The more I speak to people about the world of travel and my own personal experiences about travel the more I realise how many misconceptions people have about travelling especially to Dubai.Most people think that Dubai is all about Designer shops, 5 star hotels and a party central for the the rich and famous but there is so much more to Dubai and Dubai can suit all budgets.The first thing that people say about Dubai is omgosh it is so expensive and that is why we just stayed in Transit for so long.Last year I spent 48 hours in Dubai and stayed at Rove Hotel which is a budget hotel and very reasonablly priced compared to even hotels in South Africa.After researching prices of hotels in Dubai I have come to the conculsion that Dubai can be done and for all budgets and there are even free things to do in Dubai.So lets explore Dubai on a budget regardless.
With plenty to do in 48 hours, Dubai is a great stopover location for all budgets. Whether you are looking to explore with minimal spending, or want to treat yourself to some of the finer things in life, Dubai Tourism have put together some itinerary options that will give you a small taste of the best the city has to offer.
Dubai on a budget for all
Dubai Budget Day 1
Save: While there are a plethora of small Indian cafeterias dotted around the city, for a cheap and cheerful, simple breakfast that will only set you back AED10-15 head to Raju Omelet. This Dubai favourite serves a variety of Indian street food alongside delicious cups of tea in a cute café environment – and all at very wallet-friendly prices.
Spend: Well-loved Al Quoz haunt Tom & Serg has become something of a breakfast institution, with its ever-changing menu of healthy and wholesome dishes with a unique twist – offering up everything from smashed avocado on toast to Vietnamese breakfast baos. Couple this with stellar coffee and freshly-made baked goods lovingly crafted in-house and you’ll see why this place has become a fast favourite for locals and tourists alike.
Splurge: With its beautiful light interiors, the rotation of fresh and flakey items churned out of their in-house bakery, and selection of high-quality, beautifully-presented breakfast items, starting your day at La Serre will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to a sun-drenched Paris in the summertime. It’s no wonder that it often has queues snaking out the door.
Save: Take a little tour of the Dubai Creek via an Abra Crossing, where you can ride in a traditional boat that glides across the water for a mere AED1! Once you’re done, head to the souks in the Al Fahidi area and take your time perusing the colourful offerings, or even snap up a bargain.
Spend: Check out The Dubai Frame, Dubai’s jaw-dropping new landmark that offers stunning views of both old and new Dubai in a building boasting spectacular architecture. It only costs AED50 to enter for adults (and AED20 per child from 3-12 years old, while children under three and the elderly enter for free). Don’t forget to check out the museum!
Splurge: Make sure you’re in full holiday relaxation mode, by treating yourself to a massage at one of the city’s many spas! From the Hammam Experience at Talise Spa at Zabeel Saray on the Palm Jumeirah, to the rose petal-infused massages at the Saray Spa at the JW Marriott, there’s plenty to choose from with the promise to leave you blissed-out by lunch.
Save: It may be simply named, but whether you’re on a tight budget or you just want to grab a quick bite from somewhere that’s on the go, why not pick up a shawarma from one of the many Eat & Drink Restaurant outlets around town? The restaurant has been in the city for decades and is a familiar sight to many residents – even better, a tasty shawarma will only set you back AED5.
Spend: With such an idyllic atmosphere – the beautiful garden features swathes of white, gauzy drapery and gorgeous blue benches that are reminiscent of lazy days in the Greek Cyclacic Islands – the Arabian Tea House is a hidden gem of the Al Fahidi district, offering food at a reasonable price and an excellent tea selection.
Splurge: One of the most iconic restaurants in town, At.Mosphere at the Burj Khalifa also offers one of the city’s most stunning – and highest – views. While it’s great for dinner, why not consider it for a luxurious lunch? If you’re looking to make the most of lunch while treating yourself to a stellar view and high-end meal and budget isn’t a concern, this is the place for you!
Save: Brush up on your history and knowledge of local culture by exploring what the Al Fahidi Historical District has to offer. There is plenty to see, learn and do at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, with the Coffee Museum and the Dubai Museum just down the road.
Spend: Beat the afternoon heat by heading to the new VR Park at The Dubai Mall, where you can enjoy 18 virtual reality experiences at different thrill levels, from dune bashing in the desert to encountering wild creatures (some that will leave your heart racing!) and even scaling a building. Entry to the park is free, and each experience costs AED15-45, so you can pick and choose experiences pending what the wallet will allow.
Splurge: Head to one of the UAE’s amazing amusement parks, such as IMG Worlds of Adventure, or Dubai Parks and Resorts featuring Motiongate, Bollywood Parks and Legoland (or why not visit all three of the last ones with a Dubai Parks and Resorts multi-pass!). Here, you’ll be transported into a fantasy land of fun and entertainment for the entire family.
Save: One of Jumeirah’s most well-loved and longstanding seafood institutions, Bu Qtair restaurant is a must-try. It’s the very definition of cheap and cheerful – they only have two key options, but their fried fish and fried shrimp are simply epic – and hardly make a dent in the budget as well.
Spend: It’s not often that you’ll be able to enjoy a to-die-for steak dinner at around AED300 for two people, but that’s exactly what you’ll get at Le Relais de l’Entrecote at Downtown Dubai. Located on the beautiful Emaar Boulevard with the beauty of Downtown Dubai around you, this famous restaurant has been transported to the city straight from Paris and is famous for its delicious steak frites with secret sauce, for which you’ll get not one but two servings. Twice as nice.
Splurge: Dubai has no shortage of fine dining options, but considering how many international awards it’s won, La Petite Maison is a must-visit – this French restaurant’s food is to-die-for, the service is impeccable, the beverage list is exceptional, and it makes for a beautiful evening in the DIFC art district.
Save: Take a walk along Dubai Marina and enjoy the sights and sounds of the city (and some of its most beautiful evening views) entirely for free – and walk off your dinner while you’re at it! Bonus: It can be uniquely romantic, and if you’re inspired to, there are plenty of places to stop at and grab a night cap along the way.
Spend: If you’ve ever wanted to watch a movie in an environment that feels like dinner theatre, why not catch one at the Guy Fieri Kitchen & Bar and Dine-In Cinema at Jebel Ali Recreation Club? It’s also a licensed venue so you can just enjoy a drink there if you have overindulged at dinner!
Splurge: Dubai’s jaw-dropping original show, La Perle by Dragone, is an absolute must-see for both tourists and residents alike. The acrobatic feats of its performers, the original music, and the spectacular set design will leave you truly wowed.
Dubai Budget Day 2
Save: For an affordable breakfast that boasts large portion sizes, and organic, local produce wherever possible, head to the Surf House Dubai, where breakfast is kept casual but the food quality (and smiles!) are taken seriously.
Spend: Clinton St. Baking Company is famous for its stacks of incredible pancakes, and its fried chicken and waffles that feature on the all-day breakfast menu – and if neither of those float your boat, the egg-based dishes will leave your mouth watering too. Bonus: Everything here is also organic and of the best quality.
Splurge: The Farm at Al Barari is arguably one of Dubai’s most beautiful settings in which to grab ubreakfast, and while it may cost you a little bit more to get out there since it’s not in the centre of town, it’s absolutely worth it. The beauty of the incredible garden and lake behind it, not to mention the quality and freshness of the food, will leave you glowing inside out.
Save: Rent a stand-up paddleboard from the Surf House Dubai for just AED80 and head onto the water for a light workout that also promises you one of the best views of the Burj Al Arab – directly from the water – and some unforgettable holiday snaps on the beach.
Spend: The Burj Khalifa isn’t just beautiful from the outside – it’s also absolutely worth seeing from the inside and heading into the building is a memorable experience for the viewing deck alone. Ticket prices for At The Top range from AED175 to 525 depending on which package you choose, how old the guest is, and how you book (online vs. in person).
Splurge: A visit to Dubai wouldn’t be complete without the chance to indulge in a little sunbathing, and there is nowhere more luxurious to do this than at The Terrace at the Burj Al Arab. The venue and its two stunning infinity pools is now open to non-guests, with a day pass rate starting from AED1800 per person.
Save: One of every Dubai resident’s go-to’s, Zaatar w Zeit restaurants are found all over town and are a quick, cheap, and easy way to pick up a delicious (and relatively healthy) meal.
Spend: Head to Jones the Grocer for a tasty, healthy, and delicious meal that uses the best and freshest ingredients they can get their hands on, in a glamorous café setting that goes far beyond the average.
Splurge: Consistently voted one of Dubai’s most romantic restaurants, Pierchic offers amazing over-water views and the chance to enjoy the finest in high-quality seafood. Book yourself in for lunch and you’ll even be transported from the main hotel reception to the restaurant’s pier on a private buggy, for the ultimate in peaceful, above-water dining. It’ll almost feel like you’re in the Maldives.
Save: Rent a car (many companies offer options for AED60-80 a day) and drive out to Hatta for the afternoon. It’s only an hour away, and once there, it’s abundant in stunning natural beauty. You can hire kayaks or paddle out onto the water for less than AED100 and take a picnic with you for when hunger strikes. Don’t forget the camera!
Spend: Curious about what it might be like to experience a rainforest in the desert? Head to The Green Planet, for just AED95 for adults and AED70 for kids, you’ll get to explore three storeys of this green paradise, home to more than 3,000 different flora and fauna. There’s plenty of interesting educational facts to be found also – and the natural light is excellent for a selfie.
Splurge: If you’ve ever wanted to check “skiing in the desert” off your bucket list, a visit to Ski Dubai is a must-do. If you’re already an experienced skier or snowboarder, you can rent the equipment and just hit the slopes, otherwise if you’d like a lesson, you can book in an instructor to teach you the ropes. You don’t even need to have packed your gear, either – you can rent literally everything you need, or if you’re keen, you can buy some to take home with you.
Save: Ravi Restaurant is one of Dubai’s most famous destinations for Pakistani food, yet it’s not at all a costly one. The food here is delicious, affordable, and always reliable. It’s a must-try.
Spend: Peruvian food has found firm footing in the Dubai dining scene, and there are few better places to enjoy this cuisine than at Coya at the Four Seasons Jumeirah. Not only is the food delicious, but the atmosphere of this restaurant is celebrated by all those who visit – and the décor practically begs for an Instagram photo. Go for dinner, and we suspect you’ll be tempted to stay for some evening beverages afterwards.
Splurge: Dubai has a penchant for Asian-inspired fine dining, and Zuma is one of the city’s must-visit venues if you’re a fan of Japanese or Asian food. Not only is their sushi simply unforgettable, their miso black cod has made the restaurant famous, their drinks list is spectacular, and the rest of its menu is equally as impressive. It’s no wonder this place has won so many international awards over the years.
Save: The Dubai Fountain at the Dubai Mall is amongst the city’s best attractions, and not only are the world-famous, unique, choreographed displays held during regular intervals throughout each evening, but they’re also free for everyone in the area to enjoy.
Spend: Dubai is famous for its beach clubs, and they’re not just covetable destinations during the daytime. Heading to one for a few post-dinner drinks in the evening typically promises an excellent evening of people watching, dancing, and good tunes, and two of the best places to enjoy this are Zero Gravity and Nikki Beach, both with mid-to upscale crowds who are well dressed but there to enjoy a good time.
The Dubai Opera has made waves since it first opened its doors, and for good reason. Not only has it brought some of the world’s best attractions to the city, offering a truly memorable way to spend an evening, but it’s also a great place to grab a drink (or a bite, if you’re still hungry) with award-winning restaurant Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera having made its way onto the list of the city’s best venues.
Stay and Sleep
Save: Set right in the heart of Dubai’s historic Al Fahidi district, just steps away from some of the city’s best attractions, from Dubai Museum, to the Creek and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (not to mention within walking distance of a metro station), the Orient Guest House is a tranquil – and affordable – hideaway. This little boutique-style guesthouse has 10 rooms decorated in a traditional Arabian style, and the entire house feels like a home from a bygone age – complete with a majlis area and courtyard for weary travellers to relax in. Nearby, the XVA Hotel offers a similar feel with a more artistic slant – it’s connected to a gallery – whereas if you’re looking to stay in the busier parts of the city, the Rove Hotels are an excellent option that offer contemporary surrounds at affordable prices in key areas across Dubai.
Spend: Whether you’re looking for beach vibes, city living, or a spot of tranquillity, Dubai has it all – and there’s no shortage of hotels to choose from. If you’re looking to stay beachside,Fairmont The Palm, Jumeirah Al Naseem, and The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi are all excellent choices, whereas those seeking a stay in the busier parts of the city wouldn’t go wrong with the Vida Downtown, La Ville Hotel & Suites or The Address Dubai Marina. For a quiet escape within the heart of the city, The Conrad Dubai,Anantara The Palm, and the Waldorf Astoria The Palm, are all little pockets of sheer tranquillity nestled within minutes of the nearby buzz.
Splurge: Close to the action, the St. Regis, The One & Only Royal Mirage, and the Park Hyatt all offer the pinnacle of luxurious living, while if you’re really keen to splash out on an utterly decadent escape Al Maha Resort & Spa, The Bulgari Resort & Residences, Jumeirah Dar Al Maysaf, and the Burj Al Arab promise unforgettable stays that will give you memories to last a lifetime.
You can also …. Experience all that’s possible with the new Dubai Pass
Make the most of your stopover in the city with the new Dubai Pass, an all-inclusive pre-paid card, that can be topped up to grant cash-free access to 33 key attractions across Dubai, making it the perfect way for tourists to explore the city’s world-class destination proposition.
I personally can not wait to go back to Dubai and try out some of these though I might be using more of the save and spend rather than the splurge.Emirates Airlines always has amazing flights to Dubai so do check them out. Excuse me while I go dream about a Dubai Adventure.
Check out this Dubai itinerary for a weekend
Be Inspired !