In this guide, you can find some of the top things to see and do in Dubai in 5 days on a low budget.
When talking about some of the most luxurious destinations in the world, Dubai it’s usually on the list.
It’s the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and the second in size after the capital Abu Dhabi. In just a few years, Dubai went from being an anonymous and scarcely populated fishermen’s village to being one of the fastest-growing cities in the world and renowned luxury capital.
How did the Emirates manage to do so? The Oil, discovered in 1966, definitely helped, but today the main source of income is tourism and real estate. In Dubai, you can find the tallest building in the world and many other incredible skyscrapers and malls.
Today Oil extraction represents just about 5% of the income of this city.
Where to stay in Dubai on a low budget
What does all of this mean for those who love traveling? It means that Dubai is generally a very expensive city. It is however possible to find some good deals for accommodation and flight tickets if you search well in advance. If budget is your priority then you should avoid the New Dubai area (the area near the famous Palm-shaped Islands) and look for something cheaper near the creek, in the east of Dubai. I’m sure that you can find good deals on Booking.com or on Trip.com. Remember one thing though: your hotel should be as close as possible to the subway. I’ll tell you later why this is a priority.
To find cheap flights to Dubai book well in advance. Another idea, and that’s what I did, is to take advantage of any Emirates flight that does a stopover in Dubai: spend a couple of nights in the city before continuing to your final destination.
What to do in Dubai in 5 days
Dubai is quite big but, with good planning, you can manage to see pretty much all the important landmarks in a few days. Here are a few ideas:
It was the biggest mall in the world (the new biggest mall it’s the New Century Global Center in Chengdu, China). There are over 1200 stores and a huge 3-stories aquarium. If you love shopping, this is your paradise.
Inside the mall, you can also find a skating rink and a cinema. Cultural events and art exhibitions are held throughout the year. In short, there is something interesting for everyone. Even if you’re not planning to spend money, you’re sure to find something to do.
The Burj Khalifa
With its 828 meters, it’s the tallest building in the world (so far) and the landmark of the UAE. This building tells you how much money there is in this country.
There is an observation deck from where you can view the city but honestly, I don’t think it’s worth the money. First, you won’t have a 360° view since the area where you can stay is pretty small, and second, the deck is not at the very top of the building.
This means that the Shanghai Tower, though a bit shorter, has the highest observation deck in the world, and the view is even better (a complete 360° view of the city).
The dancing fountains in front of the Burji Khalifa are much better than the view of the city from the deck.
If saving money it’s your priority don’t waste them on the Burji Khalifa. But if you really want to visit it then you can book the ticket online and save a few dollars.
The Spice Market and the Gold Souk
The Spice Market and the Gold Souk are two very popular attractions in Dubai and are both located in the historic Deira area.
The Spice Market, also known as Deira Old Souk, offers an incredible selection of spices and other exotic products from around the world. You can also find traditional clothes, fabrics, and souvenirs. But watch out for scams!
The Gold Souk is a market specializing in selling gold and jewelry. With over 300 shops, it is one of the largest gold markets in the world. Gold can be purchased in all shapes and sizes: the only limitation is the size of your bank account. The gold souk is also known for its bargaining culture and visitors can expect to haggle with vendors over prices.
To reach this area take the subway and get off at the Al Ras stop. Alternatively, you can take a cab, which is relatively cheap in Dubai, but keep in mind that traffic can be really bad.
A tour of the Dubai Creek
The Dubai Creek is a waterway that runs through the heart of the city and is a must-see for those visiting the city. The canal stretches 15 km from the coast to inland Dubai. It costs only 1 Dirham (a few Euro cents) to cross it. The entire area is the heart of Dubai’s culture and history. Along its banks is Dubai Creek Park, a large park that offers a variety of recreational activities, including walking and cycling paths, playgrounds, and a mini-golf course. It is a family-friendly place.
Another popular attraction near the Creek is the Dubai Museum, which is located inside Al Fahidi Fort, one of the oldest buildings in Dubai. The museum offers an overview of the history of the city and the region, with exhibits on traditional Bedouin life, the history of trade and pearls, and the cultural heritage of the Emirates.
To reach Dubai Creek, take the subway to Al Fahidi station. The Creek is also accessible by car or cab. You can also park your car nearby and explore the area on foot.
Mall of the Emirates
The Mall of the Emirates is the other major mall in Dubai and is mainly famous for its indoor ski slope: Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, which offers visitors the opportunity to ski and snowboard in the snow in the middle of the desert.
The mall offers a large entertainment section, including a multiplex cinema, a children’s entertainment center, and an indoor theme park. There are also numerous restaurants and cafes, and art exhibitions, fashion shows, and other cultural events are held regularly.
The Mall of the Emirates is located in the Al Barsha area of Dubai and can be reached by car or cab. The mall also has its own subway station, the Mall of the Emirates Station.
Swimming near the Burj Al Arab
Honestly, the sea in Dubai is not even close to the Mediterranean sea, but swimming near the world’s most luxurious hotel and relaxing in the warm water are things to try at least once.
The Burj Al Arab is one of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in the city and is often referred to as “the most luxurious hotel in the world.” The hotel was designed to resemble a ship’s sail and is built on an artificial island just off the coast of Dubai.
One of the most interesting things about the Burj Al Arab is its height. At 321 meters, it’s the fourth tallest hotel in the world. Another interesting aspect is the interior of the hotel, which features a grand atrium, the tallest in the world at 180 meters, and a large dome covered in gold leaf. The hotel also has a fleet of white Rolls-Royce cars to drive guests to and from the mainland.
If you want to go crazy, you can book the hotel on Booking.com.
Desert Safari tour
The Desert Safari tour usually begins with a ride over the dunes in a 4×4 vehicle and then includes a stop at a traditional Bedouin camp, where you can have a glimpse of the local culture and traditions. You can enjoy activities such as camel riding, henna tattoos, traditional Arab coffee, and arab dates (the fruit).
The tour also includes a traditional barbecue dinner, typically served under the stars, belly dancing, and Tanoura (a typical dance) shows.
Overall, a desert safari is an unforgettable (but also very touristy) experience that offers a chance to immerse yourself in the culture and landscape of the United Arab Emirates.
There are numerous tours that organize this activity, such as this one. Transportation to and from the hotel and the meals are included in the price.
Is Dubai a safe city?
Yes. Dubai is very safe and the crime rate is considerably lower than most of the cities in Europe and America.
Since tourism is heavily encouraged by the government, citizens of most countries won’t need a Visa for up to 30 days.
- If you want to visit Dubai look for a hotel near the subway. Dubai is very hot (actually incredibly hot) for about 6 months and it’s not pleasant to walk in the sun, not even for 5 minutes. Plus there aren’t many walkways. Taxis are cheap but if you can find an apartment or a hotel near the subway it’s better.
- I strongly suggest you avoid summer because it’s simply too hot. It can get up to 50° C!
- Respect the local culture and pay attention to the dress code. There are many tourists and sadly some of them don’t seem to pay much attention to the way they dress. Other cities of the Emirates are stricter. In Abu Dhabi, for example, you can’t wear shorts or sleeveless shirts.
- If you can’t find a place just take a taxi. They are very cheap.
- If you have time, do a one-day tour in Abu Dhabi to visit the White Mosque (Sheikh Zayed Mosque).
- Some websites, like Skype, are censored. Don’t forget to get a VPN before leaving.
Here are more pictures I took in Dubai. Here you find my article about the top things to do in Bruges in one day.