Last updated on September 15th, 2023
Is it possible to find free parking in Dubai? Yes and yes. You just need to know where to look for it.
Before I rented my first car in Dubai, I did a lot of research on parking. All posts I found mainly mentioned how and where to pay for it rather than gave decent tips on where to find free space in Dubai where to leave a car. So I just started to look for free parking on my own when exploring the city.
And you know what? I found too many places in different neighborhoods of Dubai that had enough free parking lots for cars.
You see, Dubai is made for cars. With all the highway systems, street layouts, clear signage, multi-story parking garages, and underground parking it is designed for automobiles to move around the city quickly and conveniently.
Within Dubai city limits, public transport is also well developed. However, getting to farther neighborhoods and other emirates becomes more difficult and time-consuming. This is why so many people in Dubai still prefer to get a car.
Of course, no matter how good the city infrastructure is, having too many cars will always overload a road system, resulting in constant traffic congestion, noise, and excessive air pollution. And the first step to reducing traffic is creating paid parking zones. Well, that also helps to pay for the infrastructure costs too.
Dubai heavily pushes the idea of paid parking, this is why at first glance, it may seem there is just no free parking at all. All the street parking is paid, even in residential areas, forcing local residents to buy seasonal parking permits valid for 3 months, 6 months, or a year.
However, there are still ways to park for free, including even free parking garages available for the public.
I have stayed in the Dubai area for a few months and successfully avoided paying for parking most of my time. In fact, I paid for it only once because we were on a mini road trip through Dubai and wanted to visit as many activities in one day as possible.
So I learned a few tips that I would like to share with you in this post. They will give an idea of the parking situation in Dubai and how to save money when looking for a spot.
When Parking is Free in Dubai
Before I get to talk about where to find free parking in Dubai, I want to mention a few words about when parking is free for everyone. There is one day during the week (for now it’s Friday) when parking is entirely free for anyone anywhere in Dubai, no matter if that’s an underground garage in downtown or street parking by the beach.
Why exactly Friday? Because Friday is considered to be the most sacred day to offer prayers to Allah. This is when many people go to mosques and gather together to pray. Friday is also a day when the weekend starts and lasts from noon until Sunday midnight.
At this point, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority authorizes Friday as the only day with free parking. Although they inform on their website that it may change in the future to Saturdays. If you check this post at that time when it wasn’t updated for a while, you can always click through the UAE government portal to see if parking is still free on Fridays.
Besides this day, parking is also free on public holidays such as:
- New Year’s Day – Sat, 1 Jan 2022
- Eid al-Fitr Eve – Likely Mon, 2 May 2022
- Eid al-Fitr – Likely 2 – 5 May 2022*
- Day of Arafat – Likely 8 – 9 Jul 2022*
- Eid al-Adha – Likely 9 – 12 Jul 2022*
- Islamic New Year – Likely 29 – 30 Jul 2022*
- Prophet’s Birthday – Likely 7 – 8 Oct 2022*
- Commemoration Day – Wed, 30 Nov 2022
- National Day – Fri, 2 Dec 2022
These days are a bit inconsistent. For example in 2021, Dubai also announced free parking on December 31st, and free parking on National Day was extended from December 1st to the 3rd.
Where to find free parking in Dubai
And now let’s talk about what you want to look for on a regular day to be able to find free parking zones in Dubai city.
1. Sand Lots
Over the last few decades, Dubai has developed exponentially. Yet, not every inch of land was used for a modern apartment tower, fancy mall, or private villa. It doesn’t mean nobody owns that piece of land, but if nothing was done to it, it just remains as a patch of sand and can be used for parking freely. There are still many places like this around the city.
Some of them are surrounded by some sort of fence. But many are not. And if you can see some cars on it, then parking there is absolutely allowed and is always free.
For example, to find free parking in Dubai Marina and JBR you should head to this parking sand lot not too far from the Ain Dubai – the world’s biggest and tallest observation wheel. I parked there many times and from there just walked to JBR and all the way to Dubai Marina and JLT.
Another parking lot on the sand that may be very helpful is parking near Burj Al Arab 7-star hotel. From there it is also a short walk to Souk Madinat.
But you can really park in any part of Dubai on the parking lot that is not asphalt but sand. Just cruise around a bit and look for a sandy piece of land.
2. The Mall Parking
Most shopping malls in Dubai city (as anywhere around UAE) offer at least some free parking time during the workweek and almost always free parking on weekends. Others have all day long free parking on any day. That totally depends on the mall. Usually, the first 2 hours are free, then the regular price is 10 AED/h (~$2.70).
The Dubai Mall – the world’s largest shopping mall, as well as the entertainment and leisure center, offers 4 hours of free parking. If that’s not enough time, you can either pay to stay longer or exit the mall and reenter it again before your free time expires.
If you are planning to spend money at the mall, there might be a validation for the parking after spending 100 – 300 AED in the mall’s shops and/or restaurants. These conditions are usually posted in the parking area.
Some malls offer free parking at all times. Like Festival City Mall, Ibn Battuta, Mercato Mall, or Nakheel Mall. The last one is an amazing shopping center on Palm Jumeira that has large underground parking available free of cost.
But keep in mind, that there are some amazing malls that purposely don’t allow complimentary parking, like The Pointe Mall. This is just a beautiful place to visit, but they charge 20 AED for the first hour, then 10 AED per hour. Your only free options here are either walk about 35 minutes from Nakheel Mall or spend 100 AED at shops or restaurants to validate the first 3 hours of parking.
3. The Parking Garage
Surprisingly, there are some decent parking garages that offer complimentary parking either permanently or temporarily. For example, Dubai Opera Green Parking Garage offers free parking and that is right in the Dubai center not far from the Burj Khalifa.
Al Marsa parking is also free, which is great because it allows you to visit Dubai Old City for as long as you want, its fabulous old museums, and cafes. Nearby Al Seef underground parking lot is also free. The opposite side across Dubai Creek in Deira has many free parking garages as well.
Another underground parking spot I used many times is Marina Parking in Dubai Creek Harbour. This is a more remote area away from the center but is an excellent location for a quiet walk, dining, and a skyline view.
You can also find very convenient free underground parking in City Walk and on famous Palm Jumeira at Palm West Beach Parking.
There are many parking structures around the city. When you pull to the entrance and see that there is no gate at the entrance or the gate is open, that usually means free parking.
4. Residential Neighborhoods
Residential area parking would hardly be possible to find in Dubai city center, but there are many residential areas away from downtown that are close to interesting sites in the city.
You do need to watch for signs “Private Access” or “Residents Only”. But there are streets where general parking is not a problem.
If there is no easy to find free parking near your final stop, I recommend you to drive around through neighborhoods and see if you can park there. In most cases, that won’t be a problem. However, it may be a bit of a walk to your place of destination.
5. Street Parking
Free street parking is rather hard to find in Dubai, but it exists.
Overall, there are a lot of street parking spots and they always have clear markings. If the parking zone is paid, there will be signs mentioning that. Usually, a parking machine is going to be near too. If parking is free, there will be no signs and obviously no parkomats (payment machines).
Some street parking is only paid during certain hours. It may be a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the afternoon. Also, all street parking is free from 10 pm until 8 am. A few zones in Business Bay have free parking from 11 pm to 8 am.
There are not many free street parking areas in Dubai and definitely not in the very center. But you can find it in some touristy places. Like, for example, parking next to Lamer Beach or Kite Beach. Both of them are great places for a beach day with nice cafes and vibes.
6. Leisure Attractions and Amusement Parks
Many Dubai popular attractions offer free parking too. Just some of these places are Global Village, Al Seef, IMG World, City Walk, Dubai Frame, Dubai Garden Glow, and others.
7. Public Parks
Most public parks also charge less or offer free parking spots. Our favorite parks with free (or at least partially free) parking are Burj Park, Safa Park, Creek Park, and Zabeel Park.
However, the small parks in your residential neighborhoods typically allow free parking at all times.
8. Destination Parking
If you are going to a specific destination like a restaurant or hotel, it is possible that the venue offers free parking for its visitors. Check on that in advance!
9. Metro Stations
Public transportation in Dubai is quite efficient which helps in maintaining the traffic flow. Some metro stations here also provide the “Park-and-Ride” option. So if you plan to use the metro and a car then here are a few metro stations to know about that provide free parking in Dubai:
- Rashidiya Station
- Tower Station and Nakheel Harbour on the Red Line
- Etisalat Station on the Green Line
However, do not park there if you don’t plan to use the metro. It’s very possible to get fine for it.
And now I want to mention a few words about paid parking.
In some cases, it just might be easier and more time-saving to pay to park. Parking rates in Dubai range from 2 to 10 AED per hour depending on the zone you are in.
There are 7 different ways to pay but if you are visiting as a tourist, then a parking machine is the easiest option. However, some parking areas don’t have parking machines and ask you to pay via SMS. In this case, you should follow the instructions on the signboard.
If you decide to use paid parking more frequently, then you can download an app for easier payments. You’ll find QR codes for it on parking signs.
Parking violation fine ranges from 400 to 100 AED.
For someone who stayed in Dubai for an extended period of time and always rented a car for an entire duration every time, I can say that it is entirely possible (and to be honest easy) to find free parking even in such a city as Dubai.
Sometimes you might need to circle around a block to find parking. Other times you may need to walk from it to your final destination. But if you don’t mind any of that, then finding a place where to park a car for free in Dubai will never be a problem!