United Arab Emirates
Dubai is unlike any other city on the planet. With its bold architecture and over-the-top style, the United Arab Emirates’ largest city is a distinct fusion of its Bedouin heritage and an ultra-modern culture 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. You'll find all of my Dubai travel tips in the ultimate travel guide below!
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: The UAE’s currency is the Dirham (Dhs).
Credit Cards and Banks: Cash is still king here. While most places accept credit cards, it’s best to always carry small change.
Climate: Dubai is the desert! S0, 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 and be respectful to their rules and cultural observations.
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. Check out my guide on What to Pack for a Trip to a Conservative Country!
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, so keep that in mind.
Boats: A lot of attractions in Dubai are on or near the water so there are water ferries and taxis that run to and from 44 stops—you can find the water taxi routes here. You can schedule and purchase your water taxi tickets online or by calling this toll-free number: 8009090. You can also take a ride on a traditional wooden “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
Where to Stay in Dubai
The city of Dubai spans a long stretch of coast on the Persian Gulf, so there are many areas to stay. If you’re visiting for a short time, you can stay near the airport in Deira, or along Dubai Creek—the historic district of Al Fahidi is one of the more popular places to explore here. If you’re interested in luxury, modern properties, you’ll want to look for accommodations along the coast in Jumeirah and the Dubai Marina. Last but not least, The Palm Jumeirah, is an incredible, man-made island filled with ultra-luxe resorts. Here are some of my favorite hotels in Dubai!
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. Check out my experience here!
There is nature and art at every turn in the boutique XVA Art Hotel. Each guest room is unique and embodies a minimal, modern Arabian flare.
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! Read about my experience here.
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. Check out my experience at this dreamy hotel!
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!
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.
Standing proud on the impressive Palm Island is the Rixos The Palm Hotel. This all-inclusive, Turkish five-star hotel chain has unparalleled views of the Arabian Gulf and the skyline of Dubai. Check out my experience staying at the Rixos!
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 abra boats around the resort, get beach and pool access, and there are tons of fantastic restaurants.
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.
Where to Eat in Dubai
Just like their over-the-top cityscape and resorts, food experiences in Dubai are no different. There are so many amazing cafes and restaurants around the city! Because of the influx of immigrants from southern Asia, you can find everything from Middle Eastern to South Asian, East Asian, and Arabian cuisine. Plus, many Western influences. During my last visit, I was also surprised at the availability of plant-based or vegan options. Here are my picks for the top restaurants in Dubai!
A local fixture, Al Safadi has some of the best Lebanese food I’ve ever had. Since opening their first location in Old Dubai in 2000, they have grown to five locations across Dubai.
My absolute favorite bunch is from the Jumeirah Al Qasr Resort—it’s a splurge, but the food is amazing, the drinks keep coming and the live band puts it over the top.
For some great Iranian dishes, the Shabestan in Radisson Deira is one of Dubai’s top hidden gems. Come for the food, stay for the panoramic views and live Persian music!
Located on the 27th floor of Burj Al Arab, you’ll find a luxury French dining experience! With its stunning views, this is definitely the perfect setting for a romantic dinner. Reservations are a must.
Feeling glam? Get to Zuma for a wonderful night out! Japanese family-style dining with large dishes meant to share.
This is one of the coolest dining experiences to have in Dubai! Surrounded by a giant aquarium, you can find the ultimate, luxurious, fine dining experience.
Cé La ViAsian
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 Brasserie CafeCafe
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 book!
What to Do in Dubai
Dubai is like an adult playground! There is an adventure for literally anyone. Personally, when in Dubai, I focus on foodie experiences, explore the historic districts, visit the desert dunes, and relax on the beach. Here are more of the top things to do in Dubai!
Get an unforgettable view from the top of the world! You can’t visit Dubai without going to the planet’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.
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!
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!
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 go for an adventure. Winter is the best time for a safari, while the temps are cooler during the evening and morning tours. You can rent a dune car at a few different places around the city.
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.
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.
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!
The ultimate in opulence, the Palm Jumeirah is the best faux island you will ever visit.
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.
Plan to visit these striking fountains at least twice to get the daytime and nighttime view.
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!
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