In a city frequently touted as being expensive and unaffordable to the average tourist, is there any way you can save your dirhams on a trip to Dubai?
Absolutely! We’ve been on the hunt for the city’s best attractions and come up with this incredible list of over 30+ places you can visit and enjoy for free (or really cheap – under 20 AED / $5 USD a person).
Travelling to Dubai on a Budget? You don’t want to miss all our money-saving tips for Dubai here
- Watch the Dubai Fountains show
- Enjoy the IMAGINE sound and light show
- See the largest fountain show in the world
- Spot flamingos in the wetlands
- Turtle feeding at Jumeirah Al Naseem
- The Walk & The Beach
- Soak up the sun at Kite Beach
- Picnic at Dubai Creek Park
- Fresh seafood at Jumeirah Fishing Harbour
- Enjoy sunset from the Palm Boardwalk
- Soak in the beach vibes at La Mer
- Discover Dubai Museum
- Get lost in the streets of Al Fahidi and Al Seef
- Take an Abra Ride across Dubai Creek
- Satisfy your senses at the Old Souks
- Stroll for a bargain in Meena Bazaar
- Coffee Museum
- Al Shindagha Heritage Village
- Dubai Canal Boardwalk
- Enjoy a ride on the Dubai Water Bus
- Cool off in the Dubai Marina Walk Fountains
- Wander City Walk area
- A photo stop at Burj al Arab
- Fill your senses at the Ripe Market
- Explore the world at Global Village
- Get into Aquaventure free
- Enjoy art, fashion & fun at Alserkal Avenue
- Admire Al Qudra & the Love Lakes
- Get on your wheels at Nad al Sheba Park
- Camping in the Dubai desert
- Day trip to Hatta
- Free movie under the stars
- View the world’s largest suspended aquarium tank
- Get your photograph with the Burj Khalifa
- Attended a horse race at Meydan Racecourse
- Watch a camel race
Watch the Dubai Fountains show
A great starting point for many visitors to Dubai is to head to Downtown Dubai and the Dubai Mall. Every lunchtime and throughout the evening, visitors are treated to the visual spectacle of the Dubai Fountain Show. Perfect choreographed dancing fountains move to music, ranging from modern pop hits to traditional Arabian music, under the foot of the Burj Khalifa (which also runs its own towering LED light show throughout the evening).
Enjoy the IMAGINE sound and light show
A nightly show at Dubai Festival City, this sensory experience harnesses the power of light, water and fire in one incredible display, using the world’s largest water projection screen. Dubai Festival City is a great location for those who want to stay close to Dubai airport and the free shows held hourly between 6:30 pm and 10:30 pm are a fabulous family entertainment option (and in our experience a bit less crowded than the Dubai Fountains).
See the largest fountain show in the world
Just when you thought that was it, along comes another even bigger and better than the last! The Palm Fountain set to open on 22 October 2020 will be launching itself as the largest fountain show in the world. To offer nightly shows every 30 minutes between 7:00 pm and midnight, your best vantage point is from The Pointe entertainment district at the top of the trunk of Palm Jumeirah.
Spot flamingos in the wetlands
Head to the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary on the outskirts of the city to spot over 170 native species that call the protected wetlands area home – the stunning pink flamingos are a crowd favourite. The wetlands are a beautiful free urban oasis with airconditioned viewing platforms and a Lagoon Hide for quiet observation of its residents.
Turtle feeding at Jumeirah Al Naseem
The Dubai Turtle Rehabilitation Project, based inside Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel (adjacent to Souk Madinat Jumeirah) is a fabulous opportunity to see some of the country’s native turtle species. During the cooler months of the year, a FREE weekly turtle feeding session is held at 11:00 am on a Wednesday.
The session is only short with priority given to children (and very busy on local school holidays), or you can turn up at any time and try and spot these magnificent creatures floating in the lagoon.
The Walk & The Beach
One of Dubai’s most iconic beachfront and leisure precincts can be found in the JBR area of the city. There are plenty of tourist traps beckoning for your cash along the way, but if you are happy to hold firmly on your wallet, it costs you nothing to stroll along and enjoy the atmosphere especially beautiful at sunset. The street art installations are popular and in the winter months enjoy The Market.
Soak up the sun at Kite Beach
Although there are plenty of beaches along the Arabain Gulf coast, Kite Beach is one of our favourites for enjoying the rays as the locals do. There are plenty of water sports on at Kite Beach, but there’s no entry fee for simply pulling up for towel and enjoying the sun.
Picnic at Dubai Creek Park
One of the largest parks in Dubai, there’s always a plethora of family activities going on in this green oasis that hugs the western bank of Dubai Creek. Entry is 5 AED per person to access the extensive grounds, botanical gardens, playgrounds and barbeque and picnicking areas. For an extra charge, there is a Dolphanairum, a planetarium in Children’s City and even a cable car for some unique and stunning city views.
Fresh seafood at Jumeirah Fishing Harbour
A little surprise packet tucked away in the more suburban area of Dubai, the Jumeirah Fishing Harbour is a modern dining area giving a traditional touch to the waterfront. The area, close to Mercato Mall was fully revitalised a few years ago. Most come for the fresh seafood and dining options, or simply enjoy the jetty. Coming at dawn is your best time to see the harbour in action.
Enjoy sunset from the Palm Boardwalk
Covering the outer crescent of the Palm Jumeirah, enjoy a stunning sunset walk around Dubai’s most exclusive resorts zone. There are food trucks and benches along the wooden boardwalk for regular stops – though only the fit may be able to cover the whole 11km! The boardwalk starts from the Rixos Palm Jumeirah Hotel on the Crescent’s east side to the One&Only The Palm on the west side of the crescent.
Soak in the beach vibes at La Mer
This fun and funky beachfront area truly is one of the new hot spots of Dubai. Brilliant boardwalk views back to the city skyline, fun and colourful food vans and beach huts give an utterly instagrammable backdrop.
As well as the beach itself, there are loads of free play spaces here for kids and (paid) extras including Hawa Hawa outdoor trampoline park, Roxy Cinemas and Laguna Waterpark. A great place to chill of an evening, even in the hotter months.
Discover Dubai Museum
The culturally curious will be pleased to know there is an extensive line up of museums to explore in Dubai. Most visitors have likely only heard of the Dubai Museum and Al Faihidi Fort, which only cost 3 AED to enter. Don’t let your exploring finish there, however. There are more than a dozen museums to explore around Dubai, many of them situated in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood.
Get lost in the streets of Al Fahidi and Al Seef
Which brings us nicely to our next suggestion. After completing a tour of Dubai Museum, the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood beckons you to come and explore. Many of the city’s original buildings have been wonderfully restored and the narrow alleyways now house galleries to tea houses as well as small museums and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU), a key cultural bridge to understanding more about the city, Islamic culture and the people of Dubai.
Many of the events organized by SMCCU used to be free (including cultural meals and mosque tours) but there is now a cover charge for most activities. Do enquire within though what is currently on their program, and if you are going to splash the cash for a Dubai experience, this is the one that will deliver the most educational value.
Nearby, the Al Faididi Historical Neighbourhood now seamlessly blends to the modern development of Al Seef, built in the traditional style of “barajeel” wind tower houses. There are plenty of restaurants and tourist traps along the way, but also wonderful shops and instalments to browse as you make your way to Dubai Creek.
Take an Abra Ride across Dubai Creek
An absolute steal at 1 AED for a traditional boat! This is one of the best authentic Dubai experiences as you sail from one side of Dubai Creek to the other. There are pricier options, as well as creek cruises and dining options, but nothing can beat the wind in your hair on a traditional abra!
Satisfy your senses at the Old Souks
This is a taster of true Dubai, a trading port for well over a century as you make your way through the streets and laneways of Deira on the eastern bank of Dubai Creek. The Gold and Spice Souk are the most famous, but you can also seek out the perfume souk and electronics souk.
Stroll for a bargain in Meena Bazaar
Often touted as Little India, this is a bargain hunter paradise if you are on the hunt for traditional textiles, jewellery and handicrafts. Situated in the city’s Bur Dubai area, this market area is a colourful collection of shops and laneways, along with cheap South Asian eats. The area is affectionately nicknamed Meena Bazaar after it’s counterpart in India and the name has pretty much stuck since the 1970s. The shopping district is located between Al Fahidi, Al Musalla and Al Ghubaiba streets.
Amongst Dubai’s additional museums this is one of our favourites, found at villa 44 Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. As well as learning more about the origins of coffee production and how coffee is produced around the world, you can sample traditional Emirati coffee too!
If you’ve got some hard-earned dirhams to spare (10 AED), this is where you can sit down for some authentic coffee in the upstairs cafe (includes a kids corner) and also pick up speciality coffees from around the world.
Al Shindagha Heritage Village
Situated on the banks of Dubai Creek, near Port Rashid is the Al Shindagha Historical District. The area consists of many buildings, including a Heritage Village and several museums. This is a great one to explore if you are interested in the birth of Dubai and the role of Dubai Creek. Look out for the Diving Museum, Camel Museum and Sheikh Saeed al Maktoum House, telling an interesting story of the country’s past.
Dubai Canal Boardwalk
The man-made canal carved into the desert see’s Dubai Creek connected to the Arabian Gulf via the city’s Business Bay area. Whilst you can pay to take a ferry or cruise boat down the canal, there is a 3.2km walkway that runs alongside the canal that’s free to stroll along, particularly pretty at night.
Enjoy a ride on the Dubai Water Bus
Whilst marina cruises in Dubai can be on the pricey side, if you’d still like to enjoy the water, then pop on down to Dubai Marina and catch a leg of the Dubai Water Bus. A single journey for an adult is 3 AED and children are free.
Cool off in the Dubai Marina Walk Fountains
One especially for the little kiddy’s (but we won’t judge if the grown-ups want to join!). The beautiful sidewalk fountains can be a savour from the heat and the perfect way to cool off as you make your way around the bustling, modern Dubai Marina area of the city.
Wander City Walk area
In contrast to the older areas of Dubai, the City Walk area of Dubai is a modern entertainment area of the city. There are plenty of paid activities on hand including the Green Planet, Geek Nation and Mattel Play! Town but it’s completely free to stroll around the modern, design-inspired streets and enjoy free street entertainment, particularly in the cooler winter months.
A photo stop at Burj al Arab
OK, you can pretty much put aside your next paycheck if you actually want to go inside the iconic “7-star” hotel, but there are plenty of ways you can catch a glimpse of the iconic sail-shaped landmark. For a close-up view, head to Sunset Beach – which as the name would suggest is perfect for those sunset views. Alternatively, head to Souk Madinat, from where you can capture beautiful canal views with a Burj al Arab backdrop (the abras here run by Jumeirah Hotel are substantially more expensive though than Dubai Creek!)
Fill your senses at the Ripe Market
Enjoy the best of local produce and crafts at Dubai’s favourite pop up market event. A seasonal event it moves destination each year (though seems to have found it’s permanent home during the 2019-2020 winter season at Academy Park). The Academy Park event is held on every Friday during the winter, and in Umm Sequim on a Saturday.
The market is also held indoors at Times Square Centre every Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
Explore the world at Global Village
Take a trip around the world at this international showcase event. Held daily over the cooler winter months, Global Village Dubai is like a giant fair of food, entertainment and traditions from over 70 countries.
Entry is only 15 AED and you only pay for any additional activities or food once inside. Food tasters to free dance performances and showground rides, it is truly a global taster session and one of Dubai’s most buzzing evening destinations.
Get into Aquaventure free
Yes, you read that right! It’s not well-advertised but by registering here, you can get into top rates Dubai water park Aquaventure at Atlantis the Palm for free on your birthday and in the immediate days afterwards (redeemable once per year). Other members of your party will need to pay, but a great saving if you have a celebrant!
Enjoy art, fashion & fun at Alserkal Avenue
A modern fun and funky area of Dubai, Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz is a treasure trove of art galleries, performing arts spaces and artisans working in one creative hub. Food, fashion and fun can be found amongst the warehouses with regular free exhibitions and cultural events happening throughout the year. Some shows and hands-on experiences cost extra.
You can learn more including a program of upcoming events at alserkalavenue.ae
Admire Al Qudra & the Love Lakes
The iconic “Love Lakes” are a man-made creation, an extension to Al Qudra Lakes in the desert area of Al Marmoon Desert Conservation Reserve, about 45 minutes outside of Dubai. Entry to the Love Lakes area is free, as is access to the Al Qudra bike track (extra to hire a bike from TrekBikes.ae to use on the track). There’s no public transport this far out of town though so you will need to have your own car.
Get on your wheels at Nad al Sheba Park
A popular spot for local fitness enthusiasts, the Nad Al Sheba Cycle Park has 4km, 6km and 8km bike paths to suit everyone from begineers to pros as well as a jogging track. Entry is free but if you’re only visiting you’ll need a rental bike at 50 AED.
Camping in the Dubai desert
If a desert safari in Dubai isn’t really your style, there are plenty of places in the Dubai desert where you can pull up your own patch of sand for the night totally free. Granted you need to be travelling with the right sort of gear and have access to a 4×4, but this is one of the best free activities residents in Dubai can enjoy over the cooler winter months.
Day trip to Hatta
A day trip into the mountains to experience Hatta is not only a hugely rewarding contrast to the city (and often several degrees cooler than being on the coast), you can enjoy many of the sites for free. The outdoor Hatta Heritage Village is completely free to enter, as is the Hatta Wadi Park and hiking in the mountains.
Free movie under the stars
Dubai’s original outdoor cinema can be found on the rooftop of the Wafi Pyramids Complex every Sunday evening from 8.30 pm. There are giant bean bags to lounge around on for free to the public and popcorn & hotdogs available to purchase.
View the world’s largest suspended aquarium tank
Inside Dubai Mall, you will find the megalithic 10 million litre Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo tank. The viewing area in the centre of Dubai Mall stands at an impressive 51m wide and 20m high and is completely free to view from the outside.
There are plenty of add on experiences inside the aquarium if you want to upgrade for the full experience.
Get your photograph with the Burj Khalifa
OK, we won’t lie, going up the world’s tallest tower Burj Khalifa is not cheap. But getting your selfie with the Burj is the next best thing right? It’s not easy to fit the whole tower in, but our favourite recommended spot is to head to Burj Park, on the other side of Burj Lake to the Dubai Mall.
Pre-fitted with pretty wings for those insta-moments, here’s your best chance to get the Burj Khalifa in the frame and admire this record-breaking building. (Note they don’t take too fondly to what they consider professional photography, save this experience for your smartphone). You can also catch a glimpse on your way past of the stunning Dubai Opera House.
Attended a horse race at Meydan Racecourse
Catch the excitement of racing season from October through to March each year with the Dubai Racing Club. General Admission is free throughout most of the season (bar the Dubai World Cup Finale end of March). A great fun way to enjoy the more glamorous side of Dubai without cost.
Watch a camel race
For one of the ultimate cultural experiences in Dubai, you cannot go past attending a camel race at Al Marmoom Camel Race Track. Free to enter and you may even capture a moment where the trainers are happy for you to get up close and personal with the camels. Tracking down the actual camel race timetable has always been notoriously hard but expect most of the action to happen early morning and be all over by 9:00 am.
There’s no denying that Dubai CAN be an expensive city to visit if you choose to enjoy all of the attractions and luxuries on offer. There can be plenty of hidden costs in Dubai too, so do watch out for tourist taxes, particularly if you are dining in a hotel. Street eats are a fabulous way to save money and exploring beyond the main tourist areas.
With some careful planning, there’s plenty that can be enjoyed in Dubai on a budget – and as you’ve seen many incredible attractions are completely free.
Before you go… Important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Dubai, a handy guide on what to pack and top tips for first-timers on the do’s and don’ts, laws and customs to be aware of.
- Still looking for more ideas on things to do? Check out this incredible list of 150+ places you should visit when you’re in Dubai.
- Pick up a Dubai Pass to save up to 50% on top Dubai attractions
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!!!
- Discover the best areas to stay in Dubai, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE and transit passengers self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our recommendation links for paid activities.Dubai Travel Planner