Author: Unmesh Rajput
I went on a 7-day trip to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman in October 2017. Based on my experiences, I have shared few tips which may be helpful for anyone planning a Dubai trip.
Best time to visit Dubai
Dubai is ‘hot’! I suggest a trip to Dubai in the months of October/November so that weather is not unpleasant. Else you will not be able to explore the outdoors and beaches, which should not be missed.
Most important: Before you take your flight to Dubai
Ensure your Visa Agent confirms they will get an “OTB = OK To Board” from Dubai embassy. Unless you have an OTB, you will not be able to board a flight to Dubai even though you have a valid Visa and Ticket. OTB is done 24-48 hours before the flight.
Visa is easy but requires flight and hotel bookings in advance. Indigo offers 30+7kg luggage for onward and return flights to Dubai. Make full use of this capacity and shop till you drop!!
Hotels in Dubai
All hotels or other stay options in Dubai are expensive. So just book and forget. Don’t think much. I stayed at Marriott Harbour Hotel and Suites, Dubai Marina. The view from its 51st floor is just fantabulous.
Getting around Dubai
Buy ‘NOL card’ right at the airport. Use Red/Green lines metro or the Bus system to get into the city. Do check metro and bus operational hours beforehand as they can change. Taxis are an expensive affair unless 2-4 people are ride sharing.
- Do read all rules before you travel, e.g. sleeping in Metro and seat sharing is not allowed.
- Trams are operational only in Dubai Marina area. Police are not everywhere, but cameras are! So be mindful.
- Don’t jaywalk, cross the roads only at Zebra Crossings when the light turns Green.
- Hop-on Hop-off tourist buses are also available at a cost.
- Do take the boat ride in old Dubai, it costs only 1 Dirham.
Dressing code in Dubai
Conservative for man/woman, a fellow male tourist was caught by police as his shorts were way below his waist. You are only expected to cover yourself adequately when you visit a place of worship. Makes sense, right! However, bikinis and swim shorts are allowed on beaches. Surprised!
Must see-Must do in Dubai
There is so much to do in Dubai. Covering even in one month is difficult. I have listed a few, but you should research thoroughly before. Certainly not to be missed are star attractions like:
- Desert Safari with BBQ dinner and entertainment
- Burj Al Arab and its beach
- Top of Burj Khalifa
- Dubai Mall and its Fountain Show
- Atlantis and Palm Jumeirah
- Old Dubai and Dubai Creek
- Watersports and Speedboat cruise in Dubai Marina
- Dhow Dinner Cruise
- Gold Souq
- Temple of Shiva and Krishna in Old Dubai (only Hindu temple in Dubai),
- Dubai Sky Dive
- Aquaventure Waterpark
- Ski Dubai
- Miracle Garden
- Bur Dubai
- Deira markets
- Electronics Shopping
Food & Alcohol
Wow! Heres the interesting part. Local food is fantastic and cheap. A meal can usually cost between 15-20 Dirhams without compromise on taste. Restaurants can be costly. Do try the white as well as red shawarma. You will get exposure to excellent Arabic, Pakistani and Indian food. I loved the Pakistani cuisine on offer, and it was damn cheap, only around 10-15 dirhams/meal. Public sale of Alcohol is not allowed, you can buy only in Hotels/Pubs/Restaurants/Clubs or through a local friend (Indian jugaad! lol).
Tips for Dubai trip
- Read “Time Out Dubai” before you go. Check for events and programmes. The weekend is Friday and Saturday. So plan accordingly.
- There are not as many Emiratis as there are travellers and expatriates. Don’t be surprised. Also, everyone speaks English.
- Dubai is ridiculously safe. You will almost never lose your valuables. Police and Authorities keep making surprise checks on everyone. So carry Passport and Visa everywhere, even I was asked to produce it twice along with all the other local people.
- Never plan Dubai on a budget. Dubai has to be seen to be believed. Explore it completely, and you will never regret it. Plan it as per your budget, and it will never leave unimpressed.
- Everything here is massive, beautiful and beautifully planned. Do carry your best cameras and don’t miss any opportunity to Click.
- Electronics in Malls/ Stores like Saraf DG/Jumbo are expensive. I bought iPhone 7 Plus 256GB in a market shop for 46,000 Rupees in October 2017 from Al Fahidi Street. One option is to shop electronics online and have them delivered to your hotel in Dubai. Yes! Or shop in markets like Bur Dubai Mankhool Road, Al Ain centre or Computer Plaza. Good deals are also at GITEX exhibition, but it is only once a year in September/October.
- The variety and beauty of ornaments on offer in Gold Souq are simply mind-boggling. Do your homework on the Indian gold prices very well. Prices of 22k and 24k gold biscuits vary according to the certification body. (Swiss/Middle East etc.) Even ornaments are accredited. Buy gold on Saturday/Sunday as international markets are closed, and the price will be stable. Bargaining is the key to getting a good price. Don’t stress and politely walk away if you do not like the price. That’s ok. This is one place your wife or girlfriend is going to love. Don’t miss the biggest gold ring – 63kg on display in Gold Souq and displayed in Hindi movie “Welcome Back”!
- Cost cutting options: Buy food at Supermarkets like Carrefour. Travel by Tram, Metro, Bus. Try and explore free possibilities as far as possible. Shop only at a discount. Some exceptional shopping deals are during Ramadan, National Day or Christmas.
- The Dubai Mall fountain show is every 30 mins, different each time with Arabic, Chinese and Indian music. Do watch all three shows. Don’t miss the free aquarium view in Dubai Mall and you can also pay to get inside the aquarium with the Sharks and Stingrays in full view of the public.
- Try water taxi. Take the RTA water taxi from Old Dubai to Dubai Marina. The views are fantastic and entirely paisa vasool. The RTA water taxi maps and info is available at RTA offices.
- Flights/Hotel are at least twice as expensive in peak season as during offseason. So discounts at Dubai Shopping Festival will be set off. Be wise and visit in offseason. Book Flights and hotels two months in advance. Check the weather in advance.
- Shamelessly admire cars and click pictures. Luxury cars are extremely common. Go to all the car showrooms and see all the luxury cars for free. You can rent any supercar, yes even a Lamborghini on an International Driving License. But please study all the traffic rules and regulations online as punishment in case of violation is very strict. Else you can plan to be taken around in one of the luxury cars, even the stretch Limo or stretch Hummer.
Useful travel websites in Dubai
- Metro information: https://www.dubai-online.com/transport/metro/ & http://www.dubaimetro.eu/
- Water Taxi – https://www.rta.ae/links/marine/en/dubai-water-taxi.html
- Tour tickets – www.headout.com
- Rules for Indians – https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/dubai/11-things-indians-must-never-do-in-dubai