Dubai: the Las Vegas of the UAE!
Like its American friend, you will find the bright lights, the luxury hotels, and the grand architecture- all in the middle of the desert. The main difference between the two, however, is the atmosphere. With the nickname 'Sin City', gambling, clubbing, and drinking is very much part of the Vegas culture, and makes it a bustling, booming, buzzing city all of the time! While Dubai is also very busy, strict Islamic laws mean you will find a calmer and more conservative atmosphere with all different types of tourists.
As an expat living in Bahrain, Dubai had to be on my to-do list. With it being an hour away from Bahrain, and only around £100 for a flight, it was only right to go. Furthermore, with the weather being somewhat cool (32 degrees is pretty mild for the Middle East) and my mum being over from London for her first visit to see me, I took this as the perfect opportunity to visit the city.
Here are some things you may like to know if you are planning a trip to Dubai...
To help look for the cheapest prices I used Skyscanner.net. From Bahrain, FlyDubai.com was the best option and offered flights from as little as £115. (This would’ve been cheaper if I wasn’t going during the Easter holidays, but that’s the price I have to pay as a teacher.)
If you are heading to Dubai from the UK or other parts of the world, I would suggest flying with Emirates. I’ve flown with Emirates a few times now. I really liked their customer service and have always found the journey comfortable. Skyscanner found flights from London to Dubai for £295 with Emirates and even cheaper (£284) with British Airways. This price obviously depends on what time of year you are choosing to go (these prices were for flights in May).
Transport when you arrive in Dubai
The best way to get around Dubai is by Taxi. Taxis are relatively cheap and run on a meter.
Note: when you leave the airport, don’t be tricked into getting one of the ‘posh’ taxis. My mum and I were immediately ushered by men in sleek suits to their sleek black cars. They took our suitcase and placed it in the boot before we even had time to think. When I finally was able to collect my thoughts and ask them how much it cost compared to the ordinary taxis that were also there, they casually told me that they ‘only’ charged 15-20 AED more, and that was for the luxury of ‘air conditioning and wifi’ on the journey. We decided against this and kindly asked them to remove our luggage from their car before they drove away with it. We knew we would rather save our 15-20 AED and wait to connect to the free wifi at the hotel.
Alternatively, you can also get around Dubai using the Metro train. We didn’t use the Metro, but my friends have told me that it is pretty easy to use, so this may be an option to think about if you’re trying to keep costs down.
Places to stay
There are so many places to stay in Dubai, it’s actually hard to pick. Dubai is known to have some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, and it is home to the most famous 7-star hotel- the Burj Al Arab. If you have between £1000- £20,000, this is the hotel for you.
For those of us on a tighter budget, Booking.com is a great place to look for the best deals. You will find a hotel to suit your style and your budget.
After recommendations from a friend who travels frequently to Dubai, we decided to stay at the Flora Al Barsha. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at this hotel! It’s a 4-star but felt more like 5-star. The staff were friendly; the rooms were of a decent size and very clean, AND, we got 50% off spa treatments. Result! Staying at the Flora Al Barsha cost around £150 for 2 nights, but be aware that this will be more once Tourism Dirham' tax is included.
An extra bonus is the hotel is within walking distance to the Mall of the Emirates.
Another good thing about using Booking.com for your hotel is that they send discounts on attractions. This is great in helping you save a bit of extra cash as Dubai can be pretty expensive!
Things to do
There are soooo many things to do in Dubai that I only had time for a few. I know I’ll be back in Dubai, so I’ll make sure to write a Dubai part 2 to share more things to get up to during your visit.
One thing I’ve learnt living in this part of the world is that the Arabs love their malls! There are so many malls to choose from in Dubai, you definitely have to check out a few!
As I mentioned, the Flora Al Barsha was within walking distance to the Mall of the Emirates. This mall has over 600 retail outlets, 100+ restaurants and contains the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort and snow park, Ski Dubai.
If you fancy something even more spectacular than that then visit Dubai Mall. Forbes voted it as the number 1 mall in Dubai, and it is one of the world’s largest! It has over 1200+ retail shops, an impressive human waterfall feature in the centre of the mall, and is home to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo- again, the world’s largest!
Oh, and it doesn’t stop there...
They also host the world’s largest choreographed fountain show (which can be seen from space) in front of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. I know, impressive!
Another mall to visit is Marina Mall. While it may not be as spectacular as the other malls, it does have some amazing views of the marina and feels a lot calmer than the others. My mum and I enjoyed a lovely lunch looking over the water and expensive yachts (one day, Natalie, one day!) and took a nice stroll along the promenade.
If you fancy something a bit more adrenaline-fuelled then you might want to try dune bashing in the Dubai desert. At first I was too scared to do it after reading some horror stories, however, my 67-year-old mother was totally up for it so I had to. It was actually a lot more enjoyable than I thought and I’m glad I did it.
The dune bashing tours usually include other activities, such as camel riding, henna tattooing, belly dancing; fire shows and a BBQ dinner. We ordered this package at our hotel through Rayna Tours, and while it was good to get so many activities as part of the package, there was a catch. For example, the 15-minute camel ride was more like 2 minutes in a circle; the BBQ dinner was a free-for-all buffet with long lines, and you could only pick from one design for a free henna, other designs you had to pay for. However, for around £50 it was a decent price for a 6-hour tour, so I shouldn’t really complain too much. The best thing about the tour was the desert views and the chance to take breath-taking photos. It is definitely worth it if you want to experience that.
Islamic Culture and Being a Female Traveller
Dubai is a great place to visit for either a few days or a week. There really is so much to do, stunning things to see and malls to shop until you drop.
As a female living in the Middle East, I felt just as safe in Dubai as I do in Bahrain. I may not feel as comfortable leaving my belongings unattended like I do in Bahrain, but I definitely felt safer than I would in London, for example.
One thing I would say is to respect the culture and the laws. You are in an Islamic country at the end of the day, therefore being drunk in public or swearing at people would not be accepted and you could be arrested.
While I saw a lot of western women showing quite a bit of skin, just be cautious of where you are and what you are wearing. Some say: "if you can see up it, down it or through it, don’t wear it!"
Yes, it is warm so you want to remain cool, but I suggest bringing a cardigan or shawl with you in your bag just in case.
I do hope you visit Dubai. It really is worth the trip.
Have you been to Dubai? What did you think? Leave a comment below.