Like most travellers Dubai has always been an excellent transit point for me. I had been to Dubai previously for just 48 hours and that trip was filled with theme park adventures. That specific trip was indeed fun and filled with adrenalin but I realised once I got there that there is so much to see and do in Dubai and not forgetting that there is something to suit all budgets in DUBAI and I wanted to go back. In June Mum and I headed to Dubai for six days of absolute adventure and fun and we are already planning our new trip to this bustling city.
Dubai is so expensive !
This was something I kept hearing from everyone all the time but after researching my Dubai for all budgets post I knew this was not the case. For this holiday we chose Pentravel as our travel agent of choice. After our initial meeting with the delightful Bianca from the Galleria store I knew that the planning of our trip was in the right hands. Since travelling with my mother I have actually come to like group tours for several reasons but this time around we were doing Dubai as solo travellers. I had a budget in mind of how much I had wanted to spend and I needed it to include flights, accommodation and transfers. So when I got an email back with my quote and it included visas and came within my budget there was no way we were not going. Having travelled in the UAE before I was ok about us doing this on our own plus I had friends in Dubai so this was going to be great. So the main reason the trip was so reasonable was that it was summer in Dubai and hence things were cheaper and it was the Summer SALES ! And just like that we booked and started preparing for our trip. Our lovely travel agent also told us about the My Emirates Pass which gives all Emirates passengers discounts on so many things in Dubai.
General Dubai FACTS
- The currency of the UAE is called the Dirham (AED).
- Dubai makes it’s money from Tourism and before that it was oil. Originally the wealth from the UAE came from Pearl diving.
- China is Dubai’s largest international trading partner.
- 7 out of 10 of the World’s tallest hotels are located in Dubai.
- There are more than 70 Shopping Malls in Dubai and it is no surprise that Dubai is called the shopping capital of the Middle East.
- The National Animal is the Arabian Oryx and the National Bird is the Peregrine Falcon.
- 85% of the population of Dubai is made up of foreigners.
- Dubai is the largest city in the UAE.
- Dubai Mall is the most visited building in the planet with 1200 stores.
- Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural flower garden with 109 million flowers planted.
- The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building at 528 metres.
- Dubai is home to the only 7 star hotel in the world Burj al Arab.
- Islam is the official religion.
- In Dubai the weekend starts on a Thursday till Saturday.
- Arabic is the official language.
- There are more men than women living in Dubai.
- Emirates Airline is the official airline of Dubai.
All my friends in Dubai I contacted warned me about how hot it was and to prepare myself and bring cool clothing.It was hot but we managed will give you tips later on in this post. But first here are some packing tips for Summer in Dubai :
Packing Tips for Dubai Summer
- cool cotton clothing is a must
- one pair of jeans for the evening as it can be smartened up.
- Two pairs of sandals and a pair of sneakers
- Tights or leggings are great and so versatile.
- No crease tops and dresses are a must for every traveller to have in their wardrobe.
- a soft cotton scarf which is an essential travel item as it can be used in several ways.
- take smart casual clothing as often once you leave for the day from your hotel you rarely come back to the hotel to change.
- a small handbag and a shopper for when out and about as I always need to carry a bottle of water , my sunglasses , sweets and my scarf.
- Make up take only the essentials for me I took moisturiser , primer, foundation, face powder, blush , lipstick and mascara and most importantly a setting spray which is very useful with the heat.
- Face wipes, a fan and a hand sanitizer is also very useful to have with you.
- I opted to carry long sleeved tops to protect my hands from the sun.
- Sunblock is non negotiable.
- a sun hat is also a good idea
- carrying a basic medical kit is a good idea include cough syrup, flu meds and pain relief tablets.
- make sure your luggage is tagged with your details and you can easily identify your bags.
- a great tip is taking a picture of your luggage before you leave so just incase you can not find your luggage a picture can be shown to the necessary people to help you find your luggage.
- Luggage wise we each took a large suitcase and a carry on case. I also took my gorgeous foldable backpack from KaryKase.
- a powerbank for charging your devices.
Try and not over pack always leave space for shopping and gifts and let us not forget the generous luggage allowance from Emirates. Packing done and documentation picked up we were ready to leave for our Dubai Adventure. It is important to check what time you need to be at the airport and plan your journey accordingly. For this specific flight we needed to check in three hours before and as we live a fair distance away from the airport we needed to plan accordingly and make sure we did not miss our flight, Our flight was at 2pm in the afternoon and we arrived in Dubai just after midnight.
Emirates Flight to Dubai
The flight to Dubai was on time and rather full but passengers and the boarding process was rather easy. Bianca our travel agent had checked us in online 48hours which was great as we had so much to do before leaving that this was welcome. We had given our options in terms of seating as I must have a window seat and we pre-booked mum’s vegetarian Hindu meal. I had found out a week earlier that the Emirates flights from Durban were now offering a Durban inspired menu so the foodie inside me was pretty keen to see what the menu would have. Luckily for us there was just us two in our row so that meant we had the middle seat free which gave us each a bit more room. The food was divine and so flavoursome that I was tempted to ask for a second one but I was not that hungry. I opted for a Durban style fish curry which tasted like a home cooked meal, while mum had Paneer as her meal. While waiting for our meals we both flicked through the ICE entertainment and I was rather impressed with the choices of movies on offer. I settled on watching a selection of Bollywood movies which I thoroughly enjoyed as well as a few series. I even managed a short snooze in-between and when we arrived in Dubai I was fresh and wide awake. On arrival in Dubai you could already feel the heat even though it was after midnight.As we had done our visas and transfers with Arabian Adventure they were waiting for us as we got to passport control with a board with our names.The whole process was quick and easy and yes there was even a bag handler to help with our luggage.
As we exited the airport for our transfer to our hotel a gush of hot air met us and my glasses steamed up. I was not impressed to be blinded so quickly. The transfer to our hotel M hotel Downtown was fairly quick and so was the checking in process. Driving into Dubai city I was mesmerised by the lights and the beautiful buildings. The hotel was situated pretty central 10 minutes away from Dubai Mall. After a hot shower ,a quick room service order it was time to sleep and get ready to explore Dubai. When we arrived the night before were given a booklet about the various Arabian Adventure tours and a note that a rep would be meeting us that morning. After a delish breakfast we went to meet the rep from Arabian Adventures to plan and book our time in Dubai. The helpful rep confirmed our bookings and the discounts using our My Emirates Passes. We booked the most popular tour which was Desert Sundowner Safari having done a Dune experience in Abu Dhabi I really wanted to do this again and a half day tour to explore Sharjah.Tours booked it was time to arrange our time with all my friends in Dubai.I will be writing about the tours in more detail later on.
General Dubai Tips
- Research Dubai and the things you want to do to get the most of your time in the city.
- Download the Uber App as a backup but note it will only work if you have international roaming or are in a wifi spot.
- The local taxis are fairly easy to use and in some cases cheaper than Uber
- Most shops not in malls close from 2pm till 4pm daily and on a Friday only open after 2pm.
- Take screenshots of the destinations/addresses you want to go to so you can show it to your driver.
- Get a business card with the hotel you are staying at so you can show the driver the address.
- Traffic in Dubai is crazy so beware of making bookings in peak hours.
- Change your money at the airport on arrival and exchange it back to either your own home currency or dollars when you are leaving.
- There is plenty of food options available for all diets and tastebuds so no need to carry anything with you.
- In the souks always remember to haggle the prices.
- There is more to Dubai than just shopping so be prepared to explore and the city.
- Get the Entertainer App it has great discounts on meals and activities.
- Everything is always busy so have patience.
- Dubai is safe but always becareful like you would whenever you travel.
- Because the summer months are so hot most people tend to go out and about much later at night so be prepared for late nights.
- Summer in Dubai is really HOT but you can manage it and there are loads of sales and the flights and hotels are cheaper.
- Buy your chocolates in a supermarket so much cheaper.
- City Sightseeing tours are a great way to see the city and some passes include free entry to the Dubai Mall Aquarium.
- I only found out before I left about getting a cheap mobile phone at the airport with a sim card and credit which when you returned on your way out you would get your money back.
- Another option is to carry a spare phone as at immigration you are given a Dubai sim card for free. I was not chancing putting this into my phone from a previous experience where Vodacom blocked my phone completely.
- Check if you need a visa for travelling to Dubai. Your Dubai visa allows you to visit the other Emirati of the UAE.
- Download a currency converter app on your phone so you can do a quick calculation of prices.
- If you intend on using your credit card when you are travelling notify your bank.
- When paying with your credit card you will be asked if you want to pay in Rands or Dhirhams. Select Rands as then you will not have to pay excess charges.
I used my time in Dubai to catch up with a few friends who took Mum and I out and about exploring Dubai through the eyes of locals. It was such a great experience eating at places locals eat at , shopping at the markets locals shop daily buying everyday stuff.Each day I spent in Dubai I started falling in love with this city and finally understood why some people keep returning here and just love it. Having a local take you around their city is a very different experience in comparison to a touristy one and I have come to really enjoy the local experience.
My Dubai food experiences were amazing and no they did not cost an arm and a leg. There are so many places to eat and even speciality vegetarian places. The malls have several food courts which have a wide selection of places to eat from including popular American franchises. Food from every corner of the world can be found in Dubai including regional cuisine.There are a large number of expats living and working in Dubai so this is no surprise and even local ingredients from home can found I mean I found premixes for South Indian dishes which I brought back with me. I did not eat at fancy Michelin Star places but I did eat good quality dishes made with care and flavour. The variety of food simply blew my mind away and there was no meal that was bad. The foodie in me is longing for them Dubai food filled days with countless cups of Karak Tea which is my new obsession.Karak Tea is best defined as a strong sweet milky tea.Generally made with loose black tea leaves and brewed with cardamom and evaporate milk.Sometimed saffron ,fresh ginger and cloves are added.Karak is said to have health benefits and is a very popular drink option in the UAE and Gulf Arab states.
I will be sharing more of my trip in detail especially my Dune Adventure, Sharjah Heritage Tour and my food experiences. Just writing this post and scrolling through pictures I am longing to head back to Dubai to see my friends , eat delicious food and go exploring other parts of the UAE.