Dubai is known for its opulence and showiness, but you can absolutely travel through this emirate while on a budget, too. You just need to know where to look…
Steer clear of the five-star hotels and you’ll find a wealth of budget eateries around the city serving every kind of cuisine imaginable. A couple of tourist favourites are Ravi Restaurant in Satwa, for its authentic and delicious Pakistani and Indian food, and Bu Qtair, which is located at the Umm Suqeim Fishing Harbour and dishes up fresh seafood that’s been prepared on the beach. Al Reef Lebanese Bakery, in Karama or Jumeirah 3, is well known for its freshly made bread stuffed with cheese, labneh, zaatar and/or meat. Ethiopian restaurant Milen, on Abu Hail Road, is a great choice for your fill of injera, shiro and tibs. If you can’t decide what cuisine you fancy, then head to the charming Cluster D in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, where a bunch of budget restaurants surround one of the area’s famous lakes, offering a range of cuisine – from pho at Vietnamese Foodies to nasi goreng at Betawi Indonesian Restaurant and vegan doughnuts at Il Donnacino – at their indoor and outdoor seating areas.
For just Dh3 you can get a sense of the emirate’s history at Dubai Museum. Based in the Al Fahidi Fort, the facility goes deep underground and gives visitors an in-depth look at how the UAE came to be what it is today. Also make sure you visit Al Shindagha Museum, which will soon be one of the world’s largest open-air museums once it’s fully complete. The neighbourhood consists of 23 museums located in coral-clad houses and traditional wind towers, including the now-open Perfume House and existing attractions such as the Heritage and Diving Museum and the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House. Tickets cost Dh15 (€3.6) for adults and Dh10 (€2.4) for children five and above, it’s free for under-fives.
One of Dubai’s more unique attractions is Al Marmoom Camel Racetrack, which offers a peek at a modern-day iteration of the old tradition of dromedary racing, and sits beside the Al Marmoom Heritage Village. Experience a race and be a part of an enthusiastic crowd, while they cheer on the jockeys as they battle it out to cross the finish line first. You’ll have to get there early though, as all the action takes place between 7 am and 9 am. The event takes place at various times of the year so check the schedule online before going. If lounging around on the beach sounds more appealing, then Dubai has plenty to offer sun-worshippers, too. In particular, Kite Beach is a local favourite, as it offers great activities, attractions and eateries that suit beach-goers both young and old. Entry is free.
You can’t go to Dubai without checking out the local souqs in Deira and Bur Dubai, but the Deira Waterfront Market is now a must-visit too. The area’s old fish market was revamped and turned into a bustling, air-conditioned hive of activity spread across 100,000 square metres, where shoppers can pick up everything from fresh seafood and an array of veg to dates and spices, as well as clothes, perfumes and small trinkets to take home with you. You can also grab a bite to eat from one of the many budget restaurants there.
Another haven for shoppers is Ripe Market, which is on every Friday and Saturday throughout the year. Local chefs and craftspeople sell all sorts of wares, including homemade soaps, handcrafted jewellery and artisanal jams and chutneys that use local ingredients. In summer months you’ll find it inside a mall, but during cooler weather you’ll find it outside at the Dubai Police Academy Park.
Just because Dubai is best known for its fabulous five-star hotels doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to stay here. There is a wide range of reasonably priced accommodation available to book on Airbnb, and you’ll also find great deals in some of Dubai’s nicest hotels. For instance, Atlantis, The Palm, one of Dubai’s most famous properties, often has great seasonal deals on for families. Check the “offers” sections on any hotel websites before you book to ensure you’re getting the best deal.