When travelling on a budget, it's hard to choose and eliminate the many potential tourist attractions, activities and restaurants you want to visit during your stay. And when visiting one of the most luxurious locations in the world, Dubai, it's hard to believe that anyone who doesn't have a substantial amount of money, are able to experience all Dubai has to offer. But remnants of Dubai's old city and a few of its 'only-in-Dubai' experiences continue to keep those travellers who cannot spend a fortune, entertained and amazed. In this article we look at seven places to see and things to do in Dubai that are free or very reasonably priced, meaning they won't leave you out of pocket.
Dubai's Gold Souk
It is said that 20 percent of the world's gold makes its way through Dubai's Gold Souk, located in Deira. To visit the souk, you don't need to be in the market for something shiny, instead you can wander around the aisles looking at the variety of incredible jewels on offer. If you intended on going to look and not touch, but you find a piece you feel that you cannot leave without, remember to put your haggling skills to use. The prices on show will be based on the market rate for the item's weight, with an extra charge for workmanship (which is where you can use your haggling skills), it is also good to remember that if you pay by cash you have more leverage, so be sure to take enough money with you (and enough change) in case you decide to buy something at the last minute. The souk is open every day until 10 pm, but it does close during the hottest part of everyday – from 1 pm until 4 pm.
Want to learn more about Dubai's oil industry? For the small amount of 3 AED for adults, the Dubai Museum brings the city's past and present together and is the best place to get "insight into the city's transformation from sleepy port to oil-rich metropolis" through a series of dioramas and archaeology exhibitions from numerous desert excavations. You can expect to learn everything you need to know about Dubai, from 'meeting' the pearl fishers who first settled on the banks of Dubai creek to seeing what life was like in Dubai before they found oil. The museum is open from Saturday to Thursday from 8.30 am until 7.30 pm, and on Fridays from 2 pm until 7.30 pm.
The House of Camels
Interested in the humped animals that call Dubai's dessert their home? You can find out everything you ever wanted to know about the camels of the Arabian Peninsula at the House of Camels, or Beit Al Rekab. As a visitor you will be taken on an encyclopaedic journey that will give you insight into camels and the relationship they have with man – as there is a lot more to the relationship between the citizens of Dubai and camels than you would expect, for example they do not use them solely for transportation. The museum includes a few wings where visitors can indulge in information, prototypes, models and tools that relate to camels, their history, features, facts, characteristics, races, organs, and more. Entry to the House of Camels is free, and it is open from Sunday to Thursday, from 8.00 am until 2.00 pm. It is closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
One of the only mosques in Dubai to open its doors to non-Muslims, the Jumeirah Mosque is open every day from Saturday until Thursday from 10.00 am costing a mere 10 AED per person to visit (with children under 12 years old free). There are free guided tours of the Mosque's exquisite interior offered by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding which take place every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday from 10.00 am until 11.30 am. After the tour, visitors have the opportunity to have their questions answered. In order to attend, there is no booking necessary, but you should arrive at the entrance to the mosque promptly at 9.45 am. It is important to remember to dress modestly, and woman are expected to cover their head with a scarf – which can be borrowed from the mosque upon arrival – as well as wear long sleeves and long pants or a skirt.
Hop on board an Abra
A short journey on board an Abra is known as being one of the best ways to see Dubai's breath-taking skyline. Taking a five-minute journey from Deira to Bur Dubai – that will only put you back around $0.30 – is the perfect way to see the city from a new perspective, and indulge in beautiful views of it's towering architecture. Abras are traditional wooden boats that over time have been modernized with a diesel engine. They ferry across the Dubai Creek numerous time from 6 am until midnight, giving visitors a unique way to travel and see some of the city's sights.
Al Diyafah Street
For the foodies, it's safe to say that Dubai has its share of pricy restaurants – for example, the Al Mahara's tasting menu in the Burj Al Arab hotel is likely to cost you a cool $320, and that's without wine – but the Al Mahara is not the only place in Dubai where you can indulge in good quality cuisine. There is an array of authentic Arabic and Asian foods available at restaurants in Dubai that are inexpensive and delicious throughout Dubai, for example those on Al Diyafah Street, where you can find a lamb or chicken shawarma at Al Mallah that will only cost you $1 each.
Al Mamzar Beach Park and Umm Suqeim
There are several public beaches in Dubai that are accessible to the public either for free or for a very small fee, one of which is Al Mamzar Beach Park that will cost you around $1.30 per person. Al Mamzar Beach Park features all the amenities you and your family would need to have a fun day in the sun, including playgrounds, barbeques, two swimming pools, umbrellas, showers and changing room facilities. It's good to note that Mondays and Wednesdays every week are women-only days. Umm Suqeim on the other hand is the perfect place to watch kite surfers do their thing while you work on your tan, entrance to Umm Suqeim is free but, unfortunately, there are limited facilities.