This is your ultimate Dubai travel guide for planning your first trip to this incredible city. Packed with tips and tricks as well as three and five day itineraries.
Where to Stay – Your First Trip to Dubai
Excellent accommodation can make or break a trip, especially in a city as luxurious as Dubai. For your first trip to Dubai, if you’re staying for longer than six nights, I recommend splitting your time between downtown and the Palm. This allows you to get a feel for two very different areas of the city and beautifully balance exploring and relaxing.
The Taj Hotel in downtown Dubai is one of the best hotels I have ever stayed at. I was transported to an Indian paradise from the moment we stepped inside. The staff are unbelievably friendly, the rooms were spacious and spotless, and the breakfast buffet is plentiful. On the Palm, we spent four nights at the Royal Central Hotel. Whilst we enjoyed our stay here, I believe there are better hotels on the Palm at very similar price points. For example, the Taj has a sister resort, the incredible Atlantis resort, and the beautiful Anantara makes excellent alternatives.
How to Get Around in Dubai
The first thing that shocked me about Dubai is how vast and spread out the city is. Taking a thirty-minute taxi to dinner is a usual event in Dubai and part of the experience you simply must embrace. Walking is not an option in the city, except for along the beautiful Palm boardwalk.
Yellow taxis are everywhere in Dubai and are surprisingly affordable. They can be easily flagged down from just about any street in the city – expect a twenty-minute drive to cost you around AED 35. Private cars can also be rented at a slightly higher price point, but ideal for those who like to travel in style.
Alternatively, there is a metro that runs the length of the city. This is extremely affordable, clean, and simple to use. If you’re used to the dirt and chaos of the London underground, the Dubai Metro will feel like a luxury experience.
However, the Metro line is not extensive so you may find yourself needing to take a taxi once you depart at the station. But when making long journeys across the city, or travelling at peak times, the metro is an excellent way to save time and money.
Your Dubai Travel Guide – Where to Eat
There is an abundance of fantastic restaurants in Dubai, far more than anyone can experience in a single trip. As mentioned, there are vast distances between spots in Dubai, and the city doesn’t lend itself to wandering and stumbling upon the best eateries. So, a great deal of pre-planning will enable you to get the most from your trip.
I enjoyed two stand-out Indian meals whilst in Dubai. The first was at Bombay Brasserie, part of the fabulous Taj Hotel. Perfect cooked panner, succulent lamb and fluffy naan bread. Two mains, three sides, and two flawless cocktails cost us 480 AED – by no means a cheap eat, but very reasonable by Dubai standards. Secondly, we enjoyed the fabulous Khyber restaurant situated inside the glamorous Dukes the Palm restaurant. The set menu here is a fantastic way to experience a taste of fine dining Indian food, with a varied and delicious three courses which allow you to sample a range of Indian delights.
Lebanese food is also plentiful in Dubai so expect to enjoy lots of beautifully grilled meats served with pitta and hummus. Of course, the United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country so pork is not readily available. However, seafood, chicken, lamb and beef appear on almost every menu. There are many incredible restaurants in the Dubai Mall, which is a stunning place to enjoy a meal and the fountain show. You should be aware that the mall is completely dry – meaning no alcohol is served. Many restaurants in the city do serve alcohol, but if this is important to you I would recommend checking beforehand.
Best Things to do in Dubai
Dubai is often referred to as a playground, and for good reason. There is such a variety of activities in enjoy in the city, catering for those looking for a luxuriously relaxing break, to those seeking adrenaline action.
For me, the must-do activities are the Burj Khalifa, the Aquaventure waterpark, and the Dubai Creek. The Dubai Mall is an excellent evening out, even for those who do not have a passion for shopping. However, there is so much more to this incredible city. Read my in-depth guide to the 17 best things to do in Dubai.
What to Wear in Dubai
No Dubai travel guide would be complete without touching on what to wear in the city. You will have undoubtedly read many mixed reviews describing how you should dress in Dubai. The United Arab Emirates is a conservative and very religious country. However, I found Dubai extremely open and tolerant to foreigners and tourists, who are welcome to wear pretty much anything they like (within reason). If you plan to visit the old town or somewhere a little more off the beaten track, dressing conservatively will make you feel more comfortable. Whilst on the beach, swimwear is, of course, the perfect option.