5 Day Dubai Itinerary on a Budget
Gold can be bought online. It’s almost an ostentatious Amazon purchase but check the price of this uncirculated Dragon Series Gold Bar.
The gold isn’t as heavy here, but it’s a prime collector’s piece. Check this uncirculated Two Dollar Bill layered with gold.
The impression that most people have about Dubai is that it is expensive. This is often true; many of the luxury activities in the city cost a ton of money. However, it’s completely possible to explore and enjoy Dubai on a budget.
To help you plan an affordable stay in Dubai, we’ve created a 5-day budget itinerary that will cover all of the best sights and activities you can experience in Dubai without putting a dent in your wallet.
Here’s an overview of the 5-day budget itinerary we’ll be covering:
- Day 1: Orient yourself and get to know the city with the HoHo Bus Tour. After that, visit the Burj Khalifa Observation Deck or the Festival City Mall Ferris Wheel. Finally, visit the Dubai Mall or the Mall of Emirates.
- Day 2: Visit the Dubai Desert Safari or Legoland.
- Day 3: Visit the IMG Worlds of Adventure, Global Village, and Miracle Garden.
- Day 4: Visit the Wild Wadi Water Park or the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beaches.
- Day 5: Finish your trip with a group tour of the city of Dubai.
But before we get into the specifics of the itinerary, we need to cover some of the affordability essentials: where to stay in Dubai on a budget and where to eat in Dubai on a budget
Where to Stay in Dubai on a budget
For a 5-day trip, you can choose to stay at some of the most accessible areas in the city, such as Dubai Marina or Jumeirah Beach. That way, you won’t have to spend a lot of time (or money) traveling to the most modern attractions of Dubai, such as the Dubai Mall, Ski Dubai, and the city’s most popular beaches.
You should note that the Marina and Downtown areas are notably expensive, with many luxury hotels and resorts. In peak season – December to March – you’ll find a lot of the hotel rooms priced at around $400 to $1000 a night. However, if you book your stay well in advance or travel off-peak, you may be able to find hostel beds starting at $20 a night, especially around the Jumeirah Beach area.
Also, the Marina is where a lot of the ex-pats choose to stay, so it’s a good place to go if you’re willing to spend a little more for familiarity and lots of sunbathing. Solo travelers may especially like the vibe of the Marina, where there are plenty of opportunities to make friends with strangers from back home and to compare notes on the area.
Another alternative is to move a little way away and stay at Al Barsha. This area is located between Jumeirah and Marina. There are good connections to the city and plenty of mid-range hotels there.
Travelers who are looking for a glimpse into the past of Dubai should stay at the Old City or Bur Dubai. That’s where you’ll find many of the most affordable places to stay, eat, and shop. You can soak in the vibes of the colorful souks (bazaars) and traditional buildings.
Another extension of Bur Dubai is Deira. Close to the airport and full of affordable options to stay and dine, Deira has plenty of the character and soul that the swanky, capitalist modern city has hidden away. And it’s pretty affordable too; many rooms cost less than $100 a night.
Where to Eat
Eating out can be expensive or cheap in Dubai, depending on what you’d like.
One of the cheapest ways to dine in Dubai is to eat where the local workers eat. Plenty of Indian restaurants like Saravana Bhavan and Chhappan Bhog offer bargain-priced meals. The Noodle House at Souk Madinat Jumeirah serves cheap Asian dishes until midnight. There are plenty of other options, too, many of them around Old Dubai.
One of the simplest ways to lower your food costs is to half-board (hotel covers breakfast and dinner) or book all-inclusive. Many resorts will offer lavish spreads for breakfast and dinner buffets at attractive prices. Lunch can be something you enjoy while you’re out exploring.
Alright, that covers our brief intro regarding how to stay and eat in Dubai for a relatively low price.
Without further ado, here’s the 5-day Dubai itinerary on a budget:
A 5-Day Itinerary in Dubai on a Budget
Note: This itinerary is only a sample of what your five-day trip in Dubai can be. The options collated in our trip plan are family-friendly and affordable. It starts with a city tour that will help you orient yourself.
Day 1: Orient Yourself and then Shop As Much As Your Budget Allows
HOHO Bus Tour
If you enjoy Hop On – Hop Off bus tours, then you should check out the six-day routes and two-night routes that Dubai offers.
The sightseeing bus lets you get a single ticket, forget about navigation and fares, and simply present your ticket to get on. Get off at one of the usual stops and check out attractions like:
- Burj Khalifa
- Mall of Emirates
- Jumeirah Mosque
- Dubai Mall
- Dubai Creek
- Deira City Center
- Global Village
- Miracle Garden
- Old Souks
- And many more
Note: This sightseeing tour also comes with multi-lingual audio guides that explain each destination.
The bus is a good way to see the city without spending a lot of money. It will also help you orient yourself and learn where various landmarks are in relation to each other. Depending on your favorite attractions, you can choose to spend more or less time at each, and altogether skip the ones you aren’t interested in.
Burj Khalifa Observation Deck OR Festival City Mall Ferris Wheel
One of the stops on your Hop On – Hop Off bus is the Burj Khalifa. Whether or not you take the bus, the observation deck on the 124th and 125th floors of the world’s tallest building is a must-visit. While you marvel at the engineering feat that made the 163-floor and 830-meter tall building possible, you also get to enjoy the fantastic views.
Tickets can cost between $40 and over $100 depending on the time slot for which you’re booking. Cheapest slots are the non-prime time slots. Prime Time is between 16:00 and 18:00. You can also find heavily discounted tickets online if you book in advance.
It is highly recommended that you book in advance to avoid the crowds at the ticket counter as well. You may have to return another day if you turn up at the Burj Khalifa intending to buy a ticket at the counter.
If you are on a shoestring budget and don’t want to pay for a visit to the observatory, you can also visit the Ferris wheel at the top of Festival City Mall, near Dubai Creek.
Tickets are extremely reasonable, and you get a nice view of the city, too. For around 100 AED or $27, you can get a ticket for two adults and two kids, and enjoy a fantastic view from forty meters high. It’s not the same as the Burj Khalifa, but it can be just as fun.
- Opening hours: 8.30 am to 11 pm daily
- Nearest metro station: Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa Station (Red Line)
Festival City Mall
- Opening hours: 10 am to 10 pm
- Best way to get there is via cab
Dubai Mall OR Mall of the Emirates/ Ski Dubai
Just a few minutes’ walk from the Burj Khalifa is the Dubai Mall. Whether or not you’re in the mood for shopping, it’s worth checking out the world’s largest mall.
Once there, you’ll find more than just luxury shopping. There’s a skating rink, movie theatre, underwater zoo, aquarium, and plenty of other attractions for families to enjoy.
Must do: You can buy some candy at Hershey’s Chocolate World without burning a huge hole in your budget.
If you do want to shop, you’ll find some good budget stores as well, such as Cotton On, H&M, Aeropostale, Forever 21, and others. If fountains bring out the inner child in you, you’ll enjoy the ones outside the mall. And if you’re looking to buy gold, then you’ll probably find cheaper gold in the Gold Souk than in your country.
The Mall of the Emirates is another popular option with better ski facilities than the Dubai Mall, if that’s your thing. Many hotels in the Downtown area and the marina offer a free shuttle to either or both of the malls.
- Opening hours: 10 am to midnight
- Nearest metro station: Burj Khalifa Station
- Aquarium and zoo ticket prices: 135 AED ($36)
Mall of the Emirates
- Opening hours: 10 am to 12 am
- Nearest metro station: Mall of Emirates (Red Line)
- Ski Dubai prices: 190 AED for adults, 170 AED for kids
Day 2: Dubai Desert Safari OR Legoland
Whether you’re with family or join a group of strangers, the Dubai Desert Safari is a must-do. Prepare to spend almost half a day on the dunes Bedouin-style, with dune-bashing, camel rides, sandboarding, and other activities. Various tour groups offer different packages. Also, you should be careful to avoid dune-bashing if you have motion sickness.
The best desert safaris are priced around 200 AED per person, and usually include transfers, bubbly or shisha, fire show or belly dance show, henna painting, soft drinks, and BBQ.
There are cheaper options, but make sure there are English-speaking guides. Also, some operators don’t include the price of alcohol in the package, but prices are typically the same as elsewhere in Dubai.
If adventuring in the desert sands doesn’t seem like an ideal way to spend an evening to you, another alternative is to visit Legoland. This is Dubai’s theme park for families, but adults without kids can have fun too. You may need at least 3 to 4 hours to make the most of the park. There is plenty to do there, including the Legoland Water Park. Kids will love the creative, hands-on activities for the whole family.
You can spend a whole day at the parks with your kids, which means plenty of money saved that would otherwise have been spent on shopping, transport, etc. Just make sure to book in advance for (small) special discounts.
Dubai Desert Safari
- Duration: 6 to 8 hours
- Price: $50 to $180
- Ticket: 295 AED ($80) for Legoland Dubai & Legoland Water Park 1-Day.
- Getting there: A train goes from Dubai Mall to Dubai Legoland every 10 minutes. A ride costs 3 to 6 AED.
Day 3: IMG Worlds of Adventure, Global Village, and Miracle Garden
After a day of adventure in the desert or a Lego city, you may want to check out the relatively quiet beauty of the stunning Miracle Garden. This attraction is a 72,000 square meter space with 150 million flowers in full bloom. It is the world’s largest natural flower garden, open to the public from November onwards, after six months of maintenance.
About a 15 minute ride away is Global Village, a shopping and cultural event that is held to celebrate the cultures of 90 countries from around the world. The festival typically runs for around five months, and there’s always something for everyone to do there.
Entry fees are incredibly low, and once you get there, you can find budget-friendly things to do. You can enjoy shopping, street food, shows and several other attractions, including Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Circus, stunt shows and more.
About a half-hour drive from Global Village is Dubai’s biggest indoor amusement park, the IMG Worlds of Adventure. The park is divided into five epic zones – Cartoon Network, IMG Boulevard, Marvel, Lost Valley, and Novo Cinemas. As you can probably tell from the zone names, kids and adults will enjoy the theme park equally.
Besides enjoying thrilling rides, you can shop for action figures and dine on a variety of cuisines. Book online or in advance, and you can enjoy discounts and win vouchers for your food and drinks at the Worlds of Adventure.
- Opening hours: 9 am to 9 pm, 10 pm, or 11 pm, depending on the day of the week
- Tickets: 55 AED for adults, 40 AED for kids
- Getting there: From the Mall of Emirates metro stop (Red Line) take the RTA Bus No. 105 for 5 AED
- Opening hours: 4 pm to midnight or 1 am, depending on the day of the week
- Tickets: 15 AED or $4 entry ticket
- Getting there: Bus 103 from Union metro station or 104 from Al Gubaiba
IMG Worlds of Adventure
- Opening hours: 11 am to 8 pm or 10 pm
- Tickets: Various, starting at 299 AED ($81) for unlimited access to all rides
- Getting there: Complimentary shuttle from your hotel or a taxi from the Mall of Emirates or Dubai Mall
Day 4: Wild Wadi Water Park OR Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beaches
On day four, you’ll probably be exhausted from all the adventuring of the last few days. You may want to spend a relaxed day at Dubai Marina or the beaches at Jumeirah.
Jumeirah Beach and Al Mamzar Park are Dubai’s best beaches for swimming in. But don’t be fooled by the waters’ calm appearance, as it can get quite rough in the seas.
Jumeirah beach and a few others are completely free. Jumeirah Beach has blue flag beach status, which means it has excellent water quality and safety. The sand is medium-grained, making it perfect for stretching out on a towel. It is best to bring your own towel, as hiring can be expensive (the sunbeds are priced at 195 AED for two.)
We wouldn’t recommend eating around the beach area, as Jumeirah beach usually caters to wealthy tourists. Your hotel may also have a private beach, which may turn out to be cheaper and less crowded than the free beaches too.
Another alternative to Jumeirah Beach is the Al Mamzar beach, which charges a small entry fee for tourists.
For a more exciting experience in water, you could spend a whole day at the Wild Wadi Water Park. The outdoor park is right next to Jumeirah Beach, and your hotel may offer an all-inclusive ticket to the park with your room tariff.
The park offers 30 rides that the whole family can enjoy. Themed around a tale from Arabic folklore, the park offers various packages for admission. If you’re staying at Jumeirah hotels, you enjoy free entry. But note that hotels at Jumeirah are not cheap, unless you book during off-peak seasons. You can also get vouchers by downloading The Entertainer app.
- Opening hours: 7.30 am to 10 pm all days, till 11 am on Thursdays and Fridays
- Getting there: Bus no. 8 from Gold Souk Station (at Palm Deira subway station)
Wild Wadi Water Park
- Opening hours: 10 am to 6 pm
- Getting there: A short walk from Jumeirah Beach
Day 5: Dubai City Tour
One of the best ways to enjoy the city of Dubai – or any city for that matter – is to join a group tour. Of course, you will be taken to the tourist sites. But you’ll also get to learn more about them, and learn the perspectives of the locals. You may find that your solo visit to the Old Souk is very different from your visit with a small group guided by a local.
Many group tours are organized by operators who will arrange to pick you up from your hotel and drop you off at the end of the tour. You could look for budget options like Airbnb Experiences for more intimate tours. Or you could sign up for tours that include popular attractions like Dubai Museum, Jumeirah Mosque, the Palm Islands, and other icons that you may otherwise miss.
No Dubai city tour is complete without a souk tour. You can start out at Al Ghubaiba Station. A metro ride to the station from Downtown will set you back by about 3 AED. You can spend a few hours exploring the souk shops in the area, have lunch, and then explore Bur Dubai. You can shop for some souvenirs, and then take the metro to Deira for AED 3.
Assuming this is your last day in Dubai, at this point, you’ll probably want to pack your bags and get ready to leave for the airport. Your metro to the airport is probably going to cost you around 3 AED.
The itinerary above is loosely suggestive of the things that you can do in Dubai in 5 days, with any kind of budget. But to make sure that you really are saving money, there are a few tips you should keep in mind.
More tips for Budget Travelers in Dubai
Here is a look at a few ways you can save money on your holiday in Dubai. These are the little tips no one finds out about unless they have been to Dubai and learned it the hard way.
- Get The Entertainer app – or buy the book – for access to hundreds of deals on food, entertainment, activities, drinks, and tours. All ex-pats will tell you to get this book. Monster discounts will get you BOGO offers, which makes it an ideal source of savings for a couple traveling in Dubai on a budget. Note that if you are alone, it may not be worthwhile getting the app.
- Check out the What’s On Dubai and Time Out Dubai magazines to stay updated with what’s on for free. You’ll be surprised by how much of the city you can enjoy and how many connections you can make simply by going where the locals go in the evenings after work.
- Try to find accommodation that is near the Metro. When you put up near public transport, you don’t need to take a cab all the time. Sometimes you can’t avoid the cab. Taking the Metro when possible will help you balance out your costs.
- Keeping your food budget low is the easiest thing to do when you eat at Asian restaurants, on items like shawarma, Indian cuisine, etc. If you find a self-catering property to stay at, or a hostel with a shared kitchen, you can make your own food and not have to eat out all the time. You can also opt for an all-inclusive hotel food option, which might cut down on food prices. But even if it doesn’t, you’ll definitely enjoy coming back to the hotel and not worrying about what you’re going to make for dinner after a long day of sight-seeing.
- Look for opportunities to check out Camel Races, at the Dubai Camel Racing Club, from November to March. They usually begin at 6 am and end at 8 am, before the sun comes out, and they are free.
- Check out the Gold Souk, even if you don’t want to buy gold. You will find plenty of opportunities to take fun pictures as you walk down the streets lined with gold shops. For instance, there is a store with the biggest gold ring in the world, displayed at the store window. Tourists line up to take pictures with it. Such picturesque and free attractions can be found all over Dubai.
- Get down and dirty with the gritty side of Dubai at a street fight. Every Friday afternoon, you’ll find migrant workers from South Asia meet near the fish market in Deira for some street wrestling.
There are many things you can do and see in Dubai on a budget. To recap, these include:
- Taking a tour of the city, on a HOHO bus, or a guided tour.
- Enjoying a view of the city from the Ferris Wheel at Festival City Mall, if you don’t want to spend money on the pricey Burj Khalifa Observation Deck.
- Explore the Mall of Emirates and Dubai Mall, whether or not you want to shop. There are things to see and do without spending a lot of money at the malls.
- Find a Budget Desert Safari tour that will include drinks and transfers.
- Get a ticket to Legoland and spend the day there with family.
- Or you can explore the natural flower sculptures of the Miracle Garden for a low price, from November.
- Check out Global Village festival for the atmosphere and the street food and other affordable attractions.
- Sunbathe on Dubai’s beaches, but try not to shell out too much money for the sunbeds.
- Visit one of the many family-friendly amusement parks in the city, including Wild Wadi Water Park, IMG Worlds of Adventure, and the aquarium and underwater zoo at the Malls.
- If skiing is your thing, enjoy it at the Mall of Emirates.
- If you’re traveling with family, The Entertainer app or book will get you coupons and special discounts.
- See Dubai from the local’s perspective, by visiting the camel races, watching some street wrestling, and trying out local food at Bur Dubai and Deira.