dubai on a budget marinaBefore our visit to Dubai, everybody told me about how expensive this city was. With this in mind, we planned a short visit here so we didn’t blow our budget. Searching for hotels online, we soon realised there were many 4 star hotels for very affordable prices. This was a big surprise, perhaps we could actually visit Dubai on a budget?

Where to Stay in Dubai on budget?

We booked Monaco Hotel in the Deira area of Dubai. We paid $27 per night, including tax. Our room was great! Very clean and comfortable which included a kettle, a small fridge and great wifi.

Dubai is a great city, very well planned and easy to get around. The city is separated into districts and the area we chose to stay was a working-class district. This was good for us as this was the epicentre of all the great, cheap food!

dubai on a budget monaco hotel

Our 4 star hotel room in Dubai

Our hotel was only 7 minutes walk to the Al Rigga Metro station. We knew that if we wanted to visit Dubai on a budget, we had to learn how to use public transport.

Getting Around – Buy a Metro Card at the Airport

Do yourself a favour and buy a silver transport card at the arrivals hall in the airport. This will save you heaps of cash on transport in this city. All of the small convenience shops sell them.

Pay 25 AED (6.80) for the card, which is 6 AED for the card purchase and 19 AED credit.

We walked out to the front of the airport and waited for a bus to take us right near to our hotel. Buses and metro are air-conditioned. Buses keep the front half of the bus separate for women and children only. Metros have two carriages dedicated only to women and children also.

Each metro or bus ride one-way costs between 3-5 AED ($0.80 – 1.30)

Taxi’s are affordable too

Taxi’s from the airport are relatively cheap, however, an airport flag fee of 25 AED ($6.80) is charged to you on top of the fare. Walk out of the arrivals terminal and catch one further out on the street to avoid paying this fee.

Stay Connected

You can purchase a sim card within 5 minutes in Dubai. We recommend getting a sim card with ‘Esilat’.

Cost is 105 AED ($29.00) to register for a sim card, you must show your passport to get one. A sim card is great to have for navigating around the city using buses and the metro. Using public transport is a must if you want to see Dubai on a budget.

Best place to view the Palm?

Within 4 stops of our hotel, the metro took us to Dubai Mall and Burj Kalifa and other sights. We rode the metro for 35 minutes to reach the other side of town. From here it was a short walk to view ‘the Palm’ from the Marriott hotel Observatory Deck, located on the top floor.

Tip: Go for a drink between 4-8pm for Happy Hour (cocktails and most drinks 30 AED or $8.00). Sit at the window and watch the sunset.

This part of Dubai is also full of beautiful skyscrapers, five star hotels and it’s popular with tourists and expats.

We walked around the marina after leaving the bar. You can find many great restaurants here (although expensive ones). It’s a nice place to take a walk as Dubai is a visually pleasing city.

Where to Eat

Choosing awesome, affordable places to eat – our favourite thing to do in any new city! Below are some of our favourite small eateries and restaurants in different districts around Dubai. Most meals we enjoyed at these places cost between $5-10 each.

7 Tips – How to find the best food when travelling

Location: Deira District – A working-class district, we really enjoyed it. Lots of deliciously cheap food can be eaten around here, including great Middle Eastern and Philippino food.

Sultan Dubai

We ordered a plate of hummus, a plate of falafel, lots of bread and olives.  The total was 24 AED. ($6.50). They serve good Turkish coffee for 7 AED.

dubai on a budget cheap food

You can also order amazing manakeesh and shwarma.

Where to Find the Best Sweets

A few doors down is Qwaider Al Nabulsi – A sweets shop that serves the freshest Arabic sweets available. My favourite was the kanafeh.

dubai on a budget kanafeh

My favourite Middle Eastern sweet – Kanafeh.

Are you craving the best baklava in Dubai? – go to ‘Al Samadi’ and buy more than you think you’ll be able to eat, it’s so good.

Damascus Restaurant – Middle Eastern Food.

A very busy place with outdoor dining. We shared a fatteh with shwarma meat, a fattoush salad, lots of bread, a big salad and pickles. Total of the bill 42 AED ($11.50). We’d definitely eat here again. Look forward to huge portions too, perfect for sharing.

Location: Al Satwa 

One of the Best Meals Ever

RAVI Restaurant – Best Pakistani food I have ever eaten. Great price, good portions and very busy.

We ordered Palak paneer 15 AED, mutton peshwari (best I’ve ever eaten) 22 AED, dahl fry 8 AED, as much fresh naan bread as you want and a large chilled water.

Total bill was 55 AED or just under $15.

dubai on a budget riva restaurant

Marty is just as excited as I was for this delicious Pakistani meal

This was hands down one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever eaten.  The restaurant is clean and quite basic, but the food was something to write home about. I look forward to returning to eat here again for my next visit to Dubai, that’s for sure.

Location: Karama

Al Ustad – Persian kebabs.

This place has been serving kebabs for over 38 years. Busy on every night of the week, the small canteen-style eatery has it sorted. The menu is short, the options are awesome.

Take your pick from hummus, chicken soup and a range of different kebabs. These are all served with either rice or bread and tomato, cucumber, onion and a side dish of garlic sauce.

Expect to pay around 40-50 AED ($10-13) per person for a generous meal.

The Sights

Dubai is a city just full of things to see and do! To help with planning your trip to Dubai on a budget, check out Viator to keep you entertained in this spectacular city.

Don’t forget to check for any great deals with Fly Dubai. This airline operates a total of 95 destinations, serving the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe from Dubai. 

If you enjoy the UAE, we recommend making the time to discover the beauty of Oman. This country borders with UAE, and we absolutely loved our time spent here.

–  Road trip in Oman – The best 7 day itinerary

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