Mini Travel Guide: Dubai

Looking for a travel guide to Dubai? Click through for from-a-local tips on where to go, what to do, what to eat, cultural tips, and cheap travel advice!
What’s it like to travel in Dubai as a woman? What are you supposed to wear? Exactly HOW hot is it?

I don’t know about you guys, but the Middle East is such a fascinating, unknown travel destination for me. Thankfully, Victoria has been living there for almost 10 years and she’s happy to share all her Dubai travel tips with us!

There are a lot of misconceptions about living and traveling in Dubai. At the age of 14, Victoria moved from Brighton, England, to Dubai, UAE, because of her parents’ jobs.  When she tells people she lives in Dubai, she’s heard “Is it dangerous?” “Do you have bomb practices?” and “Do you speak Quran?”
The answers to all questions being a resounding ‘no’. Dubai is a melting pot of different nationalities and cultures and whilst it borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman, it’s home to people from all corners of the globe.

Must go in Dubai

Must go in Dubai

Burj Khalifa

This probably goes without saying, but when you’re in the same city as the tallest building in the world, you should definitely go up it. The Burj Khalifa offers ridiculously spectacular views over Dubai, and if you pick your timings right (go at around 6), you’ll get to see the sun set over the city and have a birds eye view of the Dubai Fountain.

Souks

Although probably most well known for its gold souk, the spice, perfume, fish and textile souks of Dubai are also well worth a visit. They’re a huge contrast to the shopping malls that Dubai has come to be best known for, but provide an old school style of shopping and far more of a culturally enriching experience than you can get from any mall.

Al Bastakiya

Bastakiya is one of the oldest areas within Dubai and has a real traditionally Arab vibe to it. Aside from the historic architecture and narrow paths, you’ll find a bunch of small boutique hotels and unique art galleries that allows a glimpse into what Dubai was like before the sky scrapers.

Must do in Dubai

Must do in Dubai

Go skiing

Even if you’re not an experienced skier or snowboarder, a trip to Ski Dubai in the middle of Mall Of The Emirates is well worth a visit, purely for the experience of going from hanging out on the beach in the morning to being in -2°c and making snowmen in the afternoon,

Shop

If you’re in Dubai you’ve got to go shopping. There are enough malls in Dubai for you to be able to go to a different one every day of your vacation, but a visit to Dubai Mall (the world’s largest shopping mall) is essential, even if it’s just to marvel at how ridiculously large it is.

must eat in Dubai

Must Eat in Dubai

Curry

Since Dubai is home to a huge number of Middle Eastern expats, there’s a ton of amazing curry on offer. The butter chicken at Ravi’s restaurant in Satwa has largely been accepted as the best in the city. (Possibly the world.)

Shawarma

The humble shawarma is the Dubai equivalent of the doner kebab, the perfect hangover cure found in the form of meat wrapped in bread. Cheap and incredible.

Cultural tips for travel in Dubai

Cultural tips for Traveling in Dubai

Dubai is constantly in the headlines for holidaymakers and expats alike being arrested for what is deemed inappropriate behavior, but it’s really not difficult to abide by the rules. Dubai is pretty relaxed in comparison to many of its bordering nations.

Just dress fairly conservatively if you’re going out of your hotel (don’t wear really short shorts etc.). Be polite and respectful and don’t be overly affectionate in public and you can’t really go wrong.

Basically everyone speaks English but if you want to make an effort, feel free to throw in a ‘shukran’ here and there.

Cheap travel in Dubai

Travel on the cheap in Dubai

Although it’s not very easy to walk around in Dubai (not just due to the heat but logistically there’s not really anywhere to walk in terms of pavements), it is really cheap to travel around. Get a metro card and you can take the metro up and down the city.

Whilst the metro’s a good way to get from A to B, it’s also a great way to see the city from the comfort of an air-conditioned train that’s pretty luxurious in comparison to many European trains. Also the taxi’s are very affordable. If you’re looking for some culture while traveling, take an abra or water taxi down Dubai Creek.

Airbnb is usually cheaper than hotels and you’re more likely to get that ‘live like a local’ experience. Here’s a room with a view for $62 and here’s a room with a private bath for $70.  If you’ve never used Airbnb before, here’s $40 towards your first booking!

Have any of you visit Dubai?  Any travel tips to share?

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11 Comments

  1. And Kathleen

    Question: Is Dubai dry? As in, can you drink alcohol there? I feel like I've heard in passing that it's illegal there but then saw Anthony Bourdain with a glass of wine on a No Reservations in Dubai.

    Reply
  2. GeezLouise!

    It isn't dry unless it's Ramadan (the month of fasting) and then it is dry. The neighbouring emirate of Sharjah is dry though. Friday (like our western Saturday) is a day that is celebrated as a brunch day, and most of the hotels serve a brunch and the alcohol flows very nicely 😉

    Reply
  3. Samantha Murch

    I loved this Mini Travel Guide! It has really inspired me to put Dubai on my travel list!!

    Reply
  4. Lape

    I've been to Dubai twice and I loved it! I like Dubai so much I've written about it several times on my blog. There's so much to do there: you can go dune-bashing in a 4×4 (driven by an expert), eat dinner Bedouin-style out in the dessert, ride-camels, gawk at the architecture and of course, go shopping in a big way! I really think everyone should go there at some point 🙂

    Reply
  5. Mark

    I too have traveled Dubai multiple time and never faces problems. see, if we visit somewhere, we have to deal according to their rules and regulations and rest all goes fine.

    Reply
  6. Anonymous

    One edit- "Middle Eastern" expats should "South Asian" or similar; curry isn't an Arab food and curry-producing countries are usually not considered part of the Middle East. Great article otherwise!

    Anna

    Reply
  7. Unknown

    I grew up in Dubai – it has changed a lot since then (16 years since I lived there, but I still visit), not the little expat community it once was, but I have never felt I can't be 'western' in my ways whilst there 😉

    Reply
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    Good info. Lucky me I recently found your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
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