Where in the world can you spend the morning at a camel market, ski in the afternoon, and spend the evening watching a 10 million-(US) dollar horse race? Of course, you don’t go to Rodeo Drive for the taco trucks, and you shouldn’t come to Dubai for budget entertainment. This doesn’t mean that everything’s expensive in Dubai.
The camel market is free, and a fascinating insight into Arab culture. Haggling is almost as intense as the smell.
If watching camels isn’t your thing, how about eating them? Street food is epic in the bustling city (except of course, during the sunlit hours of Ramadan. Starving folk at that time would do well to order room service) Takeaway options abound.
The best way to save money at a shopping mall is to avoid the shops. At the Mall of the Emirates, one can do just that, by spending the day skiing instead of spending. About US $50 gets you a day pass to 20,000 square feet of slopes, ski pants, a jacket, and disposable socks. (Remember, it’s hot as hell outside, and you’re probably in sandals.) Locker rental is just a bit extra. It feels a little like ice skating indoors, but the snow is real. Skiing and snowboarding lessons are available. Check your Dubai travel insurance before you hit the slopes, please. For the serious shoppers in your group, the mall is one of the largest in the world.
When not leading up the richest day in racing, the Meydan racecourse has free admission, at least for the cheap seats, and reasonably-priced food. The track boasts turf and synthetic tracks, and the season runs evenings from November to March. If you’re new to horse racing, this is a grand way to start. The track is massive, beautifully maintained, and runs only the highest-quality horses. The architecture and lighting feature both the track and Dubai’s evening sky. (Due to the heat, racing is at night.) You can also learn more about the Dubai World Cup, a kind of Emirati Kentucky Derby on steroids. It’s the culmination of a year of racing, with purses totalling $27.250 million, and features winners from all over the world. Even in off-season, it’s wise to dress up a bit. Going to the races in Dubai is an event, not a way to come up with the rent.