Dubai Travel Guide
Once a small fishing village, Dubai has since grown into one of the world’s most luxurious destinations. Often referred to as the ‘Las Vegas of the Middle East’ and the ‘playground for the rich’, the city’s glitz and glamor lure with the promise to mesmerize and impress its visitors. In this Dubai travel guide, we will take a look at all the major attractions, landmarks and experiences that make Dubai one of the most coveted holiday destinations in the world.
Magnificent skyscrapers, sweeping sand dunes, stunning beaches, top notch resorts, the world’s largest shopping mall and much more, Dubai has it all! Where else can you spend your day on the beach, your afternoon hitting the slopes, and your evening watching the sun set over the vast desert? While the city certainly offers plenty of fun and entertainment, a little preparation can go a long way when taking a trip to Dubai. From travel tips and important logistics to top attractions and hacks on how to save money, here’s everything you need to know about making the most of your Dubai vacation.
Top 7 Things To Do in Dubai
When to visit
Best time to go
Regardless of when you visit Dubai, you can expect the weather to be warm. During winter (November through March), temperatures dip to their coolest, with daily highs ranging from the upper 70s to the low 80s. Naturally, this attractive weather lures the bulk of the city’s tourists, making winter Dubai’s peak season. You can count on crowded beaches during this time, but don’t let that deter you - Dubai has plenty of sand to accommodate its visitors. Beach goers should also note that rainy season runs from January to March. However, albeit random, showers are short-lived and are quickly replaced by the shining sun.
If you’re not a fan of the heat, it’s recommended you avoid visiting during Dubai’s hottest months. In July and August, temperatures hover in the 100s, often soaring as high as 110 degrees (44°C). Not only is it hot - it’s also extremely humid, which can make the weather even more uncomfortable. Rain is highly unlikely, but you can expect humidity levels to be around 90%. On the flip side, if heat doesn’t bother you, you can score some great discounts and also avoid the crowds with a visit during the summer.
How to Save Money in Dubai
Despite its reputation as one of the world’s most expensive destinations, there are actually numerous ways to cut costs while traveling through the UAE. From transport hacks to killer summer offers, here are our top 5 tips for saving money in Dubai.
1. Travel during summer
If you can withstand the heat, visiting Dubai in the summer promises discounts and ridiculously great summer offers. Dubai Parks and Resorts, an exciting labyrinth of theme parks, restaurants and shops, regularly come out with fantastic summer deals that nearly cut prices in half. You can also count on saving money at hotels.
2. Use the metro
Forget taxis and, instead, opt for the city’s metro. Cheap yet reliable, the city’s train system is perfect for getting around. The VIP and Gold Class trains even offer free wifi! Metro rides cost anywhere between AED 1.80 dirhams (roughly $0.50) to 6.50 dirhams (around $1.80) depending on trip length. If you plan on using public transport more than just once or twice, you can buy a Nol card which is also valid on Dubai’s buses and water taxis.
3. Hit up the free beaches
With over 40 km of coast, Dubai has plenty of beaches. However, most of them have been snagged by resorts and hotels who have since placed fees on entering. Luckily, there are quite a few beaches that are still completely free. Save money and head to the beautiful Kite Beach in Umm Suqeim. Popular with families, it boasts a boardwalk, a collection of excellent cafes, and a plethora of watersport services.
4. Shop like a local
In Dubai, it’s imperative to use your haggling skills. At Dubai Creek, you’ll find dozens of traditional shops selling everything from spices to pashminas. There are shops on both sides of the creek. To cross, take an abra (a small Arabic boat) for just 1 dirham.
5. Hop-on hop-off bus
See more and spend less with a hop-on hop-off bus. Not only does a ticket take care of all your transport concerns, it also includes two boat rides, three guided walking tours, a handful of exclusive shopping discounts and offers. Bounce between the city’s most popular attractions with either a 1-day or a 2-day pass.
Hotels in Dubai
There are accommodation options to suit any budget in Dubai. For those looking to save money, your best bet will be to find a place to stay in Deira, the most traditional area of Dubai. Prices for a double room start at around $35.
For a step up, look for a hotel somewhere in Al Barsha. You can get a very nice room for around $70 a night. There are also some very affordable apartments that are perfect for groups of four or more. These will cost you around $85. Al Barsha is a great place to stay given it’s ideal location and proximity to the metro.
Citizens of 45 countries are eligible for a free 30-day visa on arrival in the UAE. This includes the US, Canada, all EU countries and Australia. Keep in mind, your passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of your entry to the UAE..
Visitors may extend their visa twice, for 60 days. There’s a bit of paperwork involved and it will cost AED 220, but the process usually takes no more than a day or two. Many travelers prefer to leave the country for a day, or even just a few hours, and instead obtain a new entry stamp upon returning to Dubai.
For information on customs regulations (what you can and cannot bring into the country), you can refer to www.dubaicustoms.gov.ae.
Country Code: 04
Time zone: GMT +4
Electric: Type L three-prong plug
Currency: United Arab Emirates Dirham AED
ATMs are widely available throughout the city and most establishments (hotel, shops and restuarants) accept credit cards. You can refer here for the daily United Arab Emirates Dirham Exchange Rates.
According to Lonely Planet
Dhs 600 (Budget)
Dhs 600-1200 (Midrange)
Dhs 1200 (Luxury)
Similar to North American culture, it is proper etiquette to tip for certain services. Below is a chart of the recommended tipping amounts.
- Hotels (Porters and room cleaners)
5 dirhams to 10 dirhams per day
15% of the bill for good service, 10% for decent service. It is nice to leave cash when possible to ensure the tip goes to the server.
- Taxis and Valets
5 dirhams to 10 dirhams
- Spa Staff
10% to 15%.
Many of Dubai’s residents choose to dress conservatively. But with that being said, the UAE is much more liberal than other areas in the Middle East. For the most part, people can dress as they like. However, when traveling in Dubai, be respectful and ensure your clothing is tasteful. Especially during summer, shorts and dresses will likely be the prefered type of clothing. This is totally acceptable, but just be sure your clothes are not see-through or too revealing.
The city essentially shuts down for the holy month of Ramadan. The dates change each year, but it falls roughly around mid-May and lasts until mid-June. Restaurants close during the day in order to respect Muslims that are fasting, and it is illegal to eat, drink, or smoke in public during this period. In the evenings, the city comes to life and it’s a great thing to witness if you happen to be there during this time.
Flights to Dubai
Sites like SkyScanner and Momondo are excellent at crawling the web for cheap airfare. If you prefer to book directly through an airline, Dubai is very well connected with two low budget airlines: Wizzair and FlyDubai. Both operate affordable flights. Alitalia, KLM, and Air France are great options for finding flights from Europe. Emirates is a great airline for those traveling from the US.