heights of 150 metres. Evening displays begin at sundown and are on every half an hour until midnight.
If there is one thing you want to splash your cash on then let it be visiting the desert! There are so many fun activities out there like dune dashing which are worth the extra spend! As well as this you get a great view back on to the skyline of Dubai.