How to find cheap drinking in Dubai
To help celebrate the New Year of 2017, it's fitting to offer some tips on how to find cheap drinking in Dubai.
It's a common question to ask, and it's even been asked on Quora.
So here's my advice on how to find cheap drinking in Dubai
Firstly, there is no one specific, consistent answer to your question – so ignore any that say Club C, Bar A etc. because it's so changeable.
Secondly, consider how you would define ‘budget', does it mean:-
- The budget (as in low-end or cheapest) places for drinking in Dubai?
- The best value (i.e. to get the most value possible on a fixed price/budget)?
See it's quite different really, and you need to understand the different business models at play – and also consider ‘all in costs’ too.
However, there’s a very strong argument that the find the best budget bars and night clubs in Dubai, you need to find the cheapest drinks (as that’s a general attraction for many people).
So this article will focus on how to find cheap drinking in Dubai, in the hope this will determine the best budget bars and nightclubs in Dubai 😉
Drinking in Dubai – Budget area = budget bars, right?
So, the natural assumption is Old Dubai – Deira, Karama, etc.
Quite often there are ‘underground’ bars aimed at locals drinking, but also the majority subcontinent workers that live in those areas. Additionally, lots of cheap package holiday tours and hotels are based there
But consider this. If you're a Western expat or tourist, you're likely based in New Dubai – Marina, JLT etc – so you're going to be costing some money in travel. You could easily drop 200 AED in taxi fares from JBR to Deira for example.
You're equally more likely to encounter, ahem, ‘business ladies’ in bars around Garhoud and Old Dubai. Depending on your resilience, willpower, personality and other factors, this could hit you in the pocket too.
Drinking in Dubai – cheapest drink?
Now, let's consider a base commodity rate here – say a bottle or a pint of beer. For argument's sake, let's say it costs an average of 33 AED in Dubai.
Would you believe the cheapest bottle of beer I’ve drunk in Dubai was in New Dubai (JLT) and only 19 AED?
Whilst it's generally true Dubai can be expensive to drink – I’ve necked Kopparberg that turned out to be around £16 (78 AED, in Pier 7) – the truth is that there’s tremendous competition for your drink dirhams, and you should exploit that to your advantage.
How to find cheap drinking in Dubai
By keeping up with listings, blogs, social media, word of mouth etc you can find the best promotions – and let them determine where you go drinking in Dubai.
See, this is the key to cheap drinking in Dubai – think like a resident/expat and not a tourist. Expats have no interest in drinking fake champagne with a firework strapped to it when they can get killer deals elsewhere.
When I used to visit Dubai as a tourist, I ALWAYS gravitated towards Barasti, and we’d often play the ‘Billy Big Time” game and drink expensive drinks, cocktails and smoke cigars like we were extras in the “Wolf of Wall Street”.
As an expat and resident, I still often visit Barasti but with a completely different attitude – I want to drink as cheap as possible or get the best deals for drinks.
This is often the most obvious difference between a Dubai expat/resident and a tourist – an expat will generally follow the deals, use vouchers, promotions and visit venues with the best freebies.
The tricks for cheap drinking in Dubai
Dubai expats use several tricks to drink cheap in Dubai, such as:-
Drinking at specific venues
By listening to local knowledge, or researching, one can find the venues that offer the cheapest drinks. You’d be amazed that sometimes the blingy bars can offer good value for our baseline bottle of beer, so shop around.
Drinking on specific nights/days
Ladies Nights are on a Tuesday (generally) in Dubai, and venues are literally falling over themselves to bring in the fairer sex – usually through offer drinks promotions. In some venues, they offer two or three complimentary drinks, whilst in other venues, it’s been known to offer free branded drinks (house wine, Prosecco etc.) all evening long – so again, shop around.
A particular good trick here is the “Pier 7 Shuffle”. Each of the 7 floors of this Marina nightspot offers bars/restaurants, and in their rush to bring in punters it’s rather easy to visit one floor/one venue, drink whatever the offer is for, and then ‘shuffle’ up one floor to the next venue/offer.
In addition to Ladies Nights – some of which are held on other nights because Tuesday has become so busy – other venues hold Gents Night on Mondays, Quiz Nights and other attractions which all bring cheap drinks.
Dubai brunch is an institution, and it’s not just for eating terrific food, because the drinks also offer amazing value.
In fact, some of the Dubai brunches seem to be focussed more on cheap drinks and partying, so it’s possible to pay a fixed price (and then drink as much as possible in a set time.
When these brunches advertise ‘drink as much as you can’, people often see this as an order or a challenge rather than advertising.
How much could you drink for 200 AED in four hours, especially going back to our base rate of 33AED/bottle?
This is where the ‘value’ aspect of the argument comes in rather than cost, as brunches often offer 3 levels of pricing…
- Unlimited House beer/wine
- Unlimited house beer/wine and cocktails
- Unlimited Champagne
So, if you were looking for great value drinks as opposed to cheap drinking, it would make sense to spend more for a higher brunch package to drink greater amounts of a more expensive drink like Champagne or cocktails.
Voucher books and apps like The Entertainer offer amazing Two For One deals across so many venues, and they’ve recently introduced a ‘Cheers’ app which is aimed specifically at drinking. Free buckets of beer, bottles of wine, cocktails etc. are all widely available across some terrific venues, so it’s very easy to get cheap drinks in Dubai using these apps/vouchers.
Guzzle is another popular app for drinking in Dubai, although its free it often has promotions on such as bonus or discounted drinks at specific venues for a certain period of time.
For more information on apps, see our Drinking Dubai series.
Happy Hours are very popular in Dubai, so much so that some venues often offer two – one early evening, around 6 pm, and another around midnight.
Although often overlooked, loyalty programs are an amazingly popular method of saving money drinking in Dubai.
Worldwide hotel loyalty program like Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) can offer up to 20% discount on dining or drinks in specific properties
UAE or MENA companies such as Rotana and Al Habtoor also offer their own loyalty programs, which can also be very lucrative. These are often bundled with credit cards or purchased, or accumulate on spend in properties and then can be redeemed for hotel nights, free drinks, brunches etc
Banks like Emirates NBD also offer discounts – often 20% – when using their cards in certain venues, along with apps such as Zomato also offering discounts in certain venues for their members.
Specific bars and clubs offer promotions that whilst seeming gimmicky, can often provide amazingly good value – especially if they’re mistakenly priced or on promotional deals.
For example, Brunswick Sports Club in Mall of Emirates offers a discount on buckets and boxes of beer (10 and 20% respectively). They will store your box in their Loaded Locker (a walk-in fridge) so you can save some bottles for your next visit. So, because they are always circulating their stock of craft beers, often all for the same price, it's possible that the savvy drinker can bag a bargain (often mistaken) price, get a bulk discount, store it in the Loaded Locker and his subsequent visits won’t even cost him anything!
To keep ‘in the know' about the latest discounts and promotions, check out listings/voucher code sites such as:-
- Time Out Dubai
- What's On UAE
- Cobone (email list – subscribe on website)
- Time Out Dubai Deals (email list – subscribe on website)
- Voucher Codes UAE (email list – subscribe on website)
- Time Out Dubai Nightlife (email list – subscribe on website)
The bottom line about cheap drinking in Dubai is research.
The more time and effort you spend abreast of deals, events and promotions, the more money you will save drinking in Dubai.
Where have you found cheap drinking in Dubai, and what were the best deals? We'd love to hear your feedback, comments and questions - just use the comments below. Cheers!
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Hi thanks for your tips.
We are going to travel to Dubai for the first time. Barasti is one of our targets. I’m a bit worried about getting back from Barasti to Deira in the midnight. Are there taxies there in the midnight? Do you know how much does it cost? you said it may be about AED 200. but I checked the price in some taxe fair sites and they said a price about AED 60 !!! can you help me?
Hi, thanks for reading and commenting. Definitely do Barasti – it’s almost a ‘rite of passage’ for Dubai. The 200 AED figure is a ‘top end’ rate, to cover both ways and from most areas up to Old Dubai/Deira. 60 seems a fair rate, but budget for 80 and you should be fine. There’s always taxis – especially at Barasti, they now have a dedicated area where there’s always a queue of taxis waiting to ferry revellers away. A top tip is don’t forget there’s also taxis waiting at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, which is about 50m from the Barasti… Read more »