Is Dubai Really A Shopping Paradise?
Dubai – Endless Shopping Opportunities
As a matter of fact, to many people, Dubai has gained a reputation of being a shopping paradise.
In the United Arab Emirates, shopping is almost considered a national sport. From luxury mega malls to hip boutiques and markets, when it comes to retail, there is no doubt that Dubai has it really all.
The plenty major malls are open until 10 pm or midnight daily, 7 days a week and the two shopping festivals – Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises held annually get thousands of visitors into the country.
When it comes to one-stop-shopping, The Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates (the two biggest and most popular malls) are the places to be for luxury, mid-range and high-street brand shopping. Where The Dubai Mall has Bloomingdale’s (the only outlet outside the US), Mall of the Emirates has the UK’s Harvey Nichols.
Next to the two main malls, there are plenty of other, bigger and smaller malls as well as community shopping centers and 2 outlet malls. And the construction hasn’t stopped yet, there are more shopping destinations in the pipeline.
Where malls and mainstream brands have ruled in the past, the city’s independent boutique scene is on the rise. Best visited in winter, outdoor dining and shopping districts such as The Beach at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence), Box Park and the City Walk now offer an alternative to the mega malls. The districts feature a handful of established stores and standalone boutiques, contemporary Arabic designers and accessories with Middle Eastern flair.
But is shopping in Dubai really a bargain?
There are plenty of options, yes. The question is, is shopping in Dubai really cheaper than in other destinations.
The currency conversion rate certainly has an impact, but after having lived in Dubai for 8 years, I must say that generally shopping is not at all less expensive compared to of the most European countries, North America and certainly not cheaper than in Asia.
Fact is, even though shopping is tax free in the country, bottom line, prices are not lower.
Prices for international luxury brands (Armani, Marc Jacobs, Cartier etc.) and mid-range street brands (Zara, Mango, Topshop etc.) are about on the same level as in Europe and US brands (Victoria Secret, Hollister, Nike etc) are even more expensive than in the States.
Electronic items used to be cheap in the past, but that has changed now and prices are about just the same as in any Western country.
Where can you save?Arabic brands and gold are a real bargain, no matter where you shop! I don’t want to promote smoking, but tobacco is damn cheap (about USD 25 for a box of cigarettes). Best to buy at Duty Free because outside of the airport, they often use different, lower quality tobacco. For souvenir shopping, stay away from the souvenir shops at the malls and from the commercial souks (such as Souk Madinat or Souk Al Bahar).
Instead, visit the local souks (textile or spice souk) or the shops in Bur Dubai in Deira. You will save about 30%. While bargaining in the malls and commercial shops is a no-go, it is a must when buying anything from the traditional markets. Start your negotiation at 50% of the price requested. Get a tailor made dress or suit in the shops of Bur Dubai. Prices start from about USD 50 for a dress and USD 100 for a suit depending on the quality, You should calculate about 7 days for the tailoring. Watch out for sales. There is a sale anywhere at anytime throughout the year. It would basically be a shame to buy anything at full price in the commercial shops (unless you really, really want that item).