So you want to go to Dubai but have heard how expensive it can be for both vacationers and business travelers alike? If that’s what you’ve heard, then whoever told you hasn’t experienced Dubai. Here are some money saving tips that can cut your Dubai budget in half.
Shopping in Dubai
If shopping is your pleasure, then Dubai is your dreams come true. Not only do you have some of the biggest malls in the world with all the major brands, but Dubai, being originally a trading hub between the east and west offers you one of the most fascinating shopping experiences on the globe. From traditional souks (where you can find jewelry and cloth, among many others things), to the Indian markets in Deira, finding everything from spices to electronics. Ask around in the back-alley stores and you can even find that satellite decoder that opens all the paid channels. Don’t forget to haggle, they never turn away a customer, and you’ll know when you’ve hit the lowest price.
Avoid high phone charges in the hotel room and get a pre-paid calling card which you can use from any phone booth and private lines to call international. If you are expecting to stay for a while, get a pre-paid GSM card (WASEL) for Dhs.165 ($45). Limit your outgoing calls and get free incoming calls for a year ( more info ). The WASEL GSM line must be purchased from an Etisalat office (don’t forget to bring a passport copy), but pre-paid cards can be purchased from any convenient store, gas stations or tobacco store.
For cheap eats, it’s hard to beat the Indian restaurants serving the city’s largest working population. Try the buttered chicken with buttered ‘nan’ bread, and you’ll have cravings for it for years to come. For a $3 meal, expect to eat with your hands, but you can always politely ask for a fork or spoon. The occasional foreigner is expected and well-cared for.
If you’re on a tight budget, only eat at hotels when they have meal deals, otherwise, you’ll be paying too much. Find Open Buffet specials starting at $10 per person, some Friday Brunch offers include use of the swimming pool for the day. You can find excellent Meal Deals here .
It might come as a surprise to you, but Dubai is a Party Town. With all the long hours at work, many people like to go out and chill during the week. For the budget traveler, look for Ladies Nights and Happy Hours happening in Dubai. Guaranteed you’ll find one for every night of the week. Check out Time Out Dubai or Dubai Look before going out. If you don’t have access to the internet, you can buy the “Time Out Dubai” Magazine from any store which includes the full listings for the month.
Sun and Sand
Want to spend a day by the pool at one of the exclusive hotels in Jumeirah, but not pay the high prices of the rooms? Almost all the hotels sell vouchers for a day’s access to the hotel’s beaches, pools, health club and spa. Sleep in a cheap hotel, spend the day in pure luxury… no one will know. Prices start at $10 and can go up to $60 depending on the hotel.
There are many public beaches, but for only Dhs. 5 ($1.40) you can spend the day at Jumeirah Beach Park on the beach road in Jumeirah. Not only do you have access to the beach with life guards, but you also have gardens, play areas for children, showers and barbecue areas. Note that Saturdays are for women and children only. (Call 04-3492555 for more information)
Want to save on transportation? Dubai cabs can be costly for tourists. So, until the Dubai metro gets up and running by year 2009 for the first line and 2015 for the second line, try the buses. Waiting for the bus can take a while, especially since they are hardly on schedule. In the summer months, the heat can become unbearable during the wait and most bus stops don’t have a covered waiting area. But taking the bus can turn out to be quite an experience, don’t be afraid and make sure you budget the time for the trip as it can take 3 times the amount to get there over taking a taxi.
Renting a car? Don’t use the international rental companies. Local companies, especially ones in Sharjah give you rates much less than the big brand names. They will provide drop off and pick up in Sharjah and Dubai. But if you do have problems with renting a car from a no-name car rental, then Budget Car Rental is the best choice for Dubai. Book early from an online booking service to guarantee the best prices and availability. And the best part of renting a car in Dubai? Gas is Cheap!
Dubai Shopping Festival (mid January to mid February) and Dubai Summer Surprises (end of June to beginning of September) hosts free entertainment all month long. Hundreds of shows and events all crammed into one month. You and your kids, if they are tagging along, will not get bored. Fireworks, raffle, street markets, clowns, monster trucks, are just some of the highlights. Go here for more information.
Horse Racing at Nad Al Sheba is held from 28th of October until the 26th of March. Each Race Night stages 6 or 7 individual races, the first starting at 7pm (or 9pm during the Holy Month of Ramadan). Public access to the races is free. Don’t forget the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup held in March. (www.dubaiworldcup.com). Unless you want to sit in the VIP section, entrance to the public enclosures is also free for this spectacular event.