You can live like a king even if you aren’t royal society when visiting the glitzy, glamorous international city of Dubai. To the city that virtually invented the “shopping festival,” the simple premise is that if people are treated like high society, they will spend like high society. But you don’t have to blow your cash to enjoy this Middle East metropolis. Here are five secrets for an affordable trip to Dubai – the city like no other.
Getting There and Around
It’s all about booking your flight early, making sure your passport and travel documents are up to date and finding an insurance carrier. Services such as TravelGuard medical travel insurance offer transport to a hospital or your home and cover any qualified accompany expenses you may incur. Having emergency evacuation coverage gives you the peace of mind that if something were to happen on your trip you’d have instant medical assistance and not instant bills.
Plan your departure in the middle of the week, during a less-busy travel day. Airport customs in Dubai are known for having strict medication regulations, including prescription drugs. Ensure you have the original prescription and packaging while traveling to avoid seizure. Dubai International Airport is the busiest air hub in the Middle East, with many major global car-rental agencies nearby. While familiar brands may be your firsts choice, no-name local businesses may save you money in the long run. Or, opt for public transportation that can help you see the city from a local’s perspective.
Ranging from glitzy hotels and upscale guest houses to bargain hostels, Dubai has accommodations that will keep every traveler comfortable. While some prefer the 70,000 dirham a night Royal Suite of Burj Al Arab, you don’t have to pay that much ($1 = 3.6 dirhams) to enjoy common comforts. The city of luxury has three to five star hotels with discounts dropping room rates to under $150 for those seeking luxury without the high price.
For the more adventurous types, the city has three youth hostels clustered together near the airport. Just a short distance from the popular tourist hotspots. Each offers rooms, including breakfast, towels and soap for around 100 dirhams a night.
The biggest expat demographic in Dubai is made up of Indians and Pakistanis, meaning the city arguably offers some of the world’s best sub-continental cuisine. Ranging from Lebanese, Japanese, Arabic and Thai food to vegetarian and seafood options, Dubai offers an assortment of restaurants. If your accommodations don’t provide you with tasty options, try using a guide book’s restaurant directory to search by customer reviews and price scales.
If you are truly adventurous, go where the locals are going. Point to dishes or choose randomly from the menu. Known as being the cheap-eats street, Al Dhiyafah Road serves the city’s less-affluent so you can people watch while feasting. If you want to slowly adapt yourself to the food, find a restaurant catered to tourists. You can feel safe knowing the food might be lighter on your stomach than what the locals eat.
Things to Do
Dubai is flourishing with impressive (or preposterous) feats of architecture and engineering. Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, is grounded here and pierces the sky at just over a half-mile high. Among the skyline of skyscrapers lie inexpensive museums, markets, cultural houses and underwater zoos. Most of the sights to see are along the coast line, and easy to get to via the city’s metro.
Tourists in search of the “real” Dubai – the one that existed before the glitz and gold – can have the most authentic and affordable experience of all. Get a glimpse of the city’s trading hub history at the Creek, the city’s original trading center, by hopping on a motorized wooden boat. According to BBC Travel, you can cross the water for just on dirham, or haggle a half-hour Creek tour down to 30 dirhams. On either side of the creek are spice, gold and textile markets to wander and buy keepsakes, but don’t forget to haggle.
Haggling at the Souks (markets) in Dubai will find you the best deals and, thanks to the duty-free shops and bargains found throughout the city, those deals are the shopping norm. Karama, Dubai’s sub-continental equivalent of New York’s Chinatown, provides affordable faux designer items such as leather goods, sunglasses and sportswear for those who haggle hard.
Famous for its month-long shopping festivals, Dubai is the place to be if you are eager to buy a Prada handbag or handmade Persian rug. If you are traveling sometime from November to February, find the Global Village just south of Sheikh Zayed Road for a showcase of the nation’s cultures and products.
With infinite bargain possibilities available in luxurious Dubai, it’s easy to experience the high life without the high price.