We’ve all been there, the week (ahem, three weeks) before payday and you’re broke as a joke. But staying at home just isn’t an option. Luckily there’s a load of things you can get up to without breaking the bank, from venturing down memory lane with a look into the city’s past, to exploring the future with a spot of virtual reality.
We’ve put together seven days that you can enjoy while you wait for those hard-earneds to roll in. After all, the best things in life are free – or less than Dhs100, anyway…
AM: Push the body and exercise the mind at TEP Factor
Do you have the brains, the brawn, team skills and all-round prowess to make it through any obstacle? Well now’s your chance to prove yourself. TEPfactor is a series of gruelling tasks that take place in the depths of a concealed cave, where brave competitors take on 21 adrenaline-spiking challenges. Players must team up into groups of between two and six, racing against the clock to overcome mind-bending puzzles, balancing acts, heroic feats, team challenges and even tests of patience. The experience is split into four categories that put your physical, mental, team-working and cooperation skills to the test. After completing four challenges in each category, teams will have to use their mental capabilities to put together clues from finished challenges to gain access to a fifth task.
Dhs80 (Sun-Wed, per hour per person). Dhs100 (Thu-Sat, per hour per person). Open Sun-Wed, 10am-midnight; Thu-Fri 10am-1am. JBR, The Walk (04 398 8438).
PM: Dally down to The Beach
You might have spent the majority of your budget at TEPfactor, but you don’t need any funds for a jaunt along the sands at JBR beach. (Though we do recommend grabbing a Dhs12 falafel wrap from Operation Falafel to keep you fuelled up.) The seafront strip is a great area for people-watching. You’ll be reminded of trips to Greece, Italy and Spain just strolling through the area which has a plethora of international food options right on the street. As well as a kids’ play park, you’ll find a running track, an al fresco gym, plenty of shops and stalls, and even a giant inflatable assault course (chargeable, sadly) in the sea.
Free. The Beach, JBR, www.thebeach.ae.
AM: Leave reality behind at the VR park
The indoor virtual reality theme park at The Dubai Mall has 18 attractions, some of which have multiple games inside, taking you to distant planets, the distant future and the not-too distant world of a fully-virtualised Dubai. Entry to the park is free and games start from Dhs15, so in theory you can get six games and still have change left from your 100 diz, and if you buy a Reel Cinemas ticket you can get 50 percent off an unlimited day pass – meaning you’ll get access to all of the areas and rides for Dhs75 (usually Dhs150). We’re never happier than being attacked by mysterious beings from another dimension (which is a little like working in the Time Out office).
Free entry, games from Dhs15. Open Sun-Wed 10am-11pm; Thu-Sat 10am-1am. The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, www.vrpark.com.
PM: Test your fish trivia at The Dubai Mall
Okay, so you might not get far with Dhs100 in The Dubai Mall, but even if you aren’t able to indulge in a spot of retail therapy, the world’s biggest mall still has plenty you can do and see. It’s home to The Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, where you can marvel at 300 sharks and countless species of fish.
You can also step outside to The Dubai Fountain, which shoots water into the air to a range of different songs, and when you’ve worked up an appetite you can head to the recently opened New Shanghai restaurant, where you can enjoy spring onion pancakes for just Dhs26. Thrifty feasting at its best.
The Dubai Mall: Open daily 10am-midnight. Downtown Dubai (800 382246255). Dubai Fountain shows: Free. Sat-Thu 1pm & 1.30pm, Fri 1.30pm and 2pm, daily 6pm-11pm (every 30 mins).
AM: Embrace old and new at The Dubai Frame
Dubai’s newest landmark allows visitors to see the city’s past, present and future in a one-hour tour with unique views of Old and New Dubai from a 150-metre-high sky glass bridge. Also known as Berwaz Dubai, the Frame is comprised of two towers measuring 150 metres in height and connected by the 93-metre long bridge at the top. The location, in Zabeel Park, was especially chosen to give visitors the best view of the city’s older neighbourhoods as well as the sparkly new stuff (such as the Burj Khalifa), while telling the story of Dubai’s transformation from humble fishing village to glittering modern metropolis. Watching out for the disappearing floor when you get up there…
From Dhs20 (kids), Dhs50 (adults) free (kids under three, adults over 60 and people of determination). Open daily 10am-7pm. Zabeel Park, Bur Dubai, www.thedubaiframe.com.
PM: Enjoy some greenery and feast on some budget grub
Despite being in the middle of the desert, Dubai has a surprising number of green spaces, and once the weather cools, there’s no better way to while away an afternoon than with a picnic in one of the city’s parks. While you’re at The Dubai Frame you might as well have a wander across the sprawling Zabeel Park. From mid-October onwards, you can have a gander around the Ripe Market for arts, crafts, trinkets and fresh fruit and veg. Alternatively, you can wait until the sun goes down – you’re only a five-minute drive from Karama, where you can ogle some epic street art, before spending your last Dhs50 at Calicut Paragon where you can enjoy a South Indian feast. We recommend the Crab Thushar, which will set you back a mere Dhs42 and tastes simply spectacular.
Zabeel Park, Dhs5. Off Al Majlis Street, Al Kifaf. Calicut Paragon, Karama (04 335 8700).
AM: Get on your bike at Al Qudra
This scenic 86km cycle track in the desert provides a real workout while offering amazing views of the sand dunes, and even a spot of wildlife along the way. The route has a 50km loop, as well as an 18km stretch along Al Qudra Road known as The Stick. Both are popular with seasoned cyclists and novices alike and the track is lined with resting stations and there is a café and a shop at the opposite end of the track to The Stick. If you get up early enough there’s even a chance to ride off into one of the best sunrises in the UAE. Bike rental from Trek Bicycle Store costs Dhs50 on weekdays and Dhs95 on weekends, so as long as you can scrounge a lift from someone with a car then your Dhs100 has you covered.
Al Qudra Cycle Track; Past Arabian Ranches, Dubai. Trek Bicycle Store; Seih Al Salams store, Al Qudra Cycle Track. Open daily 6am-11pm (04 832 7377).
PM: Spread your wings at Dubai Butterfly Garden
If you go biking on a weekday, then your Dhs100 will also stretch to seeing a bit of nature in the afternoon. Just a 15-minute drive from Al Qudra is Dubai Butterfly Garden. There are more than 15,000 butterflies from upwards of 30 species at this colourful attraction out on the fringes of the Dubai desert. Walk through the nine domes and see an explosion of colour thanks to insects from around the world. Venture ten minutes down the road to Le Petit Belge Motor City for cheap eats, including spicy shrimps croquettes for Dhs39, or even better, swing by from 6pm on a Wednesday or Friday for ladies’ night and three complimentary drinks.
Dhs50. Open daily 9am-6pm. Next to Dubai Miracle Garden, Al Barsha South (04 422 8902).
AM: Get arty at Alserkal Avenue
Dubai isn’t all about brunches and beaches. Alserkal Avenue is the go-to place for independent cinema, art, photography and designers in the city. Events, exhibitions, concerts and lectures are held throughout the year, putting fresh and established talent alike in the limelight. Intriguing spots include Green Art Gallery, showcasing modern Arab art from across the Middle East, Gulf Photo Plus, Dubai’s only dedicated photography centre and The Odd Piece, which is crammed with antique and modern furniture. A lot of the exhibitions are free or low in price, so you should be able to do it on the cheap.
Street 8, Al Quoz 1, www.alserkalavenue.ae (050 556 9797).
PM: Explore the Creek at Al Seef
Just 20 minutes away from Alserkal Avenue, you’ll find Al Seef upon the banks of Dubai Creek. The relatively-new destination from property developers Meraas is packed with shops and restaurants. This latest attraction leans heavily on the contemporary elements of life in Dubai in 2018, but in equal measure, reflects and pays homage to the city that once was. The 1.8 km-long strip is split into two very distinct regions. There’s the modern site that has the contemporary Meraas hallmarks you’re familiar with (those shipping container buildings) – while the other side is modelled on Dubai as it used to look, with narrow corridors, market stall traders and buildings with an “already old” finish. Entry is free, and when it’s time for a coffee break you can pick up a traditional Gahwa coffee for just Dhs13 at newly opened Kava & Chai.
Free. Open daily 10am-midnight. Al Seef, Bur Dubai, www.alseef.ae.
AM: Get wet ’n’ wild at Laguna Waterpark
This brand-new waterpark is found at the happening beachside destination of La Mer. It’s also is the only place in the Middle East where you’ll find a full, 180-degree wave machine. A day rate for Laguna starts from a mere Dhs99. UAE residents booking online beforehand can take advantage of this brilliant rate by visiting the park’s website. If you prefer to spend your Dhs100 on dry land, then gead to Hawa Hawa outdoor trampoline park for a 15 minute bounce around costing Dhs25. Your can also get multiple scoops of curry flavoured ice cream from iScream (Dhs16 per scoop) or the fresh catch of the day at Mr Greek (Dhs90). Dhs99 (Laguna). Open daily 10am-8pm. La Mer, Jumeirah 1, www.lagunawaterpark.com.
PM: Dip your toes at La Mer
While you’re in the area it would be a shame not to explore La Mer. Hang around until 9pm for Stars ’N’ Bars ladies’ night on a Wednesday or top a hops card up to your budget to drink exactly as much as your funds allow from the pull-your-own draught machines.
Free. Open Sun-Wed, 10am-10pm (retail), 10am-midnight (restaurants); Thu-Fri, 10am-midnight (retail), 10am-midnight (restaurants). La Mer, Jumeirah 1 (800 637 227).
AM: Stroll through the ages at Al Fahadi
The historic Al Fahidi District is filled with museums, workshops, cafés and restaurants take you back to the UAE’s rich and intriguing past. The area was once a hub for textile and pearl merchants in the shadow of the imposing Al Fahidi Fort, which now houses Dubai Museum. Away from that, the district’s narrow walkways are scattered with cosy cafés, restaurants, art hubs and cultural centres as well as the super-cool XVA Art Hotel where you can spend your Dhs100 on snacks or trinkets. Head down here early and indulge in a traditional manoushe for breakfast at Arabian Tea House for just Dhs30, to get your day off to a cracking start.
Al Fahidi Historical District, Bur Dubai.
PM: Go museum-hopping in Old Dubai
Inside the walls of Al Fahidi Fort is a brilliant tribute to the city’s past in the form of the Dubai Museum. The historic building is home to a wide variety of life-size dioramas that depict Emirati life from a bygone era. Soak in the heritage as you take a tour through traditional scenes of Arab households, souks and mosques. Entry to the museum costs just Dhs3 for adults, so while you’re in this neck of the woods you might as well head to the gold and spice souks to see what you can get for the other Dhs97. You can also ride across Dubai Creek for a dirham in a traditional abra. It’s a short journey to the other side, but it really can’t be beaten.
From there you can head to the Etihad Museum, for a beautiful building filled with fascinating history of the UAE. The state-of-the-art museum itself showcases UAE modernity, while offering a unique window into the country’s fascinating history. The museum, fittingly located at the very place where the declaration was signed that confirmed the foundation of the UAE back in 1971, takes visitors on a unique journey. The striking culture spot, which is shaped like a manuscript, includes a theatre, an educational area, interactive maps and more. Best of all it’s only Dhs25 to get in, so you spend your remaining funds on a shawarma from beloved budget spots Al Mallah (Dhs9), or butter chicken at Ravi Restaurant (Dhs24).
Dubai Museum: Dhs3 (adults). Dhs1 (kids under six). Open Sat-Thu 8.30am-8.30pm, Fri 2.30pm-8.30pm, Fri 2.30pm-8.30pm. Al Fahidi Historical District, Bur Dubai (04 353 1862). Etihad Museum: Open daily 10am-8pm. 2nd of December Street, Jumeirah 1 (04 515 5771).