Dubai is a city of superlatives, but Cheapest Vacation Destination is generally not among them. While it might be too much to hope for prices that match South East Asia or even nearby Egypt, the United Arab Emirates doesn't have to be a budget-buster. If you’re planning to pass through the Emirates soon, keep these tips in mind for ways to save money in Dubai and still have an awesome experience.
Window Shopping in the Souks (Cost: Free+)
With more than 60 shopping malls in the city and more under construction, Dubai is clearly a popular place for shopping. Rather than spending your time and money on the big name brands at the Mall of Dubai and Mall of the Emirates, head instead for the traditional souk marketplaces. Though the small gold souk is by far the flashiest, the fish souk just across the road is a pungent but lively experience. The spice souk in Deira is a warren of small alleys that basically guarantees that you'll get temporarily lost and find something photogenic. If you do decide to purchase anything in Dubai’s souks, make sure to bargain for a discount.
Ride an Abra Ferry (Cost: 2 Dirhams/$0.54)
While cruises up the Dubai Creek start at 150 dirhams ($40) or more for tourists, there's also a budget-friendly option: the Abras. These traditional open-deck ferry boats run from 5:00 a.m. to midnight between six different docks along the Dubai Creek, but the most useful for tourists will be the boat between Bur Dubai and Deira -- both of which are also home to traditional souks.
Sunset Over the Dubai Creek (Cost: Minimal)
If you’re spending the day in the Dubai Creek area, make sure to stick around for sunset. While your first instinct might be to head for the Burj Khalifa, ascending the world’s tallest building costs 125 dirhams ($34) if reserved in advance and a staggering 400 dirhams ($190) if paid at the door. Instead of blowing your budget here, head instead to the old Rolex Twin Towers just up the Creek from Deira. The third-floor food court here has an outdoor terrace with an astounding sunset view, and can be enjoyed for the price of a pot of tea from one of the restaurants inside.
The Dubai Fountain Show (Cost: Free)
You’ll still want to see the Burj Khalifa, of course, but you don’t have to spend all those dirhams to do so. Instead, visit the area between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. every day to catch the dancing Dubai Fountain in action. Located in a plaza between the Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar, the performances take place every half hour to a rotating selection of songs.
The Beach Al Arab (Cost: Free)
If you want to get inside the Burj Al Arab, supposedly the world’s most luxurious hotel, you’ll have to shell out at least 360 dirhams ($98) for afternoon tea (or 560 AED/$152 for the Skyview Bar if you want a view as well). Just next door, at the Umm Suqeim Public Beach, you can spend the day swimming in the Persian Gulf or soaking up the sun for free. Local cultural norms still apply, so dress conservatively.
Do you have any other tips for saving money in Dubai? Let us know in the comments below!