Dubai On A Budget
The first destinations that come to your mind when you think budget holidays are probably the likes of Bangkok and Bali. Here’s another city you probably never thought of adding to the list – Dubai.
If the Dubai of your imagination is of glittering, gargantuan skyscrapers in a cityscape that epitomizes ostentation and opulence, you’re forgiven – Dubai is too often painted as a destination beloved by the rich and famous.
But there’s more to Dubai than its towering buildings ever so symbolic of wealth; equally, there’s so much to do that won’t have you digging deep into your pockets. Indulging in some shopping doesn’t mean you’ll be broke for the rest of the month, just as satisfying your tummy with the heartiest meals can come cheap.
Here are 11 ways you can explore Dubai without breaking the bank.
1. 5-star hotels are cheaper than you’d imagine
Think “hotels in Dubai” and the first thing that comes to your mind is probably the 7-star Burj Al Arab, the very physical embodiment of extravagance costing S$3,000 a night and up.
But hold up a second! There are tons of good hotel deals to be found where you can equally feel like royalty on a relatively lower budget.
A superior king room at the 5-star Mövenpick Hotel in Dubai can cost as little as S$190 a night – that’s a good hundred dollars cheaper than the regular staycation in Singapore.
Alternatively, don’t just go for the big players in the hotel arena – rooms in boutique hotels such as the popular Melia Dubai or Marco Polo Hotel can cost less than S$100 a night, complete with all the facilities you’d find in a luxury hotel.
2. Timing is EVERYTHING
The Dubai Shopping Festival, held in January to February each year, isn’t your average sale – it’s quite literally a festival. Dubai certainly knows how to celebrate its wealth of shopping opportunities – with massive discounts on clothing, electronics, jewellery, and more, you’ll want to visit Dubai during this time if you’re planning to shop till you drop.
The Dubai Mall Source
If you’re looking to visit Dubai on a tighter budget, you’ll have better luck during the off-peak seasons – the summer months of July to September are when flight and hotel rates fall.
3. Get around the city for less than S$1
When in Dubai, do as the Arabs do. But I’m not talking about the Sheikhs – I mean the average local.
Take the Abra (a small Arabic boat), rather than the tourist boats, down the Creek – all for AED1 (S$0.4). Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the old Dubai downtown along the banks of the Creek; get to the Souks (markets) via these water taxis or simply meander down the waters of the charming local alleys.
The Abras operate on 2 routes, taking passengers past places of interest like the Dubai Museum and the Deira Fish Market. Also, they run up to 24 hours a day!
A single trip on the metro costs as little as AED1.8 (S$0.7), giving even our own MRT a run for its money. There’s even free Wi-Fi throughout the metro! Because, well, Dubai.
4. Savour the street eats
They say street food is the best and most authentic, and the same can be said of Dubai. While there is no shortage of top-end, Michelin-star restaurants in the city, you’ll be rewarded with an intriguing culinary experience brimming with local flavour if you hit the streets for Dubai’s best eats.
Al Diyafah Street, also known as 2nd Of December Street, takes the prize for the most delicious street in Dubai. A plethora of ethnic eateries line this mile-long stretch – grab a hearty Shawarma (an Arabic meaty wrap) or some decadent Luqaimats (fried dumplings coated in syrup) for under S$1!
5. Haggle at the Souks
Away from the glitzy megamalls are the charming, traditional Souks (markets), which also happen to be the best places to channel your inner Singaporean kiasu spirit – haggle!
The Gold Souk, boasting some of the cheapest gold prices in the world, is a labyrinth of shops displaying dazzling arrays of jewellery. Alternatively, head down to the Gold and Diamond Park, where you’ll find jewellers who can replicate pieces for you at a fraction of the original price.
Conveniently, follow the waft of exotic scents to the Spice Souk just a short walk away. The colorful medley of spices on display, from cardamom to cinnamon to cumin, coupled with their enticing aroma, makes for a vivid sensory experience.
In the Textile Souk, swathes of gorgeous fabric share the shelves with kaftans, robes, bed linen and more. You’ll be hard pressed not to bag something home at a bargain!
Haggling is commonplace in Souks, and sometimes even in bigger malls – as a general rule of thumb, if there are no official-looking price tags on the items, haggle away! The classic pretend-to-walk-away trick works like a gem.
Even if you have no intention of purchasing anything, the vibrant atmosphere of the Souks, both in spirit and aesthetics, is the dream of curious travelers and staunch Instagrammers alike.
6. Attractions in Dubai can easily cost less than a USS ticket
If “affordable Dubai” sounds oxymoronic to you, it’s about time this myth is debunked – it’s totally possible!
Entry to the Dubai Museum costs only AED3 (S$1.1), where the vast variety of exhibits and galleries will keep you busy for the better half of the day.
For the adrenaline junkies, a desert dune bashing experience would only set you back AED60 (S$22.6). Let me put it this way: the thrill of hurtling, action movie-style, across the sprawling Arabian Desert – for the price of one brunch date! Even my hardcore foodie self would pick the former option any day.
7. … and sometimes they’re even free!
Whether you’re an enthused beach-goer or if you find joy in simply soaking up the atmosphere while strolling down picturesque streets, Dubai has something for you.
Umm Suqeim Beach
You wouldn’t want to miss out on Dubai’s beach life. Although the posh beachside hotels have partitioned off a good part of the beaches, you can still catch some rays on the free public beaches. Hit Umm Suqeim Beach (also known as Sunset Beach) to enjoy the golden sand beneath your feet and an unobstructed view of the majestic Burj Al Arab!
Bask in the rich heritage of Al Fahidi (formerly known as Al Bastakiya), Dubai’s historical quarter, housing a mix of old-style architecture as well as spaces converted into quirky cafes and shops.
The Al Fahidi district Source
Once the heart of the city before the economic boom, the history of Dubai comes to life in this district. Transport yourself back to a bygone era in Al Fahidi’s old world charm.
Also visit the majestic Jumeirah Mosque, the only mosque in Dubai open to non-Muslims; a free guided tour runs daily (except Fridays).
The intricate architecture is quite the stunner, and it’s no surprise that the Jumeirah Mosque is one of the major landmarks of Dubai.
If you do plan on visiting the mosque, remember to dress respectfully! For the females, a long sleeved top with bottoms that cover at least your knee is a safe bet; for the males, look smart casual at the least.
8. Pay a fraction of the price by booking in advance
Of course, certain attractions in Dubai are worth spending a little more on – what’s a trip to Dubai without them? That being said, you don’t have to bust your budget for the complete Dubai experience.
The biggest tip of all would be to plan and book in advance. For one, take sightseeing to new heights at the observation deck of the towering Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest structure – booking your tickets online in advance costs AED125 (S$46.9) whereas tickets on the spot can cost more than 3 times more. The staggering view out to the city skyline will be well worth the money!
For many other attractions such as the Wild Wadi Waterpark and the Dubai Aquarium, their rates are subject to change if you purchase them on the spot, so booking in advance is always a safer bet.
9. Or better yet, pay HALF the price.
You may be exploring Dubai on a budget, but seriously, nobody leaves this city without visiting the mother of all water parks in the world – Atlantis Aquaventure. Think zipping through a shark-filled lagoon in a tunnel waterslide, or plummeting 75 feet down at 60km/h. Alas, the true bucket list material can set you back by AED250 (S$94.7) per person.
Come prepared and arm yourself with the Entertainer Dubai Kids mobile app to enjoy a 2-for-1 promotion for this attraction, along with a massive selection of reputable dining and recreational options all around Dubai. That includes Wild Wadi, Big Bus Tour, and Desert Safari tours.
10. Drink to your heart’s content – because you can!
Dubai is not only entrancing by day, it’s also an incredible place to be when the sun goes down. Bars here offer fantastic happy hour promotions that make nights out an affordable activity.
To the ladies in particular, you’re in luck! Dubai boasts what must be the most generous ladies’ nights promotions every Tuesday – most bars offer you free drinks (yes, with a plural “s”) and free champagne all night is not unheard of. Free entry to Zouk doesn’t have anything on Dubai’s ladies’ nights.
11. Fly to Dubai from as little as $383
Dubai Mall Aquarium Source
Sourcing for flights never fails to leave me in a state of simultaneous wanderlust and feeling broke. So here’s the good news: we found that Skiddoo is currently offering up to S$160 flight discount* when you fly to Dubai or stopover on your way to Europe meaning you can travel to Dubai, from as little as S$383! This is only as much as, if not less than, what we pay for popular holiday destinations such as Japan on budget airlines.
Alternatively, you could make Dubai a stopover destination for a couple of days as part of a longer holiday – there’ll only be little extra cost for your flight.
And to top it off, Skiddoo is currently offering the chance to WIN free flights to Dubai. Click here to enter.
Tip: book the window seat and be treated to the stunning aerial view of Dubai!
Live like a Sheikh on a shoestring budget
Dubai, with its unique culture and breathtaking juxtaposition of new and old within its cityscape, is a refreshing change from our typical choices of holiday destinations.
If it’s the foreign culture that’s holding you back from visiting Dubai, it’s all the more reason for you to explore the city; if it’s the idea that it’s an expensive destination, you now know that this is anything but the truth!
With the largest selection of over 100,000 airfares to anywhere in the world that you can access through an effortless filtering system, Skiddoo is the only site you need to get the lowest airfares.
And what do Singaporeans love more than even further discounts? Skiddoo’s Dubai flight discounts give couples S$90 off when booking flights to or via Dubai, families traveling with one child can enjoy S$120 flight discount and families travelling with 2 adults and at least 2 children enjoy S$160 off.
For discounted flights to Dubai that you won’t find anywhere else plus the chance to WIN free tickets to Dubai, visit Skiddoo.com.sg.
So, what’s stopping you?
This post was brought to you by the Dubai Tourism and Skiddoo.