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How to plan your Dubai budget?

dubai budget - is dubai expensive - prices in dubai

Are you wondering is Dubai expensive or how to plan your Dubai budget? I spent a few months in this amazing city and I got to know Dubai quite well, both from its luxurious and budget-friendly side. However, let’s face the truth, this is not a place for a backpacker’s trip, but you still don’t have to spend a small fortune to have a good vacation.

Tip: Check out the best attractions in Dubai, what are my favorite less touristy places in Dubai and popular myths about Dubai.

Is Dubai expensive? What’s the truth? Yes, prices in Dubai may be super-high, but I want to share with you a few tricks how to cut down costs in your Dubai budget. Some expenses (as entrance fees) are rather hard to skip, but for example, it is very easy to find cheap food in Dubai!  


Dubai metro prices

The best option for getting around Dubai is metro + taxi. Metro doesn’t get stuck in traffic jams, which are really a thing there. The main issue is that there are only 2 metro lines. The red metro line is 52 km long (from Dubai International Airport to the port of Jebel Ali), so it seems to me that Dubai Metro prices are quite reasonable. Fortunately, the biggest attractions in Dubai are usually located close to the metro stations. Other places can be easily and quickly reached by taxi.

Dubai metro prices depends on for how many stops you’re going to travel and what zones you will cross (there are 7 of them). There are two compartments to choose from – silver and gold. The gold one is located at the very front of the metro, there are comfortable armchairs and generally there are not so many people as in silver class. The journey in the gold class is always twice more expensive than in the silver one. The standard price of a full-day Red Pass for tourists is 20 AED (about 5 EUR) for the “silver class” (40 AED for the gold one) plus 2 AED for the card itself.

Cheaper choice:

If you stay longer, consider buying silver or gold NOL card. It is topped up on a “pay as you go” basis, but you can’t go below 7.5 AED. The card itself costs 25 AED, but you can use 19 AED out of it, and then top up again. For example, the Dubai metro price is 3 AEDs within one zone in the silver class (6 AEDs in gold), and if you travel through more than two zones, it is 7.5 AED (AED 15 in the golden class). Children under 5 travel for free 🙂

dubai budget - is dubai expensive - prices in dubai

Dubai taxi prices

Dubai taxi prices are very affordable, especially considering the distances to be covered by car. For example, the taxi price from the Atlantis The Palm Hotel to Burj Khalifa is around 50 AED, but these places are 26 km away! Check out the exact taxi prices in Dubai on your chosen route in the official calculator. Remember that for some road sections in Dubai you have to pay toll (e.g. the road to Medinat Jumeirah) and this is added to your final bill (about 4 AED).

Cheaper choice:

A cheaper option is Uber, which works really great in Dubai and you may often travel in very nice cars 🙂 You can also try the Middle East version of Uber called Careem. In general, Uber drivers are much more “cooperative” and surprisingly – know the city better than taxi drivers. However, if you are going to some non-touristy place, Google Maps app will probably be necessary anyways 😉

dubai budget - is dubai expensive - prices in dubai

Dubai car rental prices

The price for renting a car in Dubai starts from about 150 AED per day for the smallest Nissan Micra car. This price often already includes basic insurance, but it is worth making sure what’s included (for the peace of mind). More advanced protection means additional costs. When it comes to fuel, as for the emirate with the oil heritage, prices are extremely friendly for your Dubai budget – about 1.50 AED per liter.

If you want to pick up girls, then of course you can rent a Ferrari car, but it’s about 3,000 AED per day (plus you have to pay 10,000 AED deposit!). For less affluent, but also looking for all-that-glam customers, there are Ferrari or Lambo rides for only 490 AED for 20 minutes (no, you can’t drive alone – you get a personal driver!).

dubai budget - is dubai expensive - prices in dubai

Dubai hotel prices

Which hotel to choose in Dubai? Probably each of you thinking of “a hotel in Dubai”, have in mind the most famous, the only 7 * hotel in the world (although not in the official classification, rather according to journalists) – Burj Al Arab. The prices here actually start from 1000 EUR per night in low season, but obviously not every hotel is so expensive. While planning your Dubai budget, take into consideration that when it comes to these really luxurious hotels, prices are also *really* high:  200-300 EUR per night in the low season. The most expensive ones are these in the vicinity of Dubai Marina, The Palm island, Madinat Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa. If your Dubai budget may bear with these costs, I can recommend you some really sensational hotels:

  • Atlantis The Palm – famous hotel with the hole in the middle, located on THE Palm island. If you decide to stay in this hotel, you have a free entry to the fantastic Aquaventure water park and the Lost Chambers aquarium. For more affluent guests there is also a three-level underwater Neptun apartment for 5,000 EUR per night!
  • Armani Hotel – something for lovers of the famous fashion designer who created the interiors of the hotel, which occupies 11 floors in Burj Khalifa. The hotel is directly connected to the Dubai Mall, and the Armani Privé club (actually, one of the most popular clubs in Dubai) is located inside. Prices starting from 500 EUR per night.
  • Jumeirah Emirates Towers – this hotel is located in my favorite building in Dubai, Emirates Towers. Unfortunately, it isn’t close to the beach, next to the financial district DIFC and next to the metro station with the same name. You have unlimited access to the Wild Wadi water park (even nicer than Aquaventure) included in your room price and also access to the private Jumeirah beach.
  • Address Dubai Marina – one of the nicer hotels in Dubai Marina, 5 minutes walk from the beach. A beautiful pool with a view of the skyscrapers. By the way, this hotel is the “twin” of the Address Hotel near Burj Khalifa, which was on the news a few years ago when it went on fire from fireworks on New Year’s Eve.
  • Jumeirah Al Qasr and Jumeirah Mina A’Salam – a beautiful, amazing hotel in my favorite Madinat Jumeirah area. I’ve written it so many times, but this is really a place with true Arabic vibes: spectacular architecture, romantic water channels between hotels, located right next to the private beach. Be sure to drop by for a brunch on Friday – this is where the best one in Dubai is served!
  • Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai – minimalist design – totally not like Dubai, located directly on the beach, something for party animals – on-site swimming pool with live music.
  • Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa – very interesting hotel in the outskirts of Dubai, located among the dunes. The whole hotel is designed as a traditional Arabian fort. Courtyards with fountains, lush gardens and stone streets lead to elegantly furnished rooms, and you can admire the desert just from the swimming pool…

Cheaper choice:

OK, but what if your Dubai budget is not so big? Fortunately, there are many cheaper options. Look for something in older parts of the city and in principle in every district away from the beach or subway. However, it may impact your transportation costs. I can recommend you neighborhoods such as Deira and Bur Dubai and area around Dubai Creek. There are many budget-friendly hotels, and also restaurants run by immigrants, where you can eat a fantastic lunch for 20 AED. If your Dubai budget estimates accommodation up to EUR 100 per night, I can recommend you the following hotels:

  • Hyatt Regency Creek Heights Residences – located 5 minutes from the subway in the Bur Dubai district with a beautiful view of the Burj Khalifa, near the WAFI shopping center with an outdoor cinema;
  • Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre – located in the Deira district, very close to the metro station and Dubai International airport (10 minutes by car), connected directly to the Deira City shopping center, rooftop pool with a spectacular view;
  • Rove City Centre – hotel in the Deira district, very close to Dubai International airport (10 minutes by car), on the other hand also very close to the Deira City Center metro, perfect for long stopover in Dubai;
  • Rove Downtown – located very close to the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall subway station, 10 minutes walk from the Dubai Mall itself, some rooms have a stunning view of the world’s tallest building
  • Wyndham Dubai Marina – one of the cheaper options in Dubai Marina, close to the beach, 10 minutes walk to the JLT subway station (but there is also a hotel bus available for guests), the rooms with a beautiful views of the Persian Gulf
  • Premier Inn Dubai Ibn Battuta Mall – very good choice for people arriving at Al Maktoum airport (e.g. WizzAir disembarks here), the hotel itself is quite far from any attractions, but it is located close to the metro station Ibn Battuta and the bus station with connection to Abu Dhabi

dubai budget - is dubai expensive - prices in dubai

Dubai food prices

I must admit that food prices in Dubai are definitely not for backpackers. For example, in Tesco in DIFC you may see a few slices of cheese for 30 AED and yogurt for 20 AED… The general rule is that if something is imported it is a few times more expensive than the local product. As you probably already guessed, you can’t grow a lot in the desert, so unfortunately the prices are rather high.

Rising prices of food in Dubai are also a very big problem for ordinary residents (mainly for low-skilled labor, which wages don’t keep up with the inflation). This led to a situation where the UAE government from time to time freezes prices of basic products such as milk and rice. Last year, for instance, prices have been frozen for a month of Ramadan.

Cheaper choice:

The best option for grocery shopping are Carrefour supermarkets(e.g. in the Mall of the Emirates or Burjuman City Center). Sample prices include:

  • salmon 500 g – 50 AED
  • hummus 250 g – 10 AED
  • olives 500 g – 8 AED
  • oil 2l – 18 AED
  • tomato passata 500 g – 5 AED
  • penne pasta 500 g – 9 AED
  • coffee 95 g – 15 AED
  • 2 Greek yogurts 150 g – 10 AED
  • frozen pizza Ristorante – 20 AED
  • 100 tea bags – 15 AED
  • Fa shower gel – 10 AED
  • Persil washing liquid 3 l – 45 AED

Dubai restaurant prices

High prices of food in Dubai unfortunately impact prices in restuarants in Dubai. You will notice this primarily in tourist places such as, for example, Dubai Mall or Madinat Jumeirah. Of course, I am writing here about normal restaurants – fast food like KFC in shopping centers is rather cheap.

Some examples?

Chicken tortilla for 60 AED in Dubai Mall (lemonade is an additional cost of 20 AED), salmon with some veggies for 120 AED in Madinat (cocktail in the same place 80 AED)… The best brunch in Dubai in Al Qasr costs around AED 500 (700 AED with open bar option) per person. For one dish at the best restaurant in Dubai, La Petit Mansion you will pay around 200 AED (unfortunately, really great food). A bottle of wine on the beach next to Burj Al Arab costs about 200 AED (and it is of course very cheap wine, like worth 5 EUR in the EU…).

By the way, you can eat the most expensive ice cream in the world in Dubai. In Scoopi Cafe, for just 3,000 AED, you’ll get a scoop full of vanilla from Madagascar, saffron from Iran, black truffles from Italy, and sprinkled with 23 carat gold flakes… A normal one costs 15 AED there.

dubai budget - is dubai expensive - prices in dubai

Cheaper choice:

What if your Dubai budget is rather limited? There are basically two options. The first one is dining in KFC or McDonald’s in shopping centers. The second is to eat in small restaurants run by immigrants from Asia. It is easy to find them mainly in the previously mentioned districts of Deira and Bur Dubai. The restaurants are not, of course, luxurious, they are more like Bangkok’s street-food standards, but they are really cheap. I especially liked these serving Indian, Lebanese and Pakistani cuisine.

Why do I recommend this type of restaurants? Simply, there are a lot of immigrants from these countries. Therefore, they serve “home-cooked” meals, adjusting prices to poorer immigrants.

Sample cost of eating in such cheaper restaurants is around 20 AED (often even 10-11 AED) for curry with rice. You can often find small shops selling fresh made Indian street-food directly from the window. Samosa costs about 3 AED, naan bread with paneer cheese – 8 AED. This shouldn’t harm your Dubai budget 🙂

Tip: Groupon works here pretty well and there are often nice discounts on restaurants, so if you have more time in Dubai and you are flexible, you can easily make use of these deals 🙂

Do you need more help planning your Dubai budget?

How to plan your Dubai budget? Is Dubai expensive? What are the prices in Dubai? Tips and trick how to make your Dubai holidays cheaper!

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