25 Travel Tips in Dubai to Know
Let’s talk about travel tips in Dubai, and in general, in the UAE.
I recently came back from a perfect, dreamy trip in Dubai & Abu Dhabi, and I am so excited to start sharing all of my thoughts and adventures!
I decided to start off my UAE blog posts series with my traditional post of 25 travel tips.
Today I am going to share with you 25 Dubai travel tips I think you should know before visiting!
Although these tips will also work for Abu Dhabi, I will still make a different post for Abu Dhabi because I did feel a big change between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Anyways, let’s get started!
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1. You can definitely travel Dubai on a budget
When you first think of Dubai you think about luxury cars, beaches, skyscrapers, and $8 water bottles.
Well, out of an experience I can tell you that it is doesn’t need to be like that. In fact, the total of my vacation, for a week in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, was around $1100 per person!
If you know how to travel for cheap (which is exactly what I teach in my blog), you can have amazing vacations around the world without breaking your bank account!
I found a super cheap flight (which was also a direct flight from Tel Aviv to Abu Dhabi), we also found a beautiful hotel that was in the most perfect location in Dubai and was close to everything we wanted.
Also, by booking attractions through Klook and GetYourGuide, we saved so much money!
2. As a woman, you can feel free to wear anything you want
When saying this, keep in mind that you should respect the locals and the places you are visiting. But in general, and one of my favorite things about Dubai is cultural freedom.
But when I say wear anything you want, I don’t mean to walk half-naked in the street, because it doesn’t respect the Muslims living there.
What I do mean that you can wear short skirts, dresses, tops, anything you wish for, but just make sure to wear it to the right places and not for a mosque for example, or to a local neighborhood.
3. You don’t have to stay in Dubai’s downtown area
For some reason, a lot of people think that you should only stay in the downtown area of Dubai, near the Burj Khalifa.
Well, I have two things to say about that:
- Dubai isn’t a walkable city such as Paris or Rome for example. So staying there doesn’t mean you are in the center of the city or close to everything, because it doesn’t matter.
- I don’t agree with people who say that staying in downtown Dubai is the way to feel the city and the vibes because Dubai honestly isn’t only skyscrapers and the Burj Khalifa, there is so much more than that.
I stayed at the Majestic City Retreat Hotel, which is right in the middle between Downtown Dubai and the Dubai old city (closer to Al Seef and Al Fahidi).
And this was the best location EVER! I got an amazing view of Downtown Dubai (see the picture below), and was also super close to the old city and the authentic side of Dubai and the local culture.
4. It’s better to book attractions in advance
I found that booking attractions in advance online, on websites such as Klook.com or GetYourGuide was much cheaper and will definitely save you much more time than buying tickets at the place itself or even by booking online through the direct website.
In general, make sure to book attractions in advance, this is my biggest Dubai travel tip.
5. You’ll probably not meet 100% UAE citizens
The funny thing about Dubai is that 95% of the Emirate people don’t live in the country.
Most of the locals you’ll meet are people from Pakistan, a lot from India, the Philippines, Jordan, etc.
Since only 1.4 million people in the UAE are citizens, which means they are original Emirates, and most of them don’t live in the country (from what we’ve been told, they mainly live in Europe during the summer, between April-September, and live in the UAE during Europe’s winter).
Anyways, since they are such a small part of the population in the country, and usually they don’t work at regular jobs you’ll visit as a tourist, you’ll probably not meet them at all.
We’ve been to Abu Dhabi and Dubai, met many people, but not original Emirate people.
6. Most of the touristy attractions are less than what they seem online
I don’t know how to say it, because some of the attractions are nice but it just not what it seems like online.
For example, the Dubai Aquarium got so much hype online, and I was sure that the whole aquarium is built with this tunnel. But once I got there, I found out that the aquarium tunnel is only a very smart part of the aquarium, and the rest of the aquarium is nice, but it’s just not what it seems like online.
Also, another example is the Global Village, which I was so excited to visit and I got so hyped about it after all I read online.
Well, what I thought is that the Global Village is the same idea as the Disney Epcot park where you have all the countries and every country section has unique traditional food/experiences.
Well, apparently the Global Village isn’t that, maybe in theory, but it’s actually just has a bunch of countries inside, which from the outside looks nice, but inside there is no difference between any country.
They basically use this park as a way to sell souvenirs/other stuff you can find on AliExpress.
For example, in the Syria world, you had a lace bras lingerie store, which obviously isn’t relatable to Syria at all.
But, if you enjoy big parks and eating fried shrimp, you should check it out 🙂
7. DON’T skip the old town
Forget the Burj Khalifa, forget the skyscrapers, the old town of Dubai is one of the best and most beautiful places in Dubai!
If you aren’t just looking for a luxury vacation, and you are looking for some authentic Emirates vibe, you can’t skip the old town!
There are two neighborhoods, Al Fahidi and Al Seef, I personally loved Al Seef, it was also much prettier and honestly more Instagramable.
We went there almost every evening and had such a fun time walking around Al Seef, sitting at the famous and most iconic Starbucks in the world, and drinking a delicious double caramel frappuccino!
Al Seef also has some beautiful spices stores, traditional clothing and accessories stores, souvenir shops, and so much more!
8. Get a local sim
I love buying a local sim when I travel, I found it to be the cheapest and best option for the internet while traveling.
This isn’t the cheapest local sim I got while traveling the world, but it is cheap for what I received with it.
I got my local sim at Etisalat. For 125 Derham I got 6GB, an Emirate phone number with two hours calls, and I also got a gift card for the local taxi company and a deal at the mall which I didn’t use actually.
9. You don’t have to buy a local sim
I know I am saying here the opposite of what I said a second ago, but honestly, if you don’t really use internet a lot or if you want to enjoy your time without being on your phone, you should definitely consider not getting a local sim or an internet plan at all.
All of the places – shops, malls, restaurants, bars, some attractions, hotels, offer free WiFi for their guests, so you won’t be stuck without WiFi at all.
10. Use Dirham and not USD
Using Dirham, the local coin is much better than using dollars. You will save much more money and will get the most out of your money in Dubai by using Dirham and not USD.
11. Rent a car!
If you are planning on visiting other Emirates, or even if you are staying in Dubai only and want some freedom, you’ll be surprised to find out that renting a car can be much cheaper than using taxis and public transportation!
I want to introduce you to eZhire, a car rental app that offers affordable-expensive cars. The best part about this company is that they deliver the car to you and pick it up when you finish!
We got the cheapest car, which was 79aed per day, and since gas is extremely cheap in the UAE, we discovered that renting a car is cheaper than driving around with taxis and public transportation!
Also, from my experience during the trip, there wasn’t massive traffic in the city, and parking is free in most attractions and sightseeing places.
12. Use local taxis only
If you decide not to rent a car, and you do want to rely on taxis and public transportation, that’s fine too!
I didn’t get to use Dubai’s subway, but from what I heard from other travelers, it isn’t the most convenient like the NYC subway or even in London or the Metro in Paris.
So from what I understood, a lot of travelers found it faster and more comfortable to use taxis instead.
When you do use taxis, make sure to use the local taxis that have the pink roof, they are the local taxis and they are the cheapest.
You can also use Uber, but from my experience (in Abu Dhabi at least), the local taxis are the cheapest.
13. Make sure it’s allowed to take a picture of the building you are interested in
In Dubai, and also in Abu Dhabi and I guess that in other Emirates as well, there are some buildings you can’t take a picture of at all.
It’s mainly military/government buildings and on those buildings, there are red signs telling you to not take a picture of this place.
So just make sure to not take pictures of these buildings.
14. You are allowed to hold hands with your partner in public
Sadly, I don’t know how it goes with LGBTQ couples, because it is a Muslim country, but as for straight couples, I saw many couples holding hands in public.
Of course, you can’t kiss, or hug too much, because it is a conservative country, but at least you can hold hands.
I saw many people doing it, locals as well.
15. Local food is delicious and cheap!
The local food in Dubai is cheap, delicious, and definitely worth your time and money! Also, make sure to eat shwarma and eat some good hummus as well.
16. Don’t visit Dubai between June-September
The funny thing about the UAE is that they don’t have an actual winter season. Their winter is like our summer, during the day it can be around 30-32 Celcius degrees.
But their summer? It’s like hell, literally. During the day you can find yourself walking around (if it’s even possible) when it’s 45-53 Celcius degrees!!
During the evening it gets even hotter because of the humidity that comes during their summer.
Usually, the travel season is between October-April, and the off-season is April-May.
It does get hotter in April and May, even though when I visited at the end of April, it wasn’t as hot as people scared us. It was around 35 Celcius degrees, and as an Israeli, this temperature doesn’t scare me 😉
17. Prepare yourself mentally For the local Souks
When I talk about the local souks, I talk about the souks around the old town. Which means the Old Souk, the Spices Souk, etc.
What I mean when I say “prepare yourself mentally” before visiting the souks, is that you need to prepare yourself for the sellers in the souk trying everything they can to make you come in their shop.
One time someone blocked me and made me go inside his shop (nicely, he wasn’t violent or anything, but he definitely was very pushy). You can also can’t feel free to window-shop because the minute you look at a shop, the salesman jumps on you and tries to sell you everything.
It’s a funny experience in general, but if you are not prepared for that it can be very overwhelming and not that comfortable.
18. Visit other Emirates during your trip
Dubai is beautiful, but I truly believe that you need to visit at least one other Emirate during your trip to complete the UAE experience.
For example, I was first in Abu Dhabi and then went to Dubai, and by doing this I visited two Emirates and could compare between them and understand more about this beautiful country.
19. Don’t skip the desert experiences!
The desert experiences are so much fun!
Usually, it’s a 6 hours duration where the desert experience company picks you up from your hotel, you drive to the desert together, have your exciting camels trip/sandboarding/etc, and then you go to a huge Beduin tent and have a delicious local dinner and watch local performances.
We did the sunset camel trip with the local dinner and shows, and it was so much fun and such a unique experience!
20. Visiting Dubai during Ramadan is a unique experience
A lot of people think that you shouldn’t visit Dubai, or the UAE in general during Ramadan.
Well, I’m here to tell you that visiting the UAE during Ramadan is such a unique experience!
First of all, there aren’t so many tourists, which makes attractions, beaches and places less crowded, which is always nice.
Other than that, the cities work completely the same. The only difference is that some restaurants on the streets or outside are closed during the day (but in malls for example they are not closed at all), and there are no parties and clubs during Ramadan.
Also, as for prices, visiting Dubai during Ramadan, and from April in general, will cut your costs in half which is so nice!
Hotels are at their lowest prices, flights as well.
21. Respect the locals during the Ramadan
If you are traveling to the UAE during Ramadan, you do need to respect the locals that are fasting during the day.
This means that you can’t walk around with a hamburger in the street or eat outside in front of people. But, if you are at a tourist’s beach, you can feel free to eat and drink.
When I was in the UAE during Ramadan, we also didn’t drink in the street, we respected the locals, and every time we wanted to drink water we found a place to hide and drink to respect the locals that are fasting all day.
22. You don’t need to worry about your belongings
I didn’t know this about the UAE, but apparently, this is one of the safest countries in the world! There is almost 0% crime in the Emirates.
Apparently, you can just leave your bag or even laptop in public, go to the restroom without your belongings, and NO ONE WILL TAKE YOUR STUFF!
When I was in Abu Dhabi, we were sitting at the beach of our hotel and there was a man working on his laptop a few chairs away from us.
Suddenly, he got up, left his laptop and wallet on the table, and went somewhere. He was gone for 15 minutes and no one took his stuff!
Honestly, we were shocked and surprised, and it is definitely nice to know that you are safe.
23. Alcohol won’t be your bestie during your trip
In the UAE you can’t drink outside, in the streets, or on the beach even. You also can’t be drunk in public where it’s not allowed.
The only places you can drink alcohol at are bars (inside hotels or regular bars in the city), in clubs, and in some restaurants.
So don’t expect to buy alcohol at the supermarket or have some beers with your friends at the beach.
24. Dubai is not for walking (well, kind of)
Dubai is a very big city, and the attractions and sightseeing places aren’t close to each other at all.
This isn’t New York City or Paris, or even Rome, where you can walk around and get to places by walking.
I personally love walking, so during my trip, I did walk 20 minutes from my hotel to the old town for example. But not everyone is like me, and this is only one example.
I could’ve walked to the Burj Khalifa as well, but that’s a two hours walk from where I was staying, and nobody got time for that 😉
Anyways, my point is – don’t expect to walk around so much since everything is far from each other.
25. Dubai is more than skyscrapers and luxury cars
Last but not least, but definitely the most important Dubai travel tip, in my opinion, is that Dubai is so much more than skyscrapers and luxury.
There is an interesting history behind Dubai, and the UAE in general, and there are a lot of interesting, authentic things you can do in Dubai to learn about the UAE culture and history.
Stay tuned for a blog post about that!
And that’s it for today! These were 25 travel tips in Dubai you should know before visiting this beautiful place!
What are you most excited to see in Dubai? Let me know in the comments below!