Dubai is known as an energetic, glamorous and expensive city. For the travel enthusiast, Dubai is a city of dreams and a destination on everyone’s travel bucket list.
The big question is, can you explore this impressive city on a budget and still have an unforgettable experience? The answer is YES! If you look for the expensive places you will find them very easily but you can also experience so many adventures that won’t cost you a fortune. The truth is you can do Dubai on a budget and still have the best holiday, you just have to be a little smart with your Dirhams.
I would recommend setting a budget before you go and planning out what you want to do there to insure you get everything on your destination bucket list ticked off. It is all about the planning in order for you have an unforgettable holiday in Dubai. Many of my favourite memories from Dubai didn’t cost me a lot so I am going to share with you a list of things you can do and places you can explore which won’t break the bank. I am also going to share with you a few experiences that are worth spending a little extra on if you can save on other areas of the holiday. Here goes;
The Fountain Display is located just outside the famous Dubai Mall. The sound and light show takes place every 30 minutes between 6pm and midnight. It's good to note that every 30 minutes they use different music and light displays so if you stay around, each show will be different. It is very impressive and definitely worth checking out.
The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. You can go to the top (at a cost) but it is still extremely impressive to just go and see it from the outside. It is also located just outside the Dubai Mall.
Note: If you do want to go up to the top, it costs 135AED (around €35) per person. I would recommend booking online beforehand as certain time slots book up fast. It can be very busy so it’s worth booking a VIP ticket if your time is limited and you want to avoid the que.
The Dubai Mall is the second largest mall in the world and definitely worth checking out. It is located next to the Birj Khalifa and has over 1200 stores. Even if you aren’t going to shop till you drop, it is worth going to experience it. You can also visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo in the mall or experience their Olympic sized ice rink. If you don’t want to go into the Aquarium, you can get a taste of it with their big tank at the entrance.
Explore Old Dubai. This was one of my favourite experiences and not an expensive experience on the trip. This is what we did:
1. Get a taxi to Al Fahidi Fort in Old Dubai. Be sure to go into the Dubai museum which costs just 3AED (less the €1). It is very impressive.
2. Make your way through the markets to soak up the atmosphere, you will find a maze of alleyways to explore. Do a little shopping and don’t forget to haggle on the prices. It is all part of the experience.
3. When you reach the creek, you can get an Abra (boat) to the other side of the creek for 1AED (less the 50c). Enjoy the unique trip and take in your surroundings and atmosphere. You will be crossing the creek from Bur Dubai to Deira to explore the Old Souk, Gold Souk and Spice Souk.
4. You are now in the perfect area to check out the Old Souk, Gold Souk and Spice Souk. You will be asked to buy stuff and try things on but always remember to haggle if you want something. If you are looking for a bargain you are in the right place as you can negotiate items down to almost half the original asking price. The gold souk is known for selling some of the cheapest gold jewellery in the world so be sure to check that out. Even if you aren’t looking to purchase anything, it is worth a visit to soak up the fun and atmosphere.
Jumeirah Mosque is a beautiful mosque which is worth a visit. It is one of the most iconic landmarks in Dubai and it will give you a great insight into Islamic life. This mosque allows people of all faiths to admire the surroundings and learn about Islam and the local culture. The tour takes about 75 minutes and costs about 25 AED (around €6).
Explore the desert. When you think of Dubai, you cannot help but think of the desert adventures that are waiting for you. There are lots of tours you can buy which are very reasonable. Choose from a 4x4 jeep safari and quad biking to dune bashing and hot air balloon rides. We would recommend searching for any deals online before booking as you can save a lot. Normally they cost 150AED upwards (€36 upwards).
Note: If you want to spend a little extra on something, I would highly recommend the hot air balloon ride at sunrise in the desert. It was the highlight of my trip. You get up early at 4/5am and get a jeep to the desert where you get ready to take off in a hot air balloon and fly over the desert at sunrise. It is a magical experience and I think if you were spending money on anything, this would be the experience. It costs around €300 but a little tip is to look online at deal savers before you go and you could purchase it for half price if you’re lucky.
The Jumeirah Palm is one of the most popular features in Dubai. This palm shaped island is one of the key areas people want to visit during their stay. It's worth noting that many areas on the palm are private so unless you are staying in the hotel, there isn’t a lot to see or many beaches you can enjoy. You can explore the ground floor of the Atlantis for free and check out the famous giant aquarium or go for a walk along the boardwalk which is an 11km walk around the palm. Other options on the famous palm is a visit the aquarium or famous water park if you are looking to cool off. I would recommend getting the monorail out to get a view of the famous palm as if you get a taxi, you end up going to it through a tunnel and miss all the views.
Check out the beautiful beaches. Two beaches that are open to the public are Kite Beach and Jumeirah Beach. I would recommend the Jumeirah Beach as you can enjoy the views of the famous Burj Al Arab in the background. Two beautiful beaches that won’t cost you a penny.
Dubai Marina is definitely worth checking out. A beautiful picturesque spot. It is a lovely walk along the marina to admire all the expensive boats and impressive skyscrapers. A nice spot to grab lunch or brunch and watch the world go by.
The Souk Madinat is worth a visit and a great place to go in the evening. This is a modern take on a tradition souk. A beautiful Arabic market to explore with lots of shops, galleries and restaurants overlooking the water and canal. It has a great atmosphere at night where you can experience the tasty food, the glowing lanterns, spices, artisanal crafts and much more.
- Taxis are cheap in Dubai so don’t be afraid to use them. Be sure to get a taxi on the street and not from outside a hotel as they can be more expensive. A 25-minute journey should cost you approximately 89 AED (around €22). A lot cheaper than other cities.
- The metro is also very reasonable and one of the cheapest ways to get around. Pick up a NOL card for 25 AED (Around €6) and it comes with 19 AED of credit. Depending on what zone you are going to, the prices range from 4 AED (around €1) to 8.50 AED (around €2). The metro is great for the main tourist spots but Dubai is very spread out so if you want to go anywhere which is away from the main tourist hotspots, I would recommend a taxi.
- The Palm Jumeirah Monorailis the most scenic way to get to the Palm Jumeirah. It costs 30AED return (around €7).