Rachel in front of the Burj Khalifa
While The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is comprised of seven states, the most popular (and most poppin’) state is Dubai. It is vibrant, super clean, and very cosmopolitan. And by cosmopolitan, I mean any and everything you can think of having back home is here in Dubai! Starbucks, Cheesecake Factory, Popeyes, you name it!
While all of these familiar establishments are quite plentiful, I would encourage you to experience as much of authentic Dubai as possible.
To be fair, because The Middle East is known for its opulence, visiting this region of the world can be a bit pricey! No worries! On a trip I took to Dubai earlier this year, I found ways to make the trip most enjoyable yet also doing it on a budget!
Below, I outline some of the cheapest ways to do Dubai!
Cabs are REALLY inexpensive in Dubai. We stayed across the street from a metro station, however, found that:
1) The metro took entirely too long to get to various destinations (from the area we were staying in Dubai)
2) With the costs, by the time you finish paying for metro tickets and transfers, we would have paid for a cab ride (and gotten there faster)
3) Cabs are just an overall better experience! It’s easily over 100* in this country throughout the year – imagine the stench of hot bodies crammed into a metro car!
If you are staying close to or in the downtown area, I would absolutely suggest the metro since you are in a more centralized location. If not, if you have the time and not on a strict schedule, take the metro to see some of the sites within the city! Take it once for the experience, but other than that, it’s not worth it.
*Note: There are “regular” cabs and the cabs that luxury cabs. Obviously these luxury cabs (usually a Lexus or Mercedes) is going to cost you more than the regular cab.
If you are traveling with a large group, and would like to do a city tour, get to/from the airport, or get from Dubai back to Abu Dhabi then feel free to use the private driver we found. He was really ice, knowledgeable, and AFFORDABLE. I forgot his name (I think its Abassi?), but he drove us back from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, gave us a city tour and it ended up costing about $13/per person! Like anything else in the Middle East, negotiate everything.
Dubai Cab Driver: +971 55 263 6165
Let me just say. . . I STAN for AirBnB ($20 credit here!). Point. Blank. And the Period!
Depending on your travel style, there is something for every taste on AirBnB. Finding a place through ABnB is almost always cheaper than utilizing a traditional hotel. On top of that, you get an opportunity to experience the authenticity of the country through living like a local!
Since I was traveling with a large group, we opted for a 4 bedroom condo on Jumeriah Beach Residence (HIGHLY recommend this area!).
Here is a reason why I love renting through AirBnB to keep costs low:
We rented a 4 bedroom/3 bathroom condo for $160/night per person for 7 people for five days! No silly hotel fees or taxes and much more spacious than a typical hotel room.
If you find a hotel room in Dubai that is less than $160 a NIGHT then you have hit the jackpot!
The two locations I would recommend staying in are:
- Jumeriah Beach Residence: A huge complex of about six high rise buildings which has EVERYTHING you need inside; including a 24 hour grocery store, Starbucks, restaurants, hookah stops, money exchange centers,etc. The best part? It is right across from the beach!
- Downtown Dubai: Plan and simple, you are centrally located to everything you need to get to. The metro rides will not be that long to most places you are trying to reach.
As for activities, utilizing Groupon.ae is the best thing you can do on your trip to experience a lot for a little! Here are a few activities I recommend to not only do, but utilize Groupons to make it affordable!
Pro Tip: PRINT OUT THE GROUPON. A lot of the places don’t have those scanners so they wanted to see physical proof of the Groupon; i.e.: the printout. We spent an hour in the Dubai Mall searching for a printing center to pay to print out the vouchers!
You should not leave Dubai and not take a yacht on the Dubai Marina! Booking 2-3 hours on a yacht is more than enough time; anything longer and you may be over it. Watching the sunset over the marina is absolutely breathtaking, however make sure to book that time in advance! It is a popular time because it is the coolest part of the day and the most beautiful!
Make sure to do your RESEARCH with various companies on Groupon. You want to make sure to ask for photos of the boats. Check out TripAdvisor to read reviews on the companies.
From what I found, all of the Safari Tours meet up at the same location and do the same activities. When we arrived at the location, there were about six other companies there (that I found on Groupon).
In this case, I just suggest you find a company that can accompany your party and that is reasonably priced. If you do not do anything else, definitely do a desert safari!
Unfortunately, we missed the infamous Friday brunch, however I would suggest finding a Groupon now if you can. A friend of mine went to a brunch that she said was AMAZING, but ended up short of $140 because she missed the Groupon!
Burj Khalifa (Tallest Building in the World!):
We snatched a “Fast Pass” to get to the top of the building and skip the long lines. If it is still running, grab it now! The cost (~$32) is the same as regular admission and allows you to get on the elevator before everyone else (trust me – the lines can be long).
Burj Al Arab:
The World’s Only 7 Star Hotel! We had dinner here. Listen. It cost a damn arm and leg but at least we can say we did it, right?! They may have Groupons for lunch or High Tea! If you can score a Groupon, then I would definitely recommend it.
Shopping in Old Dubai Gold Souk Market:
Honey, this is the “real Dubai”. The area where the working class Emirates lives. I love exploring areas like this because this is the true heartbeat and culture of most countries lay. In the Souk Market, is where you can get all your merch’ and souvenirs like the abayas (the pretty dresses and traditional garb), shoes, gold jewelry, etc.
Heads up, they will also be trying to sell Brazilian hair and bags! Funny to me… but quite a great marketing strategy! They understand the influx of Black and Brown travelers from the West and are capitalizing on the opportunity!
Make sure you have on your poker face and negotiate EVERYTHING! I would not pay more than $5-10 for certain scarves (silk, cashmere, etc), NO MORE than $30 for the really intricate abayas, and I think I paid $8 for some of the traditional shoes.
Pro Tip: The more stuff you ‘bulk’ together, the easier it is for you to negotiate one set price!
For those of you who have been to the UAE, what are some of your money saving tips?
Until next time. Journey on.