Dubai is often equated with scintillating luxury, glamour, and cutting-edge architecture, and for good reason. 1790 square meters of 24K gold leaves adorn the inner spaces of the Burj Al Arab, while 94 million cubic meters of sand went into the construction of the manmade Palm Islands. Everything is larger than life in the city of mega shopping festivals and numerous architectural milestones like the world’s tallest building, biggest indoor mall, largest machine-operated fountain, and many more. So if it’s a grand Dubai vacation you have in mind, here’s what you need to know.
Guide for a Dubai holiday
Dubai’s population is dominated by foreign expatriates and therefore, the city’s culture is very cosmopolitan. It is the commercial center of the United Arab Emirates, and observes weekly holidays on Fridays and Saturdays. The best time to visit Dubai is from December to March, when the climate is cooler. Between December and January, there are numerous New Year festivities and shopping bonanzas, but be prepared for hordes of tourists. Some nationalities do need a pre-approved visa to enter Dubai but with the provision of electronic visas, the process is quite hassle-free. Residents of many European countries and the USA are eligible for free visa on arrival. The local currency is AED or dirhams, and you can get your currency converted at various shops in malls and markets.
Dubai International Airport is the main airport in Dubai. You could also fly to nearby Sharjah International Airport and then take a taxi to Dubai. There are numerous duty-free stores, restaurants, lounges, and even a spa and health club at Dubai airport.
A taxi is the easiest way to get around Dubai. However, many places are also well-connected by the metro. A monorail runs from Palm Jumeirah to the Atlantis Hotel, and a tram runs between Dubai Marina and the Burj Al Arab. You could also rent a car and drive around on your own.
Dubai is home to some of the world’s best luxury hotels and the sky is the limit when it comes to splurging. Atlantis, The Palm is like a destination within itself, with over 1500 lavish suites, water parks, aquariums, and a breath-taking view of the Arabian Sea. Situated on the top floors of the dazzling Burj Khalifa, Armani Hotel is another top choice for luxury travelers in Dubai. The accommodations reflect Giorgio Armani’s penchant for minimalism and elegance. If it’s a spa resort you seek, One & Only The Palm would not disappoint, and for those who’d rather be closer to the dunes of Dubai, the magical Al Maha Desert Resort would be a dream come true. If traveling with children in tow, Kempinski Hotel & Residences Palm Jumeirah would be a good option, as it is home to a wonderful Kids Club.
Do you adore gold? Then Deira’s Gold Souq will dazzle you with its tonnes of gold jewelry displayed at 300 different shops. And then there’s the Mall of the Emirates, which is more than just a shopping destination. For the more adventurous, a desert safari complete with a rollercoaster ride across the dunes in a Range Rover, and solo or couple quad-biking in enclosed areas is highly recommended. The safaris are followed by a visit to a desert camp where you can watch the sunset, ride camels, and enjoy a barbeque dinner while belly dancers jive to Arabic music. One of the best ways to see Dubai by night is aboard a Dhow cruise ship, where you have food, drinks, and entertainment, along with the best views of Dubai’s landmarks lit up like stars. For families, the Wild Wadi Water Park is a wonderful destination, featuring a surfing wave machine.
The New Year fireworks at Burj Al Arab and Palm Jumeirah are breath-taking. The city also has many beautiful beaches such as Jumeirah Beach, Marina Beach, and Open Beach. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the whole city from the Burj Khalifa observatory, and dive into history at Dubai Museum at the 18th century Al Fahidi Fort in Old Dubai. At Atlantis aquarium, you could feed the fish or even go snorkeling to swimming among them. The Dubai Fountain is a must-see with its music and light shows lasting for 30 minutes. Jumeirah Mosque and the Dubai Spice Souq are also worth seeing. And for unique dolphin and seal shows, there’s no better place than the Dubai Dolphinarium.
Treat your better half to a drink with a stunning view at the 27th floor Skyview Bar at Burj Al Arab hotel, or feast on cuisines crafted by world-renowned chefs. Verre by Gordon Ramsay is Dubai’s top dining destination for fresh French cuisine. There are numerous Indian restaurants in Dubai as well, such as Antique Bazaar at Four Points Sheraton Hotel.
What to Pack
Get good walking shoes as well as stylish pairs for partying at night or dining and dancing aboard cruise ships. If planning to go on a desert excursion, pack boots that will keep the sand at bay. In Dubai City, you can wear what you like as long as it is not too revealing. Light clothing will help you beat the heat, and scarves are a must-have while visiting mosques. Bikinis and swimsuits are acceptable whiles at the beach or at your hotel’s pool. At the end of the day, it’s good to remember that Dubai is located in an Islamic country, and tourists must respect the local culture. Don’t forget to carry enough money (plastic or real) for all your shopping trips!