Dubai Budget Travel Guide

Welcome to Dubai, the most extraordinary city in the world that attracts over 15 million people each year. Families, solo travelers, holidaymakers – everyone will find something adventurous, relaxing, and exciting to do here.

Dubai is known for its ultramodern architecture, giant water parks, luxury shopping experiences, and booming nightlife. Also, it’s famous for the tallest tower in the world – Burj Khalifa. Together, all of this makes Dubai a very desirable destination. However, it sounds incredibly expensive, especially for those who travel the world on a shoestring.

Is the “City of Gold” affordable enough for budget travelers? Short answer: Dubai can be as expensive or affordable as you really want it to be and with the right information, you can stay here for days without breaking the bank.

Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world.

While we already have proven that Dubai Can Be Enjoyed For Less Than $25 a Day, today we will share with you even MORE budget travel tips that can be very helpful when staying in the world’s most expensive place, cheaper and longer.

Getting to Dubai

There are a few key suggestions to keep in mind when booking your flight to Dubai, if you want to do it cheaply.

Firstly, pick either January, February, or September to go there. According to data gathered by various flight booking platforms, these are the cheapest months to fly to Dubai.

Secondly, you might want to book your flight around 4-5 weeks before departure as it’s proven to be the most cost-efficient.

And lastly, avoid flying to Dubai International Airport on Sundays. Instead, pick Tuesday as there are the lowest prices available on that day.

While Emirates mostly flies to Dubai, keep your eyes on other competitive airlines as they often offer discounts, especially in Europe.

Getting Around Dubai

There are many different means of transportation in Dubai. While you can always take a taxi or Uber, Dubai Metro, buses and bikes are definitely the most budget-friendly options. The latter is the healthiest and often the most fun experience.

Dubai Metro

It is not only very clean, safe, and comfortable but it’s so affordable. Children under 5 years old can ride for free and a day-ticket for an adult costs 20 AED ($5,45). A single metro ride depending on the zone costs approximately 2 AED ($0,54).

TIP: Get your NoL card ready! NoL card is one smart card that you can use to pay for all RTA transport modes in Dubai including metro, buses, and water buses. You can purchase it at the ticket office at the Dubai Metro stations or some of the Dubai Bus stations.

Dubai Metro
Dubai metro.

Although Dubai metro has only 2 lines (3rd in construction), there are 7 zones taking you almost anywhere you want to go. You decide how many trips and which zones you want to visit within Dubai at the time of purchase. While you can get a single ticket each time you take the metro, we highly recommend getting a daily pass which is much cheaper if you’re planning to spend the entire day exploring different places in the city.

Dubai Bus

It’s so easy to travel around Dubai by bus and with 114 lines available, you can get anywhere you want to. Tickets can be purchased either at some bus stops or from all vending machines that are placed at Metro stations.

The bus price depends on the zone you’re traveling to but in general, it costs AED 2 ($0,54) for a one- way trip, similar to the metro ride. With your NoL card, you can freely access any place in Dubai for less than $6 a day!

Dubai Bikes

Riding a bike in Dubai is a fun way to explore the city while staying active. It’s also friendly to your wallet if you plan to explore a lot on a 24-hour adventure.

While riding bicycles isn’t permitted on most of the roads, there are plenty of bike paths you can use. The speed limit is 60km per hour and you should wear your helmet.

With your valid ID, you can rent a bike for approximately AED 80 ($21,78) and enjoy the ride for the entire day. The majority of bike rental stations are located at Marina Mall, Marina Walk, and Spinneys Supermarket.

Top 10 Free Places and Attractions in Dubai

Dubai offers plenty of places that are free of charge. While you can spend a lot of money on luxurious experiences, you can also treat yourself and your family with plenty of fun activities that don’t cost a thing. Here are our favorite ones without spending a penny:

#1 Burj Park

Parks in Dubai are free of charge which means you can not only go for a run there but you can also have a nice picnic with your family or friends. Burj Park seems to be the best pick amongst all. It is extremely calm and beautiful, not too crowded during the week. It has epic viewpoints of the Burj Khalifa & the Dubai Fountain. Pack some lunch and a few drinks and enjoy the idyllic scenery of Burj Park for free.

#2 The Dubai Fountain

Next, it’s Dubai’s most popular fountain, the Dubai Fountain. Located 3-minute walk from Burj Park, next to the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa, it is a great relaxing place to stop by at night.

With more than 6,600 lights and 25 colorful projectors, it shoots water up to 500 ft (152.4 m) making a great show for anyone who happens to be here. Each show is accompanied by a beautiful Arabic and world music, something everyone needs to see and hear.

During the week, there are two performances you can attend. One at 1:00 pm and one at 1:30 pm. Also, there is a 30 minutes show from 6 pm to 10 pm on weekdays, and from 6 pm to 11 pm every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We highly recommend going there at least once during your stay in Dubai!

#3 Ras Al Khor and Its Wildlife Sanctuary

For nature lovers, it’s is a perfect place to visit. Did you know that this place is actually considered as one of the best free of charge indoor places in Dubai?

Shaded and airconditioned, it provides its visitors with an amazing view of various species of birds in their natural habitat. If you love birds, you will enjoy watching the bird feed for free.

This spot is open from Saturday to Thursday from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM. On Fridays, get there before 2 PM and leave before 5:30 PM.

#4 La Mer

If you enjoy quirky spots, La Mer should be on your list. Filled with beautifully colored street art, it makes it a perfect spot for a nice photoshoot and selfie.

La Mer also has a scenic beach, La Mer Beach, where you can walk, jog, meditate and swim. If you get hungry in the meantime, don’t worry! There are plenty of restaurants and cafes around to stop by for a bite and drink.

This unique spot is open from Sunday to Wednesday from 10 am to 10 pm and from Thursday to Saturday from 10 am to 12 am so you can spend there the entire day if you want to!

#5 The Marina Walk

Free of charge and the most popular spot in Dubai, welcome to the Marina Walk! Located at the Dubai Marina and opened 24 hours, it will greet you with beautiful scenery that you can enjoy during your relaxing stroll with friends and family (or even solo!). For many, it’s a great place for jogging and running so don’t miss out.

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Imagine walking in such an extraordinary night scenery.

#6 The Coin Museum and Coffee Museum

Sounds interesting? They both are, especially if you are visiting Dubai with kids who need some entertainment. Whether you collect coins and love coffee or not, it’s worth checking them out. They are located at the Al Fahidi Historical District in the Bastakiaya area and will give you an opportunity to get familiar with the history of the nation.

The Coin Museum is open from Sunday to Thursday from 8 am to 2 pm. It’s closed on Fridays and Saturdays. The Coffee Museum is open from Sunday to Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm and it’s closed only on Fridays.

#7 Bur Dubai Souk Market

When it Dubai, you can’t miss out on visiting at least one of the traditional local markets. They are free of charge and will give you an opportunity to meet locals, test your negotiation skills, feel the local life, and buy some souvenirs.

Local markets are scattered across Dubai and they are so easy to find. If you can’t decide on which one to visit, we picked one for you and it’s the Bur Dubai Souk Market! Located only a 4-min walk from the Grand Mosque, this place is a busy bustling bazaar with various vendors selling anything from snacks, purses, textiles to attire, and lighting.

The Bur Dubai Souk Market is open daily, except weekends, from 10 am to 10 pm.

#8 Kite Beach

Put your swimsuit on, pack your tanning lotion, and grab a hat because it’s beach time! Kite Beach is one of the top beaches you can visit anytime during your stay in Dubai and it’s free of charge.

Located under the sail of the Burj Al Arab, it’s a relatively busy spot filled with tourists and locals who practice yoga, run, play volleyball and do plenty of kite surfing. If you are not a big fan of water sports, you can visit a beach library, do some shopping around and try some delicious beach snacks and drinks!

#9 The Dubai Water Canal

Another great place worth checking out in Dubai, free of charge, and open 24 hours!

Located at Sheikh Zayed Road, the Dubai Water Canal is a perfect option for those who love running, jogging, or walking. This spectacular 6.4 km artificial canal has an impressive 3 km running track along with a 12 km cycling path so it’s enough space for everyone.

It is filled with benches along the waterfront of the Canal and a mechanical waterfall that produces various colors so get ready to experience one of the most beautiful sceneries of Dubai!

#10 Al Seef Dubai

The last free attraction on our Dubai list is Al Seef Dubai, a nice mixture of old and new. Located in the Dubai Creek area, it’s well known for its various festivals attracting locals and visitors with plenty of free activities such as cycling and food tasting.

Al Seef Dubai is open from Saturday to Wednesday from 10 am to 10 pm and from Thursday to Friday from 10 am to 12 am.

Accommodation in Dubai

There are many low-cost hotels in Dubai (especially in the area called Hor Al Anz in Deira area), affordable hostels and there is also the world’s famous Couchsurfing that is free of charge that you can try. Let us suggest a few options below.

Hotels in Dubai

Naif View Hotel (located at Naif Road) costs around $12 a night while Dubai Palm Hotel (situated at Al Muteena Street) offers rooms for ~$13 a night. They both have decent reviews, good prices, and a great location.

If you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can get a more luxurious experience at the Saffron Hotel Al Rigga (located at Al Rigga Road) or Fortune Hotel Deia (located behind Bank Street) for only $15 a night. These hotels are known for good quality, comfort, and nice food.

Hostels

Probably the most famous hostel in Dubai is Backpacker Dubai located in the heart of Dubai only a 1-minute walking distance from Dubai Internet City Metro Station. It’s very safe, artistic, and super comfortable for those who are looking for a cozy spot to stay on a budget. Deluxe 8 Bed Mixed Dorm option costs around $19, the same price is for booking Standard 4 Bed Male/Female Dorm.

Not far behind is the hostel called California Dubai Beach with not much of a difference in price. What is so cool about this place is its location. It takes only 3 minutes to walk to the beach (how awesome) and less than 4 minutes to get to the metro station! Also, you have easy access to the gym and the hostel’s swimming pools. What else can you ask for?

Lastly, you can pick to stay at the backpacker’s heaven, the Wake up in Dubai hostel. It’s well known for its outstanding hospitality, nice decor, and cleanliness. Those who have been there always want to come back. Staying here is also within the $20-$25 price range.

Couchsurfing

For those who aren’t familiar with Couchsurfing yet, go check out Couchsurfing Guide: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Surfing article so you know what we’re talking out.

Couchsurfing can be an amazing way to meet locals and expats while staying at their homes for free. Cez and I tried Couchsurfing it in Dubai and we had an amazing experience! It was ages ago but we can still remember how hospitable our host, Alex, was. He opened his house to us. shared some stories on Dubai life and introduced us to his local friends. This was a great way to experience Dubai for us and you can try it too!

Food and Drinks in Dubai

When it comes to low-cost food, it’s very easy to eat out without hurting your wallet in Dubai. As long as you stick to food vendors and small local restaurants where local workers eat, you will be fine.

Indian Food 2951094 1920
Dubai with greet you with a great variety of delicious food.

Drinking is a bit more complicated and not cheap at all. Alcoholic beverages are served only in hotels and licensed shops hence their prices are quite high. If you are planning to drink a lot in Dubai, that can hurt your wallet pretty bad.

There are a lot of nice places serving local food in Dubai at a very affordable price. Let us share our Top 5 options with you.

#1 Aappa Kadai

It’s a nice spot where you can grab some authentic local food. Their specialty is Thali, a vegetarian meal that is served on a banana leaf. You can also get a combo meal that is either meat, fish, or vegetable-based. On average, you will pay $5 for a meal that can fill you up.

#2 Café Isan

Well known for its delicious curries and soups, spring rolls, and sun-dried beef. It’s a great place for those who enjoy spicy food. Their specialty is chili sauce, red onion and garlic soy sauce, and the sticky rice. For a meal at Café Isan, you will pay $7 on average and it’s so worth it!

#3 Calicut Paragon

Another great place to try local curry and more. For $6, you will eat like a king here. They serve fresh seafood, crab, and some delicious pancakes made from coconut milk and fermented rice. Portions are plentiful and they are well known for their excellent service.

#4 Raju Omlet

If you love eggs and you’d like to try them with some different Indian herbs and spices, this place is for you. As its name says, you will be served an omelet flavored with masala, ginger, and garlic. This is a great breakfast option, healthy and so filling.

Raju Omlet has some delicious curry for you to try as well – Tikka Samala and Patiala Chicken are their specialties. The average price for a full breakfast is $13, slightly more expensive than the rest but the portions are so big you can share with others and split the bill.

#5 Ayubowan

Ayubowan is a small but very cozy restaurant serving Sri Lanka inspired food. Their specialty is string hoppers with beef curry, sweet and spicy potato mustard curry, and coconut paste that everyone recommends trying.

The best part of Ayubowan is the cheap price. For a big plate of delicious local goodies, you will pay only $5!

Shopping in Dubai

So far, you know what free things you can enjoy doing in Dubai and where to find low-cost food and accommodation. As Dubai is known for its luxury shopping experiences, it’s time for you to find out where you can purchase affordable items without breaking the bank.

We have listed Top 3 Places in Dubai where you can head to and enjoy some budget shopping. They are easy to navigate and opened most of the day.

#1 The Outlet Village

Outlet Village is one of the best places to shop in. It offers up to 50% discounts on many branded items so if you are looking for affordable high-quality clothes, that’s the place to head to. Located in Jebel Ali, the Outlet Village attracts a lot of budget shopaholics.

The Outlet Village is open from 10 AM to 10 PM every day.

#2 Al Karama

Another budget heaven for those who are looking for cheap handbags, clothing, or even souvenirs. Unlike in Outlet Village, Al Karma is the place where you can bargain with most of the sellers. The harder you haggle, the more money you can save so it’s all up to you how much money you can spend and save. Step up your bargain game and go home with more for less.

Al Karama is open from Thursday on Friday from 2 PM to 10 PM and from Saturday to Thursday from 10 AM to 10 PM.

#3 Old Souk

Locate at Deira, Old Souk is the must-visit place for those who are looking for cheap stuff. You can find here anything from souvenirs, good food, spices, to branded clothing. Products are bought by haggling so once again, try to haggle hard.

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Homemade gifts and souvenirs being made at the market.

Old Souk is open on Friday from 4 AM to 8 PM and from Saturday to Thursday from 9 AM to 8 PM.

#4 Mercado

If you are looking for a really cheap place to buy shoes, jeans, and t-shirts, head to Mercado. The quality isn’t the best but you will be amazed how affordable items are over there.

Mercado is located at Al Abbas, Building 1 Al Mankhool and it’s open daily from 9 AM or 10 AM to 12 AM.

#5 Brands For Less – Tchibo

This is a very cheap clothing store located at 155 Khalid Bin Al Waleed Rd – Bur DubaiUmm Hurair 1. It has good quality shoes and branded items in factory outlet price so if that is what you’re looking for, check this store out.

Brands For Less – Tchiba is open daily from 10 AM to 10 PM.

How to Prepare for a Budget Trip to Dubai

Have a Valid Visa Ready Before Arrival

Once you have your flight booked, it’s time to arrange your Visa for Dubai.

There are 44 countries whose citizens are permitted to stay in the UAE for up to 90 days without any visa. All you need is your passport. The rest needs to apply for a visa either at the nearest Embassy or online which is usually a smooth and quick process.

IMPORTANT: During the current pandemic, ALL travelers visiting Dubai or stopping at the Dubai International Airport must complete a health declaration form. You can get it at check-in and you must return the filled out document to one of the airport staff members at check-in. Also, you will be asked to complete the mandatory quarantine undertaking form handed to you on board of your plan if Dubai is your final destination. Again, fill it out and return to one of the Dubai Health Authority staff members on arrival.

Rolling Backpack

Dubai has a very well developed infrastructure so if you have a travel backpack with wheels, you can roll it everywhere you need to go. It’s also super hot there and taking the weight off your back helps tremendously, while still being able to carry it on your shoulders whenever the conditions do not allow for wheeling it around.

Get Your VPN

Dubai blocks a lot of content that is considered inappropriate for various local religious beliefs. This mainly includes video sites, gaming sites, and live streaming platforms. If you are planning to work online or access various websites that the government restricts, it’s recommended to purchase a VPN so you can surf the internet freely.

We recommend using a Virtual Private Network, aka VPN. It’s budget-friendly and connects you to the internet securely.

Get Insured

Dubai is a very safe place to travel but accidents still may happen. You can check out our guide on travel insurance policies, or go directly to see the travel insurance we use.

Bring the Right Power Adapter

Dubai uses a Type G power outlet.

That’s the plug that has 3 rectangular pins in a triangular pattern. Get the right power adapter to keep all of your electronics charged during your visit to Dubai (and the rest of all places within the United Arab Emirates).

You’re Set to Go!

Congratulations, you’re all set and ready to go to Dubai. Now you have all the knowledge to implement into your trip so you can enjoy one of the most expensive places in the world on a budget!

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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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1 thought on “Dubai Budget Travel Guide”

  1. i wonder how couch surfing is going these days they are asking people to contribute financially to keep it running. Dubai is an amazing place for sure. Not the easiest on a budget I guess, but there are harder places too. great article Agness!

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