No doubt Dubai is an expensive city. The city is flush with richly-appointed attractions that cost a good deal to experience fully. Take the Burj Khalifa for example – you have to choose whether you want the At The Top experience for $100 or the observatory deck at the 148th floor at $200 per person. As you can see, nothing is cheap in Dubai. But here’s the crux. It is still possible to travel Dubai on a budget and see and experience Dubai’s top attractions also on budget. How? Read on and you’ll know how backpacking Dubai is possible!
Look for direct flights to Dubai from your area, via any UAE airline. You’ll find that tickets are much cheaper if you travel by a UAE airline, as the UAE encourages travel to their country. Here’s how to travel to Dubai on a budget. Check out the following low budget airlines: Wizzair, FlyDubai, Emirates, Alitalia, KLM, Air France and so on.
The good news about accommodation in Dubai is that there are many budget hostels that offer sterling service and amenities. Dubai’s native hospitality takes great pride in offering good amenities even on budget. Look for cheap hotels and hostels in the Al Barsha area. In the same area, you’ll find affordable apartments for 4 person occupancy, again for less. We’re not indicating tariff here as they are subject to change. Look up cheap hotels and hostels in the Deira area as well. Here are a few hotels to consider:
Cheap And Free Things To Do In Dubai
- Dubai’s beaches are all paid-entry, but you can enjoy the sun from the Jumeirah Beach for a few dirhams. Enjoy an amazing unblemished view of the world’s only 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab from the beach all for free! Also, you can take the metro till the Palm Jumeirah Islands and then take the monorail from there to the islands. Explore the islands and the Atlantis water park to your heart’s content.
- Stroll around Bur Dubai and Deira’s souqs. You don’t have to buy anything but you can soak up the sheer atmosphere of these two souqs with their spices, carpets, Arabian gear, pashmina shawls and more.
- Explore Archive Dubai, which hosts free open-air concerts and exhibits.
- The Scene Club hosts free movie screenings every month.
- In March every year, an arts festival called Sikka Dubai conducts free dance performances and concerts all over Dubai.
- Explore the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood near Bur Dubai. This is a well-preserved historical area, where the few houses and buildings are all made of sand, kept cool by the conventional wind towers.
- Spend some time at the Al Fahidi Museum and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding to learn how Dubai progressed from being a fishing village to the world’s most enviable glamourous city.
- Cross the creek on an abra, the traditional boat that’s been ferrying people across the creek for ages. Plus, it costs you just one 1 Dirham for a thrilling ride on this vessel!
- Explore Dubai’s Camel Museum without paying anything. You’ll come out with a better understanding of what camels mean to the locals.
- Explore Dubai Mall, the largest shopping centre in the world, which has more than 1200 retail outlets and thousands of food stalls. The Dubai Underwater Aquarium is within the Dubai Mall and you have to pay to experience it, but why bother? Right in the lounge itself, one huge wall is dedicated to the aquarium – you can see every deadly shark and ray right through the glass wall! Be sure to watch the delightful fountain show at the foot of the Dubai Mall for free.
- Indian and Pakistani restaurants in Dubai offer food on the cheap. You can always get a plate of rice and curry at excellently cheap prices. Try Shetty Lunch Home Restaurant near Talal Super Market, which serves Chinese, Goan and North Indian food.
- Al Ibrahimi Palace on Karama Food Street is well known for its chicken qorma and other Pakistani delicacies on the cheap.
- Chinese Connection is another restaurant, in Century Mall that you’ll like for its pricing and excellent food.
- Ravi Restaurant in Al Satwa is the place for you if you’re looking for really cheap Indian and Pakistani food.
- Try restaurants such as Zaatar Z Weit and Zaroob for cheap eats on the go.
If you shop at local markets and souqs instead of at Dubai’s fabulous malls, you can save a lot of money and get some great deals besides! Don’t forget to shop at the Deira and Bur Dubai souqs; you can not only shop here but you can also bargain. Karama Market sells gifts and souvenirs cheaply, so head there when it’s time to buy something for the family.
Moving around in Dubai is pretty easy on the pocket if you get yourself a Nol card, a Metro map and a bus route map. With this, you can use the bus service and the Metro to every point in Dubai. If you’re traveling to a place that’s not serviced by either the bus or the Metro, use a taxi but watch the meter. It’s a good idea to choose a hotel that’s right beside a Metro station. Sign up for the innovative rental bike scheme. Dab on some sunscreen and, for 15 dirhams for 30 minutes, enjoy touring the city on your bike at your pace.
Need more information on Dubai transport? Here's a complete guide on how to get around in Dubai.
Budget Travel Tips
- If you want to save tons, travel off season to Dubai, during the summer months of April to August. This is when the sun is the hottest and the airline fares are the cheapest. You can beat the hot sun, there are ways, but money saved is money saved.
- Always book your flight in advance, at least a few months, so that you get the best deal possible.
- Change your currency via currency exchangers in Dubai if you want to get the best rate.
- If you want to visit any tourist attraction like the Burj Khalifa, make sure you buy your tickets online much in advance.
If you’re traveling to Dubai on a budget, you’ll need to forget about taking hot air balloon rides and flying in a helicopter to catch the scenic views that pass by below. There’s much of Dubai that you will have to forgo, but the heart and soul of Dubai are still there to be experienced no matter what your budget. The rest if just frills on the top. Dubai is worth whatever compromise you make, so go ahead and make your compromises and enjoy this fabulous, magnificent city.
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