The best of Dubai on a budget


Dubai may be home to some of the most decadent experiences in the world, but it’s also a destination that explorers can enjoy on a budget. From epic outdoor pursuits to free fountain shows and affordable fairground attractions, the emirate takes economising to new heights.


Dubai resident Ausra Osipaviciute is the founder of, featuring some of the UAE’s best hiking trails. In Dubai, she recommends hiking in Hatta.

“The whole network of the trails in Hatta is around 32km, but the shortest one is just 1km,” says Ausra. “They are colour-graded according to the level of difficulty. Start from the green ones, which are the easiest, and then progress to the more difficult blue, then red intermediate ones. Black routes are the most challenging.”

With high temperatures, trekking in Dubai is for early birds. Ausra recommends starting no later than 6am, and bringing backpacks stocked with lots of water. Mobile phones should be fully charged in case you need to call for help. Avoid accidents by wearing suitable footwear.


Contemporary art institution Jameel Arts Centre in Al Jaddaf hosts world-class exhibitions that are free to visit all year round.

“Here at Jameel Arts Centre, we believe in arts for all,” says Jameel Arts Centre Director, Antonia Carver. “We put on exhibitions, solo shows, group exhibitions… We have a library, a space for children’s workshops and for films.”

With a sculpture park and artists gardens, the institute is striking inside and out. Both topical and typical of the exhibitions you’ll find here, ‘Age of You’, currently running, explores how technology is affecting the human psyche, how we’ve all become data online, and how artists are interpreting this new world.

“These exhibitions have so much to say and are so in-depth that people can visit and revisit over and over again – and it’s all free!” adds Antonia.


Opposite Al Jaddaf, just across Dubai Creek, Dubai Festival City is home to one of three famous fountains in Dubai. Called Imagine, jets of water, music, lights, dancing holograms and great balls of fire combine to form this spectacle, which erupts every half an hour after sunset.

World-renowned Dubai Fountain in Downtown Dubai was created by the team behind Las Vegas’ Bellagio Fountain. Enjoy front-row seats aboard a traditional abra boat, available to book on Burj Lake, and enjoy the view while sailing around nightly show of sights and sounds.

Recently launched and crowned the biggest fountain in the world, the Palm Fountain at The Pointe – a new boulevard development at Palm Jumeirah – covers 14,000 square metres of sea water, shooting jets 105 metres into the sky, accompanied by 3,000 lights.

Global Village

With an entry fee of less than €5 and 1.6 million-square metres of stalls, food vendors, fairground rides and stage performances, Global Village is popular with families.

A staggering 78 different cultures are represented across 26 pavilions that house 3,500 retail outlets and 300 food stalls, making Global Village the largest street food offering in the region. Dishes to sample include traditional Emirati rigag bread pancakes, filled with cream cheese, and photogenic Asian ice desserts. Grab one and watch one of the 42,000 live shows that Global Village puts on each season. Though, admittedly, it may be more prudent to brave the thrilling Sling Shot ride on an empty stomach.