Dubai Or Singapore? Which Tantalizing City Break Is Better?

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
Photo by Swapnil Bapat via Unsplash
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Dubai and Singapore offer a truly unique and unforgettable vacation. Both cities are tantalizing in their own way drawing in tourists from all over the world year after year. But choosing between Dubai or Singapore for that once-in-a-lifetime vacation can often be a tough decision. 

While both cities are ultra-modern and have a range of exciting and unique things to do and see, they each have their own strengths and differences. Dubai is considered one of the most glamorous cities in the Middle East whereas Singapore is considered to be a central hub when it comes to foreign business and has become one of the most attractive places for ex-pats. 

We’ve put together a guide that compares travel costs, accommodation, culture, and more for both Dubai and Singapore so that you can decide which one is better for that all-important once-in-a-lifetime vacation.

Dubai or Singapore: Budget

Sunrise over downtown Dubai
Photo by David Rodrigo via Unsplash

When it comes to deciding on a place to go for a vacation, it might often help compare the costs of things like food, accommodation, and sightseeing. 

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The table below shows the average costs per day you’d need to budget for a trip to Dubai. On average the total cost of a 7-day trip would be around $1,000 for a solo traveler, around $1,400 for a couple, and around $2,000 for a family of four. These figures do not include the price for flights or additional transport such as taxis or buses. So you’re probably looking at a substantial amount more when you add in the cost of flights. 

Solo TravelerCouple’s VacationFamily Vacation

The table below shows the average costs per day you’d need to budget for a trip to Singapore. On average the total cost of a 7-day trip would be around $910 for a solo traveler, around $1,300 for a couple, and around $2,300 for a family of four. Just as the figures show with Dubai, we have not included the price for flights or additional transport such as taxis or buses in these figures. So bear in mind the figures are likely to be a little higher when you have the price of flights which vary considerably depending on the season and time of year. 

Solo TravelerCouple’s VacationFamily Vacation

You can also save money by cooking for yourself some nights if your accommodation allows, going on an all-inclusive deal, finding some free excursions, or even finding slightly less expensive places to eat. Although sightseeing and food are slightly more expensive in Singapore, accommodation is a lot cheaper per night. On a whole though, Dubai is often significantly more expensive than Singapore depending on the vacation you are after.

Winner – Singapore. Being located in Asia prices are generally a little cheaper than they are in the Middle East.

Dubai or Singapore: Culture

Market with many traditional antiques old retro vintage things in UAE
Photo by Grigory_bruev via Envato Elements

When visiting any country is crucial you understand the local customs. This will ensure you don’t make any cultural faux pas and will also help you interact with the locals without offending anyone. Dubai in particular has several customs you’ll want to be aware of as some could land you in more trouble than just offending someone. 

Emiratis are very friendly and welcoming people so expect long greetings with praises to God as well as hugs and kisses. There are, however, some public behaviors that are extremely frowned upon and in some cases illegal. A lot of UAE locals do not drink, so being drunk and disorderly is a massive no-no, in fact, you could be arrested for doing so. Public displays of affection are also considered to be disrespectful. And be careful with what you take photographs of.

Another thing to be aware of in Dubai is the way you dress. It’s considered rude to wear the country’s national clothing unless you have been invited to do so. Wearing revealing or provocative clothing is also considered disrespectful. So bear this in mind when you visit. Singapore has a very different culture from that of Dubai.

Singapore’s culture is made up of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and various other ethnicities. It’s one of South East Asia’s most modern cities and due to globalization, it has a very western feel to it. With that being said, there are parts of Singapore that have maintained their cultural charm such as ‘Little India’ and ‘Chinatown’. You won’t find a lot of street sellers here as you might in other Southeast Asia destinations and the city itself is much more calm and orderly. This is why it makes a great vacation destination if you’re looking to relax. 

Winner – Singapore. Some of the old Singapore still exists mainly in the day and night markets, something you just don’t find in Dubai. That’s why Singapore beats Dubai in terms of Culture.

Dubai or Singapore: Accommodation

Madinat Jumeirah  hotel in Dubai
Photo by hitdelight via Envato Elements

Ultra-modern, sleek, and grandiose are used to describe Dubai. It’s this vibe and elegance that first made Dubai stand out to tourist and put it on most travelers’ radar. There’s also a plethora of hotels and accommodations all over the city. It offers a great combination of glamorous hotels for city breaks and family-friendly vacations. Not forgetting the wealth of AirBnB’s and vacation rentals. 

Singapore, on the other hand, is a vibrant city packed full of skyscrapers and hotels with no fewer than a thousand rooms. You also don’t have to venture too far from the main city to be treated to a hotel and accommodations amongst the rainforests and lush greenery. While Dubai offers beaches, Singapore offers greenery and nature like no other. There are also plenty of vacation rentals and AirBnB’s to choose from. 

Winner – Singapore. There is so much choice, from city breaks to rainforest retreats.  Accommodation is also a little cheaper in Singapore.

Dubai or Singapore: Nightlife

Nighttime scene in Singapore
Photo by Kin Pastor via Pexels

The drinking culture around Dubai is a weird one. While it’s an offense to be drunk and disorderly there are still places that are licensed to sell alcohol, these are usually hotels, clubs, and restaurants. There are plenty of rooftop bars and swanky clubs you can go to but be aware that some have a hefty price tag on their drinks and entrance fees. Learn the local lingo for your alcoholic beverages and you’ll unlock the door to a vibrant nightlife scene.

Conversely, Singapore comes up trumps. It has such a diverse array of places that even on a budget you’ll find some to get your drink on and dance till the sun comes up. From swanky cocktail lounges that don’t cost an arm and a leg to budget beer places and nightclubs. A lot of Singapore’s nightlife is focused around the city center and for a more upmarket nightout, head to Marina Bay where you’ll find some of the best dressed and most lively clubs and bars. 

Winner – Singapore. With its relaxed dress code, a vast array of nightclubs, bars, restaurants, and live music, there’s nowhere that even comes close.

Dubai or Singapore: Food

wide selection of spices at a market in Dubai
Photo by sviatlankayanka via Envato Elements

If you’re planning a trip to Dubai or Singapore you’ll know that trying some of the local cuisine is an absolute must. Dubai’s cuisine combines Iranian, Lebanese, and Arabic food to make mouthwatering food that you can’t get enough of. Whether you’re a foodie or not, you’re in for a treat. Some of the most popular dishes include Chelo Kebab, Al Machboos, and Shish Tawook. 

Here are three additional dishes you need to try when on vacation in Dubai:

  • Iranian Sangak – leavened flatbread made out of whole wheat. 
  • Al Harees – Boiled, cracked, or coarsely-ground wheat mixed with meat and seasoned. Consistency looks like porridge. 
  • Shawarma – Popular street food dish consisting of meat cut into thin slices, stacked in a cone-like shape, and roasted on a spit.
Laksa at Singapore zoo
Photo by Tommy021 via Envato Elements

The food in Singapore is as diverse as its people. Taking lots of influence from Malay, Indian, Chinese, Indonesian, and western food. From traditional Hainanese Chicken Rice to Hokkien Prawn Mee, the food you taste here will forever stay with you. It’s a culinary delight of every foodie’s dreams. Whether you’re looking for noodles one night and fish the next you’ll find it in one of the many restaurants around the city.

Looking for some traditional Singaporean dishes? Here are three you have to try at least once:

  • Chili Crab – The national dish of Singapore. Hard-shell crab cooked in a semi-thick gravy with a chili tomato base. 
  • Nasi Lemak – Hearty meal of coconut rice, a slice of omelet, anchovies, slices of cucumber, and chili paste.  
  • Otak Otak – Grilled or steamed fish cake made from a fillet of fish that’s mixed with tapioca starch and wrapped in a banana leaf. 

Winner – Both. Each place offers a tantalizing range of dishes you’ll want to eat over and over again.

Dubai or Singapore: Excursions

A mosque in Duba light in blue light at night
Photo by David Rodrigo via Unsplash

When it comes to excursions Dubai and Singapore both offer a wide variety of choices. In Dubai, you can swim in the planet’s highest 360-degree infinity pool and deep dive into the world’s deepest pool, take a look around mosques and marvel at their significance, watch camels race, take a walk around many of Dubai’s Souks (markets), and have a birds-eye view of Dubai from the sky in a hot air balloon. 

There are also some other surprising excursions like skiing inside on real snow, kite surfing along the beach, and feeling like a child at the many water parks. Singapore, however, also offers a wide variety of excursions. From awe-inspiring conservation and gardens at Gardens by the Bay to the largest collection of public modern art in Southeast Asia.

From the jaw-dropping seven-story waterfall inside the Jewel Changi airport to the magnificent St Andrew’s Church, you’ll be spoilt for choice on things to fill your days. While there are many excursions in Singapore that are a must, as well as those in Dubai that as a tourist you just have to see, you’ll definitely be able to fill your days happily exploring worlds and places you’d have only dreamt of before. 

Winner – Dubai. While both offer exciting excursions there’s just a little more variety in Dubai.

Dubai or Singapore: Shopping

A shopping mall in Dubai
Photo by Mostafa Meraji via Unsplash

If you have the ambitions of a major shopping spree while on vacation, then both Dubai and Singapore offer famous shopping streets and mega malls. Dubai has several mega malls offering luxury goods and brands from around the world. If you’re looking for traditional markets, then Bur Dubai or Suk Madinat Jumeriah is where you’re likely to find some good bargains, spices, antiques, and more. 

Singapore is also a great shopping destination if you’re on the hunt for high-end luxury brands. Orchard Road is famous for its luxury retail outlets and world-class cuisine. But sadly, Singapore just doesn’t quite match up to what’s on offer in Dubai. 

Winner – Dubai. There is more choice than you can imagine and the traditional markets are a must. 

Dubai or Singapore: Weather

The Palms Beach in Dubai
Photo by twenty20photos via Envato Elements

A summer vacation isn’t so great if the weather doesn’t match up to your expectations. When visiting Dubai or Singapore though you’re in for a treat. Dubai regularly sees temperatures reach upward of 104 degrees Fahrenheit from March to October. From November through to February is when Dubai is better to visit as temperatures are far more pleasant sitting at around 77 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The weather in Singapore is a lot more humid than in Dubai and rainfall is common between December to March and June to September, so you may want to factor this into your decision about when to go. Daytime temperatures in Singapore tend to hover around 86 degrees Fahrenheit which for some is a lot more pleasant than the dry heat of Dubai. 

Winner – Both. Temperatures in Dubai and Singapore are perfect for those looking for a summer vacation, however, it’s worth bearing in mind what kind of heat you prefer.

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Justine King is from the UK and has been a full-time traveller and freelance writer since 2020 after a 6-year career in Hospitality. Clients benefit from her love and knowledge of the sector as she creates informative and inspiring articles to help guide readers totheir next travel destination.