If you say that you are planning a backpacking Dubai trip, not many would take you seriously. For one, Dubai is one of the most luxurious and the most expensive cities in the world. Surviving on a backpackers’ budget in Dubai may seem to be impossible.
However, it is not so. There are ways in which you can enjoy a short holiday or daycation in Dubai without spending too much money.
While a short holiday would involve a long weekend, a daycation is when you visit the city for a day and do not spend the night here. The latter can happen if you live in one of the nearby Emirates or when you are in Dubai as a stopover during your international trip.
Whatever might be the case, it is possible to have a backpacking Dubai trip if you know where to stay and what to do without ruining your holiday budget.
What to See and Do While Backpacking Dubai
One of the major questions that backpackers have is what can they see and do in Dubai without going overboard on their budget. Dubai is home to world-class attractions, and most require you to buy an entry ticket.
However, there are some things that you can do for free or without paying too much money in Dubai.
Abra Ride on Dubai Creek
The Dubai Creek is historically important. Not only does it divide the city into Bur Dubai and Deira but is also the first place that the Arabs settled when they moved from the desert to the city.
Although it was a modest fishing village not long ago, both sides of the Dubai Creek have developed considerably. One of the best ways to enjoy the sights around the Dubai Creek is to go on an abra ride.
The best thing about the abra ride on Dubai Creek is that it costs only AED 1 per person.
Al Fahidi Neighborhood
The gorgeous skyline of Dubai is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of the city. However, right within the city is the Al Fahidi Neighborhood, which would take you back in time when Dubai was a simple village that thrived on fishing and pearl diving.
Walking around the Al Fahidi Neighborhood is free. The narrow winding alleyways, the traditional homes, the wind towers, etc. are some of the interesting things to see here.
The place also has many art galleries and museums, some of which you can visit for free.
The Dubai Museum is an important place to visit if you want to know about the history and culture of the UAE. The museum is located inside the oldest building in Dubai, i.e. the Al Fahidi Fort.
Here you would get to see everything from Bedouin-style tents and homes to the traditional attire of the Arabs. The exhibits of the museum display the occupations, markets, and lifestyle of the Emiratis.
At the end of the tour, you get to see an audio-visual that shows the story of the development of Dubai and its future plans.
As a tourist in Dubai, there are certain experiences that you should not miss, even as a backpacker. One such thing is the desert safari.
Desert safari tours are available at different rates, and you can choose one as per your budget. The desert safari gives you the chance to indulge in adventurous activities at the desert, which include dune bashing, camel riding, sandboarding, and quad biking.
There are entertainment programs as well where you would get to see engaging performances of Tanoura and belly dancers. The desert safari usually ends with a BBQ dinner.
Dubai is a coastal city that is home to several beautiful beaches. While several are private beaches owned by hotels, you would find many public beaches that you can visit for free.
Kite Beach is one of the most popular beaches here. If you are a sporty person, you can indulge in a variety of water sports like kite surfing, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc.
The best part about this beach is that you get a clear view of Burj Al Arab, the sail-shaped hotel. Also, do not miss the amazing sunset at the Kite Beach.
Dubai is filled with some amazing shopping malls, but Dubai Mall is surely the biggest and the best. While shopping at the 1200 retail stores that sell branded and luxury items may not be on the agenda of a backpacker, the Dubai Mall is worth the visit even if you do not want to shop.
You can take a look at the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo from outside. There is the VR Park Dubai, where you can enter without an entry fee and pay for only those rides you are interested in.
Dubai Mall also has some amazing sculptures and attractions. There is also the fountain show that happens right outside the mall every evening from 6 PM, which you should not miss.
Right next to the Dubai Mall is the BurjKhalifa, which is the tallest building in the world. If you do not mind spending some money from your travel budget, visiting the observation deck on the 124th or 148th floor is worth it.
A tour of BurjKhalifa would get you the chance to see the museum that tells you the story of the building and also ride on the fastest elevator on earth.
Moreover, the observation deck gives you an aerial view of the entire city. On the other hand, taking a look at this grand structure from outside is also one of the best things to do in Dubai.
Dubai is a modern metropolis but the culture of its people is still deep-rooted in Islam. Only few mosques in Dubai are open to non-Muslims, and Jumeirah Mosque is one of them. It is also one of the most photographed buildings in Dubai.
To know more about the architecture of the mosque and in general about Islam, it would be best to go for a guided tour that happens every morning, except on Fridays.
Remember to dress conservatively, i.e. wear dresses that cover your shoulders and knees. Traditional abaya and kandoura are available for free at the entrance.
Souks of Dubai
What’s travelling without taking a few souvenirs and mementos back home. If you want to indulge in shopping without overspending, the souks of Dubai are great place to go to.
Located in Old Dubai, the city has 4 main souks: the gold souk, the spice souk, the perfume souk, and the textile souk. Here, you can buy everything from exotic spices to gold jewelry.
Don’t forget that bargaining before buying anything is a norm here.
Where to Stay while Backpacking Dubai
If you are planning a daycation in Dubai, you would not need to find accommodation here. In that case, you can skip this part. However, for people who are in Dubai on a budget, accommodation is one of the major concerns.
Dubai is home to some of the most luxurious hotels in the world, including the only seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab. However, it is important to know that Dubai is home to not only budget hotels but also hostels for backpackers. Here are some of the hostels where you can stay while backpacking in Dubai:
Backpacking Dubai At The Top
Known to be the best hotel in Dubai, At The Top is the only one located in the Dubai Marina district. What makes it the most favorite is that it is located on the 66th floor and provides you with an incredible view of the city.
At The Top hostel has 24×7 reception service, complimentary continental breakfast, and high-speed Wi-Fi too. Guests are free to use a fully-functional kitchenette to prepare their meals, snacks, and beverages. The place is spotlessly clean and also provides its guests with safety lockers as well as clean towels and lines.
If you want to stay at a hostel that is closer to all the popular attractions of the city, Domme is a good option. It is located near the city center, some 2.9 km from Dubai International Airport.
Apart from accessibility, Domme also has several facilities like 24-hour security, free breakfast, high speed internet, meeting rooms, etc. The place has a friendly staff, and it is a perfect hostel where you can meet and interact with fellow backpackers while playing board games or puzzles. One of the best things about Domme is that it is pet friendly.
Backpacking Dubai Hostel
If you are looking for the cheapest hostel, i.e. a place where you can keep your belongings and sleep during the day, the BackPacker Hostel is your best option. This hostel provides some basic facilities including complimentary breakfast, air conditioning, Wi-Fi, meeting rooms, etc.
Moreover, it is quite close to the main attractions of Dubai and also provides you with a comfortable bed to rest and relax after a tiring day exploring the city. Some other hostels in Dubai include Marina Dream, Royal Plaza Apartments, Dubai Beach Host, etc.
Moreover, if you want to enjoy a hostel experience with a private room, Saffron Boutique Hotel, Abidos Hotel Apartment Dubailand, Fortune Classic Hotel Apartments, etc. are some good options. Other than the hostels, AirBnB and couchsurfing are also good options for a backpacking Dubai trip.
Where to Eat while backpacking Dubai
Dubai is a land where you would find some of the most expensive fine dining restaurants in the world. However, you can definitely eat in Dubai without breaking your budget. If you are staying at a hostel, you can use their kitchen and cook your own meal by getting the groceries from the supermarket.
Apart from this, there are several small restaurants and eateries where you can enjoy delicious meals without spending too much money. Bur Dubai, Karama, Deira, etc. are some of the places where you can enjoy food at inexpensive rates. Some of the cuisines that you can try here include Mediterranean, Chinese, Lebanese, Indian, etc.
How to Travel While Backpacking Dubai
The best and the cheapest ways to travel in Dubai is via metro. The Dubai metro is efficient and connects the city well. You would also find local buses to most of the popular attractions of the city. Apart from this, cabs in Dubai are also cheaper when compared to other cities in the world.
Dubai may not be the first choice when it comes to a backpacking holiday. However, there is no reason that you cannot include this on your bucket list. A rich culture, a cosmopolitan community, record-breaking landmarks, and fun times are what await you in the Emirate city of Dubai.