Home to magnificent skyscrapers and massive shopping malls, Dubai is perhaps a place like no other. With tons of things to see and do, the city tops the charts when it comes to the best tourist destinations in the world. While the metropolitan goes all out for the elite, you still can plan a fun-filled trip to Dubai on budget.
Planning a trip to Dubai especially while skimping on budget can be a bit daunting considering all that it offers to see and do. From incredible landmarks to fantastic eateries, there is so much to do that one often spends a bit over the odds.
But it shouldn’t have to be crazy expensive. Luckily, there are a lot of ways to save money and do tons of things without breaking the bank. All it takes is just the right timing and planning and you are all set for an affordable holiday trip to Dubai. Don’t believe it? We will tell you how.
The Ultimate Guide to Visit Dubai on Budget
Dubai, the glittering jewel of UAE, is often associated with luxury, opulence, and extravagance. While it’s true that the city offers a plethora of high-end experiences and luxury accommodations, it is also possible to explore the mesmerizing metropolitan on a budget without compromising on adventure and fun.
This comprehensive guide will help you plan an affordable trip to Dubai without compromising on the fun and adventure. From finding cheap tickets to booking budget-friendly accommodation and enjoying affordable activities and dining options, here is all that you would need to know to plan a holiday trip to Dubai on budget. Let’s get started.
Plan and Book in Advance
In UAE, temperatures usually soar from May to August. There is a significant price drop in hotel accommodations during the peak summer season. If you are wondering what is the cheapest month to travel to Dubai, then this can be an excellent time to plan your tip if you enjoy the hot weather and aren’t afraid of the scorching heat. If you do plan a visit during the summer season, you can spend a big chunk of your time indoors, visiting shopping malls and air-conditioned theme parks.
Timings play a significant role when planning a trip to Dubai on budget. Dubai experiences two distinct tourist seasons. The peak season begins in November and lasts till April. The off-peak season starts in May and lasts till October. To save money, consider visiting during the off-peak season when accommodation prices drop to rock bottom.
Book Cheap Flights
Finding a cheap ticket to Dubai can be possible if you book at the right time. Here are a few tips to help you increase your chances of bagging an affordable flight ticket.
- Plan your Itinerary in Advance
Most airlines typically announce cheap tickets approximately 6 months before the travel date. So booking 5 to 6 months in advance can be a good way to save money on your Dubai ticket.
Here is an interesting article which might be of help to find cheap flight tickets
Also, consult travel and tour operators to see if they have discounted promotions and special tour packages for Dubai on budget. This can be a good option if you plan to visit with family. Tour operators usually have budget packages for families with kids offering cheap hotel accommodations and affordable air tickets.
- Be a bit flexible about Airlines, Dates, and Time of Departure
Dubai’s national carrier Emirates flies around the globe to more than 150 destinations and may be a preferred choice for international travelers. However, it might be a bit heavy on the pocket to fly with Emirates. You can always check for promotional codes and discounts to save on your Emirates flight ticket.
Here’s how you can save when flying to and from Dubai with Emirates Airlines.
Alternatively, you can check with other budget airlines including the UAE’s government-owned FlyDubai. The airline offers quality inflight experiences in Dubai on budget and is one of the most popular affordable airlines across the globe flying to and from Dubai.
Being a bit flexible about the dates, time, airline, and even the number of stops can help you lower the travel expense to a great extent.
Find Cheap Hotel Accommodations
Hotel accommodation is perhaps the biggest expense on an international trip. Luckily, Dubai has a lot of options that won’t put a dent in your wallet. The city offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets.
To save money, you can opt for affordable hotels, hostels, or Airbnb rentals in areas like Rigga, Deira, and Bur Dubai. These areas are known for their economical lodgings and offer value-for-money accommodations. Booking in advance can also help in securing lower rates at good hotels.
During the summer, accommodation prices drop to a significantly low level. The primary culprit here is the weather. During the summer season, most of the activities and events are closed because of the sweltering heat. Travelling to Dubai during this season can be light on the pocket but in all honesty, it is not recommendable.
Where to stay in Dubai on a Budget?
- Hotel Recommendations
Dubai has the same star-rating standard for evaluating the status of hotels as everywhere else in the world. But here, the standards are a bit higher than most of the tourist destinations across the globe. A 2-star hotel in Dubai often feels like a three-star accommodation. The hotel however may lack luxury amenities such as a gymnasium, swimming pool, bars, and laundry service.
Hotels like Premier Inn, Radisson Blue, Holiday Inn Express, Ibis, and Rove are some of the most affordable hotels to stay in Dubai on a budget. These might charge only a few hundred dirhams for one night at good neighborhoods across the city.
- Things to Remember:
Hotels and accommodations on the beach typically cost more than a hotel elsewhere in the city. If you like visiting beaches, you can always hop on to one as no matter where you stay in Dubai, all beaches are just a stone thrown away. You can always get a cab or get on the Metro to visit Dubai beaches.
With just a little research and careful planning, you may find plenty of quality hotels near main attractions at good value for your money. You can use Google Maps to check the directions and see the distance of your desired accommodation to popular attractions in the city.
- Alternative Options for a Cheaper Accommodation
Dubai has a good range of hotel apartments offering essential amenities such as washing machines, kitchens, appliances, and a few other essential services. These accommodations can be cheaper than mainstream hotels but of course, you would have to put in some extra effort to do the chores.
This can be a good option when you are traveling with family. You can save money on accommodation and spend it on food, shopping, or activities. Jumeirah Beach Residence, Roda Amwaj Suites, and Villa Rotana are popular choices for hotel apartments in Dubai. There are also plenty of such options on Sheikh Zayed Road and Dubai Marina.
There are also many Airbnb listings in Dubai. These accommodations can be cheaper than hotel apartments. At the end of the day, it all comes down to your budget, what you plan to do in the city, and your personal preferences.
Commute for Less: Public Transport, Taxis, and Car Rental Services
Cabs in Dubai offer good value especially when compared to other tourist destinations but the rent can pile up really quickly. With careful planning, you can get around the city on a budget. Dubai’s public transportation system is both efficient and budget-friendly.
Dubai metro, buses, and trams provide easy access to malls and popular tourist attractions. It is recommended to purchase an NOL card, which offers discounted fares and can be used across the city on public transportation.
The city has a huge fleet of cabs, which can be picked up from the street or booked online or via phone. There are other private transportation services too including Uber and Careem. You can rent a taxi for a few hours or hire a ride for a flat fee.
You can request a taxi along with a driver to move you around the city with your family for 3 hours. This 3-hour ride would cost you around 400 AED which is a good value for money if you plan on visiting popular landmarks around the city in a short span of time.
However, if you are traveling solo, you can roam around Dubai on budget using the Metro and local buses.
- Rent a Car
If you plan on renting a car when visiting the Emirate, please note that driving is pretty easy in the city. Most destinations have spacious parking and you can easily park the car at different landmarks as you go about the city.
For families and groups who plan on doing a lot of sightseeing and traveling, renting a car may be a cheaper and more suitable option. However, bear in mind that you would need to pay for insurance, road tolls (Salik), and parking fees.
You may find details about popular car rentals at Dubai International Airport and may hire the services right from the spot. There are plenty of other options in the city which are affordable too.
Take a look at our comprehensive guide to find all that you need to know about rent-a-car services in Dubai.
- Car Sharing Services
There are some car-sharing services too including ekar and uDrive. These services allow users to select pay-per-minute or choose daily fares on vehicles of their choice. Customers are also allowed to choose a pickup and drop-off service for added convenience.
If you plan on visiting the Emirate during colder months, the best and most affordable option to commute in the city is by walking. Dubai is a pretty walkable destination and spots like Marina, Dubai Creek, and traditional souks can be best explored on foot.
You can also explore downtown Dubai and take a stroll around the magnificent Dubai Mall in the evening and end the night with a free fountain dance adjacent to the mighty Burj Khalifa.
Cheap Restaurants and Dining Options in Dubai
Dining out in Dubai can take a toll on your budget. Fine dining in the city is super expensive and may cost thousands of dirhams during a 7-day trip. However, there are a lot of good options to indulge yourself in delectable food for just a few bucks.
Dubai has a diverse culinary scene catering to various budgets. To save money on meals, opt for street food. Try local street food stalls and food trucks for affordable and appetizing meals. Cafes and local eateries also offer plenty of budget-eating options. Explore smaller, local restaurants and cafes for authentic Emirati cuisine at reasonable rates.
Another good way to save on food in Dubai is to visit food courts in Malls. Food courts have tons of budget-friendly international cuisine options including Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Lebanese, American, and Asian delicacies.
The multicultural landscape of Dubai means you get loads of different international cuisines at your access. Some of the best culinary experiences can be found in Deira, Karama, Jumeirah, and Satwa. A lot of Indian and Pakistani cafes and restaurants can offer delicious meals for as low as 15 AED.
Here is our list of the best cheap restaurants in Dubai where you can eat for as low as 10 AED.
- Get Entertainer App
If you like to fine dine, know that it will be a bit heavy on your pocket. But there are ways to grab discounted deals. You can get yourself the Entertainer app. This locally-built food discount application offers two deals on food and activities.
You can find a lot of options for buffets and brunches where you can pay half of the actual bill. Entertainer can provide you with endless discounts on several restaurants, cafes, and bars. You can also save on activities and experiences as the app also provides good deals on leisure.
The app stays valid for 1 year starting from January till December. So plan ahead, purchase the app, and decide on venues to save more. It’s a good option for couples, groups, and families but if you are traveling alone, it’s better not to buy it.
With Entertainer you get a lot of exciting deals on gourmet meals and fine dining in Dubai. You will have to pay for the app and tap on it to look for available offers on food and leisure.
Another popular restaurant aggregator Zomato can also be used for finding attractive discounts on meals. So if you plan in advance, you can save a good deal of money and enjoy dining in some of the most upscale eateries in Dubai without breaking the bank.
It is also advised to keep an eye on the social media handles of restaurants and bars to stay abreast of the latest deals and promotions.
- Cook Yourself
If you are too skimpy on the budget, you can perhaps cook yourself if you are staying in an Airbnb or a hotel apartment. There are a lot of cheap grocery stores including Viva, Day to Day Hypermarket Lulu, and Carrefour to buy essential food items for less.
Save on Sight Seeing and Attractions (Cheap and Free Things to do in Dubai)
There are tons of things to see and do in the metropolitan. And you will be amazed to know that many of these things can be done for free. It’s better to make a bucket list and plan ahead so that you can save both time and budget.
- Free Beaches
Dubai is not just about glitz and glam. It also boasts several free and low-cost attractions and activities. The city has pristine beaches and most of them can be accessed for free. JBR Beach, Kite Beach, Mamzar Beach, and Jumeirah Beach offer free public entry with stunning views.
- Get a Beach Pass
To experience Dubai Beaches at their best without shelling a lot of bucks from your wallet, we recommend you buy a beach day pass. These day passes to private beach resorts offer beach access, sun loungers, showers, towels, drinks, and snacks. The passes may vary in terms of facilities and prices but are worth every penny spent.
Search for deals online and visit the official websites and social media channels of resorts and beach clubs to find the best price.
- Sight Seeing
You may take a stroll along the historic Dubai Creek, where you can soak in the local culture and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. Another good option is to explore the old neighborhoods of Bastakiya and Al Fahidi District. These age-old sites are filled with traditional architecture and museums and offer an affordable means of recreation.
You can take abra rides, explore the streets at Al Seef, visit Grand Mosque at Bur Dubai, visit Burj park, see dancing fountain, click selfies with Wings of Mexico, take a tour of Palm Jumeirah on monorail, visit Souk Madinat Jumeirah, walk around Dubai Downtown, and do a lot more stuff without spending a fortune.
While Desert Safaris can be expensive, there are affordable options too. You can avail of a discounted deal and get a taste of the desert experience along with a BBQ buffet and belly dancing at the end of the day.
To save more, consider purchasing attraction passes like the Dubai Pass or the Dubai Explorer Pass which provide discounts on popular tourist spots such as Burj Khalifa, Ski Dubai, Dubai Aquarium, and Dubai Parks and Resorts.
Having a Dubai Pass will help you snap up special deals and unlock massive discounts on leisure activities in the city. The discount card offers up to 60% discounts on popular attractions and hotspots in the Emirate including Wild Wadi Waterpark, Desert Safari, Dubai Parks and Resorts, and much more. Purchasing a Pass can bring the overall travel expense to a great deal.
- Get an Al Saada Card Aka The Happiness Card
Another attractive option for tourists to visit Dubai on budget is to get Al Saada Card. This virtual discount card or as most people say The Happiness Card can be your gateway to unlock incredible discounts on food, retail, and leisure. The card can be accessed for free via a mobile app with tons of discounts and promotions available for visitors and tourists in Dubai.
- Book Ahead of Time
For some attractions like At The Top Burj Khalifa, reserving a spot in advance would be a lot cheaper than buying a ticket at the spot. The majority of all the top attractions in Dubai can be booked online through their official websites or via the app. Online booking always gives the best price and is a smart choice to save money on sightseeing.
- Special Events, Festivals, and Promotions
Dubai is also known for hosting spectacular events and festivals throughout the year. A lot of attractions join hands in hosting the celebrations and visitors can benefit a lot from the promotions.
Dubai Summer Surprises and Dubai Shopping Festival are two major events that the city organizes every year. These shopping extravaganzas not only provide a golden opportunity to save big on retail but also offer access to free events such as music concerts and fireworks displays.
Global Village, a multicultural family festival held every year for a period of 6 months, can also be a pocket-friendly entertainment option if you visit the Emirate during the colder months (October to April)
We recommend you visit Dubai Calender to keep an eye on all the events and festivals lined up for the year. You may plan your visit accordingly to make the most out of your trip and explore Dubai on budget.
- Free Things to Do in Dubai
Dubai is not just about luxurious attractions and upscale eateries. There are many cheap and free things to do in Dubai that you can experience with friends and family when visiting the metropolitan.
Budget-savvy travelers can do a lot of free stuff and visit attractions without having to pay anything at all. Here is a list of free fun things to do in Dubai when on a visit.
Shop Smart and Pay Less
Dubai is ridiculously famous for its gigantic malls and traditional souks. To shop on a budget, bargain at souks, visit Outlet Malls, and enjoy Tax-free shopping at retail outlets.
Traditional markets like Gold Souk and Spice Souk offer the best bargains on jewelry, décor, and home essentials. Expect some haggling but do not hesitate to negotiate prices. You can also head to Dubai Outlet Mall for discounted branded goods.
You will be thrilled to know that tourists in Dubai can claim a refund on VAT for eligible purchases, so keep your receipts saved. Take a quick look at how you can claim a refund on all your shopping in the Emirates. This can be a great way to save money on the purchases you will make during your visit.
If you do not want to go bankrupt shopping stuff from malls in Dubai, head over to standalone shops in Karama, Rigga, and Bur Dubai to shop your heart out within your means. Brands for Less, Brands4U, and Dragon Mart are other cheap stores in Dubai to find good bargains on luxury brands.
Find the Best Rates at Currency Exchange Services
While you can get your local currency exchanged in your country, you can get better rates from currency exchange services in Dubai.
Here is a quick read to help you find the best currency exchange providers in Dubai. Compare vendors and make an informed choice to get the best value for your money.
Dubai may be known for its extravagance, but with careful planning and smart choices, it is entirely possible to explore this dazzling city on a budget. From affordable accommodation and public transportation to free attractions and budget dining options, there are numerous ways to enjoy the wonders of the city without breaking the bank.
If you think planning an international trip is crazy expensive, think again. Dubai has it all to entertain skimpy travelers. So, pack your bags, follow this guide, and embark on an unforgettable adventure of exploring Dubai on budget.