Dubai is not all materialism and glitz – there are plenty of days out for less than the price of a Big Mac
Most of us working in Dubai get paid between the last Thursday of one month and the first day of the next, meaning the final week before payday (ie this week) can be tight. Yes, most expats move to Dubai to save money, with tax-free salaries more attractive than those in their home countries, but a culture of brunching, shopping and holidaying makes saving tricky. In fact, a report released by research group Companiesandmarkets.com in April predicted that retail sales in the UAE will continue to rise, with sales expected to be up to 40 per cent higher in four years’ time.
The future for our wallets is not looking bright, but we’re here to help and have found 63 things to do, eat or buy for less than Dhs10 (some are even free!). Dubai is not all materialism and glitz – there are plenty of days out for less than the price of a Big Mac. Let’s get started!
Dhs3 and under
1 Salsa!: Every Wednesday from 9.30pm until 12.30am, Spiral’s Bar and Ritmo de Havana have a salsa party, and it’s free. Just bring your dancing shoes. Grandeur Hotel, Al Barsha (04 341 8777).
2 Watch first-class football: Watch Dubai’s Al Ahli FC and captain Fabio Cannavaro’s first five games for free. The club is also offering a shuttle bus from GGICO metro station to home ground Rashid Stadium (opposite Dubai Police HQ on Al Nahda Road). For fixtures, see www.uaefootballleague.com.
3 Enjoy a quiet day in the park: We like visiting Safa Park on a Saturday – it’s less hectic and you can lie on the grass in near silence. Entry is Dhs3. Between Sheikh Zayed and Al Wasl Road (04 349 2111).
4 Walk the creek: It’s an oldie, but a goodie – stroll beside the creek, see the sights, take photos and catch an abra to the other side for Dhs1. Bargain!
5 Visit Majlis Al Ghorfat Um Al Sheef: Built in 1955, this was where Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum listened to the community’s grievances. The old irrigation system is worth seeing. Entry is Dhs1. 17 St, off Jumeirah Beach Road (04 394 6343).
6 See Jumeirah Archaeological Site: This little gem won’t cost a penny, and features ruins from the Abbasid periods (9th and 10th century). Jumeirah 2, behind Emirates Hospital (04 349 6874).
7 Play poker with M&Ms: One small packet costs Dhs2.50 – make different colours worth different values.
9 Visit the museum: Pay just Dhs2 to explore the museum. It’s housed in a fort that was built in 1787, and features some awesome and at-times amusing dioramas. Bur Dubai (04 353 1862).
10 Watch movies under the stars: We love the free open-air movie nights at Wafi, which start again on Sunday October 10 from 6pm. One of the movies will be Kingdom, the second is still under discussion. Wafi, Oud Metha (04 324 4100).
11 See the world’s largest fountain: It costs nothing to sit and watch The Dubai Fountain, which reaches 500ft and can spray up to 83,000 litres of water into the air. The Dubai Mall, outside the lower ground level (04 362 7500).
12 Spend the morning in DIFC: This area isn’t just for suits: with six art galleries, art installations and amazing architecture (namely the Gate building), wandering around here is a pleasure. Sheikh Zayed Road, near Emirates Towers.
13 Haggle over fish: Dubai fish souk is open from 5.30am until 11am. Watch the hustle and bustle, smell the rather fishy aroma and go home with dinner. Deira, near Union Square.
15 Learn to kayak: Jump in a kayak at the kitesurfing beach from 9am until 5pm every day except Friday. Just turn up with your ID. There’s also a club that organises kayaking trips from here – visit socialcirclesuae.com and search for ‘kayaking’. Off Jumeirah Beach Road, behind Enoc petrol station near Burj Al Arab.
16 Feast on chicken wings for Dhs1: Head to Long’s Bar between 6pm and 8pm on Thursdays to enjoy portions of chicken wings at a wacky Dhs1 a pop. Towers Rotana (04 312 2202).
18 Use the Art Map: Free and available at all galleries and most five-star hotels, use this to navigate the streets of Al Quoz and Bastakiya.
19 Meet the Sikh community: Every Friday morning from 8am until 10.30am, the Sikh community gets together to perform their prayer and have breakfast. All welcome, and it’s free. The location changes each week. www.sikhsindubai.com.
20 Have a makeover: At Faces you can ask the staff to do your face for absolutely nothing: they didn’t even push products on us. Various venues; www.faces-me.com.
21 See Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary: This is the only urban protected area in Dubai. Its three hides offer views of up to 1,500 flamingos set against the backdrop of the Dubai skyline, as well as more than 15,000 other birds. Entry is free. Opposite the Emarat garage on Oud Metha Road (04 206 4240); www.wildlife.ae.
22 Go boating: Join the Dawn Patrol dragon boat team for a free session on the water at 6am on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi (050 708 7238).
23 Try owl spotting: Mirdif’s Mushrif Park is huge – head down after dark to try to spot the nocturnal Bruce’s Scops Owl near the admin building. Entrance is Dhs10 per car. (04 288 3624).
24 Watch the races: The first horse race of the season is taking place at the Jebel Ali Racecourse from 2.30pm on November 5. General admission is free, but call ahead to confirm times. Beside Emirates Golf Club (04 347 4914).
25 Visit the textile bazaar: We find it impossible to park at Meena Bazaar, so get a cab or an abra and wander around this area – it’s jam-packed with textile shops.
26 See traditional song and dance: Entrance to Heritage Village is free. Turn up on a Friday night and you might see a traditional Emirati rifle-throwing competition. Bur Dubai (04 393 7151).
27 Buy cheap fabric: Rummage through the bargain bin at Deepak’s to find offcuts of material from just Dhs3. One word: cushions. Satwa, opposite Emarat petrol station (04 344 3536).
28 Snack through the sunrise: Buy popcorn and fizzy pop from the tuck shops on Jumeirah Open Beach and watch the sky blush (they’re open 24 hours).
29 Catch the bus: With a silver Nol card you can travel from Jebel Ali to Deira for just Dhs4.10, and journeys are more pleasant now that 656 of the bus stops are air conditioned. www.rta.ae.
30 Relax on Jumeirah beach: Entrance to Jumeirah Beach Park is Dhs5 – spend the morning on the beach, then head to the park for an afternoon of reading. Opposite Neuro Spinal Hospital, Beach Road (04 349 2555).
31Tea on the sand: Sample saffron tea at Al Mamzar beach park in Deira for Dhs4. It’s simply awesome. Al Hamriya area (04 296 6201).
32 Buy cheap electronics: Sharaf DG always has bargain bins: at the moment you can bag a multi-travel adaptor for Dhs4 or a kids’ nightlight for Dhs6. The Dubai Mall (04 339 8656).
33 Drink for free: If you’re of the fairer sex (sorry gents), it’s hard to beat Blends’ offer of free cosmos for ladies on Fridays from 8pm until 11pm. The Address, Dubai Marina (04 436 7777).
35 Eat mass-produced breakfast!: Food at Swedish favourite Ikea is just like the furniture: ridiculously cheap. The Dhs4 fry-up is a lifesaver – it won’t win any Michelin stars, but it’s amazing value. Dubai Festival Centre (800 4532).
36 Get beautiful brows: Most salons charge about Dhs30 for an eyebrow shape, but at The Red Lounge in Bur Dubai it’s just Dhs5: the results are great. (04 353 7989).
37 See our nation’s history: Sharjah Archaeological Museum exhibits artefacts from as far back at the Stone Age. Entry is Dhs5. Sheikh Rashid bin Saqr Al Qasimi Road (www.sharjahmuseums.ae).
39 Make someone smile in seven easy steps: Step 1: Buy a pen for Dhs2. Step 2: Buy a postcard for Dhs3. Step 3: Buy an international postage stamp – Dhs1 to the GCC; Dhs4 to South Asia; Dhs4.25 to Europe and the UK; and Dhs5.50 to the US, Australia and New Zealand. Step 5: Write a message to a loved one. Step 6: Attach postage stamp to postcard. Step 7: Put in letter box.
40 Buy Time Out!: It’s only Dhs7, and it’ll keep you entertained all week!
41Rent your favourite movie: DVDs can be rented for Dhs10 from Divina Box stands in supermarkets across Dubai. An initial Dhs100 deposit is needed for a card, but that goes toward rentals. www.divinabox.com.
42 Eat a couple of shawarmas: They’re our staple Dubai diet (that explains the belly), and at only Dhs3.50 from Eat and Drink, they’re an absolute bargain. Various locations, including Al Wasl Road (04 349 9200).
43 Bite into a burger: Get a Hardee’s double cheeseburger for a cool Dhs8. Various locations (call 600 569000 for delivery).
44 Dessert with a difference: Set your taste buds tingling with tako, a Thai dessert made from sako and water chestnuts in coconut custard. This delicious concoction is Dhs10 from Lemongrass Express. Ibn Battuta Mall (04 368 5616).
45 Tour a mosque: For just Dhs10, you’ll see the inside of a mosque and learn about Emirati culture. Every Friday from 10am. Jumeirah Mosque, near Lime Tree Café (04 353 6666)
46 Visit Dubai’s best beach park:Al Mamzar is a peninsula that extends into the Arabian Gulf – and, with a pool and lovely beaches, it is the best cheap day out in Dubai. Dhs10 for park entry and pool use. Al Hamriya area (04 296 6201).
47 Toast Brazil for Dhs10: Treat yourself to Brazil’s national mixed drink for a mere Dhs10 at Pachanga. The offer runs until October 31. Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, JBR (04 318 2502).
48 Buy The Times: This British newspaper is just Dhs8, and has great games and puzzle pages that make for a nice afternoon’s activity.
49 Eat sweet treats at Chili’s: Chili’s has decided that its tasty cinnamon apples are a side dish. We’re not complaining – it means our favourite dessert is only Dhs8. Various locations (for info and delivery, call 04 344 0088).
50 Try Egyptian koshary: This authentic Egyptian dish contains rice, lentils, pasta, onions and peppers. Dubai’s best is available at Al Ammor Restaurant for Dhs7. Al Wahida Street, Al Mamzar (04 297 2778).
51 Bag Japanese-style bargains: If you haven’t been to Daiso, a Japanese store full of garden gnomes, tea sets, personal massagers et al, then go – it’s a haven for thrifty shoppers, with most items costing less than Dhs10. Various locations including Lamcy Plaza (04 335 1532).
52 Invest in pets: Two small goldfish from Pet Corner will set you back Dhs10. Motor City (04 447 3215).
53 Eat yummy Indian snacks: Chow down on Bombay Chowpatty’s range of ‘chaat’, which all cost less than Dhs10. Try dahi puri (a puffy shell filled with spiced mash). 2b Street, Karama (04 396 4937).
54 Buy German goods: We’re obsessed with Tchibo, the German store where everything is sold in plastic packets. We nabbed a leather jacket for Dhs150 – or, for Dhs10, you can buy a much-needed apple slicer. Dubai Outlet Mall (04 426 4939).
57 Grab an espresso: Stop by at Al Samadi Café to lounge on a pavement table and watch the world go by while supping a Dhs10 espresso. Downtown Burj Khalifa (04 432 9520).
58 Get booky Visit House: of Prose (Jumeirah Beach Road 04 344 9021, or Ibn Battuta 04 368 5526) or Book World (Satwa 04 349 1914) and browse the second-hand books: we found an old love letter in a novel once.
59 Dance on the ice: Watch local teens breakdance on their skates at Al Nasr Leisureland. Entry is Dhs10 (skate hire is another Dhs10 if you’re brave). Oud Metha Road (04 337 1234).
60 Enter the dragon: International City’s huge Dragon Mart mall is full of items that are one man’s trash, another man’s treasure, and it’s all cheap. Al Awir Road (www.dragonmart.ae).
62 Browse the Feline Friends book sale: Help local cats by enjoying a new book: invest in a second-hand tome from Dhs10. The sales take place at Dubai Festival City on the first Friday of every month from 10am-10pm (the next book sale is on October 1), and at Times Square Centre on the second Friday of every month from 10am-7pm (the next one is October 8). www.felinefriendsdubai.com.
63 And for just over Dhs10…: Have a Dhs15 basketball shoot-off with a friend – a top-up card at Magic Planet in Mall of the Emirates costs Dhs3, and a game of hoops costs Dhs6 per person (04 341 4000). Catch the surprisingly plush bus to Abu Dhabi for Dhs20 (800 9090). Ride the Robocoaster at Magic Planet for Dhs20 (04 341 4000). Walk through The Dubai Mall aquarium tunnel for Dhs30 (04 448 5200). Thwack 50 balls at the Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa’s driving range, also for Dhs30 (04 883 6000).
Save: electricity by turning off all the lights in your house and walking around wearing a miner’s hat.
Thicken Up: a runny low-fat yoghurt by stirring in a spoon of lard.
Expensive: hair gels are a con. Marmalade is a much cheaper alternative, but beware of bees in the summer.
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Dave james Oct 18, 2011 04:31 am
Please can you confirm the date for the Jabel Ali racing. i was told it starts friday 4 nov.
Tushar Jan 19, 2011 01:18 pm
dp Jan 16, 2011 08:21 am
Starting January 2011 kayaking and stand up paddle are not for free anymore at the Kite Surfing beach. They charge 25AED the hour now :( Very sad as it was a great spot to go on the w-end and do sth for free in this expensive town.
Krayzie wid Syle Dec 14, 2010 11:08 am
No doubt this list is amazin... cant wait see wat more is there... im starting this list as soon as i get my next salary but i see the bowling point wont be possible... unlesssssssss i report in sick... hahaha how cheap am i being... but uhummm still proud of being that way... :p
juniperberry Dec 07, 2010 07:40 pm
No.23 - Owl spotting in Mushriff - didn't quite spot an owl but walked the designated route, saw an eagle - that was this morning and then this afternoon went to the park. 3AED well spent (I got paid for on my second visit), will be walking there again in the morning and would recommend it to anyone, visitor. expat or local. Enjoy all the park has to offer, there is more than I saw today.