Travel Tips - Dubai, UAE
This article was written as a request by Patricia Vance (from @gotsaga) but it kind of pushed me to start a little Travel Tips section.
Anyhow, my first Travel Tips destination is Dubai, UAE.
I chose this destination because this is the one that I am beyond any reasonable doubt the most qualified to write about. Firstly, I have lived in Dubai for over 14 years and secondly I have been in the UAE Tourism industry for a good few years.
Dubai is unlike many tourist destinations you will come across and has many particulars. The first thing that you should know about Dubai is the ‘format’ of the infrastructure here; there are no all inclusive resorts or ‘budget’ vacations per se. This makes planning how much you will actually spend there difficult, but I will try to help.
The second thing that you have to keep in mind is that despite all that you hear in the news, Dubai is a rather conservative place. Now, don’t get me wrong - you will probably never notice that. You will probably go to Night Clubs & Bars that are wilder than most places around the world BUT, one needs to understand where the boundaries are. So, if I was to sum it up -
Rule no.1: Don’t do, bring or buy drugs in Dubai at all. From no-one, under no circumstances and regardless of the situation.
Rule no.2: Avoid being drunk in public. Go to a bar/club, go nuts, get in a cab and go to the Hotel. You do not need to worry about the Police if you are just looking to get home - for example if you are stranded and can’t find a taxi it is ok to ask a Police Officer to help get you home. What you DONT want to be caught doing is committing even the slightest of crimes while drunk in public.
Rule no.3: Be careful about hitting on girls (if you are a guy). Rape is a massively punishable offence in Dubai, comparable to murder and the minute that you and a girl are intoxicated together you put yourself at risk. Any claim by her of rape can get you into a lot of trouble.
Rule no.4: Do not take pictures of UAE Nationals, or any one else for that matter. Taking pictures of another person without his or her consent is a big deal in the UAE and has gotten many people in trouble. Be particularly sensitive when taking pictures around women and UAE nationals dressed in traditional dress.
Now, onto the tips.
Tip 1: Book everything yourself.
Starting from Airlines, to Hotels, to Tours, restaurants and any other entertainment in the UAE - it is extremely easy and works out to be much cheaper and more flexible in the long run. The only issue that you may need help with is the visas, and even then its is extremely easy for most nationalities and is usually organized either by the Hotel or the Airline. You can also apply for a visa directly provided you have Hotel & Airline reservations.
Tip 2: Souvenirs.
Do NOT buy souvenirs in Malls. DO not.
Everyone buys souvenirs, well, almost. Even I do sometimes. Either way, save all your souvenir buying for one trip, getting into a Taxi and say ‘Karama Bazaar’. The cab driver will take you to an area (its not actually a market at all, more like rows of shops) where you will be able to buy everything atleast 40% cheaper. Also, bargain till you drop. Take of about 30-40% of the initial price that the vendor tells you. Bargain like theres no tomorrow.
Tip 3: Malls.
Dubai has a lot of Shopping Malls, here is a breakdown.
Emirates Mall. This is my favorite mall for a few reasons. Firstly, it is the only mall where you can have a beer, go for a movie and imo it has the best food court.
Dubai Mall. This mall is enormous and really big, but a little bit tacky. The best thing about this Mall is the outside area by the fountains - in the evening it is beautiful to sit down and have a bit to eat by the water.
Bur Juman. This mall is in the city and has really nice places to eat.
Computer Plaza. If you need to buy ANYTHING to do with computers or tablets, do not go anywhere else as you will get ripped off.
As far as the shopping goes, all of them are virtually the same in terms of both selection, prices & styles etc.
Tip 4: Where to go for a Walk
- The Marina Walk. This is an awesome new area in Dubai full of restaurants and hundreds of people strolling up and down. Definitely a place to check out.
- Dubai Creek. This is the centre of Town and is a beautiful area to see the older part of Dubai.
- The Marina Board Walk. This is very close to the Marina Walk and they are parallel to each other except the Board Walk is on the inside along the artificial canal, wheres as the Marina Walk is the outside, along the beach.
- The ‘Bastakiya’. This is a MUST see. It is virtually the only historical area left in Dubai and is located in the downtown area on the Dubai Creek. Infact a common route is to walk along the ‘Deira’ side of the creek, taking a water Taxi called an ‘Abra’ accross the creek and ending up on the ‘Bur-Dubai’ side of the creek, where the ‘Bastakiya’ is.
Tip 5: Cuisine
Dubai is an awesome place to eat & drink as you will rarely find such variety and quality of service together. Broadly speaking, here is a break down of all the cuisine facilities in Dubai.
Mall Foodcourts & Franchises. McDonalds, Subways & a wide array of various franchises are available across the city. This will usually cost you anywhere between 15AED - 35AED /person/meal. My personal recommendation for this category is ‘Fujiyama’ which can be found in Dubai Mall, Emirates Mall & Bur Juman.
Restaurants in 4/5 Star Hotels. Now this is where it gets a little bit more expensive since that is where alcohol can be served. The liquor license is usually too expensive for stand-alone bars or restaurants to afford, so usually only hotels serve liquor. This makes everything more expensive. For this range I recommend ‘Tokyo Towers’ located in Emirates Towers. You are looking at about 200-500AED/person/meal with moderate alcohol consumption.
Traditional/old school restaurants that don’t fit either category. These are restaurants that survived from the past. My recommendation for this is ‘Camel House’, one of Dubai’s best kept secrets. It is one of the few places in the city with a permit to sell Camel Meat. It is located in the Bastakiya, on Dubai Creek, near Dubai Museum.
Tip 6: Bars & Night Life
Now I am personally not very big on clubbing, but many people in Dubai are and based on my understanding Trilogy in Dubai Madinat is the place to go again.
Anyhow, back to bars. So here is a break down of my favorite bars.
- Bar Zar. This timeless Dubai Classic is still fun everytime. I recommend going on Tuesday (ladies night). The place gets wild & drinks are sold at massive discounts. It is located in ‘Madinat Jumeirah’.
- Barasti. This bar was voted one of the best Globally in 2007. It still rocks. Its on the beach, has two floors, live music and a great chilling party vibe.
- Irish Village. If you are in the mood to mingle with the massive British Community in the Dubai this is one of the fun places to go. The area is packed with drunk people all merry and jolly.
Tip 7: Desert & Mountains
One of the special things about the UAE is the Desert. If you don’t experience it truly, you have missed out a lot. Mountains are another massive attribute of the UAE and where they meet is beautiful.
Frankly, the Desert Safari tour that is offered is nice but not enough. I recommend getting either a ‘Hatta Safari’ package or an overnight Safari. You will really enjoy yourself.
Alternatively, you can take a day tour or a taxi to the ‘Hatta Big Red’ and spend the Day there. You can rent quad bikes, ride camels and appreciate the beauty of the desert.
Another recommendation is Musandam. Personally, I think this is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and a must visit for anyone who loves nature over architecture. Any trip to Musandam is a full day experience and can be booked with a few tour operators directly in the UAE.
Tip 8: Getting Around
If you are living in the city of Dubai, in a Hotel, there are virtually not that many options where you can be living.
Almost all 2,3,4 Star Hotels are located in the Central part of City.
ALL 5 start hotels are located in ‘new Dubai’.
The only noticeable cab fares would be if you are constantly driving between the centre and new Dubai, which you can eliminate by finding a metro station next to yourself and taking it up, followed by a cab to your end destination.
Using the metro in Dubai is a great idea - it is fast, cheap and easy to use/understand.
Besides that, the City if full of Taxi’s.
Tip 9: Taxi Drivers
Now, here is the thing - there are Taxi’s everywhere, they are affordable and frankly your best option on getting around the city.
Here is the problem - many cab drivers in the city are highly rude and try hard to get the best hustle. Often they wont want to drive you if its close as they have waited in a line etc.
Here is a very simple on how to behave around cab drivers in Dubai.
1. If you see a cab with a lit signal walk towards it and get in.
2. Once inside, don’t say anything other than hi until the cab driver turns on the meter. Once he turns on the meter there is no going back and he will have to take you.
DO NOT tell him where you are going until he turns on the meter.
3. Thats it.
You may think that is rude but its the way to get around, more over its official policy. All cabs in Dubai are government owned and its not really a matter of choice for them to take you or not, its just like a bus, he is legally obliged to drive you where you need to go as part of the public service they offer.
Tip 10: Avoid Summer & Winter
So the ultimate question is, when do you go.
Well, first of all, DO NOT, go anwhere between May 15 - Sept 1st. Just don’t.
Now, between late october and end of febuary it is a little bit too cold to swim, so if you are looking for that ideal warm destination where you can sit on the beach all day, Dubai is probably not the best place for that during that period. Not that you wont swim at all, its just not that pleasant.
Anyhow, the BEST times to visit Dubai are - October, November, March & April.
~ Timur Khamitov (@nextadventures)
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