Considered one of the most luxurious and glamorous cities in the world, Dubai welcomes millions of tourists every year. It is a city where the innovations of the modern world blend with traditional Arab culture. Not only the luxury and splendor, but also the mystery of the deserts, the bustling markets and the vibrant local culture. I had the opportunity to visit Dubai several times, and after our last visit in the last few months, I wanted to prepare a guide for those who are going to Dubai. Here is the Dubai travel guide, enjoy it.

Dubai Travel Guide

I would like to start by giving some general information about the country. Dubai is a member of the United Arab Emirates and the second largest city by land area. It was founded in 1833 by the Al Maktoum family and developed quite quickly with the discovery of oil in the second half of the 20th century. The official currency is the UAE Dirham. Each emirate in the UAE is largely autonomous and Dubai is ruled by a monarchy. The official language of Dubai is Arabic. It has a society that strictly adheres to Islam. Dubai uses Islamic Sharia as the basis of its legal system. Sharia is applied in matters such as family law, divorce, inheritance and some criminal cases. However, as Dubai is a global business and tourism hub, it is home to international visitors and expats. For this reason, the emirate uses modern international legal practices except for the above-mentioned issues. There is a very tolerant environment for tourists in daily life. There are no restrictions on clothing except for religious buildings. Alcohol is generally sold and consumed in licensed restaurants, bars and nightclubs. These places are mostly located in hotels. By the way, Dubai is an extremely safe country, I felt very comfortable every time I visited.

Does Dubai require a visa?

Citizens from 82 countries can travel to the UAE without the need to secure a visa beforehand. Unfortunately, citizens of other countries need a visa to travel to Dubai, but fortunately, it is very easy and fast. Visa applications are usually made through the airline you will fly with and you don’t even need to collect proper documents. We flew with WizzAir and got our visa through their agency Sharaf Travel Services. I personally just gave a photo of myself and a photo of my passport and 2 days later I received the visa by mail. Depending on where you apply, you pay a fee of around 100$ per person. If you are flying directly to Dubai, the emirate has its own visa application page, but since we were going via Abu Dhabi, I didn’t want to risk it.

When is the best month to visit Dubai?

Dubai has a warm climate all year round, but the summer months are too hot to go outside. The period between October and April is the best time to visit the city. Temperatures are milder during this period and it is more favorable to spend time outdoors. However, December-February can be a bit chilly for a beach vacation. During these months, a program that focuses more on sightseeing would be better.

How many days to visit Dubai?

Depending on what kind of a vacation you are planning, I think Dubai is a city to stay for a minimum of 3 nights and 4 days. If you want to have a sea vacation, you need at least 1 week if you want to do most of the activities. If you want to visit the surrounding areas, you can easily complete the trip in 10 days. There are many people who say that there is nothing to do in Dubai, if you ask my wife, for example, she would say that, maybe they told you too, but the truth is not like that, there is a lot to do. You will realize it when I tell you about the places to visit below. We stayed for 5 nights and 6 days on our last visit. We had 4 full days except for the departure and return days. Two of them we spent all day in the amusement parks, the other two days we reserved for other places to visit. On the return days, we were at the hotel pool and around JBR.

Dubai Transportation Guide

Many airline companies fly to Dubai. We flew to Abu Dhabi because Wizzair has very affordable flights. For those who will plan like us, I would like to tell you about transportation from Abu Dhabi Airport to Dubai first.

How to get from Abu Dhabi Airport to Dubai?

Of course, you can take a private transfer or a taxi, but I will talk about public transportation options that are much more affordable. It is possible to get from the airport to Dubai with Abu Dhabi Airport Express. It leaves every hour, so run here first thing as soon as you get off the plane because the bus fills up as soon as the plane lands and you have to wait for another hour. To avoid this, don’t try to buy a ticket online, they don’t accept it, the website might be a scam. I didn’t buy one but other people who did were all victimized. The price per person is 35 AED, if you take a taxi it costs around 350 AED. It takes around 1 hour and the buses are very comfortable. The second option is the municipality buses: E102 goes to Ibn Battuta Metro Station. It is difficult to use this option when you go to the airport for the first time because you can only get on with a NOL Card and I was told that it is not sold in Abu Dhabi. I will explain about the NOL Card below, maybe you can use it on the way back. The price of this bus is 25 AED. I cannot comment on this bus since I did not use it myself.

Is there public transportation in Dubai?

Yes, there is a very developed public transportation system. People who go to Dubai usually rent a car and I had traveled by car in my previous visits, but this time I was alone with my son and I didn’t want to drive in that horrible traffic, so I decided to use public transportation. Of course, we sometimes used taxis. Finding a taxi is sometimes a torture. There are metro, bus, tram and monorail as public transportation in Dubai. We used all of them. The monorail only works on the palm island, you can go almost anywhere in Dubai using the others. To use public transportation you need to get a card called Nol card. There are different types of Nol cards: the red one is for single use, the silver one is for multiple use and the gold card is a multi-use card that allows you to use the VIP sections of the metro. I bought the silver card and the first time you pay AED 25, of which AED 6 is the card fee and AED 19 is the usage fee, you can top up. You press the card when you get on and off and it charges you as much as you go. Some subways have areas for women and children only. I wouldn’t recommend getting on these during rush hour because no one will give you a seat because everyone is a woman. When you enter the mixed section, men will definitely give you a seat.

In Dubai, you can also use Uber and Careem apps for taxis. But interestingly it is not cheaper. Only sometimes there can be an advantage. Since Uber gives a fixed price, it doesn’t change even if there is traffic later on, you know that it costs extra as you wait in traffic with a taxi. By the way, taxis have POS machines.

How to get from Dubai Airport to the city center?

The easiest way to get from Dubai airport to the city center is by taxi, you can reach Downtown in 15 minutes and the fare is around AED 75. If you haven’t rented a car and can’t use a taxi, you can also use public transportation. You can reach the city center by taking the red line metro from Terminals T1 and T3 at Dubai Airport. It takes 25 minutes to get to Downtown, the fare is AED 8. Of course, to use public transportation, you will need to buy the NOL card I mentioned above, which can be bought at the metro station at the airport. Just keep in mind that Dubai metro is open from 5am to 12pm.

Where to Stay in Dubai? Dubai Accommodation Guide

First of all, I would like to talk about the regions of Dubai, because the region is as important as the hotel when deciding to stay. You can choose the area according to what kind of vacation you are planning. Downtown Dubai is one of the most popular accommodation areas in the city. It is home to iconic places like Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountain, we can say it is the heart of the city. If you’re a family, the JBR area is a great option for a beach vacation, which is where we stayed. In the evenings, The Walk is a great place to spend time with the family. Dubai Marina, with its modern and stylish restaurants, shopping malls and nightlife, is especially suitable for young travelers and entertainment seekers. As far as I understand, expats also prefer this place. Palm Jumeirah is also a suitable place for beach vacationers, there are quite luxurious hotels on the artificial island. For those who want to explore the historical and cultural side of Dubai, Deira and Bur Dubai are the best places to visit, as they are also affordable and close to Dubai Airport. For business travelers, the Sheikh Zayed Road area can be chosen for its proximity to business centers and easy transportation. Finally, the Al Barsha area can be considered for its proximity to the Mall of the Emirates and more affordable accommodation.

Although it may seem like there are only luxury hotels in Dubai when you look at social media, there are actually various accommodation options to suit every budget and taste. Now, I’ll share my favorite hotels for different budgets.

We stayed at Ramada Hotel, Suites and Apartments by Wyndham Dubai JBR. I stayed in a one bedroom apartment with a kitchen since I was with a child. I was quite satisfied, the location was within walking distance to the beach and The Walk. The staff was very friendly. Breakfast was tasty and varied enough. Apart from our hotel, I am writing down the hotels that I have chosen my favorites with my intensive research.

Dubai Budget Friendly Hotels: Rove City CenterElite Byblos HotelCity Seasons SuitesDoubleTree by Hilton Dubai Al JadafHilton Garden Inn Dubai Mall Of The Emirates

Dubai Middle Class Hotels: Rove DowntownDAMAC Maison DistinctionJA Ocean View HotelMövenpick Hotel JumeirahBlue Beach Tower JBRAndaz Palm JumeirahDukes The PalmThe Retreat Palm Dubai

Dubai Luxury Hotels: Burj El ArabAtlantis The PalmSofitel Dubai DowntownRixos Premium Dubai JBRTaj Exotica The PalmKempinski Palm JumeirahThe St. Regis The PalmLe Royal Meridien BeachAddress Dubai MallArmani Hotel Dubai

You can check here for all suitable accommodation options in Dubai.

Is Dubai Expensive? Dubai Travel Budget

Let me answer directly. Yes, Dubai is expensive. Anyone who says otherwise is mistaken, but it’s possible to have a budget-friendly vacation. Of course, experiencing a luxurious vacation in Dubai has its own charm, but if you’re curious about visiting and are worried about the budget, it’s not impossible to have an affordable trip.

How to have a budget-friendly vacation in Dubai?

I’ll try to give tips for each expense category and create a sample budget. As I mentioned earlier, transportation is quite affordable when you use public transport. In the city, the places we visited generally cost between 3-6 AED. You don’t have to eat at restaurants; prices in malls or chains like McDonald’s are roughly the same as other countries. For example, a Big Mac costs 20 AED. Accommodation was honestly the biggest expense for me, but you can find much cheaper options. If you don’t seek luxury and stay close to public transport in a safe location, you can find rooms for around 150-200 AED. The rest depends on what you want to do. There are plenty of free activities in Dubai, such as swimming at public beaches, watching the light show at Dubai Fountain, exploring Al Fahidi Souk in historic Dubai, strolling along Dubai Creek, or walking around JBR The Walk. Of course, some of the popular activities are unfortunately not cheap.

By the way, I never exchanged money, I only used credit cards, it is very comfortable without cash.

Places to Visit in Dubai

Burj Khalifa: The tallest building in the world with a height of 828 meters, it is undoubtedly the most important symbol of Dubai. You can go to the 124th and 125th floors. It is open from 8am to 12pm every day and the fee is AED 169, but if you go between 15:00-18:30 on the site, it is AED 244, keep in mind. On Saturdays and Sundays, there is a sunrise session from 5:00-7:30 a.m., which costs 160 AED. We bought tickets online for the 9:30 a.m. session on Tuesday from here. When we went, we didn’t wait in line at all, the upstairs was empty, we took photos easily. We stayed there for about 1.5 hours and on the way back it was very crowded, there was a long queue at the entrance. So I recommend going early in the morning.

The Dubai Fountain: Located right next to Burj Khalifa, this fountain pool is famous for its water shows. It is really impressive to watch the show blended with light and music. It can be watched free of charge every half hour between 18:00 – 23:00 every day.

Dubai Mall: The world’s largest shopping center has luxury stores, entertainment areas and many dining options. There is also a giant aquarium and an ice skating rink. You can also watch the aquarium from outside.

Dubai Creek: This area played an important role in Dubai’s trading and fishing history. You can see the traditional and modern aspects of the city together. Along Dubai Creek, you can take a ride on traditional wooden ‘abra’ boats.

Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood: This is the oldest residential neighborhood in Dubai. Built in the 19th century, this neighborhood is a must-see with its narrow streets, wind towers and limestone buildings. There are beautiful examples of traditional Arab architecture, art galleries, cafes and museums.

Dubai Miracle Garden: The largest natural flower garden in the world, this place opens in October-November and closes in April. The 72,000 square meter park consists of famous buildings and structures completely transformed into colorful flower shows. Open from 9am to 9pm and costs AED 95.

Museum of the Future: One of Dubai’s newest and most remarkable buildings. Focusing on the innovative and sustainable future, this museum is impressive not only for the exhibitions inside but also for its exterior architecture. It offers interactive and advanced exhibitions on topics such as technology, artificial intelligence and sustainability. Open daily from 10am to 9:30pm and costs AED 149.

Dubai Frame: Located in Zabeel Park, this massive frame-shaped structure is 93 meters wide and 150 meters high. Inside the structure, there are interactive exhibitions about Dubai’s past, present and future. From the glass-floored observation platform at the top of the frame, you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the city. It is open daily from 9am to 9pm and admission is AED 50.

Sky Views Dubai: On the 53rd floor of the building opposite the Burj Khalifa, you slide down a transparent glass slide into the city. On the 52nd floor there is a path with a glass floor underneath. For adrenaline lovers, there is also the possibility of walking outside with seat belts.

Global Village: You can think of this place as a huge fairground. There are shopping stands, food and beverage kiosks, concerts, cultural performances and playgrounds. It is open between October and April. It opens at 4 pm and closes at 12 am every day. Entrance fee is 27 AED.

Medinat Jumeirah: A complex of shops and restaurants overlooking the Burj Al Arab, with canals running through it, combining traditional Arabic architecture with modern touches.

Things to do in Dubai

Safari in the Desert: This is one of the most popular activities in Dubai. I will explain in detail. There are safari programs at different times and programs: sunrise safari, safari with accommodation, etc. Ours was a safari tour that started in the afternoon and ended at night. You can choose private or group tour, we chose private. They picked us up from our hotel at 15:00. A 4*4 Land Cruiser with a capacity of 7 people arrived. After traveling 45 minutes to 1 hour, we arrived in the desert. First of all, it was an exciting drive on the sand dunes. Then we went to the campsite where we had dinner. Here you have a lot of free time: you can ride camels, get henna, sandboard. Meanwhile, falafel and French fries were served as a base until dinner. Soft drinks were unlimited. There was also water in the car, so they met our water needs throughout the trip. Then the dancing and then the fire show starts. When these shows are over, dinner is served. There were different types of meat, rice, salad, croquettes, etc. and plenty of fruit. I honestly didn’t expect much from the food but it was delicious. Finally the belly dancer came out and closed. It was around 21:30 when our driver took us back to the hotel. Children from 5 years old are accepted. They said the desert would be cool in the evening, we took a sweatshirt with us but we didn’t need it, the weather was ideal. It may be necessary depending on the period you go, we went in mid-October. We went with Orient Tours and we were very satisfied.

Skydiving: If you have a dream of jumping out of an airplane with a parachute, Dubai might be the right address for it. Some people come to Dubai just for this. You jump tandem, that is, together with experienced instructors. Jumping over the palm island is 2599 AED, jumping towards the desert is 2199 AED

Jumeirah Beach: This is the most popular beach in Dubai. It is open to the public and the sea and sand are beautiful. But if you don’t go early in the morning during peak times, it gets really overcrowded.

Kite Beach: This is one of Dubai’s famous public beaches but there are also many other places. Be sure to check it out for water sports or just sunbathing.

Deep Dive Dubai: At 60 meters deep, you can dive in the world’s deepest swimming pool. There is also a sunken city in the pool, and you can take fun photos by diving. The price varies according to the type of dive, discovery 1800 AED, premium 2400 AED.

Expo City Dubai: This was formerly the site of the 2020 Dubai Expo and is now a technology and cultural center. They have preserved the most innovative and impressive structures, exhibitions and experiences from Expo 2020 and opened them to visitors for free.

Aquaventure Water Park and Lost Chambers Aquarium: Aquaventure, the world’s largest water park, has adrenaline-filled slides that are a favorite not only for children but also for teenagers and adults. The aquarium is home to more than 65000 species.

The Ultimate Guide to Atlantis Aquaventure with Kids

Dubai Parks and Resorts: This is an area where several of the city’s amusement parks are located together. I especially recommend it for families with children. There are theme parks including Motiongate, Bollywood Parks and Legoland and Legoland Water Park. If you stay here, you get free entry to one park per night. You can check here for accommodation options here.

The Ultimate Guide to Legoland Dubai with Kids

The Ultimate Guide to Dubai with Kids

The places to visit and things to do in Dubai are not limited to these, and there are many more as you explore the surroundings. However, I think these are sufficient for a first visit.

I hope my Dubai Travel Guide is helpful and that you plan a wonderful trip to Dubai. There might be things I’ve missed, so if you have any questions, please leave a comment. If you have any additional suggestions, please share them in the comments as well. Have a great holiday!

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