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Monday, September 15, 2008

Dispelling the biggest myth about Dubai

On a budget and want to visit Dubai? Don’t let its reputation as an expensive city of ‘7-star’ hotels and glitzy malls deter you. Nor the opinions of its critics who say Dubai is materialistic and has no soul – they probably didn’t get far from their luxury hotel. Or the nearest mall. So let’s dispel the biggest myth of all about Dubai, that it's prohibitively expensive. Dubai doesn’t have to be expensive at all and is in fact a whole lot cheaper than cities like London, New York, Paris and Sydney. Let’s take the areas where travellers spend most of their money: hotels, transport and food.
* HOTELS: the cheapest rates are online. Visit HotelsCombined and compare the prices in any category in Dubai with other cities to see how favorable Dubai's ratest are. Take a budget hotel chain like Express by Holiday Inn: in New York it costs $397 now, in London it’s going for $290 and in Dubai it’s $113. The Ibis on Sheikh Zayed Road has doubles for $100 while Le Meridien Residence in Deira is $75. A 1-star around the Gold Souq area will cost you between $35-70, Dubai's Youth Hostel is cheaper but lacks atmosphere and is in a terrible location. If you want something with character and charm in a fantastic situation, then a room at one of my favorite Dubai boutique hotels, Orient Guest House (pictured) in the Bastakiya will cost you $96 at the moment.

Stay in Deira or Bur Dubai and stick to Dubai Creek, the souqs, Shindagha and Bastakiya, and you can walk everywhere. Just don't go anywhere without a hat and bottle of water! You can take abras (public water taxis) back and forth across the Creek for AED 1, around 30 cents. There is a public bus service although the routes were devised more for expat workers so apart from the Jumeirah Beach Road line, it’s not that helpful to visitors and can be uncomfortable when stuck in traffic. Many of the 3-star hotels in Deira have free shuttle buses going to the beach and malls, while a taxi from Deira to Mall of the Emirates will cost you about 30 dirhams (around $8) and to Madinat Jumeirah around 40-50 dirhams (between $11-13).

* FOOD: Dubai’s fine dining restaurants are superb and can be expensive, but Dubai has scores of mid-range and budget eateries that are dirt cheap. You can buy a tasty shwarma for AED 3.50 (less than $1) and a freshly squeezed mango juice for AED 6 (around $1.50) from a stall in the souq area. Or you could share a spread of several dishes at a sit-down meal at an Arabic, Pakistani or Indian eatery for as little as $10 per person. Most of these places don’t serve alcohol, but if you want a glass of wine or beer you could go to Noodle House (at Emirates Towers and Madinat Jumeirah), and have a big curry laksa or Peking duck and a drink for around $12-15.


Anonymous said...

I was pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive Dubai was when I dropped by for a couple of days on the way back from Australia last December. I stayed in Deira, ate like a king in the Lebanese restaurants and had a thoroughly good time that was far removed from my pre-conceived image of the place.

I love the Creek - especially the abra free for all.

Anonymous said...

Great advice Lara. It's good to hear that Dubai is affordable. It seems like an amazing place, but much like our Vegas has reputation for catering to high rollers.

Nomadic Matt said...

it's good to know the image of an expensive place isn't all that accurate. I've always thought I would need a fortune to go there. good thing I don't.

Anonymous said...

I know nothing about Dubai before I foung this blog. Thanks..