Last Updated on June 19, 2023 by Ellen
We have departed the United Arab Emirates. Eighteen days in the Persian Gulf nation was another unforgettable experience. This post is about what it cost for 17 nights in the UAE for us budget slow travelers in early retirement.
The most prominent feature of our visit: the heat. Every day was well over 100° F. During our travel from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, the thermometer touched 45° C = 113° F. Too blazing hot! And because of the waterfront, humid too!
Suffice it to say, the summer months are not the preferable time to enjoy the UAE. Thank heavens for air conditioning, malls, and the sea. We spent mid-days hibernating inside and late-afternoons watching the sun set while soaking in hot-tub-like waters on the lovely, clean beaches.
Truthfully, our UAE visit was ‘created’ by happenstance. To get to Eastern Europe from India inexpensively required an airport layover in UAE. We noted that the airfare total was the same whether one stopped in UAE for three hours or three weeks, so we decided to check out the booming country for a time.
Of course, our main concern as budget slow travelers in retirement is the cost. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are known for big money, luxury accommodations, restaurants, and attractions. But we found reasonable prices generally available to ‘the masses’ — and plenty of free (like the beaches) and fairly-priced experiences to indulge in.
What it cost for 17 nights in the UAE
$44 — Supplies
Overall, not an outrageous total – even for budget-conscious vagabonds. We know our expenses will rise upon leaving Asia and the UAE was a moderate start. Of course, we did do some ‘tourist stuff’ too.
Personally, the UAE cities reminded me of Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. An unnatural scorching desert setting for human existence and entertainment. And like Vegas, UAE ‘could’ cost a fortune. But if you avoid ‘over-the-top’ tourist temptations, spending becomes much more manageable.
Airfare & housing
We’ve already disclosed a couple ‘tricks’ we used to get bargain airfare from New Delhi, India and low-cost Airbnb accommodations. Still, those two categories accounted for over half of our UAE budget ($883).
Almost $300 at restaurants breaks down to slightly over $16 per day. Higher than India – but cheap for UAE. We did eat our meal-of-the-day at neighborhood ‘diner’ type establishments filled with locals. Nothing fancy, but mostly very tasty authentic Arabic and Indian favorites: shwarma, falafel, hummus, BBQ, salads, flatbreads, rice.
Curious about grocery costs in UAE? The photo below shows the prices paid for a handful of breakfast/lunch/snack items purchased at one of countless, big, modern, UAE grocery stores (often called hypermarkets). As elsewhere in the world, we found good ‘weekly sale’ prices. “Iranian grown” produce was some of the best deals. We also noted the chain “Viva” — similar to Aldi or Lidl — store brands at rock bottom prices.
There us no Uber/Grab in UAE. Careem is a local app/taxi based alternative that we used repeatedly – and mostly with satisfaction. Dubai and Abu Dhabi also have extensive and cheap public transport systems (including many air-conditioned metro and bus stops) that we made use of. (More details in a previous post.)
Lastly, a big surprise: beer/alcohol availability and prices. It seems Dubai is now the exception — as in both Ras Al-Kaimah (the northernmost emirate) and Abu Dhabi, post-Covid loosening of alcohol restrictions and taxes allowed me to get cans of internationally known beers like San Miguel, Carlsberg, and Budweiser for between 75 cents to $1.50 for 500ml cans. That’s cheaper than India, Thailand, or Philippines!!!
I didn’t check pricing, but the non-descript alcohol retailers (called “cellers”) were loaded with booze bottles and wines as well, like a ‘superstore’ — presumably with similarly reasonable, competitive pricing.
Final thoughts on cost to stay 17 nights in the UAE
To sum up, we found the UAE to be an intensely hot yet enjoyable and moderately priced destination — costing somewhere between Asia and the developed West. And while accommodation costs are high, most other necessities can be found at decent prices with a little effort. After all, nearly 90% of the country’s population are foreign nationals whose wages don’t allow for lavish living.
Related: 3 budget travel tips for the UAE
Thanks for reading, “What it cost for 17 nights in the UAE”
Theo (also called Tedly) retired early from the news business to wander the planet with his wife, Ellen. He enjoys exploring all Earth has to offer from jungles and beaches to volcanoes and deserts, always drinking beer along the way.