From a Backpackers point of few it turned out to be a mysterious challenge. It was my first visit to the Arab world and there were a lot of noticeable differences to my expectations.
Here are some rough ideas of what I found:
Dubai is considered very easy and travel friendly compared to its neighbours and should be considered as a warm up destination if you decided to travel around this region. Alcohol is easily sold everywhere, pork is also looked around and the culture is a little geared towards tourism. Of course be careful with the laws and most importantly, be respectful with wearing the correct dress, but again this isn’t as strong followed as some places in the region
The faith is thought upon highly and there are beautiful Mosques all over the city, there is one open for tourists once a week to visit as a learning center. It’s not as strict as the capital Abu Dhabi but it should be respected and is still very present.
Practically non existent in this area of the globe, but when you have cheap hotels why notindulge in the positives.
Be prepared to feel out of place in some locations, almost none of the UAE born residence, we met worked in shops or in the service industry, they all own a business or some sort of trade, so a lot of the time you meet Asian workers who now reside in Dubai which wasn’t what we was expecting.
Hard to escape them, they are everywhere, but affordable and a must to get around as the public walking system is impossible, but for a 1km journey we never paid more than a couple of US dollars. Also the new metro system which is slowly opening up one stop at a time this might work for your onward route
Doesn’t exist, but you smell it almost everywhere! The American outlets have cleverly created Turkey bacon to grab the tourists visiting from overseas. Was rather confusing, but almost everything that should have pork in, it is replaced with beef or Turkey.
Is celebrated in Dubai! This was a big shock as we planned to escape from the festive season just for one week in December but the place is covered with fake Christmas trees and festive music. Really bizarre, but amusing.
A must, it was the highlight of the trip and really worth a little extra on top of your trip, the chance to get out of the city and crash around the sand dunes is really enjoyable, we topped it off with a belly dancing meal in a tent village and it was really enjoyable to smoke a hubbly bubbly as the sun set.
Burj Al Arab
The so called only “7 star hotel” in the world is off limits without a reservation, but staying in a room for a night at the cheapest rate can cost you an arm and a leg. The best way to access to the hotel is to book the cheapest meal on the menu to gain a reservation code that gets you past security, you can then explore the grounds and if you like, enjoy your meal. We opted for Breakfast and arrived at 10:00am the last breakfast slot and made a day of it and walked around this magnificent hotel. You can also see the world islands from the top!
Burj al Khalifa
The tallest building in the world can be viewed from the top, but it’s best to book your hour tour before you arrive as we found all the tours were sold out whilst we was there. If you don’t book online your ticket without a time is doubled, which is very expensive and out of budget. Your talking around 40 US dollars over 80 and this just an introductory offer!
The big bus tour
A really affordable way to go around two routes, the old Dubai and the new Dubai, both can be done in a day and it comes with a free river cruise which was really lovely while the sun set, Dubai sunsets are breathtaking
Spice Suk & Gold Suk
Two markets to explore and to get a real feel of the old Dubai with its sense of trade and tradition. Also, this is the place to buy your cheap souvenirs and you might be tempted by the China iPad 2’s if you want to take a gamble.
Haggling is a must.
Construction, construction, construction
Get used to looking at it as there is allot of it, your be surprised how much has been built in 20 or so years and how much is still being built for another 20 years, its scary but it’s noticeable
Shop, shop till you drop
There is no tax on consumer goods in the UAE, yep, you’ve heard it correct and with two shopping festivals, shopping is considered a sport here with two massive malls, Dubai mall and Emirates Mall along with the other sub malls around the city you will not be short of shopping destinations, pretty much any thing you want they have with a large selection of outlets on offer.
Should you visit or should you not?
For a weekend, yes, for a week no. I found that there was not a lot to do after a while, but lounge on the beach, if this is your cup of tea, then for you it’s perfect, but maybe a long weekend would have been suited better. A day around the old Suk markets followed by a desert safari and a nice day’s shopping would be a wonderful choice, so a few days on a stopover flight would be ideal, but any longer your left with only shopping which we found after a while was a bit too much as there is so much.
I’m not sure if I would visit again as Oman or Abu Dhabi seem far more appealing as a stop over, however UK residents can get a stamp on arrival for no fee, some nationalities have to plan this in advance and can arrange a destination by applying Dubai tourist visa online
For a stop over or long weekend most defiantly, but for a week I’d look into more alternatives to get the most for your money.