Dubai – my best Travel Tips
Thoughts and opinions about Dubai. And my 11 ultimate travel tips to explore one of the most exciting cities in the world.
Dubai - my 11 travel tips
Dubai - Some critical thoughts – and things I like!
This place polarizes for sure. I agree – artificial islands, ice rinks and ski slopes in the desert do not help to reduce global warming. You can also argue about a tower of 822 m height. I have mixed feelings about Dubai but I also admit that I really like this place. Why? First of all because it is a melting pot. You find people from all over the world here, living more or less peacefully together. A cab driver from Bangladesh tells me that „they are doing a great job to attract the most talented people from all places“. And many workers who often don’t have the best working conditions but yet make more money than in their home countries. When asking a nice waitress from Uguanda how she likes the city the answer was „we are here for money“. Got it! – Secondly, I love modern architecture. And Dubai is pretty safe (well, maybe apart from the threats that are currently challenging the whole world). And it is clean. No chewing gums and graffitis in the stations (wish we could say the same about German train stations!). No drunk people in the streets. You can walk around at your ease (even at night) – unless you visit Dubai in the summer months which I would not recommend to do. Hotel rates may be low but is that a good reason to spend your vacation in a place with temperatures of over 40 degrees C in the shadow? The period from November to March is great for visiting the city. You can walk without sweating and hardly need air-condition – just perfect for me since I love to walk, walk, walk!
Ah – and women are well protected! They have their own sections in buses and trains. After all, the Emirates are an islamic country so you will see most of the local women in their long black abbayas (which they wear on top of their designer clothes), sometimes even with a „sheila“ (veil) - too bad in many cases because there are very beautiful women in this city...! And better don`t stare at them. A Russian (female) resident told me they may call the police right away if they feel offended. So guys, watch those beauties discreetly ;-)!
Getting around in Dubai
Travel in Dubai is easy. The transport system is great – and clean! Train stations look like UFOs to me (although the idea was rather a shell, reminding of Dubai`s origin as a base for pearl divers) – or something like that. Unreal. Just avoid rush hours if you don`t want to stand in the crowded skytrain. Or just pay a few more dirham for the 1st Class – very affordable! Cabs aren`t expensive either – just make sure to call one from a hotel or restaurant since it is difficult to stop them in the busy streets.
In Dubai it`s all about modern architecture, luxury hotels and shopping malls – almost. You will find a glimpse of traditional life in the neighbourhoods close to the Creek. As a cab driver said – the modern part of the city is mostly run by Americans and Europeans and well organized. The old part is authentic but also chaotic. Certainly a good reason to visit!
1) Where to stay in dubai?
If you want to explore the city and beaches are not your priority, consider one of the hotels on Sheikh Zayed Road, the main (and very busy street). The Dubai Marina is approx. 20 km away from the city and has become a second downtown area. Despite its tall buildings it feels more like a resort, mainly because of the proximity of beaches and the countless cafés and restaruants. - You will find a few hotel tips below.
2) Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountain
Definitely a must-see. Go there shortly before sunset but avoid Fridays and Saturdays. You may find the light show on the world`s tallest building a bit kitschy but that`s Dubai. Everything is XXL size and slightly overdone. Same goes for the illuminated Dubai Fountain – but not to miss! After the sound and light spectacle you may shop in the adjacent Dubai Mall (don`t get lost) – or have coffee (and keep in mind that most restaurants here do not serve alcohol) – or any kind of food you may think of. Remember – (Almost) everything is XXL size here.
Dubai has come up with another crazy adventure activity by putting up a temporary Zipline that goes right through the world-famous Dubai Fountains with the Burj Khalifa in the background. How cool/crazy is that?
3) Dubai Creek
This is where it all started. Dubai`s richness is not so much based on oil (there is more of that black gold in Abu Dhabi) but its long tradition as a trading place – due to the strategic location between the continents. Dive into the Arabian world. Listen to the muezzin`s call for prayer .Watch the old wooden dhows and don`t miss to take one of the swaying boats to visit the „souks“ on both sides of the creek.. Pashmina, gold and jewelry and the famous oriental spices are among the most demanded items offered by the smart salesmen. Shopping for all senses!
4) Al Fahidi Neighbourhood
Sort of an outdoor museum village – old houses rebuilt, tight alleys with galleries, cafés and museums – including one for coffee! Visit the Mawaheb studio with art created by individuals with special needs and have a coffee in the beautiful patio. Al Fahidi also houses two very special guesthouses – read more below.
5) The Lime Tree Café
Dubai is full of cafés. Great ones as well as Starbuck`s and Tim Horton`s. A real hotspot for coffeelovers (expats in particular) is the Lime Tree Café just next to the Grand Mosque (likewise worthwhile to see!). A flat building close to the sea with hearty snacks (much of the food is locally produced and organic!), delicious cakes and excellent coffee. Hang around on the terrace while enjoying a fresh smoothie – life is good!
6) Kite Beach
I went there on a Sunday in February. Hardly anyone on the long sandy beach. Pleasant temperatures. Turquoise water which invites for a refreshing swim (hardly any waves). The endless ocean on one side and the downtown skyline with Burj Khalifa in the backdrop – just a perfect day! And since it`s Dubai, the infrastructure is also great. Washrooms, showers, little kiosks and even a great jogging trail close by. Go for a run and admire the beautiful residences of wealthy locals. And have a cake at „Parfait“ on Jumeirah Road – that tastes sooooo good!
7) Burj Arab Hotel
From Kite Beach it is a rather short ride by cab or bus (comfortable!) to one of Dubai`s premier landmarks, the famous Burj Arab Hotel. Yes, you should see this building although busloads of tourists keep coming just to take pictures. Unless you have a huge travel budget just do the same – take a photo, have a drink and enjoy the views.
8) Box Park
Creativity at its best. A short cab ride from Sheikh Zayed Road away you will find a brand new area with box-like little buildings that house trendy cafés, restaurants and shops of all kinds. Many locals hanging around – certainly a good sign.
9) Citywalk Dubai
Just 2 km away from Box Park – another new area with a DIFFERENT shopping mall. Flat buildings in a complex with lakes, palm trees and cafés in the patios. A great alternative to the giant Dubai Mall. And from here you can take interesting pictures of the skyline, including Burj Khalifa. Tip for great coffee and delicious snacks: Il Caffè di Roma on Wasl Road.
10) Where to sleep in Dubai
Of course you can stay at the famous but likewise very expensive hotels such as the Burj Arab, the Madinat or the Armani. If you prefer to keep part of your travel budget for experiences I can recommend the following hotels and guesthouses:
Nassima Royal Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road
A nice first-class (but yet affordable) hotel in a tall building with a train station almost next door. Great service, a breakfast buffet that hardly leaves any desires open, a wonderful spa (I had a fantastic massage given by a Balinese guy), an infinity pool on the 7th floor and a great Italian restaurant and bar on the 49th floor – you can just imagine the wonderful view! More into exotif food? Then try the Indian restaurant on the 2nd floor. And treat yourself to a delicious cake in the little corner café just next to the lobby.
Orient Guest House in Al Fahidi
Totally different from all those Hiltons, Sheratons & Co. located in skyscrapers! Get a taste of old Dubai .A tiny little guesthouse in a traditional villa restored to its former glory with only 11 Arabian styled rooms. Sip a juice in the courtyard café and enjoy a traditional breakfast. A different face of Dubai!
A few words about this award-winning airline. It is definitely nice to have a private limousine service when you are travelling in First or Business Class. A very distinguished gentleman picked me up at home in a black limousine – oh my gosh, I felt so guilty about wearing vintage jeans ;-). Emirates is using the famous A380 for their route DUS-DXB. - It was nice to hear that the cabin crew came from 20 different countries to serve their clients in many languages. Another added value are the little “mini-bars” next to your seat in business class with anti-alcoholic drinks. The purser welcomes you with a handshake. All good but on my flight to Dubai there were some glitches. Staff simply forgot about my dessert and I was never offered coffee. Maybe the service is so personalized that they knew I wanted to reduce my intake of caffeine and sweets ;-)! Anyways. Their lounge in Dubai is simply stunning – and so are their headquarters with an own train station! Organic cocoa bites, fresh juices (celery, lime and mint) are served in the lounge which also houses COSTA coffeeshop– out of this world. HELLO TOMORROW!
(All photos taken by me except the ones I am on: http://www.lavradar.com
More Dubai? Here is my report from my third trip.