Travel Guide Middle East United Arab Emirates Dubai

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Introduction

Burj Kalifah

Burj Kalifah

© RobandEve

Dubai is the second-largest of the seven emirates that together constitute the United Arab Emirates. This is one of the fastest growing areas anywhere in the world with buildings being erected at an enormous speed. Plans are even more ambitious with hundreds of high rise buildings to be added (including the highest building in the world) and thousands of islands in the form of the world or palms which are for the rich and famous only. Unfortunately, much of the old and original Dubai is hidden away in between, but can still be found in the old quarter of the city.

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Neighbourhoods

Dubai is expanding so rapidly that you can not really speak of neighbourhoods, but you would rather divide the city in the old town, that spreads along the Dubai Creek, and the new parts that spread out along the coast line. For travellers purposes, there is a handy division in districts:

  • Deira - The old financial centre, today a bustling commercial–residential district with old souks. One is the famous Gold Souk. Another one is the spice souk where you can buy a range of spices from the entire world. The quality of spices available there is pretty good.
  • Bur Dubai - A historical district on the south side of Dubai Creek, with attractions from abras to souks to floating restaurants to the famous Creek. Meena Bazaar, is for clothes (you can buy fabrics there).
  • Jumeirah Beach - A diverse mix of residents and tourists at the beach. It is a mixed Little Europe, Karachi and Manila. Jumeirah is much favoured by Europeans due to easy access to the public beach. Jumeirah Mosque and Dubai Zoo are the top attractions of this district.
  • Jumeirah Beach Residences - This area between the sea and Dubai Marina includes The Walk, a strip with a lot of restaurants and shops. Few public beaches can be found at JBR.
  • Dubai Marina - Surrounded by skyscrapers, this mega-development is part of New Dubai, next to The Palm Jumeirah and JBR. This is a man made marina.
  • Jebel Ali - Mega man-made port, location of the new airport, Dubai World Central, the venue for Expo 2020, and the entry point to the Palm Jebel Ali
  • Downtown Dubai - City centre where you can find the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall. Next to the Business Bay and Dubai International Finance Centre.
  • Emirates Road - Suburban Dubai inland from the coast.
  • The Palm Jumeirah - An artificial peninsula set as a palm tree over the sea. All the luxury hotels are set over the central trunk and the crescent road. Private villas can be found on the palm tree branches.
  • Festival City - An area close to the airport with few malls and hotels, along the Creek.

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Sights and Activities

Burj al Arab

Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab

© neilcrespi

The Burj al Arab (the tower of Arabs) has become a landmark of Dubai, and one of the most famous buildings virtualy overnight after being finished in 1999. The very recognisable building that is shaped to resemble the sail of a Dhow, a local fishing boat. The structure is 321 metres tall, and stands on an artificial island 280 metres away from the beach. It is connected to the mainland by a bridge. The building serves as a luxury hotel with 202 rooms. A hotel room is not cheap, the cheapest room costs about a thousand US$ a night, the Royal suits sets you back around US$ 28,000. If you want to arrive in style from the airport you can be picked up by a Rolls Royce or a helicopter. The Burj al-Arab is a 7-star hotel, the only one in the world.

If you'd like to visit the Burj Al Arab, you'll either have to stay there (pretty expensive) or book a table for a diner or a tea time (also expensive). The good thing is that the view over the city is simply amazing.

Burj Khalifa

Officially opened on 4 January 2010, Burj Khalifa (Arabic: برج خليفة‎ "Khalifa Tower"), formerly known as Burj Dubai, took six years to complete. The tower is named after Khalifa bin Zayed, the current President of the United Arab Emirates and ruler of Abu Dhabi. With a height of 828 metres (2716 feet), Burj Khalif is the tallest man-made structure in the world, topping the previous recordholder (Taipei 101) by a staggering 319 metres. It also is nicknamed "the Needle" and "The Tower of Bable". It has 168 floors, with the upper 30 to 40 floors being so small that they are useless, apart from storage room. Counting all the floors and the podium, it has 465,000 m² of surface space. In the skyscraper you will find 1,044 luxury appartments, 49 floors of offices and the Armani Hotel, with 160 rooms that are designed by Armani. An observation deck, named At The Top, is located on Level 142 of the tower. Tickets for At The Top are available online and also from the reception at the lower ground level of The Dubai Mall, located within the building. Best time to visit the Burj Khalifa is during sunset. You will see the sun falling behind the city and the desert. This is truly breathtaking experience. As this timeframe is pretty busy, it is a good idea to book your tickets in advance. Consider buying a bypass ticket to avoid the long queue lane before the elevators. Don't be worried about the elevators. Those are pretty fast. It only takes 2 minutes to get to the top and the experience has been thought to make the travel really smooth. You won't feel the speed.

Jumeirah Beach

VIEW FROM THE BAR AT TEH TOP OF THE BURJ!

VIEW FROM THE BAR AT TEH TOP OF THE BURJ!

© dwalker66

Jumeirah Beach is the famous beach resort area about 15 kilometres south of the centre of Dubai. The Burj al Arab is located here, as well as the Jumeirah Beach hotel and the waterpark 'Wild Wadi'. There is also the Jumeirah Mosque, one of only a few mosques which is open for non-Islamic tourists, which has regular morning tours. In 2009, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup was held here as well.

Jumeirah Mosque

If you want to learn about Emirati Culture a visit to the Jumeirah Mosque is a place where you can get some insights. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) hosts visits of the Grand Jumeirah Mosque 6 days a week Saturday through Thursday at 10:00am. A reservation is not needed to attend, but you must arrive at the main entrance to the Jumeirah Mosque by approximately 9:45am. Each tour lasts approximately 75 minutes. 10AED per person, children under 12 free. Parties of 10 or more should contact the SMCCU prior to your visit. Modest dress is preferred, however traditional attire can be borrowed from the Mosque. SMCCU offers more cultural activities you can attend during your stay in Dubai.

Miracle Garden

Miracle Garden is a pretty unique place in Dubai. If you want to escape from the crowd and the modern buildings, you can get there. This is a peaceful area where you will see millions of flowers. Those are used to create nice structures. You can even see there a reproduction of an Emirates plane with flowers. The Miracle Garden is located in Barsha South area, near Jumeirah Village Circle.

Shopping

Shopping is a major activity for Dubai visitors. Wafi Mall, Dubai Marina Mall, Ibn Battuta mall, Mall of the Emirates, Bur Juman, Magrudy's shopping mall are some of the numerous malls that have sprouted around the city in the past decade. The most famous one, largest mall in the world, is the Dubai Mall. Located next to the Burj Khalifa, extending over 800,000 square metres, the Dubai Mall has more than 1,200 retail stores. The Dubai Mall hosts one of the largest aquarium in the world (Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo) where visitors can see sharks, rays and more than 300 species of marine animals. There is also Dubai Ice Rink where people can practice ice skating. More than 90 millions of visitors came to the Dubai Mall in 2015. Tourists can buy jewels at the traditional Gold Souk (Deira area) and the Gold and Diamond Park (next to the Mall of Emirates). Spices from all over the world can be found at the Spice souk (Deira area).

Ski Dubai

Located in the Mall of Emirates, Ski Dubai is a man made indoor ski area. The 85-metre-high mountain includes 5 slopes. In order to maintain the snow in good condition, a powerful air conditioning system keeps the temperature between -6 °C and -1 °C. You can rent all the required equipment and clothing to practice skiing or snowboarding directly onsite. Only the gloves and the cap can't be rented there. But you can buy some or bring yours with you. If you don't want to practice skiing, you can encounter with real penguins or just enjoy the atmosphere on the chairlift. What you'll see is that many locals don't know how to practice skiing so they just go up and down on the chairlift.

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Events and Festivals

Dubai Marathon

In January, the Dubai Marathon takes center stage. There are 3, 10 and 50 kilometre races, with the winners receiving large sums of money. Thousands of participants come to the UAE to join, with an increasing number of runners every year.

Dubai Shopping Festival

Shopaholics need to remember to breathe because the Dubai Shopping Festival is a month-long event. Every mall in the city reduces its prices during January and February, attracting thousands from around the globe. There are concerts and entertainment as a backdrop. This is a major event and the city is pretty crowded during that period.

Dubai Desert Classic

Every year, the best golfers from around the world make their way to Dubai, where the Desert Classic takes place. The prize money allures the best of the best and spectators if they can get a hold of the highly coveted tickets. The tournament is held at the Emirates Golf Club in March.

Emirates World Series Horse Race

The Emirates World Series of Horse Racing concludes in Dubai, where the world’s richest race takes place. Held in April, the Dubai World Cup Horse Race welcomes thousands of spectators, along with the best jockeys, trainers, and horses from the world over. The event is run from the Nad Al Sheba Racecourse, which provides memorable entertainment and a social atmosphere in the UAE.

Eid

At the end of Ramadan, the cities of the UAE celebrate Eid with parties and feasts. Both visitors and locals can share in the spoils as Dubai and Abu Dhabi throw social events for several days to mark the end of the Islamic fasting period in September.

International Film Festival Dubai

The Dubai film festival takes place in November and attracts not only thousands of cinema enthusiasts from across the Middle East and Europe, but famous producers and Hollywood stars for screenings all over the city.

National Day Festival

Commemorating the formation of the UAE and the independence of the region from Britain, National Day is celebrated across the country in December with performances and events in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Accommodations are hard to come by at this time, so book well in advance.

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Weather

Weather in Dubai generally is warm to hot and dry. The hottest months are between June and September when temperatures can rise up to 45 °C or even more. Humidity can be high as well, although this mainly applies to the coastal areas. Still, the best times to visit are from October to April with warm and dry conditions, although some rainshowers are possible during the wintermonths. But don't be concerned about rainshowers, you will never see rainfall for few consecutive days in Dubai. This never really happens. Dubai is not a place where rain is falling every week. The more you'll get is 2-3 days a month. You will never see snow in Dubai, except in Dubai ski at the Mall of Emirates. Snow falls only once every 10 to 20 years. This is a very rare event. So don't expect to see some if you are just there for few days. Locals consider that the temperature is cold when it is around 15-20 °C in January. This is the lowest you'll see. Most of the time, it is way above 25-30 °C.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max24 °C24.6 °C27.9 °C32.4 °C36.8 °C38.8 °C40.6 °C40.4 °C38.7 °C35.1 °C30.5 °C26.2 °C
Avg Min13.7 °C14.5 °C17 °C20.1 °C23.5 °C26.1 °C28.9 °C29.3 °C26.3 °C22.7 °C18.3 °C15.4 °C
Rain Days1.83.73.81.60.400.10.1000.32

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Getting There

By Plane

Dubai's main airport is the Dubai International Airport (DXB IATA). Its eventual replacement, Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC IATA), is open to passenger flights but is only serving a few flights. You can also enter Dubai by using Sharjah International Airport (SHJ IATA) in the nearby emirate of Sharjah and Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH IATA) in nearby Abu Dhabi.

Airlines often have price wars to glamorous destinations like Dubai and this can work to your advantage by careful planning and comparison of the various airlines serving Dubai. Emirates is Dubai's official airline carrier which connects Dubai to over 100 destinations while FlyDubai is Dubai's low-cost carrier. Etihad has shuttle services from their exclusive check in facility in Sheikh Zayed Rd or Central Business District of Dubai to and from Abu Dhabi Int'l Airport, you can also fly with Sharjah's low-cost carrier; Air Arabia which flies to over 46 destinations within the Middle East. Low fares from North America are most often found on Qatar Airways, however since June 2017 Qatar Airways has been banned from flying to Dubai until due to a diplomatic spat.

  • Dubai International Airport (DXB IATA). This is the largest hub in the Middle East and the home base of Dubai's flag carrier Emirates and its low-cost wing flydubai. It has grown at such a furious pace that its terminals are bursting at the seams, especially during the peak hours around midnight. Frequent visitors from countries granted automatic visa on entry may wish to purchase an e-gate card to speed up immigration formalities and save passport pages. The e-gate card office is situated in the upstairs food court area of the Terminal 1 departures concourse. The card will cost 200 dirham. To buy an e-gate card in Dubai, you must have entered UAE via Dubai airport.
  • Dubai World Central - Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC IATA). The airport opened to passenger flights in October 2013 and has grand ambitions to be the largest airport in the world, capable of serving 160 million passengers a year. (For comparison, London Heathrow has around 70 million.) For time being it's only served by several low-cost carriers such as Wizz Air and flydubai (other carriers usually operate seasonal charters from Europe). It is a major hub for cargo flights. Emirates is not planning to shift until 2025 or so. The airport is in Jebel Ali at the far western end of Dubai, nearly 60 km from central Dubai and about 110 km from Abu Dhabi. A train line is planned, but the current transport options are taxi, which will cost over 100 dirham to most parts of the city, and bus lines F55/F55A. F55 connects Al Maktoum airport with Ibn Batuta Metro Station during the day, while F55A runs between Al Maktoum airport and Al Satwa Bus station during the night. Buses depart every hour from the airport.
  • Sharjah International Airport (SHJ IATA) (in the emirate of Sharjah). It is 30 min by road from Dubai and takes an increasing number of international flights as Dubai airport struggles to keep up with demand. The principal carrier here is Air Arabia, a low-cost carrier serving the Middle East and South Asia. The airport is fairly basic but is being expanded. A taxi to Dubai will typically cost 50 dirham. A bus service by Air Arabia also runs from the Airport to the Rashidiya Metro Station in Dubai. Rashidiya metro station is located close to the Dubai International Airport.

Dubai is home to a thriving private aviation community, with luxury charters and business jets traveling between London, Moscow, and the United States on a daily basis. There are numerous FBOs to accommodate luxury and business travelers, and companies such as PrivateFly and Dubai Private Jet Charter offer on-demand private air charters from on a variety of planes, from luxury Gulfstreams and VIP airliners to twin-engine pistons and helicopters for small groups and individuals.

By Car

Dubai's only international road border is with Oman at Al Wajajah. Expatriate residents of Oman will require an official permit to exit Oman by road. Visitors do not require the permit. There is an OMR3 charge per vehicle to exit Oman and, if returning, retain the charge receipt as it will be required to re-enter. Ensure that insurance is valid for the UAE (preferably before commencing the journey). Temporary UAE insurance can be purchased at the border for a premium price.

There are also road borders between the neighbouring Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Oman at the Al Burami Oasis which divides the sister cites of Al Ain and Al Burami, Oman.

Dubai is a very car-oriented city and most visitors will choose to take taxis instead of the public transportation system. You can easily find them at the taxi queue or you just simple wave at one on the road, but this could be just difficult during rush hours. Also some of them even refuse short rides in jammed areas.

Signage is terrible in Dubai, and taxis often get lost. The best thing to do is navigate from well-known landmarks, such as hotels. GPS devices are often outdated. Street and road names can be very confusing, because the different transliterations from Arabic, you will notice that the slight variance in the spelling is very important.

You can find a lot of car rental agencies that will give you a vehicle with very cheap rates and only an International Driving Permit, if you don’t have an UAE one. Some agencies also offer a car hire service with drivers, an option much more comfortable for visitors, specially if the driver speaks English and knows the way around the city better than most taxi drivers.

Some of the best car rental companies are: Careem Car Services, that offers an easy booking system with a real-time tracking app and, if you need it, you can hire a car with child sit. DotTransfers also offers additional services like an executive transportation and limousine service with fair rates and good booking assistance. Ahdab International Luxury Transport is a highly experienced team of professionals but their rates tend to be quite expensive.

By Bus

The Government of Dubai operates a network of buses linking Dubai city with the capitals of the other six emirates of the UAE. The buses run under the name Emirates Express and operate from various bus terminals in Dubai.

  • To/from Abu Dhabi - Buses operate every 40 minutes from 06:20am from both Dubai's Al Ghubaibah bus station and Abu Dhabi's main bus station.
  • To/from Sharjah - Frequent buses run between Dubai and Sharjah. There are several different routes and buses depart from various bus stations in Dubai including Al Karama, Gold Souq, Baniyas Square, Jebel Ali and Al Ittihad Square.
  • To/from Al Ain - Buses operate every hour from both Dubai's Al Ghubaibah bus station to Al Ain, taking about 2 hours.
  • To/from Fujairah - The bus to Fujairah leaves from the Rashidiya Metro station and takes about 3 to 4 hours.

For bus travel from Saudi Arabia, SAPTCO offers daily bus services from cities such as Dammam and Riyadh.

There are daily connections between Dubai and Muscat, the capital of Oman, taking around 4 to 5 hours.

By Boat

Dubai is a trading hub for dhows from around the Indian Ocean. Travellers wanting to arrive in the city this way will probably need to make their own arrangements with the captain of the vessel. Most of the dhows sail to Iran; some also head to Yemen and Somalia. Emulating Michael Palin and heading to India on a dhow is difficult-to-impossible.

Dubai has an international cruise terminal at Port Rashid. During wintertime Costa Cruises has bases at least two of its cruise ships (Costa Luminosa, Cost Fortuna) at Dubai.

Valfajr Shipping Company runs a boat service that leaves Bandar Lengeh and Bandar Abbas in Iran supposedly every second day and docks in Port Rashid in Dubai, returning the following day. Crossing the Persian Gulf takes roughly 6 hours. A two-way first class ticket costs USD145 (1,450,000 Iranian rials) as of February 2010 and two-way economy class tickets cost USD122 (1,220,000 rials). The ticket includes Iranian-style lunch.

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Getting Around

By Taxi

Taxis ply the streets of Dubai and are relatively easy to spot with their cream bodies and coloured roofs. The easiest place to find them is at the taxi queue at one of the malls or outside a hotel. Waving down a taxi on the road is possible, but can be difficult during rush hours. At peak times (07:00-09:00 & 16:00-19:00 workdays, and Friday evenings) demand exceeds supply, and not only are taxis hard to find, but those who deign to pick you up may demand crazy off-meter fares or refuse short rides in congested areas entirely. If you accept an off-meter quote, ensure that the driver clearly says 'Dirhams' as occasionally the word metamorphoses into 'Dollars' when you reach your destination. Also, the drivers of Dubai Taxi Corporation go through their shift change between 16:00-18:00 daily and it can be more difficult to find taxis during this time. The standard of driving in Dubai ranges from poor to wild - taxis are some of the worst on the roads. Taxi drivers are pretty good at knowing where the main shopping malls and hotels are, however less well known places will mean the driver calling his brother-in-law to get directions, whilst he drives around in circles on your time - hence it is a good idea to have a rough idea of where you are heading or what a nearby landmark is.

Taxis are metered at 1.82 dirham/km during the day and 1.82 dirham/km at night, so no haggling is necessary. The rates of all taxi companies — Dubai Transport, National, Cars, Metro, and Arabian — are identical, so just take the first one that comes along. Street pickups attract a standing charge of 5 dirham during the day and 5.50 dirham at night (22:00-06:00). From the airport, there is a standing charge of 25 dirham; there is a surcharge of 20 dirham for going to Sharjah. A minimum total fare of 12 dirham applies. Taxis are exempt from the Salik road toll charges.

Beware of unmarked hotel taxis and limousines though: while some of these are metered, they are not tied to the official rates, and can be much more expensive. One way to spot whether a taxi is official or not is to look for a meter: no meter, don't get in.

If you can't find one otherwise, you can attempt to call Dubai Taxi on 04-2080808 (each franchise has its own booking number but one central system), there's a surcharge of 3 dirham to book. The booking system was notorious for its unreliability but with a significantly increased taxi fleet, many taxis now deliberately wait in unofficial holding areas waiting for bookings. As a result, on a good day it can be possible to book a taxi and have it arrive within less than five minutes. If you absolutely have to get somewhere at a certain time (say, the airport or a meeting), it's still best to book a hotel taxi in advance, and get their estimate of how bad the traffic will be.

Women should travel in the back of the taxi as some drivers see it as a sexual invitation if you get in the front.

Taxi drivers are usually friendly, but may have a different ideas on hygiene.

You can also use Careem or Uber services for moving in Dubai.

By Car

There are a countless number of Rent-A-Cars that will provide a mode of transportation for very cheap rates and very little paperwork. An International Driving Permit is not necessarily required, but hire companies may not rent a car without one.

Some agencies will hire out cars complete with drivers. Visitors taking advantage of this option will need to make certain that their driver knows his way around as many do not.

When driving on the main roads, such as Sheikh Zayed road, the junction numbers are not in logical order. Junction 13 is just after Junction 18 and are rarely as shown on the maps. Road names can also be very confusing with slight differences in spelling (due to different transliterations from Arabic) being very important. The construction work that is taking place throughout and around Dubai can make finding your destination a challenge. Temporary road layouts change with alarming regularity and temporary signs can be misleading or non existent. As GPS maps are not up to date (and usually not anyway available to rent with hire cars), you will be very well off with a printed map (you can get an excellent one in Virgin stores, for example. There is a Virgin Megastore on the top floor of City Center).

Driving during morning and afternoon peak hours is not recommended, as traffic slows to a standstill and even a simple trip across a bridge can take up to 45 minutes. There is also a scarcity of parking spaces in many parts of the city.

With such a mixture of nationalities residing in the city, driving styles are mixed to say the least. Both dangerous and experienced driving will be witnessed or experienced frequently. Dubai has one of the highest per capita road death rates in the world. There is zero tolerance for alcohol and driving with stiff penalties meted out including jail and deportation.

See Salik for information about tolls on certain routes in Dubai. If you rent a car, usually a Salik tag will be provided by the car hire company and you will be charged separately (normally 5 dirham a gate) when returning the car.

By Public Transport

A day pass valid for unlimited rides on the metro, tram and buses costs Dh22, while the Nol Silver stored-value card costs Dh20 (including AED14 worth of balance) and gives a 10% discount on both metro and bus fares. Both are available at metro stations and major bus stations. The Silver card is useful for public transport users who stay in Dubai for more than a day. Check out at the end of your trip (this includes buses).

More buses now ply the city than in the 90's but information on the bus routes is not easily available to the new visitor and bystanders on the road do not help with queries.

On the 9th of September 2009, the Dubai Metro started operations. It is a fully automatic system, the waiting platforms are airconditioned and there are special VIP areas as well. The first line to be opened was the Red Line, the Green Line is still under construction and there are a few more lines planned as well. The Green Line will start operations in June 2010 if all goes well. After this completion, it will be the longest fully automatic metro network in the world (current is in Vancouver). The Red Line runs from Jebel Ali Port, the American University in Dubai, through the city centre to Al Rashidiya. The Green Line will run from Festival City, through the city centre, Dubai International Airport Terminal 2 and the Airport Free Zone. The Purple and Blue Line will form a major transport connection between the current airport and the new Al Maktoum International Airport, expected to be in operation from June 2010 onwards. Both lines will be in operation from 2012 onwards and a Yellow Line was announced in 2008, but has no deadline of operation yet. For an overview, see the Dubai Metro Map.

The latest of Dubai's modern transportation system is the Dubai Tram, which opened on November 12, 2014. It provides commuters a comfortable transit service around the prime business and leisure districts of Dubai. The Dubai Tram operates for 19 hours daily running for 14.5 kilometers along Al Sufouh Road. It passes around the vibrant Dubai Marina where passengers are treated to breathtaking sights of towering skyscrapers and luxury yachts, and then travels down Jumeirah passing by the iconic Burj Al Arab.

The Dubai Tram connects with the Dubai Metro at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers and DAMAC stations, and links with the monorail of Palm Jumeirah. Outside of Europe, the Dubai Tram is the first tram system that uses the state-of-the-art ground cable system which eliminates the unsightly and dangerous overhead cables.

By Boat

An easier way of crossing the Dubai Creek is by abra, essentially a small ferry. Abra stations are located along the Creek on both the Bur Dubai and Deira sides, and the system of filling the boats is remarkably efficient. The cross-river trip costs 1 AED per passenger, payable to the driver after the boat has left the station, and affords a very picturesque view of the city. Abras set off very regularly, and the service is available round-the-clock. The Waterbus is another option for tousists who want to go by boat but avoid the abra crowd (or the heat). It is a part of Dubai's public transport system. The waterbus also features a 'tourist route' round trip. While this is convenient, it can get quite expensive (AED 50 for an adult, AED 25 for a child).

The Creek is also the home of many boats offering more comfortable (and correspondingly more expensive) tours, often in boats designed to resemble dhows. Prices tend to be higher, particularly for dinner cruises with on-board entertainment.

By Foot

Some areas are easily navigated on foot, but mind the heat in summer, when it's better to stick to short distances and use public transport and taxis as well.

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Eat

Shawarma is the most available food item on almost all streets (and cheap) in Dubai. It is the Arabic equivalent of the burger. It is meat that has been cooked on a skewer and then cut into thin strips and placed into a kuhbus (pita) bread with vegetables and dressing. It costs about 5 AED for either the plain-jane variety or the more exotic Lebanese and Iranian varieties. The shawarma sold by Indian restaurants are arguably the cheapest.

Another local snack is fala-fil (felafel, falafel), which is as cheap as shawarma.

Most of the American fast food chains have set up shop, including KFC, Chillis, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, and McDonalds. The beauty of the food in Dubai is that you will probably find cuisine for every taste. All food is halal.

Dubai has a big selection of budget Indian food. Dosa, vada, idlee, samosa, chapaati/roti, with generous servings of sabji (cooked vegetable stew) are available at throwaway prices, typically less than 10 AED per course. The more expensive stuff costs up to USD 5. Bur Dubai (particularly Meena Bazaar area) and Karama are the places that abound in these restaurants. Most of them are open from 7:00am till 10:00pm or 11:00pm throughout the week.

Pork is eaten here mostly by non-Muslim Filipinos and Europeans. Pork sections exclusive for non-Muslims are found in Spinneys (numerous branches, including ones in Jumeirah and Dubai Marina), Al Maya Lal's (generally caters to Filipinos; there's a branch in Satwa) New Westzone Supermarket (has a branch in Satwa that's bigger than nearby rival Al Maya Lal's).

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Drink

Dubai has several laws regarding alcohol which travelers should be aware of:

  • Alcohol is available only at licensed premises, usually attached to hotels (most nightclubs and bars are in or attached to hotels, though they may have separate entrances).
  • Alcohol is not sold on religious holidays, nor during daylight hours in Ramadan (even to non-Muslims).
  • It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places, and there is a zero-tolerance policy on drunk driving. Anyone involved in a collision found with alcohol in their blood will usually get a month's jail sentence and fine.
  • Alcohol can be bought only for home consumption at certain outlets in Dubai, and an alcohol license is required. Supermarkets only stock non-alcoholic beers. Even food items containing alcohol are not sold in supermarkets.

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Sleep

  • Dubai Youth Hostel, 39 Al Nahda Rd (next to Lulu Hyper Market), ☎ +971 4 2988151 (reservation), +971 4 2988161 (reception), fax: +971 4 2988141, e-mail: uaeyha@emerites.net.ae. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. Reception 24/7. Pool, football field, chill-out garden, A/C in the room, small bar fridge. It's located next to a mosque so morning prayers may wake you. Stadium metro station and bus stop just 100 m from hostel, Lulu Hyper Market shopping center and supermarket nearby. Free safety deposit boxes (hang on to your key as they have stiff $200 replacement fee). Clean rooms but unhelpful staff. You can walk there from Terminal 2. When you get out walk straight along 16th St to the end. It takes around 10 min. From terminal 1 or 3 you can take the metro to Union and transfer to Green Line (just take a train on the other side of the platform) to Stadium station (zone 1 fare, 2 AED). A taxi from terminal 1 or 3 costs around 40 AED. It is a branch of the UAE YHA, and only hostel in Dubai; thus booked up weeks ahead. WiFi cost extra 10 AED. Dorm from 100 AED or US$27, breakfast included.
  • Dar Al Sondos Hotel Apartments by Le Meridien is part of the Starwood properties in Dubai. Located on Rolla street in Bur Dubai, the apartments are lovely self-contained units with a kitchenette, cable TV, IDD facilities and a lovely bathroom. Prices are from AED 300 - 500 per night (80 - 140 US dollar) for an apartment for two. A great bargain in the expensive city.
  • Avari Dubai Hotel, near Clock Tower roundabout, ☎ +971 4 295 6666, fax: +971 2 295 9359, e-mail: reservation@avari-dubai.ae. Rooms from US$152.
  • Avenue Hotel, Al Riqqa St, ☎ +971 4 297-0808, fax: +971 4 297-1112, e-mail: reservations@avenuehoteldubai.com. Rooms start at 350 dhs, including breakfast.
  • Hyatt Regency Dubai, Deira Corniche, ☎ +971 4 209 1234, e-mail: reservations.hyattregencydubai@hyattintl.com. 414 rooms and suites with views of the Persian Gulf. Host to Al Dawaar, Dubai's only revolving restaurant.
  • InterContinental Dubai Festival City (from Sheikh Zayed Rd take the Garhoud Bridge and exit to Umm Ramool Rd on to Al Rebat St and exit right to Dubai Festival City), ☎ +971 4 7011111, e-mail: reservations@ichdfc.ae. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12PM. 498 rooms over 36 floors with views of the Dubai Creek and a 3800 sq m event centre. Attached to the Festival Centre shopping mall.
  • InterContinental Residence Suites Dubai Festival City (from Sheikh Zayed Rd take the Garhoud Bridge and exit to Umm Ramool Rd on to Al Rebat St and exit right to Dubai Festival City), ☎ +971 4 7013333, e-mail: residencesuites@ichdfc.ae. Offers one, two and three-bedroom serviced suites with a choice between Creek and city views. Available for short or long stays.
  • Park Hyatt Dubai, ☎ +971 4 602 1234, e-mail: dubai.park@hyattintl.com. Waterfront location next to the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.
  • Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, Bani Yas Road - 476 Dubai, ☎ +971 4 222 7171, fax: +971 4 228 4777, e-mail: Info.Deiracreek.Dubai@Radissonblu.com.
  • Taj Palace Hotel Dubai, PO Box 42211 (between Al Rigga and Al Maktoum Streets, Deira), ☎ +971 4 223-2222, e-mail: tphreservations.dxb@tajhotels.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 3PM. Near Naif Square Bazaar.
  • Ascot Hotel, Khalid bin Al Waleed Rd, ☎ +971 4 3520900, fax: +971 4 3529819, e-mail: info@ascothoteldubai.com. Has Russian, Irish and Thai themed restaurants. Rooms from AED $180.
  • Highland Hotel, Khalid bin Al Waleed Rd, ☎ +971 4 3939773, fax: +971 4 3937399, e-mail: highl11@emirates.net.ae. US$108.
  • Grand Hyatt Dubai (by Dubai Creek), ☎ +971 4 317 1234, e-mail: reservations.grandhyattdubai@hyattintl.com. Check-in: 12:00, check-out: 15:00. A resort style hotel with extensive conference facilities and 13 restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world.
  • Raffles Dubai, Sheikh Rashid Rd (next to Wafi Shopping Centres), ☎ +971 4 324-8888, e-mail: bookus.dubai@raffles.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 3PM. Attached to Wafi Mall. Egyptian themed.
  • The Address Downtown Dubai, Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai, ☎ +971 4 436 8888, e-mail: downtowndubai@theaddress.com. One of the many luxury hotels next to Burj Khalifa with many good fine dining restaurants and bars.
  • Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort, East Crescent, ☎ +971 4 567 8888, e-mail: dubaipalm@anantara.com. Houses the only over water villas in the UAE. Starting from $291.
  • Atlantis, the Palm, Crescent Rd, The Palm, ☎ +971 4 426-1000, e-mail: reservations@atantisthepalm.com. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Hotel on the Palm. Connects to mainland by monorail.
  • Burj al-Arab, ☎ +971 4 3017777, fax: +971 4 3017000. It claims to be the first seven-star hotel in the world (it's actually a five-star deluxe hotel), this striking sail-shaped building is a symbol of Dubai and one of most opulent hotels in the world. Over USD 1800 per night after taxes/fees.
  • Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Rd, ☎ +971 4 332-5555, e-mail: dbireservations@fairmont.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 12:00. Closest 5-star hotel to the World Trade Centre.
  • Fraser Suites Dubai, Sidra Tower, Sheikh Zayed Road, PO Box 502306, Media City, ☎ +971 4 440 1400, e-mail: reservations.dubai@frasershospitality.com. Serviced apartments & accommodation in Sidra Tower.
  • Grand Millennium Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Rd, ☎ +971 4 429 9999, e-mail: reservations@grandmill-dubai.com. Check-in: 15:00, check-out: 15:00.
  • Hilton Dubai Jumeirah Resort, 1 Jumeirah Beach Rd (Exit 32 from Sheikh Zayed Rd), ☎ +971 4399 1111, e-mail: reservations.dubai@hilton.com. Resort with a private beach. The hotel is only 10 floors which is dwarfed by nearby high-rises, but the location is lively and the pool/garden area is lush.
  • Holiday Inn Dubai - Al Barsha, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha 1, P.O.Box 115443, Dubai, ☎ +971 4 323 4333, e-mail: info@hialbarsha.com. 310 elegant rooms. a choice of 3 bars, choice of 2 fine dining restaurants and 6-storey high atrium and piano lounge. Gymnasium, roof top pool, massage rooms, sauna and spa.
  • Jumeirah Beach Hotel, ☎ +971 4 348-0000, fax: +971 4 3482273, e-mail: JBHinfo@jumeirah.com. Next to Burj al-Arab and run by the same company. Rooms from USD700.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

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Work

While Dubai tries to promote itself as the business and entertainment capital of the world, the government has a complex and at times frustrating work permit procedure that one should not attempt on their own unless they have prior experience. Therefore, it is best to go through official channels when looking for work in Dubai as spot inspections are frequent and if found working illegally, both the employee and the employer will be subject to fines and even deportation.

All the necessary forms and documents are written and processed in Arabic and is best left to a professional or a "P.R.O" to handle your paperwork.

There are rules about changing jobs, which apply to nationalities. They have to complete their contract period, which is 2 years. If the employee breaks his/her contract before the completion of 2 years, the new employer has to offer them salary above 5,000 dirham in-order to avoid ban. Otherwise the employee has to wait until the completion of the left over months of his cancelled contract. If the employer breaks the contracts, then the employee can join another employer immediately irrespective of nationality, religion, cast or creed.

With the price of rentals ever soaring in Dubai and neighbouring Emirates, it is a good idea to discuss a housing allowance when negotiating a pay package.

Despite all of this, there are a few upsides, Dubai companies are generous with holidays averaging almost 39 days a year of paid vacation (including public holidays), a round trip ticket home once a year (depending on your contract) and the UAE government does not impose income taxes on foreign workers. Instead it imposes fees and charges on almost everything, so the cost of living in the UAE, and especially Dubai, is quite high.

Recruitment fraud is quite pervasive in this part of the world. Read your employment contract carefully before signing and do not pay any fees to recruitment agencies, as they are usually paid by the companies. Your passport is your personal property and cannot be withheld by the employer unless you are in a position of trust or are handling large sums of money.

Dubai has been accused by numerous organizations of effectively enslaving workers from Southeast Asia by allowing companies to take their passports without returning them and allowing salaries to go unpaid. Foreign workers, Western and otherwise, have no rights that will be upheld by the courts, and so they have no recourse should they feel their rights violated. Potential workers should be aware of this when considering work in Dubai.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafés are fairly common in the larger cities, and web censorship is at times odd, but rarely obtrusive. Free wifi is rolled out over the country, starting with Abu Dhabi en Dubai in 2014 and 2015, and many places like hotels, restaurants, bars and coffee places have free wifi as well.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code is 971. Emergency numbers include 999 (police), 998 (ambulance) and 997 (fire), though the general 112 number can be used as well.

The mobile phone network uses the GSM technology and use is widespread. The format for dialing is: +971-#-### ####, where the first "#" designates the area code. Key area codes include Dubai (4), Sharjah (6) and Abu Dhabi (2). Calls to mobile phones use the operator's area codes: (50/56) for Etisalat and (55) for Du.

If you bring your own cellphone, be sure to switch off roaming to avoid high costs, or otherwise purchase a local SIM card from Du or Etisalat. You need your passport with valid visa to purchase the SIM card.

You can also make phone calls with an application such as WhatsApp using the Wifi to avoid roaming costs.

Post

Emirates Post provides services in the country. It's fairly affordable and reliable and many post offices keep long hours from Saturday to Thursday, usually from around 7:30am to 8:00pm or even a little later. Most are closed on Fridays, though some are open for a few hours. If you want to send packages internationally, you might want to use companies like DHL, TNT, FedEx or UPS, as they are fast, reliable and competitively priced. A good alternative is the country's own Empost UAE.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: 25.27087
  • Longitude: 55.309212

Accommodation in Dubai

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Dubai searchable right here on Travellerspoint.

Contributors

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Dubai Travel Helpers

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