Dubai makes for the perfect holiday destination break irrespective of whether you are travelling with friends, family, or as a couple. Here’s a detailed guide to travelling in Dubai – we’ve packed it with all the useful information you are going to need to visit Dubai at the moment.
Travelling to Dubai post pandemic
Of course travelling has changed post pandemic. There are many new rules in place but if you go prepared it is pretty straightforward. Just make sure you carry your vaccination certificates when you travel.
You can opt for visa on arrival in case you have UK/EU residence or a valid US visa for a fee for AED120. In case you go for a visa on arrival, do carry print outs of your accommodation proof and return flight too.
Where To Stay In Dubai
There is no dearth of places to stay in Dubai ranging from apartments to ultra-luxurious hotels. On this trip, we stayed at the luxurious Habtoor Palace LXR Hotel, around a 10 minute drive from Dubai Mall (and right by the Dubai canal). This hotel, true to it’s name, is truly like a palace with ornate chandeliers and beautiful bathrooms, made entirely out of marble. Rooms are well appointed & the food excellent. The only drawback was that most rooms do not have a balcony, which one would expect from such a luxurious hotel. However the staff went over and above to make guests feel comfortable, so we would recommend it. For a more affordable yet luxurious alternative, you can also look at Park Regis.
If you’re staying for longer, travelling with kids, or you’re on a budget, we would recommend renting an apartment as we have done in the past. There are some beautiful apartments on offer – try to pick one in downtown Dubai, close to The Dubai Mall. That way you will be close to most of the main attractions and will spend less on cabs. We have tried Damac Distinction and Damac Mall street, opting for a spacious one bed apartment (with a kitchen and living room plus close proximity to Dubai mall and Burj Khalifa).
20 Things To Do In Dubai
Now that the logistics are out of the day, here are 20 Must Dos for your first time in Dubai. We suggest covering at least some of these 20 things that suit you & the people you are travelling with
1. Dine at Souk Al Bahar for the best views of Burj Khalifa
2.The iconic fountain show overlooking Burj Khalifa is usually the first stop for most tourists. It is free of cost and a nice place to kick start your trip to Dubai
3.Dubai Mall has incredible shopping, exhibits, & restaurants. You will find a staggering variety of high street & designer stores here. There are also lots of activities for kids such as ice skating. If you enjoy art or digital art, you should also visit an immersive exhibit in The Dubai Mall called Infinity Des Lumiéres. If you are going to Dubai in 2021, we would definitely recommend fitting in a visit to this digital art space between shopping & eating at the mall. Tickets for the exhibit cost AED 125 (INR 2500) and you can buy them on the spot
4. Jumeirah Beach Walk for a great view of Dubai’s famous skyline, especially at night.
5.Bluewaters Island at sunset for great views – hop on to the newly-launched Ain Dubai observation wheel – the highest in the world- for gorgeous views of Dubai
6.Spend a day on a trip to the sand dunes. You could book a day trip, go off-roading in the dunes, or if you have some time, you could also opt for overnight camping in the desert. The night skies are really pretty & the feeling of waking up in the desert is very special.
7.La Mer beach has lots of colourful street art, cafes, & a beach. Make sure you spend an evening watching the sunset there – the place comes alive at night, so stick around for dinner
8. Splurge on a scenic meal at a restaurant overlooking Dubai’s skyline. Some of the nicest ones include The Penthouse, Atmosphere, C’est La Vie, and Level 43 Sky Lounge. Most of them need prior booking and have a dress code, so do check before leaving.
9. If you love adventure, try indoor skiing in Dubai or Sky-diving over the Palm
10. Al Seef for a unique souk experience. This marketplace is reminiscent of traditional souks. Combine it with a boat ride in an abra. If you’re craving something a little different, we suggest spending an evening walking around quaint Al Seef market taking in the views of Dubai’s historic creek, strolling through the by-lanes of the colourful textile souk, and taking a ride in an Abra, a traditional boat. Because there aren’t many tourists in this area, you can take a private boat with your friends, for as little as 50 AED ($14). Go at sunset to make the most of this experience
11.Global Village, especially when it lights up in the evening
12. For a gorgeous sunset view of the Dubai skyline, head to Dubai Creek Harbour. There isn’t much else to do here, but a walk along the water whilst admiring the gorgeous sunset is an experience in itself.
13. Lounge at a beach- many hotels have private beaches or you could visit a popular public beach such as Kite Beach
14. Alserkal venue is a hip space for art galleries, cafés etc in an industrial compound
15. Deep dive Dubai, the deepest pool in the world. It makes for an incredible adventure
16. Watch sunrise from a hot air balloon ride over the desert – if you enjoy luxurious experiences, then try a hot-air balloon ride over the desert. It is a truly special experience in Dubai. We booked a package with Platinum Heritage Hot Air Balloons after a friend recommended them and had a great experience.We paid AED 1250 per person for a spot in a large balloon of 20 people. This included transfers from the hotel, the hot-air balloon experience, and breakfast at a desert camp. In case you are celebrating a special occasion, you can also arrange a private hot-air balloon ride as a couple or family at a premium. Expect a 4a.m. wake-up call 😉
17. Sample traditional karak tea at a hole-in-the-wall eatery
18. Food in Dubai deserves its own article because the city offers some incredible restaurants, no matter which cuisine you like. We have a whole list of some nice restaurants below but do try local specialities such as manakish, shawarma etc at small eateries. Some eateries that came highly recommended from our readers include Rawabi Al Sham and Duniya al shams for mouth-watering manakish and Arz Lebanon, Al Hallab, and Aroos Damascus for Arabic food.
19. No list of ours would be complete without suggesting some good cafes. There is no shortage of specialty coffee in Dubai but some nice places include Sum of Us, Coterra Roasters, Climbing goat roastery, Raw coffee company, and Cocoa room, which is also perfect for a laid-back breakfast
20. Visit Expo 2020 – If you are visiting Dubai before March 2021 make sure you visit Dubai Expo 2020. Explore the country pavilions, tech innovation, and everything else it has to offer. We made a short video about it. You can watch it here.
Day Trips From Dubai
If you have a couple of extra days in Dubai, then we would highly recommend renting a car for short day trips in UAE. Here are 4 places and experiences that make for ideal day trips from Dubai are:
1. A day trip to the scenic Hatta Dam
2. Watching sunrise at Jebel Al Rais
3. Zip line at Ras-Al-Khaimah
4. Drive down to Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi