Welcome to your one-stop Dubai travel guide. The fact that you’ve found yourself here reading this here guide tells us that you’re serious about making the most out of your holiday. We also know you want all the insider tips to make this a trip to remember. We’ve got all the information you’ll need (and more) to plan a jam-packed itinerary that will make you wish you booked to stay longer.
We’ll cover all the basics and throw in some extra hot tips along the way to give you insider knowledge. We will have you feeling like you’re a local in no time. Without further ado let’s get started:
Why choose to travel to Dubai?
In our eyes, it’s a no-brainer and we know you’ll soon understand our thinking. Located in the middle of the Arabian desert you might think that there isn’t much to do here except build sandcastles but you’d be wrong. You might have also heard of Dubai being described as the Las Vegas of the Middle East (without the gambling of course) and wouldn’t think of it as a place brimming with things to do for the whole family…again you’d be mistaken. Dubai is a vibrant city in the middle of the United Arab Emirates that is best known as a hub and lay-over destination for onward travel but we want you to stay awhile and experience everything this city has to offer for people from all walks of life. Whatever you’re looking for in a destination, Dubai has it!
So, what does Dubai have to offer?
We’re going to break this down for you by category depending on what you might be looking for. This city is so multifaceted, we’re sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised –
For the party-goer
It’s no secret that Dubai is a nightlife hot-spot. With world-renowned bars, beach clubs and restaurants here such as Nikki Beach, Blue Marlin, White, Zuma, Nobu and 1OAK just to name a few, Dubai is firmly on the map as the place to be for party lovers. If you wanted to be out and about from dawn to dusk and beyond this is the place to come for a holiday with your squad or even to come alone. You’ll certainly meet some interesting new people and leave with friends for life. It’s not all glitz and glam though. Dubai is also brimming with great pubs, dive bars, tapas bars, sundowner hotspots and family-orientated places to grab food and a drink etc. There really is something for everyone.
Some of our favourite places are McGettigans (a very popular Irish bar that has live music and a fantastic atmosphere on a weekend), Riva (a lovely, chill pool and beach club on the Palm that is great for family days), Ting Irie (a dark little underground haunt with out-of-this-world Jamaican food and loud music that will have you on your feet all night), Lucky Voice (a quirky and very messy Karaoke bar with private booths. It’s a lot of fun) and Lock, Stock & Barrel (a packed out bar/nightclub that has amazing live music and fun New York-themed throwback decor).
You can visit any of the places we mentioned using the ENTERTAINER tourist 2021 product. Just download the ENTERTAINER from your app store and buy ENTERTAINER tourist for AED 175 and you’ll get access to buy one get one free offers, % discounts and more to make the most of your holiday.
TIP: It is highly recommended to book in advance for sought after venues, especially beach clubs.
For the sun-worshipper
Dubai is a tanning fanatic’s dream destination. With an abundance of pool and beach clubs, hotels and open beaches you won’t be short of places to soak up some rays and dip your toes. You can choose between swanky private clubs that are perfect for an all-day sesh with a group of friends featuring live DJs and accompanied by all-you-can-drink packages or go for something more relaxed with the family or some alone time with a good book, sunbed service and beaut scenery.
Our go-to beach clubs are Drift Beach for a chilled and swanky atmosphere, Bla Bla Beach Club for a party vibe, Nikki Beach (pictured below) and Wet Deck at the W Hotel which has amazing facilities and great music.
For the shopaholic
There is no shortage of places to drop some cash in Dubai. Some of the largest and most impressive malls can be found in the UAE including Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates that house indoor ice rinks, aquariums and ski slopes. No matter what you’re looking for you’re going to find some bargains as Dubai runs many seasonal sales throughout the year to entice shoppers. And if you’ve got expensive taste, this is the place for you as Dubai is literally dripping in designer labels everywhere you look.
TIP: If you want something ‘designer’ without the price tag, there are plenty of shops in Karama. This place is famous with expats, locals and tourists alike. The best time to go is in the evening and be prepared to haggle. Don’t set your heart on just one item and be prepared to walk away if you think you aren’t quite getting the deal you want – there are dozens of other shops all waiting for your business! We suggest you dress a little more conservatively in that part of town and wear comfy shoes (this is a must). Lastly, don’t be concerned if you are asked to follow the shopkeeper to another location, it’s pretty standard practice and that’s where the real gems are found…
There is a lot of speculation about whether Dubai is a worthwhile destination for families and we’re here to tell you it absolutely is. You’ll find four waterparks in Dubai, several theme parks at Dubai Parks and Resorts, adventure activities like Kidzania where your little ones can test out their dream jobs for a day, climbing walls, outdoor ziplines and climbing frames just to name a few. You can even enjoy places like Bounce Inc (an indoor trampoline centre) and Roll DXB (an indoor roller rink) to keep kids entertained and more importantly, exhaust them!
TIP: Go early in the morning for any kind of activity if possible. Dubai is full of late-riser and night owls, so the later you go to any attractions the busier it will be. Most places have cheaper rates throughout the week too, with weekends being the most expensive options so look out for that too. The next best piece of advice we can give you for entertaining kids in Dubai is to download the ENTERTAINER app and buy the ENTERTAINER tourist 2021 product. Activities can make a serious dent in your spending money in Dubai and the tourist product will save you 50% on whatever you choose to do. It’s a genuine wallet saver.
For the foodie
You won’t be short of places to eat while in Dubai, we can promise you that. The culinary scene is vast and spectacular and we encourage you to try both ends of the spectrum. In the mood for a slap-up meal, all the bells and whistles and with staff waiting on you hand on foot? Head to any number of the world-renowned restaurants scattered across Dubai. If you want a meal with a view book a table at Atmosphere at the top of the Burj Khalifa (make sure to request a table by the window). Or try something a little different at The Theatre for an unforgettable night of theatrics while being wined and dined.
TIP: While you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to 5-star dining experiences we highly recommend a few of Dubai’s low-key spots to grab a bite to eat. Ravi’s is quite literally famous in Dubai for hearty, down-to-earth Pakistani cuisine. It is cheap and bloody delicious and you can’t say you’ve been to Dubai if you haven’t tried it. We also suggest trying cheese bread from Al Reef Lebanese Bakery. This place is open 24 hours a day and any local will tell you that there is no better place to get a manakeesh. Another thing you absolutely must have while in Dubai is a shawarma and a cup of Karak. We suggest ordering two because you’ll definitely want more and it will cost you pennies from any cafeteria (there are hundreds of them all over Dubai).
For the thrill-seeker
Does the thought of jumping out of a plane or zooming along a zipline sound like your idea of a good time? You’ll be pleased to know then that Dubai is full of activities for adrenaline junkies like Sky Dive Dubai and the Jebel Jais Zipline (the longest in the world) in Ras Al Khaimah. You go give quad biking in the desert a whirl, go paddleboarding through the mangroves, climb the highest indoor climbing wall at Clymb Dubai or zipline through Dubai Marina. Dubai isn’t short of bonkers things to do to get your heart racing, that’s for sure.
TIP: There are some amazing blood-pumping activities on offer inside the ENTERTAINER and these things aren’t cheap, so having a handy app in your pocket that will save you a chunk of change will go a long way, we promise. Check out some of our more daring offers HERE.
The ultimate Dubai travel guide checklist
There are some things that you just cannot miss if it is your first time visiting. Yes, they’re very touristy but that’s what travel is all about and we would hate for you to miss any of these top attractions –
The Madinat Jumeirah – Modelled on traditional souks, you can wander around the maze of alleys and lanes of shops in luxurious comfort. There are plenty of bars and restaurants inside and lots of little boutiques and shops to browse. Do be warned though that shopping in the Madinat is not cheap, so maybe avoid the jewellery and trinket stores. You can also take a dhow boat ride around and through the Madinat which is a wonderful experience for great photo opportunities.
The Gold & Diamond Park and the Gold Souk – This is where you should come if you want to shop for jewellery. You can choose from what’s on display or get something custom made. You can bargain on price here and you won’t be able to beat the quality.
The Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and Souk Al Bahar – Wear comfortable shoes and take a jumper. Even though it can reach 50 degrees celsius outside in Dubai, the mall is honestly freezing and you’ll need the comfy shoes because Dubai Mall is ginormous. You can spend an entire day in this mall with all the shopping and extra attractions. Visit the huge aquarium, do some indoor ice skating, head to the plush platinum suite cinema, wander around the dedicated shoe district, and explore the perfumery extension to find your new signature fragrance. Once you’re done with all of that you can walk over to Souk Al Bahar and choose one of the restaurants for dinner with a view of the famous Dubai Fountain and glittering Burj Khalifa (which you can also pay to ride the super-fast elevator to the top and look out over Dubai). You should also take time to pop into the Time Out Market at Souk Al Bahar. It’s food galore with awesome vibes and great cocktails.
Aquaventure and Wild Wadi – These are the two most famous waterparks in Dubai. If huge slides, lazy rivers, floating past sharks and wave machines are your thing then you definitely need to check these out. The views and photo opportunities are fantastic at Wild Wadi with the Burj Al Arab towering over the park and they have really cool slides that actually propel you up instead of down which is so much fun! On the other hand, Aquaventure is better located at Atlantis the Palm and the option to pop into Wavehouse (a licensed bar and restaurant filled with arcade games and bowling) for lunch after the park is also very cool.
Burj Al Arab – You can book to have afternoon tea in the world’s only 7-star hotel and we can tell you that it’s definitely an experience not to be missed. It’s pricey but it’s something you won’t forget in a hurry. Make sure to book as you won’t even be allowed to drive up to the hotel without a valid reason. And remember to pack something fancy to wear – you won’t be allowed in wearing shorts and flip flops!
Desert Safari – These are always fun and at the top of our Dubai travel guide for visitors. Go dune bashing in the desert with an experienced driver who will relish in making your heart stop as he bombs down sheer sandy cliff faces. It’s an exhilarating ride with the opportunity to stop and see camels, go sandboarding and stop at a Beduin camp for shisha, henna painting, a falcon show, belly dancing and of course dinner and drinks.
You can’t travel to Dubai and not experience brunch
Brunch is considered a Friday institution in Dubai. You’ll be hard pushed not to find a bar, club or restaurant that isn’t running their own version of the Friday free-for-all. They range from set prices for a main course and a handful of choice drinks to 4 hours of unlimited food and drinks. Depending on what vibe you’re looking for, you’ll find family-friendly places with sit-down table service, upmarket restaurants serving gourmet food and cocktails, and all-out parties with people in attendance dressed up to the nines knocking back as many plates of lobster and glasses of champagnes as they can handle.
It all depends on your budget and the occasion when it comes to brunch. Brunch is considered an all-day affair with many people planning their entire weekends around it. It can start at midday and end at 3:00 am the next day if that’s your thing, or you can take it easy and enjoy a quiet afternoon, stuff yourself silly and go home for a nap. It’s totally your choice but we love that Dubai is the OG master of brunch.
How to get around Dubai
Dubai is one of the easiest cities to travel around. There are taxis everywhere at all hours of the day and they are easy to hail. You can pay by card, Apple pay and Google pay in all local taxis which is so convenient, we think you’ll agree. Local taxis are usually sand coloured with various coloured roofs ranging from red, blue, green, yellow, orange etc. These will always be your cheapest and safest options when getting a taxi.
You can also download Careem, which is Dubai’s answer to Uber. Enter your card details and away you go. You can book local Hala taxi’s straight through the app (they are the same as the local sand coloured taxis but sometimes they are blue and white. Hala is just what Careem call the local taxis and it’s super convenient to be able to book them through the app rather than hailing them sometimes) and enter your destination so the driver can follow the map and no one gets lost. Unfortunately, many taxi drivers here don’t quite know the roads like the back of their hands like in other cities, so having Google maps will be a huge help for both of you. Trust us. Some taxi’s in Dubai have free Wi-Fi and some don’t so as a precaution before you leave your accommodation, Google where you want to go and download the map so you can use it offline. The taxi drivers will have access to data and Google Maps though because they rely on it, so don’t panic too much.
Other options include using Careem to book a Tesla, a Lexus, a BMW or even an Escalade to pick you up if you want to travel in style. It costs more (not too much) but is worth it for the Dubai experience on a special occasion. Or, if you just want to get out and explore leisurely, take the scenic route and see the city up close and personal by renting a bike or a Scooter through Careem (yes, they offer those too).
Duba is definitely a city that is easier to get around by car. If you don’t fancy jumping in taxis everywhere you go you can rent a car fairly cheaply (there are even offers in the ENTERTAINER tourist product for cheap car rental deals).
Dubai also has car-sharing apps called Ekar and UDrive. You only need a valid drivers license to use it and once you’re set-up, the app will show you hundreds of available cars that you can unlock using the app. You will be charged a small fee by the minute and parking and petrol are free while using one of their cars. It’s a great and much cheaper way to get around if you don’t want to use taxis.
TIP: The UAE has a zero-tolerance policy on driving under the influence of alcohol. If you have even one drink we highly suggest using a safe driver to meet you after a night out and drive your car home with you in it for a reasonable fee. You can Google ‘UAE safe driver’ and a whole host of companies will appear that you can call, tell them where you are, where you are going and what time you want to leave. You’ll usually pay a set fee of AED 80 – 100 for the service. Considering a taxi can cost on average AED 30 -40 each way, this is a fair price to pay to get you and your car home safely in our opinion.
Lastly, Dubai Metro and the Tram are worth checking out but you’ll find that most of the time you’ll still need to get a taxi at some point as most places are not within walking distance of the Metro or Tram stops. The tickets are very cheap. It’s AED 4 if you want to travel between one or two zones and if you want to be able to travel the entire line it’ll cost AED 8.5. If you want to travel in comfort you can pay extra for gold class carriages which will cost AED 8 for up to two zones or AED 17 for the whole line.
You can purchase one-use tickets at the stations which is very easy to do and convenient if you are only taking the metro a couple of times. Alternatively, you can purchase what is known as a Nol card. You can top these up with as much cash as you’d like and tap it when you enter and leave any station. If you are using the metro all day long, this is a good option because the fare is reduced when using a Nol card.
Where to stay
There are several key areas of Dubai that you’ll need to know. What expats and locals like to call new Dubai is the area most tourists are familiar with. It consists of places like Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR). It’s famous for its towering skyscrapers and buzzing nightlife.
The walk along the beach at JBR is lovely. It has a walking track and outdoor gym areas and is filled with shops and places to stop and grab a drink or some food. In the evening the bars and clubs come to life. Another popular area is Downtown Dubai. This is where Dubai Mall, Dubai Opera, Dubai Fountain and the Burj Khalifa can be found and is another major spot for nightlife.
Lesser-known places that you should definitely visit though are the Dubai Creek in Deira. Deira used to be the business hub of Dubai before it expanded and is now known as old Dubai. Other places like Satwa, Karama and Bur Dubai are also located in old Dubai and are fascinating places to visit for a real authentic Dubai experience. You’ll find the best tailors, spice markets, gold souks and random shops in these areas. If you like to go off the beaten track and see what Dubai really has to offer then you should definitely head to this end of town to explore.
So what are you waiting for?
We could talk about Dubai and all of its secrets forever but we think we’ve given you plenty of info in this Dubai travel guide and enough of a head start to start planning the ultimate trip to Dubai. If you have any questions then drop them in the comments and we’ll answer them for you.
Remember to download the ENTERTAINER app too and purchase your ENTERTAINER tourist 2021 product too for discounts and across the city on restaurants, cafes, bars, water parks, theme parks, shops and kids activities.
If you need more post-covid travel inspo, check this out!