Best Free Things to do in Dubai on a Budget

Best Free Things to do in Dubai on a Budget - Dubai sign
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If you plan a trip to Dubai, you should know that it will not be cheap. There is no real “budget” traveling to Dubai.

Accommodations are pretty expensive and also, Dubai is not a small city where you would walk or ride a bike to explore everything.  but saving money in Dubai is possible, as there are many great free things to do in Dubai  and cheap holidays to Dubai is possible.

Before naming my favorite free things to do in Dubai, I also give more budget tips for Dubai – how to save on accommodation, food, public transportation and so on.

Let´s start with things to do for (almost) free in Dubai.

Free Things to do in Dubai

#1 Watch the Water Fountain Show at Dubai Mall

After some time at Dubai Mall you can head to the water fountain just in front of the mall.

The show comes with music and though it is not the most specatular water show I have seen, it is a fun thing to see in Dubai for free (the water fountain shows is not throughout the day, so check times before heading there. The best time to see it as in the evening, where it is shown twice a day.

#2 Dubai Aquarium at Dubai Mall

The Dubai Aquarium is free, okay, you cannot go in but since it is located in Dubai Mall you can still see many fish and other animals through the glasses – if you are with smaller kids they will still enjoy and you do have not spend a dime on it.

#3 Explore the Souks

Exploring souks (market) are actually one of my favorite activities in Dubai.

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They are free, and still fun and it is a bit more “authentic” than the skyscrapers. If you shop you might spend a fortune – especially at the Gold Souk in Deira (Old Dubai) but you can get wonderfully lost even without spending a lot. If you shop – bargain, bargain and bargain. Souvenirs and clothes are cheaper than at the malls (and gold probably as well, though I have not even check the prices).

#4 Get lost in Madinat Jumeirah

Madinat Jumeirah is a great area in Dubai that is a recreation of ancient Arabia – it has nice views of Burj al-Arab and is beautiful place to go for a stroll.

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#5 Discover Marina

Marina is without a doubt one of my favorite areas in Dubai – pretty and overwhelming. While strolling along the water you can admire the skyscrapers and enjoy the incredible architecture in Dubai.

#6 Swim at Jumeirah Beach (with Views of Al-Arab)

A lot of beaches are not open to public- many belong to (luxury) hotels so this is one of the best place to relax and hop into the water. Despite the fact that the beaches are free, they are clean, not overly crowded and pretty.

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#7 Watch the Dubai Light and Sound Show

During my first trip I somehow ended up at the Wafi Mall (Egyptian themed mall). It was not bad and in the evening  you have a light show – a different kind of activity and nice to have seen once.

#8 Check out Heritage Village

After visiting the Gold and Spice Souk in Deira you can pay a visit to Heritage Village which sic lose-by and also free and gives you a glimpse of the former life in Dubai

#9 Visit Jumeirah Mosque

This is the only mosque in Dubai that is open to non. Muslims and you can see the beautiful interior. If you cannot make it the Grand Mosque off Abu Dhabi, a master piece, then this is your place to get a good insight into a mosque of the UAE.

#10 See Street Art

Dubai has even some street art – it is not as crazy nor spiked wit messages as in some other cities but it sis quite cute to see (e.g. at JBR Walk).

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More Budget Tips for Dubai

Here are some more tips for activities that do not cost a fortune or are totally worth the money and make it possible to have cheap holidays to Dubai.

More Cheap Things to do in Dubai

There are few cheap things to do in Dubai that are awesome – check them out.

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Abra Ride in Deira – cheaper than in Madinat Jumeirah or Dubai Fountain

#11 Rent a bike on Palm Jumeirah

Renting a bike on Palm Jumeirah and riding the new streets and exploring the Palm this way is fun and inexpensive.

#12 Visit Burj Khalifa and admire it.

You don’t have to go to the top to get some great pictures with it. If you still want a visit the top get a ticket for level 124. It’s much cheaper than for level 148. Read about my experiences here.

# 13 Abra riding

Abra Riding in Deira (old town) is very cheap and costs less than 0,25€ (but not so in Madinat Jumeirah or at the Dubai Fountain.

#14 Go on a desert safari

If you do a desert safari in the evening you can actually save some money as it often includes delicious dinner – if you see it like that the desert safari is not that expensive anymore and costs only a few $$§.

Check out the best prices for flightshotels I activities and tours in Dubai

Tips for Budget Accommodations in Dubai

Here are Dubai budget tips for your accommodation:

If you are on a budget, I would recommend saving on accommodations first. The hotel standard is pretty high in Dubai.

The only thing I would not compromise on (especially as a solo female traveler) is the location of the hotel.

I do not recommend some streets in Deira, the old town of Dubai – at least not as a solo female traveler. There are some nice hotels in Deira though but please avoid the side streets.

Some places are incredibly expensive – like Marina, the Palm, or Jumeirah Beach. So, I recently stayed at the Ibis Al Barsha (click here to find their best rates) and had a wonderful time. The metro station is a bit further down, but still easy to walk to.

If you stay longer, rent an apartment. I was staying for one night at Jennah Place Marina on my last trip. It is located in Marina and there was a kitchen and a washing machine (though I did not use them).

Read my full accommodation guide for Dubai here.

Click here for the best hotel prices in Dubai

Airbnb has also become more popular in Dubai now and you can check out apartments and prices here. 

Check out the best prices for flightshotels I activities and tours in Dubai

Eating and Drinking in Dubai on a Budget

Cooking can be much cheaper than eating out. There are supermarkets everywhere in Dubai to buy what you need to cook your own meals.

Keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are extremely expensive in Dubai, so it will not be a super bargain. However, if you are traveling in a group it might make sense.

Otherwise, I recommend not dining at the touristy areas around Dubai Mall, or Marina, though you find cheaper fast food restaurants in the malls itself.

If you like to save even more on food, you can eat in Deira, the old town e.g.

If you really want to save money then drink water. Almost all hotels provide complimentary bottles of water.

Ladies Night: Check out ladies night for free entry into many bars and clubs.

Happy Hour: Since I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t mind the expensive prices for alcoholic beverages. If you want to save money here, check out the generous happy hour times at almost all restaurants and bars.

Add Some Luxury in Dubai and How to Save Money in Dubai

Here are some tips how to budget but while enjoying some luxurious moments in Dubai.

Day Passes for Luxury Hotel in Dubai

Want to spend a day at a gorgeous pool or beach? You can get beach and pool access for a day at many of the luxury hotels and resorts in Dubai. For a comparatively small amount of money, you can “check in” to one of the most luxurious hotels and enjoy the facilities. Often, you do not even need a day pass, you only have to spend a food and beverage minimum.

Transportation on a Budget in Dubai

Choose an accommodation close to the beach, Marina, or downtown and, if possible, close to a metro station.

Dubai is not very walkable. First of all, most sights are far from one another and, second, the weather is hot most of the year. If you decide to stay in one area each day, it will already be saving you some money. If you are short on time and want to be more mobile, you can choose between following transportation means: Public transportation, taxis, and the hop-on and hop-off buses.

The metro is comparably cheap (considering the rest of the prices in Dubai, one way is about 2€). However, since the metro stops are pretty spread out, I am not the biggest fan. I never really understood the bus system and did not really like it.

Taxis might make sense if you do not have many destinations and if you are in a group of three or four (1 kilometer costs about 0,50 €.)

A ticket for a hop-on and hop-off bus might be cheaper if you take one for several days. Review of my hop-on and hop-off bus tour in Dubai here. This will also give you free entry to many museums and attractions (like the Lost Chambers at Atlantis Resort). The ticket includes also a desert safari ticket though it might not be as great as other desert safaris.

Check out the best prices for flightshotels I activities and tours and hop-on and hop-off buses in Dubai

Spa and Beauty on a Budget in Dubai

If you are into spa treatments and don’t want to miss out, don’t book a treatment in a hotel. Rather, book an appointment at a salon like NStyle Beauty Salons. I liked their services and had several treatments. I was very happy with the results. However, I recommend asking for the final price when it says “starting from.“ I think they charged too much for my blow dry. I had not asked before about the price but, for Dubai, the prices were good.

More about Dubai:

Have you ever wondered how to dress as a woman in Dubai? Here are my recommendations and I will also tell you if I think Dubai is safe for female travelers here.

For more on Dubai, read the Offbeat Dubai Travel Guide.

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More about Dubai and tips for the Emirates are here.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means, I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (no extra cost at you). More about it here.

Safe Travels, Arzo
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Safe Travels, Arzo