Dubai Guide: All You Need to Know Before Visiting Dubai
Dubai – the city of superlatives, the city that polarizes. Not everybody loves the city in the United Arab Emirates, but I can say that I love it.
I have been to Dubai several times so far, and have written a lot of different posts about activities, hotels, restaurant reviews, and travel tips. Now, I finally summarized all important information for tourists and travelers visiting Dubai and prepared this Dubai Travel Advisory.
You’ll find general information, info on how to get around and about the different areas, top tips on what to do in Dubai, and some extra tips for female travelers. If you are looking for more detailed information click on the link you’ll find in this post.
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- Biggest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
- More than 2 million inhabitants
- Only about 14% are actually from the UAE
- English is very common and in all stores, restaurants, hotels, good English is spoken by most (basic English by almost all)
- Currency: Dirham, though € and $ are often accepted, I mostly used credit cards and had some change for smaller amounts and tips in Dirham
- Tip: If you dine, the tip is often included in the bill (10%), have a look at the bill, if it is not included I always tip about 10% ( don’t forget to tip taxi drivers and hotel housekeeping)
Religion in Dubai
- Though there are many foreign workers the main religion is Islam, so Fridays are official rest days (most shops, malls, and restaurants are open, though)
- Dress and behavior code for people: women can wear what they want at the beach (not topless, though), but should respect the dress code in other areas. More information about the dress code here. Also, men should follow dress rules. Intimacy between couples is not welcomed in public.
Is Dubai Safe?
- I think Dubai is one of the safest places to visit – in every aspect. Even as a female solo traveler you are safe to visit. Dubai’s crime rate is among the lowest in the world, more about security and safety issues here.
Best Time to Visit Dubai
- I am not a fan of heat, so I do not recommend visiting during summer (May – September), October was almost too hot for me already, but it depends on what kind of weather you prefer.
- Check also for the fasting time (Ramadan) because life is different during that time and many activities cannot be done (also alcohol is less available).
How to Get Around in Dubai
Public Transportation in Dubai
Coming from a “bigger“ city in Germany, I am used to good, reliable public transport.
Dubai is developing pretty quickly and so is the public transport. The Metro is fast, reliable, operates regularly, and is super clean – it even has own women-only-departments and the prices are okay as well.
There are only two metro lines (the green and red line), and the main line starts in Dubai Downtown and ends after Dubai Marina. However, the stops are spread out quite far, e.g. the “Dubai Mall Stop” does not mean you are actually at Dubai Mall. It just means it is the closest station to Dubai Mall, and it includes another 1-kilometer walk.
In Dubai Marina, there is also a tram and there are many buses throughout Dubai. The metro ticket allows you to use buses as well BUT when I hopped on a bus I was not allowed to use it because I had not bought a ticket beforehand and tickets are not available on the bus.
Thus, the metro/public transport is not my preferred means of transport, but it is pretty good for long distances, especially because the red line travels along Sheikh Zayed Road for most of its length. (Btw: Sheikh Zayed Road is THE main road in Dubai.)
Taxis in Dubai
There are several kinds of taxis: the black Lexus taxis are a bit more expensive and apparently more service-oriented, but the other, the “normal”, taxis are totally fine to use. A display shows you not only the price but also the driven kilometers.
Petrol is cheap in Dubai – and so are the taxi rides. There is a minimum charge of about €4, but it gets you some kilometers, other than that taxis charge about €0,50 per kilometer. I had some great conversations with taxi-drivers (mostly Afghans, Pakistanis, or Indians) and if they speak English they will actually give you a lot of insights and you’ll probably get a different view of Dubai.
A display shows you not only the price but also the driven kilometers. Petrol is cheap in Dubai – and so are the taxi rides. There is a minimum charge of about €4, but it gets you some kilometers, other than that taxis charge about €0,50 per kilometer.
I had some great conversations with taxi-drivers (mostly Afghans, Pakistanis, or Indians) and if they speak English they will actually give you a lot of insights and you’ll probably get a different view of Dubai. However, if you do not want to visit
However, if you do not want to visit a main attraction or a very famous hotel, I would advise you to google the address beforehand and/or take a screenshot of the route since most taxis do not have a GPS. Many drivers might be not aware of less famous hotels/places.
Hop On and Hop Off Buses in Dubai
I admit I am a huge Hop On and Hop Off fan and can recommend getting a ticket for there as well if you stay a bit longer and want to see several places and do more activities (review of hop-on and hop-off bus in Dubai here).
Check out the best prices for your hop-on and hop-off ticket.
Female Travel Tips for Dubai
- Dubai is very westernized, but still an Islamic city. Respect the dress codes (read more about What to Wear in Dubai as a Woman).
Other than that, Dubai is one of the best places for solo female travelers, as it is safe and women are free in their daily routine. Women can go to clubs, can dress as in many western countries, have their own compartments in metros, can use the pink taxis which are for women only. However, as in all parts of the world, I can only recommend using common sense if traveling alone – even in Dubai.
Dubai Travel Advisory
Areas in Dubai
My favorite areas in Dubai are:
- Dubai Downtown is home to some major tourist attractions like Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountain, or Dubai Mall, as well as some top-notch hotels, like Armani Hotel etc. Though I do not think it is the most charming part of Dubai, it is a must-visit area, and it is not far to Dubai Deira or the public beach.
- Dubai Deira and the Creek – the old part of Dubai is located in the eastern part of Dubai and is very charming. You’ll find the lively Gold and Spice Souk. There are also some museums to visit, and you can spend much more time in the Souks.Dubai’s oldest part is located more or less next to the airport (9km). It is a busy area and the small and narrow streets of the Gold and Spice Souks give you probably one of the most authentic feelings – though the shopkeepers are mostly non-Arabs. As a solo female traveler strolling through Deira I definitely felt safe, BUT not always comfortable. It is very common to be constantly approached by men – either by people are trying to sell you stuff or because they are hitting on you. I met a couple of female expats who told me they do not visit Deira anymore because of that reason. If you are in Dubai, I still think it is a lovely place and you should not miss out on it. They are also some museums and riding an abra from the one side to the other is a lovely experience (and very inexpensive).
- Madinat Jumeirah is a re-creation off ancient Arabia and one of my most favorite parts. Once you enter Madinat it is like nothing of the hustle and bustle that is so common in Dubai. Little shops sell souvenirs, jewelry, etc. and some restaurants and cafes allow you to enjoy the lovely atmosphere. There is also an outdoor part and you get the best view of Burj Al-Arab. You could also ride an abra, which is much more expensive than in Deira though.
- The desert is actually my favorite area in Dubai. I have been to the desert the times (the hot-air balloon ride, a Sundowner Dune Dinner Safari, and a Morning Dune Bash) and I cannot wait to visit again.
- Dubai Marina is a beautiful part of Dubai and was created in 2003. It is still constantly changing and expanding, and thus you’ll always have to see construction work almost everywhere you look. Currently, it is the second biggest man-made marina, but Dubai would not be Dubai if it did not plan to break records and make it the biggest in the world. It is the home to many hotels, including the highest hotel in the world, and the perfect place for nice strolls and beautiful views.
- JBR Walk is, unlike Dubai Marina, located along the beach with many shops, restaurants, hotels, and bars. However, I also enjoy the proximity to Dubai Marina and love going there for a walk.
- Palm Jumeirah: When I heard about the Palm(s) on TV for the first time, I was more than skeptical about the negative impacts on the environment. However, on my second and third trip to Dubai, I actually stayed at one of the hotels on Palm Jumeirah. There were supposed to be three palms but actually, one got only finished, and a second one is supposed to be finished eventually. The third one was stopped as a result of the financial crises which also hit Dubai.
Best Places to Stay in Dubai
Accommodation in Dubai is top – even a 3* hotel is better than other 3* hotels throughout the world.
To get the best deals on your Dubai hotel click here. Not surprisingly, 5* hotels are better than in other parts of the world. Following are some hotels I have visited and reviewed in the past:
- The Palm
5* Hotel and Resort: Atlantis Hotel – The Palm Dubai
5* Resort: Review: Anantara The Palm Dubai
- Dubai Marina
5* Hotel: Review: Grosvenor House in Dubai
5* Hotel: Review: Intercontinental Dubai Marina
- JBR Walk
4* Resort: Review: JA Ocean View Hotel Dubai
What to Do in Dubai
Before I visited Dubai for the first time, I thought Dubai is just skyscrapers and shopping malls, but I was proven wrong. There is soooo much to do and see, and there’s something for almost any taste.
- Do a Dubai desert safari, either a Morning Dune Drive or a Sundowner Dune Dinner Safari
- Take a hot air balloon ride in Dubai
- Visit Dubai Deira and the Gold and Spice Souk and ride an Abra
- Visit Dubai Mall, the biggest shopping center in the world (check out Dubai Mall Quick Guide)
- Watch the Dubai Fountain (once or twice an hour)
- Visit “At the Top of Burj Khalifa”
- Stroll through Dubai Marina
- Do a boat tour from Marina
- Stroll along JBR Walk
- Visit Miracle Garden
- Discover The Palm and rent a bike (the Palm is perfect for a bike ride)
- Check out Madinat Jumeirah and discover the souks and the best views of Dubai Burj Al-Arab
- Spend time at Kite Beach
- Visit the Gold and Spice Souks in Dubai Deira
Click here to book one of the tours now and save money.
Want to read more about Dubai? Head to my archives and read about the top things to do in Dubai.
Find out “How to spend a layover in Dubai (6,8, or 10 hours)” and if you are lucky and spend more time there read “How to Spend 3 Days in Dubai”.
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Dubai Guide: Dubai Travel Advisory
Click here for more about Dubai.
Dubai Guide: Dubai Travel Advisory