Dubai for Beginners – Is this the real life, is this just fantasy?
Who of you recognized the “Bohemian Rhapsody” song from Queen? …. Escape from reality! Open your eyes, look up to the sky and see! …
This pretty much describes how I experienced the crazy and mad city of Dubai!
Sand, sand and more sand is the picture you get when looking out of your airplane window whilst flying over the UAE. Then out of a sudden there is a spot of light and high buildings on the coast.
My first impression of Dubai was hot, hot temperatures, but very kind and helpful people. Almost everyone speaks English there and they also speak English in front of you so you’ll understand and don’t feel left out.
25% people living in Dubai are locals and 75% are expats from all over the world. This cultural mixture is what makes Dubai so special and unique. Everyone is welcome here and happy to contribute to the big picture of the city.
The local currency is Dirham. Credit cards are commonly accepted. Get your Dirhams at an ATM or change your currency at the airport or the hotel. Although US Dollars are accepted throughout many countries my experience in Dubai showed that they are not accepted as payment.
Dubai tends to be more expensive than many other cities I've visited so far – some additional back-up money is advised!
When to go
During summer less tourists are visiting the UAE because of the intense heat and the holy month of Ramadan (read more below). Winter months are crowded because of the cold weather in Europe, etc.
The holy month of Ramadan will be an inconvenience when travelling there. Please check when Ramadan is held – my tip is to not visit Dubai during that time, because you will miss out on many things. No eating or even drinking in public places is allowed during the day time, as Muslims fast during the day and only eat when the sun sets. If you eat or drink in front of them it is regarded as a temptation and the police can even charge hefty fines.
Many restaurants still offer take away, but you’ll have to either eat it at a toilet where nobody sees you or get back to the hotel and eat there.
The Dubai Museum and the souks have changed opening hours or are closed at all.
Behaviour + Dress code
No kissing, holding hands or overall affection – sorry to tell you that, but this is how Dubai rules! Give your loved one a kiss in your hotel room, nobody will get at you for that!
Dress respectfully! Cover your shoulders and knees by wearing tees and long pants! It might seem hard having the temperatures in mind, but you'll spend most of the time indoors anyway!
Transportation within Dubai
There are many, many taxis and rates are cheap to reasonable. From the airport to the hotel I paid around 60 AED and to the airport I paid only 25 AED.
The public transport system is great and you’ll get to the main attractions easily. Day passes are available for 22 AED and are valid for metro, buses and tram.
Note: not for the monorail that gets you to the Palm.
Where to stay – The Reflections Hotel
This is a nice hotel, located close to the airport at Al Jadaf 1. It is one of the few hotels in that area as most of it is in construction. The metro station Al Jadaf is the closest one and there are free shuttles available to get you there.
More free shuttles are available to Dubai Mall and other sights at fixed times during the day. Sometimes pick up services are also offered.
I had asked them for a wake up call, just in case the alarm on my phone doesn’t go off, because I had to go to the airport at 2am. They didn’t call or knock on my door.
Note: This trip was part of my Traum.Welt.Reise – “Around the World in 72 Days” project with Marco Polo and Marco Polo TV this summer.