On our trip to UAE we didn’t need to do much research as I used to live here for about three years and Uroš visited multiple times so we already pretty much knew which places are worth visiting. Here is our full input on this country of extremes:
Just like any major city and tourist area, there is a lot of traffic in Dubai and we found it that the best way to get around would be to rent yourself a car. Not just any car though – we are in Dubai, after all! Cars are a passion here and locals and foreigners both love to drive fancy cars. It is very common to see a luxurious car on the roads in Dubai. Moreover, a man in Dubai is often judged by his number plate. In general, the fewer the digits on his number plate, the more important he is. Another fun fact: the UAE currently holds the record for the world’s five most expensive number plates ever auctioned – in 2008, Plate No. 1 was auctioned for an unbelievable US$ 14.5 million catapulting the country as the top region where private car registrations command staggering sums of money followed by Hong Kong and the UK.
But for the sake of staying on topic with this post, let’s circle back to where I was talking about renting. We had the opportunity to test the vehicles (Lamborghini Huracán and Mercedes G63 AMG) with the luxury car hire Dubai – E and S Luxury Car Rental LLC. The cars were rad to drive! Uroš just couldn’t stop testing its brutal power of 610hp that brings the Lamborghini from 0 to 100 km/h within 3.2 seconds and in 9.9 seconds from 0 to 200 km/h. The top speed is 325 km/h btw. And me, I found myself staring at its aggressive design with the sharp edges – such beauty!
Mercedes on the other hand, was our favourite! It has been perfuming us with a scent of freedom from the first moment. Proved what a real off-road artist it was soon after! We didn’t hesitate exploring the sandy UAE terrain and it showed what a firm grip it has. Reflected power in all aspects – despite the high weight of 2,5 tons, it still reached a top speed of 200 km/h. Definitely, can’t say we could have had it any better.
On the other hand, if you are on the budget and want to save money, the cheaper options would be to take the metro (2 USD one way). But must probably you won’t be able to find a seat on the week day and the distance between the metro and Dubai mall (for example) is a very long walk! The metro also really only cuts through the middle of the city, but you can count on it if you will be going to marina, airport or the Old Dubai. All other places you will most likely have to grab a taxi after using the Metro. Which makes it a third way of transportation in Dubai. We found taxis are way cheaper than in our country (Slovenia, Europe) and you’ll find them on every corner, but if you go long distances, it will be again a better and also cheaper option to rent! Just be aware of the traffic radars, there’s plenty on each road and you will get flashed quickly if not aware of the speed limits. Btw, gas is super cheap – there is even a saying that people in UAE burn petrol like it’s water.
There is no shortage of hotels in Dubai, especially luxury hotels. We have chosen to stay in Jumeirah Beach Hotel as we preferred to be nearby Burj Al Arab, long strip of Jumeirah Beach and Dubai marina with Palm Jumeirah. As Dubai is massive and it will take you around 45 minutes to get from one side to another, you will most likely want to consider which landmarks you’d want next to your accommodation well. We were super satisfied with our stay and can definitely recommend it – get yourself a suite with balcony if you can and make the most at the Wild Wadi Waterpark (especially cool if you have kids). If you’re staying in with your partner, you’ll want to hit the rooftop for the sunset; even during the day as if the skies are clear you’ll be able to see the Burj Khalifa! Read more about the F&B at Jumeirah Beach Hotel below.
There is two more options for you where else you could choose on staying – either in the Old Dubai where the old souks are (and the accommodation and food is lots cheaper so that’s for those traveling on the budget), or the main centre where the Burj Khalifa and fountains are located (most crowded ones).
Same as for hotels goes for the restaurants. The choice is endless and the food is fresh and delicious! Since this is a Muslim region, do not expect to find pork in the restaurants. Popular dishes include shawarma (sliced meat like a kebab), hummus, curried dishes, basmati rice and marinated whole fish. Dates are also very popular. Try some with Arabic coffee. Alcohol: Tourists are allowed to drink at licensed hotels, bars and restaurants in Dubai. However, you are not allowed to drink in public, including on the beach.
We have spent most of our time feasting in Jumeirah Beach Hotel where we were staying at. The buffet choice was endless and we just couldn’t get our hands of off it. We would most definitely recommend visiting Rockfish as they have the most refreshing cocktails, but what’s most memorable is the way they serve it – it is just something different. Also, you should hit the Beach Lounge for the sunset, the atmosphere and vibes are superb.
Dubai has one of the most recognisable, and greatest, skylines on the planet. Therefore, most of the tourist attractions include seeing those architect works of art themselves. Mostly, we recommend those sights, too, as they are the main reason which Dubai is known by. We also wanted to prove that this city does not necessarily have to break your bank. So, here you go – these are the sights worth doing (and most of them are free):
🐫Burj Al Arab – the only seven star hotel in the world with the helipad on top and highest tennis court in the world. It is standing on an artificial island and it’s connected to land with a curved bridge. If you can get a glimpse of the inside, made from approximately 1,790 square meters of 24-carat gold leaf, you will be stunned! Also, Burjee has one of the most expensive suites in the world with a price tag of 24,000 USD a night!
🐫Burj Khalifa – the tallest man made building in the world. Worth seeing from below or the top, if you want! Entrance fee to go up to the 127th floor is 27 USD.
🐫Dubai Fountains – no. 1 free tourists attraction in the world. It attracts many crowds, but for a good reason. Seeing the dancing fountains is yet again another spectacular Dubai’s way of showing off.
🐫Souk al Bahar – felt like a princess in a palace! Free entrance and the view of Burj Khalifa ain’t bad either.
🐫Panoramic flight with Seawings – To see Dubai from a whole new perspective, you need to see it from the sky. One way to do that is to hop aboard a Seawings seaplane at Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club for a panoramic flight around the city. We have seen a burj khalifa, famous palm tree shaped island, hundreds of islands, burj al arab, the newest Dubai frame that opened just few days ago etc. The buildings seem surreal from this angle, and this close up. Check their website for timings.
🐫Dubai Marina – if you can, get onto one of the rooftops, the views are indescribable. There is a bar on top of the Marriot Hotel. You can see the whole Marina and Palm plus the Burj Al Arab on the other side from up there!
🐫Kite Beach or JBR Beach – take a picnic and chill.
🐫City walk – a nice hangout place with lots of restaurants and beautiful graffiti drawings.
🐫Old Dubai and Deira zone – you can take a dhow cruise here for 0,30 USD, shop in the old souks, see the gold souk, get lost in the maze of alleyways, explore the art district, eat traditional food, try camel burger in Al Bastakiya, or enjoy your nose senses in coffee museum. Basically, see Dubai as it is away from the glitz of the malls and high-rises. Or better said – as it used to be.
🐫Lastly, Dubai Mall – not a place we want to be naming as one of the things to do while in Dubai, but then again we want to let you know it exists. It is the biggest mall in the world and if you don’t have extraaa amount of time don’t bother going. It is just SO crowded and massive – it even has an aquarium, ice skating rink, movie theater, large bookstore etc.! So, stay patient and wear good shoes; you might cross few miles.
SECRET TIP ON SAVING IN DUBAI
Before you decide on doing any sightseeings, tours, eats, spas etc. you might want to check Groupon – they hold plenty of discounts and 2-for-1 specials and deals. There’s a high change you might find your activity on there and get a discount!
ONE DAY TRIPS FROM DUBAI
ABU DHABI – the capital of Uae, an absolute must visit. If you can afford to plan few nights to truly experience it, we’d highly recommend that as there’s plenty to see! Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Louvre, mangroves (!) to name a few. Blog post coming soon!
FUJAIRAH – a total piece oasis in Uae between the sea and the mountains.
HATTA POOLS – on the border to Oman there lies a wonderful place called Hatta pools. Take a day off for dipping.
RED DUNE – one of the famous dunes just off the road from Dubai.
MOREEB HILL – highest of the dunes in Uae next to the border to Saudi Arabia.
DESERT SAFARI – they will take you dune bashing deep in the desert with the four-wheels, you’ll get a nice traditional buffet dinner at the local village in the middle of nowhere under the stars, ride camels or sand-board, make henna hand painting, enjoy aromatic shisha, see the falcons, wear the traditional clothes if you’d like and see a belly dancing performance. You will usually have to spend around 30-60 USD for this experience (depending on the tour agency), but we’ve had the privilege to enjoy the fun of the dune drive with a local for free! I guess that’s what happens if you get stuck in the desert and have no one to come for rescue except the local guy who happens to drive a 4WD and is kind enough to even offer sunset dune bashing for free – in his words: “I cannot take money for helping you.” Really gave us the whole new perspective on the culture.
ABANDONED PLANE – If you’re up for a drive (~1h30) and like planes, there’s an abandoned plane in the middle of the desert in an area called Umm Al Quwain near Barracuda beach resort.
DESERTED SAND ROADS – We have spent two days looking for a photogenic sandy roads (just because we love travel photography sooo much!) and were unlucky to find them. They do exist however, and we’ll keep this one until the next time we’ll be in Uae as we’ll definitely come back soon!
WHEN TO GO
Dubai is HOT!! This might be the most important thing when planning your trip as summers are unbearable, and I mean it! Reaching over 50°C (while the malls keep the super-low temperatures around 18°C at all times – it feels even less)! Best times to visit are March-April and October-November. That is when the temperatures are still very warm (talking outside) but not chilly at night. We have visited UAE in January which is still very good time to go – the temperatures during the day are very pleasant, but you might want to wear a cardigan or light jacket in the evenings (when temperatures hit their lowest, that is around 16°C). The bad thing about this time of the year is that Dubai is way more crowded and prices are a bit higher.
HOW MANY DAYS NEEDED TO TAKE IT ALL IN
We have traveled UAE in total for 14 days as it was business mixed pleasure, however, you’ll most likely find yourself here on a stopover traveling somewhere else and you can do lots even in 24 hrs. It is not same, but it’s still worth stepping out of the airport (you’ll hate the air-con anyways). Otherwise, we’d say an ideal time to take it all in would be 5-7 days.
⁃ As Dubai can be described as a melting pot of cultures and is home to many different nationalities from all across the globe, everyone speaks fluent English and the signage is in both Arabic and English so you will have no problem navigating or communicating.
⁃ Make sure you are not showing a public display of affection as you could get arrested for it.
⁃ If you are taking a metro around Dubai, be aware that if you are caught eating or drinking on the metro there is a fine of up to USD 30. There is also a fine for men standing in the women part of the cabin, so boys, be careful!
⁃ Tourists and ex-pats can wear regular clothes. The only time you will have to wear a traditional kandura and abaya will be when visiting the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. I expect that would be the same when visiting any mosque. While on the beach you can swim normally in kinnis.
⁃ The 5 percent tax on goods and services is now here so you will be affected by larger priced from this year (2018) on.
⁃ Make sure you check the dates for Ramadan in the year you are visiting – avoid them big time!
WHAT TO BRING
⁃ A scarf to cover your shoulders when visiting mosques.
⁃ A cardigan for air-conditioned malls, taxis, airports, planes … every indoor place is basically freezing, can’t say this enough!
⁃ A sunnies for an endless amount of sun.
Hope this helps to everyone in planning their awesome trip to this extreme destination! Stay tuned for some more travel photo diaries SOON!
❥ Ps. Comment below any suggestions and what you think of this blog, it’s always nice to get some feedback!