After a rather pricey trip to Doobz (what do you mean, no one calls Dubai that?!?), I needed to cash in a trick I was hoping to hold onto for a little while longer…
STAYING WITH A MATE.
And before you say it, it’s not cheating.
Because I said so.
(IT’S MY HOLIDAY CHALLENGE SO I’M MAKING DA RULEZ).
My mate Line is from Aarhus in Denmark, and we met 9 years ago (9 YEARS AH!!!) when we lived next door to each other when studying in Atlanta.
We always bang on about visiting the other, but we’ve been pretty pants in recent years so, teamed with super cheap weekend flights from Stansted airport, what excuse did I have?
If you’ve got your heart set on Dubai, there’s plenty of one stop options to get you there for less than £230 – I talked about these in my last blog post.
However, if you’re flying direct with a top class airline, there’s a great way to make the most out of your money by using Dubai as a stop off.
Dubai isn’t called the ‘gateway to the middle east’ for nothing – it’s a key hub for connecting flights, especially when you’re flying from the UK. Therefore, adding in an additional return flight to Sri Lanka, Thailand or India could end up only costing you an additional £69.
For example, here’s the straight forward return from London.
Thurs 5th Oct – Mon 16th Oct
So, say we wanted to spend 4 nights in Dubai to explore the city, where could we head on to next?
As our chosen airline, Emirates, flies to over 150 destinations, it means that there’s a lot of choice when it comes to adding another trip on. All you have to do is search for a ‘multi-city’ flight, which is made pretty easy by sites like Skyscanner and Kayak.
For example, if we were to add in a flight on Monday 9th October to another destination and then return back to London on Monday 16th October (which automatically would send us via Dubai), this is how much it would cost.
And these are just a handful of options. The basic rule is ‘does the airline you’re originally flying with go anywhere else?’ If so, get searching for multi-city deals.
It’s important to note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that this would be the cheapest way of getting to that extra destination, but it does give you a great option if you were heading somewhere anyway, or wanting to do 2 destinations in 1.
Good luck with your search!
I was very aware that getting some cheap flights and accommodation for Dubai wasn’t going to be the end of it. In fact, it’s been the only holiday since I was about 19 that I have actively saved for (my normal holidays mostly involve just eating and drinking which isn’t too dissimilar from my everyday life).
By the time Dubai rolled around, I’d saved £500 (HUGE FEAT FOR ME, FELT LIKE A REAL LIVE ADULT) so that I wouldn’t have to worry about costs. After all, we were going away for a friends’ 30th birthday and so I knew it was going to be a one off expense that I wasn’t likely to do again.
So, what did we get up to? And most importantly, was it worth it?
The Princess Tower
£184 for 4 nights
Having seen our friends’ flash suites at the Marriott before checking in, we were a little apprehensive of what we’d find but overall, it was clean, spacious and had everything we needed. Sure, we wouldn’t want to hang out and spend our evenings there, but that wasn’t really the point.
Plus, the 97th floor residents lounge had amazing views and the outdoor jacuzzi on hangover number one really helped us out.
Worth it? Definitely.
£35 for entry + free drink
After dropping our things off, we headed to Zero Gravity, a beach, bar and restaurant located by Dubai Marina. Costing £35 to get in (or slightly less for a couple – though note that this doesn’t include friends or same sex couples), the price included a free drink and access to all the facilities.
It was very much a place to be seen. The bathrooms were INCROYABLE. Showers, mirrors, hairdryers, straighteners – I almost felt a bit bad for having not put any make up on that day (almost). On my first visit, two girls were doing a mini-photoshoot in there and on my second, they were just finishing up (realised that this could be interpreted that I have a very weak bladder but I was only 2 beers in by this point, fellas).
There’s plenty of sunbeds on the beach and around the pool but if you want a big sunbed, it comes at a price. £200 minimum spend to be exact (YOWZERS). Fortunately, it was a quiet day so we managed to get a couple towards the back without promising away all our dirhams though, between 10 of us and at Dubai prices, we may just have reached the minimum spend… Twice.
So, was it worth it?
It’s a toughie and it all depends what you want out of your day. If you want a whole day of sunbathing but you want the ease of having everything on hand, then it kind of makes sense. If you’re just going for a couple of hours, maybe not.
As for drinking, it’s definitely pricey – we’re talking about £8 for a bottle of beer and £11 for a cocktail so if you’re wanting to get merry, get ready to spend a lot. But at the same time, you can’t drink on free public beaches.
For me, I had a great time but given that we were only there three hours, I’d say it wasn’t worth the cost. But I can totally see why people go.
Bubbalicious at The Westin Dubai
£125 for 4 hours of unlimited food, drink and prosecco
It seemed that when anyone went to Dubai, the one thing they’d bang on about on their return was the brunch. No, not Eggs Benedict but a full scale Red Hot World Buffet on steroids with free flowing fizz.
According to our friends, Bubbalicious is the best, but it’s also the most expensive. There’s plenty of cheaper brunches that take place each Friday (the start of Dubai’s weekend), but we’ve been assured that you get what you pay for.
But £125 is a hell of a lot of money…
Having been regaled with tales of ‘this one time at brunch…’, I was prepared for the sheer extravagance of it all. The food hall was impressive. Every single kind of food that you could want was there, and whilst I compared it to Red Hot World Buffet, the food is of a much higher quality. Yet, if I’m honest, I’m not really a buffet girl. I like a plate of food that’s been thought about and several drinks in, it was an effort to even remember to eat, let alone find foods that complimented one another.
What I was really impressed with was the drink. There were no knock offs here. Premium beers, spirits and cocktail creations were widely available almost instantly (queues only appeared in the last 30 minutes) and our prosecco glasses were kept topped up at the table. It was incredibly easy to see how people get so trollied at these things…
As I was vlogging (or attempting to at least) during this, I kept a log of evrything I had during those 4 hours.
Sweet baby jesus.
I actually thought I wasn’t drunk when 4pm rolled in!
After ‘stockpiling’ the drinks in the last 30 minutes, we drank at our table until 4:30pm before taking a couple of drinks each up to the DJ in the hotel club.
Was. It. Worth. It?
Now, let’s not be silly here – £125 is a lot of money. But given the sheer expense of drinks in a bar out there, it’s actually quite easy to get your money’s worth if you’re on a blow out. I actually didn’t spend another penny that day so all in all, I would say it was worth it.
£30 each for 18 people for 3 hours – bring your own booze
When our friend had said ‘I’m thinking of hiring a yacht the day after brunch’, I was a little apprehensive given the fact it was the day following our £125 brunch. Yet, when the price came back as £30 each for 3 hours and that we could take our own drink on board, I thought it was pretty damn reasonable.
The boat was bigger than expected and sat up top deck with the wind whipping around us was the perfect way to shake off our brunch hangovers.
If you fancy doing something similar, just keep in mind that buying drink in Dubai can be difficult – you need a licence to buy some from a store. We’d picked up a couple bottles of gin in duty free (£11 for a litre!) and the boat supplied mixers and ice.
Our boat trip included speeding past the Palm, taking in the sights and having a bit of a dip in the calm (but cold!) waters.
Absolutely and most definitely worth it.
The tallest building in the world
The Burj Khalifa
£44 for level 124 – £109 (!!!) for level 148
For our last day, we had really wanted to do a desert safari to inject a little ‘culture’ into the trip, but the weather was god awful and we’d been warned that it was only really worth doing in the sunshine.
With that in mind, we instead decided to check out the mall (which I didn’t actually find that impressive – HUGE but same old shops as you get anywhere) and with it, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.
The queues were pretty mega given that we’d already booked a timeslot. It took us an hour to reach the lifts which just so happened to be the exact amount of time it took for a clump of clouds to settle around the viewing deck.
Lousy views aside, I did feel a little let down about the experience as a whole. Yes, the lift that shot us up in 60 seconds was impressive but it really was just a viewing platform and not a lot more.
For £44, I would have to say that it wasn’t worth it. However the housemate, who is very fond of any feat of architecture or engineering, was really impressed so take from that what you will.
So that’s what we got up to, but overall, was it worth it?
It’s tough because it’s not that straight forward. I had a really good time with my friends and after editing the vlog, I was reminded again of what a laugh I’d had but… My lord, it was expensive.
What with the activities plus my food and drink, the £500 I’d saved was decimated and whilst it may not look or sound like it, there were even a couple of evenings where I didn’t drink at all (honest!).
But I had fun, right? Yes, yes, yes.
And I’m glad I went? Absolutely.
So that means it was worth it, surely? Hmmm. Not quite.
I’m happy that I can say I’ve been but I’m not in any rush to go back. The thing is, because Dubai is so new, they’ve borrowed elements from much loved places around the world to create this ‘best of’ metropolitan smorgasbord, yet I didn’t really buy it. I left feeling like I hadn’t really discovered anything new and whilst I had lots of fun, I was very aware that I could have done a lot of it elsewhere for a cheaper price…
Let’s just hope I can find a stonker of a deal for holiday number three, eh?!
You can also watch what we got up to here:
Now that’s a cracking good question, and one I sought to find out after a friend announced that he’d like to celebrate turning the big 3-0 with a trip to Dubai.
I’m not gonna lie, the place has never been on my wishlist (I mean, I have a degree in Ancient History. I like OLD SHIT, y’know?) but I couldn’t bear the thought of being sat at home and seeing pictures of my mates driving around in gold lambos and getting diamonds encrusted in their incisors (okay, okay so I wasn’t 100% on what went down in Doobz at this point).
“Surely you’re not counting it in your holiday challenge?” many have asked but crikey, if I’ve got to squeeze in 10 trips this year I can hardly take a sly trip to Dubai ‘just for the lols’.
Yet the cost. Good lord and gracious heavens above, that place is expensive.
When it came to accommodation, I quickly realised that the housemate and I weren’t going to be able to afford an apartment at the Marriott Hotel and Suites where our mates were staying, so I set out to find somewhere as close as I could.
Fortunately, Dubai is overrun with apartments (I swear twelve blocks went up whilst I was there) so actually, there was a lot of choice and we found a one bedroom place just two buildings down from the Marriott.
I found it on booking.com by using the map search and it came in at a sweet £184 each for 4 nights.
It was by no means luxury but it was clean, spacious and in a great location. Though if you like a soft bed, this is not the place for you… GOOD FOR THE BACK THO, INNIT.
It also had a nice pool area and as it was in The Princess Tower, the 2nd tallest building in Dubai, the views from its 102nd floor residents lounge are pretty special (and a hell of a lot cheaper than going up the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa).
Plus, as Dubai grows, there are more and more budget friendly hotels popping up.
As for the flights, they were cheaper than what I was expecting considering we didn’t have any flexibility on our dates.
The flight was… Well, I won’t lie, the flight out was AWFUL but that may have something to do with the 5 gins and 2 proseccos I’d necked before the flight (our mate has a MAGIC BANK CARD that got us into one of the lounges for ZERO PENNIES).
It also didn’t help that Qantas really crammed us in there – we’re talking a Ryanair amount of space here, lads – and I had a classic Chelsea I’m-dehydrated-in-a-small-space meltdown.
However, the flight back (after 0 gins, may I add) was much better. Emirates = more space, better food and better service in general.
I managed to book our flights for £279.83 using BudgetAir via Skyscanner but, as these were booked before I decided to be a holiday-going-heretic, we definitely could have flown for cheaper – I remember seeing one stop flights with Turkish Airlines for a sweet £200.
Here’s a quick example of the kind of prices you can get at the moment, using Thursday 21st Sep – Monday 25th Sep as an example:
London Gatwick – £224
Manchester – £252
London Heathrow – £255
But enough about your potential shenanigans, how are the numbers looking for me?
The total cost of my trip to Dubai was £463.83.
Yes, it’s a lot, but don’t you think it makes this whole thing more interesting/ohmygodwhathaveidoneeahhhhhhhh
*slaps self in face with a wet haddock*
It leaves me with £1,075.45 for the remaining 8 holidays which when you break it down, is £134.43 a pop.
Well, until I remember that it needs to include a business class flight…
GODDAMN IT, CHELSEA.
beautiful rooms, great customer service and shampoo and conditioner in the bathroom – the true markings of a good hotel, right?
beach restaurant with a €15 lunch menu of bread, calamari, prawn paella, pudding AND a beer. total bargs.
la malvarrosa beach
incredible tapas, big portions and a good gin selection. we paid €65 for 7 dishes (too many!) and several goblets of gin… but perhaps book ahead, we had to sit at the bar.
€10 entry for a drink and a one hour show – we loved it!
bizarre bar full of mannequins, lampshades and vintage treats but a great buzz, and even cheaper gin!
actual instagram heaven.
fancy lookin’ food in a fancy lookin’ restaurant – we had amuse bouche, two starters, a paella main and a pudding for just €19.
so yes, just a whole lot of good and drink really – what more did you expect?
valencia = done!