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Pocket Friendly Guide On How To Travel Cheap In Dubai

Are there free things to do in Dubai? Can you explore Dubai on a tight budget? The simple answer is yes!

Dubai is famous for its fancy stuff – think 5-star hotels, posh stores, and fancy restaurants. 

It’s known as one of the most expensive cities globally, making budget travel seem like a tough nut to crack. 

But here’s the surprise – Dubai welcomes budget-conscious travelers, too! 

Sure, you’ve got those Michelin-starred restaurants, but guess what? 

You can also dig into affordable local eats in the charming area of Old Dubai. 

So, whether you’re into luxury or counting your pennies, Dubai’s got you covered.

The Best Way To Travel Around

Dubai might feel very expensive for some but there are aspects where you can cut down your expenses.

Here’s how you can cut down on traveling around the city expenses:

By Metro

Dubai Metro seamlessly connects the city’s major attractions through its two lines: RED and GREEN. 

It’s a breeze to use – just tap your Nol card at the gates and head to the platforms for your train. 

Trains run frequently, from 5:50 am to midnight (Saturday-Wednesday), 5:30 am to 1 am (Thursday), and 1 pm to 1 am (Friday). 

Be mindful of rush hours (7-9 am and 4-7 pm) when it might get a bit crowded. 

GOLD class cars are available for those holding a GOLD Nol card, ensuring a more exclusive experience.

Utilize Dubai Metro apps from the App Store or Google Play to find the nearest station, plan your route (including transfers), and check fares efficiently.

By Taxi

By Taxi
Image: Gulfnews.com

Despite a reliable metro system, taxis remain popular in Dubai due to its extensive road network.

Thousands of taxis roam the streets, offering convenient transportation. 

There’s even a special fleet of pink cabs exclusively for female passengers, catering to solo females and groups with female members.

Standard taxi rates are AED 1.75 per kilometer, with additional charges such as:

  • Minimum fare: AED 12 ($3) 
  • Regular taxi starting fare: AED 3 ($1) when hailed on the street, AED 6 ($2) when booked. A slightly higher nighttime rate applies (10 pm to 6 am).
  • Ladies taxi starting fare: AED 6 ($2)  from 6 am-10 pm, AED 7 from 10 pm-6 am
  • From the airport: AED 25 ($7)
  • When passing through the Sharjah border, AED 20 ($5)
  • When crossing a toll gate: AED 4 ($1)

By Uber or Careem

Uber operates seamlessly in Dubai, providing an effortless alternative for travelers. 

Careem, another transportation app, offers options for booking private cars or taxis. 

Although taxis are slightly cheaper, Uber and Careem are preferred by many for their better service. 

Careem is often considered the better, more economical choice between the two.

By Hop-On Hop-Off Bus

The Hop-On Hop-Off Bus in Dubai is convenient for those who enjoy tourist buses. 

These open-top buses take you to popular attractions without the hassle of fares and navigation. 

Simply hop in, show your ticket, and get off at your desired stop. 

The bus covers various attractions, including Burj Khalifa, Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai Mall, and more, with 6-day and 2-night routes available. 

Each bus has a multilingual audio guide providing information about every stop.

Dubai Travel Costs

Here’s a detailed breakdown of your estimated travel costs in Dubai:

Hostel Accommodations

Regarding hostels, securing a bed in a dorm room with 6-8 beds in Dubai typically costs around 80 AED ($217) per night. 

While free Wi-Fi is a standard offering, only one hostel, Bombay Backpackers, includes complimentary breakfast. 

For those seeking more privacy, a private room with an ensuite bathroom is available at an average cost of around 175 AED ($146) per night.

Budget Staying Options

Two-star budget hotels in Dubai start at 285 AED ($78) during peak season, while off-season rates drop to around 90 AED ($25). 

These budget accommodations offer basic amenities such as a TV, tea/coffee maker, and air conditioning.

Dubai has numerous Airbnb options, with private rooms starting at approximately 100 AED ($28) per night. 

However, book early, as prices can double, triple, or even quadruple closer to the date.

Entire homes or apartments are available starting from around 250 AED ($68) per night, but advance booking is crucial.

This is the perfect option if you are traveling in big groups.

Dining in Dubai

Dubai’s food scene blends Middle Eastern influences with international flavors. 

Popular local dishes include hummus, shawarma, shish tawook (grilled kebabs), and knafeh (a sweet cheese pastry). 

Staples like dates, fish, and camel milk contribute to the diverse diet, seasoned with spices like saffron, cinnamon, and turmeric.

Dining out in Dubai typically costs around AED 65 ($17) for a meal, while a dinner for two with drinks averages between AED 190 ($52) and AED 300 ($87). 

Fast food options like McDonald’s come at around AED 30($8) for a combo meal. 

Additional pricing includes a large pizza at AED 45 ($12), Chinese food at AED 50 ($14), a beer at AED 45 ($12), and a latte or cappuccino at AED 19 ($5). 

Bottled water is a more budget-friendly option at around AED 2 ($1).

Top Things to Do in Dubai on a Budget

Here are a few things you can do in Dubai if you’re on a shoestring budget trip to the city:

1. Dubai Fountain 

Situated next to Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Fountain offers a mesmerizing blend of water, lights, and music. 

This choreographed fountain system, illuminated by over 6,000 lights and 50 projectors, shoots water up to 500 ft. 

The breathtaking free show is a visual treat for all.

2. Parks and Waterfront Promenades

Public parks like Zabeel Park provide a perfect blend of nature and technology at an entrance fee of AED 5 ($1) for budget-friendly leisure. 

Although it is tempting to explore, Bluewater Island offers a cost-free experience by strolling across its bridge. 

Enjoy the skyline by walking along JBR Walk or Dubai Marina Walk without any entrance fees.

3. Dubai Frame 

Dubai Frame, the world’s largest mirror frame and observation deck, is an architectural wonder offering panoramic city views. 

For under AED 50 ($13), visitors can experience a one-hour tour, exploring Dubai’s history, present, and future through a skyglass bridge.

4. Public Beaches

Despite being surrounded by vast deserts, Dubai has beautiful beaches for free relaxation. 

Kite Beach, Umm Suqeim Park Beach, La Mer, and Jumeirah Beach provide sunbathing opportunities with various activities.

5. Souks Shopping 

Beyond the renowned Dubai Mall, exploring traditional souks offers a unique shopping experience. 

From spices to gold, these local Arabian marketplaces present various products, providing a sensory overload with aromas and affordable treasures. 

An Abra ride to reach these souks costs just AED 1 ($0.2).

6. Visit Museums & Galleries

Immerse yourself in history, culture, and art by visiting Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, an authentic live museum showcasing Dubai’s past. 

The Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort and Al Shindagha Museum offer insights into Bedouin secrets and engaging displays at affordable entrance fees. 

A visit to the coffee museum is free.

Budget Restaurants in Dubai

Old Dubai is where you savor local flavors without denting your wallet if you’re hungry. 

While Dubai offers fantastic dining options, discovering budget-friendly gems requires a bit of exploration. 

In Old Dubai, traditional and flavorful dishes await at remarkably reasonable prices.

To enjoy the quintessential Arabic coffee beneath the shade of an ancient Arabic tree, settle in at the Arabian Tea House. 

For a heartier feast featuring dishes like butter chicken and chicken biryani, Ravi Restaurant in Satwa is a must-visit. 

While a meal for two costs around AED 85 ($23), the rich and satisfying taste justifies every dirham spent. 

These top-notch restaurants boast authentic ingredients and flavors that will leave you savoring every bite.

Head to the 38-year-old establishment, Al Ustad Special Kebab Hotel, renowned for its mutton kebabs. 

Here, you’ll experience the essence of a culinary tradition that has stood the test of time.

Dubai Money Saving Tips

Dubai can be really expensive; therefore, saving money is important if you are on a budget.

Here are some practical tips to help you save money:

1. Groupon for Discounts

Dubai, known for its high costs, offers a solution through Groupon. 

This popular platform provides substantial discounts, 2-for-1 deals, and various offers on activities. 

Check Groupon first for potential savings on your desired experiences.

2. Happy Hours for Budget-Friendly Drinks

Dubai is dotted with happy hours, offering discounted drinks. Plan your outings strategically to take advantage of these affordable options and avoid the city’s otherwise high-priced beverages.

3. Old Dubai for Affordable Dining

For cost-effective dining experiences, venture into Old Dubai, steering away from the upscale hotels, malls, and themed souks. 

Here, you’ll find more affordable options for satisfying your culinary cravings.

4. Opt for Metro-Proximate Accommodation

Choosing accommodation close to a metro stop is a smart move. 

This saves unnecessary walking in the sweltering heat and proves more economical than relying on taxis. 

Public transportation is a budget-friendly alternative in Dubai.

5. Bring a Reusable Water Bottle

Combatting the city’s high expenses includes considering daily essentials. Bring a reusable water bottle, as Dubai’s tap water is safe to drink. 

This promotes sustainability by reducing single-use plastic and keeps you hydrated without additional costs.

6. Buy Tickets Online

If you’re looking to visit different attractions in Dubai, we recommend you to buy your tickets online in advance to save money and also avail of discounts.

Featured Image: Expatica.com

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