Dubai has made a name for itself as a playground for the rich and famous. But you don’t need a Kardashian-sized budget to see some of the sights. Here’s our guide to Dubai on the cheap…
1. Sunbathe for free
You don’t have to be staying at the fancy Burj Al Arab to take advantage of the beach. In fact, there’s a public strip virtually next door. And there’s no point shelling out for a sandy base, when there are plenty of other free stretches, like Kitesurfing Beach, Bu Qtair Beach and 4×4 Beach. They’re all less crowded, too – bonus.
2. Go to Old Dubai
This one isn’t just for budget-conscious holidaymakers – anyone visiting the country should head here for a slice of culture. Hop in an abra – a traditional boat – to cross the creek for as little as 1 AED, which is about 16p to you and I. Once you’re there, you’ll see a completely different side to the glitzy city.
3. Go local for cheap eats
There’s no better place than Dubai to sample around-the-world cooking. Resist the lure of swanky hotel restaurants and make a beeline for 2nd of December Street. This mile-long stretch is packed with street cafés, hole-in-the-walls and shawarma stalls. Ravi’s is one of the most well-known, dishing up Pakistani curries and kebabs. Then, there’s Lebanese, Filipino, Palestinian…the list goes on.
4. Take in the Burj Khalifa from below
Don’t get us wrong, it’s a shame to miss a trip up the towering Burj Khalifa. But, if your budget won’t quite stretch that far, you can check the tower out from the ground at Dubai Mall’s outside area. And you can also watch the famous dancing fountain show from here, too. Talk about killing 2 birds with 1 stone, eh?
5. Ditch taxis in favour of the metro
You can forget taxis, when a day pass on the metro will only set you back 14 AED – just over £2. If you’re feeling like splashing out, you can even travel Gold Class, which includes perks like big leather seats and great views. FYI, even the bog-standard cabins are air-conditioned – take note TFL…
6. Grab a bargain in the markets
A visit to the souks is a must-do. It’s also a great way to pick up a few cheap souvenirs. There’s the spice souk, fish market, and even a gold souk if you fancy a souvenir with added bling factor. If you’re after that designer look, without the hefty price tag – Karama Market is your place. It’s stacked with souvenirs and, of course, some ‘genuine’ fakes.
7. Explore a man-made wonder
It’s so big that you can see it from space, but a trip to the one-of-a-kind Palm Jumeirah is still pretty cheap. You can drive there, walk or take a monorail to the top. Plump for the latter, and you’ll get the best views from above. And, as you approach the fancy Atlantis hotel, you’ll be suspended over the Arabian Gulf.
8. Hit the clubs on ‘ladies’ night’
Sorry guys, this is just one for the ladies. On Tuesdays or Wednesdays, most of Dubai’s nightlife suddenly becomes affordable to the rest of us. A lot of bars offer a couple of free drinks, while the odd one gives free champers all night. Other places throw in make-up and hair tips, and strawberries… they know the way to a girl’s heart.
9. Grill up grub on the beach
Most public beaches come with barbecue facilities at a frugal cost of just 5 AED. Just make sure to leave the pork ribs at home, as the locals probably won’t appreciate the smell wafting over.
10. Get a cheap history lesson at a museum
As soon as you step inside Dubai Museum, you’re already in the city’s oldest existing building. If you thought Dubai didn’t have any history, think again – there are ancient archaeological finds from 1,000 BC. And you can’t go wrong with a 50p entrance price. For something free, there’s the Camel Museum. Here, you can stroke a wall with the texture of a camel’s stomach and snap a selfie on a stuffed version, too.
11. See inside Jumeirah Mosque
You can’t come to Dubai and not visit a mosque. The white-tinted Jumeirah Mosque happens to be the only one open to the public. For a measly 10 AED, you can take a 75-minute tour of the place. It’s also a chance to ask any questions about Emirati culture, something the tour guides really encourage.