First time visits to a foreign country can be very exciting, and also a little stressful. Personally I like to do a lot of research before heading anywhere to ensure I pack the right things and know what I’m getting myself into. You may already know that Dubai is one of the wealthiest and most extravagant cities on earth. Where you can find the world’s tallest building, the biggest shopping malls, the most luxurious hotels and even the largest man-made islands shaped like the world map! For all the other things you may not know, continue reading below.
When to go
Dubai really only experiences two seasons, hot and hotter. So the best time to visit is from November to March, with temperatures between 80’s and 60’s. During their ‘winter’ season it’s prime beach weather so it’s known to be peak tourist season as well. However, in the summer months from June to August temperatures average at a high of 105 degrees F!
Flying to Dubai
Emirates seems to be the major airline to take to Dubai, offering the most flights a day. They have a double-decker airbus with an amazing first class and business class on the upper level and coach seating on the lower level. We flew stand-by on a non-stop flight with Emirates airlines from NYC to Dubai. Emirates is known to offer many deals, so I suggest signing up to their email list. They also offer free layovers in Dubai therefore you can take advantage of this while flying to other countries. Other airlines you can fly with are Qatar Airways (not direct) or Etihad Airways into Abu Dhabi (then a 1 hour shuttle bus or taxi to Dubai).
Where to stay
With Dubai still growing and building everyday, there are definitely no shortages of hotels, especially luxury ones. Airbnb rentals are also another great option, if you prefer that route. You can find some nice rentals at a great price! In terms of location, the most central and popular location is around the Dubai mall, which is where Burj Khalifa (tallest building in the world) and famous fountain are. Along the Persian Gulf is the Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Al Arab. The Dubai airport and Old Dubai with the gold souks are in close proximity of each other. So depending on what you prefer, you should stay close to one of these tourist areas. My personal favorite was the Marina area.
Uber and the metro are great ways to get around. There are so many Ubers available at anytime, you just need to be aware of surcharges during rush hour. Taxis will definitely charge you more than an Uber, especially if it’s the fancy Lexus ones. Their Metro system is known to be very clean and easy to use. Things to keep in mind are that the workweek in Dubai is Sunday through Thursday and their weekend is Friday and Saturday. Traffic will be much lighter on the weekends.
What to wear
This is honestly what stressed me out the most about visiting and packing for Dubai. Surprisingly the city of Dubai is not as strict as I expected. Since the city is a big melting pot of people, there are not as many locals that actually live in the city. I was perfectly fine wearing dresses and rompers around the city/desert. Also, bikinis are 100% ok to wear on the beach and the pool. Overall, just don’t be too revealing incase you are around any locals. I did bring a shawl with me but didn’t really have the need to use it.
The only time you are required to cover up from head to toe is if you plan on visiting a Mosque.
PDA in Public
Evidently you can get arrested for public displays of affection. Although I have read that holding hands and a kiss on the cheek are fine. Either way my husband and I refrained from any PDA just to be safe.
There is an abundance of food in Dubai and it is all fresh and delicious. They are heavily influenced by Asian cuisine, especially Indian. If you are a bacon lover, keep in mind that this is a Muslim country so do not expect to find pork anywhere. Some popular dishes include hummus, shawarma (sliced meat like a kebab), curried dishes, basmati rice and marinated fishes. Dates and the local coffee are also extremely popular there. They actually leave a date on your pillow instead of a chocolate for turndown service. Make sure to try the coffee and the luqaimat (deep fried dough balls covered in honey – aka deep fried deliciousness).
Another common question or concern for visitors are the drinking laws in Dubai. Don’t worry, tourists are allowed to drink at licensed hotels, bars and restaurants, but not in public. This includes the beach. Public drunkenness is also not allowed. In order to purchase alcohol in Dubai you need a special license. To get around this you can purchase alcohol at the duty-free shop at the airport.
Cost / Currency
I found the cost for food, clothes and transportation to be pretty close to New York. There are of course plenty of extravagant activities and restaurants you can spend a lot of money on. So plan your activities and tours ahead of time, this way you have a grasp on your expenses.
The currency in Dubai is called “dirham” (AED – Arab Emirate Dirham). You might also see it abbreviated as Dhs or DH. You can exchange money at the airport as well as at the malls. You can check the current exchange rate here.
Pretty much everyone we interacted with was fluent in English. All the signage and menus were written in both Arabic and English, making it pretty easy to navigate and order food.
I hope I’ve answered a lot of the common questions and made your packing a little easier! If you have any other questions, just let me know.
My next post will be about how my husband and I spent three days honeymooning in Dubai! I will be sharing all the details about where we ate as well as activates, tours and sightseeing we did.
- Visit Dubai
- Visit Abu Dhabi
For more photos from my trip visit my Instagram page!
*All photos are mine, unless otherwise stated