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Most of us have that one friend who either moved to Dubai or goes to there every other weekend, posting an absurd number of Instastories one should only ever post if they're on the verge of close encounters of the third kind. Yet despite the countless hashtags and filters, none of this does justice to a city that's the epitome of polar opposites, complexities, and contradictions. As you soak in every #MyDubai element of this dazzling and elusive megacity – a Vegas in its own right – try to bear in mind that, less than a century ago, Dubai was a small fishing village. 

01: Around the Neighborhood: The People and Places of Dubai
02: How Do I Move?: Getting to and Around Dubai
03: Where Do I Stay?: Hotels, Hostels, and All The Alternatives
04: What's There to Discover?: Experiencing Dubai
05: What Do I Eat?: Local Food and Where to Find it
06: Beyond Dubai: Day Trips Outside the City
07: How Friendly is Dubai?: Females, Families, and Furbabies
08: Where Do I Pray?: Religious Practice in Dubai
09: SOS: Health & Safety in Dubai
10: Banking & ATMs
11: Pro Tips
 

 

 

AROUND THE NEIGHBORHOOD: THE PEOPLE AND PLACES OF DUBAI
The UAE’s second largest Emirate and the throbbing heart of the country as a whole, Dubai is a densely populated cosmopolitan city through and through. In fact, 85 percent of Dubai’s population is made up of expatriates – mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Britain – and only 15 percent are native Emirati residents. Dubai's official language is Arabic, though English is widely spoken and understood; other languages, such as Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Tagalog, Persian, Chinese, and Malayalam, among others, are spoken by the city’s diverse expatriate community. 

With such a vibrant expatriate community, it comes as no surprise that Dubai is a very tolerant place. It is virtually the only place in the Middle East where so many religions are openly and freely practiced without persecution – Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Shia and Sunni Islam, etc. This definitely makes Dubai a very interesting place, as it is one of the few cities in the Middle East that accommodates everyone – hence the pounding music emanating from nightclubs mixing with the Muslim call to prayer and the church bells to form what we now know as the Dubai effect.

In contrast – and in compliance with the law – both women and men are advised to dress modestly (covering knees and shoulders) in public places such as markets, theaters, malls, stores, and public areas of a hotel. Modest attire is mandatory in government buildings and mosques, while swimwear is permitted by pools, in resorts, and at beaches.

Told you – polar opposites, complexities, and contradictions. Enjoy the ride!

Downtown Dubai: Home to the world’s largest shopping center, The Dubai Mall; tallest building, Burj Khalifa; and tallest hotel, the JW Marriott Marquis, Downtown Dubai is the city’s most buzzing place – from fountains to mammoth aquariums.  

Media City: Media City is to Dubai what Madison Avenue is to New York City; it’s where powerful media personalities and publishers dream up pop culture, that’s why the area has the best restaurants and live music venues – because music and food get your creative juices flowing!

Al Quoz: Home to 20 permanent art venues, Al Quoz is where the cool, artsy, tormented kids go to make art. It’s like a 1960s Midtown Manhattan all over again, except these kids don’t do drugs.   

Jumeirah Beach: Home to Jumeirah Hotel, Burj Al Arab Hotel, and Wild Wady Waterpark, and many beaches along the shoreline, Jumeirah Beach is the ultimate family-friendly destination on a hot summer’s day – but also for when you want to swim and do all your shopping on the same day, because why the hell not?!

Dubai Marina: The Marina is, by far, the most visually stunning place in Dubai. The skyscrapers and the architectural gem that is Dubai Marina Mall in the background, and the water sitting as far as the eye can see, give the place urban and beachy vibes (think Florida). It is the place to spend a more laid-back day, at a restaurant, café, or bistro, overlooking the sea.

Jumeirah Lake Towers: Named after the green man-made lakes framing its glass towers, Jumeirah Lake Towers is yet another beautiful part of Dubai to enjoy city life, minus the headache, with quiet bistros, restaurants, and cafés. It is also an ideal place for young families to socialize with fellow sleep-deprived baby guardians due to its community’s spirit and communal spaces, such as children’s playgrounds.      

Old Dubai: Old Dubai refers to the neighborhoods on either side of the Dubai Creek, such as Deira, home to the world-famous gold and spices souks, and Bur Dubai, which houses some of the city’s best ethnic restaurants and cuisines from across the Middle East and North Africa.   

The Palm Jumeirah: One of the largest man-made islands, The Palm Jumeirah is home to Dubai’s iconic Atlantis Hotel, among other high-end hotels, such as The Waldorf Astoria. The island also offers the best beaches, hence the swanky beach clubs.

 

 

HOW DO I MOVE?: GETTING TO AND AROUND DUBAI
Getting to Dubai
So you've survived the arduous journey and have finally touched down at DXB (that’s Dubai International Airport for you aviation novices); how do you actually get to the City of Gold? You can always Uber it from the airport to your hotel, but a ride from DXB to Downtown Dubai will set you back about $20 (assuming there’s no surge pricing!), and it’s certainly not your only option since the city’s public transportation network is the best in the Middle East and North Africa. 

Nol Card
Before you start commuting either to or in Dubai, you need to issue a Nol Card – a prepaid card that allows you to use the city’s buses and subway system and other forms of public transport (except for the monorail). In fact, it is the only form of payment accepted on a bus or a metro in Dubai. The service comes in different ranges; however, the Dubai government recommends that visitors use the Silver Card, which costs 25 AED and gives you access to all of the city’s buses and metro trains, but if you think you know better than the government (which you don’t, because welcome to the Middle East), you can compare the different packages on the Roads and Transportation Authority website. You top up as you go, depending on your use. The card can be purchased at any metro station in the city, including the one in the airport's terminal 3. There are other Nol card selling points and vending machines across the airport, which can be found in terminals 1, 2, and 3, or at the Airport Free Zone Authority. For help locating the nearest selling channel, where you can either top up or purchase the card, consult Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority’s locator.    

Bus  
The Dubai Airport is serviced by the city’s buses, which run 24/7 with several lines and routes for weary travelers anxious to lay their hats. The fare varies depending on your destination, but if your hotel is located in the city center, your bus fare shouldn’t exceed $2. The only drawback is the 10-30 minute wait time before the bus arrives; other than that, taking the bus is a great way to get to the city. Bus stops can be found in front of terminals 1, 2, and 3. Below are the bus routes:

Bus 401: Airport — DNATA Airline Centre — Al Maktum Road — Deira Taxi Station – Al Sabkha Bus Station.

Bus 402: Airport — Deira City Centre — Al Karama — Golden Sands — Al Mankhool – Al Ghubaiba Bus Station.

Night routes: Airport — Al Rashidiya bus station — Gubaiba bus station — Al Qusais bus station — Jabel Ali Free Zone bus station — Gold Souq bus station — Satwa bus station.

Dubai Airport Metro
The Dubai Metro is a great and speedy way to get to the city from the airport. However, it is only a viable option if you are arriving during the day, as the metro shuts down at night. The fare varies depending on where you're headed, but costs about $1.60 per passenger. The Dubai subway system currently operates in two routes: the green line and the red line, the latter being the one you want to take if you're heading to the city center.

You will need to account for a 5-7 minute wait time; also bear in mind that, unlike the bus, the subway doesn't operate 24/7. Working hours are as follows:

Saturday to Wednesday: 5:30 AM – 12: AM
Thursday 5:30 AM – 1 AM
Friday 10 AM – 1 AM

Another thing to consider is the fact that the Dubai metro allots space for two pieces of luggage per passenger, so if you’re not travelling light, this option is not for you. The DXB metro stations are located at terminals 1 and 3.   

Car Rentals
Dubai’s visitors are allowed on the roads provided they hold an international driver’s license. To rent a car, you'll need a valid driving permit, a passport, and your credit card. It's always a good idea to book your car online well ahead of time to avoid surge pricing, but on the off chance you can’t or won’t, you can always rent a car at the airport. Car rental desks can be found in terminals 1, 2, and 3, where you can choose from a wide array of providers, including renowned companies like Hertz, Sixt, Alamo, Dollar, Thrifty, Avis, and Budget. You can also use pay-as-you-go car rental apps like UDrive and ekar.

Taxis
Taxis are promptly available at all hours of the day and night at designated taxi ranks in each terminal. You just follow the signs and hail a cab like a cave(wo)man!     

Getting Around Dubai
If you'e rented a car at the airport, well, there you go. Just remember to have your phone fully charged at all times because you’re going to need round-the-clock navigational support. You might also want to Uber your way across Dubai, if money is not a problem. If you’d rather avail yourself of Dubai’s state of the art public transportation – assuming you have purchased and successfully activated your Nol card (kudos!) – then it's actually pretty simple.  

Intercity Buses
Dubai’s bus network is pretty extensive and covers most of the city, so catching a ride won’t be much of a hassle. To make things even easier and dummy proof, the RTA recently launched Wojhati, an app that helps you plan your journey and locate the nearest bus station. The app is particularly handy for when you have to take more than one bus to get to your destination. You can also check the RTA’s bus route sheet like a caveman. As always, you will be needing your Nol card to pay your way.

The Subwayvia Dubai Online

So the Dubai Metro is where things get a bit tricky, as the city’s subway system is still being developed and expanded to cover more areas and zones. Yet, the Dubai Metro’s red and green lines, the only operating routes at the moment, cover the main attractions, such as Burj Khalifa, and some of the most frequented areas in the city, with three news lines in the works, according to the RTA. If the metro can only get you halfway your destination, the bus can take you the other half, thanks to the RTA’s spider map, which illustrates in great detail Dubai’s public transportation network and its different modes of transportation.  

Taxi
Compared to other global cities in the world, taxis in Dubai are relatively affordable. Strictly regulated by the RTA and available 24/7, Dubai’s taxis accept credit, debit, and Nol cards, as well as cash payment. The RTA also launched its own ride-hailing app, RTA Smart Taxi, which uses GPS to locate and match you with nearby drivers.   

Abras
Abra, Arabic for crossing, is the most fun you can have commuting from one point to another in Dubai. But like all great things, Dubai’s Abras come with limitations. The quaint traditional boat, a national symbol of the UAE’s heritage, only operates between the banks of the 10-meter Dubai Creek, but it is a heck of a ride! Most people do it for fun! The Abra not only allows for great views of the city, it also saves you time and money, at 1 AED/passenger for the trip, or 2 AED if the boat is air conditioned, with both motorized and manual boats on rotation. You can catch the boat from 6 AM to 12 AM at the Bur Dubai Abra Station to Deira Old Souk Abra Station and vice versa, or at any point during the day at the Dubai Old Souk Station to Al Sabhkha Abra Station and the other way around.  

Water Taxi
This is another fun way to commute, and probably one of Dubai’s most iconic. Unlike the Abra, the water taxi is not confined to a single body of water; it covers a much wider area, including stops along the Arabian Gulf, with over 32 stations. Operated by the RTA, the water taxi resembles a speed boat – say hello to the new and improved and punctual and dependable you! But with great things come great prices, and the water taxi is not really for those planning to survive Dubai on a budget – we’ll let you be the judge of that, though, as fares vary depending on your destination. You can book your water taxi on the RTA’s website.

Tram
Launched in 2014, the tram is relatively new to Dubai, but it’s already part of the city’s integrated public transport network as it connects to the Metro station. The tram covers Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai Marina, and Al Sufouh street, with additional phases in the works. The tram is open from 06:30 AM to 01:30 AM Saturday to Thursday, and 09:00 AM to 01:30 AM on Fridays. 

 

 

WHERE DO I STAY?: HOTELS, HOSTELS, AND ALL THE ALTERNATIVES
Accommodation can be tricky in Dubai. The city has some of the world’s most beautiful and lavish hotels, but there is no such thing as a free bed. Dubai’s real estate is very pricey and that will reflect in your hotel bill at the end of your stay, so unless you’re planning on couchsurfing or Airbnb-ing across the city, get ready to pay an arm and a leg. A less pricey option would be to stay at a hostel. At any rate, you only live once, right? So we took the liberty of listing some of the city’s finest and most reputable and hospitable establishments!  

HOTELS
BUDGET RANGE: UP TO 400 AED/NIGHT*

BENTA GRAND HOTELvia Booking.com

Location: Al Muteena Road, Deira, P.O.Box : 1590
Get directions to Benta Grand Hotel

Contact Number: +97142713232
Email Address: benta@mehgroupdxb.com

AL JAWHARA METRO HOTELvia Halal Reisen

Location: 19th A Street, Riqqa Street, Deira,Opp - Al Maktoum Hospital Rd
Get directions to Al Jawhara Metro Hotel

Contact Number: +97142223141
Email Address: metro@aljawharahotel.com

HOWARD JOHNSON BUR DUBAIvia Book Dubai

Location: Khalid Bin Waleed Rd, Bur Dubai 
Get directions to Howard Johnson Bur Dubai

Contact Number: +97143939911
Email Addresshojoburdubai@eim.ae

CLARIDGE HOTEL via Booking.com

Location: Omar Bin Al Khattab Road, Fish Roundabout, Muteena, Deira
Get directions to Claridge Hotel

Contact Number: + 97142716666
Email Address: claridge@mehgroupdxb.com

FORTUNE PLAZA HOTEL
via Agoda

Location: Al Nahda Road, Al Qusais 2
Get directions to Fortune Plaza Hotel

Contact Number: +97142635500
Email Addressplaza@fortunehotels.ae

BUDGET RANGE: 400 AED – 650 AED/NIGHT*

PREMIER INN DUBAI SILICON OASISvia Visit Dubai

Location: Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd
Get directions to Premier Inn Dubai Silicon Oasis

Contact Number: +97143821555
Email Address: reservations.dso@mena.premierinn.com 

CARLTON TOWER HOTEL via Booking.com

Location: Baniyas Rd, Near to Deira Twin Towers, Deira
Get directions to Carlton Tower Hotel

Contact Number: +9712920000
Email Address: fandb@carltontower.net

MARK INN HOTEL DEIRAvia Booking.com

Location: Baniyas Metro Station, Behind Khansaheb Parking, Maktoum Hospital Road 
Get directions to Mark Inn Hotel Deira

Contact Number: + 97142211622
Email Address: resv@markinnhotel.ae

ELEMENT ME'AISAM DUBAI BY WESTINSource: Agoda

Location: Dubai Production City 
Get directions to Element Me'aisam Dubai by Westin

Contact Number: +97142487777 
Website: http://www.elementmeaisamdubai.com/  

SOMEWHERE HOTEL TECOMvia Booking.com

Location: Port Saeed, Deira
Get directions to Somewhere Hotel Tecom

Contact Number: +97142068600
Email Address: customerservice@somewhere-hotels.com 

BUDGET RANGE: 650 AED – 900 AED/NIGHT*

RODA LINKS AL NASRvia Booking.com

Location: 10th St., Oud Metha, Bur Dubai
Get directions to Roda Links Al Nasr

Contact Number: +971 4 777 6666
Email Address: links.alnasr@roda-hotels.com  

GHAYA GRAND HOTELvia Booking.com

Location: Al Fay Rd 
Get directions to Faya Grand Hotel

Contact Number: +971 4 429 3300 
Email Address: info@ghayagrandhotel.com

J5 HOTELS PORT SAEED via Booking.com

Location: Al Garhoud Road
Get directions to J5 Hotels Port Saeed

Contact Number: +971 4 294 0300
Email Address: admin.ps@j5hotels.com 

PREMIER INN DUBAI IBN BATTUTA MALLvia Booking.com

Location: Ibn Battuta Mall, Sheikh Zayad Road
Get directions to Premier Inn Dubai Ibn Battuta Mall

Contact Number: +971 4 278 2222
Email Address: reservations.ibm@mena.premierinn.com

ZABEEL HOUSE AL SEEF BY JUMEIRAHvia Booking.com

Location: Al Seef, Dubai Creek
Get directions to Zabeel House Al Seef by Jumeirah

Contact Number: +971 4 7077077
Email Address: reservations@zabeelhouse.com

BUDGET RANGE: 900 AED+/NIGHT*

MENA PLAZA HOTEL AL BARSHAvia Booking.com

Location: Street 13, Al Barsha 1
Get directions to Mena Plaza Hotel Al Barsha

Contact Number: +971 4 347 7744
Email Address: info@menaplazabarsha.com

ALOFT CITY CENTRE DEIRA DUBAIvia Booking.com  

Location: Baniyas Road, Deira 8th Street, Deira
Get directions to Aloft City Centre Deira Dubai

Contact Number: +971 4 210 3333
Email Address: http://aloftcitycentredeira.com 

RAFFLES DUBAIvia Booking.com

Location: 13th Street, Sheikh Rashid Rd, Wafi City 
Get directions to Raffles Dubai

Contact Number: +971 4 324 8888
Websitehttps://www.raffles.com/dubai 

SHERATON MALL OF THE EMIRATES HOTELvia Booking.com

Location: Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Rd
Get directions to Sheraton Mall of the Emirates Hotel

Contact Number: +971 4 377 2000
Website: http://www.sheratondubaimalloftheemirates.com 

RENAISSANCE DOWNTOWN HOTEL DUBAI via Booking.com

Location: Marasi Drive Box 191984
Get directions to Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai

Contact Number: +971 4 512 5555
Websitehttps://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbbb-renaissance-downtown-hotel-dubai 

HOSTELS AND GUESTHOUSES
BUDGET RANGE: 80 AED – 195 AED/NIGHT*

 THE TOP ONEvia Booking.com

Location: Sheikh Zayed Road Barsha Heights - Capitol Tower - 7th Floor - Apartment #701, Barsha Heights (Tecom)
Get directions to The Top One Hostel

AT THE TOP HOSTEL via Agoda

Location: Elite Residence, Apt 6601, King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud St. 
Get directions to At The Top Hostel

Contact Number: +971 56 647 2024
Email Addresstopdubaihostel@gmail.com  

UAE YOUTH HOSTEL ASSOCIATIONvia Booking.com

Location: 39 Al Nahda Road, Al Qusais Area 
Get directions to UAE Youth Hostel Association

Contact Number: +971 4 298 8151
Email Addressuaeyha@emirates.net.ae

BACKPACKERS INN

via Booking.com

Location: Al Rigga Road, Alpha 1, Room 402
Get directions to Backpackers Inn

BUDGET RANGE: 500 AED+/NIGHT*


LUMBINI DREAM GARDEN GUESTHOUSE
via Booking

Location: 11 Al Suq Street
Get directions to Lumbini Dream Garden Guesthouse
Contact Number: +971 4 339 4115
Website: https://lumbini-dream-garden-guest-house-llc.business.site 

BARJEEL HERITAGE GUESTHOUSE S via Booking.com

Location: Adjacent to Heritage Village, Alghubaiba
Get directions to Barjeel Heritage Guesthouse

Contact Number: +971 4 354 4424
Website: http://barjeelguesthouse.com 

AHMEDIA HERITAGE GUESTHOUSE via Booking.com

Location: Al Ras area, near Gold Souq
Get directions to Ahmedia Heritage Guesthouse

Contact Number: +971 4 225 0085
Websitehttp://ahmediaguesthouse.com 

ORIENT GUESTHOUSE via Booking.com

Location: Historic Bastakiya Area, Al Fahidi Street
Get directions to Orient Guesthouse

Contact Number: +971 4 353 4448
Website: http://orientguesthouse.com 

*Based on single person occupancy during high season.

 

 

WHAT’S THERE TO DISCOVER?: EXPERIENCING DUBAI

Dubai is a hub for all that is cool, hip, and (unfortunately) pricey in the Middle East, from the illustrious Burj Khalifa to the city’s iconic dancing fountains and man-made islands, you’ll never run out of things to do and see in the City of Gold. But like all great cities, whether you’re determined to break the bank or simply just want to enjoy and discover the city, Dubai will never disappoint!        

ARTS, CULTURE, AND HISTORY 

To an outsider, Dubai may as well be a city of gold-plated pavements and diamond-encrusted rims that doesn’t have much to offer in the way of art and culture, with nothing to add to the human experience. But once you actually take the plunge and book a flight ticket to Dubai, you’ll start to see the city for what it is: a regional hub of art and culture.

Art Galleries

Dubai is a rising art power player in the Middle East, with art spaces and galleries opening up every day. If you’re an art aficionado, you’re going to love the Al Quoz Industrial Area, the city’s art hub. It is to Dubai what Soho once was to New York city, except Al Quoz is just getting started! Dubai’s art calendar is always buzzing with openings, exhibitions, and happenings that you can keep up with on this handy app by the Dubai government.

The beating heart of Dubai’s art scene is the Al Serkal Avenue, in the Al Quoz Industrial Area. The compound houses many artist pads, cribs, and studios, as well as some of the most popular art spaces in Dubai, showcasing works by up-and-coming and established artists from across the region and beyond. At some point, Al Serkal even played host to a show by the late Zaha Hadid at the Leila Heller Gallery.

Another main art hub is, surprisingly, DIFC (the Dubai International Financial Center), home to several galleries and spaces of all kind. A local favorite is Cuadro Fine Art, which focuses on promoting regional art.

Also dedicated to showcase works by contemporary artists from across the Middle East and North Africa is Meem Gallery in Al Quoz. Co-founded by the Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, Meem is arguably one of Dubai’s most celebrated art spaces, widely regarded as THE authority on contemporary Middle Eastern art. Tabari Artspace in DIFC and Ayyam Gallery are also bastions of Arab and regional art – the latter has spaces in both DIFC and Al Quoz.

If you’re looking for something a bit more niche, we strongly recommend The Opera Gallery in DIFC, an international gallery with spaces in Paris, London, Geneva, Zurich, Monaco, New York, Miami, Aspen, Singapore, Hong Kong, Seoul, and Beirut. The Opera Gallery Dubai lives up to the name, regularly auctioning works by Matisse, Andy Warhol, Monet, Picasso, among other visionaries for millions of Dirhams.

Another oh-so-fancy spot in DIFC is the Empty Quarter, whch focuses exclusively on the art of photography. The gallery’s walls are always emblazoned with works by some of the world’s greatest photographers, such as Al-Moutasim Al Maskery, Steve McCurry, Bruno Barbey, and Marc Riboud. 

Museums and Heritage Sites

Dubai may be the city of the future, but it is also a place where the past is enshrined and celebrated in local culture. The city is dotted with museums celebrating different aspects of Emirati history, most notably The Dubai Museum, whose exhibits map out Dubai’s transition from a fishing and pearling village, before the discovery of oil, to the mega global metropolis is it today. Located inside Dubai’s oldest structure, the two-century-old Al Fahidi Fort (also a wonder to behold), the Dubai Museum is inarguably the city’s most interesting.

Also tucked away in the Al Fahidi Fort Historical Neighborhood are the Coffee Museum, the Horse Museum, the Camel Museum, the Museum of the Poet Al Oqaili, and the Coin Museum – the latter holds one of the world’s best collections of coins from across the Middle East and North Africa.

Emirati heritage and history shine the brightest in the newly restored and renovated Shindagha Historic District along the Dubai Creek, where the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House is located. Once the not-so-humble abode of the former ruler of Dubai and the grandfather of its current leader, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the 1896 structure holds a fine collection of photos of the city’s evolution throughout the 20th century, as well as invaluable stamps and coins.

On the other side of the UAE’s heritage spectrum, there is the 2,000-year-old Hatta Heritage Village in the outskirts of Dubai, by the Hatta Mountains. The village was restored and renovated in 2001 and has been receiving visitors ever since.  

Music and Entertainment

The music scene in Dubai is one of the best in the region. The city has drawn talents from across the Middle East and beyond, strategically positioning itself as a music fiend’s paradise. From the iconic Dubai Opera House, to the Dubai Music Hall, the city will never disappoint. With a slew of nightlife spots and periodic music festivals, the tunes are never in short supply in Dubai.

The entertainment landscape here is also very developed, with state-of-the-art cinema complexes on pretty much every street. Dubai is also home to La Perle, the region’s first resident show, created and produced by former Cirque du Soleil director Franco Dragone (who also directed Celine Dion!) and probably the city’s best dinner theatre experience.

LOCAL EXPERIENCES

Dubai may be famous for its beaches and raucous nightlife, but that’s not all there is to the city. From outdoorsy activities to afternoons in the scorching heat of the Arabian desert, Dubai has something  for everyone. Here are a few ideas on what you can do there.     

Amusement Parks

Dubai is notorious for its out-of-this-world waterparks. To not check out the myriad theme parks in the city would be to sell yourself short and we can’t let you do that. Some of the most popular are Legoland and Legoland Waterpark (WATER AND LEGOS!), Aquaventure Waterpark, and, of course, Global Village.     

Shopping

You’ll obviously have to break the bank in order to go on a shopping spree in Dubai, but a good place to start would be the Gold Souk, where jewelry is said to be cheap compared to other parts of the world, as well as the Spices Souk, to document your time in Dubai in fragrant smells. Then, you can work your way up to the mega malls, like the Mall of the Emirates and the Dubai Marina Mall, for some designer threads.     

Skydiving

Emiratis are an adventurous people, they dreamed up a city and built an oasis in the middle of the desert, and now they have their eyes set on the skies. And it goes beyond the skyscrapers and the sky taxis. Skydiving has become synonymous with Dubai’s over-the-top, snazzy lifestyle, and it’s one of the most thrilling things you’ll ever attempt in your lifetime. You can book your experience with Skydive Dubai, one of the city’s most reputable operators.    

NATURE 

Safaris

This one is a bit of a no brainer – surely you’ve seen Arabs in 4WD’s going dune-smashing on TV. The experience can be very liberating, especially if you opt to camel trek, but driving at alarmingly high speeds because you’re in the middle of nowhere works too! You can also quad bike or sandboard. But whatever you do, don’t go alone, instead book your safari with any of the numerous tour operators in Dubai.

Horseback Riding

What could possibly be more fun than experiencing the deserts surrounding Dubai on a horse’s back? The Emirates Equestrian Center organizes rides for experienced horsemen and women in the desert. If you’re not much of a rider, there are many private stables across the city that organize similar excursions for horseback riders of all levels.

Fishing

Before reaching mega metropolis status, Dubai was a fishing village. Amid all the glitz and glam of urban life, Dubai has stayed true to its essence. One of the best things you can do in Dubai is to explore its waters and what lies beneath them. Many tour operators in Dubai offer fishing trips in the Arabian gulf, about 45 miles off the coast. One local company that comes highly recommended is Deep Sea Fishing Dubai

DUBAI BY NIGHT

Dubai turns into one big burlesque house after sundown. In fact, the City of Gold emits more light in one night than most cities do in a week! Dubai’s nightlife scene is one of the best in the world, making its clubs, bars, and lounges some of the city’s most frequented establishments – they’re basically attractions now. So if you’re planning a trip to Dubai soon or if you’re moving there in pursuit of the Emirati Dream, nightlife is part of the essential experience. 

 

 

WHAT DO I EAT?: LOCAL FOOD AND WHERE TO FIND IT

It’s easy to miss Emirati in food Dubai amid the plethora of flavors and cuisines in the city’s culinary landscape, from Argentinian to Italian, and all the way to authentic Japanese. But Emirati food is actually very hearty and comforting – think stews, rice, meat, and bread, like soul food, which gives it its rich and satisfying character. Some of the most popular Emirati dishes include harees, a mixture of meat and wheat cooked to fusion point; machboos, a rice-based dish that can be either made with fish or meat, and seasoned with bezar, a ubiquitous blend of spices present in every Emirati dish (coriander, cumin, turmeric and cinnamon). Camel meat is another thing Emirati cuisine is famous for, as well as fish and seafood – which reminds us, you have to try naghar mashwi (grilled squid).

Yet with such culinary diversity across the City of Gold, where do you go to find authentic Emirati soul food?

ASEELAH AT RADISSON BLU HOTEL, DUBAI DEIRA CREEK

The only Emirati food restaurant in Dubai that serves alcohol in the form of creative cocktails and delicious cocktails, the swanky Aseelah is known for its adventurous and contemporary spin on Emirati classics.

Location: Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, Baniyas Road
Get directions to Aseelah at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek
Hours of Operation: Lunch - 12:30 to 16:00 / Dinner - 18:30 to 23:00
Contact Number: +971 4 222 7171 / +971 4 205 7033
Facebook:  Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek
Website: https://www.radissonblu.com/en/hotel-dubaideiracreek/restaurants#/aseelah 
Email Address: booking.diningdubaicreek@radissonblu.com
Average Cost: 280 AED for two people


AL FANAR

With two branches in Dubai, one in Festival City Mall and the other in Town Center Jumeirah, Al Fanar is one of Dubai’s most popular Emirati restaurants. Famous for their naghar mashwi and chicken mackhboos.  

Location: Ground Floor, Dubai Festival City Mall, Near P.F. Chang's, Canal Walk
Get directions to Al Fanar
Hours of Operation: 08:30 to 23:30
Contact Number: +971 4 344 2141
Facebook: Al Fanar Restaurant & Cafe (https://www.facebook.com/AlFanarRestaurant)
Website: http://alfanarrestaurant.com/en/
Email Address: info@alfanarrestaurant.com
Average Cost: 255 for two people

AL TAWASOL IN DEIRA

Al Tawasol was founded in 1999, which is probably why it is considered Dubai’s most authentic Emirati restaurant, adopting a faithful interpretation of the country’s culinary heritage, not only when it comes to the food, but also as far as the restaurant’s setup is concerned.

Location: 162 Abu Baker Al Siddique Road
Get directions to Al Tawasol
Hours of Operation: n/a 
Contact Number: +971 4 295 9797
Facebook: AlTawasol Restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/altawasol.resturant/?ref=br_rs)
Website: n/a
Email Address: n/a
Average Cost: 70 AED for two people 

SEVEN SANDS AT THE JUMEIRAH BEACH RESIDENCES

Dubai’s swankiest Emirati restaurant, Seven Sands infuses the old with the new, and its terrace overlooking the sea will keep you coming back. You want to try the prawn Fouga, shrimps cooked with Bezar, saffron, and dry limes.    

Dubai Marina Branch

Location: The Beach, Dubai Marina, Makani No. 1145374508
Get directions to Seven Sands in Dubai Marina 
Hours of Operation: noon to 01:00 Sunday to Thursday / 09:00 to 01:00 Friday and Saturday
Contact Number: +971 4 551 6652
Facebook: Seven Sands (https://www.facebook.com/SevenSands/)
Website: http://www.sevensandsrestaurant.com/en/pages/default
Email Address: info@sevensandsrestaurant.com
Average Cost: 275 AED for two people 

Etihad Museum Branch 

Location: Etihad Museum, Makani No. 40RCN2573692795
Get Directions to Seven Sands in Etihad Museum
Hours of Operation: 10:00 to 20:00 Sunday to Saturday
Contact Number: +971 4 515 5741 
Facebook: Seven Sands (https://www.facebook.com/SevenSands/)
Website: http://www.sevensandsrestaurant.com/en/pages/default
Email Address: info@sevensandsrestaurant.com
Average Cost: 275 AED for two people 

 

BEYOND DUBAI: DAY TRIPS OUTSIDE THE CITY

Oman Musandam Peninsula

Nicknamed the Arabian Fjords due to its similarity to the fjords of Norway, the Oman Musandam Peninsula in Oman is one of the most beautiful wonders in the natural world. The best way to explore this wondrous location is to take a cruise from the town of Khasab in Oman. The Musandam Peninsula is a mere 194 kilometers from Dubai, making it a great destination for a day trip.      

Al Ain

Home to the UAE’s second tallest peak, Jebel Hafeet, as well as the country’s oldest museum, Al Ain Museum, Al Ain is the perfect getaway for arts and culture aficionados.  

Fujairah

Fujairah is one of the most interesting places in the UAE, home to Al Bidyah mosque, which is believed to be the country’s oldest mosque, dating back to the 15th century, according to some archeologists. The beaches in the area, which line the coast of Oman, are some of the most beautiful in the country, so are the diving and snorkeling sites in the UAE.

 

HOW FRIENDLY IS DUBAI?: FEMALES, FAMILIES, AND FURBABIES

FEMALES
Aside from a few dress code restrictions here and there, Dubai is generally female-friendly. In contrast – and in compliance with the law – both women and men are advised to dress modestly (covering knees and shoulders) in public places such as markets, theaters, malls, stores, and public areas of a hotel. Modest attire is mandatory in government buildings and mosques, while swimwear is permitted by pools, in resorts, and at beaches, although beachgoers are expected to change into something more conservative once they leave the facility.

The restrictions imposed on women in Dubai are largely social and cultural, so not following them won’t necessarily land you in jail, but it could very well attract unwanted attention from the locals who view your skimpy skirt or tank top as blatant disregard and disrespect for their culture and their heritage.
Dubai is largely safe for women, however, it's best to avoid staying in Deira and Bur Dubai.

FAMILIES
Arab societies, in general, and especially Emiratis are very family-friendly, due to the region’s culture and family values. Most venues and establishments in Dubai are equipped with children’s playing areas, including malls, hotels, restaurants and cafes, and even beaches. Dubai has over 13 amusement parks, so, needless to say, it is a city built and designed with a child in mind. If you really want to treat your kids to a fun learning experience, take them to Oli Oli (http://olioli.ae), an interactive children’s museum, where they can play, get creative, and try their hands at art. 

FURBABIES
Despite there being a large community of animal rights defenders, Dubai is still a city where you can’t take your dog to, like the greater majority of the country’s food and beverage establishments. If you want to grab coffee or a bite to eat with your doggo after your morning runs, you want to go to these cafes/restaurants:  

Arrows and Sparrows, Greens
Irish Village, Garhoud
Breeze Beach Grill, Palm Jumeirah
Cycle Bistro, Dubai Motor City
Lime Tree Café, Sheikh Zayed Road/Al Quoz/JBR

 

 

WHERE TO PRAY IN DUBAI

The Middle East is known for many things, but religious tolerance is not one of them. Dubai is one of the few cities in the Middle East where religious tolerance and coexistence are celebrated and embraced. A cosmopolitan megacity, Dubai is home to people of all races and creeds and its religious landscape extends way beyond the Middle East’s. Virtually all UAE citizens are Muslims; 85% identify as Sunni, while the remaining 15% are Shia, but 85% of the country’s population are non-citizens, which is what brings so much diversity to the Emirates’ human landscape. Thanks to Dubai’s large Asian population, the city has Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, and Hindu temples, as well as a number of churches to serve the city’s Christian expat communities. Mosques are ubiquitous, whereas Christian churches of all denominations are mostly concentrated in the Jebel Ali village and the Oud Metha area, most notably the St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the St. Mina Coptic Orthodox Church. Jebel Ali is also where you can find one of Dubai’s oldest temples, the Shiva and Krishna Mandir Hindu Temple, as well as the Gulf’s first and only Sikh place of worship, the Gurudwara Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple

 

SOS: HEALTH & SAFETY IN DUBAI

The UAE’s healthcare system and its emergency management organizations are among the best and most developed in the Middle East, if not the world. The numbers you should dial in case of a health or safety emergency in the UAE are 998 and 999, respectively, and 997 for the fire department. Dubai is very safe and if you exercise a modicum of common sense, you should be fine. As far as your health is concerned, you are in good hands. But in case of a health emergency, we strongly recommend that you immediately get yourself or the person you’re trying to help to the nearest hospital, unless you/they are incapacitated, in which case, you should dial 998 for an ambulance right away. To request a house call, dial 800-DOCTOR (800-362867).

Healthcare services are available for non-citizens and non-residents in the UAE. The country has private and state hospitals and foreigners can receive medical treatment at either. Hospitals in the UAE admit patients for initial treatment to stabilize the case, additional medical care is considered a chargeable service and must be paid for in cash or with a credit or insurance card. The hospital a patient is taken to by the ambulance may transfer you to another health center if they’re not equipped to handle the case.

 

BANKING & ATMS

The UAE is the financial capital of the Middle East and Dubai is its beating heart. Like most cities in the world, Dubai is all kinds of friendly and accommodating when it comes to money as most, if not all, establishments and service providers accept cash and card payments. This financial infrastructure, so to speak, makes Dubai one of those cities where you can lose track of your finances and go home with an empty bank account. Your financial ruin will become an even bigger possibility when you use Visa and Mastercard’s ATM locators – if you’re using a credit or a debit card to pay your way to bankruptcy. We can promise you this though, there are a few things in this life more fun than living it up and getting your diva on in Dubai, so it’s honestly, probably fine!

Foreign Banks in Dubai

ABN-Amro Bank
Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait
Anz Grindlays Bank
Arab African International Bank
Arab Bank PLC
Bank Melli Iran
Bank of Baroda
Bank Saderat Iran
Banque Indosuez
Banque Libanaise Pour Le Commerce
Banque du Caire
Banque Paribas
Barclays Bank PLC
Citibank N.A.
Habib Bank A.G. Zurich
Habib Bank Limited
HSBC
Janata Bank
Royal Bank of Canada
Societe Generale
Standard Chartered Bank
United Bank LTD

 

PRO TIPS

We know Dubai sounds super chill, and it is to a large extent, but some seemingly harmless things could get you in serious trouble with the law – like having a sip of alcohol and driving. Literally, a sip. This is a serious offense in Dubai. Drink all you want, just don't drive. 

Don't be all touristy, brandishing your camera everywhere you go, especially at big malls and attractions – you will be immediately told to stop taking pictures. Instead of a professional camera, use your phone camera and you won't get into trouble. 

A lot of apps and websites, like Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger, are blocked in Dubai, so make sure to set up a VPN on your device(s) ahead of your visit. 

An expert on all things Dubai? We’d love to share your insights