Dubai has become an international travel destination thanks to resorts like the Burj Al Arab. The sail-shaped hotel is now an icon of Dubai, but it costs far more than most would-be visitors can afford. On the other hand, the city is not friendly to backpackers. But you can travel here without spending a fortune. Here’s how to travel in Dubai on a budget.
Book Things in Advance
Airfare is always cheaper if you book a few months in advance, especially if you’re searching for deals with budget airlines like Fly Dubai. On the flipside, you can save money by booking with UAE’s local airlines when they have tourist offers. Planning your Dubai hotel booking that far in advance allows you to look for deals, too.
Take Advantage of Public Transit
Dubai has public transit. If you get an RTA NOL card, you can take the buses and the metro. The silver card is the better deal, since it allows you to take all public transit including water taxis. Traditional taxes are available and cheaper than in neighbouring countries, but they are expensive. It may be cheaper to rent a car, especially if you’re traveling in a group.
Eat Like the Locals
One point in favour of Dubai is that it has many restaurants that can provide a taste of home. The problem is that you will pay for this privilege. You’re going to pay more for American, European and Japanese food. If you want to save money, buy Arabic or Indian food. And buy lunch outside of the touristy areas.
Another point in favour of Dubai over Saudi Arabia is that they allow alcohol, though they discourage it by taxing it heavily. This means you can save a lot of money by skipping beers with friends and wine with dinner. If you can’t do without, buy alcohol at the airport and keep it with you. You can’t buy alcohol otherwise unless you’re a resident and have an alcohol license, unless you’re a tourist eating at a fancy restaurant.
Look for Cheap and Free Activities
Dubai has something for everyone. There’s even an indoor ski park called Ski Dubai. However, these venues are not budget friendly. Try visiting Bastakiya. It is the cultural heart of Dubai. This is where the Dubai Museum is located. If you want to go shopping, skip the massive Dubai malls that are similar to what you find in the rest of the world and try the various Souqs open air markets instead. Many are specialised such as the Textile Souq or Perfume Souq. Note that Arab culture not only allows but encourages haggling, so you can negotiate the price down. If you want to immerse yourself in local culture, there are affordable walking tours through Al Fahidi Historic District.
If you go to Dubai Mall, don’t shop there. Visit the Dubai Aquarium and its light and water shows instead. Or save up your money and hit the Miracle Garden in Dubai land.
Hit the Beach
Dubai has beautiful beaches. And they’re free to the public, as long as it isn’t a private beach owned by the hotel. There are plenty of good hotels that offer competitive rates for you to choose such as Avani Deira Dubai Hotel. Go swimming or watch kite surfers. Or you could walk along the promenade of the JBR Marina.