As promised I am back on active blog duty and you can expect a post every Sunday and Thursday. Before we had set off on our honeymoon I have asked the blogging community for any Dubai posts so I could jot down some ideas on where to go, what to do & what to expect and to be quite honest I was a little disappointed in what I seen. Now, I am not here to judge anyone’s work, however all posts that I saw were “what we did and how we did it and where we stayed” – it wasn’t informational enough on basic things hence why I am writing this post. Posts must be generic and apply to public so everyone can use this information.
In this part of the blog I will (hopefully) give you detailed information on what do you need to do and how to prepare yourself before you even set foot in Dubai. Ready? Let’s go!
In the UAE* the currency is AED** €1.00 = 4AED (Approximately).
For the whole duration of our trip we used our cards for paying for most things. We have taken out 1000AED (approximately €250.00) only once to have cash handy for paying for things such as taxis, small refreshments in the shops, markets etc.
1.1 Value for Money
It’s not really expensive to do things, visit sites etc. I would be confident in saying that pricing of typical tourist sights is quite reasonable. Where you will suffer financially is food & drink. To dine out it’s quite expensive, to give you an example: 1 shared starter; 2 main courses; 1 beer & 1 coke = €85.00 BOOM! (And that was in a bar not a restaurant).
Whilst on topic of food & drink. You will not be able to buy alcohol anywhere in the shop. There are no such things as off licences and you will only be able to get your hands on alcohol in a bar (very few of those) or in your hotel (you’re looking at approx. €12-€15 for a beer or G&T). Buy a bottle of your desired spirit in Duty Free Shop in Dublin Airport and bring it with you. (Also, as you are flying outside Europe you will not have to pay tax and it’s like Christmas! We paid €25 for 1 1l bottle of gin & 1l bottle of whisky = Winning)
2. Hotel Location
It is very important where you choose to stay whilst in Dubai. Dubai it’s not like any other city I have ever been to. It doesn’t have a “city center” as such, there isn’t a main square like in most European cities and you will most likely not walk many places. Everything is quite a distance from each other, there isn’t a promenade to walk on and window shop.
There are 3 main areas in Dubai:
- The Palm & Dubai Marina
- Downtown Dubai
- Old Town Dubai (Deira)
The Palm & Dubai Marina
The Palm does not currently have any public transport connected to it. If you find an affordable hotel on the Palm itself you will look at paying approximately €20.00 one way in a taxi to get to downtown. That will cost you €80.00 daily if you want to go downtown to sight-see during the day & then head back out for food & drink in the evening. You would be better off paying an additional €200-€300 for a hotel based downtown for better location.
The Palm also doesn’t have a lot of places to go to shop or eat. You won’t find a cluster of shops to walk around – everything is individually located in separate buildings. It is very much a residential area. The one place I CAN recommend to stay on the Palm is Atlantis The Palm Hotel. It’s located at the very top of The Palm and it has a direct metro link to downtown (unfortunately this metro does not stop anywhere else on the Palm but Atlantis).
The Atlantis Hotel seems to have it all with over 1000 bedrooms! From Lost Chambers Aquarium (amazing); Aquaventure – Aqua Park; Dolphin Bay; Scuba Diving; Shark Bay to Gordon Ramsay’s Steakhouse; Creamery; Starbucks and number of high end shops this place will keep you occupied without having to see the city (I believe that was the idea behind it all, that you won’t want to leave the hotel premises). When you arrive there you feel like you are in a completely different world, something like a holiday village. We did not stay there, however I know someone that did and they were extremely happy with it.
Image Source: http://www.atlantis.com
Marina is close to the financial center of the city, it’s relatively quiet but it does have it’s own Marina Mall and it’s within a walking distance to the beach. The yachts “parked” in the Marina are also an impressive sight.
This is where you want to be. In the center of most of things touristy and food (!). Downtown Dubai offers the most of attractions, nightlife and buzz in general. We have stopped in for a drink in The Address Hotel next to Dubai Mall and it’s beyond exclusive. The view of Burj Khalifa (highest building in the world) is second to none and it’s location couldn’t be more central. Late night drinks by the pool whilst smoking flavored Sisha overlooking to ever-lit Dubai Mall is a sight out of this world, the ultimate luxury.
Old Town Dubai – Deira
This is an area for those who really & truly want to experience the Arabic Culture first hand. Approximately 30 minutes from downtown Dubai, Deira offers you an insight into how Dubai worked before it’s luxury and technology took over. Here you can ride in an Abra – small boat which is considered as a taxi/bus transportation option over the creek. This will “set you back” 1AED (an equivalent of 0.25c).
Image Source: Trip Advisor
Here, you will also find all the original Souks of the city. Souk is a market, they are clustered together depending on the produce – you will find a gold souk, spice souk, textile souk etc. Spice & Gold Souks would be the main markets visited by tourists. This is where you will see what Dubai looked like before it rose to it’s glory.
3. Airport Transport
Before you book a hotel try and find out if your hotel provides airport transportation. Chances are they either provide a complimentary shuttle or else they can arrange a private transport or a taxi for you at a reasonable price. Most of 5 Star Hotels provide those services and since most of the hotels in Dubai are 5 Star chances are you will be staying in one of them. It can be quite intimidating trying to find your own way as this city is so GRAND. You will know what I mean when you get there.
Before we left for Dubai I was freaked out by number of people telling me “You can’t wear this, you can’t wear that, you will get arrested in you are holding hands with your partner etc.”
It’s absolutely nothing like that. It’s very European, very open and very on trend. There are 2 places I have noted clothing restrictions in and those are as follows:
- Emirates Mall – Woman needs to wear at least a T-Shirt and preferably knee length shorts/skirt. Here for the first time I felt that people were actually covered up and they do have signs outside to respect their wishes when it comes to dressing. (I wore a mini dress with an open back – nobody stopped me or said anything but I definitely felt intimidated and over-exposed)
- Mosque – Unfortunately we didn’t make it on time (Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammed Al Maktoum opened the Jumeirah Mosque to public between Saturday through to Thursday inclusive at 10.00am for visiting). Modest attire is suggested and the Mosque can give you the traditional outfit for women to wear. I believe you must also cover your hair while inside.
5. Hop On – Hop Off Bus Tour
This is your best way to save $$$ and see everything! The pricing is as follows:
- 24 Hour Ticket 240AED = €60.00
- 48 Hour Ticket 295AED = €73.00
- 7 Day Ticket 340AED = €85.00
(Prices are per person and Euro value above is an approximate depending on currency exchange)
With each ticket you get complimentary concessions to various attractions. We initially bought the 24 hour one and then upgraded to 48 hour one. We have left it too late to use it for the week, therefore there was no point in getting he 7 day one for us HOWEVER if you go for around 7 days or even 5 this bus will save you a tonne of money as they go between 9.00am until 10.30pm regularly. With the ticket you also get FREE concessions to: Dubai Creek Cruise; Dubai Museum; Costa Coffee (Buy 1 get 1 free); Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo; Jumeirah Cruise on the Palm (pictured below) and Free Tour of Sharjah which for those of you who don’t know it’s a separate Emirate.
I cannot praise this city tour enough as concession to Dubai Aquarium alone is approximately €50.00 a head! You are saving a huge chunk and get to see a lot more with some narrative through the speakers with interesting facts. Absolute win!
If you are staying for 5 or more days, get the 7 day ticket as traffic in Dubai is nothing like I’ve ever seen (you’re talking about 2 hour traffic one way sometimes) and you will need more time to see everything.
***There is a separate bus company called The Big Bus who provide a similar service, however I don’t believe they are as good. They are probably €5.00 cheaper and provide less concessions.
6. Groupon is your best friend
Before you head off to Dubai do some research online on Groupon. You will find a lot of tourist attractions (not mentioned in the above list of free things with Hop-On/Hop-Off Bus) at a fraction of the price. This is how we got to go to the top of Burj Khalifa. We found tickets on Groupon for half the price – it included the Fast Track (you get to skip all the queues) and you get a free drink + treat in their cafe. Definitely a thumbs up from me!
I am going to end this part of the post here. I do hope my tips will come useful for those who are planning on going to Dubai. I wish I had know all of this before we left – I could have been much more prepared and managed my money and time more wisely. Let me know in comments below if you liked this post and if will you use any of my suggestions.
Keep an eye out out for Part 2 – What to do in Dubai!
Until then – Dream Big Jetsetters