Looking for an exotic vacation that's also within reach? It’s likely you haven’t considered the United Arab Emirates, a country known to be the epitome of over-the-top luxury and conspicuous consumption. But with the debut of the country’s first low-cost airline, flydubai, (launching this week) and two new boutique hotels, there’s plenty of proof that the UAE—and Dubai in particular—are ready to welcome a new type of visitor: the budget traveler.
The airline, which is based out of Terminal 2 on the north side of Dubai International Airport, flies daily to Amman, Beirut, Damascus, and Alexandria for rates from $70 one-way, and has announced plans to expand throughout the Middle East and beyond. The Boeing 737-800s are new, but the brand itself may feel oddly familiar. Marketing material was conceived by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum supposedly to reflect the colors of the Persian Gulf, though I don’t mind being the first to tell you that the HRH obviously took a hint from JetBlue founder David Neelman (who, by the way, launched Azul Airlines, an upstart based out of Sao Paulo).
When it comes to deciding where to lay your head, forget the Burj al Arab and the new Atlantis, The Palm (though both are It List-worthy, they’re incredibly expensive) and reserve one of eight eclectic rooms at the art hotel XVA Gallery, or opt for the royal seal of approval at HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein’s Desert Palm (Al Awir Road; 971/4324-888; desertpalm.ae; doubles from $345). The latter, a sprawling property that opened this spring with 24 modern rooms on a former polo estate has an infinity pool, wellness spa, even a private stable—at prices guaranteed to please.
Sarah Kantrowitz is an associate editor at Travel + Leisure.