We love Dubai. Dubai is steeped in opulence and grandeur as well as history and it is so hard to believe that this was all a desert a few years back. The minute you step out of the airport, you can see exactly how luxurious this city is and there is no dearth of luxury cars and sky high buildings. Infact if you listen closely you can hear your bank balance plummet, but it will be totally worth it because Dubai will exceed your expectations. Almost all our friends have even asked us why do we keep going back to Dubai and the answer is pretty simple. Whenever you are looking for a 3-4 days break, Dubai is the perfect place to go. It has everything from beaches, to malls, to desert safari, to culture and good food from all over the world. In fact, there is so much to see and do here and they always keep building something new that every time we go, there is always something new to see and do. For those of you who don't know, I spent a year in Dubai while studying and later on I explored with Nitin, so here is the scoop on Dubai and everything you need to plan a trip.
Everything you need to know about Dubai:
Language: While Arabic is the national language in Dubai, most businesses are conducted in English and almost everyone speaks English. you will even find a lot of people here who speak Hindi.
Currency: The currency accepted is AED or Dirhams, but at most of the cafes and shopping malls, you can pay in your local currency if you are using a debit/credit card.
Climate: It gets scorching hot during the days in summer months, evenings are mostly pleasant at around 28 degrees. Winters however, is the best time to plan your trip to Dubai. November-March are the ideal months for planning a trip.
Dress Code: While it is totally okay to wear shorts and skirts, it is still advised to dress a little conservatively when stepping out of your hotel. There are a number of beaches and there is no need for burkinis, your regular swimwear would do. However, it is advised to cover up properly when you are not at the beach. Also, remember to always keep your head shoulders and legs covered whenever visiting a mosque. And because it gets so hot during the day and a little chilly at night, it is best to carry light layers.
Visa: Getting a Dubai Visa is pretty easy and usually takes about 3-4 days. We have tried various Visa services, the recent one being with makemytrip and it is hassle free and quick. You could also get a Transit Visa on Indian Passport but only for 4 days and if you have tickets prooving that you are heading somewhere else from Dubai.
Some other tips: If you are travelling to Dubai during the Ramadan month, please make sure that you do not disrespect anyone by eating or drinking in public. In malls also there are designated areas where you can eat/drink during ramadan, so make sure you eat only in those areas.
Getting around Dubai: The best way to get around Dubai is the cabs. They are fast and quite affordable. If you are looking for a cheaper alternative, Dubai Metro is also a great option as it connects all the major malls and it quite simple to understand unlike the Delhi Metro. You can get the NOL card at the airport itself. Buses are also an option but we do not suggest trying this out on a 3-4 day vacation, you will just end up wasting time.
Where to stay:
The best area to stay is Downtown Dubai. It is close to the Dubai mall and Burj Khalifa and most of the hotels have amazing views. We highly recommend Rove Downtown Hotel. It has an amazing view of burj khalifa from the pool, quite a modern design and is in close proximity to the Biggest mall in the world and is also quite affordable.
View from the Pool @Rove Downtown hotel If you are looking to splurge a little (considering you are in Dubai psst) definitely check out The Atlantis or one of the hotels on the Palm. They have everything from underwater suites to rooms overlooking the entire Dubai skyline. Atlantis even has an underwater aquarium and a waterpark. Staying in Deira is also a great option and there are a number of options here like IBIS, Novotel, Sheraton and it is again in close proximity to the Dubai mall and Souq area.
F OOD: Once you have the accommodation sorted out, Let's talk about food. While the options to choose from are limitless, Some of our recommendations are:
While the options to choose from are limitless, Some of our recommendations are:
Kulcha King: Located at 6 different locations in Dubai, Kulcha king is definitely our favourite when we are craving something that's filling and delicious. They serve a variety of kulchas, biryani and their Mango Lassi is amazing.
Sarvana Bhawan: This is our favourite South Indian restaurant EVER and we cannot recommend it enough. We simply cannot miss having their ghee roast masala dosas and buttermilk for lunch and even if you have to go out of your way to go to the restaurant, DO IT. It'll be worth it.
Arabian Tea House: Located in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Arabian tea house is one place that you shouldn't miss. With a white and blue theme going on, it teleports you to Greece before the authentic flavours of the food bring you right back to the Middle East. However, there is always a wait time because this place is mostly packed during the brunch and lunch hours.
Arabian Tea house
Al Safadi restaurant: Try Lebanese cuisine at Al safadi restaurant. They serve a variety of dishes and of course the best hummus and pita bread. They also have a variety of Manaakish to choose from. make sure you try zatar manaakish from here.
Apart from these, there are also a number of cool cafes to check out. Some of our favs are:
1.The Cheesecake Factory
2.Tania's Tea house
3. Sum of Us
4. Five Guys
Also, some dishes that are must try when you are in Dubai are:
Zatar maanakish: A flat bread loaded with a mix of Arabian herbs mixture topped with olive oil and even hummus.
Tabouleh: This dish at a good lebenese restaurant is perfect dish that goes with almost everything. A perfect salad to balance all the bread and olive oil you will otherwise be consuming.
Luqaimat: It is a famous Arabian dessert and the texture is very much like doughnuts, only dipped in sweet date sauce and topped with sesame seeds.
Gahwa: One of the most common drinks served in Dubai is Gahwa or Kahwa, which is an Arabian blend coffee served as a sign of hospitality. It is often served with dates.
Khameer: Khameer is a traditional Arabian date sweetened bread that can be enjoyed on its own or with Gahwa. You can also enjoy khameer sandwiches which are quite popular as well.
ACTIVITIES: Now, while you are Dubai, there are so many activities that you could do ranging from sky diving to desert safaris and here are the must do activities we highly recommend:
At the top Burj Khalifa: The views from the top of tallest building in the world are bound to be stunning, especially if you go at sunrise or sunset. At the top tickets cost you about 250 AED per person. However, if you don't want to spend the money, there are a number of rooftop bars which offer equally stunning views. Some of them are Level 43 sky lounge, Siddhartha Lounge by Buddha bar, Atelier M and Mercury Lounge.
Desert Safari: Desert safari is an absolute must whenever you are planning a trip to Dubai. there are a number of safari operators that pick you up from your hotel and the activities that are included are Dune bashing, Camel riding, Sand boarding, Henna, Belly dancing, Fire show. Shisha and a buffet dinner are also included. Prices may vary from operator to operator and could go from 40 AED to about 500 AED per person. So, find one that you like.
Desert safari: Dubai
Spend a day at a water Park: This is an absolute treat if you are visiting Dubai during the summer months and there are a number of water parks to choose from.
Go Skiing: Yes, you could go skiing if you want because in Dubai, everything is possible. There is ice skating as well. The Ski slope in Mall of emirates also has some penguins if that's something that you want to see.
Take an Abra Ride: Taking an abra ride is a no brainer. It costs only 2 AED per person on a RTA abra and it goes from Al fahidi to Deira souk area, where the gold and spice souks are, and also a number of other spots along the creek. If you want a more personal experience, you can always hire an abra all for yourself. It costs abouts 50 AED and take you along the creek and it is so amazing to see the old dubai and new dubai on either side of the creek. Souk Medinat also has abra rides and you get amazing views of the burj Al arab from here.
Shopping: Of course, Dubai isn't called a shopper's paradise for nothing. Especially if you are visiting during the Dubai Shopping festival in January, you get crazy deals on almost all the stores.
We haven't included sky diving or gyrocopter ride and zip lining in the must do activities for Dubai because we haven't tried any of them either. Not yet anyway, maybe next time! ????
Must Visit Places: Trust us when we tell you this. There are so many places to see in Dubai that even if you have a packed itinerary for 3-4 days, you will not be able to see it all.
Our top picks for places that you should definitely check out are:
1.Gold and Spice souks at Deira
2. Burj Khalifa and the fountain show at The Dubai Mall
3. La Mer Beach
4. Souk Medinat and Burj Al Arab public beach
5. Miracle Garden
6. Ibn Battuta Mall
7. The lost World at Atlantis Desert safari
8. JBR and Dubai Marina
If you are keen on going and are wondering what should your budget be like, read along.
Accommodation: AED 250- AED 400 per night: So, a major chunk of your budget will be your accommodation. And while there are a number of hotels for almost all the price ranges, there are a very few hostels in Dubai, so we do not recommend doing Dubai on a backpackers budget. However, if you are travelling in groups, you can always check out Airbnbs which are cheaper than Hotels. Having said that, There are a number of international hotel chains and some of them are quite affordable in fact. So you accommodation will range from AED 250 to AED 400 per night considering you want to stay in a nice area and a nice hotel. Now of course there is no upper limit here but that range should get you a good accommodation in the downtown area.
Food: Food is pretty cheap at most restaurants and cafes and again if you want a fine dine experience, you will have to splurge, but we are not taking that into consideration here. On an average, a meal should cost you anywhere between AED 15 to AED 100 depending on where you are eating. And if you want to go out drinking at one of the many rooftop lounges, you will get cocktails from AED 50- AED 120. Now Of course this is just to give you an idea.
Getting around: Metro is the cheapest option but cabs are quite affordable as well. A 10-15 minute cab ride will cost you about 20-25 AED, while the same journey in metro costs you about 5-7 AED per person. However, if you are looking to go across the creek, abra is your best bet, it's cheap and quite convenient as well.
Activities: This is always different for everyone, depending on what all you want to do, and how much you want to spend on an activity. Expect to pay anywhere between AED 50-AED 500 for a desert safari, AED 200-400 for a day at a water park, AED 250 for At the top Burj Khalifa.
That's about it for the Dubai Guide from our end, how ever if you are looking for a perfect itinerary for your Dubai trip, watch this space, it will be up in a few days.
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