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Dubai Travel Guide For All First-Time Visitors

Dubai stands as an architectural marvel, a testament to its fusion of Bedouin heritage and ultra-modern culture.

It is a place that lives up to its reputation and consistently surpasses expectations. 

Known for its rich heritage and warm hospitality, this city consistently ranks among the top places to visit, attracting millions of leisure and business travelers annually. 

One of the most frustrating things about visiting a new place, especially a destination as grand as dubai, is the research that has to be done. 

Hence, this article will help you save time from going through long booklets and blogs. 

Read along as we bring together the best list of Dubai Travel tips covering almost everything you need to know before you kick-start your vacation. 

Know about Dubai Weather before you visit. 

Despite not showcasing the traditional four seasons, Dubai offers a climate that mirrors the worldwide changes. 

The city’s weather varies throughout the year, providing unique experiences for visitors. 

In spring, typically in March and April, Dubai enjoys a spring-like atmosphere with abundant sunshine and a gentle, cool breeze. 

This season presents an ideal opportunity for outdoor activities and beachgoers as the sea reaches the perfect temperature for swimming.

However, summer is an extended period of scorching heat from June to August.

It is a time when the city experiences a dip in tourist numbers due to the harsh climate, making it a quieter period for those willing to brave the intense heat. 

Moving into autumn, during September and October, Dubai encounters a noticeable decrease in temperature. 

While no colorful foliage may exist, this season allows outdoor exploration before the colder winter months. 

Winter in Dubai spans from November to February and offers a pleasant escape for those seeking a winter retreat without snow and cold temperatures. 

It’s the perfect time for desert adventures, although the sea can be too chilly for swims. 

Remember that winter is also peak tourist season, so be prepared for longer queues and larger crowds at popular attractions.

Now that you know how the weather in Dubai affects tourism and things you can do, plan your visit based on what you prefer to try.

Know the Best time to visit Dubai

The prime time to visit Dubai is from November to February for various experiences, including outdoor activities, events, and entertainment. 

March, April, September, and October are crowd-free options for a laid-back holiday. 

Dubai remains a year-round destination, thanks to its architecture and cooling technology. 

Here’s the best time for different travelers:

Best time for outdoor activities: November to April.

Best times for the beach: March, April, September, and October.

Best time for honeymoon visitors: December, January, February.

Best time if you’re on a budget: May, June, July, and August

Best times for shopping lovers: January and July

How to Get Around Dubai

In a bustling city like Dubai, traffic is a common challenge, complete with its own rush hours and unique workweek. 

The workweek spans from Sunday through Thursday, with the weekend falling on Friday and Saturday. 

This workweek structure affects travel times as traffic tends to be lighter on weekends. 

Here are various transportation options to navigate the city:

Metro

By Metro
Image: Uaeflag.ae

Dubai boasts a well-maintained and user-friendly Metro system, which can be an efficient choice during weekdays and rush hours when traffic is heavy. 

However, be prepared for potential crowds and wait times during weekends.

Consider the walking distance to metro stations, especially in locations like the Dubai Mall, which can extend travel times.

Hop On/Hop Off Buses

By Hop On Hop Off Buses
Image: Facebook.com

Exploring Dubai via Hop On/Hop Off buses is another option, with two systems available. 

These buses offer routes covering major areas of the city. 

Plan your journey wisely, as traffic during Thursday rush hours can impact your sightseeing experience. 

To make the most of it, start early in the morning, choose a weekend day, or consider purchasing a multi-day pass.

Taxis

By Taxis
Image: Facebook.com

Regular taxi cabs are recommended for cost-effective travel over the more upscale Lexus taxis. 

Ensure the presence of a meter in the taxi and inquire about fares between locations. 

There may be additional surcharges, mainly when departing from specific points like the Metro station on Palm Jumeirah to the Dubai Mall.

Ferry

Dubai’s ferry service operates daily from three different terminals in the marina. 

Evening trips are busier, so arrive at the terminal 30 minutes early. 

Ticket prices vary, with options like silver class for seats in the main section and gold class for more comfortable seating at the front of the boat.

Bicycle

For the more adventurous traveler, bicycles can be rented from Nextbike at around 20 AED per hour or 80 AED per day.

Things to See in Dubai On Your First Visit

Often seen as a fleeting stopover destination, Dubai holds hidden depths beyond its glitzy exterior. 

While it’s dubbed the “Vegas in the desert,” the city offers much more than meets the eye. 

This guide unveils the captivating facets of Dubai to ensure you make the most of your visit. 

Here are the top things to see and do:

1. Visit the Burj Khalifa

Dubai’s iconic landmark, the Burj Khalifa, is the world’s tallest building, offering breathtaking city views. 

Ascend to the 125th floor for 169 AED or reach the exclusive lounge on the 148th floor for 399 AED, where you’ll enjoy panoramic city and desert vistas. 

Don’t miss the nightly light show and fountain display at the base.

2. Take a Desert Safari

Explore the desert’s natural beauty and wildlife on a day-long safari adventure

Options include desert jeep tours, camel rides, and horseback excursions, starting at around 439 AED per person. 

Immerse yourself in the sweeping desert landscapes and savor traditional cuisine.

3. Visit Global Village

Global Village is a cultural extravaganza with shopping, dining, and live performances showcasing the diversity of the Middle East. 

It has attractions like Snowfest Ice Rink, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and Carnaval amusement park.

4. Explore the Dubai Miracle Garden

Discover the world’s largest natural flower garden, the Dubai Miracle Garden, featuring over 150 million flowers and artistic flower sculptures. 

Enjoy weekly performances and a daily flower parade with live music.

5. Have Fun at Kite Beach

Have Fun at Kite Beach
Image: Facebook.com

Kite Beach is a hotspot for water sports enthusiasts and sun-seekers. 

Enjoy kitesurfing, sugary white sand, kids’ activities, food vendors, and more, all for free.

6. Wander the Marina

Explore the scenic boardwalk surrounded by tall buildings boasting fancy boats, condos, and waterfront bars and restaurants. 

Don’t miss Pier 7, a seven-floor dining and bar complex overlooking the harbor.

7. Visit the Grand Mosque

Visit the Grand Mosque
Image: Facebook.com

Take a half-day trip to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, spanning 30 acres and showcasing stunning white architecture. 

Make sure to wear appropriate clothing and enjoy a free visit.

8. Explore Old Dubai

Get lost in the markets, small shops, and winding alleyways, and take a traditional abra boat ride across Dubai Creek to Deira. 

Visit the Dubai Frame, the gold market, and the spice souk for an authentic experience.

9. Go Deep-Sea Fishing

Book a deep-sea fishing trip and try your hand at this exciting activity. Tours cater to all levels of experience and often include lunch.

10. Wander the Palm Islands

Explore the famous man-made palm tree-shaped island, home to shopping walkways, the Atlantis resort, the Aquaventure waterpark, and various restaurants, bars, and clubs.

11. Visit the Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Explore this market in a modern Aladdin-themed building, home to exquisite restaurants. 

Don’t miss local dishes at Al Makan, Persian cuisine at Anar, and Asian eats at The Noodle House.

Must See Live Entertainment in Dubai

Dubai’s entertainment calendar is brimming with concerts, opera shows, and live events catering to diverse tastes. 

For those seeking the best live entertainment experiences in the city, here are the top three venues to consider:

1. Dubai Opera

Dubai Opera
Image: Facebook.com

Dubai Opera hosts various performances, including concerts, plays, ballets, comedy acts, and occasional screenings of popular films complemented by live orchestras. 

Visitors can grab discounted tickets to Dubai Opera and immerse themselves in world-class entertainment spanning various genres.

2. La Perle

La Perle
Image: Facebook.com

La Perle in Dubai promises a multi-sensory delight with its mesmerizing performances. 

Dancers emerge from the shadows, acrobats take graceful flights, and daring dives into swimming pools create heart-stopping moments. 

The show is a visual extravaganza with golden orbs, whimsical lights, and gravity-defying feats.

Those seeking an extraordinary live experience can secure La Perle tickets on Headout and witness this breathtaking spectacle.

3. Cinema Akil, Alserkal Avenue

Cinema Akil at Alserkal Avenue is the Gulf’s inaugural arthouse cinema, offering a unique cinematic experience. 

It showcases the best of the Middle East’s independent film industry, cult classics, and critically-acclaimed festival favorites. 

The venue aims to foster awareness and interest in film and cinematic arts. 

Since 2014, Cinema Akil has organized over 60 pop-up cinemas, drawing over 60,000 attendees in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah, making it a hub for film enthusiasts.

Restaurants to try in Dubai

In Dubai’s vibrant culinary scene, some of the top restaurants in 2023 include ‘3 Fils’ with its unique fusion of Japanese and Southeast Asian flavors.

Indya by Vineet offers a delightful journey through Indian cuisine, and ‘Mythos Kouzina & Grill’ provides a taste of Greece. 

For seafood lovers, Ibn AlBahr serves the freshest Mediterranean and Middle Eastern catches by the waterfront.

At Miss Lily’s, you can have more Caribbean cuisine. 

For Arabic flavors, visit Arabian Tea House, Logma, Saba’a Cafe, Al Fanar Restaurant & Cafe, and Siraj present traditional and contemporary Middle Eastern dishes.

Dubai Shopping Destinations

Dubai is a top-notch shopping destination, attracting year-round fashion enthusiasts and luxury lovers from across the globe. 

The city offers diverse products, from high-quality gold to designer labels, electronic gadgets, and luxury items. 

Dubai’s retail landscape includes glitzy malls and traditional markets, or souks, where you can purchase gold, spices, clothing, carpets, and rugs.

The Dubai Shopping Festival, usually held from December to February, adds extra excitement. 

During this event, partnered brands offer substantial discounts on various products, including clothing, gold, cosmetics, watches, leather bags, home decor, gadgets, and spices.

Global Village is another beloved shopping destination catering to locals and tourists. 

Here, you can discover thousands of unique and exotic products sourced from over 50 countries worldwide, including items like Yemeni honey and Iranian saffron.

Money-saving tips when visiting Dubai

Traveling in the UAE on a budget may seem challenging, but there are ways to save money while exploring Dubai. 

Here are ten tips for cutting costs during your trip:

1. Visit During the Summer

Visit During the Summer
Image: Facebook.com

Travelers willing to endure the summer heat can take advantage of discounted rates and special offers in Dubai. 

Dubai Parks and Resorts often roll out fantastic summer deals, substantially reducing prices. 

Additionally, you can expect savings on hotel accommodations during this time.

2. Opt for the Metro

Rather than relying on expensive taxis, consider using Dubai’s efficient metro system. 

It’s cost-effective and reliable, with free Wi-Fi options like VIP and Gold Class trains. 

Metro fares range from AED 1.80 to 6.50, depending on the trip length.

Consider a NOL Travel Card for multiple journeys, which is also valid on buses and water taxis.

3. Explore Free Beaches

Explore Free Beaches
Image: Facebook.com

Dubai boasts over 40 kilometers of coastline, but many beaches are associated with resorts and charge entry fees. 

To save money, head to free options like Kite Beach in Umm Suqeim, which features a boardwalk, a family-friendly atmosphere, and various water sports services.

4. Bargain Like a Local

Haggling is a must in Dubai. At Dubai Creek, numerous traditional shops offer various items, from spices to pashminas. 

To cross the creek, use an abra (a small Arabic boat) for just 1 dirham.

5. Use Hop-On Hop-Off Buses

You can maximize your sightseeing while minimizing expenses with a hop-on, hop-off bus ticket. 

It covers transportation and includes boat rides, guided walking tours, and shopping discounts. 

You can choose between a 1-day or 2-day pass.

6. Utilize Groupon

Groupon is a Dubai platform for discounts, 2-for-1 deals, and special offers. 

Before booking any activities, check Groupon for potential savings.

7. Get The Entertainer

The Entertainer, available as a magazine and app, discounts restaurants, hotels, and activities. 

While it’s not always cheap, occasional promotions offer discounts or free trials. 

Monthly subscriptions start at 35 AED, and there’s a free “lite” version if you plan to explore a lot.

8. Seek Out Happy Hours

Dubai is known for its abundance of happy hours. 

Plan your drinking schedule around these to avoid the high prices of alcohol in the city.

9. Dine in Old Dubai

To save on meals, venture away from upscale hotels, malls, and fancy souks. 

Explore the authentic and budget-friendly eateries in Old Dubai.

10. Choose Accommodation Near the Metro

Choose Accommodation Near the Metro
Image: Facebook.com

Select accommodation close to a metro station to save time and money. 

Public transportation is much more affordable than taxis, especially when the scorching heat makes walking less desirable.

Dubai Culture Tips You Need to Remember

When you’re visiting Dubai, please ensure to keep the following points in mind:

Dress Code

In Dubai, while there is a level of conservatism in dress, the UAE is relatively more liberal than other Middle Eastern regions. 

Travelers can dress as they please, but it’s essential to be respectful and ensure elegant clothing. 

Particularly during the scorching summer months, shorts and dresses are common attire, and that’s perfectly acceptable. 

The key is to avoid see-through or overly revealing clothing to respect local customs.

Tipping

Tipping in Dubai follows customs akin to North American culture. 

Here are the recommended tipping guidelines:

  • Hotels (Porters and room cleaners): Tipping between 5 to 10 AED per day for these services is customary.
  • Restaurants: A tip of around 15% of the bill is appreciated for good service, while 10% is suitable for decent service. 
  • Leaving cash is often preferred to ensure the tip goes directly to the server.
  • Taxis and Valets: Tipping 5 to 10 dirhams is considered polite for these services.

Spa Staff: Tipping between 10% and 15% is customary to show appreciation when receiving spa treatments.

Holy Month of Ramadan

Dubai observes the holy month of Ramadan, which usually falls around mid-May to mid-June (dates vary yearly). 

During this period, the city undergoes a significant change in routine. 

Restaurants remain closed during the daytime out of respect for Muslims who are fasting, and it’s prohibited to eat, drink, or smoke in public.

However, in the evenings, Dubai comes alive, and experiencing the city during this time can be a memorable experience.

FAQs first time visitors have

1. What should I pack for a trip to Dubai?

When packing for Dubai, consider its conservative dress code. 

Opt for modest clothing that covers shoulders, knees, and cleavage. 

Pack lightweight, breathable fabrics to cope with the heat and swimwear for beach days. 

A scarf or shawl may come in handy when visiting mosques.

2. What language is spoken in Dubai?

Arabic is the official language in Dubai, but English is widely spoken and understood, especially in the tourism and business sectors.

3. What is the currency of Dubai?

The currency used in Dubai is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED).

4. Is summer a good time to visit Dubai?

Summer in Dubai, from June to August, the summer in Dubai can be unbearably hot with scorching temperatures, making it less ideal for outdoor activities. 

It’s best to visit during the cooler months, from November to February.

5. How many days are enough to visit Dubai?

To experience Dubai’s main attractions and get a taste of the city’s culture, a stay of 3-5 days is typically sufficient. 

This duration allows you to explore iconic landmarks, enjoy leisure activities, and savor the local cuisine.

Featured Image: Woman tourist in Dubai, Stock photos by Vecteezy

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