With a cold winter in full swing in the UK and the bomb cyclone rattling up the USA. No better time for winter holiday than the present. I was in need of a winter escape in search of sun, sea, and sand after I finished in Oxford. So when my sister suggested Dubai, I knew we would be guaranteed sunshine. I finished my year plus stint at Williams F1 in Oxford on Thursday 4th November and by Saturday that weekend, I was in Dubai. One never sleeps on an offer of a winter escape to Dubai. You might have read about my previous trips to Dubai in a visual diary I did and the top 10 places to see in Dubai. This trip was shorter than the last one. I was only going to be visiting Dubai for 5 days. Visiting with my sister and my nephew who at 2 years old has racked up quite a few stamps.
My last trip to Dubai was at least 5 years ago so it was great to revisit and see how the city has changed. I feel like I miss-judged the city on my last trip. I guess my view of Dubai has changed somewhat. On my last visit, I thought it lacked character and it was just filled with big and fancy things for the sake of it. My opinion on that has changed. Yes, you get that impression as that start but when you look at it from the perspective of a country that discovers oil and is rich beyond measure and then you have the ruler of Dubai whose aim is to make UAE one of the best countries in the world. They have plenty of oil and rather than have only few benefit off the country’s riches they have proceeded to modernise the Dubai and many other Emirates are following suit. The rapid modernisation has meant that the city of Dubai had many projects, all going nonstop 24/7, day and night! The country has seen many ‘world’s first’ projects; Palm Jumeirah, Deira Island and Palm Jebel Ali. I am always amazed at every turn in the city. Contrary to rumours, Dubai does have a rich culture. You can get a glimpse of the culture in their architecture, thriving art scene and there are still many elements of Bedouin culture.
Yes, you may read about Westerners being arrested and this usually makes the news but for those that don’t know about the city. Dubai is a relaxed and a safe place to visit. So don’t let a few stories of foreigners behaving badly put you off visiting. It’s a Muslim country and as relaxed as it is you still have to abide by the countries laws in much the same way I have to abide by the laws in the UK where I live. As my sister was on the fence about visiting in much the same way a lot of women might be, I thought I would also address some of the questions she and many other people tend to have when it comes to Dubai. Questions like is Dubai safe, is it safe for women, is Dubai expensive, what activities or things can I do…
Things to do | Dubai itinerary ideas and available activities
I have quite a few recommendations in my linked post above, of course visiting Madinat Jumeirah is a must. This the Emirates’s largest resort and built like an ancient Arabian town. Madinat Jumeirah is comprised of 3 grand hotels but you don’t have to be staying at the hotel to visit Madinat Jumeirah. You have Souk Madinat(contemporary souk is home to upscale shops, more than 40 cafés, bars, and restaurants), and of course, don’t miss out on the Abra boat ride. I took my sister out on a little guide of some of the places I had visited. During my last visit a friend of mine living in Dubai. She has now moved to Oman but another currently lives in Fujeirah. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see them this time round so I was going to be the guide around the city. The city is also perfect if you are visiting with children. (We flew with Emirates Airline which also comes perfect with check-in desks for those with families which is a plus.) You have malls with aquariums and many activities kids love! Check out Wild Wadi Water Park.
There are plenty of other activities around the city. From views 160 floors up at Burj Khalifa, afternoon tea at Burj Al Arab for more on that you can check out my other posts on Dubai. For others not mentioned in that post, you have day tours to other Emirates like the day trip to Abu Dhabi(I will post about that soon), you can do a skydive over the Palm Island, desert safari, dinner and marina cruises. The list is endless. For more tours and activities available in Dubai to help you put an itinerary together checkout Viator and Expedia.
Shop the look
Dress ASOS / Wide Brim Hat – Reiss(currently on sale)
Dubai Fashion /Dubai Shopping Malls
Dubai dress code
With all that you read about dress codes in Dubai and some of the news articles will put the fear of God into people, to the point of not wanting to visit. Don’t believe everything you read. Yes, there are dress codes for public places like malls and certain other places you are expected to dress modestly. Most people don’t follow them as countless times you will see people with barely their shorts or sleeveless boob tube tops. Yes, you can be pulled aside for this and told to put some decent closes on. Majority of times no one cares. You may get a good stare down though. The rule of thumb is to just be respectable. You can still wear fashionable clothes while abiding by the rules. The rules are also not that strict to start with. They are not asking you to wear a hijab or cover from head to toe. Dubai also gets ridiculously hot so unless you want to burn, no doubt you will at least want to cover your shoulders in the heat. They also blast the air con in the malls so if you are going to wear strappy tops always pack a scarf just in case. Both for the cold and if you get asked to cover up. The other thing most people don’t expect is the nightlife in Dubai. Yes, there are clubs and bars here and women dress to kill just like anywhere else in the world. Just remember you are still in a foreign country so get drank and disorderly at your own risk.
Is Dubai Safe / Is Dubai safe for women
At no point in any of my visits to Dubai have I ever felt unsafe. The strict rules in Dubai also mean there is a low crime rate but like any city in the world, it doesn’t mean that things do not happen. I have walked around late in the evening and felt pretty safe. I know many people have lived and worked in the UAE who say the same things. Where ever you go whether it said to be a safe country or city just apply some common sense. Don’t walk in dark, low lit routes no matter whether the route is shorter. Also, alert friends and family if you feel unsafe. I know friends who lived in UAE some still do, I know family friends that live, work and study in the UAE. And as a woman, for those specifically wanting to know if Dubai is safe. I personally think it is, but like I said to use common sense whether visiting Dubai or London. I used Uber mostly when I getting around. You also have pink taxis driven by women and mainly to serve women. You also have train carriages that are just for women and children. I would highly recommend anyone to visit.
Is Dubai expensive
Yes and no. For someone that lives in an expensive city like London, I don’t think it’s overly expensive at all. It can be if you want to live the champagne life when you have a less than ready account to match your lifestyle. You can save money on where you stay. Tickets to Dubai are not that expensive. You can always find deals. I believe my ticket with Emirates Airlines was just over £300 of a return from London but you can sometimes find deals for even as low as £150 – 200. Hotels can be as expensive depending on the area you choose to stay. If you are staying at places like Atlantis, Burj Al Arab, or Madinate Jumeriah hotels you will be paying a lot of money but the service is near perfect. You also have plenty of budget hotels in the city with varying prices. There are hostels too I believe in addition to plenty of Airbnb options too. We were originally going to stay in one, but in the end, we didn’t have time to way for comms with hosts so I ended up booking an apartment on Dubai Marina. So shop around there is something for every budget. I tend to use Agoda, Booking.com or Trivago. I also do use Airbnb. I have posted a couple of times about places I have stayed at.
If you want to save money you can search sites like Groupon or timeout as they sometimes have plenty of discounted activities and tours. I have a post on 10 money saving tips when visiting London and some of those tips apply when you visit Dubai.
Madinat Jumeirah Abra Tours
There are many activities to do in Dubai but one to miss out on when you visit Madinat Jumeirah is the Abra boat ride. These are traditional boats made of wood, at 85AED you are cruised around on for 20-minute leisurely boat ride around Jumeirah lake. Pretty much the best way to admire the stunning architecture, beautiful gardens, and float by as you pass the restaurants and cafes. It’s also the best way to see some of the areas not accessible to the public by foot(unless you are staying at the local hotels or apartments on Madinat Jumeirah). I have a little Instagram video below from our ride. Also if you are staying at Jumeirah Beach Hotel you don’t have to pay for the boat rides. You simply show them your room key. They run the service so its free to their guests.
Usually a private ride on an abra on #Jumeirah would cost you 800AED but not when you have Niles with you. People’s fascination with his ‘fro had us upgraded to a private ride while only paying for two adult tickets at 85AED each. #score…. Clearly I need to travel with my nephew much more 🙄 #openingdoors #meltinghearts #dubai #uae
Dubai Visa / Do I need a visa
Another question I usually get asked do I need a visa for Dubai. This really depends on the passport you hold. If you hold an American or British passport and the majority of European passports, you get to glide through without a visa. For the others that do need to get a visa, you can use the online sites that have been licensed to provide visa services for the embassies. The easiest way to find out which to use it to go to the UAE consulate website and go to the visas section. This way you know the link they forward you to is legit. As someone that has to get a visa for almost everywhere I visit, it gets tiresome having to almost give up way too much personal info. It sometimes feels like you even have to give up deets on your menstrual cycle while providing 50-million pages of bank statements, work letters… to the nth degree of promising you will be not over staying in the foreign country. Yes, after a while it gets tired and old, but I love that when I visit Dubai I don’t have to deal with that when I fly through Emirates Airline. They process the visa once you purchase your ticket so that I get to Dubai with my pre-applied visa I get to glide through the airport. This is only available if you are flying with Emirates Airline. Once you purchase your ticket you log in to manage your booking and you have a link to apply for a visa, which involves uploading your passport and any previous UAE stamps you might have had. Within 24rs to 3 days you receive the confirmation visa in the email to print out for when you travel and arrive at in Dubai, Abu Dhabi or whichever your entry point into the country is.
Where to stay in Dubai
I will cover this in more detail when I do a post on where we stayed. My last visit I stayed Sheik Zayed Road but you can find hotels here and downtown Dubai near Burj Khalifa. This time around I stayed in Dubai Marina. I wanted to be close to the beaches. I also love the lively atmosphere here hence why on this visit I was keen to stay here. Places are open almost 24/7. You have plenty of activities around bars and restaurants, malls to boats cruising around with tours, whether is diner and cruise or speedboat tours to the Palm Island. You can also should to state on the Palm Island itself. You have Atlantis The Palm on the island too. I will share with you where we stayed in my next post on Dubai.