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You might not think Dubai has many budget-friendly hotels but you’d be wrong. In recent years, a crop of innovative, design-led, and affordable hotels has popped up across the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates. And they’re far from basic too, from the former ocean liner moored at Port Rashid, to four-star hotels with a rooftop cinema in Dubai’s Old Quarter and in a shopping centre right next to the Burj Khalifa and City Walk retail area.
With its hip bar-restaurants Social Company and LAH LAH, four-star Zabeel House by Jumeirah has become a social hub in The Greens, a previously overlooked residential area near the Palm Jumeirah. It’s popular with after-work drinkers and the Friday brunch crowd and is just off Dubai’s main highway, Sheikh Zayed Road. You’ll stay in New York loft-style rooms with Smeg accessories and have access to a fully organic spa, gym and pool. More branches of this chain can be found next to the Dubai Creek in the Al Seef development, near Al Fahidi Historical District.
At this four-star hotel on the Deira side of Old Dubai, there’s a rooftop cinema crowned by a retractable ceiling where you can watch the stars on the big screen while snacking on popcorn in reclining seats. The suites are inspired films, with Bollywood, Hollywood, Agent or Superhero themes. The soup dumplings at Han Shi Fu are excellent, as are the skyline views from W XYZ Bar.
Despite having only three stars, this hotel on Happiness Street boasts a PlayStation gaming booth, 24-hour gym and a rooftop pool facing the Burj Khalifa. There’s luggage storage and a launderette and the lobby has abstract artworks made from Emirati ephemera, including a framed flower print made from burqas and a caravan of model camels climbing the wall. Rooms feature a magnolia colour scheme and have televisions and single pull-out sofa beds. There’s another Rove hotel in Dubai Marina and one in Dubai Parks and Resorts.
In Wadi Hub, at the base of the Hatta mountain area, the Damani Lodges Resort features individual units made from container cabins cantilevered into the sloping rock face. Inside, there are ensuite shower rooms, air-conditioning and televisions, while furnished terraces extend the living space. The cafe, food truck and adventure playground, offering activities such as axe-throwing, archery, rope courses and zorbing, are shared with neighbouring Hatta Caravan Park, which provides luxurious, fully fitted caravans. There is also the Sedr Trailer Resort, which offers rooms fashioned from vintage-style Airstream trailers that include individual porches.
A 136-room, four-star hotel, FORM has spacious, art deco-style rooms overlooking Dubai Creek. Its location in Al Jadaf may seem a bit isolated but the area has a metro station linking to all the main attractions. The hotel boasts a rooftop gym and half-Olympic-length swimming pool, plus a number of healthy dining options. Close by is the over-the-top Palazzo Versace Dubai hotel, which hosts elegant afternoon teas amid walls papered with the fashion brand’s famous prints. Only a short walk away is Jameel Arts Centre, which is free to enter and hosts excellent contemporary exhibitions.
Thanks to its remote Dubai Studio City location, between the gated community of Arabian Ranches and Motor City, this hotel offers nightly rates that are consistently among Dubai’s lowest. Perhaps best suited to the business traveller who can expense cab fares, this four-star hideaway offers plenty of perks. Facilities include a mini-cinema, gym, pool, spa and launderette. All rooms feature rain showers, yoga mats, pop art and Audrey Hepburn murals and come in family-friendly configurations — doubles with sofa beds, lounge space and kitchenettes and bunk beds if you ask . You can pick up snacks at self-service pantries on each floor and the grab-and-go counter in the lobby, or dine in at the on-site American restaurant, The Maine Street Eatery.
Aimee Heckel contributed additional reporting to this article.