Dubai On A Shoestring
Dubai’s photographs are always so glitzy, a sparkling, glamorous playground for the rich. It’s famous for its most expensive experiences: a stay in the Burj Al Arab, edible gold ice cream (approximately INR 57,000, or AED 3000), and the designer labels at the Dubai Mall…But there are ways to visit this city even on a budget. All you have to do is to plan smart.
When to Visit?
The most comfortable time to visit is during the winter months, between November and March. The weather is mild, with temperatures rarely going above 30 C (in November) and going no higher than 26 C in December, January, and February. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so prices across the board skyrocket.
That doesn’t mean you arrive in summer either. The heights of Dubai’s summer can be excruciating, with temperatures going up to 40 C in June and July!
To take advantage of lower rates, fewer tourists, and bearable weather, the best time to visit Dubai on a budget is April and May. It doesn’t get hotter than 36 C during this period, with lows in the mid-twenties.
Depending on several factors, including point of origin, travel dates, and the date of booking, you may get better flight rates. The airline you choose to fly with will also influence the costs. Ticket costs can vary dramatically from average rates going between INR 12,000 to INR 25,000. Carriers like Emirates are likely to be noticeably more expensive than domestic carriers like SpiceJet and Indigo.
Remember to book your tickets well in advance to get better prices!
From Dubai International Airport, you can find connections into the city via bus, metro, taxi, and app cabs like Uber and Careem. However, the most affordable options are the bus and the metro. The former can be confusing if you’re new to the city, whereas the metro is only available at Terminals 1 and 3, and you may need to take the airport shuttle service (functional 24 hours a day), to reach there.
At an average of INR 114,000 a night, the Burj Al Arab is not in everyone’s budget. That’s fine. There are other options available.
Hostels: If you’re travelling alone or with friends, a hostel is a sensible idea. You can book a bed in a shared room for approximately INR 1000-2000 (AED 51-103) a night. Some hotels even offer private rooms for approximately INR 5000 (AED 258). Depending on the hostel, you can avail services like free wifi, currency exchanges, luggage storage, and the use of the hostel’s amenities like the microwave, linens, towels, hair dryers, and lockers.
Budget Hotels: Families may prefer a hotel, and there are several budget hotels to choose from. You can get a room at the Golden Sands Hotel Apartments for approximately INR 2863 (AED 148) a night. Another option is the Rove Hotels chain that offer rooms for approximately INR 5029 (AED 260) a night.
Finally, you can also consider Airbnbs in Dubai, which will give you a wide range of accommodation options depending on your needs and budget.
Believe it or not, there are things you can see and do here that won’t collapse your bank account.
1. Take a Guided Tour of Jumeirah Mosque
For approximately INR 500 (AED 25), you can take part in a guided tour of Jumeirah Mosque, hosted by the Sheikh Muhammad Centre for Cultural Understanding. You will learn about the region’s history and what makes it tick. The mosque is open every day of the week except Friday. Make sure you are dressed modestly, and women must cover their heads before entering the mosque.
2. Wander the Souks
Dubai is best known for its extravagant malls, but you can get just as much retail therapy from the souks. Sharpen your bargaining skills at the Gold Souk, where, as the name suggests, you will find lots of shiny gold jewellery. You can even check out the Spice Souk and the Perfume Souk, though, of course, you don’t have to shop if you don’t want to–you are free to wander. You may have to pay approximately INR 20 (AED1) to get there using the traditional abra boat.
3. Safa Park
If the bustle of the city is getting to you, unwind at Safa Park, a verdant space where you can spend a leisurely evening in the fresh air. The park charges an INR 58 (AED 3) entry fee, and you can pay additionally to avail other services like electronic games and boat rentals. Safa Park is open from 8 am to 10 pm.
4. The Dubai Fountain
Enjoy the dazzling shows put on at the Dubai Fountain. You can watch it for free, or sit at any one of the restaurants along the fountain for a meal with a view. The shows take place every evening at 6 pm, within 30 minute intervals.
5. Visit the Etihad Museum
Learn about the founding of the UAE at the Eithad Museum, and gain a deeper appreciation for the place you’re visiting. The museum has placed emphasis on the years between 1968 and 1974, and you can learn about them through interactive programmes. Entry fee is approximately INR 500 (AED 25).
Tucked in the Hajar Mountains, Hatta is a great place to visit for free, especially if you love the outdoors. It’s a great place to go mountain biking and kayaking. You can also admire the Hatta Dam. History buffs will also enjoy visiting the Hatta Fort in the Hatta Heritage Village. You can get to Hatta by car or bus.
7. Soak Up The Sunshine at Jumeirah Beach
Although many beaches in Dubai are owned by hotels, there are still some open to the public. Jumeirah Open Beach is the longest public beach in the city, and a great place to lounge all day. There are kiosks selling snacks and refreshments, and the water is gorgeous.
Dubai is a fantastically well-connected city. You can get around by a private car and taxi, metro, bus, boat, or bicycle. There are also limited tram and monorail services. But first and foremost, get yourself a Nol Card, which you will use to pay for your transport. You can get these at all metro stations and certain bus stations too. Visitors may consider getting the Nol Silver Card. For convenience of travel, you can also download the Wojhati app, which will help you plan your journey across Dubai.
The metro fare can be as low as INR 58 (AED 3).
If you opt to travel by water, Dubai also has ferries, which start at INR 290 (AED 15).
Ways To Save Money On Your Trip
- Consider buying a Dubai Pass. Some of Dubai’s most exciting attractions are also some of the most expensive. Purchase a Dubai Pass, which can save you about 50% on ticket costs. There are different types based on what you want to see and what your budget is. The cheapest one, the Dubai Select pass, can be bought for approximately INR 8000 (AED 405), and covers visits to any three major attractions of your choice.
- Be sure not to visit during the peak tourist season from November to March (winter). Prices for flights and hotels are likely to shoot up.
- Alcohol is expensive in Dubai. Opt for non-alcoholic drinks wherever possible and keep your bills light.
- There are lots of street food options in Dubai. You can visit any one of the hundreds of establishments in the city, where the food will be significantly cheaper than what’s available in larger restaurants.