Dubai is fast becoming a very popular tourist destination. Coming from nothing but sand dunes to a fascinating skyscraper city with world class shopping and entertainment, Dubai has come a long way.
I have travelled to Dubai numerous times, yet every time I have returned there is something new to discover. Most people I know have visited Dubai at some point, whether it be a holiday, a business trip or a quick sample on a stopover and have been wowed by this mega city.
With the national carrier Emirates spreading its wings far and wide to become one of the worlds largest passenger airlines,Dubai has become a major travel hub. Emirates no doubt is one of the finest airlines you can travel with and personally for me it’s my favourite.
From spending a few hours to a few days it has always kept me entertained yet relaxed. Breathtaking aerial views of the city from the world’s tallest building, to playing in the snow at Ski Dubai it has some of the most iconic tourist attractions in the world.
People don’t associate Dubai with history, but there is a beautiful old town just waiting to be explored. The Bastakia Quarter is a great place to start your time in Dubai, exploring the ancient buildings and spice souks to sailing on a traditional boat across the Dubai Creek. This gives you a taste of what the old Dubai was.
Once you cross the creek you are minutes away from the city’s famous gold souk. The glitter of this gold souk is a symbol of the wealth and Dubai becoming a very popular gold market. The windows display anything from rings and chains to even a full body outfit made out of pure gold.
A must visit if you are in Dubai but watch out for the Mrs, she doesn’t spend all your holiday money on the first day.
Best time to visit Dubai
The best time to visit Dubai is between February and April, the mild season with temperatures in the twenties however also the most popular and expensive period. There are some amazing deals available if you are visiting outside this but be prepared to experience the desert heat. If you are in Dubai during the holy month of Ramadan plan accordingly as it is over a 30 day period and everything opens and closed around the time of fasting. All non-muslims and tourists are prohibited to eat, drink or smoke in public areas during the hours of fasting. This is from sun rise to sun set and many cafés and restaurants remain closed during these hours so plan accordingly.
Many nationalities don’t need a visa, but if you do require one you can get one at arrival valid for a 30 days visit.
Do’s and Dont’s of Dubai
Dubai might seem very westernized and modern but it is still a muslim country and it is run by Sharia Law so please be mindful.
The sun doesn’t really get hot until about 10/10.30am so plan accordingly. Shops are open till 10 pm normally so you have enough time.
Smoking and Drinking. Be mindful as being drunk and misbehaving in public is not tolerated and can lead to jail time. Avoid smoking and littering in public spaces as it can lead to fines.
Swimwear. Don’t wear swimwear outside the beach, and in general you should keep it modest.
On the bright side there are many things to do in Dubai, from dune bashing and camel riding to shopping and discovering the delicious Middle Eastern cuisine.
Taxi’s are cheap and available everywhere but in general Dubai is expensive, so prepare to pay
Tips on buying tickets – Dubai’s theme parks don’t come cheap, so check the park’s website for special promotions, buying multi-day passes or taking advantage of seasonal discounts. The Palm include admission to Aquaventure. Guests of any hotel affiliated with the Jumeirah group can make unlimited visits to Wild Wadi Waterpark
Dubai Airport and Transport.
Becoming one of the largest airports in the World comes with it’s toll. Dubai airport can get very busy at immigration during the peak tourism season so keep this in mind if you want to step out on a quick stopover. The airport is in the heart of the city so not far away and easily accessible by the skytrain and local transport.
Use local transport, a day pass for the Metro will only cost you under 20 Dirham for all zones allowing you to hop on and off as you please.
Top tip for Ladies – In Dubai, Monday is Ladies Night, and nearly all bars will have 2 free drinks or free drinks all night so make the most of this ladies.
Where to stay.
Depending on your budget there is a wide variety of hotels, serviced apartments and AirBnb available in Dubai. There are so many hotels in Dubai that making the right choice can become a daunting task. Do your research and spend some time on the comparison websites to get something that suits your budget and the right location for you. If you are planning to stay on the Palm then yes, this will be expensive and is also a bit away from the main city so add your travel costs.
Things to do
Dubai has something for everyone so depending on what you fancy you can plan accordingly. For the shopoholic it has some of the largest malls you can think off. If you into sports then some fine Golf courses / ski slopes and dune bashing. If you are a party animal then some of the best nightclubs and lounges you can imagine. But when in Dubai there are some must visit places and I will list these below.
The Burj Khalifa
Head up to the Burj Khalifa, at 828m this is the tallest building in the world. You can see this iconic symbol of Dubai from anywhere in the city and it absolutely stands out amongst the many sky scrapers that this city has.
A standard ticket will allow you to visit up to the 124th and 125th floors, but if this is not enough then head to the highest observation deck in the world on the 148th floor. The views from the 148 floor are really sensational and gives you a feel of how the city is shaped and the numerous other sky scrapers around it. Book tickets in advance on http://www.burjkhalifa.ae/en/index.aspx
Shop till you drop
If you are a shopaholic then Dubai is your gateway to heaven.Shopping in Dubai can be divided into 3 distinct categories.
Shopping Malls – visited largely for designer brands and are styled like most other Western countries.
Souks – The more traditional way of shopping in this part of the world and a great place if you are looking for gold, clothes and souvenirs.
Shopping areas – more used by the locals with an array of shops providing you the same items at a bargained price.
The Dubai Mall – If size matters then head to Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping mall. Highlights include 1200 retail shops, an Olympic sized ice skating rink, the world’s largest aquarium, a gold souk, 50 restaurants and cafes serving international cuisine, refreshments and fast food , and the spectacular Dubai Fountain at the foot of the Burj Khalifa.
BurJuman Mall – 300 retail shops, including brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermes, and Valentino.
Deira City Centre – One of the first malls in Dubai includes a Magic Planet entertainment centre, a large Carrefour, 11-screen Cinema, food court encompassing 15 restaurants, and a direct access to Sofitel City Centre Hotel which is a great hotel if you want to be in the heart of the city.
Emirates Towers Boulevard – located within the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, boutiques of leading designer brands, restaurants and cafes.
Festival Waterfront Centre – 600 retail shops, 25 flagship stores, 100+ restaurants, cafes and bistros, multiplex, and a Bowling facility.
Ibn Battuta Mall – This mall divided into various courts based on the different countries of the world such as China Court, India Court, etc, has the only IMAX theatre in Dubai.
Mall of Emirates – One of the largest and this one is not just about shopping, at Mall of the Emirates is the only indoor ski slope in the middle of a desert. Visit Ski Dubai, a 22,500 square metre indoor ski slope covered with real snow ,if thats not enough then take the kids to the Magic Planet family entertainment centre – with lots of rides, games and experiences, it will keep little ones busy for hours. Large stores such as Harvey Nichols and Debenhams are other residents here.
Wafi Mall – Based on an Egyptian theme includes retail shops, 30 multi cuisine restaurants, Encounter Zone for kids, Cleopatra’s and Medi Spa for luxury and rejuvenation.
Dubai Desert Safari
The normal package includes a pick up from your hotel in a 4×4, and driving out of the city to the sand dunes for a thrilling 6 hour adventure. Discover the beauty and customs of the desert starting from a camel ride to dune bashing on a quad bike. Enjoy a sandboard down the Dubai sand dunes and relax at a desert campsite as the sun sets. Get a henna tattoo and watch a ‘tanoura’ folk dance. Complete your evening with a delicious barbecue dinner and a exotic belly dancing show under the stars around the campfire.
Passing camels and desert camps, this is the ultimate contrast to the bright lights of the city.
Hit The Beach & Bars
There are plenty of beautiful beaches to visit in Dubai. If you’re staying around The Palm then most of the hotels here include a private beach with perfect calm waters. However if you want to taste the true Dubai beach experience, head to JBR Beach or the Jumeirah Public Beach for views of impressive 7-star hotel The Burj Al Arab.
Barasti – It’s unlikely to miss this or meet a person in Dubai who likes to have a drink or shake a leg and will not mention this famous hangout.Open to the public from 11 in the morning this the only beach area in Dubai where alcohol is served. It has made a name for itself because of its nightlife and you will find people of all nationalities here. You can relax here during the afternoon on one of the numerous sun-loungers and four-poster beach beds but there is a great demand for these so try your luck.
Flowing calmly between Deira and Bur Dubai and supporting the initial trade with the outside world over a century ago, this protected inlet was the obvious choice to develop a commercial seaport.
The creek is busy ferrying passengers between the souks of Deira and the historic district of Bur Dubai. You can take a relaxing ride on a traditional wooden water taxi called an abra or stroll along the shore and watch the sun set over the water. Using the abra is a great way to take in some of the older parts of the city.
The city’s most popular outdoor space, Safa Park is one of the largest and oldest spots for greenery in Dubai. It features a lake with small boats floating along it, bikes for hire and even a small waterfall. Some of the greenery has given way to one of Dubai’s newest projects, The Dubai Canal. A popular picnic spot for the locals during the cooler months. If you fancy a walk in this green space right in the middle of the desert then head to Safa park and relax.
For the Car fanatics a perfect opportunity to experience the wild adrenalin rush and a carefree day head to the the Ferrari World theme park in Yas Island. A day trip from Dubai the Ferrari World is one of the world’s largest indoor theme parks. It showcases Ferrari’s story, design, and features 20 rides and attractions, restaurants, and facilities.
Dubai is on its way to becoming the theme park capital of the world, with more then five new parks opened since 2016 alone.
Legoland Dubai – One of the world newest Legoland has more than 40 rides and spreads over six themed lands – Factory, Kingdoms, Adventure Lego City, Imagination, and miniland. There’s also plenty of interactive rides for kids in Lego City and the adults keep happy with enough rides for you to make your day. You will need at least 1 full day for this park alone so plan accordingly.
IMG Worlds of Adventure – Like a comic strip bursting to life, the world’s largest indoor theme park with superheroes, dinosaurs and ghouls. The park’s four zones deliver rides and attractions ranging from mild to wild. Superheroes packed Marvel zone, where you can become part of a showdown on a lunch- on a spiralling roller coaster.
Bollywood Parks – Based on some of the largest blockbusters in the history of Bollywood this is a dream for the Bollywood junkie. With themes based around some of the classics like Sholay, Dabangg, or Krrish the park is especially strong when it comes to live entertainment as well. Explosive stunt showS, song and dance performances, and a lavish musical extravaganza presented in the palatial Rajmahal Theater.
Motiongate Dubai – This is ‘Hollywood in the Desert’, with more than two dozen rides, attractions and live shows inspired by classic and new blockbuster The heart of the park is the indoor DreamWorks zone with beloved animated characters from, Madagascar, Shrek and Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon. For the more little ones there is the Smurfs Village including play areas and live cartoon characters shows.
Wild Wadi Waterpark – Dubai’s first aquapark has lured water rats since 1999 and packs plenty of fun into a fairly compact frame. Its 30 rides and attractions are loosely themed around the adventures of Juha, a character from Arabian folklore. Little ones can keep cool in ‘Juha’s Dhow and Lagoon’, a play structure with more than 100 activities, while hardcore thrill-seekers should rev up their courage for the aptly named ‘Jumeirah Sceirah’ slide, the ‘Master Blaster’ watery rollercoaster and the ‘Wipeout Flowrider’ surfing wave. Add a beach, a lazy river and bonus views of the iconic Burj Al Arab into the mix and you’ve got all the ingredients for a splashingly good time.
Legoland Water Park – The newest kid on Dubai’s block of watery adventure zones, DPR’s Legoland Water Park rubs shoulders with its dry cousin Legoland Dubai and is tailor-made for families with little tots. With its 20 raft, tube and body slides, a gnarly wave pool and a lazy river ride negotiated in a Lego raft you have built yourself, it’s smaller and gentler than some of Dubai’s older liquid playgrounds but still easily offers a full day of fun. Among the biggest hits are ‘Twin Chasers’, a side-by-side slide where you can race dad or sis, and the ‘Splash Out’ slide with its 18m drop.
An imposing and stately hotel located on the ever so popular man made island in the shape of a palm tree is the Atlantis Hotel and water park. With the sun always shining and guaranteed weather this is the perfect destination to enjoy aqua adventurers such as the Dolphin Bay, Aquaventure and the Lost Chambers.One of the most popular aspects is The Dolphin Bay is a lush lagoon modelled on the natural habitats of the dolphins.
Guests can interact here with the dolphins by touching, holding hands, playing ball and even kissing these amazing animals. Aquaventure is a world class water park set over 42 acres filled with water slides, river rides, Splasher’s play area for the younger kids. The Atlantis has a variety of experiences to offer which includes feeding Cownose Rays, diving along-slide sharks and many other marine species of the Arabian Gulf. You can enjoy a birds eye view of the Atlantis from a spectacular helicopter tours that the hotel has to offer. With its own private beach the Atlantis is a must visit location when in Dubai for the entire family.
Other thing’s to Do
Spend an evening around the Downtown area near the Burj Khalifa with plenty of entertainment in the Dubai Mall and the famous Dubai Fountains show and finish off at the Souq Al Bahar.
Another areas is around the Burj Al Arab with beaches water parks and entertainment.
Madinat Jumeirah, which is designed like a souq with shops and restaurants, all with great views.
Visit the Dubai Marina for a perfect evening walk and in particular around the JBR waterfront beach area. Finish the evening with a dinner cruises and see the city light up .
- Watch the Dubai fountain show at the Burj Khalifa
- Visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo at Dubai Mall
- Splash a day at Wild Wadi Water Park
- Take a boat around the Palm island.
- Visit Bur Dubai with its textiles souq and old shops.
- Cross over by abra to Deira and hit the Spice souq and Gold souq.\
- Grab a cocktail and enjoy live music on Barasti Beach
- Some day-time dancing and drinks – Zero Gravity Pool and Beach bar.
- Visit the Atlantis Hotel, and swim with the Dolphins at Dolphin Bay.
- Visit the Jumeirah mosque and the old Dubai.
- Enjoy a high tea at Burj Al Arab the hotel designed in the shape of a ship and the world’s fourth largest hotel.
- Scale the heights of the sky with a visit to the Burj Khalifa, the largest building in the world.
- Shop @ The Mall of the Emirates are one of the biggest malls in the world.
- Slide in an indoor ski resort.
- Go dune bashing as you drive through the desert landscape in high speed.
- Shake a leg at one of the famous nightclub Sensation Boudoir or Cavalli
- Go fall in Love with Dubai.