Attracting more than 12 million foreign visitors every year, Dubai is the Arab world's premier tourist destination, and it's a great place for an Asian vacation.
Whenever you go, you can count on sunshine and warm weather. But Dubai is about much more than year-round sun. It's the kind of place where gourmet restaurants seem to multiply every week. From the sushi at Blue Jade to the stunning Indian dishes at Amal, every cuisine seems represented.
If you want to experience a desert adventure, you can rent 4x4 vehicles. If you want to play golf every day at challenging courses, you can. If you just want to shop for luxury goods, there's no better place than the Dubai Mall. You can even spend the day snowboarding if that's what you desire.
Dubai caters for everyone - with shopping, sports, and cultural attractions that place it right at the top of the global vacation league. Don't miss out.
Dubai is one of the world's retail capitals, with massive malls like the Dubai Mall and lively souks selling everything from fresh spices to perfume. You'll find stores selling leading luxury brands like Givenchy and Chanel as well as souvenir markets where haggling is expected.
Dubai hardly ever experiences temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and rainfall is rare, one of the major reasons why tourists flock to its sun decks and beaches. Perfect your tan on the beach at Jumeirah or splash about in waterparks like Wild Wadi and Aquaventure.
Dubai's desert setting is one of its greatest charms, and it's easy to explore the nearby dunes. Just book a desert safari or a "dune bashing" excursion with tour providers like Desert Safari Dubai, and they will provide you with the quad bikes and 4x4s needed to master the desert terrain.
Dubai is also a cultural center in the Arab world. Music is a huge part of Dubai's cultural life - with big shows like Les Miserables at the Dubai Opera and live pop and jazz artists at venues like Stereo Arcade and MusicHall. Art is also a local passion, and Art Dubai (held in March) is one of the fastest growing art festivals in the world.
Yes. Skiing. Although Dubai is a desert emirate, that doesn't mean you have to be restricted to sunbathing or watching the camel races. In fact, you can ski and snowboard all year round, thanks to the massive indoor alpine center at the Mall of the Emirates. Going from 100 degrees in the shade to -10 is an incredible experience.
Shopping is one of Dubai's obsessions, and the many malls draw visitors from across the world to stock up on duty-free clothing, perfume, and jewelry. The best place to look for bargains is Dubai Mall, underneath the Burj Khalifa tower, which is crammed with major international brands.
Sometimes it's easy to forget that Dubai is a desert city until, that is, you happen upon a camel race. During the winter months, head to the Camel Race Track on Thursdays and Fridays for a truly unique afternoon of racing action.
The desert isn't far away from the center of Dubai, and it offers some superb recreational opportunities. The most exciting of all is dune bashing, which entails driving 4x4s, dune buggies and quad bikes over the dunes and combining the action with evenings of home cooking and music. Check out the tours provided by the expert guides at Desert Safari Dubai.
Dubai has turned itself into Asia's golfing capital, hosting the Dubai Desert Classic every year at the Emirates Golf Club. The city is full of superb courses like the Montgomerie Dubai, the Els Club and Arabian Ranches and green fees are reasonable at almost all of them.
Historic Dubai has attractions of its own, and the most fascinating of all are the bustling souks (markets) in Deira. Head to the Spice Souk to smell and see the colors of the region's famous spices, see the glimmering jewelry in the Gold Souk, or haggle for scents in the Perfume Souk. There isn't a more exotic and magical way to shop.
Most visitors prefer Dubai in its shoulder season between November and March, not it's high summer between July and September. At the height of summer, conditions can become oppressive, but after November the climate cools off, and the weather becomes perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and shopping.
Dubai International Airport is about 3 miles east of the city itself, so it's fairly close to most hotels. After you touch down, the quickest way to reach the center of town is to take the Dubai Metro, which stops at Terminals 1 and 3. To use the Metro, you will need to purchase a Nol card. Go for the Red Card option, which costs AED 2, which will give you ten trips over a 24 hour period and can be topped up at vending machines around the city. Alternatively, you can take taxis from the airport, which should cost around AED 25.
Some visitors to Dubai arrive from the neighboring Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Oman, and Sharjah. If this is the case, you can easily reach Dubai with a rental car.
Dubai is linked to all of the major cities in the United Arab Emirates via the Emirates Express bus system. Buses from Abu Dhabi cost AED 25, while the fare from Sharjah is around AED 7. Buses arrive every hour during the day from both cities.
Dubai boasts a huge choice of hotels, with differing price levels to suit almost any budget. If you want a cheaper option in an atmospheric community, the Al Uruba Hotel in Deira is a good choice. The Youth Hostel on Al Nahda Rd is another good budget option that is popular with students and backpackers. For more up-market accommodation, check out the self-catering properties at Clover Creek Hotel Apartments or the Crowne Plaza, which has a luxury shopping mall directly connected to its lobby.
Deira – The center of old Dubai, Deira used to be a thriving financial hub. Nowadays, the offices are located a short walk away in Downtown Dubai, but the souks (markets) remain and they are a great place to haggle for a vacation souvenir or two. With great eateries like Karachi Darbar and Ashiana in the area, it's also a superb place to dine.
Jumeirah – The most cosmopolitan part of town, Jumeirah is an attractive district that fronts onto the beach, making it popular with vacationers from all over the world. Family attractions near the seafront include Wild Wadi Water Park, while architectural highlights include the iconic sail-shaped design of the Burj Al Arab hotel.
Dubai Marina – Another district near the shore of the Persian Gulf, Dubai Marina is a place to be seen. Full of luxury apartments and yachts, the Marina is also a top place for people-watching, particularly at the waterfront restaurants along the Beach Walk. It's also a great location for history fans, with the chance to take boat trips on authentically restored Arab dhows (cargo ships).
Dubai has a superb public transportation system. The metro is the fastest way to get around and is adding new stations all the time. Ticket prices vary from AED 2 to AD 8.50 depending on how many "zones" you need to travel through. The tram network is also handy for reaching Dubai Marina, while the buses are useful for hopping between attractions in the center of town. Remember to buy a Nol card as soon as possible, as a charged card is required to travel on all forms of public transit.
Taxis are a very popular and convenient way to move around Dubai. However, try to book trips in the late afternoon and early evening, as taxis can become more scarce at peak periods. The average taxi rate is AED 3.20 per kilometer, although this can vary during rush hour.
Renting a car in Dubai is simple and very little paperwork is required. When driving, be aware that Dubai's GPS maps are not always completely up to date. Fresh printed maps are released regularly, so keep one handy just in case your in-car Sat Nav lets you down.
Dubai is an incredible retail destination. The recent construction and tourism boom have seen hundreds of malls opening, and prices are generally low due to Dubai's very low tariff levels. The largest of the city's shopping centers is the Dubai Mall, where you'll find international brands like Five Guys, the Cheesecake Factory, Givenchy, and Tag Heuer. However, you don't need to shop at malls. The souks of Deira offer a completely different experience, where haggling is the norm. Be sure to visit Gold Souk in particular. Even if you don't buy anything, the stalls piled high with gold jewelry are a stunning sight.
The main supermarkets in Dubai are Spinney's, Al Maya, and New West Zone. All of them have branches near the city center and should be the cheapest places to shop for everyday groceries during your stay. As far as the cost of living goes, Dubai is not too expensive. You can purchase 12 eggs for AED 10 and a gallon of milk for AED 20, prices that are lower than major U.S. cities like New York or San Francisco.
Dubai has quickly become one of Asia's greatest dining cities, with options to suit everyone's tastes. Many hotels also pay hefty wages to secure the services of elite chefs, so their restaurants might be the first place to look. For example, Verre at the Hilton Dubai has been set up by British chef Gordon Ramsay. Excellent Chinese restaurants include Zheng He's and Long Yin, while high-quality Indian food is everywhere. Some of the best options include Indego by Vineet and Asha's. If you just want a filling burger, look no further than Baker & Spice in Dubai Marina. Expect to pay around AED 10 for a budget meal, or anything up to AED 50 at high-end restaurants.