How to Visit Dubai on a Budget
Dubai is a luxury destination and one of the most expensive cities in the world with luxury resorts and hotels, fabulous shopping centres and world class restaurants.
This destination is incredible and somewhere you really need to visit once in your life but it does come at a price, travelling here and even staying for just a short period can really hit your bank balance.
If you’re wondering if it is possible at all to visit Dubai on a budget, the answer is yes. There are many ways you can save money on accommodation, food and sightseeing - some things to do in Dubai are also totally free (or low cost), not everything requires you to spend money.
If you are planning to travel to Dubai and looking to save money here are our top tips to visit this city on a budget.
Budget Plane Tickets to Dubai
Getting to Dubai can be expensive depending on where you are departing from.
We recommend using a flight comparison website like Skyscanner where you and search flights to Dubai from all the main international airlines. This is generally cheaper than booking with a travel agent.
Some websites like Expedia also usually offer the option to book flights and accommodation together for a discounted rate.
These airlines offer direct flights from the United Kingdom to Dubai: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Emirates and Royal Brunei. Flying direct though from the UK is more expensive than breaking the journey up and if you travel from mainland Europe or Asia there are lots of low airlines such as Wizzair and FlyDubai who have routes into Dubai for cheaper prices.
Always check out low-budget flights that operate from your city, airlines like Alitalia, KLM, Airfrance and others are highly rated.
To get the best rates on flights you will need to book your tickets a few months in advance so start looking as soon as possible. Sometimes there are also special promotions or last minute offers avaiilable with some airlines, especially during holidays.
For example, you’ll find a running list of special airfares on Etihad Airways’ website, along with a list of featured flights and their fares from your country. You should also look up deals by Fly Dubai, which is one of the best value budget airlines.
You could also travel with one of the United Arab Emirates local airlines who also offer special tourist discounts and offers, including discounted accommodation. For example, if you fly with Emirates at selected times of the year you can get discounts of up to 40% on several hotels, restaurants and spas.
Cheapest Time of the Year to Visit Dubai
Hotel prices reduce drastically during summer. If you don’t mind the heat, travel during the summer to take advantage of lowered rates for everything, including attractions. Please remember to get a visit visa to Dubai you will need to make accommodation arrangements and show it to the authorities on arrival.
Health care in Dubai is private, so you will need to buy travel insurance before departing. If you don't and you have any accidents or emergencies, you are likely to get a huge bill as health care is extremely expensive. We recommend purchasing insurance with a company like World Nomads who offer some of the best travel insurance policies.
How to Save Money On Accommodation
Finding somewhere cheap to stay will really help you to keep costs down. This is likely to be one of your biggest expenses and here are some recommendations how to stay cheaply in Dubai:
- Rent an Airbnb apartment, you can get one at a cheaper per night fee than even a hostel. You can share it with another tourist to save more money.
- Travel during the holy month of Ramadan and you can enjoy special discounts on hotels and airlines. You’ll have to make food arrangements for yourself, because all restaurants will be closed from dawn to dusk during Ramadan.
- Look up cheap hotels and hostels in Al Barsha. There are several cheap hostels here with all possible amenities including Wi-Fi. Al Barsha is well-connected to the Metro.
- Look up accommodation on comparison websites like Booking.com which have lists of hostels in Dubai with latest rates which you can search by price.
- Deira is the most traditional area of Dubai and has several low budget hotels. Look up couchsurfing.com for couchsurfing options in Dubai. You’ll be surprised at how many people participate in couchsurfing and homestay programs.
- At The Top Hostel is one of the cheapest and best hostels for backpackers in Dubai. This hostel is located close to the Dubai Marina but rooms are at the fraction of the price of places nearby.
Transport & Getting Around
There are lots of ways to navigate Dubai, walking is totally free whilst taxis are quick but will cost. Here are some tips:
- Car Rental Dubai - be independent and naviagte the city in your own car.
- Using the city metro to get to places is popular with tourists. A daily ticket will cost you only 14 AED.
- Purchase a NOL card when you land in Dubai and you’ll save a lot on metro transport. You can use your NOL card on the metro, local buses, tram and water buses as well. If you're in Dubai on a short layover, purchase the rechargeable Nol Red Ticket. If you’re staying for longer, pick up the Nol Silver Pass.
- For short distances, rent a bike from anywhere on Sheikh Zayed Road and ride along specially-built biking paths. If you’re traveling as a group, rent a car and split up the expenses. It works out really cheap if you’re using the car the whole day.
- Dubai’s bus system has 193 routes on weekdays. It’s a large and very advanced public transport system.
- You can walk everywhere in Dubai, when it’s cool. Use your feet to get to the Dubai Marina, City Walk, historic Bur Dubai, Al Seef, Al Fahidi and Deira.
Sightseeing & How to Save On Attractions
Here are some top tips how to be a tourist and save money:
- Look up discounted fees for travel packages and activities like a desert safari Dubai. If you’re traveling off-season, you will get some good rates. Also, if you’re traveling as a group, you can ask for discounts.
- Book your tickets to attractions online as it will cost you less.
There are lots of apps and websites which can help you to save money including:
- If you’re staying at Dubai for more than two weeks, purchase The Entertainer app. With this app, you can enjoy many promotions, discounts, offers across Dubai restaurants, hotels, and attractions and so on.
- Groupon also usually has special offers on monthly, from spa experiences to adventure activities and eating out.
Free Things to Do in Dubai
Dubai might be a luxury desitnation but there are also lots of attractions which are totally free. These are some of the best things to do in Dubai which will cost you nothing:
- Watching the Dubai Fountains from the bottom of the Burj Khalifa
- Walking along Souq Madinat
- Exploring Bur Dubai, Deira and the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
- Explore the Dubai Mall and enjoy the huge aquarium in the lobby. The fee for seeing the Dubai Aquarium is quite affordable, if you want to spring it
- Swimming in the beautiful pool at the Burj al Arab is free of charge. It’s a way to enjoy being close to the grand hotel and enjoy some excellent views of Palm Jumeirah
- Public beaches are free for use, and they have all the required tourist amenities
- Crossing the Dubai Creek in a traditional vessel called the abra costs only 1AED
- Explore the Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Walk and Marina Walk on foot
How to Save On Food
Prices for food and eating out vary dramatically.
- There are so many restaurants in Dubai and if you want to eat on the cheap, stay away from hotels and restaurants where they serve alcohol. You could be charged double just because they sell alcohol. You might also want to cut back on alcohol as prices are not cheap.
- Avoid eating at pubs, because even a burger can cost you 90AED. Add a beer to that and you’ll end up paying a lot.
- Eat at mall food courts; it may not be the best food, but it’s the cheapest. Plus you’ll get to enjoy many cuisines, from Italian to Lebanese, Indian and Oriental.
- You’ll find good hotels and restaurants in downtown Dubai and in Jumeirah Beach Residence area. You’ll pay no more than 50-60 AED for a meal in these areas, which enjoy a high expat population.
- Some recommendations for cheap places to eat include Al-Ustad Special Kebab, Arz Lebanon, Delhi Darbar.
- Cook at home if you have access to a kitchen. This is the cheapest way to eat, and you’ll save a lot of money. Purchase groceries at LULU Hypermarket, where you’ll get the lowest prices. You’ll can also get ready-to-eat meals at LULU.
How to Save On Drinks
Alcohol and going out can add to your budget, but come on you are on holiday so it is good to treat yourself.
- The main religion in Dubai is Islam, and rules and reglations are quite conservative compared to western countries. Alcohol can be difficult to get in some places and taxes are fairly high and you need to be a resident with an alcohol licence to buy liquor.
- Download Guzzle App to enjoy 2 for 1 offers on beverages in many restaurants. From Sunday to Thursday, the bars in Dubai push for happy hour, when you can drink for less.
- If you know any ladies, accompany them to bars on Ladies Nights for free/discounted entry.
- Attend Friday brunches, to enjoy an all-you-can-eat-and-drink experience from 12 noon to 4 pm. Use offers from The Entertainer during Friday brunches.
- Purchase alcohol duty free at the airport, when you’re done showing them your visit visa for Dubai.
How much you spend really depends on where you stay, what you do and also if you want to take eat/drink out on a daily basis. You can get around in Dubai on the cheap, for around £30-50 per day if you budget well and find somewhere cheap to stay. There are some things you might want to splash out on but even the more high end activities and things to do can be done cheaply.
Plan a Trip to Dubai on the Cheap
Hopefully our tips and recommendations have shown you it is possible to travel in Dubai on a budget. Visit our travel blog which includes lots more tips and tricks how to travel without spending lots of money. Now go enjoy all that Dubai has to offer.