How to save cost as a tourist in Dubai


Navigating your way in Dubai as a tourist

By Olushola Samuel

Going to Dubai will certainly give  an amazing experience for any who would embark on such trip. Dubai is a top choice for many tourists around the world. It host many great architectural structures and the city is arguably the most visited cities by foreigners in the world. 

This article will provide you with many things you need to know about tourism to the renown city. It will also give you a simple and comprehensive guides on navigating the city and maximize your stay in it. 

Hotel and accommodation

Like any other city, Dubai hotel costs you varying degree of fund. They have plenty of luxurious hotel properties, including the acclaimed 7-star Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel and several affordable options. For the purpose of this cost of trip to Dubai article, I’m using an average of $100 a night, but there are both cheaper and more expensive options.

Usually, many people focus on location, but I don’t think that’s as important in Dubai. The reason I say this is that the city is pretty spread out so there’s no one central location where you want to be. That said, Downtown Dubai and the Marina/Jumeirah are easily the most popular spots. 

Some areas to consider reasonable price for hotels include Business Bay, Dubai Internet City, and Al Barsha. Cheaper hotels can be found in older areas such as Deira. In truth, it takes about 20mins by car to get just about anywhere in Dubai, so look for price and comfort.

The following are the grouping of hotel according to budget:

Low Budget

• Ramee Rose Hotel

• Centro Barsha

• Four Points by Downtown Dubai

Average/Mid range budget

• Pullman Hotel

• Grand Plaza M√∂venpick

• Rove Downtown

Luxury/Mega class

• Four Seasons Jumeirah Beach

• W Dubai

Local transportation and City navigation

Dubai primarily relies on its metro system as the main mode of public transportation, consisting of two lines. The red line operates above ground, running mostly parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road and extending to the airport. On the other hand, the green line operates underground, serving areas such as Al Karama, Al Raffa, Al Rigga, and Al Qusais.

To use the Dubai Metro, you cannot pay with cash; instead, you need to purchase a Nol card, which can be recharged. Tourists usually opt for the red card. The fare is determined by the number of zones you travel through. A single zone costs 4 dirhams, two zones cost 6 dirhams, and traveling through three or more zones will cost you 8.50 dirhams. Ticket booths at each station and vending machines offer card purchases.

In the Marina area, there's a train service that isn't directly connected to the metro, with rides costing 4 dirhams. Additionally, there's a monorail servicing the Palm Jumeirah Dubai, priced at 20 dirhams for a one-way ticket or 30 dirhams for a round-trip. Dubai also boasts an extensive public bus network.

Despite these transportation choices, tourists often find it more convenient to use taxis or the local Uber service, known as Careem. Keep in mind that travel times within Dubai are typically under 20-25 minutes. While public transportation may be cheaper, it can be time-consuming and involve substantial walking. For instance, a journey from your Downtown Dubai hotel to the beach or Marina could easily take an hour. Taxis are generally more economical than Uber/Careem, so consider this as your primary option.

From estimate, it will cost you about $40 per day  to move around the city with the assumption you’re just taking taxis most of the time.

Attractions/Sites visit

Though Dubai has some free tourist attractions, such as the beach and the Dubai fountain show, majority of the attractions will cost you some money.

What you will most certainly do is to go up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building and the most iconic landmark in Dubai. For $40USD you get access to levels 124 and 125. At the Top, Burj Khalifa SKY ticket costs $103 and gets you access to floor 148. If you want access to the World’s highest lounge and levels 152,153, and 154, it’ll cost you $168. Just go with the cheapest option but note that you should purchase your ticket in advance since it’s a timed entry.

Many would also decide to take a desert safari tour and a full-day guided trip to Abu Dhabi, which is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Both of these tours will cost you about $40 – 70 each. I think the trip to Abu Dhabi is worth it if you have time, but note that these tours won’t be able to fit every attraction in. Make sure your tour does visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, it’s one of the most beautiful mosques in the world and the largest mosque in the UAE. The desert tour can be quite fun if you’ve never been to a desert. The landscapes are beautiful, and if you are adventurous you may try sand boarding on the sand dunes. 

Other attractions you can consider include the Dubai Frame, a marina boat tour, a day at a resort/spa, skydiving, the Dubai Aquarium, the Dubai Museum, Wild Wadi Water Park, a dinner cruise, and more. Mind you, not every attraction is paid. There are many free beaches, and quite a lot of people just enjoy walking around looking at the architecture of Dubai. The Al Fahidi Historical District has many free or inexpensive galleries and museums. 

Depending on the type of travel you like to do, the hotels in Dubai can also be an attraction in themselves. If you are looking to splurge properties like the Atlantis Dubai have beaches, clubs, bars, a huge outdoor pool, and full-service spa on hand.

Food and drink

Dubai has every international food style possible. As in, almost every major chain from around the world has a location somewhere in Dubai. This includes L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele from Italy, Tim Horton’s from Canada, Shake Shack from the United States, Paul from France etc.

You can literally get every type of food you want but generally speaking, I found food prices to be about 30% more expensive compared to what those same chains would cost you back in their home countries. This means that you should budget a fair amount of food.

With that in mind, an average budget for daily meals will look something like this.

Breakfast: $10

Lunch: $15

Dinner: $35

That works out to $60 a day which isn’t cheap. Mind you, you can easily spend less if you eat light or get fast food. You could also spend much more if you’re into fine dining and alcohol. This is just to give you a reference point for your planning. 

Random spending

Dubai is known for its malls. It’s insane how many malls the city has. You literally can’t visit the city without going to a mall. As a result, it’s pretty easy to spend. In my Dubai trip cost guide, I’ve estimated $20 per day for random spending but you could easily spend more or less than that amount. For reference, the best mall is the Dubai Mall. The Mall of the Emirates is also cool since it’s home to ski Dubai.

Total Cost of going to Dubai

So how much does it cost to go to Dubai? I estimate your spending would depend on what you want and your pocket. This is the breakdown of the likely cost:

• Flight -$600

• Accommodation - $50-$100 per night

• Local transportation - $40 per day

• Attractions/site visit - $60 per day

• Food and drinks - $60 per day

• Random spending - $20 per day

You can do the estimate and multiply by the number of days you intend spending. Also add your visa cost to it. You can check my blog on visa cost and how to secure it on A Simple way to get to Dubai

Note: the flight cost is base on travelling from Nigeria or other west African countries. People from Europe and America can expect different cost. 

This isn’t terribly expensive, but it’s also not cheap. For many people, Dubai is a bucket list destination, so it’s well worth the cost.

The nice thing about Dubai is that it’s a major hub for flights and cruises so it’s easy to get to the region. 

Frequently asked questions

Can you visit Dubai on a low budget?

Dubai on a low budget is possible. It just depends on what you’re willing to sacrifice. There are plenty of budget hotels in Deira and Sharjah. You could also use public transportation instead of taking taxis everywhere. It’s not hard to find cheap food, just don’t expect anything fancy. It’s hard to save on attractions since the top sites typically have an admission fee. Your Dubai travel costs can be reasonable if you put some effort into it.

How can I reduce my expenses in Dubai?

Dubai is not a cheap destination. Admission fees can add up pretty quickly to the attractions and while there are more affordable places to eat and hotels, it’s by no means ‘cheap’. You can also cut down on your time here. You don’t need six to seven nights to see the highlights. If you are worried about money then it might be better to spend three to four nights.

When is the cheapest time to go to Dubai?

The busy season in Dubai is from November to January when the heat is manageable. Since Dubai is in a desert, the heat can be quite intense from June to August, so that’s the cheapest time to go. Don’t expect December to be cheaper, as that’s still a relatively busy time for Dubai.

What should I avoid in Dubai?

Dubai is a very religious and conservative city, so you need to be aware of its laws. Don’t display any public displays of affection or make any jokes about the rulers. Don’t even think about committing any crimes, as the punishments are quite severe. Medicine can often be considered controlled substances, so ensure you have doctor’s notes with you if you’re bringing any into the city.

It’s also important to keep in mind that since Dubai is so religious and conservative, you should dress respectfully. Leave the swimsuits for the beaches and beach clubs (Dubai has many since it is located on the shores of the Persian Gulf). 

What is the best way to get around or navigate Dubai?

The quickest way to get around Dubai is with a taxi or rideshare. Of course, that’s also the most expensive option. If you want to keep your costs down, the metro can get you relatively close to many of the major attractions. If you’re headed to the Dubai Marina area, you may also have to take the trams. The bus network is quite extensive and gets you everywhere, but you need to know which ones to take. Your Dubai trip cost will be lower if you stick to public transportation.

What are the best day trips in Dubai?

The best day trips in Dubai are purely subjective. If you want to explore more of the United Arab Emirates, then a visit to Abu Dhabi is the obvious thing to do. You can book a guided Abu Dhabi city tour as discussed above, or, you can also visit on your own. This is ideal if you want to visit spots like Ferrari World which isn’t included on most guided itineraries. 

If you prefer something with more adventure, then try a desert safari or the Musandam Peninsula. There’s also Sharjah which is a short drive from Dubai. Many people think of Sharjah as a suburb of Dubai, but it’s actually another city. It has a few museums and a butterfly house which may be of interest.

What is the best time to visit Dubai?

October to February are typically considered to be the best months to visit Dubai and the UAE in general. This part of the world can get incredibly hot during the summer months so you want to visit when it’s cooler and you can explore the main highlights and walk around outside without struggling in the heat. 

Is Dubai safe?

Yes, very safe! laws here are very strict - meaning there is very little crime and plenty of travellers agree that Dubai is one of the safest places in the world. You don’t need to worry about hiring guides or booking a Dubai vacation package, it’s totally safe to do on your own.

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