Travel to Dubai – cheap or expensive?
I would like to say both. Mostly expensive, but it is possible to travel there with a limited budget as well. One way for a cheaper Dubai trip is to go there in the summer. Both airline tickets and hotels have clearly lower prices than in winter when it is high season in Dubai. The big reason it’s cheap in the summer is because it’s hot. Really, really hot. The temperature in the summer is around 40-45 degrees celsius and with the high humidity it means sauna heat. The local people travel abroad in the summer and return when it gets cooler.
The reason we went to Dubai was actually that we found a cheap trip there. That is, both cheap air travel and cheap hotel. I usually use Momondo or Skyscanner to find cheap flights. Both of these sites are a so-called “independent travel search engine”. This means that they do not sell airline tickets themselves but earn their money by referring to travel agencies and airlines. I think it is very easy to apply and book in this way. Once you have found your trip, you will see a list of travel agencies that sell this particular trip. Just choose the one that is cheapest or if you prefer a particular travel agency in the list. In my case, I found a trip with Swiss and then booked the plane tickets at the online travel agency Flygcity.
I often Google the travel agency before I book but in this case I did not and was a little surprised by a lot of negative reviews. At Trustpilot, for example, the most common rating for Flygcity is “Very bad”. But ok, ordered is ordered and if problems arise, I have to solve them then.
Flights and hotels
Buying the plane tickets went smoothly and after payment, an email with the travel documents arrived fairly immediately. The price from Copenhagen to Dubai via Zurich round trip with Swiss was just under SEK 3,000 per person in Economy Class. That’s a good price. Guess a normal price is about at least double that. Finding hotels is always a little harder. Especially when you have never been to the destination before. I tried to google some conclusions and came to the conclusion that the hotels along the coast are the most expensive in general. So we skipped these.
The next location to explore was hotels located around Dubai Downtown. Downtown is the area where, among others, the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall are located. The hotels here were slightly cheaper but still not quite on par with what I wanted to pay. One of my musts with the hotel was that it was close to a Metro station for the idea was that we would travel with Dubai Metro once we were there to avoid renting a car or taking a taxi.
The next step was thus to look for hotels near the Metro stations. And here it was bingo. Found a five star hotel, Pullman Dubai Creek City Center, for a great price. We paid around SEK 600 / night. It can be compared with the hotels on the coast which were around 2000: – / night and in Downtown which was around at least 1000: – / night. Another good thing was that the Pullman Dubai Creek City Center had a direct entrance to a large shopping mall, CityCentre Deira. Good to have access to shopping and restaurants close by. In addition, there was a Metro station adjacent to the shopping center. The hotel is also quite close to the airport, which is nice when you arrive late at night.
The flight went perfectly and we arrived at Dubai International Airport at the scheduled time at 20:45 local Dubai time. Swiss is located at Terminal 1. The airport in Dubai is a huge airport with activity around the clock. If you travel with the domestic airline Emirates, they are located at Terminal 3. After landing, we took a train from the terminal to the main building before we arrived at the passport control.
There were surprisingly short queues so we got through quickly and smoothly. At the passport control, we had our passports stamped and we were photographed by the passport officer. As a Swedish citizen, you get a free tourist visa on arrival which is valid for 90 days. You need a passport that is valid for at least six months after the day you arrive. The whole procedure went much smoother than I expected. No weirdness at all.
When we passed all the checks and got our luggage we had planned to take a taxi to the hotel. There are certainly Metro stations at the airport but we thought it would be smoother to take a taxi directly to the hotel. We found the queue for the taxi and put ourselves in it. When it was our turn, we were shown a black taxi. Now it is the case that a normal taxi in Dubai is cream colored so I became suspicious that we were sent to some kind of luxury taxi. It would be a severe blow to the budget and not something we were eager to spend money on.
However, it turned out quite immediately that it was a normal taxi after all. Or normal to the tariff in any case. The taxi was a big Tesla and it was exciting because I have never ridden or driven a Tesla. The driver jumped into the car and we came about 50 meters before we got stuck in some kind of traffic chaos. A van had stopped in the middle of the road and blocked everyone who wanted to go out and pass. After much honking, the van backed onto our taxi. Out for our driver and started dividing with the van driver. It was just a light contact between the cars so there was probably no direct damage to any of them. But our driver was quite upset. So upset that he pushed the gas to the bottom. That’s a good move in a Tesla, I must say.
For some reason he did not really understand what address the hotel had. Neither when I said it orally nor gave him a note with the address. He was driving in the right direction anyway so I let him stay. Until we passed the hotel. I started pointing at the hotel and he said something I did not understand. Then he pushed the gas to the bottom again and drove like crazy around both the hotel and the shopping mall before finally finding his way to the hotel entrance. The trip cost 48 Dirhams (of which 20 of these are the departure fee from the airport). This corresponds to approximately SEK 130. Decent price indeed.
Arriving at the hotel, we got the first taste of five stars. My normal trip is not five star so it feels almost strange the times you experience the luxury of five star. A Doorman took care of our bags and we just had to go to the front desk to check in. No hassle here either. We got our room keys quickly and easily. Or key cards. It’s two thousand now. We went up to our room, 514, and shortly after, our bags came up to the room. I gave our Doorman a 10 Dirham note as a tip. He looked very surprised. I actually do not really know what tipping routines they have in Dubai, but thought it would not be nice not to tip when you get the bags up to the room.
I celebrated my birthday during our stay in Dubai and the hotel had noticed it and served a chocolate cake on my birthday. I like when you have a mind for the smallest details. It’s five star.
The hotel room itself was large, fresh and airy. Free coffee and tea. And water. They put in new water bottles almost faster than we had time to drink them. It was very good because a lot of water was used in the heat. There was also a well-stocked minibar in the room, but we did not touch it. Alcohol is expensive in Dubai.
The first thing we wanted to see in Dubai was the Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest building. It can be seen throughout Dubai and you can have it as a landmark almost anywhere in the city you are. The only thing that made it stand out was that it was barely visible in the haze from our hotel. Guess it was smog from the traffic that made it difficult to detect. It was pretty hazy every day we were there.
We took the Metro to the Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall station. This trip took about 20 minutes from our hotel. The distances are quite long in Dubai. The summer heat also means that you can not walk outside for long distances. From the Metro, we could walk indoors in an air-conditioned subway to the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. Absolutely perfect.
Admiring the building from the outside is free. We did not bother to go up to either of the two viewing platforms that you can visit. One is on floor 125 and the top on floor 148. There is also a lounge on floors 152-154 where you can have an afternoon tea. There is also a small terrace if you want to go out for a walk among the clouds. Of course, it is not free to go up to any of the viewpoints. The lowest (125) costs between 141-216 AED (approximately 366 – 561 SEK) depending on the time you make the visit. More expensive in the evening at sunset.
The upper vantage point (148) costs between 370 – 525 AED (approximately 962 – 1365 SEK). The lounge even a bit higher costs from 600 AED (approximately 1560 SEK). This includes tea or champagne and canapé. It is quite expensive to go up in the Burj Khalifa.
Dubai Mall can be your most expensive free pleasure in Dubai. Of course, visiting this monstrously large shopping mall is free as long as you are not shopping. Harrods in London feels like a dwarf in comparison. I did a little check on how the Dubai Mall stands against my own shopping centre, Emporia in Malmö, and came to the conclusion that it corresponded to about seven Emporia in size. You need to spend more than one day at the Dubai Mall to have time to see everything.
The range at Dubai Mall is everything from souvenir goodies to Louis Vuitton, Hermès and Rolex. With a bias towards the latter. There were actually four different Rolex stores at Dubai Mall. Where can you find that density elsewhere? In other words, you can easily blow up the wallet at Dubai Mall. Ok, the majority of the stores are normal brand stores as there are in all cities so even ordinary people can shop without being totally ruined. The price levels in general in the regular stores felt much like what it costs at home in Sweden.
One point of going to Dubai in the summer was that their big summer sale started on June, 21st. Many stores had substantial discounts. If you go here during the high season, you can probably not count on any major sales.
There are about 200 restaurants at Dubai Mall. From Subway’s to Guide Michelin class. In 2011, Dubai Mall was the world’s most visited building with 54 million visitors. It is large and it is luxurious. Definitely worth a visit. Just checking out the people who shop there is a pleasure in itself. All kinds of people.
Dubai Marina is an artificial marina / canal in the southern parts of Dubai surrounded by lots of skyscrapers. Some of the highest in Dubai are located here. Dubai Marina is one of the most walkable districts in Dubai. There is a walking and cycling path around the entire marina. In the summer, unfortunately, there is no point in trying to walk around the marina. It’s too hot to be outside. I stood out for about twenty minutes before it was time to flee into the air-conditioned area again. But I liked Dubai Marina. If you can be outdoors here, it is perfect to stroll around and look at people and visit restaurants.
Atlantis The Palm and Palm Jumeirah
We went out to the luxury hotel Atlantis The Palm which is located at the far end of the artificial island that has the shape of a palm tree. A monorail goes out to Atlantis. This is not included in the regular public transport, so if you have bought a regular day pass on the Metro, it does not apply here, so you must buy a separate ticket. Riding the Palm Jumeirah Monorail was worth the money. It costs AED 30 for a return ticket and takes you all the way to the station at Atlantis The Palm. You can get an idea of The Palm when you ride it. Even though the island is larger than you might think, you can see the various branches lined with luxury villas.
Atlantis The Palm is a huge luxury hotel that becomes like a world of its own if you live there. Adjacent to the hotel is also one of Dubai’s largest water parks, Aquaventure Waterpark. If you stay at the hotel, the water park is included. Otherwise it costs AED 375 (approximately 975 SEK) for a day pass.
Can you go to Dubai cheap then?
Yes you can. But almost all activities and amusement parks cost money. Choose the ones that are important to you and put the money on them. The big limitation in summer is the non-existent opportunities to be out for a long time. In winter there are many more outdoor activities to do. You can swim for free on public beaches. You can walk outside along the promenade in Dubai Marina, among other places. In the summer, shopping is probably what you have to like. It’s in the shopping malls the people are. It is almost surreal to see such an empty city of almost three million inhabitants as Dubai in the summer. Apart from the fact that a lot of cars drive on streets and motorways, it is basically empty of people outdoors. I understand why, but it’s a strange feeling.
Despite the summer heat, I can recommend a trip to Dubai. It is by far the most international city I have been to. It feels like most of the world is represented here. These are people from all over the world. In that case, the only continent I spontaneously had a hard time finding people from was South America. They certainly exist but not what I could classify as typical South Americans.
Have you been on a holiday in Dubai yourself? What do you think?