Dubai Backpacking Guide – Travelling Dubai on a Budget

Author Carina Klein
· 11 min read · 0 comments

Share this post with others


Tips on how to Dubai cheap.

We have (semi) successfully travelled Dubai on a budget. In our Dubai backpacking guide we explain how you can do the same.

All travel costs fit into 4 categories

  1. Accommodation
  2. Transportation
  3. Food
  4. Activities

Here’s our personal budget breakdown per person and day:

  • 20€ for our accommodation
  • 5€ for our transportation
  • 15€ for our food and drinks
  • 50€ for our activities

We paid around 90€ per person and day – 40€ if you exclude the main paid activities.

Backpacking in Dubai Guide

Getting into Dubai

DXB Airport

This is how we got out.

And this is also the obvious airport choice. You can easily take the red metro line into town.

Bucketlist2life tip: Keep in mind that the travel time between the airport and Dubai Marina is around 1 hour.

Abu Dhabi Airport

This is how we came in:

When looking for flights, it might be cheaper to fly into Abu Dhabi airport.

Nowadays, there’s the convenient Abu Dhabi Airport Express from Abu Dhabi Airport to Dubai Ibn Battuta Mall or vice versa. It runs every hour and takes around 1.5 hours. This is a great option if you stay in the Dubai Marina area.

You can buy tickets online or at the airport.

Bucketlist2life tip: From Ibn Battuta Mall you can travel on by public transport. Taxis are a good alternative as they are metered and won’t break your bank if you go to the JBR / Marina area.

DWC Airport

This is a lesser-known airport and it’s mostly served by charter flights. From my time as a travel agent, I can tell you that it’s worth looking into – especially if you come from European destinations where people go on a Dubai vacation.

Picture of Abu Dhabi Airport Express bus
Abu Dhabi Airport Express bus

Where to Stay in Dubai on a Budget

We stayed at Papaya backpacker's which was a regular backpacker hostel.

We paid around 20€ per night. Of course, the price depends on the season and the timing of the booking.

Bucketlist2life tip: Make sure that you book an accommodation with easy metro access!

We have written a complete hostel review:

Picture of Papaya backpacker's hostel
Papaya backpacker's hostel

How to Get Around Dubai on a Budget

We have tried all forms of transportation in Dubai: From the bus to the Palm Monorail.

There’s a whole system of NOl Cards and zones in Dubai. NOL cards exist in red, silver and gold (for the gold class cabin so the last one is not a budget option).

Personally, we think it’s easiest to buy a red NOL card with a day pass. The card costs 2 AED and the day pass is 20 AED (you can recharge the card up to 5 times). It gives you worry-free access to unlimited rides on all trams, buses, water taxis, and the Dubai Metro. You also don’t have to worry about any zones.

For roughly 5€ we think that’s a no-brainer.

Dubai Metro

The Dubai Metro is the most efficient way to travel across Dubai. You will mostly use the red line which connects sights like the Dubai Marina, Burj Khalifa, and Deira.

The metro runs every few minutes during the day but stops running at night. It was surprisingly crowded most times we used it. You wait in line to get in and sometimes we had to wait a couple of trains to actually make it on the train.

There are women-only compartments.

Bucketlist2life tip: The metro does not have a driver so when you stand in the very front of the train, the ride is quite scenic.

Dubai Tram

The Dubai tram connects the metro to places like JBR Beach, Dubai Marina and The Palm. It runs every few minutes – not as often as the metro but still often enough.

There are also women-only compartments.

Bucketlist2life tip: Be prepared to walk long distances. To get from the tram to the metro you have to cross a very wide street via an overpass. The same holds true when you want to get from the metro to places like Dubai Mall.

Dubai Buses

This is where Dubai surprised us. While we never had any issues with the metro or tram, the buses we used were notoriously unpunctual. They do not run very often – expect around every 30 minutes – and when they get stuck in traffic, things get nasty. At least some of the bus stops are air-conditioned.

Personally, we would avoid buses as much as possible.

Dubai Water Taxi

Perfect if you want to go from Dubai Creek Metro Station to the Creek Harbour Viewing Deck to watch the sunset.

Dubai Taxi

We only took a taxi once but the experience was rather pleasant. It was metered and we could even pay by credit card. While the price was fair, it was by no means cheap though.

Picture of Front of Dubai metro
Front of Dubai metro

Where to Find Cheap Food in Dubai

Honestly, we are not really experts in this regard. This is what we have done to bring our food budget down to around 15€ per day:

  • Go to local Indian, Pakistani, or Middle Eastern places.
  • Avoid Western places.
  • Buy snacks in the supermarket.
  • Try the food courts in the malls.

You’ll find most of the cheap Indian restaurants in Deira and Bur Dubai but there are also some places in other parts of town. We ate the cheapest meal of our stay at a hole-in-the-wall place close to our hostel in the Dubai Marina area (4€ for a decent burger and fries).

Picture of Cheap street food in Dubai
Cheap street food in Dubai

Free Things to Do in Dubai

1. Alserkal Avenue

This place is a bit of a hidden gem. It’s an area full of art galleries and artsy cafes. You can do yoga and on the day of our visit, there was a farmer’s market. We spent a couple of hours here.

Some of the galleries can look a bit dark and closed from the outside but you can just try the door 😉

Bucketlist2life tip: The best way to reach this place is by bus. It’s a bit of a hassle but it’s worth it!
Picture of Alserkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue

2. Antique Museum

The Antique Museum is an easy walk from Alserkal Avenue so definitely make a pit stop when you’re in the area.

While it’s not technically a museum but more of a shop, it’s still worth a visit. It’s such a random place filled to the brim with stuff – from lanterns over statues to some pretty weird things.

The people there are super hospitable.

Bonus: This is the absolute perfect Instagram spot!

Picture of Antique Museum
Antique Museum

3. Marina Walk

While this is far from a hidden gem, it is still a lovely activity. The whole walk is 7 km long and will provide you with amazing water, skyscraper, and yacht views all the way!

Picture of Marina Walk from above
Marina Walk from above

4. Barasti Beach Club

Also in the Marina area is our favourite beach club – Barasti Beach Club. The entrance is free and the drinks are surprisingly well priced.

There’s a pool, sunbeds, hammocks, pool tables, a DJ and overall a lot of entertainment and lounge options.

We sat on a sunbed for hours and nobody pressured us to buy anything.

Bucketlist2life tip: You can’t take any drinks in with you and your water bottle will get thrown away at the entrance.
Picture of Barasti Beach Club
Barasti Beach Club

5. Beaches

These are some of the beaches we liked:

  1. JBR or Jumeirah Beach Residence is a 1.7 km long beach. It is lined with (surprisingly expensive) street food and dining options but you can enjoy the beach for free – day or night.
  2. Kite Beach is a bit of a hassle to get to because you can only reach it by bus but it rewards you with some great Burj Al Arab views.
  3. Palm West Beach on Palm Jumeirah is lined with sun beds – unfortunately, we didn’t find any free ones.
Picture of JBR Beach
JBR Beach

6. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

Moving over to Bur Dubai or the Old Dubai. It’s a lot of fun to walk through the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the oldest area in Dubai.

Picture of Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood

7. Souks in Deira

Also in Old Dubai on the other side of Dubai Creek in Deira, you can find plenty of souks or markets. You can buy everything from spices to gold here.

Picture of Deira

8. Free Museums in Old Dubai

Both Al Fahidi and Deira are littered with free museums, art galleries, and open houses. Just walking around you cannot miss them. Some of the ones we liked are

  • Coffee Museum
  • Museum of the Poet Al Oqaili
  • XVA Gallery
Picture of XVA Gallery
XVA Gallery

9. Taxi Boat to Creek Harbour Public Viewing Deck

With your NOL card, you can hop on a taxi boat across Dubai Creek. Creek Harbour Public Viewing Deck is a nice spot for sunset as the sun goes down behind Burj Khalifa.

10. The Dubai Fountain

From the Dubai Fountain, you have some of the best Burj Khalifa views in town.

You can also snap a nice Instagramm pic at the Wings of Mexico Statue but we couldn’t be bothered to walk all the way there.

Bucketlist2life tip: Be Prepared to walk a bit from the metro station to the fountain.

11. The Dubai Fountain Show

The Dubai Fountain is a free water, music and light show. It is the world's tallest performing fountain. The shows run every 30 minutes from 6 pm to 11 pm.

Picture of Dubai Fountain
Dubai Fountain

12. Dubai Mall

There are a ton of free things to do in the Dubai Mall – enough to be a blogpost in itself. Our favourite was the Aquarium. There’s also

  • an ice rink
  • a dinosaur skeleton
  • a waterfall

and much more…

Picture of Dubai Mall Aquarium
Dubai Mall Aquarium

Affordable Things to Do in Dubai

13. Taking an Abra

Taking an abra boat from Bur Dubai to Deira costs 1 AED (0.25€) so it’s not completely free but almost. It was one of our favourite activities in Dubai.

Picture of Abra Dubai
Abra Dubai

14. The Palm Monorail

We had to include a ride on the Palm Monorail on our list. The cheapest return ticket costs 15 AED (under 4€). Personally, we loved the views.

You can stop at

  • Atlantis Aquaventure – check out the hotel as well as Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk (warning: there is no shade here).
  • Nakheel Mall – only good for the mall or if you want to pay for The View at the Palm
  • Al Ittihad Park – the park is a bit underwhelming but you can walk to Palm West Beach from here.
Picture of The Palm Monorail
The Palm Monorail

15. Rooftop Bars

Every single viewing deck in Dubai costs a lot of money. That’s why we love a good rooftop bar. Observatory Bar & Grill boasts amazing views of the The Palm. And the happy hour cocktails are surprisingly affordable.

Picture of Observatory Bar & Grill
Observatory Bar & Grill

Tip: We have incorporated many of these things into our Dubai itinerary.

Cheap Dubai SIM Card

While this will not break your bank, we found out that buying an Airalo eSIM is a bit cheaper than buying a SIM card at the airport. We only paid 4.50€ for a week’s worth of data.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission. You would help us a lot if you do so. Thanks.

Interested in personal updates and honest travel guides?
Sign up for our biweekly bucketlist2life newsletter for exclusive behind the scenes looks into our travel planning!


Want to support us?
Buy us a coffe, a tea – or a whisky.


Leave a comment

Do you have any thoughts on this article? – We would love to hear from you!

Do you want to follow us on our jouney? Check this box to also signup for our Newsletter and never miss an update!

You have a link you want to share with others? This is a good place for it!

Do you want to receive a Push-Notification when someone replies to your comment? – Check this box!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.