capital: Abu Dhabi | government: Fed. Monarchy | currency: Dirham (AED) | area: 83.600 km2 | population: 9.37 mil. | language: arabic
For most people the United Arab Emirates are equivalent to the city of Dubai. There are actually six more emirates do discover though. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and in recent times tries to position itself as a hub for culture and leisure. Fujairah offers some sublime diving while Sharjah is best known for it’s cultural heritage. Ajman and Umm al-Quwain are great if you wanna catch a glimpse of life in the pre-oil days. The mighty Hajar Mountains surround Ras Al Khaimah, the northernomst emirate and a great place for nature enthusiats.
The United Arab Emirates, is by no means a cheap country to visit. Since especially Abu Dhabi and Dubai try to position themselves as luxury destinations, catering to wealthy, shopping addicted visitors, it isn’t too easy to stay within your budget.
However, it is possible to visit and enjoy the United Arab Emirates without breaking the bank. So here is an overview of typical costs and some money saving tips that will help you to travel the UAE on a budget. Welcome to the United Arab Emirates.
United Arab Emirates – Costs
When it comes to accommodation and the United Arab Emirates, than hotels like the Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi come to mind. Two hotels competing for the unofficial title ‘most luxurious hotel in the world’. The price for a room would obviously eat up a two weeks budget though.
Fortunately, there are cheaper options as well. Sharjah is home to two youth hostels. One hostel is in Dubai and one in Fujairah. Dubai and Sharjah also sport a manageable amount of budget hotels.
In Dubai they are mostly located in the districts of Deira and Bur Dubai. A night in a double room sets you back around 130 AED per Person. Be aware that an additional tourism tax of is charged per room and night in Dubai. The price is calculated according to your hotels star rating, ranging from 7 AED for a budget hotel up to 20 AED for a 5 star hotel.
Double rooms are available on Airbnb, starting from as little as 100 AED per night. Just keep in mind, that an inconveniently located accommodation always goes hand in hand with additional costs for transport, not to mention the extra time you have to invest.
If you have a rental car at you disposal, wild camping is an option as well. Although there are no official public campgrounds available, wild camping is legal, safe and quite popular among locals. And the best thing is, it comes at NO COST.
First of all, delicious, local food doesn’t have to be expensive. In smaller restaurants and eateries you can fill up on indian or lebanese for under 20 AED. A shawarma to go costs around 4 AED.
The food in supermarkets, is reasonably priced. Here you can stock up on snacks and fruits to get you through the day.
The rules concerning the consumption of alcohol in the United Arab Emirates are super strict. A few designated stores, as well as hotel bars, have the license to sell alcohol and prizes are downright high. Getting some booze at the airport duty free shops is your best and cheapest bet. It’s allowed to import 4 liters of alcohol or 24 cans of beer. Drinking alcohol in the emirate of Sharjah is entirely illegal.
Public transportation surely is the most budget friendly way to get around in most of the emirates. There are different bus service providers in Sharjah, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ajman, as well as intercity connections operated by the RTA (Roads and Transport Authority).
The RTA is also in charge for the public transportation system in Dubai. If you only plan on staying for a few days in Dubai, the NOL Red Card is the most suitable and inexpensive option. It costs 2 AED and you can recharge it for up to ten journeys. One trip costs between 2.00 AED for 1 zone up to 6.50 for 5 zones. If you plan on traveling more, purchasing the NOL Silver Card is more a bit more expensive (25 AED including 19 AED of credit) but fares are a bit cheaper, ranging from 1.80 AED for 1 zone up to 5.80 for 5 zones. The correct fare is automatically deducted from your card when you swipe it upon entering and exiting a bus, metro or train in Dubai.
The NOL Silver Card can also be used for an intercity trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and back. A return trip costs 50 AED.
Abu Dhabi doesn’t have a metro yet, but a pretty well developed bus system operated by the DoT. You can purchase a temporary, rechargeable smart card called Hafilat for 5 AED from vending machines at bus stops, in malls or at customer centers. They’re valid for 14 days and can be used the same way like in Dubai.
Taxis are the most common way for tourists to get around Dubai and Abu Dhabi. They are more expensive, yet more comfortable than the public transport. Taxis charge between 3.50 AED – 4.00 AED at flagfall plus 1.70 AED per kilometer. A 30 minute ride from Dubai Airport to Dubai Marina can set you back around 130 AED. You can get an overview here.
A rental car costs from 60 AED per day if you rent it for a whole week.
Sights & Activities
Lots sights in the United Arab Emirates are either free – Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace, Al Fahidi Historical Naighborhood, Dubai Gold & Spice Souk – or quite cheap (Dubai Museum 3 AED).
The prizes for activities and attractions, like water parks or the Ferrari World (240 AED) are pretty steep. A trip to the worlds highest observation deck in the Burj Khalifa costs 125 AED during the day and 200 AED if you wanna see the sunset.
Average Daily Expanses
- Accomodation – 98 AED
- Transport – 38 AED
- Food – 41 AED
- Entertainment – 31 AED
- Miscellaneous – 12 AED
Estimated Daily Budget – 220 AED
This daily budget is based on the assumption that you:
- use mostly public transportation / taxis from time to time
- stay in a budget hotel or Airbnb apartment
- eat in local restaurants / get snacks from supermarkets
- stick to rather inexpensive activities
- buy some souvenirs
United Arab Emirates Gallery