Dubai is easily one of the more richest cities in the United Arab Emirates — and with that comes prestige, world-class tourism, and adventure for travelers and residents alike. While it is one of the most expensive cities, and never positioned as a place to go for those who are short on cash, traveling to Dubai can be done on a sensible budget. From traveling, to accommodations, to local entertainment, here’s how to see Dubai on a budget while ensuring that you do not skimp on what the city has to offer.
Depending on where you currently are, flying into the by air can cost several hundred dollars and can go north of $1000 during certain times of the year. Regardless of where you are coming from, you are most likely to be an incoming traveler to two of Dubai’s major international airports: Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) or Dubai International Airport (DXB). Here’s how to save money on airfare.
Book your flight at least seven weeks in advance. According to research, airfare can be about 10% lower when compared to the average fair. Keep in mind that this is largely a trend, with Airlines Reporting Corporation seeing that fares tend to dip about 50 days before a flight in 2017. Since this is a trend, this isn’t a surefire way to get the cheapest airfare. If you have the time and can accommodate the planning, then you can snag even more affordable airfare if you book about seven months in advance. However, that may not be practical for some travelers.
Fly out as early as possible. Usually, the cheapest flight is in the early morning hours. The next window of time where airfare tends to be cheapest is doing dinnertime. Usually, flyers do not want to travel at inconvenient or uncomfortable times. They would’ve much rather travel in the late morning or at night.
Ideally, you want to be flexible with your travel dates and times. Airline tickets can vary greatly depending on the time of the week, upcoming holidays, and the current events in Dubai. If you’re going to fly with a group or someone else, then you will typically have to pay more for the ticket since you will not be able to be flexible with dates. If appropriate, communicate your cost concerns and agree that you will be in another incoming flight — especially if that incoming flight is a lot more affordable.
Visiting Dubai can be expensive without doing the proper homework — but staying in Dubai can even be more expensive. Dubai is known for its extravagant and lavish hotels placed inside of duplexes, high-rises, and skyscrapers. If you want to snag the best prices for these hotels, then set up alerts. Sites like Kayak enables you to sign up for price alerts for a particular hotel or dates that you are interested in. This is ideal for those who are planning their trip several months in advance. You’ll have plenty of time for the alerts to tic and alert you of a potential deal. Some sites will allow you to snag unwanted rooms due to late cancellations. Sites like Roomer and Cancelon are designed for that exact purpose.
If you regularly travel on a budget, then that means that you might accrue credit card points. You can use those points to purchase hotel rooms. Also, you can take advantage of credit card churning to generate sign-up bonuses you can use to offset the cost of Dubai’s accommodation.
If you are on a time crunch and you cannot wait for available and affordable rooms in Dubai’s luxury hotels, then you also have other options when it comes to accommodations. For example, Dubai has several hostels that you can take advantage of. Hostels allow you to enjoy an authentic experience without the glitz and glam, while still being in a secure and entertaining environment. You will be rubbing elbows with other travelers who are looking for an experience or vacation that isn’t so sanitized.
Seeing Dubai On the Cheap
You’ve finally arrived, booked your accommodations, and you saved a pretty penny. Now it is time to enjoy the charm that is Dubai. Thankfully there are many free and low-cost events throughout the year in the city.
Exhibits of potters, practitioners of traditional crafts, weavers, and demonstrations are all over Dubai. They give you a glimpse of the city’s culture and unique heritage. The Al Shindagha Area at the Dubai Creek will allow you to catapult into region’s past, viewing how the locals congregate. It’s a culturally enriching experience to walk around and perhaps even pick up a couple of traditional souvenirs to bring back home.
There’s also the Camel Museum. The museum is all about camels. The Arabian camel inhibits the Middle East and of the horn of Africa and was the designated camel in the Middle East of yore. It was used to transport goods, people, and services all across the Middle East. The Camel Museum is free to the public, with different sections allocated to the history of camels, and the unique relationship that the camel has to the Arabian people.
If you have the chance to go by the Zabeel Park or BurDubai Creek in the early hours of the morning, then you will find people offering free yoga classes. If you aren’t up in the morning hours, then you can take the same classes late in the evening between 6:30 PM and 7:30 PM.
You are in the middle of a largely desert region — so it might be peculiar to see a whole aquarium in the middle of Dubai. You can visit the Dubai Aquarium where you will be able to view the main tank for free from right outside the Dubai Mall.
Dubai has emerged as one of the world’s leading international business centers and regional hubs in mere decades. It has transformed into a cosmopolitan city of diversity and an international hotspot. But with careful planning — and with some patience — you can visit Dubai affordably.