Dubai is a great place to use money, lots of money. Spending a thousand euros is not enough to stay even one night in Burj Al Arab, the most famous 5-star hotel in the city. A short helicopter ride will cost you 500-1000 AED (120-240 EUR). Visiting the level 148 of Burj Khalifa will set you back 370 AED (90 EUR). Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, 120 AED (32 EUR). If you don’t want or can’t use that kind of money during your stay, here is our five budget friendly tips for you in Dubai.
1. Downtown Dubai – World’s tallest building and other record-breaking attractions
Dubai is known for its and world’s tallest skyscraper. Even though it’s expensive to visit the top, the building is quite spectacular from outside as well. And it can be admired from anywhere in the city. The best way to enjoy the view is to take the metro to Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall metro station, which will take you quite near the sight and cost is only 3-8 AED depending on the distance. Walk through a long glass tunnel travellator (maybe also record-breaking? 😊) to reach the Dubai Mall, second largest mall in the world. Window shop through all the over 1200 glamourous shops and take the exit to Dubai Fountain, the largest choreographed fountain system in the world.
Great times to visit is around sunset, which is around 5:30 P.M. in December and after 7 P.M. in mid-summer and watch the sky get dark and everything else illuminated. The fountain show begins at 6 P.M. and runs until 11 P.M. every 30 minutes. Between the shows the Burj Khalifa will shine with a lightshow of 70 000 leds.
2. Beach life – free access to well-equipped beaches
Dubai’s beaches were a pleasant surprise to us. Apparently the newly renovated beaches of Jumeirah area offered clean white sand, USB charging ports for mobile phones and nice clean toilets. We had time to visit two of the beaches, Jumeirah Open Beach near the seahorse shaped Daria island and Jumeirah Public Beach near the Burj Al Arab hotel, which some claim to be a 7-star hotel.
The easiest way to reach these beaches is by taxi, but if that’s out of your budget, the beaches are easily reached by bus as well. The metro doesn’t stop near these two beaches, so it would be either a combination of metro and walk of a few kilometers or metro and taxi.
3. A sneak peek at Islam
Even though Dubai has notable Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Bahá’i and Buddhist religious communities, Islam is the official and majority religion in Dubai. Adhan, or the call to prayer, broadcasted from the countless minarets around Dubai is the first tangible evidence of this. With over 2000 mosques in Dubai, it feels like there is one on each street corner.
After sunset the mosques and minarets are beautifully lit and complement the city skyline of skyscrapers. With an admission fee of 25 AED (6 EUR) it’s possible for non-muslims to visit Jumeirah Mosque. Just remember to have respectful clothes. Again, the walk from metro station is few kilometers, so to reach the place, a bus or taxi is recommended.
4. Different cuisines of Deira
Dubai offers food from every corner of the world. The city center surely offers tasty meals, but those might come with bank-breaking prices. Deira turned out to be our favorite place for affordable meals. With more than a thousand restaurants, you can try food from all around the world: India, China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey and so on. Chicken Masala for 12 AED, A hamburger for 8 AED, Potato wedjes with cheese 18 AED.
You could also try one of the many western fast food joints in Deira, but as the prices in these are quite high, we avoided them. Deira is easily reached by Metro or Bus. Just step out of metro on Union, Al Rigga or Baniyas Square station and walk around.
5. Mini-cruise in Dubai Creek
Seeing Dubai from water would be cool, but don’t want to spend AED 175 for a 60-minute Wonder Bus Cruise? Just for 1 AED per person you get to cross the Dubai Creek and enjoy the views on a mini-cruise. You just go and sit on the traditional Abra-boat and the driver will collect the fare before the boat departs.
Near the Deira side of the Creek there are two markets, Gold Souk and Spice Souk. And on Bur Dubai side you will arrive to Old Souk, which specializes in clothes and fabric. If you like to haggle with over-enthusiastic merchants, then this might be a nice culmination for your cruise. It’s just something we don’t enjoy.