A Complete Guide to Things to Do in UAE on a Budget or for FREE

Burj Beach - Things to do in UAE on a Budget

Bilna Sandeep

Bilna Sandeep is the founder of this blog. She is a Civil Engineer by profession who is currently on a career break to enjoy the joys of motherhood with her almost 2 year old naughty little boy. During her free time, she loves to write, blog and speak up for the causes she care for in the society. Read More About Bilna Here

This is my 5th year in the beautiful country UAE. We have had both ups and downs through our life here. This is also the place where our lil boy was born two years ago and yes that makes us love this country even more.

When I wrote the post on 8 Reasons to choose to Live in the UAE, I have had mixed responses. While some of them agreed, some were a little reluctant. Yes there is two sides to every story. As for me I have been lucky enough to live here with my husband and son. But I realize not everyone are lucky enough to be able to live with their loved ones here. For some it’s the financial reasons, while for others it is other family reasons.

UAE is the place where you get too used to seeing luxury! But it is also the place where so many people strive hard to make their ends meet. And there are some like myself, who could afford to live here with family, but not the luxury.

While for many there is a misconception that you need to have lots of money or at least enough to spend in order to have a beautiful life here in the golden sands of UAE.

Through this article, we try to bring to you the best and beautiful things to do in UAE, which are either free or that comes within a budget. This article shall remain one of our live articles (i.e it will be updated every now and then so as to add more and more things to do under a budget as we come across them)

Things to do in the UAE on a budget or for FREE

A Complete Guide to Things to do in UAE on a Budget

Start From the Capital City of Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, the capital city has been our home for the past five years and I would love to start from here. If you are planning to move to Abu Dhabi soon, I have written a Quick Start Guide for Abu Dhabi, which you should definitely check out to make your move easy and simple. If you are a Nature Lover, I have these beautiful list of places you should definitely see in UAE.

Abu Dhabi Corniche

The bluish green color of the sea, which is a specialty of the Gulf seas, has always attracted me. And Abu Dhabi Corniche is one of the best places to see and click some amazingly beautiful pictures. This long stretch of Corniche also has cycle tracks, beautiful play areas for kids, separate pedestrian and cycle tracks. The public beach is FREE to enter with plenty of life guards around. You can also hire cycles or bring them on your own.

Heritage Village

This is very close to the Abu Dhabi Corniche, just near to the Marina Mall. A place where you get to learn about the heritage of the Emiratis, ranging from crafts, spice shops and everything that takes you back to the olden era.

Marina Eye

Marina Eye, Abu Dhabi

The Marina Eye placed in front of the Marina Mall in the Abu Dhabi Corniche area is another experience you would fall in love with. Priced at AED 50 per adult, it is the largest travelling Wheel in the world. You can read my experience in detail here.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Abu Dhabi - Things to do on a Budget in the UAE
Clicked during our visit to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Every time we have a guest coming from outside UAE, this is one place we definitely take them to. The magnificent design along with luxury makes this one of the most beautiful mosques in the world. You can check out my detailed article here about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque here.

Al Bateen Beach

Al Bateen Beach - Things to Do in UAE on a Budget
Picture Courtesy : Our Friend Hari Nair

Al Bateen beach is one place I loved visiting. The sunset view is totally priceless! Below is a photo we captured during our visit to the beautiful beach and you would know why we always want to keep visiting this place more and more often.

The Beautiful Parks

One of the best weekend activities here for the families is visiting the parks. Mushrif Central Park is one of our favorites. They also have various events, fests, exhibits etc during the weekends. This park is also home to the Ripe Food and Craft Market at Mushrif Central Park from 4 pm to 9 pm every Saturday. It is one of the best places to buy some locally grown veggies and also many handmade crafts etc.

Check out the list of Parks in Abu Dhabi here.

Emirates Park Zoo

Emirates Park Zoo Abu Dhabi

Emirates Park Zoo is located at less than an hour drive from Abu Dhabi City, at Al Bahia en route to Dubai and is one place you could visit with your Kids and Family on a weekend afternoon. The one day trip is also very pocket friendly with an entrance fee of AED 25 per head for adults. The zoo also has a resort to live and experience the wild life in a new perspective. Read my experience here.

Al Ain Zoo

Al Ain Zoo is the oldest and Largest zoo in the UAE. This is a must visit place, especially if you have kids. We visited this place during my first month in the UAE and it was a beautiful experience. However, we haven’t yet had the chance to take our lil one to this place yet.

This beautiful mom blogger in UAE, Ms. Tarana Khan of Sand in My Toes has written a detailed experience of her visit to the Al Ain Zoo in her blog. There is also one more post by Sandy of Ginger and Scotch about their Family visit to the zoo.

Jabel Hafeet

Just next to the the Al Ain zoo, you see the majestic peak Jabel Hafeet. I have always put this place in my bucket list and I am sure going to make it to this place soon. Especially after reading this blog post by Anoop. I love reading his blogs that are brutally honest and thrilling by every word

There are really lots more of things to do and check out in Al Ain. Check out this post by Shea Wittig on her blog.

Delma Island

This island situated around 210 km away from Abu Dhabi, is a beautiful place that is naturally fertile and is known to be one of the earliest known settlements of this region. It is a road trip from ABu Dhabi to Jebel Dhanna (Ruwais Road from Abu Dhabi) and at Jebel Dhanna is the port of the Dobh, from where the Ferry to the island is available. Meg has a beautiful article on her blog “Walck this way”, about their adventure trip to Delma Island.

Other places to visit in Abu Dhabi :

Check out the best list of beaches here in Abu Dhabi here.

Below are a few more highlights from Abu Dhabi. I wouldn’t want to place them in the FREE or BUDGET Category, though some credit cards and websites offer some awesome deals.

 

UPDATE – June 2017: (Between Dubai and Abu Dhabi)

Before moving on to Dubai, there is this newly developed areas en route to Dubai from Abu Dhabi. Check out the post : 6 New and Exciting Things to do in UAE (Not all of them are Budget Friendly though)

This newly developed area for Dubai Parks and Resorts has a lot of attractions to offer. Dubai Parks and Resorts is a destination covering 4 parks mainly – Legoland Dubai, Legoland Water park, Motion Gate and Bollywood Parks.  Different seasonal offers are available for entry to these parks.  However, on my recent visit, I realized there is this beautiful area set out in the style of a European street called – Riverland. The entry to this area is completely free of cost. And I am sure you would definitely love it.

Few more days and it's the long weekend and Eid celebrations..many of you must be planning to fly out. And for those not in a position to travel out of country, there are so many lovely options available Free of cost or at a very low price in #Dubai For now we are on a mission to see more of this country..Let me know your Eid plans.. clicked at @riverlanddubai P.S. I will be updating my blog post on things to do in UAE for free or on a budget soon. Stay tuned..if you would like to add something to the list let me know.. . . #roamersworld #lifewelltravelled #lovindubai #discoveruae #igersdubai #igersuae #cntraveler #mydubai #uaemombloggers #eidindubai #dubaiblogger #abudhabiblogger #metadornetwork #travelblogger #traveldiary #budgettravel #experiences

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There is also the Last Exit and the Outlet Village Mall in this area between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Things to do in Dubai on a Budget or for FREE

Dubai is now one of the top tourist destinations of the world and surely has endless number of possibilities to make your trip totally worth while. From luxuries to down to earth FREE and precious experiences, this city offers something for everyone.

Ms. Lyn another lovely mom blogger in the UAE, has a list of 25 inexpensive things to do in UAE on her blog. Do check out this awesome post to get inspired.

Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall

Burj Khalifa

This world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, stands tall and proud adorning the skylines of this already beautiful city. You can visit the Top of the Burj Khalifa at level 124 or at the top sky Level 125 +148 at different ticket rates starting from AED 125 per adult. Check out the rates here. Though I have been to Dubai Mall for quite a lot of times, I am still to try going really up to the Tower. However, you can have the FREE experience of  enjoying large outdoor fountains one in particular worth viewing is the Dubai Mall Dancing Fountain just in front of the Burj Khalifa. It is the world’s largest Dancing Fountain. The beautiful Fountain plays at different intervals. While you wait for the fountain, make it a point to click some awesome pics with the Burj Khalifa in your backgrounds. It not really easy to capture the Majestic building doing complete justice to its magnificence. I was lucky enough to be able to capture this  image during our visit when my parents came over to UAE.

Dubai Mall being one of the largest malls in the world, it also has various other beautiful things to offer. I love their beautiful world class stores offering brands from around the world. The Candylicious stores is one of my favorites with their beautiful candies. They also this huge Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Other entertainments include the Dubai Dino, Ice Rink and lots more.

Other Malls to Check out

  • Ibn Battuta Mall
  • Dubai Festival City Mall (Check out this post by Candice on her blog – The Isaac’s Journal about their Family visit to the Festival City Mall during City Fest. )
  • Mall of the Emirates

Dubai Global Village

Global Village | Things to do on a Budget in UAE
I can’t keep my eyes off this panoramic shot of the Global village | Picture Courtesy: Joven Buenaobra via Flickr

This is more of a seasonal entertainment. If you happen to be in the UAE between November and April, this is a must visit place. Global Village has a large number of pavilions, each representing a particular country. Each pavilion is unique and offers us a chance to get to know the cultures of different parts of the world. It is also one of the best shopping destination as you get to walk through the shops of different countries. It also is a good place to try different varieties of street food which are authentic to each country.

Souq Madinat Jumeirah

This Souq is an air conditioned alley of shops, styled like the old Souqs (Market place) of Dubai and is inside the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel. This re-creation of the Middle-Eastern traditional bazaar also offers opportunities to shop as well as hosts cafes and restaurants.

Burj Al Arab

Burj Beach - Things to do in UAE on a Budget
Sunset plus an Iconic landmark in one frame is simply beautiful – Loved this shot of Burj Al Arab | Picture Courtesy: David Gill via Flickr

A trip to Dubai is never complete without getting a proper photo of yourself standing in front of the the iconic Burj Al Arab. Burj Al Arab is a luxury hotel in the Dubai and has become a land mark that has come to symbolize Dubai. So where to get a photo of yourself with the Burj Al Arab in the background? Burj Beach is one of the most popular destination for people to get that beautiful photo of themselves with the iconic Dubai landmark behind them.

 Update June 2017: Dubai Water Canal

Dubai is a place that changes everyday. You wake up from your sleep and suddenly there is a new attraction that opened. Sometimes, you don’t even know that it was being built.  Dubai Canal is one such newly opened attraction.

Dubai Metro, Tram and Mono Rail

Dubai Metro provides a Fuss Free way to get around connecting all the important links of the city and the inside locations are well connected by Public Buses too. For those new to Metro Rides, Dubai metro is definitely a must try. With a connectivity of 47 stations, 87 trains and a total reach of 75 kilometres, with local connectivity of public buses, Dubai Metro along with the RTA Buses is one of the cheapest and easiest means of getting around in the city.

All you need is an NOL card to get around in the beautiful city of Dubai for a very cheap fare. NOL cards come in 4 types – GOLD, SILVER, RED and BLUE. Find out the best card for you from NOL Website here.

  • RED – Good Option for Tourists – can be loaded upto 10 trips.
  • BLUE- personalized cards can be secured
  • SILVER – Cheapest and best option for residents as it can be used for the Public Buses too
  • GOLD- Slightly priced higher, but you can be seated in a Gold Class Cabin

Dubai Tram runs from Dubai Marina to Al Sufouh and has 11 stations in total and is Priced at AED 3 per person for Silver NOL Card Holders.

This post by another beautiful Mom Blogger in UAE, Harkee of “As They Grow”, about her ride with her kids in the Dubai tram is lovely.

Another great option is the Palm Mono Rail Ride which takes you from the Gateway station situated at the entry of the Palm Islands to the Atlantis Hotel, which gives you a beautiful view of the Palm Islands from top. The Palm Monorail is privately owned and is priced at AED 15 per person for single trip or AED 25 per person for return trip.

Dubai Tram - Things to do in UAE on a Budget
Dubai Tram – Photo Credits : Harkee – As They Grow

Beaches, Parks and Natural Beauty of Dubai

While the better known stories about Dubai to the world are about its luxuries and the skyscrapers, there is more to this beautiful city. This country also spends on developing the parks, beaches and lakes for the people and the nature. Here we list out a few of the best as well as the lesser known of these here.

Al Qudra Lake

Al Qudra Lake - Things to do in UAE on a Budget
Pic Courtesy – Abbey – Son and the Moon

I came to know about this “Hidden Gem” of Dubai while reading through this article by another lovely mom blogger from UAE- Abbey of “Son and the Moon”. Her lovely experience with her lil boy and hubby, has made me put this place in my bucketlist. Al Qudra lake, not only offers free bird spotting, but also has a variety of things to do as mentioned here in this article on whatson, including off-road adventure on sand bikes, camping, cycle tracks etc.

Zabeel Park

Zabeel park is one of the first technology driven parks of the Gulf and is almost the size of 45 football playgrounds. It is also one of the most popular parks of Dubai and is located in the heart of the town.

You can pop in on a Friday to grab some locally grown Organic veggies and Crafts at the Ripe Food and Craft Market here.

This park also offers FREE Wi-Fi connectivity throughout the park. Though the park charges an entry fee of AED 5 per person, it is totally worth given the facilities of this wonderful park.

Mushrif Park Dubai

This 1300 acre park located in Mirdif, is one of the lesser known parks of Dubai, and it is more green and natural. This beautiful post on Sand in My Toes by Tarana gives their family’s lovely experience visiting this park.

Al Mamzar Park

The speciality of this park is that it is beach park spread across 106 hectares. This park has beautiful kids play areas, shaded beach structures, food kiosks, barbeque sites and lots more. Manjulika Pramod in her article on her blog – Pendown talks about her lovely BBQ experience at this park.

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary - Things to do in UAE on a Budget
By Vicharam (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Just a few metre away from the busy and buzzing city life, is home to tens of thousands  of migratory birds. The word “Ras Al Khor” means Cape of the Creek. This beautiful sanctuary which is one of the few protected Urban areas of the world, is situated at the mouth of the Dubai Creek. Though it is the flamingos that steal the show in the winter, you can watch closer, to spot grey herons, great egrets, reef herons, cormorants, black-winged stilts, sandpipers, osprey and so much more. Read about the lovely experience of Tarana and her Family on her blog Sand in My Toes.

Miracle Garden and Butterfly Garden

Miracle Garden is everything you wouldn’t expect in the Middle of a Dessert. It is beautiful, colorful and houses approximately 100 Million Blooming Flowers. Priced at AED 30 per entry, this heaven on earth is totally worth every penny spent.

Good Morning UAE #travel #flowers #beautifulmorning #miraclegarden #dubai #placestovisitinuae #monsoonbreeze

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 Butterfly Garden is again an extension of the Miracle Garden itself and houses beautiful and colorful Butterflies. Out of the 4500 square meteres of the Miracle Garden, 2500 is occupied by the Butterfly Garden, with 9 huge domes, each filled with different species and colors of Butterflies. These butterflies that naturally fly around the visitors and the flowers is a sight to see in itself. The entry to this beautiful heaven costs another AED 50 per person.

Farmer’s Market on the Terrace

This market was started to support the local farmers who can sell their freshly harvested produce to their customers directly. Open on every Friday, this market gives you the chance to get hold of the Freshest and organic produce. Abigail has a beautiful post on her blog Cuddles and Crumbs where she talks about fun with kids on Farmer’s Market on the Terrace.

The Beautiful Other Side of Dubai – OLD DUBAI

This is an area of Dubai I am yet to check out. This is where the contemporary Dubai merges with its past. It is the place where the real story of Dubai is revealed. From the Souqs to the Abra rides to everything, I was totally mesmerized reading this in depth post by Ishita on her blog about things to do in Dubai. I was totally impressed by the way her words brings to life the real picture of the Old Dubai. If you can do it on yourself, you can do it on a budget without booking a tour guide or any tourism services. The only time I got to be here in this area around the creek and the Bur Dubai is when once in a while we visit the Hindu Temple here.

Walking around Bastakiya

This historical neighborhood that dates back to 1890s is situated on the Bur Dubai side of the Dubai Creek. The beautiful experience of the area includes the Art alleys, traditional perfume and spice shops, refreshing yourself with a tea from one of the shops and many more.

Dubai Museum and Dubai Old Souqs

Dubai Museum is located in the Al Fahidi Fort. The museum provides a glimpse of the traditional Emirati life providing traces of the history of the country.

The Old Souqs of the area is also where you can do some good textile shopping accompanied by lots of bargaining (i.e. if you are the type of person who loves to do that bargaining).

The Spice Souq and the Gold Souq are also a must visit in when you go this side of Dubai.

Dubai Creek

An Abra ride is something that you should definitely go for. Abra is a traditional boat of the olden days which is still operational. Priced at just 1 AED, an Abra ride is one of the best ways to experience the Dubai Creek. There are 4 Abra stations, two on the Bur Dubai side and two on the Deira side. There are 2 Abra Routes

  • Deira Old Souq Abra Station(near Spice Souq) –> Bur Dubai Abra Station
  • Sabkha Abra Station –> Dubai Old Souq Abra Station

Another way to see the Dubai Creek is Dhow Cruise. However the prices start from around AED 150. Different deals and types of Dhow Cruises are available to try.

I have put up a summary of things to do in Dubai in an Infographic. Scroll down till the end of this article to Download.

Other Emirates

Just next to Dubai is the Emirate of Sharjah. It was during our last visit to Sharjah for a staycation at Centro Sharjah, that I picked up this lovely book that was in our Hotel Room about Sharjah. Oh my god, I was totally amazed to see so many things to do in this small Emirate. Both in therms of Cultural as well as Natural Heritage, Sharjah has a lot to offer. Ever since going through the book, I have made it a point to visit at least a few of them in the near future very soon.

Natural Reserves in Sharjah

Check out this list of Natural Reserves in Sharjah here including Seer Bu Neer Island, Khor Kalba Nature Reserve, Wadi Al Helow Protected Area and many more.

Sharjah Natural History Museum

Priced at AED 15 per person for entry, this is a must visit especially if you have kids. It is also the only zoological park in the Middle East to be completely indoors. Making it perfect for a day out, regardless of the weather. Here’s another fabulous post by Sandy, a mom blogger in UAE on her blog Ginger and Scotch about their experience visiting this beautiful place.

Museums and Cultural Heritage – Sharjah

Here’s a list of Museums to check out in Sharjah, including the Sharjah Maritime Museum, Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization and many more.

Beaches and Parks – Sharjah

Khor Fakkan, which means creek of two Jaws  is a small picturesque beach town in Sharjah and has a good number of beach resorts too, another attraction being Para Sailing. Watch out for good deals and you can get Good Parasailing deals for as less as AED 100 per person. You can also pay on the spot and the rates start from AED 150 per person.

Dibba

Dibba is another beautiful coastal region politically divided into three regions.

  • Dibba Al Hisn – Ruled by Emirate of Shrjah
  • Dibba Al Fujairah – Ruled by Emirate of Fujairah
  • Dibba Al Baya – Ruled by Oman
Al Badiya - the oldest Mosque in UAE - Things to do in UAE on a Budget
Al Badiyah Mosque – The oldest Mosque in UAE Picture Courtesy: By StzemanOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12891211

This Dibba City Guide provides a detailed explanations of places to see and things to do in this beautiful city. Things to do and see include Fujairah Museum, Fujairah Fort, Al Bithnah Fort, Heritage Village, Bull Fighting, Al Badiyah Mosque – the oldest in the UAE, Dibba Al Fujairah, Khor Kalba, Masafi etc. There are also various tourist packages available for this region.

Ajman

This little Emirate also has a few bounties to offer in spite of its small size. Ajman Museum was firstly established as Ajman Fort. This 18th century Fortress was one of the defense measures in its time. Priced at AED 5 per person for Entry, it is now converted as a Museum. Another beautiful attraction of Ajman is the Ajman Dhow Building Yard, located on the north side of Ajman Creek.

Other Things to DO in UAE

Desert Safari

Al though you can’t entirely say its a Budget thing to do in UAE, there are deals available for as low as AED 80 to 100 per person. We went for our Desert Safari just a month before I got pregnant with our lil boy! So it was one of our last adventure trips (considering the Dune Bashing). We are waiting for our lil one to turn three so that we could again go for one more Desert Safari because it is totally worth it. Don’t get me wrong. I haven’t heard of any age restriction on a Dessert Safari. But I guess a little grown up kids would be easier to handle. And the too little ones might get scared during the Dune Bashing.

A shot from our Desert Camp - Dessert Safari UAE - Things to do in UAE on a Budget
A shot from our Desert Camp – Dessert Safari UAE – Things to do in UAE on a Budget

Stay-cations and Hotel Bookings in UAE

If you are already a resident of UAE or a tourist, when you travel around in UAE from emirate to emirate or for a casual weekend stay away, it is a good idea to unwind yourself in one of the beautiful hotels.

UAE has a large number of Hotels ranging from 3 stars to 7 stars depending on travelers budget. One of the best ways to find the best Hotel Deals in UAE is through HotelsCombined.ae 

Natural Lagoons and Mangroves of UAE

Khors, Lagoons and Mangrove Forests in UAE - Things to do in UAE on a Budget
Khors, Lagoons and Mangrove Forests in UAE Picture Courtesy: Amruta – Green Living in Dubai

Other than the ones I mentioned above, UAE is also home to many beautiful Mangroves and Natural Reserves of Flora and Fauna. This detailed post by Amruta throws light on the Khors, Lagoons and Mangrove Forests in UAE.

Still Looking for More?

While the below options may not be categorized in the Cheap or Budget Friendly category, you may look out for the best seasonal offers for the following.

Family Things to do in UAE:

Here’s a massive list of 100+ things to do in UAE as a Family from my friend Keri at BabyGlobeTrotters. 

Top things to do in Dubai Infographic - Things to do in UAE on a Budget

What are your favorite things to do in UAE on a Budget? Do let us know. We would love to add them to this list 🙂 Don’t Forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for more updates. And if you loved this post, share it with your loved ones too 🙂

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A Complete Guide to Things to do in UAE on a Budget

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6 thoughts on “A Complete Guide to Things to Do in UAE on a Budget or for FREE

  • March 14, 2016 at 11:03 pm
    Permalink

    Well compiled list. I think this list is almost complete. There are a few more things like helicopter ride and hot air balloon ride etc.

    I’m almost done travelling here, now trying to focus more on travelling out of the country.

    • March 15, 2016 at 10:49 am
      Permalink

      Heyy Anoop,

      Long time….nice to see you here…wow.. i am looking forward to read your international travels soon 🙂
      Helicopter and Balloon ride I would definitely love to include..thanks for the mention…will gather the related info and update 🙂

  • March 16, 2016 at 7:51 pm
    Permalink

    Hi, I agree with you – love the UAE and visited many times. My favourite place is Abu Dhabi and also the desert. Have you been Camel racing? Not expensive and great fun. I would like to visit Dibba. Enjoyed the article, thank you!

    • March 17, 2016 at 6:45 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Marie

      The camel racing is still on my list..would love to one day ? hope you get to visit Dibba

  • March 16, 2016 at 7:57 pm
    Permalink

    My friend is currently there for another few days so I`ll forward this to him. Great info pack!

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