Dubai is such an exhilarating city. A land of indulgence and opulence. And somewhere in between the old and new is this fascinating culture brimming with a zest for life.
I did not travel to Dubai solo, but after having been, I definitely would. I spent time on my own doing some things in the city and I always felt 100% safe.
I went on a two week trip with a girlfriend to the city and to Abu Dhabi and we had such an amazing time – Dubai is more than a stopover city! I met so many amazing people from other surrounding countries and one man from Saudi Arabia even handed me his child to hold. The city is fantastic for solo travelers, groups, couples, and you can even do Dubai with kids.
Dubai is such a friendly city and people were always willing to assist when I needed anything – the city is one of the best places to visit in the UAE.
You could spend as little as three days in Dubai to two weeks and see as little or as much as you!
I have compiled my best tips for visiting Dubai and I hope this helps when planning your trip!
Here are my top tips for visiting Dubai:
1. Currency: the official currency in Dubai is the dirham (or Dhs or DH). I highly recommend keeping cash on you when exploring the city.
Currently the exchange rate from the US Dollar is about x 4. So 4 dirhams equal about $1 dollar.
I got cash in my local airport before I left but there was also cash exchange in the airport in Dubai.
2. Cash or credit cards?: the good news is that Dubai is light years ahead of Western countries in so many ways, one being the chip and pin on the credit/debit card. I remember being in Dubai and they had it before it was even a thing in the USA. Even in the souks in the old city there were people with credit card machines.
ATM’s are everywhere and not hard to find.
3. Language: Dubai is a nice melting pot of people from everywhere, but the official language is Arabic. Everyone I met during my trip spoke English and I never had an issue communicating.
4. Best time to visit: Dubai is situated around desert and hot most of the year with the coolest climates being between November-March. I went in the month of February and it was shorts and shirt weather but not sweltering hot quite yet. I went in the pool, beach and water park.
Dubai can get extremely hot in the summer months reaching temperatures above 113 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity levels are also high. If you don’t do well in the scorching heat with humidity, the summer may not be the ideal time for you to visit.
5. Getting there, visas & passports: flights are widely available globally to get to Dubai. The main airport is Dubai International Airport (DXB)
As a US citizen I did need a passport with at least 6 months before expiry to enter. I did not need a visa.
Always check online or with your consulate as each country is different and can have different entry requirements.
6. Getting around: Dubai is not a small city by any stretch of the imagination and traffic can get bad. The good news is that there is transportation for every budget. I used a taxi to get around and it wasn’t expensive. Some of the other days I did a hop on hop off tour because it picked up where I was staying on the Palm Dubai and goes just about everywhere in the city.
7. Where to stay: this is an interesting topic. Dubai has over 50+ 5 star luxury properties in the city, including a 7 star hotel. Narrowing down where to stay is going to be challenging. I would recommend the Sofitel Dubai The Palm and at least one night at the Burj Al Arab – everyone should experience a 7 star luxury hotel at least once.
Dubai does offer other categories of properties for its visitors but it is a land of opulence and their travel style does match it.
8. Cost of food: I found the prices to be pretty standard for Western prices. Hotel meals are more expensive in general and the fancier the hotel the more you can expect to spend.
You can find cheap eats throughout the city though. Walking through the souks we found amazing local food for just a couple dirhams.
We had food delivered to our hotel (and various companies offer this service like UBER Eats) and it was very cheap. I think we each paid about $10 USD for every meal we ordered.
9. Clothing: Dubai is not like Western countries and the scantily clad women you see everywhere. They practice a more conservative culture and you should keep yourself covered. Shoulders, knees, cleavage, & excess skin should be covered out of respect for the culture.
Caveat – I did notice at the hotel pools and beaches that more people were in revealing swimsuits and no one seemed to care. The decision is up to you.
10. Religion: Islam is the largest religion in Dubai, however there are several other regions and places of worship within the city. The city is open minded about religious beliefs.
11. Top attractions: there are so many things to do both during the day and at night in Dubai, but these are my favorite:
Burj Khalifa – go all the way to the top of the tallest building of the world and star over 1,800+ feet down
Visit the Dubai Mall – over 1,200 shops!
Dubai Miracle Garden – open seasonally
Palm Jumeirah – island looks like a palm tree from the air
Ski Dubai – indoor year round skiing
Catch a sunset
Burj Al Arab – 7 star hotel on its own island and shaped like a sailboat
Gold and spice souks
12. Phone and WiFi coverage: everywhere I went offered free WiFi to its customers. I can’t think of a time I wasn’t connected during my stay. As for phone coverage, I did not turn my phone on while I was away but I would check with your phone service provider or you can get a SIM card.
13. Be cautious of the neighborhoods you are in and time of day
Let the local embassy know you are in town
Let someone know where you are and when you expect to be back
Set up a safety measure with someone back home to let them know all your plans and check in frequently
14. Cuisine: Middle Eastern food is incredible. Come with an open mind as they utilize spices and vegetables in a delicious way. Foods not to miss: baba ganoush, falafel, taboon bread, and knafeh!
15. Take a day trip to Abu Dhabi!! It is only about an hour and a half away and the Big Bus Tour company has add-on tickets that you can get and they will take you there.
I spent several days exploring here but I highly recommend visiting for at least a day to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is the most beautiful place I have ever been.
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