Dubai has a well deserved reputation for luxury and excess but that doesn’t mean you have to have the riches of a sheikh to enjoy the city. With some planning, and a little insider knowhow, it’s possible to enjoy the fun and luxuries of the city without spending a fortune. Even if you are planning a splurge, you can splash out wisely to get the most from your spending.
Your biggest single expense will probably be your hotel. Dubai has around 700 hotels and probably the biggest concentration of super luxurious hotels in the world so let’s start by looking at the big savings that can be made on accommodation.
1 Luxury Dubai Hotels for Less
The most affordable time to visit Dubai is during the hot, humid summer months from June to September. With daily temperatures over 40C, and humidity that feels like being wrapped in a hot, wet blanket, you may think only the clinical insane would visit during these months but think again. All hotel pools are chilled, everywhere indoors is air-conditioned and it’s perfectly possible to enjoy a luxury holiday at this time of year. A little bit of advance planning of your activities will ensure a wonderful holiday. For instance, it’s a great time of year to do a desert safari as the desert is dry and more comfortable than the city.
Luxury hotels slash their prices in these months with the holy month of Ramadan being the most cost effective of all.
2 Location, location, location – City or Beach?
Dubai beach hotels are generally more expensive than city hotels so it may be worth staying away from the beach to save money. If you plan to spend most of your time out and about exploring the city then choose a hotel with a nice pool instead of a private beach and use the money saved on some of the great activities on offer around town.
Areas to consider include:
Al Barsha for affordable hotels, plenty of places to eat, Mall of the Emirates, and a metro station.
Sheikh Zayed Road which has metro stations, places to eat and drink, and is only a short distance from the multiple attractions of the Downtown Dubai area and also within easy reach of the souqs and attractions of old Dubai.
Bur Dubai and Deira are the older parts of town, on either side of Dubai Creek and close to the traditional souqs. Both have plenty of lower cost accommodation but these areas do get very congested and hotels are, in general, less luxurious.
Many people like the idea of staying on the man-made island, the Palm Jumeirah, and the luxury hotels here are fine if you plan to spend most of your time at the hotel and have plenty of cash – hotels on the Palm know their guests are something of a captive market and price food and drink accordingly. If you plan to explore the city and eat out every night you can save yourself time and money by staying on the mainland.
3 Choose Two Hotels instead of one
Another great idea to save money as well as maximise convenience is to split your holiday between a city hotel for your days of exploring and a beach hotel for your relaxation days. Bear in mind though, the sea is like a hot bath during the cheaper summer months so you’re far more likely to enjoy your hotel’s blissfully chilled pool than to swim in the salty waters of the Gulf.
4 Save on your first and last nights
Dubai airport is the world’s busiest and flights arrive and depart 24 hours a day. If you find your flight arrives in Dubai in the wee hours of the morning then you can save the cost of a 5 star hotel for that night by checking into one of the clean, safe chain hotels around the airport’s perimeter. Look at Holiday Inn Express or Premier Inn. Also in the vicinity of the airport are Al Bustan Rotana and Le Meridien Fairway.
Get a few hours sleep at one of these less costly hotels and then arrive at your luxury hotel next day refreshed and ready to make the most of it.
Conversely, if your flight departs late at night/early hours then there is no need to pay for another full day and night at your main hotel. Simply check out at the normal time, ask your hotel to store your luggage and then use your hotel’s facilities all day or have a day out – go shopping, go on a desert safari, see a movie, have dinner etc. In other words, you can have a normal day except without a room to go back to. The hotel will let you use the showers in their gym to freshen up before you head to the airport.
5 Use the Entertainer voucher book
The Entertainer voucher books contain thousands of 2 for 1 offers and are a great way of saving money, particularly on pricey items like desert safaris, scenic plane trips, helicopter tours, skiing and any number of other fun activities. They can also save you lots on meals, from casual to fine dining. There are different books for: activities, spa and beauty, fine dining, drinks deals and children.
The main book is very heavy so plan your activities and dining and take the necessary vouchers with you – you don’t want to have to lug this book around town! Alternatively, you can use the app but note that you will need wifi to use the vouchers. The book is widely available in bookstores and supermarkets or you can order in advance and have it waiting for you at your hotel when you arrive.
Don’t be shy about using the vouchers. The book is widely used all year round by Dubai residents and staff in all establishments are very used to accepting vouchers.
6 Make Use of Dubai Duty Free
Another popular money saving idea is to make use of Dubai duty free on arrival. Whilst you’re waiting for your luggage to appear on the carousel, pop into duty free and stock up on some bottles for your room. You can then have a leisurely sip or two on your balcony pre- and post- dinner. The allowance per adult is 4 litres of wine or spirits OR 48 cans of beer. The duty free shop is open 24 hours per day and takes credit cards or you can change money at the 24 hour exchange desk.
7 Look out for happy hours & ladies’ nights
Alcohol is expensive in Dubai so if you like a tipple be prepared to take extra spending money or wise up to the great deals to be found. Lots of places have happy hours or ladies’ nights offering free or reduced price drinks. The best way to find out where and what the latest offers are is to look at Time Out Dubai.
8 Do it yourself Dubai
In some cities it may make sense to get an agent to arrange site-seeing tours of the city for you. Dubai is not one of those cities. It’s very easy, safe, cheap and fun to get around town on your own using a combination of taxis and the metro.
Some attractions, such as Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountain, and the gold and spice souqs, have a metro station within walking distance. Others – Burj al Arab, the Madinat Jumeirah, Miracle Garden, Global Village for instance – require the use of a taxi.
See here here for a walking tour of Old Dubai which you can get to by metro.
9 Use Public Beaches and Beach Parks
Jumeirah Beach is 50kms and although quite a few stretches of sand belong to the beach hotels, there are plenty of other parts that are open to the public and free. Kite Beach, within sight of Burj al Arab and behind Sunset Mall on Al Wasl street, is a beautiful stretch of beach and a great place to plonk down your beach towel. It’s especially beautiful as the sun sets and you can hear the calls to prayer drifting through the evening air from one of the several nearby mosques.
Down at the Dubai Marina end of town, the beach in front of The Walk at JBR and the aptly named Beach Mall, is very popular with locals and holiday makers. There are toilets, lockers, changing rooms and showers available and you can hire sunbeds and umbrellas.
Al Mamzar Beach Park in Deira, the old part of town, is a good place to enjoy the beach on a budget. There are green areas, toilets, changing rooms and food outlets and you can hire sun loungers and umbrellas – or just bring a mat and throw it down on the sand.
10 Get a Day Pass to a beach Hotel
Maybe you’ve decided to save some money by choosing a city hotel but you really want to experience the stunning luxury of one of the beachside hotels. Luckily, many of the hotels sell days passes which allow non-guests full use of their leisure facilities. It’s an excellent way of experiencing the most luxurious hotels in the city from the comfort of a sun lounger.
Wondering what to wear in Dubai? See this simple guide to being comfortable and respectful of local culture.