These are my experiences and learnings from my 7-day trip to Dubai. I have shared few tips which will be useful for planning a trip to Dubai.
Best time to visit
Dubai is a really hot city! I will recommend you plan a trip to Dubai in the months of November to March so that the weather is beautiful. Otherwise, you will not be able to explore the outdoors due to the severe heat.
Dubai visa is the easiest and requires flight and hotel bookings in advance apart from the passport. This can be done online or through your local travel agent. Fees vary between 5-7,000 per person.
Flying to Dubai
Indigo flies a lot of flights and also offers 30 + 7kg luggage for onward and return flights to Dubai. I will say, you should make full use of this luggage capacity and do a lot of shopping.
You can stay anywhere according to your budget, but my favorite area is Old Dubai or Deira. Its low cost and offers easy access to anywhere in the city. Also, the food in Old Dubai is relatively cheaper while offering a good variety.
Traveling in Dubai
Taxis are expensive in Dubai unless there are 2-4 people are sharing the ride. You must buy the ‘NOL card’ right at the airport, which is applicable to Busses, Metro and Trams. The Airport is connected to the metro and you can save money by just using it to go to your hotel. You can use Red/Green metro lines or the Bus system to travel around the city. Most tourist spots are well connected by Public Transport. Please check metro and bus operational hours in advance as they are subject to change. But please read all the rules before you travel,
The Police will not be everywhere, but there are cameras everywhere. So please be mindful. Passengers should not sleep in the Metro. Seat sharing in any public transport is not allowed. Don’t jaywalk on the streets. You are expected to cross the roads only at Zebra Crossings.
Dress code in Dubai
Dress code is conservative for man and woman. Dressing sense must be modest and unrevealing for a woman. You are expected to cover adequately in a place of worship. Women are allowed to wear bikinis and swim shorts on beaches.
Must visit in Dubai
There are so many activities and attractions to do in Dubai! Covering all of them even in one month can be difficult. So, I have listed below a few important among them. But I recommend you research in detail before you travel.
- Dubai Mall and its Fountain Show
- Top of Burj Khalifa
- Atlantis and Palm Jumeirah
- Desert Safari with BBQ dinner and entertainment
- Old Dubai and Dubai Creek
- Gold Souq
- Dhow Dinner Cruise
- Temple of Shiva and Krishna in Old Dubai (only Hindu temple in Dubai),
- Bur Dubai
- Deira markets
- Burj Al Arab and its beach
- Ski Dubai
- Miracle Garden
- Dubai Sky Dive
- Aquaventure Waterpark
- Watersports and Speedboat cruise in Dubai Marina
- Electronics Shopping in any mall
Food & Alcohol
There are a lot of cuisines available in local food and they are all fantastic and cheap. A typical meal can cost 15-20 Dirhams without any compromise on taste. Restaurants are costly. Try the local specialty which is the white as well as red shawarma. You will get excellent options like Arabic, Pakistani and Indian food at cheap rates. I loved the Pakistani dishes at only around 10-15 dirhams/meal. The public sale of Alcohol is banned. So you can buy only in Clubs, Pubs, Hotels, and Restaurants.
Tips for Dubai trip
- Dubai cannot be traveled on a budget. All the attractions are beautiful and massive. So save a lot and travel Dubai so that you can experience it properly. Explore it thoroughly. You will never regret.
- Police personnel make surprise checks on everyone and ask for their valid documents. Never question them and just oblige politely. So carry your Passport, hotel booking copies, and Visa everywhere, I was asked to produce it twice on my trip and it is fairly common. Nothing to worry about.
- Dubai is super safe. You will never lose your valuables.
- In this part of the world, the weekend is on Fridays and Saturdays. So make your plans accordingly.
- Everyone speaks English and so language or communication is not an issue.
- Compared to expatriates or travelers, there are very few Emiratis.
- Check out the online version of “Time Out Dubai” before you travel. You can check for events and programs and be aware and plan accordingly
- Research Gold prices before you travel. Prices of 22k and 24k gold biscuits vary according to the accreditation and certification body e.g. Swiss/Middle East etc. Yes, even ornaments are internationally accredited. There is an amazing variety of beautiful gold ornaments in Gold Souq. Options are simply mindboggling. You can buy gold on a Saturday/Sunday as international markets are closed, and therefore the price will be stable. Bargaining is allowed and is expected, also is the key to negotiate a good discount. Don’t stress and you can politely leave if you do not like the price, it’s not compulsory to buy. Also on display is the biggest gold ring which is 63kg on display in Gold Souq and this was showcased in the Bollywood movie “Welcome Back”!
- Electronics shopping in Malls and Stores (Saraf DG, Jumbo, etc.) can be expensive. You can buy from the local malls or shopping streets like Al Fahidi. I purchased the iPhone 7 Plus 256GB in a market shop for at almost 30% discount from Al Fahidi Street. You can also shop for electronics in online portals and have the electronics delivered to your hotel. Or you can shop in markets like e.g. Computer Plaza, Al Fahidi Street, Al Ain Center, Bur Dubai Mankhool Road, etc. You can find some really good deals at the GITEX exhibition, held around September/October.
- General Cost-cutting tips:
- Hotels: Hotel rates will be at least twice in peak season as during offseason. Be wise and try to visit in the offseason. Book Flights and hotels at least two months in advance to make use of discounts. But please check the weather and temperature in advance. Food: Buy your food at local Supermarkets like Carrefour.
- Travel: Try to travel only by Tram, Metro, Bus as they are very cheap and fast.
- Shop and Spend: Explore all the free attractions. Try to Shop only at a discount everywhere. There are some really exceptional shopping deals but they are during Ramadan, National Day or Christmas. If you plan a trip around these times, make full use of it.
- Dubai Mall: The famous fountain show is inside the Dubai Mall and is every 30 mins. The water show is different each time and also with different Arabic, Chinese and Indian music every time. Try and watch all three shows. There is a huge aquarium in the Dubai Mall which is simply huge. You can pay swim inside the aquarium along with the Fishes, Stingrays, and Sharks.
- Cheap attractions: You will see the best and a wide variety of supercars in Dubai. They are everywhere commonly seen on the street. Luxury cars are also extremely common. You can rent any car, provided you have an International Driving License/ Permit. But please check all the traffic rules in detail as punishment and fines in case of any traffic violation are huge.
- Ferry/ Boats: Try a water taxi ride from Old Dubai. RTA water taxi maps and info is available at RTA offices. For this take the RTA water taxi from Old Dubai to Dubai Marina. The views on this highspeed ferry ride are fantastic.