This was my first visit to Dubai and I stayed for 5 days. When I arrived it was exactly as I expected; luxury everywhere, massive buildings, with the local culture and religion taking a somewhat a back seat.
If you have a short stay planned, here are some of the things I recommend in Dubai besides enjoying the heat, the comfort of your hotel and some pool-side drinks...
Get some perspective. For a great view, head up the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa early in the morning - you don’t need to pre-book your ticket, but it's cheaper if you do. It was really impressive to see the tallest building in the world (at 808m) – even though you can only go up as far as the 164th floor. Inside the lift you can only press two buttons; Floor 1 or Floor 164 nothing in between. At the top you can use a futurist camera to have a perfect view of the city and the views are impressive. Looking down, you'll realise that the other big buildings you thought were tall are actually so much smaller than this one!
Try a trip out to the desert - like the 4 hour desert safari trip I tried. Our group was about 32 people riding 4x4 vehicles over the sand dunes which is a fun experience. We saw some wild camels and it really felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. The last part of the tour takes you to a place that’s a bit like a circus where you can get Henna tattoos, watch some dancing, visit some small shops or go to the bar. You can also try sand boarding (although the slopes are just 10 meters high!) – but it’s quite fun to try all the same!
Hit the mall. Dubai has lots of enormous shopping malls – it’s all about the shopping - and Mall of the Emirates is probably the best memory of my trip. I used to be a snowboarder for years and to find a place like this one is just amazing – the mall has an indoors ski slope! In the middle of the slope is a bar which you can reach by taking the chairlift – it’s excellent and it looks like you are in the mountain. The temperature is -3C inside, so the contrast of knowing it’s 41C outside is incredible. They offer everything you need to feel like you are on a real mountain - all riders will enjoy a visit to the Mall of the Emirates!
Stay somewhere swanky. I had the opportunity to visit quite a few hotels in this trip:
For families, I definitely recommended Atlantis, the Palm. The prices are not bad and they do a package that includes everything you need. Low season (July & August) prices start from £220 a night for 2 adults and 2 Children (under 16), but the price can hike up to £600 the night at the highest point of the season (November through to April). The bedrooms are really spacious and the resort is really amazing with a big aquarium and massive water park.
For couples or Honeymooners, I would recommend the One & Only Royal Mirage. With its oriental design and dramatic architecture this hotel is a striking presence on the sea front!
For anyone visiting, I would recommend Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Residence, with a great location right on the beach but only a 5 minute walk from the metro station.
Finally I can also recommend Rose Rayhaan by Rotana, from under £100 per night this hotel is great value. Located on Sheikh Zayad Road, it has 3 restaurants and an outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pool as well as jacuzzi, steam room and sauna!
It’s quite hard to stay really cheaply in Dubai, so in all honesty it’s not a town for backpackers with a tiny budget. The hotels I saw on this trip were the more luxurious and expensive hotels, but they do often particularly great value for money if you visit out of season.
Dubai is mostly more about fashion than ‘dress code’. Out of respect for the Islamic culture, ladies need to be aware and dress sensitively (shoulders and knees covered) when outside of the resort, but inside the hotels, everyone is free to dress as they wish. You can’t drink alcohol outside of the hotel/resort (on the street) but you’ll never be outside anyway (it’s too hot!). You’re likely to spend your time indoors, and the bar is the only place you can buy alcohol. Be aware that during the Holy month of Ramadam it is illegal to be seen eating or drinking in public during daylight hours, so you will need to eat in your hotel, or after dark when the restaurants open again.
In terms of recommendations for visitors, it depends on your expectations, but I definitely recommend staying at a hotel with swimming pool. I’d also suggest a visit to The Mall of the Emirates and the Desert Safari trip. I think you need a minimum stay of 3 days to get a good view of Dubai, and you’ll definitely need a lot of water and sun cream!
For travelling around, you can assume that it's far to hot too walk any distance within the city, so always use the taxi for long distances. The prices are really cheap because the petrol is so cheap – it’s about £5 for 15 minutes’ drive. There is also an efficient Metro system.
I think Dubai is a great place to stay, but as it can be quite pricey. If you enjoy fashion, luxury and style it’s the place you’ll need to be. The price for one beer is almost £10 so be aware of how much you spend! The people are really friendly and it certainly has a respectable, cosmopolitan feel, which you’ll enjoy!
Dubai does make for a great stopover, and is included in many round the world tickets. If you'd like to include Dubai in your multi-stop trip, we can help you book flights, accommodation and tours. Call us or request a quote by email to start planning your next trip!