From the heart of the Arabian desert springs world-renowned shopping centers, iconic architecture, and an array of luxurious experiences unlike anywhere else on Earth – welcome to the futuristic and maximalist city of Dubai. As the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is a global hub for finance, shopping, and nightlife. You can book an adventure in the desert on a camel, wander through a traditional souk, or relax on one of many stunning beaches as you bask in the year-round sunshine. Whether you’re a first-time traveler or a seasoned globetrotter, Dubai is always a treat!
Best Time To visit
During the summer months in Dubai, temperatures can soar above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), making it too hot to spend much time outdoors. Many locals actually take summer vacations during this time of year to escape the heat. Keeping this in mind, it’s best to plan your visit in the winter months, from November to March.
What to expect
A bustling metropolis, Dubai offers a unique blend of modern and traditional cultures. This multicultural city has a population of around 3.5 million people representing 200 nationalities. In fact, the expat community outnumbers Dubai natives, so you can expect to hear a mixture of languages being spoken here.
Dubai is known for its incredible architecture and is home to iconic landmarks like the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa; 7 star Burj Al Arab; and the extravagant Atlantis hotel. You can visit all of these during your stay to gain a new perspective on the grandeur of Dubai.
Shopping is a popular pastime in Dubai – you’ll find the world’s largest mall here, which features an aquarium, ice rink, and cinema. There are also numerous open-air souks located throughout the city. Don’t miss the Gold Souk, where you’ll find more than 380 shops selling jewelry, precious gems, and gold. Visit during the Dubai Shopping Festival in January to take advantage of incredible designer deals.
While Dubai is known for its nightlife, it has also become a hub for wellness. Some of the most unique attractions include the hammam in the Assawan Spa & Health Club at the Burj Al Arab, underwater yoga at Atlantis, and swimming in the Aura Sky Pool. Or, if you are looking for a complete reset, book a week at The Retreat Palm Dubai for a detox cleanse.
The art scene in Dubai is also world-class, with countless galleries showcasing both local and international artwork. If you are an avid fan of art, schedule your visit to coincide with the international art fair, ArtDubai, which takes place in March. You’ll also find music, dance, theatre, and comedy performances throughout the city.
Things to know
Before you start packing for your trip to Dubai, it’s helpful to brush up on some of the practical points of your upcoming journey.
Language: The official language of Dubai is Arabic, although English is widely spoken. In most tourist areas, you should be able to get by with English alone.
Time Zone: Dubai is on Gulf Standard Time (GST), which is nine hours ahead of New York (EST) and four hours ahead of London (GMT).
Currency: The official currency in Dubai is the Dirham (AED). You can take out cash at banks, airports, and most large hotels, but it is best to consult your bank before you go to save on fees.
Credit Cards: Credit cards are widely accepted at many stores, restaurants, and hotels throughout Dubai. However, you might need cash to buy items in the souks.
Plugs & Voltage: Dubai electrical outlets use plug type G, which is the same as the UK.
Airports: The two main airports in Dubai are Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC). Most major international flights fly through DXB.
- Marhaba – Hello
- Shukran – Thank you
- Sabah el khair – Good morning
- Assalamu alaikum – Greetings
- Ma’a salama – Goodbye
Organic Groceries: You can find many organic items, including produce, at Dubai’s largest grocery chain, Spinneys, or you can visit an entirely organic store like Organic Foods & Café. If you’re looking to save money, head to the traditional markets and souks around town where you’ll find lots of fresh organic produce at lower prices than the supermarkets.
Vegetarian/Vegan: There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Dubai with locally-sourced healthy ingredients. A lot of Emeriti cuisine is inspired by Lebanese, Iranian and Indian dishes, which means you’ll be eating a lot of rice, chickpeas, and fragrant spices everywhere you go.
Safety: Dubai is a very safe city, partly because it is filled with tourists and partly because of the heavy police presence and strong intolerance for crime.
Culture/Etiquette: The official religion of the city is Islam, but you will find people from many different faiths living side by side peacefully in Dubai. Still, it is important to respect local customs and dress appropriately when not at your resort or hotel. Make sure to cover up shoulders and knees and never engage in public displays of affection or drinking in public places.
Opening hours: Dubai caters to tourists, with shops often staying open late on nights and weekends. The only exception is Friday morning when many stores are closed in observance of the Islamic holy day.
how to get around
Dubai is an incredibly modern and bustling city with advanced transport infrastructure. From their easy metro system to taxis and water taxis, you’ll have no problem traversing the city, with or without a Dubai tour guide.
Taxis: Taxis in Dubai are a great way to get around, plus they cost roughly the same as Uber. However, keep in mind that Dubai can have traffic during rush hour that you’ll want to avoid.
Metro: With its sleek design and air-conditioned comfort, Dubai’s metro system is one of the most efficient ways to explore the city. You’ll need to buy an NOL card the first time you ride, which you can load with enough money for one ride or your entire trip.
Tram: The tram in Dubai is a good option if you are going a short distance along the coastline, but it is very limited. You can use your same NOL card for the metro.
Water Taxis: Water taxis are another popular form of transportation in Dubai that offers a scenic way to explore the city from a different perspective. Water taxis can take you almost anywhere on the coast, including some of the man-made islands.
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