The popular view about Dubai is that you must be a moneybag to enjoy the pleasure of the city. And there is no such thing as a budget-conscious trip––you must splash the money to go to Dubai.
On the contrary, the beautiful Emirati city is one of the best cities in the world to find competitive deals on hospitality, shopping and dining.
There are a number of ways to make the most of your trip to Dubai on a budget. The trick is simple: find money-saving hotels, go for bargain buys and sightseeing, access venues free of charge and find cheap but excellent dining. TIMEOUT explored a few options.
Save on hotels
Recently, Dubai has seen a rise in the number of three and four-star hotels that are perfect for those looking for great style and design on a budget. These hotels provide the world-class comfort, amenities and convenience that the city has become famous for. Examples include Rove Hotels and XVA Art Hotel & Café (located in Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood) with just 13 rooms, each one of them designed by a different local artist. The hotel is also home to an art gallery and an award-winning restaurant.
Bag a bargain
Wandering through one of the bustling souks (markets) can reveal the true essence of Dubai’s shopping heritage. These include the Textile Souk, a bustling space with rolls of fabric, fine silks and airy cottons with prices that are not set in stone. The Spice Souk, which offers the greatest sensory overload with the vibrant colours and aromas of some of the world’s most prized spices.
If you’re looking for unusual souvenirs, antique or chic couture, try the Al Satwa area where you can explore the city’s hidden gems of retail stores overflowing with fabrics in bright shades, unusual prints and diverse textures. Here, you can barter and haggle for embellishments, feather trims and exquisite beading, and then take your chosen fabrics to one of the many tailors for a cash-effective couture experience.
Global Village brings cultures together to help visitors explore different countries around the world in just a few hours. There’s plenty to enjoy for the whole family, with more than 75 countries displaying traditional handicrafts and snacks across more than 30 pavilions.
Save while sightseeing
Old Dubai is one of the city’s most important historical landmarks. Here, you can see what life in Dubai was like during the time of trade when the Creek was the lifeline of the whole city. You only need to pay AED3 (N295) to enter the Dubai Museum and just AED1 (N98) to cross the creek on an Abra, a traditional wooden boat.
The Coffee Museum at Al Fahidi Historical District is another great option if you are on the lookout for authentic coffee, featuring Ethiopian, Egyptian and Emirati styles of live brewing, alongside traditional decor and seating as well.
You can also try the Etihad Museum which features pavilions that cover key moments that led to the founding of the nation. The museum includes a documentary about the UAE’s past and an interactive map and timeline illustrating the area before the formation, the unification process, creation of the constitution, and subsequent declaration of the Union in 1971.
Spots with free entry
No trip to Dubai is complete without experiencing the architectural engineering feats that make the city what it is today. Downtown Dubai is a lively hub of activity and home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and one of the world’s tallest dancing water fountains. You can appreciate the scale of the tower for free at the base, set to the backdrop of The Dubai Fountain’s choreographed water jets as they put on a dazzling display every 30 minutes during early afternoons and throughout the evenings.
The Jameel Arts Centre, located at Jaddaf Waterfront, is a significant new addition to Dubai’s contemporary art scene. It features multiple gallery spaces that house curated commissions, as well as a research library, alongside a restaurant, writer’s studio, rooftop terrace and shop.
For a waterside walk with one of the best views in the city, a stroll along the Dubai Water Canal offers front-row seats to Dubai’s ever-evolving skyline. One of the most spectacular parts of the canal is the illuminated waterfall gushing down from the Sheikh Zayed Road Bridge, and several picturesque bridges that light up during the evenings.
In Dubai, do as the locals do and head to 2nd of December Street for some cheap eats. Formerly known as Al Dhiyafa Street, this buzzing area is the place to load your plate with cuisines from India, Iran, Lebanon and more. Discover some of Dubai’s best chicken shawarmas at Al Mallah, served in a bread pocket with salty pickles, French fries and a generous helping of a delicious garlic paste.
Legendary Dubai eatery Ravi is located on Al Satwa Street. This is one of the oldest restaurants in Dubai and serves delicious Pakistani food for less than AED30.
Visit Al Reef Bakery, Dubai’s legendary Lebanese bakery, famed for serving up some of the best manakeesh in town (Arabic snack of freshly baked dough bread topped with cheese and other fillings) for less than AED10 (N982)!
Save with discount & deals
The Dubai Pass is a great way to experience all that is possible in the city. The all-inclusive pre-paid card grants cash-free access to 33 key attractions across Dubai, making it the perfect way to explore the city’s world-class destination proposition.
Building on the Dubai Pass proposition, the recently launched Stopover Pass has been specifically designed for short-stay visitors to enjoy the emirate’s wide variety of attractions and experiences. This helps save both time and money as it combines the city’s favoured attractions, tours and cruises into an easily accessible city pass, enabling stopover guests to choose between two, three or four attractions in 36 hours.
Emirates passengers can also make the most of their holiday in Dubai this summer with My Emirates Pass, with exclusive offers at over 500 leisure and retail outlet locations. By simply showing your Emirates boarding pass, you can save 50 per cent on La Perle tickets, 50 per cent off at The Spa at Address Boulevard, 40 per cent off restaurants at the Park Hyatt, buy one ticket and get the second for free at the Dubai Dolphinarium, 40 per cent discount on retail rates at KidZania, 20 per cent discount on tickets across the Dubai Parts & Resorts, and so much more.