United Arab Emirates
Dubai is unlike anywhere else on the planet. With its bold architecture and audacious style, the United Arab Emirates’ largest city is a distinct fusion of its Bedouin heritage and an ultramodern style all its own. Dubai doesn’t just live up to its reputation; it will completely exceed your expectations. Explore the glitz and glam, and then uncover the ancient traditions of this multifaceted city. Here's my ultimate Dubai travel guide!
What to Expect in Dubai
Language: While Arabic is the UAE’s official language, English is the language of business and is spoken by almost everyone in Dubai.
Currency: Dirham (Dhs). The exchange rate as of the time this article was written is Dhs 3.67 to USD 1.
Credit Cards and Banks: Cash is still king here. While most places accept credit cards, it’s best to always carry small change.
Climate: Summers are extremely hot in Dubai. Daytime temperatures are sometimes over 106 degrees while nights rarely fall below eighty-eight degrees. Winters are much more comfortable with temps between sixty and seventy-five degrees.
Good to Know: The minimum drinking age is twenty-one and there are areas where photography is prohibited, so watch out for signs.
Dress Code: It can get very hot in Dubai, but you should be aware of keeping your clothes more on the conservative side. Be sure to pack light layers with a few long-sleeves and full-length bottoms.
Getting Around in Dubai
From the Airport: Book a Marhaba Bronze “meet and greet” service to fast-track through the airport with zero hassle.
Public Transport: It’s forbidden to eat or drink in the metro (and that includes chewing gum). Cabins are reserved for different categories, like women only and gold class, so watch the signs. Sleeping is not allowed in stations.
Taxis: Book a cab by calling 04-2080808. Cabs have a minimum meter charge of Dhs 12. There’s also a Salik charge if you need to go through a toll road.
Boats: A lot of attractions in Dubai are on or near the water so there are water ferries and taxis that run at 10 A.M., 12 P.M. and 5:30 P.M. You can also take a ride on a traditional “Abra” boat down Dubai Creek or through Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
Bike: There are city paths throughout the city that make it easy to bike! You can rent a BYKY bike at a curbside station and return it when you’re done.
Read More: Emirates Business Class Flight from Dubai to Los Angeles
For top-notch service at a budget rate, look no further than the centrally-located ROVE Downtown Hotel. It’s a modern and chic hotel, perfect for exploring the city.
XVA Art Hotel
There is art at every turn in the XVA boutique hotel. Each guest room is unique and embodies modern Arabian flare.
Location: Al Fahidi Neighborhood
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa
Meaning “getaway to the sun” in Arabic, this five-star luxury desert resort is set amid the sand dunes outside of Dubai. It’s a true oasis!
Location: Endurance City
Four Seasons Jumeirah Beach
Jumeirah Beach has 237 beautiful rooms, all of which are filled with a variety of sophisticated facilities and restaurants to ensure a comfortable and luxurious stay. I’ve heard that breakfast here is incredible!
Location: Jumeirah 2
St. Regis Dubai, The Palm
The St. Regis Dubai is a spectacular and stunning hotel in the Palm Jumeirah area. You’ll find beautiful facilities, top-notch service, and luxury to no end.
Rixos The Palm Hotel & Suites
Standing proud on the impressive Palm Island is the Rixos The Palm Hotel. This Turkish five-star hotel chain has an unparalleled view.
Location: East Crescent
If you’re coming to Dubai for a quick visit or for business, Raffles is about 5 minutes from the airport and super convenient! Incredible hospitality, great breakfast, and overall just a lovely property.
Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf
There are four different hotels on the property that are all at different levels of luxury: from contemporary to opulent to big summer houses and even a boutique property, there’s something for everyone. You can ride the abras around the resort, get beach and pool access, and there are tons of fantastic restaurants.
Location: Next to the Palm Jumeirah
Al Maha Resort
If you’re looking to get out into the desert for a truly unique experience, Al Maha Resort is the place! Surrounded by sand dunes and wildlife, it’s a true city break. You might even see a gazelle or two.
Burj Al Arab
This is probably the most famous hotel in Dubai—and for good reason! It’s situated over the ocean and is a landmark along the shore. The interior is extremely grand and you’ll feel like royalty. Plus, the service is next level.
Location: Down the Street from the Palm Jumeirah
A local fixture, Al Safadi has some of the best Lebanese food I’ve ever had. Located near the Dusit Thani Hotel, it’s an easy detour.
My absolute favorite bunch is from the Jumeirah Al Qasr Resort.
Other Brunch Options: You can also grab some great grub at China Grill, Yalumba, and Traiteur.
For some great Persian food, the Shabestan in Radisson Deira is one of Dubai’s top hidden gems.
Like all things in Dubai, it’s a little bit pricey—but its got to be the best place for cocktails at sunset. So, for a night with that special someone, there’s nowhere like Pierchic. Oh, and it offers an over-the-water dining experience, specializing in seafood cuisine.
Located on the 27th floor of Burj Al Arab, you can sample a delicious degustation menu with wine pairings.
Feeling glam? Get to Zuma for a wonderful night out! Japanese family style dining with large dishes meant to share.
Al Mahara at Burj Al Arab
This is one of the coolest dining experiences to have in Dubai! Feel like you’re eating underwater as you sit at tables surrounded by a giant aquarium. Plus the seafood is delicious.
Shimmers at Madinat Jumeirah
This is one of the best-kept secrets in Dubai. Normally the beaches are only accessible by hotel guests, but if you are grabbing a drink at Shimmers, let security know and you can just walk up to grab a table right on the beach!
Cé La Vi
Come here for the food but stay for the pool! If you have a meal at Cé La Vi at Address Sky View, you can use the pool during the day…and it’s got quite the view! As for the food, they dish up incredible contemporary Asian cuisine.
Saya Cafe is an Instagrammer’s dream! The large pink café is super photographable and there’s a new section in it that’s made to look 2D. You have to see it to believe it…because it truly looks like something out of a comic book!
Go to the Top of Burj Khalifa
Get an unforgettable view from the top of the world! You can’t visit Dubai without going to the planet’s tallest skyscraper.
Take in the Views
While going to the top of the Burj Khalifa is on every Dubai bucket list, you can also have a really cool view of the city and all the winding roads that loop through from the Shangri-La Hotel. Make a stop here either at sunrise or sunset!
Explore Old Deira
Dubai is so much more than it appears. Take a tour with Wander with Nada to peel back the layers of this dynamic city.
There is no better view than the one that you get when you are falling out of an airplane from 12,500 feet above the ground.
See another side of Dubai on a desert safari. Leave the bright city lights behind and see what Dubai used to look like not so long ago.
Note: While the temps are cooler during the evening and morning tours, winter is the best time for a safari.
Zip Line Over the Fountains
Get some selfies in front of Dubai’s beautiful fountains then fly by for a view from above. Generally this is closed for the summer but check the calendar before you go.
Scuba in the Dubai Mall Aquarium
The Dubai Mall is so much more than just a shopping center! Dive underwater and get up close and personal with the locals.
Take a Yacht Out at Sunset
Take a yacht out to watch the sunset over the city while you’re out on the water. Put on some music and soak in all the vibes!
Watch the Dubai Fountains
Plan to visit these striking fountains at least twice to get the daytime and nighttime view.
Snowboard at Ski Dubai
Why not try some indoor winter sports to get a break from the heat? It’s another fun way to enjoy the mall.
Visit Palm Jumeirah
The ultimate in opulence, the Palm Jumeirah is the best faux island you will ever visit.
Clubs are open from 10:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m. with prime time around 1:00 a.m. Be sure to dress to impress. Some bouncers can be selective and only the chicest heels and dresses will get you in.
Visit the Global Village
This large village is made up of so many different sections — each themed to country. Each place features food from around the world and there are shops to buy products from that area and a theme park, to boot!
Hit the Dunes
Looking for a bit of adventure? Rent a dune care to drive over the sand dunes in the desert and prepare yourself for an epic day!
Explore Madinat Jumeirah
Part of a 5-star resort, you can walk around, explore the souks, and there are gorgeous canals with boats floating about to ooh and awe over (it feels very much like Venice in the Middle East). While it is a resort, the area around it is made to walk around and soak in the Arabian-inspired architecture. I recommend going late in the afternoon or just before sunset and then grabbing a drink at Shimmers.
Visit the Dubai Creek Harbour Bridge
Depending on when you’re reading this—Dubai Creek Harbour is a brand-new development that is set to be bigger than the current Downtown Dubai. I went while it was still being developed, so things will definitely expand. Set right on the Creek and next to a wildlife sanctuary, this area is gorgeous and it’s also the place I found these stunning golden arches. At the moment, there’s nothing on the internet about it—it’s still a lot of dirt and only the waterfront is developed (our Uber driver actually hadn’t heard of it yet, either).
To get there, I put in the Pizza Hut Dubai Creek Harbour and you’ll be in the heart of the waterfront area. I look forward to visiting this place in the future when it’s more developed!
Relax at Drift Beach Dubai
Depending on where you’re staying, you might want to find a place with an epic pool or beach club. I loved the One&Only Pool at Drift Beach Dubai—it’s part of the One&Only Royal Mirage. It’s a gorgeous pool right next to the beach and you can choose between a lounger by the pool or beach. You’ll definitely want to book a lounger or a bed in advance, and it really is a fantastic deal for what you get. For 100 AED (about $28 USD), you can rent a lounger chair and it also includes a cocktail and fresh fruit. There’s also a beach restaurant and pool-side service.
If you’re looking to splurge a little more, for 500 AED (about $140 USD), you can rent a huge bed for one day, and get your choice of wine, fruit, or sparkling water. It’s a pretty good deal for such a luxurious property, plus it’s open after sunset.
Rent a Luxury Car
When in Dubai…why not treat yourself? If you like fancy cars, consider renting something like a Lamborghini for the day and driving it on all the straight roads through the desert!
If you’d prefer a Land Rover over a Lamborghini, you can rent vintage ones to cruise through the desert!
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