Shukran. That’s how to say ‘thank you’ in Arabic, which is the official language in Dubai. The Middle Eastern city is home to three million people and around 200 nationalities, and it keeps landing top spots on global destination rankings for travel. And while many think that travel to Dubai is out of reach, it is a city that can be enjoyed on a budget, while still enjoying the luxury its known for.

If you are hearing a lot about Dubai lately, it is because it is such a hot spot right now. Earlier this year, Dubai landed the number one spot on a global destination ranking in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Destinations Awards. This was the third year in a row that Dubai has won this, and the only city to date that has won it that many times.

It’s also the number one city in the world to relocate to in a report by financial services provider Remitly, and was ranked the best city in the world for remote workers by property consultancy Savills in its top 20 list of the 2023 Executive Nomad Index, according to the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET). Not only that, it was also ranked one of the top 10 cities in the Global Power City Index, in a report issued by the Mori Memorial Foundation’s Institute for Urban Strategies in Japan. And the UAE was also named the second safest country in the world in 2023, according to findings revealed by Numbeo.

Burj Khalifa view from Thiptara

And it is fair to say that many associate Dubai with the lavish luxury side, like a stay at the Burj Al Arab, the city’s most iconic hotel, which is well over $1,500 CAD per night. But there’s so much more to this place, so flights aside, here’s a look at some Dubai spots you can check out on a budget.

Nestled on the banks of Dubai Creek, in the Old City, is Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai. With an overall 4.5 rating on TripAdvisor, rates here start at $88 CAD. It is also a stunning location with an Arabic vibe that will set the tone of your trip. The hotel is very close to famous spice and gold souks, which are accessible by a water taxi.

Al Seef Heritage Hotel

The best part about being in this part of town is how close you are to the Arabian Tea House, which is also recommended if you’re travelling on a budget. This quaint tea house is an authentic style space with turquoise benches, white rattan chairs, and a delicious menu that won’t break the bank. It’s a spot for breakfast, or late lunch, or tea, or dinner – but for any meal, be sure to try the gahwa (traditional Arabic coffee) and their tea.

This very cultural experience in Old Dubai is one that can keep you on budget, while exploring the beauty and culinary side of the city.

Even just the water taxi across to the souks is an incredible experience, and is under around $0.50. In the markets, prepare to bargain your way to grabbing some of the best spices and teas. The colours here are unmatched, and this market is bound to awake all your senses.

Famous spice and gold souks

One thing about Dubai is that it has different areas, with each giving you a very different experience in the city.

Alserkal Avenue is about 20 minutes away from Old Dubai City, but this area is all about arts and culture. It is a modern area filled with contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, and community spaces. It is a must visit for those wanting to see an alternate neighbourhood in this Arabic city, and also a great place to try perfume making – a traditional experience that dates back in history here.

Besides this city’s historical aspects, there is the very futuristic side of Dubai. Perhaps the most popular part of this is The Museum of the Future, which is a stunning building in the city. If you are on a budget, you can visit the building from the outside for photos, without entering the museum. The architecture is almost more stunning that the indoor exhibit, which costs around $55 CAD.

Museum of the Future

No visit to Dubai is complete without two experiences: a visit to/or photo of the Burj Khalifa, and a desert safari experience.

At over 828 metres (2,716.5 feet) and more than 160 stories, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world. An impressive daytime site, this place is even more sparkly in the evening, when there is also a fountain show that accompanies a light show shining from the skyscraper. A great spot to watch this fountain show, or multiple of them, is Thiptara, a Thai restaurant across from the Burj.

If you are on a budget, one experience you will want to spend a bit on (perhaps a splurge) is a desert safari. Think a drive along a desert road in a 1950s Land Rover to take you to a Bedouin camp, all built out of natural wood and stone. This experience through Platinum Heritage will take up half a day, but will provide a historic, immersive look at yet another side of Dubai. From seeing desert animals, to eating traditional food cooked on site, these safaris start at $220 CAD, but will also include the transportation and food. The scenery is unmatched, and you will get to stargaze if you book the evening safari.

Platinum Heritage safari

Back in the city, it is worth a visit to the Palm Jumeirah, the iconic archipelago of artificial islands. If you don’t want to spend a full day exploring the region, there is The View on level 52 of the Palm Tower that offers a 360-degree view of the islands. Depending on the time you decide to visit, the tickets start at $25 CAD. But it truly is a million dollar view.

Speaking of views, there are beaches in Dubai, like Jumeirah Beach, or JBR Beach. These are easily accessible from hotels like Rixos Premium Dubai, which has incredible views of the water and Ain Dubai.

If you don’t want to stay at a hotel for a view but want a pool experience, save a morning to grab breakfast at a Drift Beach Club, beachfront destination that will give you pool and beach access with your meal on Wednesdays. They have an Instagram famous pool swing, just be prepared to wait for your turn for a photo.

From picture perfect desert moments, to colourful markets, and delicious meals, it really is no wonder it is becoming such a world famous destination.

The city is vibrant, diverse, and offers experiences for all budgets. We wouldn’t be surprised if it tops that Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Best Destination award again next year.

And whenever you end up there, just remember: Shukran.