Is Dubai Expensive? – Tips for Visiting Dubai on a Budget in 2024

March 6, 2024

Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, gaining worldwide fame in recent decades.

When you think of Dubai, luxury, glitz, and extravagant things are likely the first things that come to mind. Indeed, maximalist and flashy things are what made the city famous, but Dubai offers much more to tourists than that. It’s worth visiting Dubai not only if you’re seeking luxury. It’s not just about luxury cars, luxury hotels, gold, and expensive and flashy stuff and services that make it worth traveling there.

In fact, most tourists cannot afford Dubai’s luxury. So, if you also want to see Dubai and the UAE at an affordable price, you’re not alone.

In this article, we share our experiences gained during our previous trips to Dubai on how to travel to Dubai affordably. We provide travel tips for a cheap trip to Dubai, how to plan an affordable trip. We recommend places, activities, attractions, hotels, and dining options that you can enjoy at a low cost or for free.

A little insight: Personally, Dubai is one of our favorite destinations, and for some reason, we always return. We’ve visited in all sorts of financial situations: when we could afford a bit of luxury, when we needed to be careful with our spending, and even when we were completely broke, we’d still head to Dubai to recharge. Traveling broke might not seem like the wisest choice, but it’s feasible, and sometimes a trip is exactly what we need to get motivated and re-energized.

After the introduction, let’s see how we think you can travel to Dubai on a budget.

But first the unmissable question:

Is Dubai an expensive destination?

Yes and no. In Dubai, you can spend as much money as you want, so yes, it can be an expensive destination. You can experience a level of luxury there if you have enough money that few other places in the world can match.

Dubai is generally high-priced. It’s like the USA, Iceland, or Switzerland: prices are high, but so are wages for many, and the standard of living is considered high worldwide.

So, if you’re planning a cheap trip to Dubai, it’s not easy because you might find many things expensive.

What are the most expensive things in a trip to Dubai?

  • Flights: If you’re thinking of a budget trip, Emirates Airlines will likely be too expensive for you. Although they provide first-class service, unfortunately, in 2024, we found their prices to be extremely high.
  • Dining: Dubai is famous for its outstanding culinary offerings and diversity. However, dining out is not cheap. Restaurants and shops are expensive, especially if you’re looking for Western foods, brands, and flavors.
  • Entrance fees: There are places you can visit at a good price, which we’ll list below. But a lot of attractions are expensive, and on a multi-day or week-long trip, admission fees and activity costs can add up to a significant amount.

However, these factors don’t mean that Dubai cannot be explored without breaking the bank. Because it absolutely can, and in this article, we’ll show you how.

What’s cheaper in Dubai compared to elsewhere?

  • Public transportation: Whether it’s the metro, taxi, or bus, Dubai offers good prices for getting around.
  • Car rental: Renting a car is also cheaper in Dubai compared to other places.
  • Fuel: You can get fuel at a fraction of the cost when renting a car, compared to places like Europe.
  • Gold: Many people buy gold jewelry as souvenirs because they’re cheaper in Dubai than elsewhere.
  • Certain activities: The city is full of free enjoyable activities and things to see, which we’ll list below.

How to make a Dubai trip cheaper in 2024

In the following, we’ll show you our specific tips and ideas to help you save money when planning a trip to Dubai. We’ll make recommendations for getting there, transportation, accommodation, dining, and activities.

So let’s see how you can make the most of your travel to Dubai at the best possible price.

How to plan a low budget trip to Dubai

When planning your trip to Dubai, you first need to establish the basic needs and conditions you want for your journey. Obviously, with an affordable trip, luxury services, places, and attractions won’t be part of the budget.

We’re not suggesting that you’ll fly with Emirates, stay at the Burj Khalifa, and spend an afternoon at the Aura Sky Pool in a way that’s still cheap. That’s unfeasible.

So, it’s essential to thoroughly research prices and figure out what, when, and how you can get the best deals and what fits into your budget.

The questions that arise at this point are:

Things you can save money on

  • Choosing the right time to travel: If you smartly choose when to travel to Dubai, your trip can cost half as much as during the peak season. We’ll also showcase examples of when it’s worth traveling. It requires some flexibility, but you can save a lot with well-chosen travel dates.
  • Flights: If multiple airlines operate from your departure airport, opt for the cheapest one. Of course, this often means sacrificing some services. Additionally, you can save on baggage (only pay for what you absolutely need), in-flight meals, and airport parking if necessary.
  • Hotels: Dubai has upscale, expensive areas as well as cheaper ones. Examples of these cheaper areas include Deira, Bur Dubai, Expo City, or Jumeirah Village Circle. You’ll find accommodation at a lower price in these areas compared to others. The downside is that you often need a car to access attractions.
  • Transportation: Opting for public transport can save you a lot, although it’s not our preferred mode of transportation because it can be crowded and difficult to reach attractions outside the city center. However, we believe that car rental can also be arranged at a good price.
  • Food: Dubai offers a huge selection of restaurants and grocery stores, something we Europeans can envy. This means plenty of options from affordable dining to luxury restaurants.
  • Activities: Dubai offers numerous free and low-cost attractions and entertainment options. We’ll provide plenty of recommendations for these as well.

We’ll discuss these in more detail below, providing practical advice for planning and making bookings.

Best time to visit Dubai on a budget

One of the best ways to save money on a Dubai trip is by choosing the right time to travel. We’ve been following Dubai prices for years, and here’s what we’ve observed:

  • The period around Christmas and New Year’s Eve is the most expensive. Many people visit during this time to spend the holidays, and there are great deals on holiday dinners. Additionally, this is often when the shopping festival is held.
  • Late autumn (October, November) and early spring (March and around) are relatively expensive too. The weather is typically the best during these times, as it’s not too hot for beach activities. However, the water can be cold during winter.
  • The cheapest time to visit is during summer (May to September), but it’s not recommended to travel then due to the weather, and many attractions are closed.
  • The period after New Year’s Eve, especially the second half of January, is relatively inexpensive. This is our favorite time, although we don’t insist on swimming at the beach.

Overall, considering the options and prices, we recommend the period from the second half of January to mid-April. If you’re only planning on sightseeing or pool swimming, then January and February are perfect. If you’re determined to go beach swimming, then March and April are the best times to visit.

How many days to spend in Dubai

We suggest a minimum of 4–6 days for your trip. It doesn’t make much sense to pay for plane tickets for a shorter duration. Believe me, time passes much faster in Dubai, for example, a lot of time is spent on transportation, parking, meals, etc., so you need at least this much time to explore the city’s most important places.

The ideal duration is 7–14 days, during which you can explore Dubai, nearby Abu Dhabi, and possibly even the rural attractions of the UAE.

Budget airlines to Dubai

As many readers as there are, there are as many departure airports.

We usually depart from Central Europe, so we’re familiar with airports in Vienna, Budapest, and nearby smaller airports. From these, a low-cost airline, WizzAir, flies to Dubai.

Additionally, there is also FlyDubai, which offers lower fares than Emirates but is not considered a low-cost carrier.

It’s worth comparing the prices of these airlines and calculating travel costs accordingly.

If you’re traveling to Dubai from further away, there may not be flights available from low-cost carriers, and you’ll have to consider higher flight costs.

In any case, it’s worth taking a look at flight comparison websites, such as:

In addition, it’s a general rule to always follow deals: During Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and other holidays, there are often promotions, especially on flight prices!

It’s important to know that it’s hardest to save money on flight costs, especially if there are only one or two airlines available. The other expenses can be more flexible.

Where to stay in Dubai on a budget

Accommodation is one of the most customizable factors in trip planning, and in Dubai, you have plenty of options available. From budget accommodations to three- and four-star hotels, all the way to top luxury hotels, you can choose from thousands of places to stay.

Since our article focuses on budget travel, we recommend the following accommodations at low prices:

Best budget accommodations in Dubai for under $100/night on average

  • Rove Expo City: We recommend Rove hotels if you’re looking for affordable accommodation. One such option is the Rove Expo City hotel, located in the Expo City. It’s very reasonably priced and well-rated, although a bit far from other attractions.
  • Ecos Dubai Hotel at Al Furjan: A three-star budget hotel in the southern part of the city, in the suburbs. It may require a car. It has very good reviews.
  • Rove Healthcare City – Bur Dubai: Another three-star hotel from the Rove hotel chain, but this one is in a different part of the city, close to the Frame, the Creek, and Downtown. Its central location and price make it a good choice.

Best budget hotels in Dubai for less than $200/night on average

  • Zabeel House by Jumeirah, The Greens: A stylish four-star hotel, relatively close to the metro, the Palm, and the Marina.
  • Rove Downtown: The Rove hotel chain’s three-star hotel in Downtown, with views of the Burj Khalifa, at an affordable price.
  • Vida Creek Harbour: A good-value four-star hotel near Creek Harbour, with fantastic views from the terrace and pool, two restaurants, and free private parking.
  • Courtyard by Marriott Dubai, Al Barsha: A well-priced four-star hotel in the Barsha district, close to the Mall of the Emirates shopping center. It’s a good choice if you want to stay centrally at a reasonable price.
  • Courtyard by Marriott World Trade Centre, Dubai: Another four-star hotel from the same hotel chain, also close to Sheikh Zayed Road and the Dubai Frame.
  • Al Bandar Rotana: A five-star hotel near DXB Airport and the Creek, with very good value for money, private parking, great views of downtown, and excellent breakfast.
  • Grand Cosmopolitan Hotel: An affordable five-star hotel in Barsha, close to the metro and the popular Mall of the Emirates shopping center.
  • Avani Plus Palm View Dubai Hotel & Suites: An apartment hotel near the Palm, with its own kitchen, very good reviews, and excellent views.

Where to book accommodation

A common question among tourists is whether to book on sites like or directly on the hotel’s website. Our answer is to check, compare prices, and book the cheaper option!

We often book on due to frequent deals and favorable discounts with Genius membership, making it often more cost-effective. Additionally, they regularly offer coupon deals.

Another frequent money-saving tip from us is to skip breakfast at hotels. If breakfast is charged at $25-50 per person, it’s much cheaper to eat elsewhere!

Where to eat in Dubai on a budget

In Dubai, as we mentioned, there are plenty of dining options. However, it’s worth knowing that most options are not cheap, especially places with great views or luxurious settings.

The cheapest way to eat is to get your meals from hypermarkets. Many hypermarkets offer hot meals like roasted chicken, fries, as well as salads and sandwiches. You can get your meals quite affordably from these places.

The most well-known hypermarkets in Dubai are:

  • Carrefour
  • Waitrose
  • Lulu’s Hypermarket
  • Spinneys
  • Nesto
  • Grandiose (supermarkets)
  • West Zone (supermarkets)

Additionally, street food is an option. You’ll find many street eateries in Dubai, and well-known fast-food chains (such as McDonald’s, KFC or Five Guys) are also available in many places, offering reasonably priced food.

You won’t find anything cheaper than these two options.

If you’re staying in an apartment with a kitchen, you have the option to cook for yourself. However, I would add that ingredients are quite expensive in stores, so it’s not always the best choice.

If you need to follow a diet, be prepared for slightly higher prices, as diet foods are unfortunately more expensive in Dubai, as they are elsewhere.

Apart from grocery and street food options, there are restaurants available in every price range. It’s up to you which one you choose.

We recommend comparing food prices using the two famous food delivery apps: Talabat and Deliveroo. You can check out their menus and get an idea of the prices.

Moreover, almost every business has a website where you can also check out their prices in advance.

How to get around Dubai cheaply

Dubai is a huge city, so getting around the city is not always simple. You need to organize your transportation well, especially if you want to do it on a tight budget.

The following transportation modes are available:

Public transport

  • Metro: Perhaps the cheapest mode of transportation. However, there are only two metro lines in Dubai, which do not reach the suburban attractions.
  • Bus: There’s a hop-on-hop-off bus in Dubai, though we wouldn’t call it cheap, but it’s a good option for exploring the city’s main attractions. Additionally, city buses offer a cheap solution, but they may not always be suitable for getting to the tourist attractions.
  • Taxi: The most flexible mode of transportation in the city, at an affordable price. If you’re not walking around the city too much, it’s worth calling a taxi. Note that there are several types of taxis, with the yellow ones being the cheapest. Also, during peak hours, you need to plan ahead, as sometimes you might have to wait a long time for a taxi.
  • Ride-hailing service: Such as Uber and Careem apps are also available in Dubai, offering affordable transportation options.

Car rental

Also a flexible mode of transportation, but in this case, you need to consider parking. However, don’t worry, parking is well-organized in Dubai and often free (in private places), or you can park relatively cheaply in public areas. Fuel is also cheap, and car rental is not as expensive as in other destinations.

However, you need to be aware that some car rental companies deduct charges from the deposit late and inform you late about paying them more. We had a situation where 1.5 years after our trip, they contacted us about an unpaid fine, and we argued with the company for months until they proved the existence of the fine. It didn’t leave a pleasant memory. I should add, this supposedly happens regularly with car rental companies. So we can’t recommend a car rental company with a good heart.

If you’re curious about prices, we recommend comparing them on or on

It’s important not to save on travel insurance, even if you’re traveling on a tight budget. Healthcare expenses in Dubai can be huge if you encounter any issues. Always read the fine print of your insurance policy! We’ve heard cases where the insurer didn’t cover surgery, for example, because the traveler didn’t have a return ticket. Also, it’s important to check the payment details, such as whether the insurer pays you afterward.

Free things to do in Dubai

Finally, let’s look at what you can do in Dubai as a tourist on a budget. There are plenty of attractions and places to visit that are either cheap or completely free. In the following, we’ll present these.

Watch the Dubai Fountain show at the Burj Khalifa

In Dubai, the most popular attractions are the Burj Khalifa and the fountain in front of it. The good news is that the fountain shows and laser shows can be watched for free, so you get a fantastic evening program completely for free!

Discover the attractions of Dubai Mall

The Dubai Mall is not just a shopping center. You can find plenty of attractions inside.

One of them is the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, which requires an entry ticket, but you can also see a bit of it from the outside.

Then there are sculptures and exhibits in the mall, such as the Dubai Dino, which is a real dinosaur skeleton.

And there’s the famous Dubai Mall Waterfall, perhaps the mall’s most well-known attraction.

But there are plenty more sights in the Dubai Mall, just take a stroll and explore. It’s not just worth it for shopping.

Walk around the Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina is one of the city’s famous areas loved by tourists. It’s filled with skyscrapers, hotels, and restaurants. Take a stroll along the Marina Promenade and along JBR Beach to get the best views of Dubai.

Go to one of the free beaches

Dubai has fantastic beaches, including many private and free public beaches.

The free beaches are:

  • JBR Beach
  • Kite Beach
  • Al Mamzar Beach Park
  • La Mer Beach
  • Sufouh Beach

Visit Old Dubai

You can explore many attractions for free in the old city along the Creek.

The stylish, historic buildings near Al Seef Street, the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, and the Spice Souk and Gold Souk on the other side of the Creek are all worth a few hours of exploration.

If you don’t make any purchases, the visit is entirely free, although it’s unlikely you’ll leave empty-handed.

Walk along the Dubai Creek Harbour

Dubai Creek Harbour is also a must-see part of the city for tourists.

There’s a long promenade along the waterfront, offering one of the best views of the Dubai Downtown skyscrapers.

Additionally, a large viewing deck was recently built at Creek Harbour, providing even more stunning views of Dubai’s sunsets.

Visit Souk Madinat Jumeirah

In general, this is also a shopping center, and in the surrounding area, you can find various recreational services, restaurants, hotels, and much more.

What makes it especially recommended for tourists to visit is the architecture and the view of the Burj Al Arab.

Souk Madinat Jumeirah is not only a wonderful place with its green canals and traditional-style buildings, but you can also enjoy one of the best views of the Burj Al Arab from there.

If you have time, take a visit, walking and sightseeing are completely free.

Explore Al Qudra Lakes

The Al Qudra Lakes are located approximately a 45-minute drive from Dubai.

We recommend visiting them if you have more time in Dubai and want to explore the desert and countryside.

The area is a popular picnic and camping spot for locals.

Here you’ll find the famous heart-shaped Love Lake and several other lakes. You can also spot wildlife here, including wild birds like flamingos.

Half Desert Road

The Half Desert Road is an accessible location by car, located near the E611 highway, just a short drive from the city.

Here, you’ll find paved roads with patches of sand. This is a great opportunity to try driving in desert sand conditions.

Additionally, the place is famous for photography, and locals often use it for picnics.

That’s about all the free activities we know about in Dubai. We’ll expand our list over time as we discover new places in the city.

Cheap things to do in Dubai under $50

Now let’s look at the cheap activities in Dubai. We list activities where the entry fee costs less than $50 per person.

Burj Khalifa At The Top

Indeed, the base ticket for Burj Khalifa At The Top is under $50 in 2024! It’s a must-see attraction in Dubai that everyone should experience.

Visit the 124th and 125th floors of the world’s tallest building and enjoy the views.

It’s worth going at sunset, when you can see both the daytime and nighttime views.

Abra ride on Dubai Fountain

Exploring the Dubai Fountain and watching the shows is free, but there’s another popular activity at the fountain: taking a ride on the traditional abra boats. A 30-minute boat ride is well under 50 dollars, so it’s worth considering.

Desert safari

Another popular activity in Dubai is the desert safari, which is a favorite among many. While personalized tours with more inclusions are more expensive, you can find plenty of options under 50 dollars on GetYourGuide. The downside is that they are less personalized and include fewer activities, but the advantage is their price: you can experience the beauty of the Arabian desert affordably.

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Global Village

The Global Village is primarily a favorite hangout spot for locals, but we believe it’s worth a visit for tourists too.

It’s like a large market and amusement park combined, showcasing different cultures from around the world.

The entry fee is quite cheap, less than 10 dollars per person, making it an ideal late afternoon and evening activity if you want to have fun affordably.

Dubai Miracle Garden

A visit to the Dubai Miracle Garden is also a must during a trip to Dubai.

It’s the world’s largest flower garden, filled with interesting shapes, motifs, and fairy tale characters adorned with flowers. One of the main attractions is the life-sized Airbus A380 covered in flowers, as well as the heart-shaped floral gates.

The ticket price is well below 50 dollars, about half, so feel free to visit during your Dubai trip.

Aya Universe

The AYA Universe, located in the Wafi Mall, is an immersive entertainment park with 12 interactive rooms offering interactive experiences in art, science, technology, and history.

The entry ticket here is also below 50 dollars, so it’s on our list too.

Museum of the Future

The Museum of the Future is also a must-visit in Dubai. The building, opened a few years ago, boasts impressive exteriors and interiors, so don’t miss it while in the city.

The entry ticket is still below 50 dollars, making it suitable for a budget-friendly visit in Dubai.

However, if you’re not interested in the exhibitions, you can still see the exterior and the hall inside for free.

Dubai Museum

In the old part of Dubai lies the Dubai Museum, a fascinating sight for history lovers or those interested in Emirati culture.

However, as of 2024, it’s undergoing renovations, and the reopening date is uncertain.

Previously, the entry fee was a few AED, making it almost free to explore the museum’s exhibitions.

Expo City Dubai

Expo City Dubai is a new district created after the Expo 2020, repurposing many structures from the Expo, including pavilions, attractions, hotels, and restaurants.

We believe it’s worth a visit, our personal favorites are the Saudi Pavilion, the Garden in the Sky observation deck, and the Fire Falls.

The entry ticket in 2024 is around $35, which is still affordable for a low-budget trip.

The View at The Palm

The View at The Palm earns its spot on our list for good reason. This is one of Dubai’s highest public observation decks, located on the Palm Jumeirah island.

It offers breathtaking views of the island, Dubai Marina, and the sea. The panorama is the same as the extremely popular but quite expensive Aura Skypool panoramic pool located below it.

Ticket prices vary, but are around $30-40.

It’s advisable to visit in clear weather to fully enjoy the view, avoiding any haze or smog.

So, that’s the list of cheap and free places to visit in Dubai. No matter how you plan your trip and what you explore across Dubai, you’re likely to return home with unforgettable experiences.

Dubai is one of our favorite destinations for good reason. It enchants most tourists, enriching them with wonderful experiences and providing everything you need to enjoy your stay, whether on a budget or in luxury.

Dubai isn’t just for the rich people. We’ve showcased numerous offers on how you can enjoy your travel in Dubai budget-friendly. We’ve introduced you to cheaper areas of Dubai, offered tips on attractions, transportation, and dining. With our travel tips, we believe you’ll succeed in planning an affordable trip to Dubai. Just stay alert, keep an eye on prices, grab the best deals, and head to Dubai!

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