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Less Cash, Still Flash: Dubai on a Budget

With the festive season at an end, it's time to think about escaping the dreary January weather and heading for warmer climes.

With the festive season at an end, it's time to think about escaping the dreary January weather and heading for warmer climes. And what better place to soak up some proper pre-summer sun than Dubai, home of the heat?

Known for its millionaire's playground lifestyle and big-budget attitude Dubai may not seem like the place to go if you're on a budget, but plan your trip wisely and you might find that those dirhams will go further than you think. Cheap holidays to Dubai are not the stuff of fairytales and cheap hotels in Dubai do exist - you just need to know where to look, and when to go. January to March is the season for rain in Dubai, and consequently these are quieter months to visit, so you may find discounted rates and bargain buys if you're planning a last minute holiday.

Whenever you choose to visit, accommodation is likely to be your biggest expense, with many hotels catering for the flash pack or set up to serve expense-account business travellers. But not all Dubai hotels are only for the wealthy - there are some affordable places to stay in the city as well.

A great option for budget travellers who still want to be in the heart of the action, the Ibis Deira City Centre Dubai offers comfortable, modern rooms just across the street from one of the world's largest shopping malls, the eponymous Deira City Centre. Here you'll find all mod cons, from air-conditioning to cable TV, plus an on-site a la carte French restaurant and free shuttle bus to Jumeirah Beach Park.

Alternatively, for just a little more cash, check into a suite at the Suite Novotel, just 200m from the vast Mall of the Emirates. This new property features 180 suites with air conditioning, satellite TV, tea/coffee maker and high-speed internet access plus a gorgeous rooftop swimming pool, PlayStation gaming area and traditional Italian cuisine at on-site restaurant Amici. If you plan to spend much time at the Mall of the Emirates, with its numerous international stores, coffee shops and restaurants, 14-cinema Cinestar complex and vast Ski Dubai complex, staying here will also save on travel as it's so close you won't need a car to get there.

Once you're in Dubai, it's all too easy to splash the cash so stick to the budget attractions to keep a reign on your spending. Plan to visit the fascinating Dubai Museum (just 3 dirhams per adult, 1 dirham per child) at historic Al Fahidi Fort, tour the lively gold, textile and spice souks (free if you can avoid buying anything) and take an abra ride across the creek (1 dirham) for fantastic views of the wind towers, mosques and minarets. In the evenings avoid the expensive rooftop bars and head instead to the Dubai Fountain at Burj Khalifa for a free "performance" by these dancing waters or take a stroll along Marina Walk for waterfront views and affordable coffee shop dining.

Dubai has plenty to offer the frugal traveller but the number one attraction is the sun. With daily temperatures in the early to mid 20s Celsius you're sure to catch plenty of rays - and even better, they're free. So leave that credit card at home and soak up the real Dubai - it’s cheaper than you think.