What was once a small fishing village is now one of the top 5 most visited cities in the world. Dubai is one of the Emirates that makes up the United Arab Emirates and is home to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Aside from all the great activities and beautiful places to visit, Dubai’s year-round warm weather makes it even more ideal for vacationing.
Dubbed ‘The City of Gold,’ Dubai is famous for its stunning modern architecture, luxurious shopping malls, and vibrant Arabian culture. The city’s booming nightlife is perfect for tourists who want a great night out.
From theme parks and family-friendly resorts to desert jeep safaris and golden sand beaches, the adventurous activities are varied and diverse which makes them perfect for family holidays, solo travelers, and tourists of any age.
Although Dubai is considered a luxury travel destination, the city also offers affordable options that are just as good. There are numerous ways to save on your travels and with the right information, you can easily travel to Dubai on a budget. I will share some helpful cost-cutting tips to help you plan a jam-packed weekend trip to one of the world’s most beautiful cities.
Getting to and around Dubai
When planning a trip on a budget, flight costs are one of your most significant expenses. We recommend booking your flight 4-5 weeks before departure and traveling in January, February, and September to ensure you get the best rates. Dubai is also a popular transit stopover. Instead of struggling through a long layover, consider adding a few days on your trip for a short stay in this vibrant city.
Once you’re in Dubai, there are many budget-friendly options to help you get around the city. Instead of taking a taxi, use the well-connected public transport networks such as the Dubai Metro or bus system when exploring in the city.
Tip: If you plan to use public transport, invest in a NOL card (Dubai’s version of the Metrocard). This is a smart card that gives you access to pretty much all forms of public transport in the city.
When it comes to booking budget accommodation, research tools are your best friend. From tour companies to booking websites, sometimes the perfect deal is just a clock away. With reliable customer reviews, detailed descriptions, pictures, and maps, you can find out all you need to know from the comfort of your home. Depending on the type of accommodation you need, here are some tips and recommendations to make your planning significantly easier.
Package deals are one of budget travel’s best-kept secrets. Booking discounted deals will give you access to the cheapest flight tickets and hotel rooms. Some of the best ones also include guided tours and ground transportation. Dubai is a large city with different areas and Districts, all of which are different from each other in terms of distance, culture, and budget. Mankhool and Deira are considered the two most affordable areas.
Deira has more to offer, including cultural history and proximity to the capital district. The Grand Excelsior Hotel Bur Dubai, Al Jawara Metro, and Lavender Hotel are some of the best hotels in this area.
Airbnb and holiday rentals
Dubai has several properties that fit the standard traveler’s budget. There are many affordable options, and your choice will depend on the places you want to visit, the size of your group, your amenities, and your budget. Holiday homes and short term rentals are incredibly convenient for larger groups such as families as they are often cheaper than booking multiple hotel rooms or suites. Most holiday homes have the added advantage of self-catering options which might be less expensive compared to eating out.
For solo-travelers, hostels offer a perfect balance of comfort and affordability. The best options include
Dubai Backpackers is one of the best options located in the heart of Dubai, just a 1-minute walk away from Dubai Internet City (word-class digital working spaces) and the Metro Station. This hostel offers deluxe single and mixed-sex rooms with the option of a shared bathroom or a slightly more expensive ensuite option. For as low as $16, you get access to amazing features including fast WiFi, a shared kitchen with excellent appliances, and optional breakfast (at an extra cost),
At The Top Hostel is located pretty high up on the 66th floor and offers sweeping views of Dubai’s golden coastline.
The Solo Traveler offers access to a pool, jacuzzi, and gym with the added advantage of being located just across the street from the Burj Khalifa.
California Dubai Beach and Backpackers Heaven are also great options.
This is a fantastic option for backpackers looking to interact with locals and make lifelong friends. The Couchsurfing community in Dubai is quite strong but it is important to keep in mind the dos and don’ts of Couchsurfing. This is also a brilliant way to meet other solo-travelers at Couchsurfing meetups. I can say with absolute certainty that this is a great way to experience Dubai as Cez and I tried Couchsurfing in Dubai.
Dubai is famous for its top-rated attractions and although most of them will put a significant dent in your budget, you can still enjoy numerous experiences without breaking the bank. Aside from package deals, another invaluable tip is to pre-book tickets online. That way, you get to avoid queues and might land discounts by merely signing up.
Visit Burj Park
If you are looking for a perfect picnic spot, this beautiful serene park is exactly what you need. The best part, it is absolutely free of charge. The park offers fantastic views of the Burj Khalifa. You can also see the three-finger statue from here.
The Dubai Fountain
This is an experience I cannot recommend enough! The World’s largest choreographed fountain is only a 3-minute walk from Burj Park. At night, over 6000 lights create a beautiful display of light to the beat of various types of music. Enjoy well-known pop songs, classical music, or popular Arabian tunes while taking in the gorgeous show which is visible all the way from outer space!
The fountain is located right at the foot of the Burj Khalifa. Although climbing to the top of the building is quite expensive, staring at the glory of the tallest structure in the world from the bottom is absolutely free.
Learn interesting facts about one of the world’s fastest-growing cities at the Etihad Museum. The beautiful museum sits on the exact spot where the UAE started and here, you get to learn all about the city’s history and timeline. Admission and a tour cost a mere $9.
The Dubai Museum is in the Al Fahidi Fort which is the oldest building in Dubai. The Museum in Bastakia Quarter in a section popularly known as Old Dubai. For 3 Dirhams (Less than $1), you gain admission to the historical building with incredible displays of Emirati life.
The Marina Walk
The Dubai Marina is one of the most famous spots in the city. Take a walk along the man-made route as you take in the iconic Dubai skyline. Whether you simply want to take a stroll or get in your daily run, the Marina walk is a free unforgettable experience.
Take an Abra across the Dubai Creek
Sail across the Dubai Creek for incredible views as you cross between the historical Old Dubai and the more modern metropolis. Cost: Dhs 1
Dubai has much more adventure to offer in its fascinating discoveries.
With over 1000 retailers, this Is one of the largest malls in the world. The prices may be intimidating for a budget-conscious traveler but we recommend that you still visit the mall. With fantastic lighting, water features, and fixtures such as the Dubai Dino, the mall itself is one of Dubai’s most beautiful attractions. Besides, you might just be lucky enough to be there in time for one of the frequent super sales.
Dubai Outlet Mall and The Outlet Village
These 2 are affordable substitutes for the Dubai Mall. They receive stock that’s out of season from major brands to sell at ridiculously slashed prices. Massive discounts run throughout the year making these shopping hubs a must-go for any budget traveler.
Explore Dubai’s souks
Traditional markets are the best places for rare finds. The Gold Souk, Spice Souk, and Perfume Souk are located in Deira and are all within walking distance. The textile souk is just a short boat ride away from the other three. Here you can haggle like a local for the best prices for jewelry, hand-woven fabrics, and bespoke scents.
Dubai is one of the most international cities in the world and as such, the restaurant scene is diverse with varied cuisines from all over the world. One of the cheapest options is to cook your own food if your accommodation allows it. 24-hour supermarkets such as LULU and Carrefour are available all around the city, and here you can find all the ingredients you need.
Mall Food Courts
With numerous fast food options, it is possible to get a full meal for about $6. This is a perfect option for those who don’t like to experiment as there are food chains from all over the world.
Dhow cruise dinner
This is one of those experiences of a lifetime. There’s nothing quite like enjoying dinner aboard a beautifully decorated dhow while taking in beautiful city views at night. Dubai’s glittering nightline will absolutely take your breath away!
Traditional Emirati food
At the Mahareb restaurant in Al Sara, you can get the full regional experience by eating delicious local dishes while sitting on the floor. The Mandi Meat, Mutton Madhu, and Roti are popular delicacies that I would definitely recommend. They serve large portions for about $12 per plate.
For frequent travelers, a travel backpack with wheels is one of the best items to invest in going to Dubai. You can carry it on your back to free up your hands or drag it around to give your back a rest whether you’re rushing through the busy Dubai airport or simply exploring the magnificent city.
For visitors from the US, travel insurance is one of the main requirements in your visa application. Even where it’s optional, we recommend getting travel medical insurance to ensure you have a worry-free stay as medical expenses are high in Dubai.
Dubai uses a Type G power outlet so remember to bring the right Power Adaptorto keep all your electronics charged.
Dubai is warm all year round and can be pretty humid during the summer season, so make sure to dress for the weather. Temperatures range from 19.5 °C (67.5 °F) to as high as 42°C (108 °F)
The internet in Dubai and the entire UAE is highly restricted and censored. Anything against the strict moral values upheld in the country is blocked and I strongly recommend that you get a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
COVID-19 Restrictions: All passengers traveling to and through Dubai must have a printed negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate. You must take the test a maximum of 96 hours before departure. You will also be required to complete a health declaration form and the quarantine undertaking form either on your flight or at check-in. Travel Insurance that covers Coronavirus for the duration of your stay is necessary. We recommend you keep an eye out for any updates and COVID-19 Travel Support.