Best tips for visiting Dubai. How come I am writing about travel and Dubai? With all the travel restrictions that are still in place, some places in the world have already fully opened to travelers, all travelers! St. Lucia and Antigua, Zanzibar, Jamaica, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Bermuda, Barbados, French Polynesia, the Maldives, Turks and Caicos, Costa Rica, Kenya, Colombia, South Africa, Thailand, Chile and… Dubai.
But what makes this post unique and special than others out there? Here you can learn dual perspectives: local and foreign! Together with my dear friend, Amreen, we will take you for virtual travel to Dubai, one of the most impressive cities in the world! Join us!
MY LOCAL friend & GUEST BLOGGER
Amreen, my local guest blogger from Dubai and dear friend. We met on Instagram a while back and immediately found a great connection and support between ourselves. So let me share a bit more with you about Amreen:
“I am an Indian, residing in Dubai, UAE. I have been a professional photographer for over a decade and the travel bug bit me when I got married in 2013. However it is not until early 2019, I decided this is what I wanted to do as a career. With no prior experience or vision, I began my journey into travel vlogging. Took a few courses and realized how challenging this career was but I have been loving every bit of it!
I have traveled to over 26 countries and 80 cities and yet I feel I have barely seen anything yet.”
So if you are considering visiting Dubai and the below content is not enough, connect with us. Amreen shares excellent content on YouTube about UAE and Dubai, justgowithamreen, worth subscribing to! And then with two clicks, you can find both of us on Instagram: justgowithamreen and ChasingLifeMoments. Let’s connect!
MY TRAVEL TO DUBAI
Indeed, Dubai, for all seeking travel opportunities and adventures, became a very popular holiday location during a pandemic. Its location allows for comfortable, relatively shorter, travel from many places in the world. Its world records attract many to experience them on their ‘own skin’. And, its beauty and oriental atmosphere make it a top global location, no matter the pandemic.
I have visited Dubai twice: once for a regular two weeks stay. And I just loved Dubai. I need to admit I wasn’t fully prepared for that travel, I even didn’t have time to check the weather forecast and the heat in October was just ‘omg’. It was part of my spontaneous travel decisions! Yet, so interesting and beautiful stay. The second time it was another crazy idea: ‘a layover stop’ in Dubai, having 4 hours gap at the airport on the route to Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Yes, it is possible, just scroll down to find more details about it!
BEST TIPS FOR VISITING DUBAI
EXPENSIVE OR CHEAP
ViKiNi: That’s the great thing about Dubai – expensive or cheap it is your choice, especially during your holiday stay. Hotel prices can vary significantly, based on your selection and budget. 3-star hotels for less than $30 per night for two or starting at $2380 per night for two in ‘the world’s only ‘seven-star’ hotel’, Burj Al Arab. The same refers to the restaurants and bars. The selection seems to be unlimited. Interestingly enough, some of the local attractions are also for free – just like the famous Dubai Fountain. So one can still enjoy the stay with a limited budget!
BEFORE YOU BOARD
ViKiNi: Before your travel to Dubai or rather while planning it, make sure you check:
- Weather forecast (I forgot to check it before my travel to Dubai and I was a bit ‘shocked’ by the heat)
- Ramadan month as it changes every year (e.g. in 2021 it is 12th Apr – 12th May, in 2022 it is 1st Apr – 1st May)
- Events in Dubai (some of them can influence the number of visitors and potential stay prices)
- Covid-19 restrictions: VisitDubai and UAE Official Portal
Amreen: Dubai is a very safe city to visit or live in. As a woman, I feel extremely safe having grown up in this city. Women don’t just have safety but also a lot of respect in this part of the world. There is a very low crime rate in Dubai and violent crimes are extremely rare. You can probably expect some petty theft but even that I have never experienced before. There was a time I literally left my work bag in a common ladies washroom, which had my MacBook and other important valuable things. I realized it later and came back for it after 30 mins and it was still there. No one had even touched it. Once I left my very expensive professional camera in a parking lot of a shopping mall. Again I realized this after 30 mins and went back to collect it almost after an hour. The security of the mall had safely kept it for me. So I have never experienced any issues with safety first hand.
Amreen: The best time to travel to Dubai is from November to March. October and April are ‘shoulder’ months. The remaining part of the year is the offseason in Dubai (from 38’C in the shadow during the day). The highest temperature recorded in Dubai was 52.8’C (127 °F), back in July 2019.
Amreen: Travel plans are often influenced by children’s holiday season. So what to do in super warm Dubai during the offseason, especially in the summer months? Check this list!
- IMG Worlds of Adventure – world’s largest indoor theme park
- Ski Dubai – Snow park in the Mall of The Emirates
- Ice Skating in Dubai Mall
- Dubai Aquarium in Dubai Mall
- ScreenX at Reel Cinemas Dubai Mall – the 170-seater cinema boasts a 270-degree screen, which wraps around three of the cinema walls
- Urban maze – Jumble
- La Perle – it’s a 90-minute show which showcases performances like acrobats and athletes dive from 25 meters into the changeable aqua-stage filled with 2.7 million liters of water, and fly around the theatre at 15 kilometers per hour
- Trampoline Park
- Inflatable Theme Park in Al Quoz – Air Maniax
- Escape Room Games
WHERE TO STAY
Amreen: Ideal areas to stay when visiting Dubai:
- Luxurious/high end areas: Downtown Dubai; Sheikh Zayed Road; Palm Jumeirah
- Mid Range: Business Bay; Dubai Marina; JBR walk
- Low Budget: Stay in apartments in Barsha Heights; Al Barsha; Jumeirah Lake Towers
ViKiNi: I am sure that you might be considering different options for accommodation in Dubai. Yes, options are many, top ones include, hotels, hotel apartments, Airbnb, hostels. My suggestion for Dubai is a hotel apartment, also known as a service apartment. They are very common in Dubai, spacious, with excellent service provided by the respective hotel. You might enjoy more than one bedroom, kitchen but also buffet breakfast and pool! Location? It is totally up to you as they are so many!
ViKiNi: Dubai has really good transportation options: from taxis / Uber, water taxis to metro, tram, monorail, etc. It is very easy to commute. For all people who love walking a lot (like me!) Dubai during warm months might be really challenging, especially during the day. I remember that once I had to walk during the midday hours from our hotel to another ATM and it was so warm. And I was the only person walking! My recommendations are two: go for a taxi, as taxis are very comfortable plus additionally cheap (avoid hotel taxis which usually are more expensive) or metro. Metro is very easy and very affordable. If you plan further journeys (e.g. to Abu Dhabi), then go for a car rental. Driving in Dubai and UAE is also easy, roads are great!
Amreen: There are two kinds of shopping in Dubai:
1 – Shopping Malls: Dubai Mall, the largest in the world. My favorite is The Mall of the Emirates. You’ll never run out of visiting a shopping mall in Dubai. You have them in every 15 mins.
2 – Souks: There are plenty of souks in Dubai. If you want to go to the traditional souks, I would encourage you to visit the Gold Souk and Spice Souk in Deira and obviously that’s what they sell. But there is also a Textile Souk where you can purchase some Arabian and Indian garments, as well as other things like bedding, rugs, etc. If you want to see a more modern version of these souks you can head to the Gold Market inside the Dubai Mall and Souk al Madinat, also famous. Be sure to visit an area called Meena Bazaar. It is predominantly for Indian clothing but you will find western wear, electronics, perfumes, jewelry, everything is out here. If you come during the winter months then make sure to visit Global Village.
ViKiNi: Souks, souks and one more time souks. Reaching Gold Souk, located in Dubai’s commercial district in Deira, can be a great experience. You can come there by crossing the creek by sitting on abras, water taxi. It is a 10 minutes wooden boat ride, at only 1 AED (0.25 EUR) per person (paid by cash). Each year 15-20 million passengers use abras, a really memorable experience. On your way back, explore the Textile Souk that is there on the other side of the creek. There are also many nice restaurants and bars where you can have your lunch or coffee, relaxing after busy shopping time! Malls? Great as unique in the world (biggest, with ice-skating, etc.) However, the best shopping experience is in souks!
Amreen: Safety isn’t a problem as much as the laws are. People can get really confused because even though Dubai is a Muslim country, it’s liberal. Having said that, many laws and rules apply to being liberal. For example, alcohol is widely available in Dubai, but only in licensed places. A Muslim resident cannot purchase alcohol anywhere in Dubai. However, a non-Muslim resident can purchase a license or a permit before purchasing alcohol. This rule doesn’t apply to tourists. Tourists can take their passports to one of the liquor stores in Dubai, show it and purchase alcohol freely. You cannot drink and drive at all. There is zero tolerance for that here. You cannot drink on the streets or in public places. You can only drink in bars and restaurants that are licensed to serve alcohol. There are similar rules for shisha smoking as well. Only certain licensed restaurants and cafes can serve shisha. However, there is no law on the purchase of it. Residents and tourists can freely purchase shisha to smoke it in their homes.
Amreen: Another important aspect of the law applies to clothing. A lot of tourists have a misconception that since this is a Muslim country, you need to wear an abaya or headscarf here but that’s not the case. Having said that, it doesn’t even mean you can wear revealing clothes on the streets here. Bikinis are allowed at the beaches. However, everywhere you need to be modestly dressed. Short skirts and sleeveless tops are also allowed.
Cross-dressing is illegal. And public display of affection is too. Simply kissing in public can get you into some serious trouble here. Dubai Police Force is equipped with some pretty high tech stuff and there’s CCTV all over the place. This combination means they’re actually pretty effective at catching crimes.
Amreen: Don’t be fooled by all the peace and calm in Dubai during the day. Dubai has a wild nightlife! Whether you’re interested in clubbing, bar hopping or just chilling in a lounge, Dubai has it all. All of these bars and clubs are licensed, so alcohol isn’t a problem. Clubs generally have theme nights, from R&B nights, Bollywood nights, heavy metal, etc. My favorite club has been Armani Prive and Boudoir. I don’t prefer small clubs. I like my space, so these two are my favorite. As for bars, they are located mainly inside hotels. The best kind of bars is the rooftop ones where you can sit outdoors, during winter, and enjoy the vast landscape of Dubai.
There are very few stand-alone bars such as the Irish Village, Kickers Sports Bar, etc. If bar hopping or clubbing isn’t your preference you can choose to dine at any of the licensed restaurants and have a peaceful evening with some live lounge music too.
ViKiNi: Just to add: don’t miss Burj Khalifa’s Atmosphere. There is both lounge and restaurant. The world’s tallest restaurant located on the 122nd floor! Amazing experience!
DAY TOURS NOT TO MISS
ViKiNi: Ideas as many, as well as day tours providers. Just check below some of the suggestions. One not to miss is the desert safari. Its package details are based on your preferences, choices are multiple! One that I can’t wait to do is Khasab and helicopter ride!
- Desert Safari (additional options: camel rides, traditional dinner, barbeque, Land Rover ride, heritage activities, quad ride, sandboard, sunset camel trek, falcon show)
- Overnight Desert Safari
- Dubai Speed Boat Tour: Burj Al Arab, Atlantis & Palm Jumeirah
- Dubai Helicopter Tour
- Desert Hot-Air Balloon Ride
- Abu Dhabi Day Tour
- Musandam Khasab (Oman) and Dhow Cruise
DUBAI – VISITOR TIPS
- Check which tourist attractions require potential advanced booking. One of them is dining at Burj Khalifa. We had a fun experience there. I did advanced booking from Poland and at Burj Khalifa reception we were told that we confused our booking date… oops… However we were super lucky – one table got free (window view) so we had a wonderful evening!
- Check in advance Ramadan month and weather forecast, including potential sand storms! We encountered a sand storm too. Visibility is really impacted during sand storms so avoid top roof bars or viewpoints.
- Water temperature in the sea can be very warm. Usually, during the year it can vary from 21’c to 33’c. For us, in October, it was too warm to enjoy it fully.
- Bring your driving license with you – as renting a car is easy and affordable you might find it useful during your stay, especially if longer
DUBAI – CULTURAL TIPS
- Show utmost respect to elders – Emiratis hold their royal family in very high regard, and to criticize the royal family can even be a criminal offense. Try to show respect by asking genuine questions about them if curious.
- Respect the laws and the religion and try to show an understanding towards it, after all that’s what travel is for.
- When visiting a mosque, it’s best to know the rules beforehand. Not all mosques allow non-Muslims to enter. And be sure to wear full sleeves and full trousers or long skirts that cover your legs fully and carry a headscarf along.
- Most homes in Dubai whether an Emirati or an Indian have a culture of removing shoes outside the house before entering. So If invited to a local friend’s house, remember to always take off your shoes before entering the home.
- Emiratis cuisines have huge portions. That’s because they have a culture of sharing food with one another. Try to join in and share dishes while eating with your Emirati friends instead of ordering a dish for yourself only, as this will be seen as being cold or unhappy with their company.
LAYOVER IN DUBAI
ViKiNi: This item might be challenging during Covid-19 so perhaps one for later. Enough to have 4 hours gap between flights and you can:
- land peacefully in Dubai
- slowly leave the airport
- grab a taxi and go for a city ride (distance will depend on your layover duration)
- return to the airport
- have food at the airport
- safely continue your air journey!
I had 4 hours gap, moreover, I was with my parents so I knew I needed an extra time buffer. Yet, time was enough! We were lucky it was late evening time so traffic was less (you can check it on google maps). We went for a taxi ride in Dubai center and stopped by Burj Khalifa. Few pictures and way back to the airport. Super worth it! Fun experience!
UAE – IF NOT DUBAI?
Amreen: If you have more than a week on your hand then make sure you pay a visit to the capital, Abu Dhabi. Also, the emirates Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah are beautiful. Both have beaches but Fujairah has a more authentic Emirati feel. Additionally, it is a lot cooler than the other emirates. Ras Al Khaimah is good for some of the thrilling activities, it has the world’s longest zipline at Jebel Jais.
Have you been to Dubai? If yes, what did you enjoy most or is there anything that you would recommend to others? If you haven’t been to Dubai yet, is it on your bucket list? I hope that this article inspired you to visit Dubai soon, no matter if first time or simply again! 🙂 I can’t wait to travel there again for sure!
Moments that matter, no matter the perspective.