Dubai might be best known as a glamorous city, with its glitzy hotels and high-end shopping malls.
But is it possible to visit Dubai on a budget?
Our City Insiders have been on the case looking at how you can save your dirhams in the United Arab Emirates largest city, but still enjoy your Dubai family holidays.
We look at where to find the best affordable hotels in Dubai, our pick of the best budget hotels in Dubai for families, how to get around Dubai on the cheap, cheap attractions in Dubai… and even some free things to do in Dubai.
So if you are looking for ways to save on your Dubai vacation cost, read on for all our insider tips.
Where to find the best Dubai budget hotels
There is always going to be a compromise when you are looking for cheap accommodation in Dubai. Yes, you can stay at some glamorous hotels here, but if the beach is not your priority, or you’ll be busy sightseeing rather than sitting by the pool, why pay extra to stay at a resort?
- The closer you are to the beach, or the major shopping malls, generally speaking, the more you pay.
- The older areas of the city nearer to the airport such as Deira and Bur Dubai have the best choice of cheap rooms in Dubai.
- To save money off your Dubai trip cost, we recommend you look for accommodation that is well located to the Metro. This will mean saving money on taxis and having the city easily within your reach (you can learn more on how to get around Dubai here).
- We recommend comparing the best Dubai hotel deals on Hotelscombined.
Our top picks for the best budget family hotels in Dubai
Here we share our pick of where to stay in Dubai on a budget. All of these hotels are well suited to families, with plenty of space, good locations and family-friendly facilities. You can read our full pick of the best family hotels in Dubai here.
Ramada Chelsea Al Barsha
Not too far from the Mall of the Emirates in an area called Al Barsha, this hotel accommodation in Dubai includes a rooftop pool, family-sized suites or interconnecting rooms and on-site dining options.
Premier Inn Dubai IBN Battuta
This low price hotel in Dubai has great sized rooms and offers immediate access to Ibn Battuta Mall. It is located to the west of the Jumeirah area of Dubai, so quite far from the airport but accessible by Metro. It’s a great location if you also want to visit Dubai Parks & Resorts and Abu Dhabi as part of your trip.
Savoy Park Hotel Apartments
Based in the Bur Dubai part of town these cheap hotel apartments in Dubai represent really good value. They include a small kitchenette for self-catering, as well as being nearby to the green line of the Metro.
Things to look out for with Dubai hotel prices
Don’t let your Dubai budget suddenly turn out more than you expected. Keep your eye out for extra TAXES!
Be warned that not just your actual hotel room, but any services you buy within a hotel are subject to extra tax in Dubai. Check before booking your hotel whether the quoted Dubai hotel rates include:
- Municipality fee 7%
- Property service fee 10%
- VAT 5% (should be included by law)
- Per night room fee 10dhs (getting a room with multiple beds rather than two connecting rooms will reduce this charge)
These taxes are correct as of July 2018
You can save on these added hotel costs in Dubai by either self-catering or dining out at restaurants that are not attached to a hotel.
Getting around Dubai on a budget
The days of ultra-cheap fuel and taxis in Dubai is well and truly gone, but we still have some top tips for saving money on your Dubai trip budget.
Taxis are still a convenient way to get across town if you have a group and luggage, but consider your distances. Catching the Metro may well be the cheapest way to travel in Dubai, although note that you have to pay for all people in your group aged 5 and up.
If you know you will be taking several Metro or bus journeys during your stay in Dubai, get a NOL Silver instead of NOL Red the first time you buy a ticket at a Metro station.
This will cost you 25dhs but comes come pre-loaded with 19dhs in fares. Every fare you pay will then be cheaper than buying a single ticket NOL Red (fares per journey vary from 3AED to 7.50AED on NOL Silver).
Other ways you can save on your Dubai travel budget include taking a traditional dhow or Abra to cross Dubai Creek rather than paying for an expensive cruise, and taking advantage of FREE airport transit buses if you are transferring between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Free and cheap things to do in Dubai
It’s undeniable there is A LOT to do in Dubai! And while some of it is glamorous and expensive, there is still a good selection of things to do in Dubai on a budget. Here are just a few suggestions of cheap fun things to do in Dubai:
Seeing the Dubai Mall & Burj Khalifa
While it’s costly to head up the Burj Khalifa (and can involve extensive queueing at times), it’s totally free to see it from outside and enjoy the nightly light and sound show that occurs in Downtown Dubai, outside Dubai Mall.
Timings for the sound and light show are currently 1pm & 1.30pm, then every 30 minutes between 6pm and midnight. There are many great restaurants where you can grab a bite in the Dubai Mall and adjacent Souk al Bahar with brilliant views.
However if you are on a Dubai budget trip you can always grab yourself a takeaway from the food court and set yourself up with your own picnic outside to enjoy the show.
Enjoy the Beaches
Whilst hiring deck chairs and taking camel rides along the beach might cost, most beachfronts in Dubai outside of the resorts themselves are completely FREE.
You can try Sunset Beach (Jumeirah Public Beach) for the famous views of the Burj Al Arab, or why not try The Beach in JBR, or the fairly newly open La Mer in Jumeirah 1.
Bathroom and change facilities are free but of course, there are plenty of cafes and vendors along these stretches of beach vying for your attention. Come prepared with towels from your hotel and a picnic lunch or dinner to avoid the temptation to spend more.
Explore Old Dubai
Enjoy the historic al Fahidi neighbourhood, the Dubai Museum and take an abra ride over Dubai Creek to Deira “Old Dubai” to see the spice souk and the gold souk.
Stroll the Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk
In the cooler months, explore one of the cities newer outdoor spaces.
Take a taxi (avoiding the obscenely expensive Monorail) out to the end of Palm Jumeirah, marvel at the amazing Atlantis the Palm (you can sneak a peek at the start of the giant aquarium, The Lost Chambers, for free) then set out to explore the new boardwalk that curves around 11kms of the outer crescent of the Palm.
What you should splurge on in Dubai
A trip to Dubai is not complete without getting beyond the big city and seeing some of the UAE Desert. So although there are plenty of cheap places to visit in Dubai, if you are going to splurge your budget on one thing, we would recommend a desert safari.
There are A LOT of Dubai desert tours on offer these days of varying quality and mixture of experiences. Our favourite providers include:
Taking you on a morning safari to the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve in the back of old-school Land Rovers, these programs are more focused at the desert itself and the wildlife than dune bashing and desert sports.
With several pick up locations across town and flexible itineraries to suit your interests, the Al Khayam Camp takes you through the Lehbab desert. Run by OceanAir, they have a strong reputation for providing excellent service.
When to Visit Dubai
The busiest time to visit Dubai is during the cooler winter months, however, this is also when Dubai hotel prices are at their most expensive and there are few discounts to be had.
If you are prepared to put up with the heat, you will find the best Dubai accommodation deals over the hotter summer months and during Ramadan when hotel occupancy can be much lower.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase using one of these links, we may receive a small commission – at absolutely no extra cost to you.
By City Insider Keri Hedrick
Keri is a long-time UAE resident with 3 children and a passion for all things Middle East! You can read more about Keri and all our City Insiders here.
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