Published on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dubai on a budget

Dubai is a fabulous choice for a winter break, but it's not cheap so if you've got clients who want to experience the full glamour of the destination but they're worried about the cost, here are some top money-saving tips:

Get a cheap flight upgrade

You want to arrive in style but you don't want to pay a fortune for business class so here's a little tip when travelling with Emirates: check in online 48 hours before departure and you might be offered a cheap upgrade to business class. I was offered an upgrade for just £380 one-way but foolishly waited till the following day, thinking the price might drop even lower, but all the seats were sold by the next morning.

If you end up in economy, don't worry, Emirates' seats are pretty spacious - I thought those at the front of the A380 were the best and passengers seated here are the first to get off.

Free booze and cheap eats for the ladies

Alcohol is pricey in Dubai but if you're a lady you're in luck because many hotel restaurants operate Ladies' Nights with a selection of free drinks and some offer heavily discounted dining too. Many also offer smaller discounts for mixed groups.

Different restaurants offer Ladies' Night on different days, so you can eat and drink at a discount every night of your trip, assuming there's at least one woman in your group. What's On has a list of venues with details of what's included.

Brunch Dubai-style

Friday Brunch is a Dubai institution that allows you to indulge in a blow-out, alcoholic feast for a fixed price. Your choice of venue will depend on whether you want a party atmosphere (think dancing on tables), something a little more laid-back, sophisticated or even family-friendly.

We went for the Asian-style Garden Brunch at Downtown Toko in the Vida Hotel, which cost AED 325 (about £65) per person for the sparkling package with prosecco, wine, beer and cocktails and AED 190 without booze. All hotel restaurants charge 20% tax in addition.

Grab a coupon

Deals website Groupon has lots of cut-price offers in Dubai, ranging from half-price desert safaris to 75% off a day by the pool at a beachfront hotel with a buffet lunch thrown in. We spent a day at the Rixos the Palm for AED 99 (about £20), which included a fabulous lunch. You have to go register with the site to find the latest deals.

Swap the 4x4s for the camels

A desert drive in a 4x4 is a unique experience and not to be missed, but if you can't afford it, I recommend rising early and taking a taxi to the Al Marmoum Racetrack to catch the camel racing, known as the 'Sport of Sheikhs'. Situated on the outskirts of the city, it hosts weekly races from September to April. There's a grandstand from where you can watch the races (it's free and there's no need to book), or you can do what we did and loiter around the starting gate in the hope of getting an invite to ride in one of the two TV trucks filming the camels as they race.

Frustratingly it's hard to get information in English as the races aren't a major tourist attraction, but they are usually held on in the mornings from 6.30am till 9am. Best to ask a local for up to date information.

Use the Metro

Admittedly cabs in Dubai aren't that expensive but the cost soon adds up, especially if you're travelling alone, so save cash by using the shiny, modern Metro instead. It's cheap, it's clean, it's cool and there's lift or escalator access to all platforms - what's not to love? Even better, there are women and children-only areas within carriages, which are generally respected by men, so if you're a female travelling alone, you don't need to worry about getting hassled.

You can download the Wojhati app to help plan your journeys.

Go souk shopping

Dubai has lots of glitzy shopping malls but prices here tend to be hire than in the UK. For bargains, go to the Gold and Textile souks (traditional markets), which sit at opposite sides of the Dubai Creek. Be prepared to haggle for jewellery - start at no more than 50% of the asking price - and check the cost of comparable pieces online before buying.

Cashmere scarves are good value and there's a wide variety in the textile souk, but check purchases carefully for snags and pulls and unfinished edges before leaving the shop. Once again, be prepared to haggle, and if paying by credit card, ask to pay in sterling, not dirhams to get the best exchange rate.

Ditch the cruise for a water taxi

A dinner cruise on a traditional wooden dhow is a lovely way to see the sights along the Dubai Creek (prices start at about £30), but you could save some money by taking a small wooden water taxi (abra) from one side to the other for one dirham (about 20p) and having a sunset drink at one of the many bars at the water's edge.

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  • Unmissable

    If you don't know Dubai, make sure you see the Dubai Mall fountains, preferably around sunset. These are located in the lake at the foot of the Burj Khalifa. There are plenty of mid-range restaurants from where you can watch the choreographed fountains whilst sipping a mocktail!

    By Peter Lewis, Thursday, December 14, 2017

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