Dubai, the top touristic destination in the Middle East, is a city of huge dimensions.
It has a population of 3.1M spread across a vast area of 4,114km².
To give you an idea, Madrid is another big city with the same number of people, yet, it has an area of just 600km², which is 7 times less than Dubai
This means that in Dubai there is a lot of empty space and distances between the different places are huge.
Therefore, unlike European and some Asian cities, Dubai is a city not to be walked, as many neighborhoods and places which look like they are close, are actually separated by several kilometers which can’t be walked, even if you wanted to, basically because there is no place to walk.
Moreover, the different districts and areas of Dubai are extremely different from each other, with so many different landmarks, things to do and, of course, extremely different budgets.
For the above-mentioned reasons, it is important to do some proper research before choosing which area to stay in Dubai.
For example, if you want to be close to the beach in Marina, which is the most touristic spot, but you are on a budget and decide to stay in the Old City, you should know that going from the Old City to Marina is a 30km journey. Going by metro takes up to 2 hours and a taxi would roughly cost around 75AED (20USD).
This guide tells you which area to stay in Dubai, depending on what do you want to do there as a tourist and, of course, your budget.
For more information on places to visit and things to do in the city and country read: Dubai itinerary – 7 days in the UAE
Dubai is big but, in my opinion, these are the most tourist-friendly areas where to stay in Dubai.
What area to stay in Dubai: map
Which area to stay in Dubai: The Marina & Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
The relatively new neighborhood of Dubai Marina and JBR is the most Westernized area in the city, practically the only properly walkable part of the new Dubai and, in my opinion, the best place to stay in Dubai.
JBR refers to the beach, the promenade and all the buildings which are in the first line. The Marina is everything behind there, including the tallest skyscrapers and the canal.
Most European expats choose to live here, as it is the easiest place to live in, with plenty of bar options and no strict restrictions, like the way women dress at the beach, for example.
Why you should stay here: Basically, you should stay here if you want to be where the fun is. There is the beach, plenty of restaurants and bars and with the canal and all the skyscrapers, it is actually very impressive. It is also very well connected to the metro.
Not good if: If you came to Dubai for shopping, Marina doesn’t have great options, even though the Mall of the Emirates, the second most famous mall, is just 7km away. You should also know that this is an expensive area, in fact, one of the most expensive in Dubai, even though you can find a few budget options. It is also far from Downtown, where Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall are, around 23km, and even further from the Old City and Deira (30km).
Which area to stay in Dubai: Best accommodation in the Marina and JBR
*Note that prices may be subjected to change depending on the season and special promotions, so don’t be surprised if, suddenly, the mid-range option has a similar price to the budget option.
The cheapest (Hostel) – Backpacker Tina – Budget hostels are slowly being opened all across the city and, in Marina, Tina is the most budget one. Like most buildings here, everything is great, brand-new and the building has all kind of facilities, including a gym and a pool! If you are a backpacker, this is the best place to stay in Dubai.
Budget (Hotel Apartment) – Pearl Marina Hotel – After hostels, the only places to stay which are within a budget range are hotel-apartments. There are quite a few options and Pearl Marina Hotel is the one with more reviews. Located in the Marina with awesome views to the canal excellent views, the hotel also offers a terrific breakfast, even though apartments are equipped with a kitchen, so you can cook your own.
Mid-range – Jannah Marina Bay Suites – With impressive views of the sea, this mid-range is actually a very good value-for-money option, as rooms and not particularly expensive, yet, facilities are amazing! It has a pool and a jacuzzi.
Affordable luxury – JA Ocean View Hotel – A 5-star hotel in all its essence but pretty affordable for what you get. Ocean View is just next to the beach, and it has a few amazing restaurants and a superb breakfast with the most unimaginable options. If you want to stay in a real 5-star place without spending thousands, look no further.
Top-luxury – The Address – One of the most peculiar buildings of the Marina, and my most favorite one, especially because of its simplicity, is The Address Hotel, the top-luxury place in the area and also where the coolest and most frequented bars are. It is said that this is one of the greatest places to stay in Dubai.
Which area to stay in Dubai: Al-Barsha
Al Barsha is the functional neighborhood of Dubai.
On the one hand, it is not a very appealing place. Besides wandering around the Mall of the Emirates (the second most famous mall) to see the Ski Resort, tourists don’t have much to do here.
On the other hand, however, there are quite a few expats living here, basically, because it is very well-connected to the metro, is close to both Marina and Downtown and you can save a few hundred of dollars rent per month.
Moreover, it has everything you may need, from a Carrefour to many types of shops and some really good local restaurants, from Arabic to great Indian and Pakistanis, so Al-Barsha is actually a great place to stay.
If you don’t know which area to stay in Dubai, Al-Barsha is actually great and a good option for those who want to be near the main landmarks but don’t want to spend a fortune.
Why you should stay here: It’s close to the Mall of the Emirates, the second-best mall in Dubai and where the ski resort is. It is also significantly cheaper than Marina and Downtown and it is very well-connected to the metro. It also has a couple of nice bars and plenty of good restaurant options.
Not good if: You really want to be close to the main landmarks or you are looking for an even cheaper place like Old Dubai.
Which area to stay in Dubai: Best accommodation in Al-Barsha
The cheapest – Tulip Al Barsha Hotel Apartment – In Al-Barsha, there are plenty of hotel apartments and this one is the best value-for-money in the area, with the best location in Al-Barsha, just next to Mall of the Emirates and the metro station. It is not really the cheapest but, for a few more USD, you get perfect service.
Nicer (mid-range) – Al Khoory Atrium – This 4-star hotel has a great roof-top pool from where you can even see the Burj al-Arab and it is ideal for both families and couples who are on a budget. Everything is pretty neat, brand-new and reasonably priced.
Affordable luxury – Coral Dubai Al Barsha Hotel – If you are looking for a 5-star hotel but you don’t want to spend a fortune, this hotel is one of the best value-for-money options in the whole of Dubai, so that’s why it has one of the largest numbers of reviews. It’s located right next to the Mall of the Emirates and it also has one very popular Arabic restaurant, serving exquisite Middle Eastern and Emirati food.
Top luxury – Kempinski Hotel – The top luxury hotel in the area is Kempinski, which is located inside the Mall of the Emirates. I used to go there a lot because it has the best Spanish restaurant in Dubai and its cuisine and set up is pretty close to some bars from back home. The rest of the hotel is everything you would expect from a luxury hotel, with the difference that this one is cheaper than the ones in Marina or Downtown.
Best area to stay in Dubai: Downtown
Downtown is Dubai as seen on TV and, for many people, the best area to stay in Dubai.
With some of the tallest skyscrapers, including the Burj Khalifa, the most luxurious shops, fancy boulevards, and the most glamorous clubs and fine-dining restaurants, Downtown is the reason why Dubai is famous.
Whether you want to go to the top of Burj Khalifa, shop in the world’s largest mall or just check out the fountain show, all tourists come here at some point during their trip.
The area, however, is the most expensive in the city but, thanks to the introduction of some little relatively cheap accommodation, today, more people can afford to stay here.
Why you should stay here: If you want to be close to the most important landmarks, like the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, as well as the most exclusive clubs, best restaurants and luxurious shops, then this is your place. It is also relatively close to the Old City.
Not good if: You are on a budget or you prefer to be closer to the beach in Marina, which is 23km away.
Best area to stay in Dubai: Best accommodation in Downtown
The cheapest (hostel) – The solo traveler – This is kind of a luxury hostel and not only because of its mind-blowing views to Downtown’s skyline but because all buildings in Downtown are like that. You will see that dorms aren’t cheap but still, this is the cheapest you can find in this area.
Budget – Movenpick Hotel Apartments – A hotel-apartment branch property that belongs to the well-known Movenpick chain. As in the rest of the city, hotel apartments are always the cheapest option. The ones offered by Movenpick are pretty neat and good for any kind of traveler who is looking for a value-for-money option. They also have good hotel services, like great restaurants, pool, gym, etc.
Mid-range – Rove Downtown – This hotel chain has hotels all across Dubai and they are famous for their great design that inspires real Western modernity, something not seen that often in Dubai, as most good hotels try to preserve the traditional Arabic design, in a modern way of course. This hotel has a cinema and its location is unbeatable.
Top luxury – Armani – This hotel is inside the Burj Khalifa, so I believe there isn’t much to say, right?
Best area to stay in Dubai: Bur Dubai
Bur Dubai is the heart of the Old City of Dubai.
Composed of narrow alleys, real bazaars, and traditional architecture, Bur Dubai is the real soul of the city, a place which has been inhabited for centuries.
Mostly inhabited by Indians (and it has been like that since it was founded), this is a place to finally experience some actual culture.
If you want to choose which area to stay in Dubai based on price, Bur Dubai also offers the cheapest rates when it comes to accommodation. Moreover, it also has some of the most authentic and cheap Indian restaurants in town.
You should stay here if: This is the best area to stay in Dubai for people on a budget and those more interested in traditional culture than luxury stuff.
Not good if: There are no nice bars and, besides very local restaurants, they aren’t really fine-dining options. It is also far away from famous the extravagant Dubai monuments.
Best area to stay in Dubai: Best accommodation in Bur Dubai
The cheapest – Al Raien Hotel Apartment – The cheapest hotel in Bur Dubai doesn’t have the best reviews ever but it is still quite decent and, at this price, you won’t find anything better.
Nicer (but also budget) – Ambassador Hotel – It is a bit more expensive than the previous one but it is much better. Very simple but comfortable. The location is great and the staff strive to make your stay just perfect.
Mid-range (but also cheap) – Citymax Hotel Bur Dubai – A mid-range option in Bur Dubai is like a budget option in Downtown. Citymax Hotel is one of the favorite and most-booked hotels in the area. Modern facilities and great comfort.
Affordable luxury – Movenpick Hotel – If it was in the Marina, this hotel might be way beyond your limits but, in Bur Dubai, it is very affordable and, of course, it doesn’t lose the quality service that characterizes Movenpick.
What area to stay in Dubai: Deira
For people on a budget, this is also of the best areas to stay in Dubai.
Deira is like the continuation of the Old City (Bur Dubai) but it is a bit more modern.
On the one hand, it has the largest traditional souq but, on the other hand, it is also a business district and, in fact, it was the first business area to ever set up in Dubai.
The area, nevertheless, has a soul, meaning that here you find normal streets with normal shops and walkable areas and, like in Bur Dubai, it is also mostly inhabited by Indians.
However, Deira is under a process of modernization and the Government is building some pretty cool stuff around.
You should stay here if: You are on a budget or want to be close to the airport. Also, this would be a good alternative to Bur Dubai, as they have built many modern buildings with plenty of fine-dining restaurants and a lot of bars.
Not good if: Being close to the airport means that it is far away from everything else, including the beach and all landmarks but it is well-connected by metro.
What area to stay in Dubai: Best accommodation in Deira
The cheapest – Al Jawara Metro Hotel – The cheapest (decent) option in Deira. Nothing special but it fulfills its function.
Nicer (but also budget) – Lavender Hotel Deira – If you want to stay in a slightly better place but just pay a few more dollars, Lavender is definitely a better value-for-money option, with more modern and spacious rooms.
Mid-range – Rove City Center – The same hotel recommended in Downtown. Rove is a chain of modern designed hotels which tend to be a very good value-for-money option. The one in Deira is the same as in Downtown but you pay half the price.
Affordable luxury – Al Bandar Rotana Dubai Creek – The best well-rated 5-star hotel in Deira has lower prices than any other 5-star hotel in the area. It is built by the river and everybody remembers the breakfast buffet.
Where to stay in Dubai as a tourist: Palm Jumeirah
Palm Jumeirah (or The Palm) is one of Dubai’s most remarkable landmarks.
It’s basically a palm-shaped island which is attached to Dubai’s mainland. It is actually huge, with a length of several kilometers from the beginning till the edge of the island, where you find the Atlantis Hotel, one of the most luxurious hotels in the city and a replica of the same hotel in The Bahamas.
You should stay here if: You are looking for real luxury or just because you feel like staying in The Palm
Not good if: There are no budget options and there is not much to do besides the beach and your hotel. It is far away from everything and not very well-connected.
Where to stay in Dubai as a tourist The Palm
The cheapest (which is already very expensive) – Aloft Palm Jumeirah – There are no budget options in The Palm and the cheapest you can find is this 4-star hotel, which is great anyways. It has a private beach with great views of Dubai skyline.
Top-rated – Waldford Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah – After Aloft Palm, all hotels are crazy expensive and this 5-star has the best rates and most positive comments. Besides having proper 5-star hotel facilities, with awesome beach and views, people claim that it serves the most excellent food and also that they offer plenty of water sports activities.
Most popular Hotel – Atlantis – One of the most famous landmarks in Dubai is the Bahamas replica of Atlantis at the very edge of the island. It offers real luxury but it is not the most expensive hotel in the area, so this may be a good choice as well.
These were, in my opinion, the best areas to stay in Dubai. Do you have any other hotel suggestion? Would love to hear it!