we are often asked by intrepid backpacking travelers if Dubai is a feasible travel destination for those on a budget. The answer is yes….if you are smart about it. Obviously the largest expense when it comes to traveling to the Middle East is airfare, getting here from North America can be time consuming and flights tend to be expensive. Traveling from within europe can save a big chunk of change so always look into cheap flights to mainland Europe and then look for a connecting flight to Dubai from there. It might take more time, but it can save you hundreds of dollars by using this method.
So once you manage to find a way to arrive in Dubai that suits your budget, how do you keep costs low and manage to find cheap accommodations? The best and cheapest (AKA Free) option would be CouchSurfing. With couch surfing you are able to sleep on a local’s couch for free and it is a great way to mingle with the local population, make new friends, and keep your accommodation expenses to a bare minimum. People are always asking us if it is safe to stay at a strangers house and the short answer is yes. As long as you take a look at reviews from other travelers you should not have any problem finding someone with a good reputation and a safe place to stay. Many locals will happily act as a guide and show you about the city, taking pride in their neighborhoods and are a great way to find all the best local restaurants. Most people don’t mind you using their kitchen if you wish to prepare a meal, and this is a great way of showing your appreciation and sharing some of your own culture. Many times a local host will love to teach you some of the local language in exchange for a few English lessons, which can also be very fun.
When it comes to budget hostels, you will find some open to backpackers, travel bloggers, and students on a budget. They tend to be away from the luxury focused center of the city however so be prepared for a taxi ride or to catch the local bus. This may add some travel time, but will save you lots of money vs staying in one of the higher priced hotels. Hostels tend to serve the more hardcore travel crowd and can be another great place to make some new travel buddy friends and swap some interesting stories. Getting out of the expensive downtown core is also a nice change of pace and many of the surrounding businesses are happy to help you with any adventure tour bookings or other services an aspiring backpacker may be in need of.
Finally there is camping in the desert! yes, you can hire local guides to take you on a several day expedition and sleep in a tent under the stars. This is a bit more expensive, but the price for several days camping can be equal or less than a single night at some of the more prestigious hotels in Dubai. Plus, how often do you get the chance to camp out in a genuine desert oasis, complete with local food and music. This is a fantastic experience any backpacker should not miss out on! Trekking through the dunes with a camel and experiencing the city of Dubai from afar is certainly a awe inspiring sight, like a jewel in a golden sea.
we hope this list gives you some ideas of cheaper ways to experience Dubai aside from the high rise luxury hotels. Sometimes living modestly can not only save you a ton of cash, but also be a very rewarding experience in itself! Welcome to Dubai, Backpacker style!