Dubai on a Budget
From the world’s largest building, to the one-of-a-kind man-made island, to the most luxurious hotels and extensive shopping malls, Dubai is famed all over the globe for many reasons. Along with these, it’s also known to be one of the most expensive cities on the Arabian Peninsula.
Getting around, entry tickets to important landmarks, and hefty accommodation rates all can set you back a fair share of your fortune. But if you know how to save money, you’ll be able to take in all Dubai has to offer without sacrificing fun and comfort. Don’t worry if you’re now aware of it; this post has some amazing tips and tricks to discover Dubai on a budget.
Find Free & Budget Things To Do In Dubai
Agreed, admission fees to most of Dubai’s attractions are insanely costly. However, some of the city’s greatest landmarks can be enjoyed for little to no cost:
The Dubai Mall: It’s one of the world’s biggest shopping malls with more than 1200 outlets. Although shopping costs money, you should not skip this colossal mall, even on a tight budget. Entry is free and comes complimentary with some amazing attractions, like DubaiDino, the 155-million-year-old skeleton of a dinosaur, Human Waterfalls, and Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, to name a few.
The Dubai Fountain Show: After wandering the Dubai Mall, be prepared to watch this stunning fountain show which takes place right outside against the unmatched backdrop of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. For those who are not aware, it’s one of Dubai’s must-see free attractions, thanks to its choreographed water performance in perfect sync to Arabic and world music.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood: Dubai’s historical and cultural scene is charming, especially considering how inexpensive it is to discover. You can start with a stroll through Al Fahidi or Al Bastakiya Quarter and then continue to its art galleries and museums, particularly Dubai Museum which is housed within the city’s oldest fort, Al Fahidi Fort.
Abra Ride: Dhow cruise is one of Dubai’s quintessential experiences. If you’re looking for a cost-effective alternative for this, you can take an abra ride along Dubai Creek for just AED 1 ($0.27).
Beaches and Parks: The green parks and pristine beaches across the city stand as an ode to Dubai’s standing as a desert city. The best thing is that most of them are free to visit or cost not beyond AED 5 ($1.36).
Alserkal Avenue: This creative space is a must-experience for art lovers. It not only allows you to admire the artworks by highly talented artists, but also lets you watch several free events.
2. Plan In Advance Where To Save And Splurge
Create a checklist of the top attractions you’d like to see in Dubai. This allows you to systematize your travel budget properly while allocating adequate funds for the attractions or experiences that you adore the most. You can score maximum savings with an all-inclusive combo pass which lets you access two or more of your favorite attractions such as IMG Worlds of Adventure, and Global Village at a single rate.
Also, watch out for coupon codes and other promotion deals run by the reputable tour companies on their websites or social media pages. This promises you instant savings at checkout. Apart from these, some of the city’s iconic attractions offer discounted or even free entry on certain days or occasions. Take for instance, Aquaventure Water Park which provides complimentary access to the guests on their birthdays.
3. Money-Saving Accommodation Tips
Accommodation in Dubai is one of the more expensive items on the list. Staying in a centrally located Dubai hotel is always a great idea, but you’ll want to stay without breaking the budget. As an alternative, choose a budget hotel or a serviced apartment in Bur Dubai or Barsha area. This promises you significant cost savings on your hotel stay.
Another tip to cut down on your accommodation is to opt for a room-only stay which comes devoid of daily breakfast plus other amenities which you may not need. Most of all, if you’re a first timer, go for an all-inclusive Dubai package which not only covers accommodation in your desired hotel but also include airport transfers and iconic Dubai experiences such as Dhow cruise and a desert safari.
Depending on the time of your trip, you may be able to take advantage of early-bird offers and last-minute deals, that allow you to secure a room for just $35 or less.
4. Consider A Few Things Before Flight Booking
One of the best ways to save on your airfare, is to make your flight booking in advance, ideally three to four months before. This is particularly vital when you travel to Dubai during peak season (from December to February). Likewise, avoid weekends (which fall on Friday and Saturday in Dubai) while picking your travel date. For serious savings, travel to Dubai during off-season, mainly July – August. You’ll save not just on airfare, but on almost everything from accommodation to sightseeing and entertainment shows during these months.
5. It’s Easy To Save On Dine And Wine Too
Dubai is a city rampant with fancy and lavish dining venues. That said, the city, by no means is lacking in cheap eats. Head straight to Deira and Bur Dubai areas where you’ll get to sample local delights and scrumptiousstreet foods (such as succulent shawarma, falafels etc) at rates as low as $1.50. If you can’t resist relishing a sip at a lavish venue, do check for its happy hours; this is the time when some of the city’s opulent bars, restaurants, and night clubs serve drinks at extremely slashed rates. Furthermore, you can save your wallet by cooking your own meal. For this, just make sure that you stay in a hotel apartment or space equipped with all the cooking staples.
6. Use Public Transport To Get Around
Given the city’s glitzy and posh demeanor, you may be tempted to hire a vehicle or travel around the city on your own. While that is the most hassle-free to discover the city, the cost is somewhat exorbitant, and you can save immensely by taking public transit on Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority.
From the high-speed Dubai Metro to the spotlessly maintained public buses and ferries, the city’s public transport system is quite extensive, covers almost all prime Dubai neighborhoods and attractions, and easy on the wallet too. Moreover, you can make payment for all these public transport options by topping up a single NOL card.
Get your NOL card from strategically placed vending machines across the airport or public places. You can select from Silver, Gold or Red Card. Red card is valid for single use only and costs just approximately AED 2 ($0.54). But, if you’re planning to use public transport to get around in the city, you can opt for a full day Red Ticket pass which allows you for unlimited rides at a nominal rate of AED 20 ($5.45)
7. Know These Shopping Hacks
Dubai is a shopper’s haven but its retail scene is not as expensive as you imagine. You can grab some serious price-cuts on your favorite brand or merchandise with a bit of legwork and wise choices. For some serious bargains, skip Dubai’s posh malls and instead make a visit to its traditional souks such as Gold Souk and Spice Souk. Keeping a track of Dubai’s exclusive deal apps including Discounter can also help you to score some unbelievable discounts.
If you’re a hardcore shopaholic, there is no better time to visit here than during DSF (Dubai Shopping Festival.) From December to January, this month-long annual festival is the time to enjoy unbelievable discounts of up to 75% and sometimes even 90% off.
It’s no secret that Dubai is a pricey destination, but we are sure that these wallet-friendly tips and information will help you to have an incredible time in this charming Arabian metropolis.
This article was contributed by Neha Singh. Neha is a keen wanderer and a foodie. She believes music, long nature walks and making new friends is the best way to live life completely. Find more of her works and local travel tips at Dubai Wikia