Dubai is a famous destination for luxury travelers, shoppers, and big spenders. But that never stopped backpackers with a limited budget from exploring the glamorous City of Gold.
Catering to both regional and international tourists, Dubai has been expanding to absorb the growing number of visitors.
With cheap airline tickets and the abundance of online information and guides, what were once considered remote areas are now becoming more accessible.
If you're planning a trip to Dubai while on a budget, here are a few places to visit:
1. Scan the city from the metro
One of the most popular sights in Dubai is the city’s tower-studded skyline.
Taking the metro, which travels above ground in most parts of the city, will give you a front seat view to some of the emirate’s most magnificent towers, including the world’s highest building, Burj Khalifa.
Riding the metro will also offer a view of Sheikh Zayed Road, the six-lane highway linking the old town to the newer cosmopolitan areas.
Cost: Less than 10 dhs ($2.72)
2. The Old Town
The Bastakiya District - or Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood - is Dubai’s heritage area where old houses have been preserved and turned into art galleries, cafes, and bazaars.
Because it is entirely outdoors, this area is only recommended during the cooler months of the year, roughly between November and March.
This area, which used to be the heart of Dubai about a century ago, is one of the most vibrant around town with a busy network of alleys.
If you like bargaining, this is the place for you, and if you don’t, ignore everyone and keep going. Like tourist attractions in other parts of the world, the merchants will try to grab your attention with every ounce of their energy.
Bastakiya defies the misconception that Dubai has no soul. You will not find franchises of any international stores down here. Make the time to explore local cafes and small-scale shops.
There is an alley for everything, from candy to textiles and clothes. There is even an alley where praying oils, flowers, and deity figurines near the Hindu temple are sold.
Make sure not to miss the most prominent streets in this area, namely the spice and the gold souks. You can also cross the creek using one of the busy ferries or Abras.
Cost: Abra 1.5 dhs ($0.41); Fresh juice 5-15 dhs ($1.36-$4.08); elephant-patterned yoga pants 20 dhs ($5.45); Creek-view restaurant 30 dhs ($8.17.)
3. Kite Beach
If you are a sports fan, you will definitely enjoy sunbathing at the Dubai Kite Beach.
It includes a space with a beach gym, cafes, fresh juice and ice cream kiosks, a track for cycling and jogging, beach volleyball courts, blow-up five-aside footy pitches, a sand football pitch, and further down the beach, a boat yard.
That is not to mention, of course, the beach itself. The waves combined with the wind create the perfect environment for kite surfing, making this beach strip a hub for small-scale surfing schools and equipment shops.
Cost: Free entrance; Lunch: up to 50 dhs ($13.61)
4. Alserkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue promotes anything that is artistic, local, and organic. The project, which turned a car factory in the heart of Dubai’s industrial area of al Quoz into an art hub, hosts a plethora of activities and festivals, particularly during the winter months between November and March.
The complex includes numerous art galleries, a couple of business centers/cafes, an independent cinema, an independent vinyl shop, a small theater, a vintage car showroom, and a chocolate factory.
In addition to the option of roaming around the area to explore the different exhibitions and displays, Alserkal holds free activities like weekly discussions about literature and poetry and road trips to other art hubs in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Cost: Organic burger 50 dhs ($13.69); Independent cinema tickets 35 dhs ($9.5); Masala tea 14 dhs ($3.8.)
5. Picnic around the lake
Dubai has many man-made lakes around its neighborhoods and parks. You're likely to find athletes jogging, parents walking along their baby strollers, and friends having a picnic.
But to have the ultimate experience, you will have to head to Al Qudra lake; located in the middle of the Saih al Salam Desert Reserve nearby Bab Al Shams, approximately 30-40 minutes by taxi from Burj Al Arab.
Home to about 130 species of birds, including migratory ones, the area is perfect for bird watching. You can spot endangered species like Lappet-faced vultures, coastal birds such as Glossy ibis, Caspian plover, sanderling, eagles, and falcons.
What makes Al Qudra lake one of Dubai’s main attraction is the large flocks of pink flamingos as well as black and white swans.
The site includes a cycling track, a spot for camping, and the chance for kids to fly kites.