This blog post was updated on April 30, 2020.
In the city of Lamborghinis and Bugattis, it’s hard to believe that there’s any chance you can swing a trip here on your shoestring budget. But for once, we’re excited to prove you wrong! Dubai has a reputation for being expensive and overpriced, but it’s also a city overflowing with a rich history, open markets and beautiful beaches.
From amazing architecture to foodie favorites, there are tons of things you can do to still have a gem of a time in the city of gold. Stick to this list of tips and activities and you’ll be able to see Dubai, without going broke!
Ditch the Taxis!
C’mon now, a genius globetrotter like you should know that in any major city taxis are expensive. Ditch the gridlocked, pricey drives and hop aboard the Dubai Metro for around just $2 per ride! Not only are these driverless trains are the most efficient way of getting around the city, but it allows you to jump between the tourist sites quickly while also circumventing the cluttered streets at rush hour and the high cab fares that come along with them!
Gawk at the Architecture
Remember the amazing architecture we mentioned? Well, you should start by setting your sights on the Burj Khalifa, a.k.a the tallest building in the world. You’ve probably already seen the tops of this place from your airplane window when landing, but an up-close view of it is simply a must. Getting to the top will cost about $100 if you purchase your ticket on the spot. Book online to save yourself a pretty dime (we’re talking at least $20-$25 a pop) if this is an activity you can’t do without. If you’re not willing to splurge or are afraid of heights, don’t worry. If you’re here at night, you’ll catch some incredible fountain displays, complete with LED light shows and synchronized water spouts — all for the whopping price of zero dollars.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to feast your eyes on the Burj Al Arab. This snail-shell-shaped hotel is the fanciest lodging in the city (and arguably in the world). Although you won’t be able to see the inside of this luxe spot unless you’re an official guest, you can still admire it and soak in its beauty from afar.
Shop Til You Drop!
Believe it or not, you can totally shop in Dubai without burning a hole through your wallet. While you should still head to the large shopping complexes like the Dubai Mall (biggest shopping mall in the entire world) that is home to a Jurassic Park-style theme park and the Mall of the Emirates that has an indoor ski slope…with real snow, you still have plenty of options to do more than just ogle, so don’t pull your wallet out until you get to the souks.
Along the Dubai Creek, you’ll find a collection of open-air marketplaces called souks. From handmade perfumes to pure 24-karat gold, you’ll find just about anything and everything here — and haggling is a must! The souks are organized by specific goods, so do some research ahead of time to map out your route. Head to the Textile Souk to find stalls filled with colorful and patterned fabrics and some of the most stunning silks and cottons by the yard, or the Spice Souk filled with exotic spices from across the Middle East, we’re talking anything from coffee and shisha to incense and traditional Arabic perfume.
Embrace Your Inner Beach Bum
Did you know that before the glitz and glam, this city started out as a humble little fishing town? But a quick trip to its stunning coastline is sure to remind you of just that.
No trip to Dubai can be complete without a visit to one of its many breathtaking beaches, especially if you’re looking for a budget-friendly experience. Jumeirah Beach Park is a broke beach bum’s paradise, where you can take a dip in the clear Persian Gulf waters and sunbathe under the strong Dubai sun. This beach is particularly affordable because of all of its family-friendly amenities like small cafes, barbecue areas and a free playground for children to play in.
But before you start your splishing and splashing, remember, the U.A.E. is an Islamic country, and respect for the local culture is a must! The Western standard of bikinis on the beach is generally considered inappropriate, so unless you’re on a privately owned beach, stick to a pair of comfortable shorts and a T-shirt while you’re soaking in the sun.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry!
Last, but certainly not the least, it’s time to unleash your inner foodie. Make your way over to Al Dhiyafah Road — a place where you can keep both your stomach and wallet totally full! Sorry folks, you won’t find flashy sports cars or massive theme parks here — this road is within the old part of the city, known as the Bastakia Quarter, and it’s home to some of the most delicious restaurants and affordable eats, with roots grounded in Dubai’s fishing village past.
If it’s a night out that you’re looking for, ladies — you’re in luck! Many of the hotel bars and lounges host ladies’ nights where you can drink free! Even if you’re unable to find or catch one of these freebie nights, there are still plenty of places that host happy hours or special events where drinks are discounted.
Have you successfully visited Dubai on a budget? Tell us about some of the affordable activities and money-saving tips in the comments below!