Dubai may not seem like a place for the budget traveller. As a city renowned for excess, expense and luxury living, Dubai is not a destination you’re likely to find on your typical backpackers itinerary.
It’s a shame because Dubai (and the UAE in general) has lots to offer the budget traveller. The cheap street food eateries of Karama, wonderful public beaches with free wifi and those glorious desert dunes. With a convenient location smack bang in the middle of the world, Dubai is a key transit hub and a jumping off point for far more reasonably priced destinations like India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Russia. With so many travellers bypassing Dubai completely, priced out from the five star hotels and fine dining options, a new contender is looking to change all that.
Rove Hotels are designed for the modern explorer. Situated in popular neighborhoods and conveniently close to transport connections, these ‘hubs’ look to bridge the gap between hostel and mid-range hotel.
Driving into the Downtown Dubai branch, it’s immediately evident that this is not the five star experience that we’ve become accustomed to. With no valet (but plenty of spaces to self-park) and no bell boy to carry your luggage, this is where the budget nature of the property stops. Entering the lobby, we’re not sure what to expect but are pleasantly surprised by a very modern and minimalist look. Smiles abound as we make our towards the reception desks which are surrounded by ‘ticker tape’ screens that overwhelm us with hashtags and buzzwords.
Rove describe their hotels as modern, cosmopolitan and cultural and this is directly reflected in the communal areas of the hotel. A large map pin takes centre stage and displays the exact co-ordinates of our location, camels roam freely over the walls, while Arabic coffee and dates are freely available.
Rove identifies that their Rovers (customers) are young, modern and looking to explore as a local does and this philosophy is woven into the very design of the hotel. The central lounge area is part Arabic majlis and part hipster coffee shop. High topped tables are frequented by a cross-section of society, eagerly tapping away on laptops and smartphones in sweet abandon. There is an alcove for video gaming with free use of the provided consoles and for the younger guests there are chairs that double up as rocking horses. Rove doesn’t feel like a budget hotel, rather a brand that knows exactly what their customers are looking for.
Rather than following the usual pattern of trying to entice diners into on-sight restaurants, Rove cleverly provides guests with a mini market selling everything a traveller could need – toiletries, packet noodles, fresh fruits and a whole host of other goodies, recognizing that the budget traveller may not have the finances to eat out all of the time. This addition is the perfect place to grab something for breakfast or just a cup of coffee and this is reflected in the price.
Moving up to the rooms, the fun stylings of the hotel continue. Corridor walls are papered in graffiti and flow seamlessly towards the individual rooms. The rooms themselves are light, bright, basic and somewhat compact in nature. Though we’re unsure of the square footage of our room, there is just enough room for a double bed, desk, mini fridge and an arm chair that can be folded out into an additional bed. Keeping with the hotels modern feel, walls are emblazoned with the words “this is where I am” accompanied by distinct imagery of Dubai.
In terms on amenities, the rooms have free wifi, power showers, a 48″ flat screen television and surprisingly comfortable beds. Although the room may be missing some of the essentials, from a more upmarket brand, in terms of robes, slippers and premium toiletries, it’s barely noticeable with the room being so comfortable. Rooms at the Rove Downtown come in two pricing structures and depend upon whether you choose to have a view of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa.
It’s the small touches that really make a stay at Rove worthwhile. Clearly a lot of research has gone into determining the ‘type’ of person who will frequent these hotels and each and every element has been carefully planned, from the takeaway coffee cups in the room (coffee on the go sounds like a great plan to us), the free laundry facilities and ironing boards, to the left luggage room. Additional meeting rooms provide indoor basketball, ping pong and fuseball, engaging social activities and an ideal way to meet new people.
On the mezzanine levels, guests will also find a state of the art fitness centre and a small swimming pool, the perfect sun trap for the modern explorer, though the lack of sun beds is likely to cause much frustration.
At AED 99 per person we couldn’t resist a trip to the weekend ‘Bench Brunch’ during our stay. Brunch takes place between 11am and 3:30pm in The Daily, Rove’s only restaurant. Like the hotel itself the competitive price of this brunch is not directly reflective of quality and for your precious dirhams you get one hot drink, one main course and free reign over the buffet which is set up a central bench.
Grab one of the deep bowls and fill up on a selection of pastries, breakfast wraps, cereals, cheeses, sandwiches and so much more. With the health conscious in mind and a strong emphasis on breakfast items, the Bench Brunch is refreshingly different from the norm.
For the price you pay it’s a huge amount of food, all of which is of a very high standard. We do wish that more than one hot beverage were included but on the flip side you do get unlimited juices, detox smoothies and infused waters. In terms of the main course, diners can expect eggs in various forms, pancakes and even grilled shrimps. The one unmissable item from the brunch is the healthy banana pudding topped with wheat, that gives the famous version at Magnolia bakery a good run for its money.
The Bench Brunch is a great budget option with a fantastic kids area. It’s certainly a casual way to start the weekend though a lack of alcohol may deter many brunchers.
The usual connotations associated with a budget establishment do not exist at Rove. In fact it’s actually more desirable than some of the more tired five star properties in the vicinity. Rove has become such a runaway success that in less than a year there are now two additional properties (Rove Healthcare City and Rove City Centre). Yet the expansion is far from over and you’ll find Rove Hotels popping up all over the place in the coming months, at desirable locations such as Marina, Trade Centre, Satwa and down at Dubai Parks and Resorts.
In terms of Rove Downtown, we wouldn’t have expected such value for money in such a central location. Just a few minutes walk from The Dubai Mall or DIFC, this initial Rove property is the perfect base for exploring modern Dubai.
Rove Hotels are all about exploring without borders and encouraging interaction between like-minded travellers. The entire property is designed to be a social space and despite not having a spa or beach access, Rove Downtown is better than its budget nature may allude to, it is representative of the heartbeat of modern Dubai.
All views within this blog are our own and all photographs are © Out & About UAE.