United Arab dirham. How expensive is Dubai?

Dubai Cost of Travel: How expensive is Dubai?

Published: 04 May 2018 Modified: 12 May 2018

Dubai is known as a fairly expensive destination. Because of this we “only” stayed two full days in one of the newest metropoles in the world. In this article we answer the question “How expensive is Dubai?”. One thing I can already tell you; Dubai is cheaper than we thought it would be! 

United Arab Emirates

Dubai is just like Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaywayn, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah one of the 7 United Arab Emirates and an important hub for quite a few flights. When you often travel to Asia for example, chances are you have to make a stop in Dubai. Doing a stopover in Dubai is perfect, as you can explore Dubai and all its craziness.

High rise buildings in Dubai. How expensive is Dubai?

Money Dubai: Currency in Dubai and other Emirates

In the United Arab Emirates and therefore also in Dubai you’ll have to pay with the dirham (AED). At the time of our stay we were able to divide all amounts by four. Which means we paid €2,50 for 10 dirham.  This calculation has been maintained for all amounts in this article.

Our travel expenses in Dubai

On Saturday night we arrived in Dubai from Sofia in Bulgaria. We arrived at the airport Al Maktoum  which is on the other side of the city so we had to travel for a few hours. However, we immediately saw Dubai by night from the metro. On Sunday and Monday we had the opportunity to explore Dubai and on Monday morning had our flight to India. To get a better view of how much we’ve spent per day divide our total spending by 2.5, since we stayed about two and a half day. And although it is an expensive destination, you really do not have to spend a huge amount of money in Dubai. There are even lots of free things to do in Dubai.

We have subdivided our travel expenses into five categories;

  • accommodation
  • food
  • transportation
  • excursions
  • other expenses

Kir's feet in the desert sand in Dubai. How expensive is Dubai?

Accommodation in Dubai

When you want to sleep in a nice hotel in Dubai you’ll have open up your wallet. We chose to book a room through Airbnb . We stayed in a room in the house with an Indian family. For this we paid an amount of € 121.50 for 3 nights. We also had to pay 50 dirham to use the wifi, which was pretty weird but ok. At the beginning of the night we arrived at the room and we were warmly welcomed by the Indian family. We slept just outside Dubai, in the state Sharjah. Although we could walk to Dubai in a few minutes, it took us an hour and a half to get into downtown Dubai every day. A waste of time when you only have two days to spend in Dubai.

How expensive is Dubai? Hotels can be quite pricey, but if you make some effort, you’ll find some good deals

In retrospect, we are not entirely happy with our choice of accommodation. The room was basic, but fine. The bathroom, however was terrible and we had to share it with the family. Many cockroaches and pretty smelly. Next time we’re going to Dubai we will definitely book a hotel.

A double room in Dubai can be found in different price ranges. However, be aware that prices for an average room are pretty high. Finding affordable hotels in Dubai can be difficult. To help out we’ve listed some very cheap hotels in Dubai (relatively speaking):


Prices for food and drinks in Dubai

We were really happy with the prices for food and drinks in Dubai. We ate at the McDonalds (nice and easy), Five Guys in the Dubai Mall with a view of the Burj Khalifa and in the food court in the Dubai Mall. Food Courts are an excellent place to eat out in Dubai and the choice is huge! We both opted for a delicious Thai meal, but you can also opt for Mexican, Indian, Japanese or Chinese (and more).

In total, we spent an amount of € 107.13  for food and drinks in Dubai. This means we spent €42.85 per day for two people.

Water taxis in Dubai. How expensive is Dubai?

Public transport in Dubai

Since we did not sleep in Dubai but in Sjarjah, we were heavily dependent on public transport. Fortunately, this does not have to cost much in Dubai. Public transport is well organized and taxis are pretty cheap because of the low gas prices.

If you want to travel by public transport in Dubai, it is best to purchase a NOL card. You can purchase these at the airport or at the metro- and bus stations. A NOL card costs 6 Dirham. After charging your NOL card you can use all public transport in Dubai, which is how it should be. You can choose between a silver and a gold NOL card. We chose the silver one with which we could travel in the “ordinary” coupés. For a ride by bus or subway we paid an amount between 3 and 7,50 dirham.

Be aware of the women’s carts when boarding the metro. The doors are market with pink, so you don’t accidentally stumble into the wrong cart as a guy. The fines are pretty high for travelling in the women’s cart, so better keep an eye out. Women on the other hand can travel both carts. Men will often offer their sears to women in the ‘regular’ carts.

Women only cart in the Dubai metro. How expensive is Dubai?

Public transportation in Dubai: Goldcard

When you opt for a gold card you can travel in a separate compartments where it is often quieter. The chance of finding a place to sit is also bigger. The golden NOL card costs the same, but for every ride you make you pay double.
We chose the silver card because we like to travel between the locals and we think this is part of travelling.

How expensive is Dubai: Our travel expenses in Dubai for public transport

In total we paid €57 for two people for transport in Dubai. We took a taxi four times, took three busses and we traveled a lot by metro.

TIP: From Bur Dubai (the old part of the city) you can take an abra (water taxi) to cross the canal which is a awesome experience. As a tourist you’ll be offered to take a tourist boat, but this costs 120 dirham, which is pretty steep if you ask us. The water taxi costs 1 dirham

Be careful when boarding the subway, as there are separate compartments for women in Dubai.

Take the water taxi to cross the river, not the tourist boat. How expensive is Dubai?

Money Matters: How expensive are excursions in Dubai?

In general, we don’t book many excursions during our trips and we usually travel everywhere ourselves. In Dubai, however, we have spend a reasonable amount on excursions. Excursions that we certainly did not want to miss. How expensive Dubai is will definitely depend on how many day trips you make, but it’s certainly worth it!

Burj Khalifa at the Top

We booked tickets for the Burj Khalifa at the top with which we visited the 124th and 125th floor of the famous Burj Khalifa. The tallest building in the world. What a view! This cost us 130 dirham per person. We booked our tickets for the Burj Khalifa online, so that we did not have to queue in places. When booking online, you have to enter a desired time for your visit.

Tickets for the Burj Khalifa at the top can be booked here. You do not have to print tickets yourself. At the entrance there are vending machines where you can enter your name and confirmation number after which you receive your tickets.

View from Burj Khalifa. How expensive is Dubai?

Burj Khalifa – Fast track

You can also choose to purchase a fast-track card. With this card you wont have to stand in line and you can almost immediately go through. The costs are, however, a lot higher. For a ticket you pay about 75 euros. We chose not to pay for this. After about twenty minutes we were through security, after which we could continue to the elevator.

If you also want to visit the largest aquarium in Dubai, you can choose for a combi-ticket to visit both the Burj Khalifa and the Underwater Zoo

* The entrance to the Burj Khalifa at the Top is located in the gigantic Dubai Mall.

Most do: A Desert Safari in Dubai

A few days before leaving for Dubai I found out via Twitter that Saskia (another Dutch travel blogger) would be in Dubai at the same time. We shared our plans and Saskia asked if we wanted to go on a Desert Safari. Uhhh .. Hell yeah! Thanks to discount vouchers from Saskia we paid 300 dirham for this. Converted about 75 euros for two people. There are a large number of companies which organise desert safaris. Tickets for the Desert Safari can also be booked online.

Dune bashing in Dubai. How expensive is Dubai?

Other travel expenses in Dubai

In this category, we spent €15.63 in Dubai on cigarettes (a packet of L&M costs no more than two euros) and two USB sticks which we bought as a backup for our photos. We only paid five euros for one USB stick.

Money Dubai: How expensive is Dubai? Our total travel expenses

In answer to the question “how expensive is Dubai?” We can state that we spent a total of €441.25 in Dubai. This amount is for two people. A considerable amount for such a short visit, but all costs are included, so we thought is would be worse.

Daily budget for a trip to Dubai: This amounts to a daily budget of €88.25 per person in Dubai.

Did you expect Dubai to be a cheaper or more expensive destination?

Kirsten - Even when I was a child I already knew I was going to explore the world. Now, in my early thirties, I have done pretty well in following my dream. In 2014 Erick and I started Travelaar.nl, a Dutch blog on which to share our adventures with the world. In 2017 we started Travelaar.com to share our articles with the rest of the planet.