Dubai in the Persian Gulf is a major city in the United Arab Emirates. Once a small fishing village, Dubai is now a major transport hub, financial service, trading center, and has thriving real estate and aviation businesses. Dubai is cosmopolitan with a focus on hospitality and tourism. The city has the world’s tallest building and the 2nd maximum number of 5-star hotels in the world. Every Dubai travel guide will highlight the city’s huge shopping malls, the stunning Palm Jumeirah, ancient souks or traditional markets, beaches, and sand dunes. The city is also a cultural hotspot.
Dubai traces its roots back to 1833 when the Bani Yas tribe led by the Maktoum Family settled down in the region. The early settlers were into fishing and pearl culture. With time, the city evolved as one of the major ports. After the discovery of oil in 1966, Dubai constructed new roads, hospitals, schools, and airports.
The erstwhile rulers of Abu Dhabi and Dubai envisioned a federation of Emirates, which materialized in 1971 with the joining of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Dubai, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Fujairah, and Ras Al Khaimah.
Dubai started attracting tourists in the 1980s and ’90s with the development of top-quality hotels, air connectivity with the rest of the world and hosted many international sporting events. In Dubai now, you can visit many attractions like the Burj Khalifa, Ferrari World, Dubai Museum, the Creek, Downtown Dubai, Media City, Al Quoz, Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Marina, Old Dubai, and Palm Jumeirah.
Dubai Travel Guide – Top 10 Quick Facts
- Dubai is the largest and most populated city in the United Arab Emirates
- As per the last census, taken in March 2018, the population of Dubai is 3,010,261 people
- Dubai is spread across 1,588 square miles
- The official language of Dubai is Arabic
- The Dubai Metro is the world’s first driverless metro rail network
- Dubai International Airport is the primary airport in Dubai
- Dubai Water Bus is a boat service covering 8 stations
- Dubai does not follow the UAE Federal Legal System but has its own Courts of law
- Football and cricket are the most popular sports in Dubai
- Dubai is a major international transport hub as the city is strategically located between Asia, Europe, and North Africa
Top Reasons to Visit Dubai
There is something for everyone in Dubai. Burj Khalifa at 829.8 meters is the world’s tallest building. There are huge shopping malls, Jumeirah beach, awesome hotels, and the Ferrari World for the sporty. Often, the city is associated with shopping with tourists, but you will find many awesome beaches too where you can get a tan, thanks to the strong Arabian sun.
Nightlife – Cosmopolitan Dubai also has a happening nightlife scene. Some of the international nightclubs are Pacha, Mahiki, and Blue Marlin Ibiza. Read our nightlife guide for Bangkok.
Shopping – Dubai is a shopping paradise. You will find some of the world’s best shopping centers and high-end retail stores in Dubai. But there are traditional souks too like Bur Dubai, gold souk, perfume souk, and the spices market. Dubai hosts month-long shopping festivals for cars and gold that attracts tourists from around the world.
Culture – Dubai is a cultural melting pot. People from around the world stay here and have influenced the city’s culture. See the old wind towers that cooled the houses of the past in the Al Bastakiya neighborhood. Visit the 3000 years old Hatta Heritage Village. Spend an afternoon wandering through the streets of Al Fahidi, the Old Dubai. Appreciate the traditional architecture at the Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House. and spend your evening in Deira, trying Dubai’s street food.
Burj Al Arab – You will find plenty of luxury properties, including the 7-star Burj Al Arab. The hotel has its own fleet of luxury cars and also a helipad. Here are some amazing facts about the Burj Al Arab.
The name Dubai has come from the word “Daba” which means “to creep”. It refers to the slow flow of the water in Dubai creek. The name can also be traced back to “baby locust”. In the past, the area was badly infested by locusts.
Dubai Travel Guide – Top Places to Visit
|Burj Khalifa||At 829.8 meters, Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building. It is a landmark building in Dubai. There are plenty of gardens and parks around this gigantic structure. It also has the world’s tallest fountain by the name Dubai Fountain on its premises.|
|Palm Jumeirah||An incredible tree-shaped island just off the coast. It houses some of the best condominiums, jazzy hotels, and restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. You can climb aboard the Jumeirah Boardwalk and view the spectacular Burj Al Arab Hotel and Dubai coastline.|
|Dubai Mall||It is one of the swankiest malls in Dubai. It provides entry to the Burj Khalifa as well as the Dubai Aquarium. There is an ice-skating rink, multiplex, and gaming areas. There are live music and shopping festivals.|
|Dubai Museum||Housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort. The museum has exhibits that showcase the royal way of life.|
There is weaponry, musical instruments, and artifacts from the old era.
|Bastakia||The older section of the city with buildings made of limestone and coral that showcase Arabic culture. Visit the Majlis Gallery and the Al Serkal Cultural Foundation.|
|Dubai Creek||It is a saltwater creek, which divides the city into two parts. You can hop onto a cable car and cover the 2.3 km stretch over Dubai Creek Park in an hour. But the traditional way is to cross the creek in a dhow.|
|Jumeirah Mosque||It is one of the most iconic structures in Dubai. The Mosque has an ‘Open Doors, Open Minds’ policy. It can hold up to 1,200 worshippers.|
|Deira||You will find some top markets and the international airport in this neighborhood. Visit the Dhow Wharfage.|
|Jumeirah Beach||It is a palm-tree-lined white sandy beach with many top hotels, resorts, and buildings.|
Dubai has two major international airports.
- Dubai International Airport
- Al Maktoum International Airport
Dubai International Airport
This is a vast airport and services the major airlines. Dubai Airport has 3 terminals. Terminal 3 is exclusively used by Emirates. You will find to and from all major cities in the world. One of the world’s busiest airports, it is often a changing point for travelers visiting Asia, Africa, and Europe. The airport is equipped to handle large aircraft like the A380. It has a capacity of 90 million passengers per year.
Bus – You can get several buses to the Dubai City Centre which is about 5 km away. However, most of the hotels are located on the Persian Gulf coast, which is about 40 km. away. The price starts at $2. Air-conditioned buses leave every 7 minutes during the daytime and 20 minutes at night.
Metro – You can take the metro to reach the city center in less than 40 minutes. Use the red line to travel within the city. It will cost you $ 1.6.
Taxi – There are designated taxi booths in the airport. You will find all types of vehicles, even luxury cars, and limousines.
Al Maktoum International Airport
The smaller airport of Dubai. It mostly caters to smaller aircraft, low-budget airlines, and cargo. Al Maktoum can cater to 5-7 million passengers a year. However, it is undergoing extensive infrastructural improvements and will be able to facilitate 160 million passengers.
Bus – Buses are available round the clock. The Express Bus F55 operates between 6 am to 10 pm. It can take you to the Ibn Battuta Metro Station, from where you can take the Greenline metro to the city center. There is also another night bus service F55 A.
Taxi – You can rent a car or a taxi. But it will be costlier.
Dubai Travel Guide – Tips for the First-Time Visitor
|What to Wear||Dubai is conservative and follows Islamic laws. So dress conservatively.|
Your dress should reach below the knee and your head and shoulders should be covered.
|Behavior||Public show of affection is not allowed and can land you in jail.|
|Religion||During Ramadan, you cannot eat, drink, smoke or chew gum in public areas in the daytime.|
|Music||Loud music is not allowed in public areas.|
|Driving||Do not drive after drinking. You can land up in jail.|
|Legal||Drugs, pornography, and weapons are not allowed.|
Dubai has two seasons – hot and hotter.
November to March: This is wintertime in Dubai. However, it will only be slightly cooler. This is a good time to enjoy outdoor activities. The Dubai Shopping Festival also takes place at this time.
April to October: The temperature is at its peak, especially during the day. Spend your days within the air-conditioned shopping centers. The evenings are much more comfortable.
Visiting Dubai On a Budget
In Dubai, events and other activities can be very expensive. Healthcare too is very expensive. So, please travel with insurance.
Travel – Book your air tickets well in advance. Take the metro. On a bus, you may have to change at a stop often, which can quickly add to your costs. You can also avoid the traffic rush on a metro. When you purchase a metro ticket, load it with the day pass. You can also rent a bike to travel in and around the Marina area. Hire an Abra to cross the Dubai Creek.
Accommodation – Book a hotel in the Old part of Dubai. It will be cheaper. They will cost significantly less at Al Basha, Al Mankhool, Bur Dubai, and Deira.
Mosques, Museums – The Jumeirah Mosque is a beautiful place. It welcomes people of all religions. A guided tour will cost you only $5.44. You can also visit the Dubai Museum at 80 cents per head.
Burj Khalifa – Visit the Burj Khalifa on a budget. Book online in advance online to get a cheap deal. If you book on the spot, the price will be 75% higher.
Food – Avoid flashy restaurants. Head to the local food venues. You can go to Al Dhiyafah for Indian, Pakistani, Lebanese, and Iranian food.
Free Things To Do
- Street Wrestling is very popular. On Friday afternoon, Indian and Pakistani workers join for a bout on the streets of Deira near the fish market.
- Enjoy a boat ride across the Dubai creek for just a dirham.
- See horse racing at Meydan.
- Stroll around Souq Madinat. There are fountains and giant turtles.
- Al Bastakiya is a part of Old Dubai. See the wonderfully restored old houses.