The backpackers guide in Dubai
You can spend as little, or as much as you want on a trip to Dubai. If you’re here on a break with the family and want to keep an eye on the cost, then there are lots of things you can do that won’t cost a fortune. You’ll also find great budget-friendly accommodation in Dubai, and getting around the city can be done on the cheap, too. Here’s how to do Dubai on a budget.
Where to stay
You don’t have to go for 5-star luxury if you’re looking for hotels in Dubai. This exciting destination has become a magnet for travellers looking for a little winter sunshine, but who still want to keep to a reasonable budget. So there are plenty of hotels in Dubai that offer all the comfort you want, at a price that won’t stretch your bank account. Check out the Premier Inn hotels, which offer family-friendly accommodation at wallet-friendly prices. Conveniently close to the airport and the city centre, rooms at the Premier Inn Dubai hotels come with all the amenities you expect, including en-suite bathrooms.
If you’re backpacking and don’t mind sharing a dorm room, then the Dubai Youth Hostel offers a clean, safe environment for backpackers and younger travellers. There are safety deposit boxes where you can keep your valuables, and breakfast is included in the price.
Affordable public transport
Dubai is well served by public transport, although if you’re staying in the centre of the city then most attractions are easily reached on foot. The city’s metro system is fast, efficient, and cheap, with a day pass that allows unlimited travel on the metro and buses costing just Dh14. The main route on the metro is the Red Line. It doesn’t serve the old city area, but is useful for exploring further afield. The Green Line runs right through the heart of the city, and trains run every 3-5 minutes.
The Dubai tram system links the Marina with the Burj Al Arab and JBR, and is incredibly cheap and efficient. If you want a little more flexibility then Dubai’s buses are plentiful, but can be a little sporadic on some routes. You will need to either buy a ticket or a NoI card to ride the buses.
If you want to keep your explorations to the centre of the city and the Corniche then another alternative is to hire a bicycle.
What to eat
There are plenty of Michelin-star restaurants in Dubai, but if you’re looking for something a little more affordable then there are lots of cheaper alternatives too. Look out for Shawarma, which is a street food that’s loved by visitors and locals alike. It’s a version of a kebab, with strips of meat served in pita bread with vegetables and a rich dressing. It’s cheap, it’s delicious, and you’ll definitely come back for more.
There is a big Indian community in Dubai, so there are lots of Indian restaurants serving excellent and affordable food. Head for Bur Dubai, especially around the Meena Bazaar area, for the best budget Indian restaurants.
What to do
Dubai is packed with things to do and see, and not all of them will cost a fortune, or even anything at all. Dubai has plenty of free and low-cost attractions, so here’s a quick selection of some of the best.
The beach – Dubai sits right on the edge of the ocean, and has some fantastic beaches where you can sunbathe or go for a swim. Some charge a small admission fee, but head for Kitesurfing Beach, Bu Qtair Beach and 4×4 Beach, which are all free to enter.
Old Dubai – Its skyline may be crammed with glittering skyscrapers, but Dubai’s heart is ancient. Hop on an abra (a traditional boat) and head across the creek to Old Dubai. It’s a great chance to see how the city has evolved, as well as catch some stunning views of the new Dubai across the water.
Al Fahidi Fort – Built in 1787, this magnificent fort is packed full of exhibits that chart the history of the city, and the culture of the people who have lived in this region for thousands of years. Entry is 3D for adults and 1D for children, making it a great budget choice.
The Gold Souk – this is the heart of the jewellery trade in Dubai, and is dazzling. It’s also a great place to get a bargain, as long as you’re prepared to haggle.