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The Budget Life – Food Edition

The Budget Life – Food Edition

The Budget Life – Food Edition

The Budget Life, Food Edition.

Having lived in Dubai my entire life, I’m aware that food is not the cheapest item on the expenses menu. Making matters more dire, when you think about restaurants in Dubai, you may picture elegant places with a view of the Burj Khalifa. Well, there’s plenty of those but unfortunately, there isn’t plenty of money. For an international student like you, cutting down your expenses could be a challenge, but don’t worry, I’m here to help.

While living alone, one of your biggest expenses can be finding inexpensive meals and saving money shouldn’t mean starving yourself. If you are hungry all the time but end up checking your wallet just before placing your order, then this blog is just for you! Here are a few places you can eat great food for under 25 AED.


Greens Al Madina restaurant

If you are new to Dubai International Academic City, then chances are you probably haven’t heard of this place.  Located just 5 mins away from Academic City, Al Madina is arguably the most budget-conscious restaurant that offers a wide variety of delicious sub-continent choices. Whether you are looking for filling meals with rice, noodles, seafood, sandwiches or just burgers, Al Madina is the place to go!

My neighbor’s favorites – these are top picks by my neighbor from Al Madina restaurant if you are thinking about ordering from there –

  1. Butter Chicken & Naan – Might raise an eye among the health-conscious crowd but it scores high in terms of taste. You can moderate the spices as per your level of tolerance, but I personally recommend mild to be safe. Make sure you order the naan bread with it, it is truly a match made in heaven. – AED 20.

  2. Madina Offer (3 burgers meal) – 3 burgers, fries and a drink for 20 AED. Now, that’s a great catch! I usually have it when I am feeling super hungry and a bit stingy at the same time, in terms of quantity and value for money it doesn’t get better than this. – AED 20.

  3. Charcoal Chicken – This is a perfect meal if you are looking for something tasty, healthy and affordable. It ticks all the right boxes, highly recommended if you are into fitness and need good economic meals that taste good. –  AED 10.



Another place you probably haven’t heard of if you are new to Dubai in general. Fillis is famous for their saffron tea but they also have affordable sandwich/burger meals that cater to a large student population in Dubai International Academic City (DIAC). Located right in the center of DIAC, you can go there in between your classes while you’re on campus as they are easily accessible by all modes of transport.

My professor’s favorites – these are the top picks by my favorite university professor if you are fancying some FiLLi –

  1. Zafran tea– The reason why FiLLi went from a single shop to a nation-wide chain. Their tea is a unique blend of Saffron and spices that will leave you looking forward to the next cup. – AED6.25

  2. Chilli Filli Chicken – Great choice if you are running late for class and need a quick and tasty grab & go, this is a great option worth considering. – AED 15

  3. Samosa plate – If you had breakfast in the morning but got hungry before noon, then these hot and crispy samosas are delicious snacks that will keep you going until its lunch time.  AED 11 for 4 pieces.



KFC is where you find the tastiest chicken for the most affordable prices, they truly are a blessing for students on a budget. If your taste buds go crazy for chicken and your bank account isn’t the heaviest, then this is the place for you.

Personal favorites – these are my top picks from KFC as an ardent fan –

  1. The Spicy Twister – Words can’t describe how much I love their twisters, not only are they affordable but they taste so good. You haven’t lived until you try them (I said “them” because clearly, you are going to have more than one).  AED 9.

  2. The Zinger Supreme – I don’t love it as much as the twister but if the twister didn’t exist, I would probably go for the zinger supreme 10/10.  AED 16.

  3. The Chicken Rice Meal – This is the perfect meal if you are not looking to stuff yourself to death and just want to enjoy good old boneless chicken with some rice. If I have to describe it in three words, it’ll be “Light and tasty”.  AED 22.5


Ijaza Express Cafe

Just like Al Madina and Fillis, I won’t be surprised if you haven’t heard of Ijaza Express Cafe, but now you do. This quaint little cafe is located roughly 20 minutes away from Dubai International Academic City. They are famous for their fresh juices and hassan mathar, I will leave the googling to you.

My roommates favourites – again these are top picks of a self-confessed foodie.

  1. Hassan Mathar – A fusion of chicken and cheese that’s nice and warm. It sends your tummy to a state of happiness, just go and try it, thank me later. You’re welcome.  AED 7.

  2. Hello Smoothie – Might not be the cheapest option but the perfect blend of mangoes and berry fruits makes it a perfect drink for the summer. Simply refreshing.  AED 10.

  3. Zinker Combo – The crispiness and crunch of the chicken are moments we live for, it’s in those moments we realize that life is great, and it will only get better. Certainly, worth a try, especially if you’re a big chicken lover.  AED 13.


All restaurants can be found on Zomato. Bon appetite!


If you have any feedback for me or want to get in touch, contact me on twitter @Ablante_

Ablante Endalkachew, Contributor