Do you plan a trip to Dubai on a budget with many free things to do and cheap places to stay? If so, then this post is for you. As a regular visitor to Dubai, I have compiled my recommendations on how to do Dubai on the cheap.
If you plan a trip to Dubai, you should know that Dubai is a rather expensive destination. There is no actual “budget” for 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.
There are many great free things to do in Dubai, and cheap holidays to Dubai are possible. You have to know how to find the good, free things in Dubai that don’t break the bank.
After naming my favorite free things to do, I also give more budget tips for Dubai. Find out how to travel to Dubai on a budget for accommodation, food, public transportation, and so on.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which means, I might earn a small commission when you buy a product/service via my link (at no extra cost to you). More about it here.
READY TO PLAN A BUDGET DUBAI TRIP AND FIND OUT ABOUT FREE THINGS TO DO IN DUBAI?
Free Things to do in Dubai
Let´s start with things to do for (almost) free in Dubai.
Stroll the Biggest Mall in the World and Visit Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall is one of the world’s largest shopping malls, located in the heart of Downtown Dubai. It features over 1,200 shops and has its own dedicated Fashion Avenue, as well as several other themed areas such as The Village and Souk al Bahar. This mall also houses a plethora of entertainment options including an ice rink, an aquarium, and a massive indoor theme park.
Whether you stroll the fancy Fashion Avenue (the luxury section with some interesting architectural elements) or just walk the mall. It is an interesting, fun, and free Dubai activity. Though I have visited the mall numerous times, I cannot remember having done any shopping at all – however, I still visit each time.
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 Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system set on the 30-acre man-made Burj Lake.
It is an impressive display of water, music, and lights that mesmerizes audiences from all over the world. The showstopper is when the fountain jets shoot water up to 500 feet in the air, making it the tallest performing fountain in the world. Click here for the show times.
The show comes with music, and though it is not the most spectacular water show I have seen, it is a fun, free thing to see in Dubai. I love it at any time of the day, but in the evening, when the daylight is gone, it gets more spectacular.
Also, there is the free LED show at Burj Khalifa, which generally will take place in the evening and is free to watch.
Dubai Aquarium at Dubai Mall
At Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo you’ll find an immense 10 million-liter tank containing over 33,000 spectacular aquatic animals – including a record-breaking number of sand tiger sharks! It is one of the largest suspended aquariums in existence with impressive dimensions making it 51 meters long, 20 meters wide, and 11 meters high.
The Dubai Aquarium is free, too. Okay, not really but kind of. Let me explain. Dubai Aquarium 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 it, and you do have not to spend a dime on it.
I have visited the aquarium twice (meaning being inside) because tickets were included in my hop-on and hop-off buses, but seriously, I would most likely have regretted it if I had paid full price. Looking at it from afar is good enough.
Explore the Souks
Exploring souks (markets) is actually one of my favorite free activities in Dubai.
The Gold and Spice Souks are located in Deira, one of the oldest parts of Dubai, and are especially popular with tourists.
They are one of the oldest and most famous souks in the region, packed with over 300 stores selling exotic spices, herbs, incense, gold jewelry, traditional perfumes, rare fabrics, and more. The lively atmosphere of the souk offers a unique experience,
The winding alleys are lined with jewelry stores filled with things to buy – but even if you do not buy anything, you can still have a wonderful time here.
These souks are free to visit 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). And if you shop – haggle, haggle, and haggle.
Souvenirs and clothes are cheaper than at the malls (and gold probably as well, though I have not even checked the prices). Also, food is much cheaper here than in the restaurants in Dubai Downtown or Marina.
Get Lost in Madinat Jumeirah
Madinat Jumeirah is an excellent area in Dubai that is a recreation of ancient Arabia situated along the coast of Dubai. It offers an array of high-end amenities and attractions, such as world-class shopping, dining, and entertainment. Stroll through the Madinat Souk for exotic souvenirs or hop aboard an abra boat to explore the winding waterways of the resort.
The complex also features two luxury hotels and a collection of Arabian-style villas, perfect for those looking to luxuriate in the lap of luxury. And though it is a luxury area, there is no entrance fee and you have guessed it…It is another free place in Dubai to visit.
Also, the nice views of Burj al-Arab come for free.
Marina is, without a doubt, one of my favorite areas in Dubai – pretty and overwhelming. Dubai Marina is one of the most luxurious and cosmopolitan parts of Dubai. Located on the coastal strip, this vibrant area is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and clubs as well as a number of prestigious hotels.
While strolling along the water, you can admire the skyscrapers and enjoy the incredible architecture in Dubai. It is great to visit during the day- or at night time.Admittedly, restaurants and accommodations aren’t cheap in Dubai Marina, but marveling at the skyscrapers and the artificial Marina is fun even if you do stay there overnight.
Swim at Jumeirah Beach (with Views of Al-Arab)
A lot of beaches are not open to the public. Many beaches belong to (luxury) hotels, so this is one of the best places to relax and hop into the water. Even though the beaches are free, they are clean, not overly crowded, and pretty.
Visit Jumeirah Mosque
Jumeirah Mosque is the only mosque in Dubai that is open to non-Muslims, and you can see the beautiful interior. If you cannot make it to the Grand Mosque of Abu Dhabi, a masterpiece, then this is your place to get a good insight into a mosque in the UAE.
For over 20 years, tourists have been loving this cultural experience and it’s a great way to gain insight into UAE culture ‘Open Doors. Open Minds.’
You have (free) guided tours of the mosque once a day at 10 am and 2 pm (except Fridays).
See Street Art
Dubai has even some street art – it is not as crazy nor spiked with messages as in some other cities, but it is pretty cute to see (e.g., at JBR Walk and even more in Dubai La Mer). Kids will love them, but even as adults, it is fun to look at them.
More Budget Tips for Dubai
Here are some more tips for activities that do not cost a fortune or are worth the money and make it possible to have cheap holidays to Dubai.
Cheap Things to do in Dubai
There are a few cheap things to do in Dubai that are awesome – check them out.
Dubai Creek has been in the hearts of locals for centuries – having served as one of the earliest homes to settlers and given rise to iconic ports and pearling industries. No surprise, then, that it’s still a go-to destination today! So if you’re looking for sights with ancient allure but modern appeal, this is your spot!
For the price of AED1 (US$0.27), you can take a ride on one of Dubai’s traditional abra boats across its iconic creek!
That’s right – just AED1 (US$0.27) and you’ll feel like part of the city with this affordable yet authentic experience that connects Bur Dubai to downtown Deira. In Madinat Jumeirah or at the Dubai Fountain the abra riding is more expensive, so abra riding in the old town it is.
Rent a bike on Palm Jumeirah
Palm Jumeirah is an artificial archipelago shaped like a palm tree! You’ll find some serious opulence here. Luxury resorts include Atlantis and One&Only The Palm – plus tons of fine dining options like Nobu & 101 Dining Lounge at The Pointe to make your taste buds swoon! But most of all, you can enjoy some bike rides that you can’t in other parts of Dubai with the many cars around!
Though walking is surely cheaper, biking around the Jumeirah Palm is a fun and relatively cheap activity in Dubai.
Visit Burj Khalifa and Admire it
You don’t have to go to the top to get some great pictures with it – the mighty Burj Khalifa. But it might be worth getting up.
The Burj Khalifa is standing 828 meters (2,717 feet) tall and it is the tallest building in the world. Built with a combination of steel and concrete, the Burj Khalifa has numerous unique features that set it apart from other skyscrapers.
For instance, it has a world record for the highest number of stories in any building on earth—163! It also features an observation deck and terrace with unparalleled views of Dubai’s skyline, making it a must-see sight for all travelers. In addition to its breathtaking architectural design, the Burj Khalifa is equipped with the fastest elevators in the world and has almost 900,000 square meters of space dedicated to restaurants and luxury shops.
So, if you want to visit, I have one tip for you: Tet a ticket for levels 124 & 125. It’s much cheaper than the entrance to level 148. Views are about the same – and if it helps you to have a budget trip to Dubai and still experience the main sights, you´d go for it. Read about my experiences here.
Go on a Desert Safari
Experience the thrill with a desert safari in Dubai. Soar across the golden dunes on an off-road adventure and watch them glitter in the sunlight. Enjoy a traditional camel ride or sandboarding, and get up close to the majestic wildlife of the desert.
Dance around the bonfire under a starry night sky, and enjoy a delicious dinner with the locals – it’s an experience you’ll not forget so easily!
If you do a desert safari in the afternoon/evening, you can actually save some money as it often includes a delicious dinner. If you see it like that, the desert safari is not that expensive anymore and costs only a few $$$.
Thus, this an activity that might look very budget-friendly initially but actually is, especially if you enjoy eating! If you are vegetarian like me, you do not have to worry: There are normally enough vegetarian and vegan-friendly options that will satisfy our taste buds as well.
Best Places to Stay in Dubai on a Budget
If you are wondering “where to stay in Dubai on a budget,” you have Dubai budget tips for your accommodation here.
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 hotel’s location.
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. Though it is not dangerous per se, I guess most solo travelers will feel uncomfortable.
Some places are costly – 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. Once, I stayed for one night at Jennah Place Marina. It is located in Marina, and there was a kitchen and a washing machine (though I did not use them).
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 costly 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 in the touristy areas around Dubai Mall, or Marina, though you find cheaper fast-food restaurants in the malls themselves.
If you like to save even more on food, you can eat in Deira (Gold and Spice Souk), the old town e.g.
If you really want to save money, then drink water. Almost all hotels provide complimentary bottles of water.
Ladie´s 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 high prices for alcoholic beverages. If you want to save money here, check out the generous happy hour times at almost all restaurants and bars.
Luxury on a Budget
Here are some tips on how to budget while enjoying some luxurious moments in Dubai.
Day Passes for Luxury Hotels 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 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.
How to Get Around in Dubai on a Budget
Choose accommodation 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 save you some money. If you are short on time and want to be more mobile, you can choose between the following transportation means Public transportation, taxis, and hop-on and hop-off buses.
How to Get Around in Dubai on a budget: Taxis are quite cheap (compared to many other expensive travel destinations). You pay around 0.50€ for 1 kilometer (min. charge is about 4€). If you are a group of four, a taxi might be the cheapest option. Uber is available in Dubai (I have never used Uber, so I have no idea how that works, but that is cheaper.
If you travel solo or in a smaller group, public transportation might be cheaper. Dubai Metro tickets must be purchased in the form of a Nol card (which you can top up easily)– which you can use for the bus, tram, and taxi, too.
The metro is comparably cheap (considering the rest of Dubai’s prices, one way is about 1€). 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. But you can buy day tickets, and if you do not mind a bit of walking, public transportation is the cheapest and the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation.
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 also includes a desert safari ticket though it might not be as great as other desert safaris.
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 hotel treatment. Rather, book an appointment at a salon-like NStyle Beauty Salons. I liked their services and had several treatments. I was thrilled with the results.
However, I recommend asking for the final price when it says “starting from.”
Final Thoughts on a Budget-Friendly Dubai Trip
Though Dubai is quite a pricey destination, it is possible to have an amazing time in Dubai, even on a shoestring. There are so many free or almost free things to do and see that you will not get bored even if you do not want to break the bank. Hopefully, the above-mentioned tips will help you plan your budget trip to Dubai.
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.
- Find out more about the best tours in Dubai
- My ideal 7-day Dubai itinerary
- Visiting Dubai in the summer? Here are my tips on how to survive and enjoy your summer vacation