Since Dubai is known as a center of modern style, opulence and luxury in general, you might think it’ll be difficult to travel there on a budget—but you can think again! Good news for the budget travelers out there: Dubai actually has tons of free things to do and see. Whether you want to see Dubai’s glistening modern skyscrapers, explore the history and culture of the emirate, or just get out in nature, here are 12 of the best free things to do in Dubai.
1. Visit the Coffee Museum in Dubai
Coffee lovers, raise your hand! The Dubai Coffee Museum is a unique place to dive into all things coffee—from the history of coffee to international techniques and flavors, coffee books and documentaries to explore and even centuries-old coffee pots and other coffee-making tools. Plus, the baristas here know their brews—so feel free to ask any questions you have about beans or brewing, they’ll have a wealth of knowledge to share with you if you’re interested.
2. Ride an abra
Not quite free, but at just $0.30 USD, it may as well be! Riding an abra is a must-do in Dubai, so we’re glad it’s affordable for just about everyone. This is Dubai’s traditional ferry system to cross the Dubai Creek, so get a taste of history (and a convenient form of transportation). Cross the creek at either the Deira Old Souk abra station or the Al Sabkha station, to the Dubai Old Souk station or the Bur Dubai station.
3. Wander through the Al Fahidi historic district
Ready to explore more of Dubai’s history and culture? Treat yourself to a stroll through the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood. From traditional buildings to tea houses, museums to art shows, markets and more, there’s a lot to see and do in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood—and you won’t have to spend a dime to see most of it!
4. Or flash-forward to the modern era at Alserkal Avenue
Lean more hipster than historical? No worries. Dubai’s under-the-radar Alserkal Avenue is where the locals hang—with art galleries, pop-up shops, cafes and coffee shops, event centers and more, there’s always something going on, and much of it is free to explore. See what life looks like in Dubai now and enjoy a day at Alserkal Avenue.
5. Take a day to explore The Dubai Mall
This is indeed totally free…if you can resist over 1,200 shops that are housed inside this enormous mall! The Dubai Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in the WORLD, housing an impressive collection of shops and restaurants, plus an aquarium, movie theater, ice rink, a virtual reality park and more. Not enough shopping for you there? You can also check out the Mall of the Emirates, which also has tons of shopping and entertainment—even if you’re just window shopping.
6. Visit an authentic souk
Of course, if a mall isn’t quite your speed, you can also get an authentic Dubai shopping experience at a local souk. The Gold Souk and the Spice Souk are our favorites. Even if you don’t buy anything, a window-shopping stroll through these traditional markets are the perfect way to immerse yourself in the sights and sounds (and smells!) of Dubai.
7. Take a free tour of the Bur Dubai Grand Mosque
Want to learn more about Dubai’s culture? Start with a tour of the Grand Mosque, one of Dubai’s most iconic places of worship. The tour is totally free and involves a tour of the mosque, demonstration of prayer, introduction of Islamic beliefs, refreshments and more. The Jumeirah Mosque is another must if you’re interested in Islam or Dubai’s culture. Visit their website for more information and remember to wear modest clothing.
8. Go hiking at Hatta
Hatta is one of Dubai’s most popular attractions, and when you’re ready for a break from the city, it’s the perfect place to go! Go hiking in the foothills or the mountains, soak in the views, enjoy a bike ride or more. It’s free to explore, of course, but if you have some cash to spare, there’s kayaking, horseback riding, paragliding and more on offer for adventure-lovers.
9. Get a tan
This is easy to do in Dubai, from beaches to deserts—seriously, just take your pick. If you’re ready for a beach day, add Kite Beach Dubai and The Beach opposite JBR to your list (those are our favorites). If you’re headed out to the desert, you’ve got tons of options to choose from—splurge on an overnight desert safari, or go camping (free!) at Al Qudra. With both lakes and sand dunes to explore, you’ll feel in the middle of nowhere even though it’s just a quick 30-minute trip from the city.
10. Bask in Dubai’s stunning architecture
Of course, you don’t have to leave the city to explore Dubai on a budget. One of the best free things to do in Dubai? Simply have a tour through the city to see some of the absolutely stunning skyscrapers and architecture. The Burj Khalifa—the tallest building in the WORLD—is a must-see, as are the Burj Al Arab and the Cayan Tower.
11. Soak in the sunset at the Dubai Marina
Want some insta-worthy views? Look no further than the Dubai Marina. With a 5.3 mile boardwalk loop lined with shops, hotels and restaurants, there’s no shortage of things to do if you want to spend the afternoon or just go for a quick run. Pro-tip: visit for the sunset to catch the best views.
12. Watch the flamingos at the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary
Wildlife lover? This wildlife sanctuary—not far from the city!—is home to thousands of birds, fish and other animals, but it’s the flamingos that steal the show. Come to get some shots for the ‘gram, stay to learn more about the incredible animals and unique environments they call home.
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