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4 tips for Dubai on a budget

The idea of Dubai is often accompanied by grand images of tall skyscrapers and luxury beach resorts. For some, it also gives the image of a fiery hole burning through your wallet.

But if you've been dying to go to the extravagant city, there are some ways to make your travels a little more affordable.

a giant yellow sun makes the sky look orange. There are palm trees and buildings, as well as a creek on the horizon.
sunset on Dubai Creek


1. Take the train


While taxis are still incredibly cheap compared to the U.S, the train is still the best option if you want to get around the city. One all day pass was the equivalent of 22 AED (which is around $5.99 USD). For this price, you can hop on and off the train as much as you would like for the day.

It's also such a relaxing sight, looking out the train window and seeing the fantastic architecture of the city pass by.


outside a train window is a round, silver, building with black Arabic script on it.
The Museum of the Future, seen from the train.

If you are really on a tight budget, consider booking your accommodation by a metro station. There is so much to see throughout the city but the heat is insufferable. When I went in late August, it was well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit each day (and shorty shorts and crop tops are NOT acceptable forms of clothing no matter how hot it is 😢).

So save yourself a long, hot, walk to the station and just book a place nearby one!


2. Enjoy the less-hyped places

While seeing panoramic views from the top of the Burj Khalifa is a once in a lifetime experience, it can be a little pricey for those on a tight budget, often costing over a hundred dollars (but if you do really want to get to the top, book a ticket for non-prime hours, which are substantially cheaper than booking during prime hours -and buy them early because tickets can easily get sold out!).


For travelers who still want to get the most out of Dubai but want something a little less expensive, there are still plenty of unique options, like:


Taking a stroll through Al-Seef:

This quick train ride out of the city towards Old Town is a great way to experience Dubai from a more historical and cultural aspect. And it's completely free! (if you don't buy anything...).

Viewing the city from a tall skyscraper is unforgettable, but so is being on the ground and just taking in the individual intricacies of the architecture and chatting with the locals. Just truly soaking it is was extremely fulfilling. One of the places in the area I wish I had the chance to go but couldn't was the Jumeriah Mosque. They hold tours for just a little over $5 USD, and take you on a historical and educational experience.



Don't skip the fountain show:

The top of the Burj Khalifa is cool, but the bottom is pretty cool too. At the fountain in front of the building and right outside the Dubai mall, there are evening water shows that go on every 30 minutes after the sun goes down. The show I saw consisted of fantastic water theatrics while Marvin Gaye's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" blasted through a speaker.




Hit up the beaches:

There are so many public, free beaches throughout Dubai! The most popular ones are Marina Beach and Jumeriah Beach. Nothing says luxury like laying down on the warm sand and relaxing by the water.


An elegant stroll through the mall:

Trust me, a trip to the mall is much more extravagant than it sounds. The Dubai mall is huge and with its endless themes, countless stores, and beautiful sights, it truly is an experience on it's own. They have an aquarium, a giant fountain, an ice skating rink and a real DINOSAUR fossil in the mall.

Around every corner is something that will both impress you and confuse you... (a dinosaur?? In the mall???).


Desert tour:

For half the price of a Burj Khalifa trip, you can spend the day in the dessert. There are so many affordable tours that allow you to watch the sunset over the endless sand and even ride ATVs, camels, and authentic dinner there.


3. Eat outside the city

I was a little surprised to see how restaurants and mall food was just as pricey as the U.S.A. I figured since downtown might cater to tourism, they might have higher prices than outside the city. And I was right!


When venturing outside of downtown and heading more towards Old Town, I saw lots of hole-in-the-wall food options for a much more affordable price. I even walked by a restaurant that sold veggie burgers for less than $2 USD. So if you're looking for more afforable meals, going outside the city is probably your best bet. And don't skip out on the falafels!


4. Bargain bargain bargain

After I got extremely ripped off on a pashmina I bought at the spice Souq, I talked to some locals and they expressed to me the power of ✨bargaining✨. For Souqs and non-commercial shops, it's important to gain negotiating skills to get yourself the product for the best price you can get. As someone who has never really done that before, it's a nerve racking skill that takes confidence to learn.

But if you plan on going to the Souq, (which you totally should if you really want to experience the city in all it's entirety) make sure to know how much you should pay before hand and how to stay strong.


In Conclusion

Don't let the seemingly extravagant nature of Dubai scare you away from going there. With enough research, saving, and some compromises (like staying in hostels instead of hotels), you can totally make it happen and feel what it's like to visit one of the world's most luxurious cities.

If you enjoyed this blog post, visit my Youtube Vlog for a more in depth account of my stay in the City of Gold.


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