Enjoying Dubai without Mortgaging the House

Dubai Marina

Enjoying Dubai without Mortgaging the House

Dubai, the land the of the rich and wealthy. The land of towering skyscrapers and expensive cars. The shoppers paradise. The land where your “Uber” choices include a chopper ride to your destination. The location where every car seems to cost something over 6 digits. The place where you can stay at six star hotels. Is that your image of Dubai? How can you possibly afford to go to such a place and have fun?

Dubai is expensive. There is no doubt about it. In fact, every luxury brand is there, period. Ostentatiousness is the norm in Dubai and actually part of the experience.

Dubai Marina
Dubai Marina

However, if you don’t have an “Gulf-State” type bank account and you don’t have a rich benefactor, how can you visit and enjoy Dubai?

Actually it’s quite easy. There is plenty to do in Dubai that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg and there are ways to stay in the best parts of Dubai very reasonably. The modern Internet world is your friend. It starts with Airbnb. If you have never used Airbnb, start now! It is one of the biggest boons to modern travel in the last half-century. My wife and I have used it in many parts of the world, from Pienza, Italy to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Most recently I secured an incredible Airbnb apartment right in the heart of the Dubai Marina. This was the view from the apartment.

The Marina is a fantastic location, not only for itself, but because it is near places like Jumeirah Beach and Palm Jumeirah (where the famous Atlantis hotel and water park is). By staying in an apartment I could provide my own breakfast. There was a convenience store at the base of the apartment, open 24 hours a day. Or I could wander outside and pick up a breakfast at a local coffee shop or hotel. I could even cook my own dinner if I wanted to (which I didn’t).

Burj Al Arab Sunset
Burj Al Arab Sunset

The cost of staying in the Airbnb was a fraction of the cost of the hotels at the Dubai Marina. Cut your costs in Dubai by using Uber too. Catching an Uber ride from the airport to the apartment was much less than taking a taxi. Again, if you haven’t become an Uber user, you need to start. It is so convenient when you travel because you don’t have to worry about cash.

You can walk straight from the plane and pick up an Uber car to your hotel. But remember you will need Internet on your phone. As I complete this article I am sitting in the airport in Brazil on my way home from a conference. I have completed this entire trip without changing any currency, using plastic and the Internet for everything.

Activities that don’t cost an arm and a leg.

Dubai Mall

The Dubai Mall is an amazing place to get lost in. There is so much there that you could do for a day or two and almost none of it will cost you any money, unless you want to spend. The Mall contains an aquarium, an ice rink, fascinating displays like one of divers over a waterfall. But of course, at the Mall there is the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalif. Even though this will cost you something, it is well worth going up. There are 2 levels that you can choose to go to. The first at the 123 and 124 floors, and the second almost to the top to the 148th floor. Both are experiences in themselves but if you are on a tight budget, I would only go to the 123/124 levels. The views are virtually identical.

Jumeirah Beach


Spend time on the amazing Jumeirah beach where you have a view of iconic Burj Dubai Hotel. I am always fascinated by the clash of cultures in a situation like this. Dubai is, of course, a Muslim country with all the conservative cultural practices that go along with Islam. So at the beach you will see women in their full hijab next women in very skimpy bikinis. All of this makes for an interesting day at the beach! If you are a beach lover, I would suggest you avoid the height of summer when the temperatures may be a little on the high side for a comfortable experience.

Palm Jumeirah

This is a must visit, even if only because it’s an engineering marvel. It’s the largest man-made island in the world (everything in the UAE is ‘the largest’ – sorry Texas). In fact, it’s actually a series of islands connected in such a way as to make it look like a Palm. You can take a monorail out to the islands, although getting to the start station can be challenging. The sheer magnitude of the island will leave you speechless. Of course, if you do have a little bit of money and some time to spend, go to the Atlantis’ Aquaventure Waterpark – with rides to suit the whole family.

Enjoying Dubai Bird's eye view
Enjoying Dubai Bird’s eye view

Old Town Dubai

Another “free” thing to do in Dubai is explore the souks of the Old Town, that’s if you can resist the temptation to purchase anything. Sometimes referred to as Old Deira, it’s a treasure trove of spices, perfume and jewelry. One interesting way to do this area of Dubai is by following the National Geographic Walking Tour.

So don’t let a small budget deter you from visiting Dubai.

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