Welcome to Dubai – the holiday of your dreams (and your wallet’s nightmare!)
Dubai is known for many things – it conjures mental images of the tallest buildings, the biggest theme parks, and the most luxurious hotels. This “biggest and best” image, unfortunately, comes at a price.
When I first visited Dubai in 2012, I found the cost of living to be favourable compared to back home in Australia. 12 years later (yes, a long time between visits!) this has changed dramatically.
I don’t write this to dissuade you and your family from visiting; in fact, I think you should! I simply think it’s important to be aware of the associated costs, so you can plan and budget well and not get stressed out on your holiday.
So below, you’ll find an honest and thorough breakdown of costs for a family holiday in Dubai.
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We visited Dubai as a stopover, flying from Australia to Europe with Emirates.
Flying from Adelaide into Athens and out of Manchester, our flights were approximately $2,200 AUD ($1,450 USD) per adult and $1,850 AUD ($1,220 USD) per child. These are fairly average prices for Europe high season so if you’re not Australian, you can probably see why us Aussies tend to stay a while when we fly to the other side of the world!
July is Dubai’s low season, as the weather is really hot. However, it’s Europe’s high season, which is what pushed up our airfares.
Even so, a good airfare in mid-high season from Australia to Dubai sits around $1,600 AUD ($1,050 USD). Looking from New York, USA, flights are currently sitting around the same price, which surprised me!
Again, our policy covered Europe as well as we were on a stopover. This means our costs were higher because of the destination and the length of stay.
Our Cover-More comprehensive policy cost us $744 AUD for three weeks, including cancellation cover. I had a look for a week in Dubai as a family of four, and was quoted by Cover-More $333 AUD (again comprehensive with cancellation cover).
There are so many different accommodation options in Dubai – and the spectrum of potential costs is just as wide!
We stayed at Sofitel The Palm for three nights. As far as accommodation costs go, The Palm and nearby Jumeirah Beach are the most expensive areas in Dubai. However, they also feature the big-name family resorts. Given the time of year we were travelling (the hottest month of the year!), we wanted somewhere to stay where we could relax by the pool or beach.
For three nights, our stay at Sofitel The Palm cost $1,329 AUD (about $850 USD). Had we stayed in Downtown or Dubai Creek we could have easily reduced this by 50% (or more!). So be sure to read our guide on the best places to stay in Dubai for more advice about this.
We pre-arranged an arrival transfer from the airport to our hotel on Day One. We’re glad we did this – we had flown overnight from Australia and landed at 5.30am. Having the transfer sorted meant one less thing to worry about.
The transfer was certainly more luxurious than a taxi, however the cost was probably 5x the taxi fare. It cost us 330 AED – about $140 AUD or $90 USD. On the way back, the taxi cost us about $35 AUD / $22 USD.
We took taxis everywhere else. Again, taxi fares ranged from about $20 AUD / $13 USD to around $40 AUD / $26 USD depending on where we went.
Dubai also features a monorail across to The Palm, starting at The Gateway at Jumeirah Beach and stopping at Golden Mile Galleria, Al Ittihad Park, Nakheel Mall, The Pointe and Atlantis Aquaventure. This is a fantastic way to get up and down The Palm, as one-way tickets start at only 5 AED ($2.10 AUD / $1.20 USD).
Dubai also has a Metro system which is fantastic. It operates on a zone system (like the London Underground) so fares differ based on distance travelled. However, they are much cheaper than a taxi! We didn’t use this on this trip as it was just SO hot. However, I’ve used it before and it’s really convenient and I also like the women-only carriages when travelling solo. Next time we go, we’ll travel in the cooler months and use the Metro as much as possible.
Just like hotels, the list of things to do in Dubai is a mile long. And that means the possibility for spending is endless too!
Below are some sample costs for activities. Make sure you check out our recommendations for the best activities in Dubai to get more of an idea.
|Atlantis Aquaventure for four people (3A1C)|
including Skip The Line passes
|$1,000 AUD / $645 USD|
|KidZania entry 2A2C|
(Note: we don’t recommend this activity)
|$230 AUD / $150 USD|
|Red Dune Safari and Al Khayma Desert Camp||$530AUD / $340 USD|
|Aladdin Souks Tour (2A2C)||$406 AUD / $260 USD|
|TOTAL||$2,166 AUD / $1,395 USD|
Dubai, the cosmopolitan metropolis that it is, has some absolutely fantastic places to eat. However, depending on where you eat, costs can be high.
For the best value for money, smaller family-run eateries in the Dubai Creek area are great. Downtown also has some cheaper eats. Look for Shawarma places in particular (“when in Dubai”)!
The average meal at a McDonalds or similar will set you back around $20 AUD / $12 USD per person.
For a meal at a family restaurant (i.e. not fancy at all but with decent food) we struggled to get away with spending much less than $200 AUD / $125 USD. That’s for three meals and a starter all shared between us, and a soft drink or beer each. For a more upmarket restaurant, or an eatery in a resort, you could even double that.
As a muslim country, alcohol is particularly expensive, with a beer often sitting around $20 AUD / $12 USD and again, much more than that in a resort.
The cost of living and travelling in Dubai is high, there’s no doubt about it. However, it’s possible to reduce your Dubai costs by being strategic. That means thinking about where you eat and where you stay, and being discerning about the activities you do. You will just need to be prepared for some sticker shock in some places.
On the other hand, if you want a luxury holiday and you’re prepared for the cost of it, Dubai is the place to be.