Dubai is a place of luxury, flair, tall buildings, world records, heat, great cuisine and shopping. There’s always a new building popping up and new records to be beaten. This is your ultimate travel guide to the elegant emirate of Dubai.
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HOW TO GET TO DUBAI
Unless you live in neighboring countries, flying to Dubai is the way to get there. Emirates is the largest airline in the Middle East and they have their base in Dubai. Emirates flies to over 140 destinations in 70 countries, covering 6 continents. So there’s a good chance you can catch a flight with them from where you are. Other airlines flying to Dubai are British Airways, KLM, Turkish Airlines, Qantas, Thai Airways, Lufthansa, Malaysian Airlines, Air France, Cathay Pacific and many more.
Are you an anxious flyer? Don’t worry, check out this article: 6 ways to calm your fear of flying.
HOW TO GET FROM DUBAI AIRPORT
There are several ways to get from the airport to the city.
Taxi: Follow the signs that say “taxi”. You’ll find taxis lined up just outside the terminal. The taxis are cream colored with red roofs. There are also pink taxis, with female drivers. A taxi from the airport to downtown will cost you between 50-100 AED, depending on traffic and time of day. The ride will take you 20–40 minutes depending on the traffic situation.
Metro: The red line runs from Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, from about 6 am to midnight. The price depends on how many zones you’re traveling through, calculate about 7 AED and 40 minutes to the city center.
Bus: The bus stops are located outside Terminals 1, 2 and 3. You’ll have to purchase a ticket in advance and it’ll cost you under 10 AED to downtown. There’s a ticket station down at the metro station, but the doors to the metro station are closed when the metro doesn’t run. I didn’t take the bus and from what I’ve heard it’s difficult to find the other ticket station. I just doubt that it’s worth the hassle.
THE AREAS IN DUBAI
Dubai has many city districs and each of them has its own charm. Choose between remote and calm resorts, dreamy beaches, and bustling downtown areas.
The former city center offers affordable accommodation and delicious local food. Visit the famous gold souk and spice souk, the Dubai Museum, and take a Dhow cruise down Dubai Creek.
Suits: Families, couples, budget travelers.
Recommended hotel: Rove City Centre, Best Western Plus Pearl Creek.
It’s hard do miss the impressive skyline when approaching Downtown. This is where you’ll find Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, Dubai Mall – the biggest shopping mall in the world, Dubai fountain, Dubai Aquarium and Souk Al Bahar. You won’t run out of things to do here.
Suits: Families, couples, luxury travelers.
Recommended hotel: JW Marriott Marquis Dubai (the tallest hotel in the world).
Walking around in the marina makes you feel somewhat fancy. You’re surrounded by tall buildings, big yachts, and a variety of restaurants.
Suits: Couples, friends, solo travelers, luxury travelers.
Recommended hotel: Wyndham Dubai Marina.
Jebel Ali is a calm resort area outside the busy city center, located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from downtown. This area suits you if you’re not keen on visiting the city center every day and prefer a chilled vacation. There’s a beach, a golf course, a shopping center and water activities.
Suits: Families, couples.
Recommended hotel: JA Palm Tree Court.
Jumeirah Beach is just as pretty as you’ve seen in pictures. The blue water and the Burj Al Arab heaping up on the horizon makes Jumeirah beach a dreamy place to vacation. This area is closer to the city than Jebel Ali and therefore fits you if you want a beach vacation while being close to the lively city life. Why not book a room at the Burj Al Arab, prices starting at 1000 euro…
Suits: Families, couples, beach lovers, luxury travelers.
Recommended hotel: Atlantis the Palm, Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Mall of the Emirates.
WHERE TO EAT IN DUBAI
More than 2000 restaurants has opened in the past two years, finding something good won’t be difficult – however, choosing might be. Whether you’re after Middle Eastern delicacies or international cuisine, you’ll find something to satisfy your tastebuds.
Pier 7, Dubai Marina
Pier 7 offers several restaurants, all with a 360 degree view over the marina. The various restaurants serve Latin, Arabic, Asian, Mediterranean, and French food.
101 Dining Lounge, The Palm Jumeirah
Enjoy some Mediterranean cuisine while admiring the skyline. 101 Dining Lounge is located at the hotel One & Only at the Palm Jumeirah with breathtaking views of the city.
Seven Sands, Dubai Marina/The Beach
The restaurant is a tribute to the seven emirates and its name, menu, and interior design all have an Arabic touch. The portions are big and creative. There’s also a terrace with beach views.
Al Mahara, Jumeirah
This famous restaurant is located “under water”, in the grand Burj Al Arab. You dine surrounded by an enormous aquarium and you’ll see fish swimming above your head. Make sure to make reservations, the restaurant is very popular.
Uptown Bar, Jumeirah
This well-kept secret offers an open terrace with a view over Burj Al Arab. The tapas sized portions, delicious drinks, and elegant interior design makes it a great place to visit.
Atmosphere Burj Khalifa, Downtown
This restaurant will not only have you gasping over their fabulous food, but also for air. Located on the 122th floor, Atmosphere has a breathtaking view over Dubai and you’ll be looking down on airplanes (yes, seriously). There’s a minimum spend for a window table (approximatley 200 usd/person for dinner).
Level 43 Sky Lounge, Bur Dubai
This bar and lounge has a pool where you can chill out during the day and watch the world go by. Order snacks and delicious drinks come nighttime while you soak in the beautiful view over the city.
TIPPING CULTURE IN DUBAI
Dubai is famous for good service. It’s customary to tip but there’s no rule for it. Many restaurants include a 10% service charge on the bill and you can round up the bill further if you wish, depending on the service received. A 10–15% tip is sufficient if no service charge is included. If you wish to tip taxi drivers and bellboys, give around 5–10 AED, or round up the taxi fare. Tipping isn’t expected though, however friendliness is. You’ll go a long way with a smile and by being polite.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN DUBAI
There are endless possibilities in Dubai, here are a few of them.
You can’t visit Dubai without making it to Burj Khalifa. Even though you can see the tall tower from almost anywhere in Downtown you should see it up close. Prepare to tilt your head backwards, standing tall at 829 meters (2722 ft) and 163 floors, it’s the tallest building in the world. You can take a trip up and admire the view from the 124th, 125th, and 143rd floor. A visit on the 124th and 125th floor during non prime hours will set you back 125 AED.
Jumeirah Beach & Burj Al Arab
Many beaches are private, but you can head over to Jumeirah Public beach to soak up some sun. The sand is white and soft, and you’ll have a great view over the famous Burj Al Arab.
Get a new perspective and see the city from the other side. There’re several boat tours to choose from. The ones departing from Dubai Marina will sail past Atlantis the Palm and Burj Al Arab. The Dhow cruises on the Dubai Creek offers great views and dinner experiences.
This serene gem is also called “Little Venice” because of its channels. It’s a Middle Eastern market place, with a touch of luxury. You’ll find accessories, boutique shops, souvenir shops, and luxury shopping. There’re over 20 restaurants here and a spectacular view of Burj Al Arab.
I became a huge street art fan after visiting Dubai. 16 street artists from five continents have decorated the walls at City Walk. Their work contains everything from vibrant cartoons to musicians in black and white. There’s also street art worth checking out in Karama.
Dubai is surrounded by sand and desert and many people choose to explore the sand dunes. A desert safari normally includes dune bashing, champagne during sunset, camel rides, and dinner with a belly dancing show and/or falcon show. Everything takes place in the desert for a unique experience.
Had enough of the heat? Head over to the ice rink in Dubai Mall for some cold fun.
Abu Dhabi is home to the famous Sheikh Zayed Gran Mosque and an amazing skyline. You can go by taxi (about 300 AED one way) or by bus (about 20 AED one way) and it should take you under two hours one way.
WHERE TO SHOP IN DUBAI
Dubai is one of the shopping capitals of the world and there are endless opportunities to fill your suitcase.
The biggest shopping mall in the world is located in Downtown and contains more than 1200 shops. If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, chances are you won’t find it anywhere.
Mall of the Emirates
Located in the Jumeirah area, Mall of the Emirates has over 500 shops and is home to Ski Dubai. Yup, you read that right, you can go skiing in the mall.
Dubai Marina Mall
The mall has over 100 shops and is less crowded than the above mentioned malls. Why not pop in here after a boat tour?
City walk contains upscale stores like Hugo Boss, Armani and Diane von Furstenberg. It’s much less crowded than other shopping malls and the prices are lower than in Dubai Mall. There’s also great street art outside the shopping mall.
Dubai Outlet Mall
Located 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside downtown, Dubai Outlet Mall offers 30–90% lower prices on both designer and high street brands.
The most famous souks are the gold souk and spice souk in Old Dubai, and also the Souk Al Bahar next to Dubai Mall. You can also check out Dubai Flea Market, held four times per month in several locations. If you like arts and crafts you should visit ARTE The Makers market where artists, crafters, and bakers sell their creations, it takes place every Friday at various locations.
GOOD TO KNOW
Time Zone: GMT +4.
Currency: United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED).
Climate: Tropical desert climate.
Dresscode: Contrary to popular belief, you can dress as you would in any country, meaning yes you can wear shorts and t-shirt. Just use your common sense, as long as you don’t let you butt and boobs hang out you’ll be fine. Special dress codes apply when visiting religious grounds.
World records held: World’s tallest building, world’s largest döner, world’s tallest chocolate sculpture, world’s largest indoor theme park, world’s longest painting, world’s longest gold chain, world’s largest origami mosaic, world’s largest shopping mall.
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