A trip to Dubai doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive despite it being termed as “one of the most expensive cities”. Sure, there are plenty of luxury things to do in Dubai, but what isn’t usually mentioned are the cheap things to do in Dubai which makes Dubai on a budget very easy.
Like my previous guides to Bangkok and Singapore, this Dubai budget trip plan will feature all the things you can do and experience without breaking the bank. Of course, a budget may be different for different people. What’s expensive to me might be affordable for you.
But, I try to give a general idea of how you can enjoy without having to experience luxury treatments. And you can always choose whether or not to indulge in such activities 🙂
Where to Stay in Dubai on a Budget:
The first step while planning is to pick between budget hotels in Dubai. There are numerous options to choose from depending on the area you want to stay in. I’ve written this in more detail in my guide on the best place to stay in Dubai for all budgets.
But just to give you a brief idea, here are two of my favorite Dubai budget hotels that have most of the facilities and are convenient:
- Rove Hotels: This is always my number one! Rove Hotels are a concept by Emaar properties (who manage top luxury hotels in Dubai) who wanted to tap into a wider audience by introducing a line of the best budget hotels in Dubai.
These hotels are usually located near metro stations, have fantastic staff, comfortable rooms, and are very affordable. Located near Deira City Centre, Trade Centre, Dubai Marina, Healthcare City, and The Parks. Click to see their pictures and prices now
- First Central Hotel Apartments: If you are a family traveling to Dubai and want to make your own food, these apartments have their own kitchenette and options for connecting rooms.
There is a convenience store at a walkable distance with free home delivery and a metro station just minutes away. Click here to see the current price
These are some more budget Dubai hotels meant for budget travel in Dubai:
5 Cheap Things to do in Dubai
There are dozens of cheap and free things to do in Dubai that it is too difficult to count or keep track of. Yes, I know there are probably more luxurious things too but unfortunately, most first-timers to Dubai are under the impression that Dubai can take a lot of your money.
Most tourists to Dubai don’t realize that only about 20% of this country is inhabited by locals and the rest are expatriates. Of which, most of them are working-class people who have a very tight budget every month. Hence, the need for things to do in Dubai on budget.
Here are the top 5 things to do in Dubai on the cheap!
- Take a food tour in Old Dubai
If you truly want to experience the real side of Dubai, I would suggest a tour and stay in Old Dubai. You’ll find lots of things to do in Dubai on a budget here. The area is charming, has the best souqs, street food, and most of the historic buildings are located there
Take a trip to Deira where you will find markets buzzing in the evening. I personally love shawarma which is originally Lebanese but also done by Indians here. You have to try both versions to know your favorite (try the Mexican shawarma that most Indian cafeterias sell if you like spicy food!) For vegetarians, go for the traditional felafel made of chickpeas.
Here’s my ultimate guide on what to eat in Old Dubai, don’t read it when you’re hungry!
Cost: Most items range from AED 5 – 10
- Shop at the old Souqs
Next, take in the souks and learn to haggle like a pro ’cause the shopkeepers might raise the price if you look very touristy! Some of the cheap things in Dubai souqs I like to buy are shawls, spices like za’atar and sumac, and dried rosebuds. I have a DIY walking tour that you can do in my itinerary for Dubai 7 days
Cost: Depends on your haggling skills 😉
- Ride an abra
An abra is a traditional boat made of wood that was used during the olden times to cross water bodies. The souks, food tour, and riding the abra can easily be done in a day as all of these are located at close proximity to each other
One way costs just AED 1 ($0.27)
- Light and water show at Festival City
The Imagine light and water show is another show you must experience after the dancing fountains at The Dubai Mall and is one of the best things to do in Dubai for free. What will be better is if you can snag a table at one of the restaurants in Dubai Festival City that have this view when the fountains start playing from 7 pm every day. There are lots of mid-range options available but can be easily booked during winter
- Explore Dubai on the metro
Visit the metro, look at the map, and pick out a stop! Yes, get random like that and you never know how much you will end of liking that particular place or street. I feel most tourists only spend time here exploring the must visit tourist attractions in Dubai and miss out on the actual culture and life that is lived by residents like me
Cost: A ride on the metro costs a maximum of AED 7.50 with the Nol card
11 Cheap Places to Visit in Dubai
- Tour the Jumeirah Mosque
To understand more about Islam, the main religion of the UAE, you should try to tour the Jumeirah Mosque. Every day at 10 am and 2 pm, tours are held to educate tourists and residents alike about the religion
It is best to dress modestly in this situation. Ladies should have their heads covered and arms and legs not showing. Men too should hide their knees. It is similar to how you should be dressed for any religious place
Check how to appropriately dress for the mosque in FAQs about what to wear in Dubai from my Dubai Packing List
Cost: AED 25 per person. More info here
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- Take in the Burj al Arab from Kite Beach
Burj Al Arab is the sail-shaped building you would have seen on most souvenirs in Dubai. It is actually one of the most expensive hotels in Dubai and visits cannot take place without having a scheduled reservation at either the restaurants or to stay at the hotel.
However, the best way to take in AND capture the hotel is to picnic at Kite Beach. It is surely one of the most instagrammable places in Dubai so you must experience this.
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I absolutely love visiting Kite Beach around the National Day here (2nd December) as they put up flags in one section of the beach. It’s so beautiful I tell you!
If you are not visiting during that time, there are plenty of options too. Activities, restaurants, or just having a swim in the waters will keep you busy for at least an evening.
Cost: Just one of the things to do for free in Dubai!
- Stroll inside the mall
No budget travel Dubai guide will tell you not to visit The Dubai Mall. Seriously, there are so many fun things to do at the mall which are pretty cheap or even free! Yes, you will have to control yourselves from shopping at their many many retail stores and stay far away from the Fashion Avenue because that’s where the top brands are and that’s exactly what will take your money away (On another note, if you really don’t mind, do take a look and window shop. But the urge to spend is real!)
The Human Waterfall runs across three floors of the mall and is hard to miss if you are walking about. The waterfall depicts human structures diving into the waters and attracts lots of tourists.
Next is the Dubai Aquarium, whether you like sea animals or not, this will surely take your breath away. I always make it a point to stop by and look even if I’m just passing by the area. Of course, you cannot get very close to the glass but there is an alternative if you want to. Get up close with the sea animals here.
The dancing fountains are pretty popular and start every from 6 pm. They are then showcased every half an hour until around 11 pm. Not only are the fountains beautiful to watch, but the view of Burj Khalifa from the spot is spectacular!
I really recommend going up the tower to be at the highest point in the world even if you want to explore Dubai in one day. It’s a bucket list item and the feeling is just amazing! Look at the tickets here.
CLICK HERE TO BOOK A TOUR TO VISIT AT THE TOP AT BURJ KHALIFA AND SKIP THE LINE!
Cost: Free except for going At the Top of Burj Khalifa
- Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
I’ve seen a lot of pictures of celebs and influencers around flamingos in Aruba, but you can get this in Dubai too! The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is Dubai’s best kept secret. Not even most of the residents know about or have been there.
Here you can watch flamingos and other species of birds. The timings are from 9 am until 4 pm and entrance is free
- Catch the sunset at The Pointe
Visiting Dubai on a shoestring budget becomes quite easy when you have plenty of options available. The Pointe is located in Palm Jumeirah and hosts a number of retails shops and restaurants.
What’s best about the place is the beautiful view of the Atlantis from the beach. Instead of going all the way and trying to get a picture up close of the arch (it is very difficult to do that with crowds by the way!), capture the arch from a distance with the beach. I recommend this as one of the things to do in Dubai in the evening as the sky breaks up into colors which is breathtaking!
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- Learn about the traditions of Dubai
Al Fahidi Neighborhood is located in Old Dubai and is easily accessible by the metro. you can do a DIY walking tour designed by me and complete the souqs, street food tasting, and museums on one day. I recommend visiting the Dubai Museum to learn about the history of the United Arab Emirates which will give you a good picture of the past and what you now see as the present Timings are from 8.30 am until 8.30 pm in the evenings from Saturday to Thursday. On Fridays, doors open from 2.30 pm until 8.30 pm
Cost: AED 3 entrance ticket for the Dubai Museum
- Take a bus to Abu Dhabi
There are several buses that travel from Dubai to the capital. If you’re researched for an Abu Dhabi guide you will see that the first thing that comes up in the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It’s one of my favorite places in the country as it is just so marvelous. I believe that you have to experience it in person to really appreciate it. Read this guide for more about how to travel to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque on this Dubai budget tour
Cost: AED 25 per trip
- Explore Dubai’s own Little India
If you’ve toured around Asian countries, you will notice that most countries have an area called Little India. Well, you can say that Meena Bazaar is that part of Dubai. Anything to do with Indian shopping for clothes, watches, jewelry, or wearables can be done here. There are also tiny restaurants with Indian street food that you can try as a break from shopping
Cost: Depends on what you buy!
- Street Art in La Mer
If you like street art, then head to La Mer, I love how quirky the place is with its random designs and posters that are too hard to not take a picture of! La Mer is also a cool spot to try out a new restaurant or head to the beach
- Visit the Global Village, Dubai
Winter months bring lots of activities here in Dubai. Undoubtedly the favorite place during that time is visiting the Global Village. It is an open themed carnival with stalls belonging to different countries. There are various performances, shows, things to eat, and shop. I recently wrote a full guide on things to do in Global Village which you can check for full information here
Cost: AED 15 entrance ticket
- Dubai Creek Harbour
Another place to make your Dubai trip budget affordable is Dubai Creek Harbour. From this place, you can watch the beautiful skyline of Dubai which is not visible from many places here.
If you are traveling to Dubai for the first time, there are some things you should know about the United Arab Emirates. Located in the Middle East and sharing borders with Oman and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country but allows for diversity and respects all religions.
Keeping in line with the rules of the religion, the UAE is a modest country hence no PDA and using foul language in public is illegal.
There are a number of things you should know before visiting the city especially visiting Dubai during Ramadan which falls once a year and is a religious month.
Dubai Budget Tour Packages
If your budget is a little high and you can allow for spending for a few activities, I suggest checking out the following Dubai Budget Tours. Clicking on each will give you more information about each activity:
Want to book a cheap flight to Dubai? Check and keep track of your flight tickets here
So, next time you think “how to visit Dubai on budget?” or “are there low budget hotels in Dubai?”, don’t shove those thoughts away!
Until then, happy traveling! xx
P.S. If you want to save and read later, then here are some pinnable versions 🙂
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