Home » Discover Dubai on a Budget: Top Affordable Attractions Guide

Discover Dubai on a Budget: Top Affordable Attractions Guide

by Paola Bertoni
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I’m sure you know Dubai’s luxurious lifestyle and expensive activities. However, there are many low-cost activities that you can indulge in during your trip to Dubai. You can indeed plan a luxury trip, but there are also attractions in Dubai that are entirely free or have low costs. Proper planning lets you see a lot without making your credit card cry. Can’t believe it? Read this list I have compiled!

Dubai’s most popular free attractions

Many of the city’s attractions are spectacular residential and commercial buildings that you can see for free. If you are a fan of architecture, there is a long list of must-see buildings in Dubai. You can discover them reading in my article on Dubai’s incredible architecture.

Save money with the Dubai Go City Explorer Pass and enjoy free access to the city’s top attractions such as the sightseeing bus tour, dhow cruise, Aquaventure water park, desert safari, and Burj Khalifa.
To stay connected in the UAE, remember to buy an Airalo eSim online, with data and phone coverage for your trip to Dubai. About travel insurance, Heymondo provides excellent value for money and offers comprehensive coverage against unexpected events like medical emergencies, trip cancellations, lost luggage, and more.

Some skyscrapers can only be viewed from the outside. Still, other buildings host inexpensive museums or luxury hotels you can enter just to browse in the lobby and restaurants. Besides admiring the architecture, Dubai offers many other free activities you can indulge in during your trip.

Dubai Fountain’s show and the Burj Khalifa

The Dubai Fountain is a magnificent sight to behold, as it lights up every night and dances to the rhythm of music. However, describing the fountain show as just a dance is quite limiting. The fountains perform an awe-inspiring choreographed water display set to various musical pieces, ranging from opera to pop music. Each performance usually lasts three to five minutes.

The Burj Khalifa is probably the most know skyscraper in Dubai, standing 829 meters high. The show illuminates it in sync with the music. The lights on the skyscraper move to the rhythm of famous artists like Michael Jackson, Andrea Bocelli, Whitney Houston and traditional Arabic singers.

You can enjoy this breathtaking spectacle from the terraces of the most elegant restaurants in the Dubai Mall. Alternatively, you can also watch it for free from the viewing points. However, you can find a crowd if you choose to see the show from the free viewing points.

The Address Downtown skyscraper against the backdrop of the Dubai Fountain
The Address Downtown skyscraper against the backdrop of the Dubai Fountain

The attractions of the Dubai Mall

The Dubai Mall is renowned as the world’s largest shopping mall. It also hosts some of the city’s most famous attractions. The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo require an entrance fee, but it is definitely worth the cost.

However, if you are travelling on a budget or are still deciding whether to spend the money, the mall’s gallery offers a preview of what awaits you inside. The outer wall of the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo is entirely made of glass.

It allows you to admire a portion of the structure and the fish housed there without entering. Although you won’t see all 33,000 marine animals, a glimpse from the outside gives you an idea of the colossal size of this 10 million-litre aquarium, which has the largest number of bull sharks worldwide.

Jurassic Park fans, on the other hand, will be delighted to discover that the sight of Dubai Dino, the fossilised skeleton of a dinosaur over seven metres high and 24 metres long, is entirely free. Belonging to the Diplodocus Longus species, Dubai Dino is a long-necked, whip-tailed sauropod dating back more than 150 million years, displayed in plain sight in the middle of a plaza in the Dubai Mall.

Dubai’s iconic neighbourhoods

Another free way to appreciate the city is to wander around Dubai’s historic neighbourhoods. Bastakyia, better known as the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, and the neighbouring Al Seef, which is not original but reconstructed in the traditional Arabian style, will expose you to older Emirati architecture. The scenic wind towers traditionally cooled the air in Arab homes.

If you prefer to discover shops and boutiques on your walks, catch Dubai’s souks. The spice souk will fill your eyes with colour, while the gold souk will leave you dumbfounded at the unassuming necklaces! For a dip in colour, visit the art galleries in the Al Quoz district or stroll around La Mer, a hipster area with a beautiful public beach.

Finally, Dubai has plenty of public beaches. If you love beach life, you can enjoy its beautiful sandy shores by just bringing your own beach towel. Many beaches are free, equipped and spotlessly clean, all with beautiful crystal-clear water. You can rent sunbeds and umbrellas, but you don’t have to if you want to save money.

Murals and urban decorations in the La Mer district in Dubai
Murals and urban decorations in the La Mer district in Dubai

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

The Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary is a marshy swamp where an incredible number of birds nest, perfect for a day trip. Here, you can see flamingos for free in Dubai.

The protected area is 6.2 kilometres long and, in addition to the flamingos for which it is known, is also home to different types of herons, black-winged waders, ospreys, fish, mammals and crustaceans. All these animals come to the Ras Al Khor reserve to breed in the mangroves and lagoons every year; a visit is a unique opportunity to see them free.

The most convenient way to reach this picturesque sanctuary is either by hiring a taxi or renting a car. There is a free on-site parking facility and a leisurely stroll along the perimeter, taking in the stunning views.

Dubai’s best low-cost attractions

Apart from the free attractions, you can do many other activities in Dubai for very little money. If you are interested in theme parks, which are very expensive, you can save money by buying a city card. For example, the Go Dubai Explorer Pass includes 3 to 7 free attractions, including Legoland and Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis The Palm. It also offers discounts of up to 41% on what is not included.

Discover Dubai by sightseeing bus

If your goal is a low-cost trip to Dubai and you want to save money on everything, I recommend buying just the Big Bus tickets. For around €50, you will have plenty of extra activities, including guided tours and boat rides.

In particular, on the days your ticket is valid, in addition to getting on and off at all the stops on the Hop-on Hop-Off bus, you will be able to take part in various tours, including a cruise on board the traditional dhow boat and guided tours of the Sharjah emirate and the artificial island of Palm Jumeirah. The Deluxe Dubai sightseeing bus ticket also includes entry to the Lost Chambers Aquarium, located in Atlantis The Palm’s incredible structure.

Join a tour of the Sheik Mohammed Cultural Centre

The Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding, often abbreviated to SMCCU, is a voluntary organisation established in 1998 to promote Emirati culture. The SMCCU offers interesting tours to explain UAE traditions and religion to expats and tourists under the motto ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’.

Their best-known tours are to the Jumeirah Mosque and the historic Al Fahidi district. Still, they also offer tasting lunches to discover Emirati culture. Prices start at €20 per person for the guided tours, so they are not entirely cheap, but children up to 6 years old go free even on the tours with their unique red bus. Therefore, it can be very affordable for a family holiday.

Sheikh Mohammed's Centre for Cultural Understanding Heritage Express bus in Dubai
Sheikh Mohammed’s Centre for Cultural Understanding Heritage Express bus in Dubai

Visit Dubai’s low-cost museums

Finally, the last way to visit Dubai cheaply is to choose the museums that cost less. The last time I visited Dubai, I was pleasantly surprised by the museums’ prices. Some were, in fact, incredibly low! Admission to the Dubai Museum, located in the old Al Fahidi fortress, costs less than one euro at the current exchange rate. The museum has been completely renovated for Expo 2020.

In general, all museums run by the Dubai Municipality have low prices. Don’t miss the Etihad Museum, a museum about the birth of the UAE with fantastic architecture, and the small museums of Dubai’s historical sites. Some of Dubai’s Heritage Sites museums, such as the Coins Museum, are even free to enter.

Etihad Museum in Dubai
Etihad Museum in Dubai

Where to stay in Dubai

Often considered a luxury destination, Dubai offers hotels and flats for all budgets and is much cheaper than you think. Below are a few value-for-money establishments that have been tried out by me personally or by friends and fellow bloggers.

For a luxury family holiday, the Bluewaters Beach Hotel, with swimming pools, restaurants to suit all tastes and children’s areas, is a great choice. To spend less but still stay in top-notch facilities, the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City or the V Hotel Dubai are great choices, both overlooking the Dubai Water Canal with numerous in-house restaurants to choose from.

Finally, to see Dubai from a different perspective, I suggest you stay at the Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai, a unique property built in traditional Arabian style and located a short distance from the historic district and Al Fahidi Fort.

I hope this list of free attractions in Dubai has convinced you that you don’t have to break the bank to have a fantastic time in this beautiful city. Whether you’re interested in architecture, nature, or just enjoying the scenery, there are plenty of low-cost activities to choose from. Feel free to share your tips for budget-friendly activities and if you have tried one of these.

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