Explore Dubai on a Budget – Dubai Travel Hacks!

By Rutuja Bhagwat - February 23, 2019

When you hear of Dubai, the extremely lavish lifestyle and the expensive stay, food, and transport is what you think of. Sure, Dubai is high-priced and you might search for Dubai budget tour packages, but the best way to travel Dubai on a budget is to know how the locals do it. 


It is definitely one of the hardest backpacking destinations out there but you can still enjoy if you know the correct way to explore Dubai on a budget. I stayed in the city for a month, walking wherever possible and taking Dubai public transport through and through. So I have a good idea of how a Dubai budget trip is possible. If you're dying to visit Dubai but your budget is low, then you're at the right spot. Continue reading for some mindblowing Dubai travel hacks. 

Here's how you can explore Dubai on a budget...


WHEN TO VISIT DUBAI? 

First things first; when to visit Dubai? Which is the best month to visit Dubai? The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) might sound all fascinating, but do you know, it also falls during the peak season? The DSF usually happens towards the end of December and stretches across January and a first few days of February. Which means, Dubai witnesses number of tourists during this period. And as you are aware, the more the demand, the higher the prices. So before you even plan your leaves, check sites like Skyscanner that gives you an idea of the cheapest month and even the cheapest day to fly to Dubai. For instance, the cheapest ticket from Mumbai to Dubai is on 2nd June 2019 (Rs. 6,196 only). Once you get a basic estimate of the month, go ahead and plan your travel. 

CHEAP AIR TICKETS TO DUBAI FROM INDIA

To avoid the price hike, the first step would be to book as early as possible. Try alternate websites to check cheapest air tickets to Dubai. Many booking websites have discounts so keep an eye on those. 

BUDGET STAYS IN DUBAI

Once the ticket is taken care of, next is your stay. Hostels undoubtedly are the budget accommodations in Dubai, however, they start from Rs 2,000 a night. Likewise, even some of the cheap hotels start at Rs 2,000. Once you've set the budget and enlisted the hotels as per your liking, choosing the best one would definitely be difficult. I personally would recommend a hotel that is a) close to a metro or bus station b) has a grocery/supermarket nearby and c) preferably has a kitchen. 


CHEAP FOOD IN DUBAI

For a wholesome, stomachful meal, you need to keep aside Rs 500 at least. So whether it is buying a Happy Meal from McDonald's or a thaali (around 23 AED) from an Indian restaurant, you would require approximately half a grand per meal. Now if you can go without full meals and can survive on one burger (11 AED approx) or perhaps grab a puff from a supermarket (AED 2 only), then you'll be spending even less. 


If your hotel has an attached kitchen, then you can take care of most of the meals for cheap. For instance, buy an instant noodles pack and cook it at home. You can buy ready-to-eat chapatis (around 3.25 AED for 10 small chapatis) and cook sabzi or dal in the hotel's kitchen. You can buy bread, butter and toast it. You can buy juices in bulk from the supermarket. You can buy heavy-duty chocolates like Snickers and have them as meals on some days. There is a whole lot of ready-to-eat foods out there like croissants, fruits, doughnuts, fruit-buns, etc. if you're okay to compromise full meals on some days.


FREE THINGS TO DO IN DUBAI / CHEAP THINGS TO DO IN DUBAI

Al Seef
Al Seef is a historically important area that has sand-coloured heritage buildings located on Dubai's creek. You can explore the lanes, click photographs, shop, dine, relax, and even stay here. One can taste food from various cuisines, so whether it is American or Emirati. You can either visit the place during the day time or by the night as the mellow lights offer a romantic and tranquil aura. 

La Mer 
If you're looking for the best place to click photographs, swim in the blue beach, shop, dine, then nothing like La Mer. If you happen to have time in hand, you must visit this beachfront to simply relax. Start in the morning, swim at the beach, dine at the fancy cafes and restaurants, shop for some souvenirs, click a LOT of photographs against beautiful graffiti art, blue skies, and palm trees! La Mer is one of my favourite spots in Dubai as it is well connected with the bus route too. Get down at Central Plaza and walk for La Mer using Google Maps. Tip: Wear swimming costumes or sports material clothing to avoid any hassle to swim. Changing rooms are most likely chargeable, however, please enquire on reaching. Another tip would be carrying mats or shawls to lay on the beach!


Al Fahidi
Al Fahidi, earlier known as Al Bastakiya, is a street near Bur Dubai with a network of walkable lanes. The place reflects the mid-19th-century traditional lifestyle with sand-coloured buildings (there are about 50 such buildings in the area). You come across museums, craft shops, exhibitions, boutique cafes, art galleries, and even hotels. One can simply take a stroll and visit museums and galleries while enjoying small meals at the cafes.


Jumeirah Beach
Jumeirah beach is spread across a vast portion of the coast and it's only through sheer luck or native knowledge can you find the right piece of shore. The public beach (that offers a view of the Burj Al Arab) is good only if you wish to take a photo near this building as you can only surf and NOT swim here. If you're looking for some swimming, then catch a bus to Majlis Al Ghoreifa 1 bus stop. With the help of Google Maps, walk till Jumeirah beach and you're most likely to reach either the no. 15 or the no. 16 beach. You will find only a couple of people here and that's about it. Swimming is allowed; there's even a lifeguard watching over you. If you want lunch, post-swim then the beach no. 17 is a better option as there's a shack on it and a Pizza Hut, KFC nearby (at a walkable distance).



Madinat Jumeirah Souk + Burj Al Arab view
Burj Al Arab is an iconic building apart from Burj Khalifa and tourists want to get clicked with it. There are two possible places from where you can view the Burj Al Arab; one of it being from the souk. Madinat Jumeirah is a market at the Jumeriah road with cafes, restaurants, hotel, and of course, with shops selling local artwork and crafts. There's no entry ticket so you can simply enjoy an early evening here.

Shiva Temple in Dubai
Do you know there is a Shiva temple in Dubai, beautifully hidden amidst a labyrinth of narrow lanes near the Dubai Creek? The temple is home to Shiva, Hanuman, Ganesha, Sai Baba, Vishnu, Durga Mata, and a few more. You shall meet many religious people here, lining up to seek blessings and offering prasad to their favourite gods. The weekends are populated, however, it doesn't take too long for the darshan. 



The ideal plan would be to shop from the Dubai Old Souk, visit the temple, devour the prasad sitting on the benches facing the water. Later, going to one of the waterside restaurants and enjoying a romantic peaceful meal. The temple is quite small but definitely, a must visit to experience the lifestyle of Indians living in Dubai. 


Dubai Old Souk
The Dubai Old Souk is one of the oldest markets in Dubai. You shall come across antique and traditional pieces traded by Indians, Pakistanis, Afghans, and Arabs. You can check out the old souk which lies near the Abra creek in Bur Dubai for its handcrafted cushion covers, embellished shoes, jute bags, Moroccan designed plates and bowls, Dubai-centric souvenirs, spices, and a lot more. This market works on bargain basis so make sure you know the prices well and are a good negotiator. 

Meena Bazaar
Meena Bazaar is one of the oldest markets in Dubai, just like the Old Souk. You come across jewellery, traditional textiles and clothing, handicrafts, and even Indian restaurants in this area. 


Fountain Show at the Dubai Mall
The 'At The Top' Burj Khalifa sure has a massive entry ticket, however, there's one thing you can do for free here. The Dubai Mall displays the light, sound, and water show every 30 minutes post 6:00 pm, which is truly unmissable. One can view from the top of Burj Khalifa (with charges) or from the bottom of it for absolutely free of cost. Do you know the Dubai Fountain is one of the largest fountain shows in the world? 

Karama Market
The Karama Bazaar in Dubai is an Indian market selling first-copy designer bags, watches, sunglasses, shoes, jewellery, etc. You also get gold, perfumes, textiles, and handicrafts here. Whether it is Louis Vuitton or Gucci, you would get first-copy designer bags for less than Rs 5,500, and yes, you need to bargain to achieve that price! 



Boat ride at the creek (1 AED only)
Taking this boat ride from one side of the Abra creek to the other is arguably one of the cheapest things one can experience. The 5-minute boat ride that transports you costs only 1 AED (20 rupees approximately). During night time, the scenes are so beautiful that you are sure to click some photographs as you pass by! 

Dragon Mart mall
Dragonmart Mall is a large shopping area located in the International City area of Dubai and not many tourists are aware of this one. It's a Chinese mall selling beauty products, electronics, clothing, perfumes, etc. imported from China. You can bargain here, which is indeed an experience.

Jumeirah Beach Residence – JBR Walk
The JBR Walk provides anyone visiting Dubai an opportunity to shop outdoors, much contrary to the malls that are filled with air-conditioning. It opened in the year 2008 and has been one of the favourite hangout spots in the city. The Walk is about a 1.7km long and has fancy cafes, restaurants, and shops. 


Dubai Marina
The Dubai Marina is located at the Marina Creek where one can enjoy palm trees, boutique restaurants and cafes. There's a water bus service which you can take or even hire cycles to roam around. Do not miss this place during the sunset for breathtaking views. 

Global Village (15 AED entry ticket)
Global Village is a seasonal thing to do in Dubai. It is usually functional from October to April so book your Dubai tickets accordingly. The place opens at 4:00 pm and goes on till 1 in the night. (Just check for holidays and other details on their website!) Global Village is a multicultural festival park with podiums of different countries displaying the cultural innuendos and selling handmade crafts and garments from that particular country. You come across podiums belonging to India, Pakistan, America, Syria, Africa, Morocco, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, etc. to name a few. Along with these podiums, there's a huge carnaval (for extra charges) where there are crazy rides, various games (skill as well as arcade games), circus, and a whole lot of amusement for you! This is hands down one of the best things to do in Dubai with kids as they will love this carnaval!

Al Mamzar Beach Park (5 AED entry ticket)
Another beautiful beach area is Al Mamzar. They charge a minimum entry fee, and on top of that, the changing room is absolutely free of cost too! What's better is that it's not very crowded and the water is blue, almost wave-free! The beach is spread across a vast stretch of land so there's ample space to swim. The dress code is not that strict here so you can try wearing your regular cotton tee. The beach park even has dedicated barbeque spaces and it can't get better! If you have a large group of friends, you can grill your meat after a nice swim. Al Mamzar Beach Park in Dubai is definitely recommended!

There are a lot of things to do in Dubai, apart from the free/cheap things to do in Dubai mentioned above. I have written a full post on the same, and you should definitely check it out for some crazy one-day tours and offbeat things to do in and around Dubai. Check the Dubai travel guide here


PUBLIC TRANSPORT IN DUBAI – METRO, BUS, TRAM

The best and the cheapest way to travel in Dubai is through public transport without any doubt. Where one ride can cost you about 23 dirhams by cab, the same journey via metro, bus or tram would take only 5 dirhams. Do you see the massive difference here? This is hands down the best way to save money when travelling, not just in Dubai but elsewhere around the world. Sure, this means you have to stay near a bus or metro station and trust me, it's going to be the cleverest thing you can do. 

To travel on public transport in Dubai, you have to purchase a Nol card from the ticket counter at either of the stations and simply tap it to travel. Once the money in the card extinguishes, you simply have to top up! 

The connectivity is pretty good and it takes you to most parts of Dubai, however, places like the International City, are not accessible by public transport. In such cases, the cab is your only option. 

CHEAP SHOPPING IN DUBAI

Dubai is a global shopping centre and people from all over the world come here to shop. If shopping is your only motive then you can come here during the Dubai Shopping Festival and/or during Ramadan as there is a crazy discount sale going throughout the city. However, there might be an air ticket price hike so you have to compromise on that part.

Apart from Ramadan and Dubai Shopping Festival, it is certainly possible to try cheap shopping in Dubai whenever you wish; I have written an entire article on the same; you can check it out here. (I have included a brief write-up about where to shop different things from, so whether it is shoes or handbags!)

Please feel free to contact me in case you have any doubt. I hope you found this article useful. 

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