The Best Free (And Nearly Free) Things To Do In Dubai

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:

The ultimate travel guide to the best things to do in Dubai during your layover #traveltips #dubai #travel #uae #free #travelguide #inspiration #budgettravel

  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

Visit Jumeirah Beach, one of the best free things to do in Dubai

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

Wander Dubai Mall and enjoy the cold air-conditioning, one of the best free things to do in Dubai (as long as you don't start buying things)

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

Visit the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort, one of the best nearly free things to do in Dubai

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

Stroll through historic Bastakiya, one of the best free things to do in Dubai

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

Check out the Textile Souk, one of the best free things to do in Dubai
Wandering the Textile Souk in Dubai

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

Visit Abra Station and take a water taxi ride across the river, one of the best nearly free things to do in Dubai

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

Check out the Spice Souk, one of the best free things to do in Dubai
Wandering the Spice Souk in Dubai

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.

Check out the Gold Souk, one of the best free things to do in Dubai
Cannot visit the spice souk without also checking out all the bling at the gold souk

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

Visit the Deira Fish Market, one of the best free things to do in Dubai

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.

See More     Dubai Activities & AdventuresFree Things To Do Around The World

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.

Going up the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building) costs over $100 but photographing it from the street is one of the best free things to do in Dubai
Going up the Burj Khalifa costs over $100 but photographing it from the street is one of the best free things to do in Dubai

  // chriswaits enygmatic joi

What other free things have you found to do in Dubai?

Like what you read?
About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel."   Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

21 thoughts on “The Best Free (And Nearly Free) Things To Do In Dubai”

  1. Honestly I’ve always considered Dubai as being one of those almost untouchable destinations because I’ve heard about that glamour and expense of it all. But as always, there’s always free things to do in every city. Nice stuff man!

    Reply
    • Thanks bro! It actually took me three separate (but short) trips to compile all of those things. However I tried to boil them down and line ’em up in a way that anyone who wants to can tackle them in a single day. Now all you need is friends in the city to avoid the high cost of hotels 😉

      Reply
  2. Braj!!!!!

    You are like really for real!

    Dude I am so happy to have come across your blog!!! TOTALLY LOVE IT!!! Love your take on the herb too! Makes me seriously regret not starting my own travel blog when I moved abroad 5 years ago… Feel totally motivated now to retroactively write about my experiences and will link and reference you when I get around to it. Agree to just about everything you’ve posted, think travel should be done slowly to really get the experience of a place and it’s culture. Super jealous that you lived in Tokyo! What were you doing there? I only went there for 2 days and was totally blown away! Even though I had already lived in Asia for 3 years prior and traveled around quite a bit… I also love driving and or trying out as many different forms of transportation as possible. Saw you are in India now for 6 months. Super jealous! Wish I could joint you for that mission this time, but will have to go there and or meet up another time. Was also thinking of taking it slow and doing 6 months north to south some time when I can afford the time off, aiming to end it and spend most time in Goa.Sorry about your Indonesian heart aches, I know how you feel. Also immediately blocked my psycho stalker ex after I read what happened to you!

    I only have about 3 rules in life in total, and the one concerning travel is:

    Thow shalt get high (as soon as possible) whenever in a new place. I pride myself on the ability to get stoned usually within hours of arriving in a new country…

    Which brings me to my point and question, braj, if you could please help me:

    I’ve been wanting to do trimming for 2 years. Do you think I would still have enough time to get in for the season if I were to arrive in Arcata by Tuesday? If you have like a generic tip guide to email or could give any kind of advice I would majorly appreciate it! Otherwise I hope to run into you some time and that we could share an enormous bowl or 10 some time sooner rather than later.

    PEACE out my fellow traveler!

    Oh yeah my email at the moment, [email protected].

    Thanks bro! Iree!

    Reply
    • What up brother, thanks for the energetic comments. What was I doing in Tokyo? Well I was drinking and partying, that’s about it. Was working off five years of stress from my corporate career hahaha 😉 And yes, I definitely agree with your rule there. Sometimes it only takes minutes, other times it takes days. But usually it finds me, rather than me having to look for it. Cool people around the world just all happen to smoke. Hell only in one country out of all the ones I’ve visited did I never find any, and that was the United Arab Emirates (been there three times too!)

      Anyway the season is just kicking into high gear there, so yeah, go for it. Hurry! Just be open and genuine and make some new friends with the locals. Then casually bring up the topic of looking for work.

      Best of luck out there bro, and let me know when you make it back to this corner of the world 😀

      Reply
  3. Interesting list of places in Dubai! Dubai is such an expensive city to travel. These things to do are great to enjoy for the budget travelers. So many sight seeing places are there in Dubai.

    Reply
  4. Never go there…. its the cheapest way to enjoy it. Or, risk being put in a prison cell because you had poppy seeds left over in your knitwear from the bread loaf that you purchased from a supermarket in your home country

    Reply
  5. Dubai is an incredible city, you will have an amazing time for sure! That’s great glad we could help. All the hotels we have picked are world class and any would be perfect! If you have time, make sure to head out to the desert on safari!

    Reply
  6. Very good read with lots of insider info someone might not be able to find in a typical guidebook. I was interested in reading this because I just started a house sit in Bali for a couple that lives in Dubai and we were chatting a bit about the country, and I was interested in learning a bit more about it. Like you said, many on a budget might write it off automatically, and these tips are super helpful for keeping costs down.

    Reply
  7. Loved the pictures on this blog. These are obviously the free things to do on a bored weekend in Dubai. I usually visit the shopping mall in Deira for window shopping, There are events in the malls to amuse us occasionally. When the climate is pleasant, I visit the creek or Safa Park with friends or family.

    Reply
  8. Very good read with lots of insider info someone might not be able to find in a typical guidebook. I was interested in reading this because I just started a house sit in Bali for a couple that lives in Dubai and we were chatting a bit about the country, and I was interested in learning a bit more about it. Like you said, many on a budget might write it off automatically, and these tips are super helpful for keeping costs down.

    Reply
  9. I almost had a heart attack when I saw how much it cost to go up the Burj Khalifa!! I guess I’ll have to save that for when I’m not budget traveling, haha! Thanks for this other valuable information, I’m headed to Dubai tomorrow!

    Reply
  10. Dubai is such a nice place to stay and famous for its wonderful sightseeing’s attractions. The best trip is Dubai sightseeing’s tour and desert safari in Dubai. We had great time couple of years ago.

    Reply

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