Dubai is a place that I have always wanted to visit, for a long time its a place that to me I have seen as a majestic super city where the ridiculous luxury is the norm and its perfect weather all year round!
While planning a trip to South East Asia I decided to make the leap and add a little stopover into my itinerary to the UAE and see a bit of what Dubai had to offer. In this post I go into detail of some of the things you should see and do whilst visiting Dubai on a stopover as well as some useful information to help you get the best experience!
A bit of background..
Before what it is now, Dubai started as a tiny fishing village with less than a 1000 people inhabiting it, its main turning point was during the 60’s when it was discovered with be an area very rich in oil. The city has developed at a phenomenal rate and now over 3 million people comprising of Emirati’s and expats from all over the world call Dubai home!
For more information click here for VisitDubai’s post on the history of Dubai!
Useful information for visiting Dubai and the UAE.
- Its worth mentioning straight away that Dubai is not actually the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is, however Dubai is the most populous city in the UAE.
- Most nationalities from North America, Europe as well as Australia and New Zealand can obtain a free visa for a minimum of 30 days on arrival into the country. There is no visa paperwork to fill in, upon landing simply head to arrivals where the immigration official will take a photo of you and stamp your passport with an entry stamp. It is worth checking with your own travel advisory for up to date information on this as rules can change. For UK entry requirements click here
- UAE like most of the gulf region use the Arabic script, which as well as using a series of interlinking characters, is also read right to left. Luckily for most english speaking and reading people, nearly everything in Dubai is written and spoken in both Arabic and English. Most people that you as a tourist will meet in Dubai will speak a decent amount of English too.
- The currency of the UAE is the UAE dirham (with products and services priced as AED), the AED is available in most currency shops in other countries, however there is a lot of ATM’s around the city that you can get it from and in addition nearly everywhere I visited took card payments too!
- Although most do speak English a couple of Arabic phrases would not go a miss, some phrases as ‘As-salam alaykom’ (which means ‘peace be upon you’ but shorted to just ‘salam’) is very welcomed. In addition thank you is ‘shukraan lakum’ which again is often shorted to just ‘shukraan’ or thanks.
- With the UAE being a predominantly muslim country be mindful that certain acts that would normally be accepted back at home such as ‘PDA’s’ (personal displays of affection) can land you in bother with the authorities. Although the country is much less conservative that is neighbouring countries and alcohol is available in most bars and hotels, if you are found to be drunk and causing bother, you can also get in serious trouble.
Getting here and getting around.
To get to the UAE most visitors fly into the country, Emirates is the main airline operator to Dubai, with UK routes from Manchester, Glasgow and London to name a few. Etihad are also the main operator to Abu Dhabi. If you chose to fly into Abu Dhabi you can easily transfer by bus up to Dubai and the journey takes about 2 hours.
From Dubai International to the city there are a couple of options. There is a bus service, taxis are readily available and also Uber. I went with trusty Uber and it cost about 80AED (or around £16) for a 30 min journey.
Throughout my entire time in Dubai I used Uber to get around, which I admit was not necessarily the cheapest option, however for the short time I had in the city I found it the most convenient method of getting to all of the places I wanted to visit. From my personal experience of using Uber in the UAE, every place of interest had a dedicated Uber pickup point in that you needed to find before ordering a car. As for the service, every driver I had was very polite and on time, all were from either Pakistan or Bangladesh, all were driving clean SUV style vehicles that had AC. Some drivers were also very helpful with advice on things to see and do too!
Where to stay
During my stay in the city I chose to stay in the 4 star CityMax Bur Dubai hotel, which is located on Kuwait Street in the Mankhool area of the city. Although only a small hotel (in comparison to some of the others!) it was great for me and not very expensive at all, costing the equivalent of just £90 for 2 nights with breakfast.
The hotel had some great facilities, some I didn’t even get a chance to use because of my short time there, with a choice of 3 restaurants (two also double up as the breakfast room in the morning), a great sports bar, a pool and gym. Theres loads to keep you in the hotel too!
Its in a great location as well, its within reasonable walking distance to old Dubai, about 20 minutes to the Burj Khalifa and that area, and about 30 minutes to and from Dubai airport!
For more reviews and to book a stay at the CityMax Bur Dubai, click here
What to see and do..
There is so much to do in Dubai and while Dubai is certainly not a cheap destination to visit, you don’t need to have won the lottery to experience what this city has to offer! The following are a handful of the things that I visited on my stopover and all I would certainly recommend visiting, especially if like me it is your first time visiting.
Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall
Certainly not to be missed when in Dubai (mainly because you simply cannot miss it, as you can see pretty much see it from wherever you are!) the Burj Khalifa which sits at over 800 meters tall is tallest building in the world at the time of writing this post.
Completed in 2010 at at cost of over a billion USD, this super structure is a multi-use building, with various hotels and residences, shopping areas, restaurants and business areas throughout.
If you visit the tower you can head up to the 124th floor and head out onto the observation deck for a 360 degree lookout of the city. Basic tickets cost 149AED and can be booked up to 90 days in advance online which is what I did to avoid missing out! Click here for more details and to also book your ticket. Arrive early to the tower ahead of your chosen time as it can take a little while to find the entrance to the towers!
In addition to the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall sits around the bottom of the tower and is home to countless shops and restaurants. It also features some really nice outside restaurants in front of the Dubai Fountains, the largest fountains in the world!
Opened only a couple of years ago and 150 meters tall, the Dubai Frame is the largest frame in the world, its positioned in Zabeel Park and at an angle so you can see most the major landmarks of new Dubai on the south facing side as well as old Dubai on the north facing side!
For adults its cost 50AED to visit the top of the frame, if you go during the middle of the day you will find it rather quiet in comparison to early morning or sunset when more go for the perfect photo opportunity! You can also prebook your tickets online by clicking here
The Miracle Garden
Located quite a bit out of the main city, the Miracle Garden is the worlds largest natural flower garden! It has various different flower sculptures throughout the garden of different landmarks from around the world.
The main display that impressed me the most and also the thing that made me want to come and see the gardens was the full size Emirates A380 aircraft display!
As well as seeing the arrangements in the park, there are also a nice range of cafes and places to get some dinner, its also a great place to chill out for a couple of hours in the sun.
The Dubai Miracle Gardens came as a recommendation to myself from someone else who has visited Dubai in the past, not really being a fan of ‘themed parks’ I didn’t expect to enjoy the Gardens as much as I did, but I can strongly say that it is well worth visiting when in Dubai.
I obtained my ticket just on arrival and it costs just 55AED for adults, when planning my trip I couldn’t find anyway to buy my ticket in advance.
Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Museum
The Al Fahidi Fort is the oldest existing building in the whole of Dubai, built in 1787 the fort these days features the Dubai Museum within its walls and beneath it where you can see a full exhibited history of the area and how the people used to live.
Its well worth a visit, especially if you are in the Dubai Creek area anyway which it is just minutes away from. Tickets are at the entrance and are just 3AED!
Located in Old Dubai is Dubai Creek, a large creek that flows out into the Persian Gulf. Historical it was used as a trade route for ships to sail through. These days the creek area has been a great place for people to shop with its various souq’s. There are also many cafes and shisha places along the side of the river.
You can take a boat down the length of the creek or just directly cross to the opposite side, its cost just 1AED to cross to the other side.
Overall its excellent place to get a bit more of an authentic Arabic experience and catch a stunning sunset, just watch out for all the seagulls flying around!
While it was only a short stopover and I didn’t get chance to see absolutely everything that the city had, I certainly got a good impression of the city and would certainly consider visiting Dubai again on a longer trip in the future!
Have you been to Dubai? What are your thoughts of the place? let me know in the comments below!