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Travel Guide for Dubai: Top Destinations, Insider Tips, and Must-Try Activities

Embark on your next adventure with our Dubai travel guide. Uncover the finest attractions and activities in this global metropolis

27 września, 2023

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Welcome to our Dubai Travel Guide, a city of fascinating contrasts, where towering skyscrapers emerge from the heart of desert landscapes. Here, we’ll provide you with essential information, from entry requirements to optimal travel dates, transportation options, top city attractions, pristine beaches, shopping recommendations, and much more!

However, staying connected to the internet is a must to fully explore the city, venture into the desert, visit ancient Nabataean ruins, or simply chill on the beach. After all, how else will you share your incredible adventures with friends and family? We’ll even guide you on how to stay connected to the internet in Dubai! Are you ready to embark on this journey?

What you should know about Dubai: General info

Dubai, an emirate nestled in the United Arab Emirates, is a cosmopolitan jewel situated in the heart of the Persian Gulf. Before embarking on your journey to this amazing city, it’s imperative to get familiar not only with its opulent hotels, shopping centers, diverse culinary scene, and captivating attractions but also with some general facts.

  • Climate: Dubai boasts a desert climate, characterized by rare rainfall and scorching, windy, and humid summers. During the hottest months, temperatures soar between 39°C to 49°C, while in winter, they range from 14°C to 24°C.
  • Language: While Arabic serves as the official language, English is widely spoken.
  • Currency: The official currency is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED).
  • Time Zone: UTC+4.

When venturing to Dubai, you’ll surely need to exchange your currency for the local Dirham. Fortunately, the city offers several options for currency exchange.

Banks typically offer the most favorable exchange rates, though their operating hours may be limited. On the other hand, exchange bureaus often have extended hours but offer slightly lower rates. Alternatively, ATMs provide a convenient option, but with potentially higher fees.

Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Source: Unsplash

Key Considerations for Your Dubai Travel Plans

When embarking on a journey to Dubai, it’s crucial to consider certain factors to ensure a seamless and trouble-free experience. Let’s outline what you need to bear in mind when planning your trip to this vibrant destination.

Visa

Visa requirements for Dubai differ based on your country of origin. Nevertheless, here are the general prerequisites:

  • Passport with a minimum validity of 6 months.
  • Recent passport-sized photo.
  • Completed visa application form.
  • Proof of a round-trip airline ticket.
  • Hotel reservation confirmation.
  • Evidence of adequate financial means to cover your travel expenses.
  • Travel insurance.

You can apply for a Dubai visa through online channels or at the UAE embassy or consulate in your home country. The online application process is normally quicker and more convenient, usually taking 1 to 7 business days.

The cost of a tourist visa varies depending on your country of origin and the type of visa you need. But, as a general guideline, a tourist visa typically costs AED 200 (approximately $54 USD).

List of countries that don’t requirea visa to enter the UAE
USAQatarMoroccoEthiopia
CanadaOmanAlgeriaYemen
AustraliaBahrainTunisia
New ZealandKuwaitMauritania
JapanJordanLibya
South KoreaSyriaSudan
SingaporeLebanonSomalia
BruneiTurkeyDjibouti
MalaysiaEgyptEritrea
Table 1. Countries NOT requiring visas to enter Dubai.

So, as the table shows, few countries are on the exemption list from visa requirements. If your country is not listed, you’ll probably need to apply for a visa before your trip. To confirm your status, you can also refer to the visa requirements page.

Security

Dubai is generally considered a secure destination for tourists. Nevertheless, taking some security precautions is essential to ensure a trouble-free trip:

  • Safeguard your passport and important documents in a secure location. Avoid carrying them with you while exploring the city.
  • Minimize the amount of cash you carry, opting instead for credit or debit card payments.
  • Avoid solo walks at night. If necessary, travel in a group or use a taxi service.
  • Elude high-risk areas, such as slums and districts known for illicit activities.
  • Abstain from engaging in any unlawful actions.
  • Given Dubai’s Islamic culture, it’s mandatory to adhere to local laws and customs.

Culture

In Dubai, as in any foreign country, a unique culture awaits, distinct from our own. Therefore, it’s advisable to learn about their traditions, customs, and religion before your trip. Here are some key tips for cultural harmony:

  • Dress Code in Dubai: This point is particularly crucial, especially for women. It’s advisable to avoid overly revealing clothes, such as short skirts, shorts, sleeveless tops, or low-cut necklines.
  • Public Consumption of Alcohol: Keep in mind that alcohol is restricted in Dubai and permitted only in designated areas like hotels, bars, and restaurants.
  • Smoking in Public: Smoking in public is prohibited, except in designated areas like parks and beaches.
  • Respect for Islam: Dubai follows Islamic traditions, so it’s vital to respect local beliefs and customs. This includes refraining from making obscene gestures, speaking loudly, or eating in public during Ramadan.
  • Learn Basic Arabic Phrases: While English is commonly spoken in Dubai, acquiring some fundamental Arabic phrases can enhance communication with locals and enrich your travel experience.

Moreover, we strongly advise against playing loud music, dancing in public spaces, using illicit substances, photographing locals without their consent, displaying public affection, employing offensive language or gestures, and openly expressing LGBT lifestyles. In this region, engaging in such actions may result in imprisonment or substantial fines.

Internet connection

Having reliable internet access while traveling to a city like Dubai is a necessity. It’s not just about staying in touch with friends and family; it’s also about being able to locate key points of interest on Google Maps, book tours, translate phrases, navigate transportation apps, and manage your bank accounts, among other tasks.

To ensure seamless connectivity, it’s advisable to choose unlimited data plans. Holafly’s eSIM, for instance, offers the freedom to navigate, a stable connection, and unlimited data, providing you with peace of mind throughout your trip.

If your cell phone isn’t compatible with Holafly’s eSIM, there are alternative options such as international roaming, Pocket WiFi, or SIM cards. However, it’s important to note that these alternatives can be pricey.

esim dubai holafly store
Holafly eSIM for Dubai with unlimited data

Ideal times to visit Dubai

The ideal time to visit Dubai is during the winter season, which spans from November to April. During this period, the climate is pleasant, with temperatures ranging between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius.

If you opt for a summer trip, from May to October, be prepared for extremely hot and humid weather. Temperatures can soar up to 40 degrees Celsius, with humidity levels hitting 100%.

However, if the weather is not a problem for you and you’re keen on experiencing the best of the city, we highly recommend immersing yourself in the following festivals:

  • Dubai International Film Festival (December): This influential film festival in the Middle East spans a week in December, showcasing a diverse array of films from across the globe, including independent, documentary, and Hollywood productions.
  • Dubai Shopping Festival (December-January): As the world’s largest shopping festival, this six-week event in January and February draws millions of visitors worldwide. Stores offer substantial discounts, complemented by a series of events and activities, from concerts and parades to fireworks displays.
  • Dubai Marathon (January): Attracting thousands of runners from around the world, the Dubai Marathon, held in January, ranks among the most prestigious marathons globally.
  • Dubai Desert Classic (February): This week-long event in February stands as one of the premier golf tournaments worldwide, drawing the finest international golfers.
  • Dubai World Cup (March 26-31): During this period, Dubai hosts the world’s most lucrative horse race, a highly anticipated event in the Emirates with a prize purse exceeding ten million dollars.

In addition to these marquee events, there are other notable festivals such as the Dhow Regatta, Jazz Festival, Gastronomic Fair, and Yacht Exhibition. Their dates may vary, but they typically take place in February and March.

Dubai, UAE. Source: Unsplash

Which is the most convenient month to visit Dubai?

The most budget-friendly time to visit Dubai is in May. During this period, the weather is warm and sunny, without the intense heat of the summer months. Additionally, this period sees fewer tourists, resulting in lower prices for accommodations, flights, and activities.

For further cost savings, consider planning your trip during the off-peak months of May, June, and September. It’s wise to make your bookings well in advance and explore cost-free attractions like parks and gardens within the city.

Opting for accommodation outside the city center, utilizing public transportation instead of taxis, and dining at local, non-touristy restaurants can further help you economize on your trip.

How to get to Dubai?

To reach Dubai, the most common and convenient method is by air travel. Dubai International Airport (DXB) stands as the largest airport in the United Arab Emirates and ranks among the world’s foremost aviation hubs. Consequently, you’ll find direct flight connections to Dubai from a multitude of major cities worldwide.

For a comprehensive overview of the most suitable and affordable flights from your hometown, you can utilize platforms like Skyscanner.

Traveling to Dubai by plane

When it comes to air travel to Dubai, a multitude of airlines offer direct routes, with travel durations determined by your departure point, potentially extending up to 16 hours. These flights come equipped with an array of amenities, including comfortable seating, in-flight entertainment, and quality food and beverages, significantly enhancing the overall travel experience.

Among the carriers providing direct flights are Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa, Air France, KLM, British Airways, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.

Traveling to Dubai by car

If you choose to embark on a road trip to Dubai, there are several popular routes you can take:

  • From Europe: Your journey will lead you through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and finally, the United Arab Emirates.
  • From Asia: You can opt for a route through Iran, Oman, and ultimately, the United Arab Emirates.
  • From Africa: This route will take you through Egypt, Sudan, and Yemen, and then, you’ll arrive in the United Arab Emirates.

Important to realize that this option is not recommended. You’d be on the road for approximately 35 to 40 hours, and, although you’ll be able to visit the countries you drive through, the time you spend in the car could deprive you of enjoying the trip. Remember that your vehicle must be in optimal condition, and bear in mind that traffic regulations may vary from one country to another.

Traveling to Dubai by sea

Dubai warmly welcomes cruise ships from various corners of the globe annually, with departure points commonly including major cities like London, Paris, Rome, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney, and Hong Kong.

The duration of a cruise to Dubai can span several weeks, depending on the chosen route. These cruises offer plenty of amenities and services, ranging from restaurants, bars, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, theaters, and even casinos. The best option is the chance to explore the ports of the cities where the cruise makes stops (please be aware of the visa requirements for each country).

We recommend obtaining quotes from reputable companies such as Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, and Holland America Line. Costs usually start at around $1700 USD per person. It’s worth noting that cruises generally depart from the United States, Europe, and Asia.

Embark on a culinary adventure in Dubai: Top Dining Destinations

Dubai’s culinary landscape is a captivating fusion of diverse culinary traditions, reflecting the multitude of cultures that have left their mark on the city throughout its rich history. Here, typical dishes draw inspiration from Arabic, Persian, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, and Western flavors.

Explore some of the most beloved dishes in Dubai’s culinary scene

  • Machbous: Rice dish featuring chicken or lamb, seasoned with spices and accompanied by vegetables.
  • Humus: Creamy blend of chickpeas, tahini, garlic, and lemon.
  • Falafel: Fried chickpea balls.
  • Taboulé: Salad composed of bulgur, peppermint, tomatoes, onions, and mint.
  • Shawarma: Roasted chicken or lamb, served with warm pita bread, accompanied by vegetables and sauces.
  • Kebab: Grilled chicken or lamb, complemented by vegetables and sauces.
  • Biryani: Rice dish with spices, accompanied by chicken or lamb and vegetables.
  • Dosa: Pancake crafted from lentil flour and ricer.
  • Idli: Dumplings created from a blend of lentil flour and rice.
  • Uttapam: Rice and lentil flour crepe.
The Dubai Mall, United Arab Emirates. Source: Unsplash

Discover Dubai’s culinary gems in these vibrant neighborhoods

  • Al Seef: This charming locale, once a fishing village, has transformed into a tourist destination. Here, you’ll find restaurants offering both traditional Arabic cuisine and international flavors. Don’t miss dining at these top spots: Al Fanar Seafood, Sul Fiume Al Seef, ILA Restaurant & Cafe, Skafos, and Kailash Parbat.
  • Madinat Jumeirah: Nestled within this luxurious resort are a multitude of restaurants that serve dishes from across the globe. Among the standout dining establishments are Trattoria, Folly, Publique Dubai, Al Nafoorah, and Al Makan.
  • Dubai Marina: Known for its impressive skyline, shopping havens, and culinary delights, Dubai Marina boasts a diverse array of restaurants, from international cuisine to cherished local food. We recommend savoring the flavors at Zafran Indian Bistro, Zaatar w Zeit, Abd El Wahab, and Alloro.
  • Bur Dubai: This district is renowned for the Dubai Spice Market and an abundance of eateries offering authentic Arabic cuisine. Explore these top-notch dining destinations: Rasoi Ghar, Desi Dhaba Burdubai, Arabian Tea House, and Caspian Kabab.
  • Deira: You’ll find a mix of traditional Arabic cuisine and international fusion dining options. We recommend Zam Zam Mandi, Al Dawaar Revolving, and Shabestan.

Dubai’s Top 10 Must-Visit Destinations

While in Dubai, there are some places you can’t miss, such as:

  • Burj Khalifa: Ascend the world’s tallest building for breathtaking panoramic views of the city.
  • Dubai Mall: You’ll be in a retail paradise at the world’s largest shopping mall, boasting an array of stores, dining options, and attractions.
  • Palm Jumeirah: Marvel at the remarkable man-made island, shaped like a palm tree, and witness its popularity as a captivating attraction.
  • Burj Al Arab: Experience sheer luxury at the iconic sail-shaped hotel, renowned worldwide for its opulence.
  • Dubai Fountain: Visit the enchanting Dubai’s musical water fountain, a timeless tourist favorite.
  • Dubai Miracle Garden: Must-see! Don’t miss this botanical wonderland, one of the world’s largest, adorned with floral sculptures and captivating entertainment (closed in summer).
  • Deira: This vibrant district is home to diverse dining experiences and spice, gold, and perfume markets, as well as the famed souks. Here, you’ll discover the world’s largest gold ring.
  • Atlantis Dubai: Dive into the Lost Chambers Aquarium within the resort, where over 65,000 marine animals await your exploration. Additionally, the Aquaventure water park promises thrilling adventures by the waterfront.
  • Ain Dubai: Gaze at the world’s largest and tallest Ferris wheel, set against the picturesque coastal backdrop.
  • IMG Worlds of Adventure: Dubai’s premier mega entertainment destination beckons you. Step into the world of epic zones at this thrilling amusement park.

Dubai’s Top 10 Beaches

For those seeking a perfect blend of sea, sun, and sand, Dubai offers stunning beaches equipped with various amenities. These include showers, toilets, changing rooms, umbrella rentals, sun loungers, and a selection of restaurants. Moreover, you can engage in thrilling activities like kitesurfing, windsurfing, and water skiing.

Let’s discover Dubai’s top beaches!

  • Jumeirah Beach: Offering the finest city views, including the iconic Burj Al Arab, this beach provides a Middle Eastern sun-soaked experience. Explore not only a variety of restaurants and hotels but also indulge in luxurious spas.
  • Kite Beach: Tailored for water sports enthusiasts, particularly kite surfers, this beach offers a captivating spectacle of athletes practicing their skills on the waves.
  • Al Mamzar Beach Park: With serene white sands, tranquil waters, and lush vegetation, this beach promises a peaceful retreat from the bustling city. A nominal entrance fee ensures a serene experience.
  • Black Palace Beach: Adjacent to a royal residence, this beach boasts some of the most breathtaking sunsets in the region. While lacking tourist facilities, its natural beauty makes it a must-visit.
  • Open Beach (Russian Beach): Ideal for an early morning escape, this beach tends to get busy later in the day. Enjoy its calm, warm waters without any entry fee.
  • La Mer Beach: Beyond its turquoise waters, this beach offers an array of attractions and activities. It comes alive at night with a vibrant party atmosphere.
  • Dubai Island Beach: A relatively new addition, this beach provides opportunities for swimming and oceanic entertainment. It’s also a pet-friendly spot, perfect for families with furry companions.
  • JBR Marina Beach: Uniquely blending bars, restaurants, shops, and parks, this beach offers a one-of-a-kind experience. Easily accessible, it’s an ideal escape from the city’s hustle and bustle while still within its boundaries.
  • Riva Beach: Situated on the artificial and private Jumeirah Palm, this beach boasts fine sands and quiet waters. Kayaking and paddle surfing are popular activities.
  • Umm Suqueim Beach: Offering captivating views of the Burj Al Arab, this beach provides a break from the city’s high temperatures. Cool off in its waters and enjoy the coastal scenery.
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai. Source: Unsplash

Top Destinations to Soak in Dubai’s Cultural Heritage

When it comes to cultural tourism, the following destinations stand out:

  • Dubai Museum: Delve into the history of Dubai, tracing its evolution from its origins to the vibrant modern city it is today.
  • Al Fahidi Historical District: Wander through this district, home to historic landmarks including the Al Fahidi Mosque, Dubai Museum, and the Al Fahidi Fort.
  • Dubai Creek: This vital waterway offers a glimpse into another architectural marvel of Dubai, with traditional boats and bustling activity along its shores.
  • Gold Souk: An array of shops showcasing exquisite gold jewelry and precious items.
  • Spice Souk: Here you’ll find shops offering spices, herbs, and unique products.
  • Madinat Jumeirah: Step into a luxury resort crafted in the style of an ancient Arab village, providing an immersive cultural experience like no other.
  • Burj Al Arab: This iconic luxury hotel stands as a symbol of Dubai, offering not only opulent accommodation but also stunning panoramic views of the city.
  • Palm Jumeirah: This extraordinary artificial island, shaped like a palm tree, is one of Dubai’s most renowned and sought-after tourist destinations.
  • Al Bastakiya: One of the oldest districts in the city, where the cultural heritage of Dubai comes to life.
  • Jumeirah Mosque: This is the only mosque open to visitors and stands as Dubai’s most significant mosque.

Best Ecotourism Destinations in Dubai

Dubai offers a chance to connect with nature, explore diverse ecosystems, and appreciate the natural beauty:

  • Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary: This sanctuary is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including flamingos, turtles, and dolphins. Explore through hiking trails or embark on a boat ride for a closer look at these fascinating creatures.
  • Al Qudra Lakes: In this desert oasis you’ll have the opportunity for picnicking, fishing, biking, and hiking. You can also see flamingos and other wildlife that frequent the lakeshores.
  • Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve: At this reserve, you can spot animals such as gazelles, oryx, and dromedaries. Set off on a desert safari to fully experience this remarkable environment.
  • Hatta Mountain Bike Trail Center: For outdoor enthusiasts, this center provides a range of mountain bike trails with varying levels of difficulty. It also features a playground and picnic area.

Navigating Dubai: A Guide to Transportation

Dubai boasts a modern and efficient transportation system that allows you to explore the city with ease. Here’s a breakdown of the options:

  • Metro: The metro is a swift and comfortable mode of transportation, with two lines (red and green) connecting most of Dubai’s major tourist destinations.
  • Bus: Offering a more budget-friendly alternative to the metro, Dubai’s extensive bus network covers the entire city. It’s a bit slower but provides comprehensive coverage.
  • Taxi: Taxis offer convenience, operating 24/7, but can be pricey. They provide a quick way to get around the city.
  • Abra: For a budget-friendly and picturesque experience, hop on an Abra—a small boat that crosses Dubai Creek.
  • Water Taxi: If you seek a faster and more comfortable option than the Abra, the water taxi is ideal for commuting between different districts of Dubai.
  • Car Rental: Renting a car provides freedom and flexibility for exploration, but be mindful of heavy traffic, and note that car rental costs can be high.

Dubai offers ridesharing apps like Careem and Uber, which provide cost-effective and efficient transportation options within the city.

Dubai’s Shopping Delights

Dubai blends modernity with tradition, offering a wide array of shopping experiences from luxury items to cherished souvenirs. The city’s vibrant markets and souks are treasure troves for unique finds.

Here are some ideas for what to buy in Dubai:

  • Gold: As one of the world’s premier gold trading centers, Dubai offers excellent prices on exquisite gold jewelry.
  • Spices: Dubai is renowned for its diverse array of spices, from cloves and cinnamon to saffron and cardamom, all found in the bustling traditional markets.
  • Textiles and Accessories: Elevate your wardrobe with fashion items, including clothing, shoes, handbags, and exclusive pashmina shawls. Personalized rugs are also a popular choice.
  • Attar: These essential oil-based fragrances, particularly sandalwood, musk, and rose, captivate the senses and are adored by women in Dubai.
  • Oudh and Bakhoor: For authentic traditional souvenirs, we recommend exploring Oudh, available in various forms such as pure oil, mixed oil, floral oils, and perfume fragrances. Another delightful option is Bakhoor, comprising agarwood chips that, when burned, release a pleasing aroma, making them a unique alternative to air fresheners and incense.
  • Art: Discover an array of paintings, handicrafts, ceramics, and antiques at the flea markets.
  • Souvenirs: Take home a piece of Dubai with camel milk chocolate, Arabic coffee, lucky stones, Aladdin lamps, incense, myrrh, handkerchiefs, shishas, khanjars, postcards, or figurines.

Top Shopping Destinations in Dubai

Dubai is a shopper’s paradise, boasting an extensive array of stores and markets catering to every taste and preference. For a world-class shopping experience, visit these top spots:

  • Dubai Mall: With over 1,200 stores, this is the largest shopping mall globally, offering everything from luxury goods to traditional souvenirs.
  • Madinat Jumeirah: This tourist complex features a traditional market, luxury shopping area, and a picturesque promenade.
  • Dubai Gold Souk: Explore the world’s largest gold market, ideal for purchasing exquisite jewelry.
  • Dubai Spice Souk: Delight in spices, herbs, and various products in this extensive market, also the largest of its kind globally.
  • Al Fahidi Historical District: Immerse yourself in a traditional market, explore a museum, and wander in antique stores in this historical district.

What are some affordable items to buy in Dubai?

For budget-friendly shopping in Dubai, traditional markets offer unique and affordable items. Don’t forget to haggle for great discounts!

In terms of the cheapest items to buy in Dubai, consider perfumes, incense, myrrh, and traditional souvenirs.

FAQs about traveling to Dubai

When is the Best Time to Visit Dubai?

To avoid crowds, the best time is from May to October. However, for ideal weather and the peak tourist season, plan your visit from November to April.

How Much Does it Cost to Travel to Dubai?

The cost varies depending on your budget and planned activities. On average, expect to spend approximately $1,500 USD to $2,500, excluding flights, which can add another $500 to $1,000 to your budget.

What Do I Need to Travel to Dubai?

You’ll need a valid passport with at least six months of validity, an appropriate visa based on your nationality, and comprehensive travel insurance.

What Should I Know About Dubai’s Culture?

Dubai is a multicultural city, so while it embraces diversity, it’s crucial to respect local customs. Dress conservatively and remember that public consumption of alcohol and smoking is prohibited.

What Should I Eat in Dubai?

Explore Arabian cuisine with popular dishes like hummus, falafel, kebabs, and shawarma.

How Much Does a Coke Cost in Dubai?

A Coke typically ranges from 2 to 4 dirhams ($0.54 to $1.09), depending on where you buy it.

How Much Does a Hotel in Dubai Cost?

Accommodations start at around $40 per night. Consider checking websites like Skyscanner for potential discounts and seasonal offers.

How Much Does Lunch Cost in Dubai?

A typical local meal can cost between $9 and $15. As for coffee, prices start at $0.60, while a Starbucks coffee is around $3.10.

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