Known all over the world as the home to the awe-inspiring structures such as the world’s tallest skyscraper, BurjKhalifa, and the breathtaking Palm Jumeirah, Dubai is a thriving cosmopolis that is an absolute must on anyone’s travel bucket list.
Since the city is naturally associated with all things pricey and luxurious, Dubai usually isn’t on top of every budget traveler’s list. So how do you experience and enjoy Dubai without spending a small fortune?
Well, all it takes is a bit of research and planning so you get to live the adage the best things in life are free. Truly, the best thing about this city is that you’ll find experiences to be had for free, and it’s for real. All you need to do is check out which places you want to explore and to create an itinerary to ensure you’ve got plenty of time to enjoy them.
1. Swim for free
If you’re a swimmer or just a lover of the sea, there are a number of beautiful beaches in Dubai with public access.
- Jumeirah Open Beach along Jumeirah Beach Road, adjacent to Mercato Mall, offers changing facilities, a volleyball court, and a jogging track. It is located not far from Sheikh Zayed Road and the Dubai Metro, so you can jump from beach to restaurant to mall in no time!
- For those who prefer a quieter place that is not too close, but also not too far from the city hub, there’sAl Mamzar Beach Park on the Deira side of the city. This beach is lined with a number of changing facilities, well-maintained toilets, showers, a bike and a jogging path. This park has plenty of quick-eat restaurants, and is also a great place to bring a picnic basket to enjoy.
- Then there’s the exciting The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR) in Dubai Marina. Located right next to The Walk at JBR, you can take your pick from the many restaurants once your tummy starts grumbling after swimming.
And while you’re at it, you can shop around at the numerous shops in this area or just go window shopping since, well, you are on a budget! (Note that this public beach also offers free Wi-Fi access so you can keep uploading those Instagram-worthy photos as you lounge around, swim or explore the area.)
- Other beaches with public access include Kite Surf Public Beach near the Burj Al Arab and Mercato Public Beach (also inJumeirah), among others.
2. Free cinema
If you’re the artsy type or simply a lover of the cinema, Dubai has something packaged just right for you －and yes, it comes with free admission!
- Catch “Movies Under the Stars” at the rooftop of the Wafi Pyramids Rooftop Gardens in Oud Metha, Bur Dubai on Sunday nights beginning at 8.30 p.m. Here, you can comfortably lounge in bean bag chairs with fellow movie lovers to watch films scheduled for screening.
- Then in Al Quoz, there is a gem of a street called Alserkal Avenue where art and photo galleries are to be found, and art exhibitions with free access are held most months of the year. Here, up until the end of March, they have Cinema Akil which has weekly scheduled free screenings at The Yard. They feature independent films of different genres, time periods and nationalities.
3. Explore for free
Beyond the modern and sophisticated architecture and technology this city is known for, Dubai also takes care to preserve its rich cultural heritage. So to give some depth to your Dubai trip, give these options a try:
- Explore the Bastakiya or Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood for free in Bur Dubai. Here, you get a feel of how the earlier settlers lived their lives as you take a walking tour along the narrow lanes and see the typical sand-colored houses which dot the old neighborhood. This historical site features museums, art galleries, a number of souvenir shops, sites for cultural exhibits, and a whole lot more.
- While you’re at it, why not walk all the way to the old souk in Bur Dubai? You can explore the spice and gold sections and then hop into one of their abraswhich is essentially a partially covered boat used for short distance water travel. You will have to pay for your ride, though; then again, it’s a ride worth only a single dirham.
All you need to do now is check out the best hotel deals in Dubai so you can be sure to have comfy accommodations where you can rest after your adventures. So there you go… time to explore Dubai!
Habib Khan is a seasoned Hotelier, currently the CEO of Planet Hospitality and General Manager of Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa. Khan has more than 30 years of diversified international experience in the hospitality industry. He is an expert in developing, transforming, and managing hotels, with an ability to analyze and solve problems in a challenging work environment.