Visiting Dubai on a budget needn’t be an impossible dream. Here are my tips for experiencing Dubai when you’re not on a Sheikh’s salary.
Since I got back from my trip to Dubai in February, one question has kept coming up – was it expensive? It’s true that Dubai can be a really expensive city but there are lots of things to do and loads of ways to make the most of your trip even when you’re trying not to spend much money. Here are 11 tried and tested things to see and do in Dubai on a budget.
1. GET SOME HISTORY
Visit the old town and experience the history of this fascinating city. Call in at Dubai Museum (AED 3) to see Dubai’s oldest building and to see how the inhabitants lived in the days before the malls.
2. TAKE TO THE WATER
Skip the expensive boat tours and take an abra across the Creek for 1 AED (about 20p) for an authentic Dubai experience.
3. DO SOME WINDOW SHOPPING
Wander through the Gold, Perfume and Spice Souks in Deira for a full-on and free sensory experience.
4. GET BACK IN TOUCH WITH NATURE
Get a taste of nature by visiting the flamingos at Ras al Khor wildlife sanctuary.
5. ROOFTOP VIEWS
For the price of a drink, get a bird’s eye view of futuristic Sheikh Zayed Road’s skyscrapers at the Level 43 bar on top of the Sheraton Four Points hotel. Happy hour is 6-8 every day with Ladies Night on Tuesdays.
6. SEE ANOTHER EMIRATE
Take the bus from Al Ghubbiba bus station to Abu Dhabi for a free guided tour of the incredible Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – one of the biggest in the world.
7. GO WAY UP HIGH
For dramatic Burj Khalifa photos without the premium sunset pricing, book a visit at sunrise. The early start (available on Fridays and Saturdays only) gets you amazing views as the city wakes up, plus a bonus breakfast for AED 125.
8. HIT THE MALLS
For free entertainment, hit the malls, especially the world’s biggest, Dubai Mall. Here you’ll be able to watch the famous dancing fountains, see into the Aquarium without paying the entry fee, watch ice skating, get up close to a dinosaur, sit by amazing indoor waterfalls and enjoy some of the world’s best people watching. The mall food courts are also a convenient, if noisy, place to fill your belly at low prices.
Other mall attractions include an indoor ski slope at Mall of the Emirates, a nightly sound and light show and free rooftop movies at Wafi mall and a journey through the countries visited by a Moroccan explorer at Ibn Battuta mall. Most of the major malls are well-served by public transport.
9. BEACH LIFE
Hit the beach without staying at a glitzy hotel and get free views of the magnificent Burj al Arab at the Jumeirah public beach – the perfect beach day in Dubai on a budget. Alternatively, visit the Souk Madinat Jumeirah for great views plus happy hours in the many bars and restaurants.