Dubai - Sun, Sand, Skyscrapers
A towering oasis on the northern edge of the Arabian Peninsula and hugging the Persian Gulf, Dubai is an exemplary city known around the world for its rich heritage and warm hospitality. Often finding itself at the top of a list of places to visit, Dubai is visited by millions of leisure and business visitors every year. Fondly known as the “Playground of the Rich” and “Las Vegas of the Middle East” in traveling circles, Dubai has everything that one would want from a holiday destination - white sand beaches, sweeping desert dunes, historical city quarters, some of the world’s largest shopping malls, exhilarating theme parks, a plethora of outdoor and adventure sports, magnificent skyscrapers and much more.
Rich Cultural Heritage
With a history that goes back centuries, Dubai was established as a fishing village and eventually became famous for its pearls. The old quarters of the city that were settled along the Dubai Creek have been preserved wonderfully and retain a unique historic charm. The Bastakiya Quarters date back to the 1890s and century old houses with their wind towers will provide you a glimpse of life in historic Dubai when you visit this historic district of the city. On the other hand, the Dubai Museum is situated in the 18th century Al Fahidi Fort and allows you to experience Dubai’s heritage and rich culture under one roof. Other important cultural landmarks in Dubai include Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House from the 1890s, the Burj Nahar watch towers from 1870, Al Ahmadiya School and Heritage House from the late 19th century and the Grand Mosque.
With year-round sunshine, sandy beaches, the world’s biggest retail outlets, exhilarating theme parks and a host of outdoor and adventure sports; Dubai has something for everyone to enjoy. Where else can you spend your morning on the beach, your afternoon swimming with sharks and hitting the ski slopes, and your evening watching the sun set over the vast desert from the highest observation deck in the world and your nights in a Bedouin camp in the Arabian Desert?
Yes, the geography of Dubai is dominated by the massive desert that lies to its south, but, one shouldn’t forget the stunning Persian coast on which the city is situated and the distant Al Hajar Mountains that provide an easy escape for people in Dubai to beat the heat. While the waters of the gulf maintain themselves at a comfortable 28º C on average, temperatures in the mountains go down to well close to 0º C and have a documented history of snow in the winter as well. Dubai Creek, the ancient lifeline of the city, flows through the heart of the city in all its glory and forms a central part of the city’s culture even today.
The Emirati people represent only 30% of Dubai’s population while the remainder consists of people from all around the world. This global culture of Dubai manifests itself in the day-to-day life of Dubai - whether it’s the culinary scene, fashion, daily interactions and performance art. Though the fabric of Dubai’s culture is intertwined with Islam, the city warmly opens its arms to people from all walks of life, making the city a dynamically unique hotspot of global culture.
Why Visit Dubai
Once a small fishing village, Dubai has since grown into one of the world’s most luxurious destinations. Often referred to as the ‘Las Vegas of the Middle East’ and the ‘playground for the rich’, the city’s glitz and glamor lure with the promise to mesmerize and impress its visitors.
Magnificent skyscrapers, sweeping sand dunes, stunning beaches, top notch resorts, the world’s largest shopping mall and much more, Dubai has it all! Where else can you spend your day on the beach, your afternoon hitting the slopes, and your evening watching the sun set over the vast desert? While the city certainly offers plenty of fun and entertainment, a little preparation can go a long way when taking a trip to . In this Dubai travel guide, we will take a look at all the major attractions, landmarks and experiences that make Dubai one of the most coveted holiday destinations in the world. From travel tips and important logistics to top attractions and hacks on how to save money, here’s everything you need to know about making the most of your Dubai vacation.
Dubai Travel Restrictions
Can I travel to Dubai right now? Short answer - Yes. Long answer - there are a few things you should keep in mind before traveling to Dubai. Here's all about the travel restrictions in Dubai.
To plan your vacation better, check out our post-COVID guide to UAE
Top 10 Things To Do in Dubai
When we say there's something new that crops up in the city every week or so, we are not exaggerating! Dubai never ceases to surprise and has something to keep everyone of all ages occupied. While there are over 500+ things to do in Dubai, here are the top 10 attractions you cannot miss out on!
Before zipping your bag, make sure to have the right charging cables and brush up your Arabic! Most establishments in UAE accept credit/debit cards and ATMs are easily available, so don't load up on the cash.
Dubai Trip Planner
All you need before you book your tickets and zip your bag!
Weather in Dubai
While Dubai does not have all the four seasons in full swing, the weather borders around the worldly four seasons. You can check the weather here.
Dubai in Spring
Dubai is a desert city, so spring in its colourful bloom is hard to come by here. Yet, during the months of March and April, you can expect spring-like weather with lots of sunshine vieled with cool breeze. It is a great time to indulge in outdoor activities and enjoy the sea which is the perfect temperature for swimming.
Dubai in Summer
Summer is long and hot in Dubai and extends from June to August. The days are long with more than 13 hours of sunlight. Summer marks a slump in tourist influx, so if you're ready to brave the heat, you can experience the beauty of the city, minus crowds. That said, summer in Dubai is harsh, attributing to the desert climate and is not the most comfortable time to visit.
Dubai in Autumn
September and October can be likened to autumn in Dubai although unlike the rest of the world it is not characterized by colorful foliage, but a considerable dip in temperature after a rather harsh summer. Autumn is a great time to experience the outdoors before the winter chill sets in.
Dubai in Winter
Winter in Dubai stretches from November to February and is the perfect winter getaway for those who don’t like snow and cold temperatures! There's no better time to head to the desert and indulge in outdoor adventure activities. However, the sea can be less forgiving and is too cold for leisurely swimming. Winter also marks the high tourist season, so be prepared to stand in long queues and brave the crowds everywhere you go.
Regardless of when you visit Dubai, you can expect the weather to be warm. During winter (November through March), temperatures dip to their coolest, with daily highs ranging from the upper 70s to the low 80s. Naturally, this attractive weather lures the bulk of the city’s tourists, making winter Dubai’s peak season. You can count on crowded beaches during this time, but don’t let that deter you - Dubai has plenty of sand to accommodate its visitors. Beach goers should also note that rainy season runs from January to March. However, albeit random, showers are short-lived and are quickly replaced by the shining sun.
If you’re not a fan of the heat, it’s recommended you avoid visiting during Dubai’s hottest months. In July and August, temperatures hover in the 100s, often soaring as high as 110 degrees (44°C). Not only is it hot - it’s also extremely humid, which can make the weather even more uncomfortable. Rain is highly unlikely, but you can expect humidity levels to be around 90%. On the flip side, if heat doesn’t bother you, you can score some great discounts and also avoid the crowds with a visit during the summer.
Read our detailed blog on the best time to visit Dubai.
Daily Budget Dubai
Average Daily Budget: AED730
- Budget Traveler: AED 291
- Mid-Range Traveler: AED 720
- Luxury Traveler: AED 1916
Budget Your Trip here.
Getting a visa to Dubai is quite easy. There are three types of visas for tourists: Transit, Tourist and Visit Visa.
- Visit Visa – sponsored by relatives or friends residing in the UAE. This is available for 30 days or 90 days.
- Tourist Visa – Tourist can stay in UAE for upto 30 days. You also get tourist visas valid upto 15 days or 90 days.
- Transit Visa – Valid for 96 hours for 14 days from the date of issue given that (a) you have a valid passport and a confirmed booking to your third destination, or (b) must leave the UAE within 96 hours of arrival or 14 days after the visa has been issues, or (c) have a confirmed hotel reservation in UAE
Once you've finalised the type of visa you'd like, all you have to use is this nifty tool which lays out all the documents you need to submit to get your e-visa. After you have all the documents ready, simply head to the official website, upload your documents and you'll have your visa in your inbox within a week!
Sites like SkyScanner and Momondo are excellent at crawling the web for cheap airfare. If you prefer to book directly through an airline, Dubai is very well connected with two low budget airlines: Wizzair and FlyDubai. Both operate affordable flights. Alitalia, KLM, and Air France are great options for finding flights from Europe. Emirates is a great airline for those traveling from the US.
Detailed Dubai Itineraries
We've done all the hardwork for you! All you have to do is pick the number of days you'd like to visit Dubai for, and find a readymade Dubai itinerary, tailored to suit all age-groups!
How to Save Money in Dubai
Despite its reputation as one of the world’s most expensive destinations, there are actually numerous ways to cut costs while traveling through the UAE. From transport hacks to killer summer offers, here are our top 5 tips for saving money in Dubai.
1. Travel during summer
If you can withstand the heat, visiting Dubai in the summer promises discounts and ridiculously great summer offers. Dubai Parks and Resorts, an exciting labyrinth of theme parks, restaurants and shops, regularly come out with fantastic summer deals that nearly cut prices in half. You can also count on saving money at hotels.
2. Use the metro
Forget taxis and, instead, opt for the city’s metro. Cheap yet reliable, the city’s train system is perfect for getting around. The VIP and Gold Class trains even offer free wifi! Metro rides cost anywhere between AED 1.80 dirhams (roughly $0.50) to 6.50 dirhams (around $1.80) depending on trip length. If you plan on using public transport more than just once or twice, you can buy a Nol card which is also valid on Dubai’s buses and water taxis.
3. Hit up the free beaches
With over 40 km of coast, Dubai has plenty of beaches. However, most of them have been snagged by resorts and hotels who have since placed fees on entering. Luckily, there are quite a few beaches that are still completely free. Save money and head to the beautiful Kite Beach in Umm Suqeim. Popular with families, it boasts a boardwalk, a collection of excellent cafes, and a plethora of watersport services.
4. Shop like a local
In Dubai, it’s imperative to use your haggling skills. At Dubai Creek, you’ll find dozens of traditional shops selling everything from spices to pashminas. There are shops on both sides of the creek. To cross, take an abra (a small Arabic boat) for just 1 dirham.
5. Hop-on hop-off bus
See more and spend less with a hop-on hop-off bus. Not only does a ticket take care of all your transport concerns, it also includes two boat rides, three guided walking tours, a handful of exclusive shopping discounts and offers. Bounce between the city’s most popular attractions with either a 1-day or a 2-day pass.
Speaking about saving money, there are quite a few experiences in Dubai that won't cost you a dirham, but promises an experience of a lifetime! Check out our list of 14 absolutely free things to do in Dubai.
Adventure in Dubai
If one were to coin a place the adventure capital of Middle-East, it would undoubtedly be Dubai. From skydiving to parasailing and(indoor) skiing to to VR parks, there's plenty in Dubai for adventure enthusiasts.
Here are our top picks for the best adventure activities in Dubai.
Desert Safari & Dhow Cruises
Two Quintessential Experiences in Dubai
If you had to pick only two things to do in Dubai, one would be taking a dhow cruise and the other would be a desert safari experience. There are no two activities that define the culture of Dubai as much as these two unique, stellar experiences.
Make sure to squeeze in both these epic experiences into your itinerary for a true taste of Dubai!
Dubai Dhow Cruises
Cruising the waters of on a Dhow cruises in Dubai is a one-of-a-kind sightseeing and dining experiences. Sailing by prominent landmarks as you engage your tastebuds and enjoy a wonderful dinner is a memorable experience
Dhows are traditional wooden boats that were masterfully designed and built by the local fishing communities and used for navigating the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Today, these dhows have evolved from being small sailing boats to fine examples of luxury cruises. To visit Dubai and not go for a dhow cruise is almost blasphemous .
Read all about taking a Dhow Cruises in Dubai.
Dubai Desert Safari
Of all the wonders of Dubai, there’s nothing which defines it quite as much as the glorious desert does. From sand dunes to desert camps, authentic Arabian food to camel rides, from sandboaring to quad biking, there’s a lot to do in the Dubai desert!
Desert safaris take place in multiple locations around Dubai, and the range of experiences and activities in these safaris are second to none. You also have evening and morning safaris, each flaunting their own charm. With hundreds of desert safaris to choose from, selecting the right safari may get overwhelming.
Check out our in-depth Dubai Desert Safari Guide.
Live Entertainment in Dubai
Dubai's calendar is packed with concerts, entertainment events, opera shows and plenty of live entertainment year round. For the best of live entertainment in Dubai, here are the top 3 venues:
- Dubai Opera: Home to much more than just operatic productions, the Dubai Opera also stages concerts, plays, ballets, comedy and, occasionally, screenings of popular films accompanied by a live orchestra. Grab discounted Dubai Opera tickets and enjoy some world-class opera.
- La Perle: Dancers rising from the shadows of the stage, emerging from within smoky corners. Acrobats flying gracefully into the air, sheathed in glitter and colour. Golden orbs and whimsical lights, daring dives into swimming pools and impossible leaps from heart-stopping heights – La Perle Dubai brings you this, and much more, promising to leave you on the edge of your seat. Grab La Perle tickets on Headout and treat yourself to a multi-sensory delight!
- Cinema Akil, Alserkal Avenue: This is the Gulf's first arthouse cinema, bringing the best of the Middle East’s independent film industry, as well as cult classics and critically-acclaimed festival favourites. Cinema Akil aims to create awareness and interest in film and the cinematic arts and has held over 60 pop-up cinemas since 2014, attracting over 60,000 attendees in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
Bus Tours in Dubai
To explore a city in the quickest, yet most fun manner, bus tours are the way to go. Dubai's Hop On Hop Off Tours offer you the flexibility and independence of creating your own itinerary, along with the added advantage of a knowledgeable guide. Once aboard the open top double-decker sightseeing bus, you are free to take unlimited trips within the selected time frame. The multiple routes and stops offered helps you plan and pick the best available attractions.
Day Trips From Dubai
If you've already soaked the sun in Dubai's many beaches, taken a dhow cruise on the Dubai Creek and climbed atop the world's tallest building - the Burj Khalifa, it's maybe time to head out of the glitzy city and discover what the other emirates have to offer. From the glamourous capital city of Abu Dhabi to the green emerald pools of Hatta, there's a lot you can do if you wander outside the perimeter of Dubai. Here are our top 7 picks for the best day trips from Dubai.
Public Transportation in Dubai
The public transit system in Dubai - comprising of metro, monorails, buses, trams, abras, ferry, water taxi - are highly efficient and makes it super easy to get around the city with zero hassles. All the public transportation in the city is managed by the RTA. Thanks to the single management, you can pay for all of them using just one card - the NOL card. You can even pay for taxis using the NOL card now. Here's our detailed guide on everything you need to know about the NOL Card.
Hotels in Dubai
In a city as over the top as Dubai, narrowing down a list of the best hotels is no easy feat. From an underwater suite at Atlantis to a fashion lover’s dream vacation at the Armani Hotel, there's no dearth of hotels in Dubai. From a no-expenses-spared seaside palace to a secluded desert oasis, these hotels top our must-stay list.
Dining in Dubai
Wondering which all restaurants to squeeze into your itinerary? We've done the legwork. While it is practically impossible to get through all the culinary delights the city has to offer, here are some of the best restaurants in Dubai.
Shopping in Dubai
Dubai is often considered a Shoppers’ Mecca, with fashionistas and luxury-lovers who descend from all around the world, year round. From gold of the highest standards to designer labels, electronic gadgets and luxury items, you will find everything in Dubai. Spread through the city are shopping and retail destinations that have now become landmarks in Dubai. You'll find glitzy malls right next to traditional markets or souks where traders sell gold, spices, clothing, carpets and rugs.
Malls in Dubai are more than just an array of labels and shops. Presenting an air-conditioned heaven amidst the hot desert, people flock to the malls to beat the heat while they indulge in other activities such as dining, watching a movie or simply relaxing. Most malls in Dubai are home to popular restaurants, cinema and entertainment complexes and even indoor theme parks.
While shopping in Dubai year round is a delight, it's all the more special during the Dubai Shopping Festival which runs typically between December to February. During this period, all partnered brands run massive discounts on apparels , gold, cosmetics, watches, leather bags, home decor, gadgets and even spices!
Another favourite shopping destination for locals and tourists alike is Global Village. At this self proclaimed "largest tourism, leisure, shopping, and entertainment destination", you'll find thousands of unique and exotic products sourced from 50+ countries around the world. Honey from Yemen to Saffron from Iran, is authentic is what you're looking for -- head to Global Village Dubai.
Check out the most popular shopping destinations in Dubai - from record breaking malls to traditional souks, our shopping guide to Dubai is all you need.
Spas in Dubai
Dubai is home to some of the best spas in the world; soothing vibes and idyllic luxurious retreats perfect for basking, nourishing and pampering. From Traditional Arabian Baths to Turkish Hammams, Iyashi Domes and a host of other holistic therapies are sure to impress even the most frequent spa-goers. Get ready to be scrubbed, kneaded and pampered and come back with a refreshing glow and soothing mind. Here are the top 3 spas in the city:
- Talise Spa, Madinat Jumeirah
- Timeless Spa, Al Maha Desert Resort
- Amara Spa, Park Hyatt
Dubai For Honeymooners/Couples
Speaking of Spas, there are many other romantic things to do in Dubai. It's not surprise that most people head here for their honeymoon or a romantic getaway! Dubai is the perfect blend of modernity and tradition, so romantics will likely an interesting assortment of magical, romantic things to do. From floating in the sky around sunrise and soaking in views of endless golden dunes on a hot air balloon ride, to spending a day among flowers at the Miracle Gardne - Dubai is a romantic's haven.
PS: Dubai has an interesting collection of Outdoor Cinemas that are worth checking out.
Dubai With Kids
The options in Dubai for a family to enjoy an amazing vacation are endless. If you want some beach fun, then head over to Kite or Jumeirah Beach. If the kids want to splash around in a waterpark, then make your way to the Wild Wadi Waterpark or Yas Waterworld. How about taking your kids to the biggest aquarium in the world, the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo at Dubai Mall? Or if adventure is on your mind, then head out of the city for dune bashing and quad biking! Keeping kids entertained in Dubai is a piece of cake and you'll know why. Check out our complete guide to spending an epic time with your kids and family in Dubai.
Festivals in Dubai
Dubai has a year long calendar of festivals - some cultural, some religious, some patriotic, a few music festivals and so on. Here are the top recurring festivals in the Emirate that you should know of:
- Dubai International Jazz Festival: February - March
- Art Dubai: March - April
- Festival of Taste: April - May
- Dubai Summer Surprises: June - August
- UAE National Day Festival: December
- Dubai International Film Festival: TBA
- Dubai Shopping Festival: December - February
- Dubai World Cup: March
- Eid: August
- Al Gaffal Dhow Race: TBA
- Dubai International Boat Show: March
- Taste Of Dubai: March
- The Dubai Marathon: January
- Ramadan: April - May
Dubai Culture Tips
Many of Dubai’s residents choose to dress conservatively. But with that being said, the UAE is much more liberal than other areas in the Middle East. For the most part, people can dress as they like. However, when traveling in Dubai, be respectful and ensure your clothing is tasteful. Especially during summer, shorts and dresses will likely be the prefered type of clothing. This is totally acceptable, but just be sure your clothes are not see-through or too revealing.
Similar to North American culture, it is proper etiquette to tip for certain services. Below is a chart of the recommended tipping amounts.
- Hotels (Porters and room cleaners)
5 dirhams to 10 dirhams per day
15% of the bill for good service, 10% for decent service. It is nice to leave cash when possible to ensure the tip goes to the server.
- Taxis and Valets
5 dirhams to 10 dirhams
- Spa Staff
10% to 15%.
Holy Month of Ramadan
The city essentially shuts down for the holy month of Ramadan. The dates change each year, but it falls roughly around mid-May and lasts until mid-June. Restaurants close during the day in order to respect Muslims that are fasting, and it is illegal to eat, drink, or smoke in public during this period. In the evenings, the city comes to life and it’s a great thing to witness if you happen to be there during this time.