Sep 22, 2014
Gary Bembridge of Tips for Travellers shares observations, tips
and advice for visitors to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
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This show covers among other topics:
- You either love Dubai or you hate it!
Some say : Surreal, bizarre , draconian, soulless, superficial
Others say : dynamic, bold, modern and adventurous
- Mix of conservative and liberal with lots of inconsistencies
(e.g. full burka wearing women next to skimply dressed ones and
lack of alcohol tolerance but heavy drinking in hotels).
- Seen as a shoppers paradise although I am not sure prices are
that amazing despite being duty free nature.
- Mix of nationalities in the population of around 2,5 million
with less than 20% of the population being UAE nationals.
- Safe and not lot of petty crime
British controlled the area until 1971 when 6 other states formed
UAE (Abu Dhabi, Ajman,Fujairah , Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm
al-Qaiwain). Each has lots of autonomy though is a Supreme Council
of Rulers that overseas total UAE
Dubai has biggest population and 2nd in size after Abu Dhabi -
oil was discovered in Dubai in 1963 turning a quiet pearl diving,
fishing and trade port into wealthy oil producer - but unlike
neighbours like Abu Dhabi it does not very large reserves and as
will run out the ruling family (Constitutional Monarchy ruled
by the Al Maktoum family) has invested into creating a major hub
for finance, transport, trade and tourism and went on vast
ambitious program of infrastructure building. It almost came undone
in the 2008 crash but neighbouring Abu Dhabi bailed them out.
Best time to go
Hot pretty much all year round
Best time Sept to May
Possibly best airline hub in the world !
Cruise lines increasingly calling here and the port is close to
Where to stay
Jumeirah Beach areas - where most resort hotels with beaches
More business hotels are on Sheikh Zayed road
- Drivers generally are poor!
- Metro - modern, cheap, air conditioned , easy to work out -
smart card tickets - get day pass - ticket machines / signs /
on-board voice also in English - some carriages of women and
children only at peak times
- Monorail from base of the Palm Atlantis - not connected to the
- Taxis are cheap and efficient to use - though traffic can be
bad at all times of day and night.
- Busses best left to locals.
- Cross Dubai Creek on small boats called abras (water
- Hop-on Hop-off bus operated by Big Bus includes tickets into
attractions like Dubai Museum, Al Maktoum's house, Arabian dhow,
water bus ride and some walking tours
- Remember you are coming to an Islamic country.
- Wear respectful clothing (avoid shorts, exposed shoulders and
- Topless suntanning not allowed.
- Avoid public signs of affection like hand holding kissing.
- Same sex affection real taboo.
- Illegal to drink or be drunk in public - drink driving will get
you in prison.
- Drugs and pornography laws very draconian and strict - even
some prescription drugs are illegal.
- Restrictions on some publications and affiliations like Jehovah
- Take care what photograph - do not photograph women in
traditional dress without prior permission.
- English widely spoken.
- Western-style toilets are not everywhere - but are in
Tips on must do things to see and do
Visit the new iconic buildings
When opened in 2010 became tallest man made structure - viewing
platform on 124th floor. Pre booking is much cheaper but need to do
well in advance. Fast Track on the day for immediate entry 400
Dhiramas (about £60 or $100).
Most luxurious hotel in world - designed to resemble a sail and has
heli-pad above 27th floor. Entry only with a reservation -
afternoon tea is classic - strict dress code of smart casual.
The Palm and
Man made reclaimed land - visible from space - 4000 villas each
with own beach front - 5000 apartments - restaurants -sports
facilities - cinemas - Marina docking
Atlantis Hotel - based on original Bahamas hotel billed as a
"watery world of wonder" - aquarium with 21 water exhibits
including lost Chamber and waterpark
- Wild Wadi Waterpark - in my view the best in the world!
- Ski Dubai is -4 degrees C with a big ski slope, tabogan
run and ski lift - entry includes gear except hats and gloves which
can be bought.
- Four-Wheel Drive Sand Dune expeditions - high speed rides which
also take you desert camps to do camel rides and dune surfing
Dates from 1800s - oldest surviving building in city - now popular
museum opened in 1970 - tells story of development of UAE
life and history with models and exhibitions.
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum
house - former ruler who died in 1958 lived here - built
around central courtyard in 19century around 30 rooms and
traditional wind towers (old fashioned air conditioning system
Grand Mosque - near the
(though the Jumeirah mosque is more impressive building
- Explore the famous and traditional Souks - traditional ones all
close to each other in Deira area across Dubai Creek (get there by
traditional boat, metro or taxi ). Gold (priced by weight with
small charge for work done to craft into an item) and Spice are the
most impressive. Haggling expected!
- Malls - lots of them - huge air conditioned and up market.
Three of note in my view:
- Dubai Mall - sometimes referred to as biggest in the world -
ice rink and also massive aquarium - go through to get to Burj
Khalifa - free wifi - fountain show at night (like Bellagio Las
- Mall of the Emirates - more dated - Dubai Ski based here.
- Emirates Towers Boulevard - luxury boutiques and reputation for
being the most expensive and prestigious.
Other things to do
- Helicopter or seaplane trips.
- Arabian Dhow evening cocktail cruises on Dubai creek
- Catamaran tours along beaches and around The Palm
- Explore the Dubai Marina area