Dubai is a glittering oasis in the desert, and an expensive one at that. Ever tried to take a photograph from the Burj Kalifa? Or to go skiing at Ski Dubai? Let’s just say, it’s expensive. But your trip to Dubai doesn’t have to be. Check out all these awesome free things to do in Dubai the next time you find yourself passing through the United Arab Emirates:
Places are listed in order from south to north. However, if you wish to tackle this list in one day, start north to south and do them in the reverse order. You’ll hit the right places at the perfect times of day that way 😉 (A downloadable Google map is included at the end.)
Relax on the Beach
Jumeirah Beach is beautiful, well-maintained and quite popular. Spending a couple hours here soaking up the sun and relaxing in the water should definitely be on your Dubai to-do list.
Visit either in the morning or late afternoon, as you don’t not want to be outside and skimpily dressed when the sun is at its hottest.
Enjoy the Air Conditioning at Dubai Mall
Dubai summer temperatures can easily hit 40°C (104°F) and have even been known to top 50°C (122°F) in the past. What better way to escape the heat than by using the early afternoon, the hottest part of the day, to take time to browse the Dubai Mall? And enjoy the AC, of course 😉 The mall is home to hundreds of high-end fashion and electronic brands that everyone will recognize, as well a few stores that are more Middle Eastern-themed.
Visit the Dubai Museum & Al Fahidi Fort
Okay, I’ll be honest: at 3 dirham ($0.80 USD) this place isn’t exactly free — but it is so close to free that it deserves inclusion. The Dubai Museum is an interesting and engaging look at how Dubai has evolved over the ages. It is located in the historic Al Fahidi Fort, which dates back to 1787. Everything from art to technology to sports to local life is covered here in stunning detail with painstakingly crafted reconstructions of life during ages long passed. A great way to kill half hour or an hour, depending on how many of the exhibits you stop by.
Stroll Through Historic Bastakiya
After the Dubai Museum, stroll a few minutes east and you’ll find yourself in Bastakiya, Dubai’s most historic neighborhood. Buildings here date back around 100 years and it’s the only part of the city that isn’t a glitzy modern metropolis. But that is exactly why this area has its own charm. The buildings here are mostly residential but you can find a couple small shops to have a basic tea, coffee or snack in for only a few dirham.
Stop By The Textile Souk
Located near the Dubai Museum and Bastakiya is the Dubai Textile Souk. As the name suggests, this area is full of textile shops and vendors. Although a stop here is not the most exciting of things to do, the textile souk is located right next to the abra station — the next “must-do” thing on this list.
Take a Ride at Abra Station
Dubai is divided into two parts, Deira to the north and Bur Dubai to the south. And while there are other ways to cross the river, such as the metro or bridges, none are as fun as taking a ride across in a traditional abra, or water taxi. Rides only take about five minutes and are great photo opportunities. For 1 dirham (around $0.25…again, not 100% free but basically) you can take a seat and enjoy the quick ride to the other side. Definitely a fun, distinctly-Dubai activity.
If coming from the Dubai Museum or Bastakiya, simply head northwest towards the river to find the Bur Dubai Abra Station at the west end of the textile souk. The boat will drop you on the other side of the river, directly across from the Spice Souk — the next free things to do in Dubai!
Wander The Spice And Gold Souks
Dubai has been trading in spices and gold for as long as it has been on the map, and that trend still continues today. A trip here is a great insight into local culture and a trip back in time of sorts.
It’s also a great place for people-watching and getting photographs of life in Dubai. Both souks are located just north of the river, in Al Ras. The spice souk can be found on the opposite side of the main road running alongside Dubai Creek and the gold souk is stretches down Al Sabkha Rd, northeast of the spice souk.
Come prior to lunchtime to catch the most activity.
See What’s Fishy at the Deira Fish Market
Truthfully, if you’ve seen one fish market, you’ve kind of seen them all. Other than varied species depending on the availability of that region, there is no real difference between fish markets. The same smell. The same frenzied bartering. Fresh loads of whatever constantly being transporting in and out. Yes, fish markets are the epitome of “same same but different” and as such, a stroll through here is interesting.
If you do decide to buy anything, keep in mind that fish are not allowed on the Dubai metro.
BONUS: Visit the World’s Tallest Building
Look, but don’t touch. A trip up the Burj Khalifa will set you back as much as 500 AED ($136 USD) per person depending upon the time of day! However you can take all the photos you want from street level for free. And they still turn out pretty nice.