Dubai is the most accessible city in the middle east! With Emirates flying to pretty much everywhere in the world, I definitely think it’s worth leaving the airport to explore. You can experience the glamorous and the traditional in the United Arab Emirates largest city.
This was our second trip to Dubai and I found myself loving it even more. There is so much to do and see, and it’s crazy to see what man-made structures are being created!!
Dubai Metro: We found this the easiest and at times quickest way to get around. On our first trip, we purchased the reusable cards and just topped them up with credit as needed. The trains are very reliable and we never had to wait longer than 4 minutes for the next train. It’s forbidden to eat, drink or chew gum on the metro, this ensures that they are always clean and comfortable for users. There are certain carriages reserved for only gold pass passengers and carriages reserved for women and children only. So keep an eye out for the signs, breaking these rules could result in fines.
Money: The local currency in the UAE is Dirham. We always have some local currency on us when we arrive but there are plenty of currency exchanges throughout the city. Credit cards are widely available and we didn’t find anywhere that would add a credit card surcharge.
Cost wise, you could do Dubai super expensive and fancy. I’m pretty sure having high tea at the Burj Al Arab was going to set us back nearly $600AUD. WOW! We didn’t do Dubai that fancy, we stayed at beautiful 3-star hotels and found them to be pretty cheap (under 120AUD per night). When it came to food we easily found meals for the same price that we would be paying at home.
The metro was the cheapest way to get around and we found taxies to be much cheaper than getting an Uber.
Weather: Obviously being in the desert it’s going to be hot but there is pleasant hot then completely boiling hot. We’ve been to Dubai in May and July. May was pretty good, it was hot but for someone who loves the heat, I was pretty comfortable. It was generally mid to high 30’s (degrees Celsius). July though was pushing 50 degrees and after 5 minutes outside I was dying!! Get me air-con!!! We couldn’t even go to the Marina that trip because walking around outside for that long would have been hell.
December is the coolest month and I’m told it sits at about 25 degrees.
Language: The majority of those living in Dubai have English as their second language, so we never had any issues communicating with anyone. If you can’t speak English or Arabic you may have trouble.
Menus and signs are written in English and Arabic.
Keep your hands to yourself – It’s not a good idea to show public displays of affection while in Dubai and technically you can’t share a hotel room with a person of the opposite sex unless you’re married. I’ve read that this is never really enforced and I can’t imagine it would be. The staff at most hotels are expats and have never seemed concerned or bothered about whether Lawrence and I are married.
Food: You could find pretty much any type of food imaginable in Dubai; this is one of the reasons I love it so much. It’s very multicultural and there are many international fast food chains around.
Alcohol isn’t widely available, tourists are allowed to drink in licensed venues but never on the streets or beach. Hotel bars would have a fully stocked bar for guests.
Hotels: There are endless amounts of hotel options in Dubai, I think as long as it’s within a short walk to a metro station you’ll be fine.
This year we visited Dubai in May, during the month of Ramadan. I was a little apprehensive about visiting during Ramadan as I was worried we wouldn’t be able to get food during the day and most of the shops would be closed. This wasn’t the case at all and it ended up being a great time to visit. We had no issues getting food, restaurants were still operating as per normal except all the blinds would be closed so passer-by’s couldn’t see in. The food court’s in the malls were still operating but were surrounded by temporary walls. I think the only difficult part was not being able to drink while walking around in the heat. We found the city to be pretty quite during the day so that was nice and it was good to see all the non-Muslims being respectful of Ramadan.
So now to the exciting part… Diamonds!!! Lawrence and I have been to Dubai twice and both trips revolved around our wedding and engagement rings. You can get diamond rings custom made in Dubai for far less money than what you would pay in many other countries (in Australia you’d pay nearly triple the price). I love doing it here too because you generally buy the diamonds loose so you can have a good look at them before being set. Also, Dubai is not only one of the cheapest places to buy diamonds, it’s one of the top three diamond trading hubs in the world, along with Belgium and India.
I wouldn’t say this is a hard process but it is definitely time-consuming. Last trip when we purchased both our wedding rings, we were there for 9 hours. Going to many different stores, looking at what they had and negotiating prices.
The only place we’ve shopped at (and I wouldn’t have considered going anywhere else) is the Gold & Diamond Park. This is along the Red Metro Line and across the road from station ‘First Abu Dhabi bank (FADB)’. I recommend knowing pretty much what you want before you arrive, (the colour/ clarity/cut/setting) and have a budget in mind. There are so many options and everything looks so beautiful so if you have no idea it could take days to decide. If they don’t have the diamond in store it is possible for them to source it from overseas, but for that, you’ll need to be in town for at least a week. Generally 3 – 4 days is plenty of time though but keep in mind their weekend is Friday and Saturday.
All the diamonds are certified and the store will provide you with all relevant paperwork. The factories are on site too, so you could always ask if you can take a visit and see your jewellery being made.
At times I found this to be a very stressful process but it’s a lot of fun, definitely barter with the price until you and the staff are both happy.
The two stores we’ve purchased from are Le Brilliante and Passion Jewellers, we were extremely happy with both.
Things to do
Shopping: Dubai has some of the largest malls in the world, filled with every store you could imagine. These are some of the most beautiful malls I have ever been in and you could spend hours cooling off in the air conditioning. My three favourites were Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and IBN Battuta Mall.
Then, on the other hand, you have to check out old Dubai for a more traditional look. This is the Deira and Bur Dubai areas, it’s so different compared to new Dubai, but still so much to see. This is where the souks are located, so get ready for textile, spices and gold (just to name a few).
At the Top – Burj Khalifa: It was pretty cool being able to go up to the top of the tallest building in the world. The tickets for this are pretty expensive and need to be booked in advance to secure your preferred time. It was all very well organised, with tight security. The Burj Khalifa is so tall that you can watch the sunset from the base of the building, then get in an elevator right to the top and watch the sunset all over again. It’s also awesome to watch the Dubai Mall fountain show from a bird’s eye view.
Palm Jumeirah: The palm is insane and it’s crazy to think that man was able to make this. We got the monorail down to The Atlantas hotel to check out. We weren’t staying there and most areas are restricted to guests only but it was still worth the trip.
Jumeirah Beach: I wouldn’t say this beach is a great place to cool off, we found the water to be like a hot bath. It was awesome though and there were no issues wearing regular bikinis, I just got dressed before we walked off the beach.
Jumeirah Mosque Visit: You can visit this landmark mosque at 10 am for a tour and talk inside, for only 10AED. The mosque is absolutely beautiful and I found the talk very interesting, it was great being able to learn more and ask questions regarding the Muslim religion.
Desert Safari: I definitely recommend getting out of the city at some point while in Dubai, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the desert. We did the desert safari through Rayna Tours & Travel. They pick up and drop off from our hotel. We went dune bashing in a 4×4 on your way out to the desert camp. At the camp, you’ll find some local stores, activities (such as camel rides) and then the perfect time to take some desert sunset photos. After dark, the buffet dinner is served (they’ll be a separate queue for men and women) and there is a show. I really enjoyed this afternoon but it was super busy, at times during the dune bashing we had to wait in line like it was peak hour traffic. But the food was delicious and the show was excellent.
Even if you aren’t doing Dubai the 5 star way, I always found everywhere gave 5-star service and it’s somewhere I always felt very safe. There’s still so much construction going on here and I can’t wait to come back again and see all the new extravagant buildings.
After you’ve explored Dubai, remember that Jordan is only a short flight away… It’s AMAZING there!!! And you can read my guide here.
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