They say Dubai is expensive.
But what does it mean, and how is it far from the truth? Are there ways to save money in Dubai so you can feel comfortable with a reasonable budget?
Dubai is a fast-growing low-tax major city, so overall, it is expensive. At the same time, there are many options to save money in Dubai. There are ways to significantly lower your expenses on stay, rent, food, shopping, and other items.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Dubai, so I’ll guide you and give my best money-saving tips.
In Dubai, I stayed in $700 hotels and $20 hostels. I rented $4,000 apartments and $900 private rooms. I had $70 and 50c coffees. So, I know quite a lot about spending money in Dubai.
If you don’t have fancy plans in Dubai, your stay will likely be your largest cost.
I would think about these six types of stay in Dubai
- Private room
- Serviced apartment
A general tip that will help save money on a stay in Dubai is to look for a place close to your interest area and close to the metro. Kitchen appliances aren’t important as it’s easy to save time and money by eating out cheaply (solid meal for $10).
I made this table for you so that you can see reasonable prices for every type of stay.
|Type of Stay||Price Range per Night, Including Taxes, $|
Private rooms through Airbnb might have the best value as well as staying in the hotel, especially during the low season from May to September.
This is how far $20 can get you with a stay.
Overall it’s decent. And many people there are living like this long-term. But, if you come to Dubai for a business meeting or a conference – you better choose a cheap hotel.
There is no guarantee you will have a silent night in a hostel.
Guys, spending $20-25 daily for coffee in Dubai is so easy. Single espresso costs $5 pretty much everywhere.
For some reason, you can find cheap good food but not coffee. It’s easy to have a $12 lunch, where $6 is for food, and $6 is for coffee.
The only cheap coffee outside I found in Dubai is 50c instant coffee from kitchens or kiosks.
So, no doubt, you should save on coffee while in Dubai.
You can buy a bag of decent ground coffee in a grocery store for $4.
The cost of coffee can be a part of business expenses in Dubai because most of the meetings, even more high profile ones, are happening in the coffee shops.
The downside is it gets pretty much expensive to work from the coffee shop. So, if you need to work long hours that day – you better stay and work from your place.
It’s not expected, but eating out in Dubai is cheap.
Sure, you can go to fancy restaurants and spend thousands for food only (no drinks), but if you are there just for food, you can get a solid business lunch or even a dinner for $10.
And there are cheap options in the Business Bay too. You can get a good business lunch for $12-16.
So, I want to say that considering the relatively high grocery costs and inexpensive options outside, it makes sense to pay a small premium for the convenience of eating outside.
You will save a lot of time you can use for business, work, or entertainment.
You can find your favorite local cheap restaurants by trying them out through Careem and Talabat delivery apps.
I would say groceries prices in Dubai are on par with the U.S.
It’s hard to generalize, as anyone has their own preferences in grocery shopping, but it’s not cheap, no matter what you buy.
Groceries are definitely more expensive than in all places in Europe.
That’s why I’m suggesting you find 2-3 good kitchens/restaurants close to your area, so you can have more value by saving time.
If you have a car – it’s a good idea to go to large megamarkets outside of the city. It definitely makes a difference if you shop there for 2-3 weeks ahead.
Remember, the gas prices are super low in Dubai.
Even so, taxis are not that expensive in Dubai; you will save a lot by going by metro or bus.
Remember, if you save $15 daily on transportation, it’s $450 per month, which you can save and invest. That makes a big difference over the long run.
My rough estimation is it gets $1.5 spent on the metro vs. $14 spent on taxis to get to the same place.
Dubai’s metro is air-conditioned and super comfortable. The rush hour isn’t spread over long hours. You can even go slightly fancier and get a gold card for first-class metro rides.
The problem is, most of the time, you need to walk to the metro when it’s too hot outside. You know, sweating is okay, but sometimes, you have that meeting where you want to be on your 100%.
Also, even though the metro is connected to all important areas, sometimes you need to go to the place outside of the metro network. Usually, you can get there by combining the metro and bus, but it can take up to 1.5 hours to get there while on a taxi it will be 25 minutes ride.
So, always consider what is more important to you, time or money, and when.
If you are in Dubai for more than a few days, you will need a local SIM card.
You need your mobile data to save money in Dubai:
- Check live map
- Save on roaming
- Use Uber or Careem
- Use delivery apps like Talabat
- Make local phone calls and leave your number to get in touch with you
There are 3 operators you can get SIM card from:
They often update their packages, but overall it will cost you between $50 and $90 for 1-month use.
If you are a tourist, you will need to get your card from certain locations. Go to a big shopping mall (Emirates Mall or Dubai Mall) to find an office which is selling SIM cards to tourists.
There are tons of entertainment options in Dubai. And many of them are world-class entertainment.
But what are your options when on a budget?
As always, how you feel inside is much more important than how much your entertainment cost.
I would suggest you two options. One is free, and the second is affordable.
Free Option – Dubai Marina Walk
Even if you are not staying close to Dubai Marina, you can easily get there by metro.
Have a full 2-hour walk across Dubai Marina. There are many affordable places to get your cup of tea or coffee.
The views are amazing, and the vibe is pretty relaxing.
You will see people sitting in restaurants smoking shisha, running, and just having a walk like you.
Affordable Option – Going to the Cinema
Another affordable option is going to the cinema!
You can come to the Dubai City Walk, which is a very nice area, walk around and go to the Roxy Cinema.
There are two ticket types:
- Standard – $15
- VIP – $40
I didn’t try going to the VIP halls, but I know standard ones are also nice!
Popcorn will cost you another $6-7.
It’s a budget option for a date too.
Dubai is for luxury and ultra-luxury VIP shopping, right?
Sure, if you go to the Fashion Avenue of Dubai Mall!
But what about regular folks who want to have affordable options?
There are plenty of them!
I suggest you shop in stores that look like this:
There are many stores like this, and you can find them in many residential areas.
Just to give you an idea of what kind of prices you will find inside:
- Shoes – $60
- T-Shirt – $20
- Shirt – $25
- Socks – $3
- Jacket – $50
Obviously, it may not be the fashion clothes, but it will have good quality and may even look expensive.
So, How Far Can You Go By Saving Money in Dubai?
Dubai is a city that provides huge money saving opportunities.
Yes, overall, it’s an expensive city, but most of the time, it’s affordable too. You just have to have some patience and do a bit of research.
It’s similar to Singapore in terms that it can be either ultra-expensive or reasonably priced. It depends on what you choose.
If my money saving tips for Dubai were useful for you, check more articles about the country and the city: