How to save money in Dubai and my total cost Du-breakdown
Updated: Apr 30
Dubai is an expensive city and its tailor made for tourists, which means everything is there to take your hard-earned cash! I have never seen a city like Dubai before. It's an amazing place and here are a few ways to save a few bucks:
Ladies nights and Gents nights - You can easily find these online on many sites like this one: https://ladiesnightdubai.com/ ). The ladies night deals are particularly good and often include free drinks or discounted food and drinks. The Gents nights ( https://www.timeoutdubai.com/bars-nightlife/386600-gents-nights-in-dubai-2021 ) are not quite as good, but many deals out there that will save you money.
Happy hours are also available at many bars and restaurants. Look these up and you will find them organized by day of the week. Check your hotel as well, as they usually have great deals on certain days at their own bars and restaurants.
Lounge access- If you have very high elite status with a large hotel chain, you may be given free access to the club lounge. This can also be paid extra for when you make your reservation or at check-in. I do not recommend paying extra for this unless you are a family (4 or more).
Then, it might make sense to pay the $40-$80 extra per day for the lounge. One of the best things about any vacation is going out to eat, so I view the club lounge has both a positive and negative, as it kind of take the fun out of trying new food and restaurants. My first five nights in Dubai I spent almost zero on food because I ate breakfast and dinner in the club lounge. Some lounges may also have an "afternoon tea" which is usually around 3pm and includes light snacks that you may be able to use as your lunch. Oh, and the lounges usually include unlimited drinks including alcohol!
Half board - This is not so common in America, but quite common in Europe. Basically, it means you get breakfast and dinner included with your room (for a fee).
This is super convenient, but again it takes away from the fun of experiencing a new city. I tried this my last 5 nights in Dubai by using my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to pay for the whole thing. I was happy in the end, as the dinner was an excellent quality buffet, and the desserts were amazing!
Free breakfast - Start your day with free breakfast! I love breakfast, so I am always in for this. It's included in many hotels. You will likely be up early for the first few days anyway due to the jetlag.
Supermarkets - Sneaky way to find a cheap coffee, pastry, or meal. I found a nice deal on a coffee and pastry combo at a supermarket in a mall.
Walking - This was a little difficult in Dubai, as many areas of the city are made for vehicles only, but I spent many miles just walking around the beaches and the marina (best area to stay for tourists), and a of course the largest mall in the world. Don't be afraid to walk around in a safe city! This is the best way to fully take in everything (although also takes the most time)
Biking and scooters - Another great way to see the city, with a small cost. In Dubai, it's not really set-up to use bikes or scooters to actually travel from place to place. Its more for fun, but other cities/countries are different, and you may be able to go quite a distance. Be sure to google bike and scooter shares before you go.
Discount stores for clothes, shopping - It's hard to know where the deals are in a new city or country. Try talking to locals and keep your eye on the prices as you explore. In Dubai,
I discovered a store called "Brands For Less" which was similar to a Marshalls. Halfway through my trip, I discovered this shirt for about $3.00! I've never even paid half that for a crappy t-shirt!
Local markets - Many local markets are really cool, but also know that many are tourist traps with inflated prices. Be sure to read about these before your trip. But even the tourist traps are worth a visit as long as you know before you go. In Dubai, there was not many, but a neat one is right next to the Dubai Mall and the water fountain show.
Public transit including boats - Definitely know the local metro or whatever else your destination has before you go. Start with the trip from the airport if you can. Research how to buy a metro card and which one is best for your needs. Dubai has a very nice metro system that hits all the tourist spots and the airport.
It is very easy and inexpensive.
I was surprised to eventually learn of some boats included in the metro system near my hotel, which I used to cross a river and check out a few tourist areas for less than $1 each way.
Free walking tours - Google this for any international trips. There are free educational walking tours in many cities run by tourism boards or private companies and the guides work on tips only. Dubai did not have any, but I recently did one in Istanbul which was great. The guides are professionals and are a wealth of knowledge.
Malls - The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world and you could easily spend the entire day there. Just outside the mall is the world's tallest building and the world's largest fountain show. Oh, the mall also has an aquarium and an ice rink to go along with the 1200 stores.
Beaches - There are a few beaches in Dubai including the amazing Palm Jumeirah Island, Marina Beach, Kite Beach, etc. These beaches have plenty of water sports you can pay for, or just bring a towel and soak up the sun on your own like I did.
Meetup.com - I run a flag football group in NY that meets every week and I know there are meetups around the world for just about everything.
In Dubai, I found tons of expats groups, soccer, singles, adventure, networking, etc. This is a terrific way to meet people anywhere. Meetup is a great resource, and many groups are free!
Groupon type sites - Be careful with this one. Groupon or similar sites exist everywhere, but make sure to read all the details before buying anything. Some things are really easy, and others require making phone calls or emails to redeem your deal. Another great website for deals is Klook.com , which I discovered years ago in Hong Kong.
According to the co-founder, Eric Gnock Fah, the company, which name stands for 'Keep Looking', is a one-stop-shop for travelers to explore and book a curated selection of fun-things-to-do from a skip-the-queue Hong Kong Disneyland ticket to underwater shipwreck diving adventures in Bali. They often have great deals on things like Sim cards, Metro cards, train tickets, airport rides, and local tours, events, etc.
WATER - Drink water! Restaurants markup soda and drinks over 1000%. Many hotels internationally will give you at least 2-4 bottles of water per day as well. Take advantage of the free bottles and stop ordering so much soda. If you need a drink while walking, try the supermarket. Also note that most countries do not do free refills.
Final Dubai trip Cost analysis: Dec 20th-Jan 9th (20 day trip)
Money was saved by using points/miles, plus getting free food from the hotels
Flights: $62 (Used miles/points) Flight value: $4700
Sim Card: $51
Metro Card: $54
Uber/Taxi: $103 (Mostly to/from JFK)
Hotels: $257 (Used points for all but 3 nights) Hotel value: $2100
Food/Drinks: $298 Food value: $655
Clothing: $3 Clothing value: $20
TOTAL SPENT: $1023 Total Value: $8176
Club lounge access for 6 nights(Dinner, drinks)
Half board included with hotel room(Using points) for 5 nights
Free breakfast included for 19 days
Dubai music video(I love this song and the video):
Related post: https://www.solotravelr.com/post/how-i-planned-an-international-trip-during-the-pandemic