Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah for a Vacation | The Vacation Builder

Not all of us want to spend a fortune on a luxury holiday, but also do not want to miss out on a new destination! With the UAE becoming an increasingly more popular tourist vacation spot, the expense of some of the big cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi can be off putting to some. However, this is not necessarily the case as Ras Al Khaimah is often regarded as being a cheaper alternative to visiting Dubai, but is it better and how do the two compare?

After comparing Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, we ended up with a tie! Below we explore where Dubai excels and where Ras Al Khaimah is better.

Where is Ras Al Khaimah in Relation to Dubai?

Whilst both Dubai and RAK are located in the UAE, Ras Al Khaimah is slightly more northern than Dubai, being situated just above Sharjah. Dubai on the other hand, is located below Sharjah and just north of Abu Dhabi.

Although this may seem like a long trip, you can get to Ras Al Khaimah from Dubai in around 1 hour and 20 minutes by car.

If you weren’t planning on driving, thankfully there are other ways to get between the two, although these take considerably longer.

Firstly to get to Ras Al Khaimah from Dubai:

  • You take the MRed subway from Downtown Dubai to Deira City Centre (approx. 20 minutes)
  • Change to the Dubai Diera Terminal bus stop to get to Ras Al Khaimah Airport (approx. 1 hour)
  • Catch a taxi to Ras Al Khaimah (approx. 21 minutes)

Do note that you are likely to have to be waiting, so the estimated total journey time is just over 2 hours.

To get to Dubai from Ras Al Khaimah:

  • First catch a taxi to Ras Al Khaimah Airport (approx. 21 minutes)
  • Take the bus to Dubai Diera Terminal (approx. 1 hour)
  • Change to the Deira City Centre subway and ride it to the Burj Khalifa/ Dubai Mall Metro Station (approx. 18 minutes)

The total journey time should amount to approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.

As you can see, Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah are neighbouring emirates so there is plenty of opportunity for you to stay in one and visit the other on a day out. The two locations, especially Dubai has good public transport connections so you can still access either if you cannot drive.

Dubai Airport or Ras Al Khaimah Airport to visit Ras Al Khaimah?

Following on from our previous point, you may be wondering which airport is best to use for visiting Ras Al Khaimah.

Firstly, Ras Al Khaimah Airport is located a short 20 minute drive from the city centre, which may seem like the obvious choice. However, as Ras Al Khaimah is a smaller city compared to Dubai, flights arrive and depart a lot less frequently. This means that you may need to catch a connecting flight in Eastern Europe or Asia rather than a direct one depending on where you are travelling from. However, some countries will find it far easier to catch a flight to Dubai or Abu Dhabi and travel the rest of the way to Ras Al Khaimah as the accessibility will vary.

Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah - Where is Better for a Vacation - Which Airport to Use for RAK | The Vacation Builder

From Dubai International Airport, Ras Al Khaimah is approximately a 1 hour and 15 minute drive. Dubai International Airport sees far more tourism and travellers so it is understandable that flights arrive and depart far more frequently and from all around the world. More often than not, you can find a flight that can get you to Dubai International Airport whether that be directly or with a connecting flight.

Ultimately, which airport is better to fly from will depend on where you are travelling from and what the scheduled flight times are, but Dubai International Airport is usually a safe bet due to it seeing more arrivals and departures.

A taxi from Dubai Airport to RAK centre will cost only 200AED / $50.

Dubai vs RAK for Things to do

When you go on holiday, you want to make sure you have plenty of exciting and unique things to do. For this section, we will compare ten attractions and activities from TripAdvisor for each location and factor in base prices.

Top 10 Things To Do In Dubai

  • Burj Khalifa – from 190 AED for At The Top
  • The Dubai Fountain – Free but boat rides cost extra
  • The Dubai Mall – Free admission
  • Dubai Miracle Garden – 55 AED for adults
  • Global Village – 15 AED for adults
  • Dubai Frame – From 50 AED per adult
  • Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark – Approx. 269 AED
  • Ski Dubai – From 190 AED
  • Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo – Approx. 169 AED
  • Motiongate Dubai – From 275 AED
Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah for Things To Do - Jebel Jais, RAK | The Vacation Builder
Jebel Jais – Ras Al Khaimah

Top 10 Things To Do In Ras Al Khaimah

  • Jebel Jais – Free admission
  • Al Hamra Mall – Free admission
  • Wadi Shawka – Free admission
  • Ras Al Khaimah National Museum – 5 AED
  • Wadi Bih – Free admission
  • Dhayah Fort – Free admission
  • Fun City – From 125 AED
  • Al Sawan Camel Track – Free to attend
  • Avitane SPA, Rixos Bab Al Bahr
  • Suwaidi Pearls – 250 AED per adult

After examining both locations, it is clear that Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah offer very different attractions and activities. Ras Al Khaimah is far more rooted in the UAE’S heritage and culture, showcasing historical and traditional buildings and attractions. It also offers more natural scenery with the beautiful sights of Jebel Jais and Wadi Bih which will be a big draw for some tourists. Dubai offers more modern and innovative attractions, but these certainly come with quite the price tag in some cases.

Although Dubai offers objectively more original and a range of attractions, Ras Al Khaimah’s are very different and generally cost nothing or minimal money. Because of this, we cannot call where is better for things to do.

Are Excursions Cheaper in Ras Al Khaimah than Dubai?

Now we’ve looked at general things to do, we will now take a look over the costs of excursions as well as their durations. For this round, we’ve picked out similar types of excursions to keep it fair.

First up, here are four excursions from Dubai:

ExcursionCostDurationOther Inclusions
Premium Red Dunes & Camel SafariFrom 285 AED7 hoursDune bash, sandboarding, camel ride, falcon interaction, BBQ
Dubai Self-drive Quad BikeFrom 212 AED4 hours 30 minutesSandboarding, camel ride, falcon interaction and refreshments
Dubai Full Day TourFrom 405 AED9 hoursBurj Khalifa At The Top, Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort tickets
Donut Ride108 AED15 minutesMinimum of 2 people

Now let’s compare to Ras Al Khaimah:

ExcursionCostDurationOther Inclusions
Mountain Picnic – Jebel JaisFrom 405 AED4 hoursPrivate tour and lunch
Quad Biking Guided TourFrom 155 AED30 minutesDune bashing and BBQ can be added for extra
Ras Al Khaimah Guided City Tour694 AED per group (up to 5)4 hoursEntry to Ras Al Khaimah National Museum
Donut Ride ExperienceFrom 179 AED15 minutesMinimum 2 Persons

Interestingly, the Dubai excursions all work out to be cheaper than their Ras Al Khaimah counterparts in terms of value for money when you factor in their cost and duration.

Therefore, for these excursions, Dubai is the winner!

Hotel Costs in RAK compared to Dubai

The hotel is undoubtedly a key component of any holiday, so let’s take a look over whether Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah have the better hotels and which are the best value for money. For this section, we will first look over some of the top rated TripAdvisor hotels for both emirates.

Aparthotel Adagio Premium Dubai Al Barsha

Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah for Hotels - Aparthotel Adagio Premium Dubai Al Barsha | The Vacation Builder
Image courtesy of Booking.com

Star Rating – 4*
Trip Advisor Rating – 5 / 5
Average Price – From 271AED / $73 per night
Website: Aparthotel Adagio Premium Dubai Al Barsha

Key Features: Directly opposite to the Sharaf DG metro station. There are two swimming pools, a fitness room, a bar, and a spa.

Raffles Dubai

Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah for Hotels - Raffles Dubai | The Vacation Builder

Star Rating – 5*
Trip Advisor Rating – 5 / 5
Average Price – From 1,278AED / $347 per night
Website: Raffles Dubai

Key Features: Sports an iconic pyramid architecture and tropical gardens. There are seven restaurants and bars, an outdoor pool, a gym, a spa and private balconies.

Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai

Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah for Hotels - Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai | The Vacation Builder
Image courtesy of Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai

Star Rating – 5*
Trip Advisor Rating – 5 / 5
Average Price – From 1,450AED / $394 per night
Website: Nikki Beach Resort & Spa Dubai

Key Features: Located on Pearl Jumeira. There are four restaurants and lounges, a gym, a spa, private pool villas, a swimming pool, bubble pool, and water sports facilities.

Hampton Marjan Island – Ras Al Khaimah

Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah for Hotels - Hampton Marjan Island - Ras Al Khaimah | The Vacation Builder
Image courtesy of Travel Republic

Star Rating – 4*
Trip Advisor Rating – 4.5 / 5
Average Price – From 385AED / $104 per night
Website: Hampton Marjan Island

Key Features: Located on Marjan Island Boulevard. There are seven restaurants and bars, an outdoor pool, a spa, and a kids club with a pool and playground.

The Cove Rotana Resort – Ras Al Khaimah

Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah for Hotels - The Cove Rotana Resort - Ras Al Khaimah | The Vacation Builder
Image courtesy of Booking.com

Star Rating – 5*
Trip Advisor Rating – 4 / 5
Average Price – From 396AED / $107 per night
Website: The Cove Rotana Resort

Key Features: Overlooks the stunning Arabian Gulf. There are six restaurants, three pools, a spa, a gym, a private beach and a kids club.

Marjan Island Resort & Spa – Ras Al Khaimah

Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah for Hotels - Marjan Island Resort & Spa - Ras Al Khaimah | The Vacation Builder
Image courtesy of Marjan Island Resort & Spa

Star Rating – 5*
Trip Advisor Rating – 4.5 / 5
Average Price – From 363AED / $98 per night
Website: Marjan Island Resort & Spa

Key Features: Located on Al Marjan Island. There’s seven restaurants and cafés, a private beach, three swimming pools, water sports, a kids club, a spa, a salon, and a beauty clinic.

After looking over both locations, there is a clear variation in prices with Dubai sometimes coming out cheaper, but for the 5* hotels, it is clear that Ras Al Khaimah is a lot more affordable in comparison. However, the Dubai hotels are slightly more favourably reviewed.

Regardless, due to the price difference, we’d say Ras Al Khaimah wins this round.

Is Ras Al Khaimah Cheaper Than Dubai?

After looking at these various holiday aspects, we will now look at the prices of each to determine which area works out as being the overall cheapest.

DubaiRas Al Khaimah
Things To Do Average121.30 AED42.22 AED
Excursion Average252.5 AED358.25 AED
Hotel Average999.67 AED381.33 AED

When looking over both, it is clear that Ras Al Khaimah is generally significantly cheaper than Dubai, so it is no wonder why it is often regarded as a cheaper alternative to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Pros of Visiting Each

To round off this article, we will look at the positives of visiting each location to determine where is the best for a vacation!

DubaiRas Al Khaimah
Great transport linksVery affordable things to do
Cheaper excursionsCheaper hotels
A wide variety of attractionsStunning natural scenery
An ideal modern skyline city breakFantastic cultural sights
Better for familiesLess busy

As you can see, both areas have their own visiting benefits with Dubai being fantastic for the glitz and glamour and Ras Al Khaimah being incredible for the breath-taking mountainous views, getting out in the wild and your pocket.

Conclusion

This was an incredible showdown between one of the most popular emirates in the UAE and a neighbouring hidden gem! Overall, Ras Al Khaimah ended with 2 points and Dubai ended with 2 points, with there also being one tie.

Therefore, this comparison ended in a clear tie with Ras Al Khaimah’s results largely coming from the significant drop in cost compared to Dubai’s equivalents, whereas Dubai racked up points due to accessibility and excursions.

If you are particularly concerned about cost but don’t want to miss out on Dubai, we’d recommend staying in Ras Al Khaimah and taking a day trip to Dubai. There are plenty of completely different things to do in both, so it largely comes down to personal preference.

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