Traveling to the United Arab Emirates is a must, but a huge question is how to save money in Dubai. This Emirates city is known for its luxuriousness – and not so much its budget-friendliness. Dubai is a country filled with high-end shopping spots, 5-star restaurants, and a classy nightlife scene.
Anyone on a budget might try to steer clear of this destination, but it turns out that saving money in Dubai is possible. No matter if you’re a visiting traveler or expat moving to the city, here is everything you need to know about staying within budget in Dubai.
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Creative Ideas on How to Save Money in Dubai
No matter where you are in the world, saving money requires a bit of creativity. Dubai is no exception. Start thinking about what is necessary and what isn’t, like that cappuccino every morning or your 500 TV channels. Of course food is a necessity, but avoid overspending on it by cooking meals at home.
Here are a few more creative ways to start saving instead of spending:
- Keep two banks accounts – one for spending and one for savings
- Log your spending habits in a journal to see where your money is going
- Save your change – it could be worth a lot as it accumulates
- When driving avoid toll roads whenever possible
Cost of Living in Dubai for a Single Person
Dubai’s cost of living depends on a few factors, like where you choose to rent an apartment and your general spending habits. If you’re living in the heart of the city, monthly rent will be more than living outside of the city centre. Same goes for eating; dining out every meal will cost you way more than cooking your own food.
On average though, the cost of living for a single person in Dubai is 3,190 AED, which is about $870 USD. That doesn’t include the cost of rent, which could be as much as 7,345 AED (about $2,000 USD) for a 1-bedroom in downtown Dubai. Living outside of the city will help you save, dropping that number to 5,043 (~$1,400 USD).
If you can find a job that pays for accommodations, don’t take it for granted. You can live fairly cheaply in Dubai if you aren’t paying for rent. Rent cost here compares to the cost of rent in major cities like Sydney, London, and NYC.
Accommodations in Dubai
Visitors to Dubai might cringe at the cost of 5-star hotels and luxury AirBNBs. Definitely not ideal for those interested in how to save money in Dubai. There are, however, a few budget options throughout the city, especially if you browse the HostelWorld site. You’ll be able to book a nice hostel for $20 USD a night near the city centre. Accommodations is a major way to save money in Dubai.
Couples or friends traveling together might benefit from booking a private room in a cheaper hotel. When you book a room in advance you’ll get a much better deal on sites like Booking.com and Agoda. It’s also worth your time to look into AirBNBs in the city, especially since this will give you access to a kitchen.
Transportation in Dubai
You have plenty of options for getting around in Dubai. This city has an advanced public transportation system that includes a metro, tram, buses, and even water buses. The metro system is one of the best in the world, and it’s also fairly cost effective.
Tourists are recommended to buy the Red Ticket. You can’t use cash when boarding, so you’ll need to purchase the ticket ahead of time to get your Metro card. The Red line hits all of the top tourists attractions and it’s super easy to use. Dubai Metro fares vary, but the Red Ticket costs about $0.50 USD and gives you 5 daily passes.
Eating in Dubai
Dubai has tons of 5-star restaurants, but you can also find cheap eats in the city centre. Of course the best way to stick to a budget is to cook, but cooking doesn’t always cut it. For deliciousness at a fair price, these are the top-rated restaurants:
- Aappa Kadai for chicken biryani
- Al Mallah for lamb shawarma
- Ayubowan for potato mustard curry
- Bu Qatair for fresh seafood
- Cafe Isan for Thai coconut curry
Tipping in Dubai
A great way to save money in Dubai is to be aware of the tipping practices and pay accordingly. There is no strict rulebook here about how you should tip your servers, taxi drivers, or valets. However, tipping is expected, but it depends on the type – and quality – of the service provided.
If you opt for taxis instead of the metro, tip your driver by rounding up the fare to the nearest bank note. So if the fare if 8 AED, hand over a 10 and tell the driver to keep the change. Restaurants often include a service charge on the bill, but if you were happy with your service it is normal to leave an additional 10-15% tip.
Tipping delivery drivers, valets, and busboys isn’t expected, but it is definitely appreciated. Telling your delivery driver to keep the change is normal, but don’t panic if you have no spare money to leave a tip. You aren’t insulting anyone by not tipping in Dubai.
Dubai might never be deemed a “cheap” place to live, but it is still possible to save some money during your time here. Just try not to get to tempted by the high-end shopping, 5-star restaurants, or luxury accommodations. Find a place to stay outside of the city, prepare your own meals, and use the Metro for getting around.