When one thinks of Dubai, they are often struck by images of ridiculously expensive hotels, luxurious skyscrapers and lavishing shopping centers. Although the city does live up to its reputation of catering for the rich and famous, it certainly does not mean it cannot be visited by most of us mortals.
One thing is certain; you must do your homework before embarking on your trip. It is not a far-fetched possibility to get stranded in a luxurious area, and being forced to purchase a 25 AED bottle of water. Also running out of money mid-trip could easily happen, due to poor budget judgement in the homeland for the world’s priciest cupcake.
Therefore, we would like to give a hand on how to enjoy Dubai on a budget, from affordable hotels to alternative restaurants and pubs which will enable this exciting trip to fit in your pocket.
We have a great variety of hotels in Dubai. From the most luxurious resorts to the most budget conscious accommodations. The good thing about being in such a glamorous place is that they set the bar really high when it comes to “essentials”. You will definitely have a more cost-comfort experience here than in most European budget hotels.
Dubai has three main districts, and we advise you to stay in the more centralized ones such as Jumeirah 1 and 2 or Bur Dubai. Deira is in the old part of the city, and although it is a beautiful place to visit, it is relatively far from the main attractions.
Although many believe Dubai is quite conservative, they are surprised to see how Western like the place is. But like any other touristic hub, the cultural leniency has a ceiling.
As an example, it is better to wait for the women (especially the ones wearing veils) to extend the hand for a handshake before you do it. This is a common courtesy and it will certainly avoid a possibly awkward situation. Also, before booking your vacation, make sure to check for that year’s Ramadan, as it is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public for that period. If in doubt, you are better off booking your trip to another time.
Another perception people have is that women need to dress in religious garments or be fully covered, which is not the reality. You can dress as your normal self, BUT if your normal self likes to wear skimpy outfits, be ready to embrace some unwanted glares and frowns.
Beware of tourist traps or not-so-worthwhile attractions
Did you know that Burj Al Arab is one of the few 7-star hotels in the world? Many tourists flock to see the place and although it is certainly worth an outside picture, a visit to the lobby only will cost you a pretty penny. It’s definitely better to spend your hard- earned money elsewhere.
There are also many companies that charge exorbitant amounts for arranged tours. While we recommend taking Safari tours and a few other attractions on the outskirts of the city, the ones within the city can be done reasonably cheap by taxi or metro.
Visit Burj Khalifa (the tallest building in the world)
The 830 meters-tall Burj Khalifa is three times the size of the Eiffel Tower and higher than the highest point of the Niagara Falls. If you are brave enough, go all the way to the observation deck, it is an incredible experience. Just be safe during windy days.
Eating on a budget
Dubai is filled with high class cuisine and refined bars. That does not mean that the city does not provide cheaper and tasty options. As an example you can try the deliciously inexpensive Pakistani and Indian options in the city, with dishes like dosas (crepe made from rice and stuffed with all sorts of delicious things- try a potato one), as well as the various Lebanese bakeries around town and their delicacies. A few restaurants worth visiting are Bombay Chowpatty, Chhapan Bohg, Govinda’s, Karachi Darbar and the famous Ravi’s Chop House. Some even have all-you-can-eat buffets for 20 AED- try the Golden Fork.
Relaxing at the beach and parks
Jumeirah Beach Park and Al Mamzar Beach Park are the two local beaches. With the charge of 5 AED you are entitled to a well-maintained beach with toilets and food outlets for a reasonable price. The ice-cream for example, is way cheaper than in European countries. If you would like to enjoy the day inside a swimming pool than Mamzar is a good option, with a charge of only 10 AED to use.
Dubai parks are also an amazing alternative to an afternoon. Creek Park bathes along the breathtaking Dubai Creek, offering play areas, barbecue areas and shady picnic spots. Mushrif Park is a nice option if you fancy horseback riding through a forest. Last but definitely not least there is Zabeel Park, which has something for everyone from cooking and eating areas to an indoor adventure zone.
Although many people still believe that electronics in Dubai are cheaper than in Europe, this is not quite true. It used to be reasonably cheaper a few years ago, but nowadays it requires a little bit of research in order to get an advantageous deal. Simply research online what are the items you would like to buy, and head to your discount hunt.
When visiting the Al Karama Market – a famous place for fake originals and reasonably priced gifts – do not forget to haggle for your life.
Pro-tip:You should have a walk around in the market to see the average price of the products you would like to purchase before showing interest. As soon as you get the idea, it’s time to bring out your best bargaining skills.
If you have more Dubai tips, please list them on the comments below!