Although we had one of the best holidays we’ve ever had in Dubai, I can appreciate it is definitely not for everyone. It is over the top, pretentious and so perfect it looks fake (it is kinda… it’s man made!). So my advice to you is do your research before you go and to start with that, you’ve come to the right place :p
Fun Facts about Dubai
- The Currency in Dubai is AED (United Arab Emirates Dirham). €1 is about 4.1 AED
- There is ZERO income tax. That’s why they’re all minted :p
- They have ATM machines that dispense gold bars! That sums up how OTT and pretentious Dubai is (but I still love it haha)
- Out of a total population of about 3.1 million, only around 18% are local Emiratis.
- When 2 Emiratis marry each other, the government buys them a house, a car and gives them about €20,000 cash to get them started in life!
- You can’t buy alcohol in Dubai outside of hotels and restaurants. To buy alcohol in Supermarkets, locals need to apply for a licence.
My Dubai Map
As usual, Darren has put together a map that tags every single place in this blog post. You can download the map to your phone and use it without internet! It is very handy altogether.
Getting to Dubai
We flew from Dublin direct to Dubai International Airport with Emirates. Our flights worked out at approximately €1000 for us both which was a great deal in the end (since we were being quoted double that the week before!).
We book most of our flights with SkyScanner because it compares all of the airlines for you. The flight was about 7 hours in duration which is not too bad!
We were looking forward to flying with Emirates because so many people told us they are a fantastic airline, the best they ever flew with. I did a little tour/review on my Instagram Stories, if you’ve fancy a look, check out my Dubai Highlight here.
I’m not sure if it was the time of the flight (10pm) or the difference in staff, but like… it was only grand. The service was good , not great, the food was fine… not great either 😀 BUT, on the flight back, I got what everybody was talking about. The service was incredible. The food and drinks were in abundance and it was a lot more comfortable. I felt really squashed on the way over.
In relation to flight times, there are usually 2 per day with Emirates. We went for the late night flight over so we could sleep on the plane and avoid jet lag (it worked). We got the afternoon flight home so that we would arrive at night, and go straight to bed (again, no jet lag!).
Weather in Dubai
Dubai gets approximately 330 days of sunshine a year. It reached a record temperature of 48 Degrees Celsius in July 1996. The hottest months are July and August, but June and September are also too hot handle! We visited in April and it was mid-30s most days but in the desert, it reached mid-40s (too hot!).
Ramadan in Dubai
Due to the glorious weather, you can visit Dubai any time throughout the year. There are 2 things to be mindful of though. One is the weather, as I said, it can be too hot in some months; and the other is Ramadan.
Islam is the official and majority religion in Dubai with a following of about 76%. So, Ramadan is widely celebrated during May. We were there during Ramadan 2019 and here’s what you need to keep in mind.
During Ramadan, Muslims must fast from dusk until dawn, and abstain from any entertainment (including listening to music, dancing and even sex). They can’t eat any food (even chewing gum) or drink water. So for the most part, the restaurants, shops and nightclubs are closed! Even if nightclubs open, they may not have music or dancing.
As well as a lot of places closing during Ramadan, even as tourists, you can’t eat or drink in public. The Malls have designated areas where you can purchase and eat food (they’re covered off by screens). Read more about Ramadan here.
So in short, Ramadan is probably not the best time to visit Dubai, but on the other hand you can get great deals during that period!
What to Wear in Dubai
For the most part, despite what you hear, you can wear what you want in Dubai. Especially in your hotel. The only place that I seen a sign to cover your shoulders and knees was in the malls and at that, not everyone covered up.
It is not as strict as it was years ago, they rely on tourism in Dubai, so I guess they need to embrace different cultures and religions! However, these rules are more likely to be enforced during Ramadan.
Abu Dhabi is definitely more strict though. When we visited the Grand Mosque, myself and my husband both had to cover up. Most tour operators offer an Abaya (see below) for both men and women.
You will 100% not get into the mosque if you’re clothing does not meet their requirements. It is a very strict, religious place and they take a zero tolerance approach.
What Area to Stay in Dubai
Before we went to Dubai, we did not have a clue where to stay. Dubai is broken up into different areas and you can’t just walk everywhere (the heat is one thing, distance is another) so I was nervous we were going to isolate ourselves (be mindful of this)! We opted for Palm Jumeriah (“The Palm”) in the end because in seemed central to everything.
Having been there now, the areas that I would recommend staying in are Palm Jumeriah, Jumeriah Beach and Dubai Marina. Regardless, you’ll get a taxi to most places and, compared to everything else in Dubai, they are cheap so you won’t mind. All 3 areas have plenty of things to do, places to eat and are fabulous.
Accommodation in Dubai
The hotels in Dubai are on another level. Most places are 5 star and they are so stunning, it can honestly be a bit overwhelming. We stayed in FIVE Palm Hotel on Palm Jumeriah.
No matter where you choose though, please make sure to check if the hotel requires a security deposit. Ours needed €600 on arrival and, since we don’t have a credit card, it needed to come out of our spending money 😀
FIVE Palm Hotel, Palm Jumeriah
When I first seen this hotel online, I was like… WOW and when we arrived, it did not disappoint. It is genuinely the nicest hotel, with the best service, we are ever stayed in. We even got an upgrade on arrival.
I asked very nicely if they could give us the best room they had available (since we were so tired after our really long journey :p). They actually said we already had a nice room but when we went to collect the keys (after the complimentary buffet breakfast they treated us to), they had upgraded us to a Superior Room with a Sea View :p And this is why it’s always worth chancing your arm. How’s this for a room with a view…
As I said, it is the nicest hotel we have ever stayed in and the best service we have ever received (they cleaned the room about 4 times a day, no joke!). The staff were amazing, they even decorated the bed and made animals out of the towels, to wish Darren a Happy Birthday.
FIVE Palm is a Party Hotel
There was literally a party in the pool every day, and nobody is dancing or laughing, but posing and get that shot for Instagram! It is very pretentious and it was not our scene at all.
I wouldn’t recommend it for families for that reason. There are plenty of better suited hotels for children. In saying that, we don’t sit at the pool on holidays, we like to go on day trips and go sight seeing. So this didn’t make a difference in the grand scheme of things but just in case you’re looking for one of those holidays where you go and chill at the pool… you won’t find it here.
And that my friends, is why you should never book accommodation over an Instagram photo! If sounds like you’re kinda scene, you can book it here.
Things to See & Do in Dubai
OK, let’s start with the best thing that we did in Dubai…
Desert Safari Tour
The Desert Safari Tour is hands down the best thing we did during our trip. There are plenty of tour operators and options but we went for the full day Red Sand Dunes by Quad Tour and booked here through TripAdvisor. It was 9 hours in total and costed less than €90 each… the best money we’ve ever spent!
You’re collected from your hotel and brought to the Red Sands Desert in a private, air conditioned jeep. There were only 4 other people on the tour with us so it was really nice and intimate.
VERY IMPORTANT: As soon as you arrive at the desert, lash on the SPF, it is BOILING!
Quad Biking in the Dubai Desert
The adventure starts on the quads. You can choose to share one or get one on your own when you’re booking. We shared one because well, we’re joined at the hip :p Ah no, it’s just better craic that way I think!
The quads were just incredible and actually quiet fast too! I’m finding it hard to explain the feeling of being out in the middle of the desert (it’s a real desert, not some made up one like the one in Marrakech) and it offered some of the best sights I’ve ever seen.
There was no end in sight to the beautiful red sand dunes and it was so peaceful to look at and breathtaking. The quads were the best part of the day for both of us.
Sand Surfing in the Dubai Desert
After an hour on the quads, we went sand surfing! Which is exactly what it sounds like… surfing down sand hills!
It was deadly (I didn’t fall :p) but it was so hard to climb back up the dunes in the heat. I was literally seeing white spots, Darren had to come rescue me on a quad ha! But honestly, loads of water and loads of SPF. The desert in Dubai is one of the hottest places on Earth so don’t play around!
The tour guide was class, he really wanted to make sure we had the best day and also, that we captured it too! He made us pose for lots of photos in the desert which I think is very sweet!
Sunset & Dinner Show
After a day of adventure, we jumped back into the jeep and we’re brought to our base camp. There were loads of other tourists there too (with the same company) and the atmosphere was brilliant.
They gave us the choice to go camel riding but we opted out. When the others came back, we climbed up the sand dunes and watched the sunset and it was a real pinch me moment, just incredible.
After all that, we had definitely worked up an appetite and so we were taken back to the camp, where we were fed (a buffet style meal) and watered (unlimited free soft drinks) and entertained by fire breathers and belly dancers.
You could also get henna tattoos and shishas!
As I said, that was the best money we have ever spent and if there was only one thing you could do in Dubai, make it this! Book the Red Sands Desert Safari package here.
Day Trip to Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi is only about an hour drive from Dubai and so you may as well tick another place off your list! We booked the day trip with Get Your Guide and they were excellent. They communicated throughout, keeping us updated via WhattsApp and they collected us at our hotel. It lasted 9 hours in total and cost about €60 each. Book it here.
While we were there, we visited the Grand Mosque, which was absolutely beautiful, the Jumeriah Emirates Tower (great views) and Heritage Village (a great way to see old and new Abu Dhabi at once).
Abu Dhabi is a lot quieter than Dubai and less built up (for now). I think it would be better suited for families for that reason and it also has lots of theme and water parks like Warner Bros and Ferrari World!
Souks in Dubai
The Souks in Dubai are basically markets and, although they are absolutely manic and not for everyone, I really enjoyed the experience. See, remember I said Dubai was OTT and pretentious and honestly, it is filthy rich… well, the Souks gives you a taste of the “real” Dubai.
Not everyone in Dubai can afford to drive Rolls Royces and Lamborghinis (although A LOT of them can!) and there is a stark contrast between the old and new Dubai and the rich and poor Emiratis. It’s like there’s no in between!
As well as the cultural experience, there are some bargains to be bagged at that Souks! Whether you’re looking for spices or diamonds, you’ll find it!
Some of the best Souks in Dubai, and ones we visited, are the Gold Souk and the Meena Bazaar; read some more suggestions here.
The Souks can be intense but the people are just trying to make a sale so don’t be intimated but do keep your wits about you. They are mostly harmless (did you know that there is less than 1% crime rate in Dubai!?) but they will try a few tricks to get you to part with your few bob. They kept calling me Shakira and Darren, Seamus, that gave us a good laugh!
Ski Dubai sums up the madness of Dubai.
There is literally nothing you can’t do there, including skiing, which is in the middle of the Mall of the Emirates.
Yes, it definitely does feel odd skiing when it’s 40 degrees outside! We got a really good deal on Ski Dubai’s website for about €60 per person. That included a penguin encounter, an hour skiing lesson, a lovely lunch, clothing and equipment, and all of the activities like bobsledding and zorbing! Check out the prices and more details here.
Shopping in Dubai
Long time readers will know I’m not one for shopping on holidays but for those of you who are… Dubai is home to 2 of the biggest shopping centres (malls!) in the world: Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall. In general, Dubai is the same price, if not dearer, for clothes, shoes and beauty, so there are no savings to be had there!
Although the Malls are still worth visiting because they’re spectacles (so big and beautiful!). You’ll probably find yourself there anyway because Ski Dubai is in Mall of the Emirates and Burj Khalifa is right beside the Dubai Mall.
Burj Khalifa “At the Top” & Dancing Fountain
Burj Khalifa is officially the tallest building in the world and it is really is spectacular. The Dancing Fountains outside are supposed to be amazing in the evenings and a must see (FREE too). Shows run daily from 6pm until 11pm (every half hour).
Tickets to the top of the Burj can be bought at the building itself (probably the cheapest option but you’ll have to queue!) or online here. We didn’t get to go up to the top or see the Dancing Fountains, so we’ll just have to go back :p
Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab is a 7 Star hotel (yes, you read that right!). You can make a reservation to have food, drinks or afternoon tea there (the views are said to be beautiful). We didn’t bother, instead, we parked ourselves on the free public beach which had fabulous views of the hotel itself!
The Dubai Frame
I’m not suggesting you take a taxi just to see this, because it really is just a frame, but if you’re over that way, you could get some deadly photos of the Dubai skyline. More information including location here but it’s 150 meters high and 93 meters wide so you won’t miss it!
Dubai Atlantis Aquaventure
Probably the fanciest, prettiest waterpark you’ll ever see. Aquaventure is based in the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeriah. Have you ever seen that picture of a waterslide that goes underwater with Sharks swimming around it? That’s Aquaventure at the Atlantis, it looks like an incredible place, if you’re into waterparks that is! You can read more about it and buy tickets here.
Places to Eat & Drink in Dubai
The food and drink in Dubai is extremely expensive. you’re talking €13 for a 330ml can of beer (shocking!). You can save some money by downloading the Entertainer App. It will show you deals from restaurants and bars nearby, it’s so good! It offers 2 for 1 meals and drinks and is free to download! Even if you have somewhere in mind, check to see if there are any deals on the app before booking!
Brunch on Fridays
Dubai’s working week is from Sunday to Thursday so their weekend starts on Friday. Brunch is a really popular way for locals to kick start the weekend and tourists love it too! Nearly every hotel and hot spot offers Brunch and essentially, it’s bottomless drinks, food and plenty of music for one price (usually about €80 each, depending on where you go). Check out some of Dubai’s most popular Brunch venues here.
Hands down, the most beautifully decorated restaurant I’ve ever visited. The food is Asian, offering a mixture of Thai, Chinese and Japanese. It was so good but it’s expensive (like everywhere I suppose). The main courses are big enough though so definitely consider sharing! It books out really quickly so try to book in advance here.
Little Miss India
Located in the Fairmont Hotel, Little Miss India is definitely the best Indian meal I’ve ever had. The service was exceptional, the chef even came out at the end to make sure we enjoyed the meal, such a nice touch.
Dubai is home to one of the most famous restaurants in the world, Nobu. It’s situated on The Palm and if you were celebrating a special occasion, it’s definitely worth considering. Book in advance here.
Ossiano is an underwater restaurant which is absolute bucket list material! In saying that, it is really expensive and the food looks very “posh” ha! If you’re into seafood though, you can check out the menu and book it here.
If you fancy staying in one evening, you can order an Uber Eats to your hotel! P.F. Changs is on the menu :p
So that’s our Ultimate Travel Guide to Dubai! Did you find it helpful? As I said, Dubai is definitely an acquired taste and not for everybody but we loved it and will definitely go back!
Thanks for reading! Let me know if you’e any questions below.