Let’s face it – Dubai is notoriously expensive. In fact, the developer of the city said that his goal was for Dubai to be the first luxurious travel destination in the world! Even upon initial research, we’re sure you’ve noticed the city’s sky-high prices from the flights, accommodations, down to food and drinks. But this shouldn’t stop you from traveling to this dynamic city!
Whether you want to check out the Dubai skyline as you travel by Metro, or soak in the grandeur of the Palm Islands on the Monorail, or just take a relaxing bus ride to explore every inch of the city, here’s everything you need to know.
Best Area to Stay
What’s the best area? It depends on what you want to experience and how much you’re willing to spend. The Downtown and Marina areas are closest to the modern attractions but are notably expensive. When you search for hotels online, don’t be shocked to see hotels at USD 400 to 1000 per night. Dubai is widely considered a luxury destination, so there are dozens of luxury hotels especially in these areas. There are a few more affordable options.
Bur Dubai and Deira offer a more traditional experience at a significantly lower price. If you’re on a budget, Bur Dubai and Deira may offer more options that are within your spending range. You can find a double room at a great hotel for USD 100 per night. Budget hotels are also available, offering much cheaper rooms.
How to Get to Dubai
Dubai is served by two airports: Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC).
Dubai International Airport (DXB). Located northeast of the city center, near Deira. DXB is the busiest airport in the world by international passenger traffic. DXB is also the hub for airlines Emirates and flydubai. These two airlines alone connect Dubai to over 150 cities around the globe.
Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC). Located south of the city center. Only a handful of commercial flights are operated here, primarily by Russia’s flag carrier Aeroflot and European low-cost airlines like Wizz Air. Most flights are seasonal.
How to Get Around
Dubai has one of the most advanced transportation systems in the region, with a very uncomplicated metro, plenty of ride-sharing options, and the usual taxi service. But before we delve deeper into each, it is important to be familiar with the transport zones.
The city’s public transportation network is run and managed by Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), a branch of the local government. The agency has centralized all modes of transportation into a system that appears intimidating at first, but is more forgiving once you get the hang of it. The city is divided into seven fare zones. But for tourists, most of the points of interest are within Zones 2, 6 and 5.
What to Do
Beach clubs are big business in Dubai this season. Set to dominate the scene is White Beach & Restaurant with roots in Beirut, offering day-to-night relaxation to celebration with music, Mediterranean cuisine and a designer swimwear dress code. Don’t forget to also hit the famous Burj Khalifa and ride the world’s fastest elevator to the 124th-125th floor of the world’s tallest man-made structure. Be sure to enjoy the fantastic view of the emirates from the observatory deck! If you want to skip the lines, you can book your tickets in advance online.
For the thrill-seeking travelers, the Dubai Desert Safari is another stop that shouldn’t be missed. A desert safari tour usually starts in the afternoon and ends at night. It will take you on a 4×4 ride on the red dunes of the Arabian desert. You also get to watch the sunset and have a glimpse into the Bedouin culture. At night, dinner will be served as you enjoy a traditional show, including a tanoura and belly dancing performances.
Where to Eat in Dubai
Dubai is packed with international restaurant – if you want a burger or steak, Brazilian bbq, Turkish food or Thai food – it’s all in Dubai. But what’s interesting about Dubai is that Emirati food is not all that commonly found at restaurants, the reason being, most Emirati’s still eat local food at home. However, that scene is changing, and you’ll find some traditional Emirati restaurants, and also restaurants that serve cuisine from the Arabian Peninsula.
Al Fanar is one of the few traditional Emirati restaurants, and they have an impressive menu that consists of everything from Emirati rice and meat feasts to desserts, snacks, and even breakfast dishes.
Mandi is originally a Yemeni dish of rice topped with meat that’s traditionally cooked in an underground oven until it literally falls apart. Al Marhabani Restaurant in Dubai is at the top of their mandi game, and they served what was easily one of my favorite meals in Dubai – that lamb drumstick will melt in your mouth!
Al Labeeb Grocery is a small Iranian grocery and convenience store, but the real reason you want to come here is to get your hands on regag bread. Regag bread is similar to a crepe or dosa. Order the Original one that’s best enjoyed with an egg on top, cheese, and Persian Gulf fish sauce.
When to Go
Dubai is steamy and sweltering for most of the year. The best time to visit is November-March, when temperatures are moderate – though in the past few years, January, once considered the optimum month to visit, has been overcast and rainy. If you’re heading here for sun, sea and sand: spring and autumn are ideal, when you can bronze your body by day and cool down after dark in the air-conditioned restaurants, bars and shopping malls. Summer, while blistering, is increasingly proving popular with budget travelers and families for the bargains that can be found – it’s the cheapest time to visit, but note that from June to September the average daily temperature is well over a scorching 40 degrees Celsius.