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Instructions for a short trip to Dubai

Length of Stay: At least 3-4 days

Stopps: JBR | Marina | Desert Safari | Deira | The Palm | Madinat Jumeirah



Brief introduction to Dubai:
Dubai is the capital of the emirate of the same name, which is one of the seven United Emirates, and is located directly on the Persian Gulf. The city has about 3.5 million inhabitants. Since independence from Great Britain in 1971, Dubai has transformed into a world metropolis with countless (luxury) hotels and skyscrapers. The goal of the ruling family is to develop the city as a tourist and business metropolis in the Middle East in the long term in order to make itself independent of oil. In contrast to the more culturally oriented Abu Dhabi, the motto in Dubai is: higher, faster, more luxurious and further.

Sunrise view from top of the Burj Khalifa

Arrival and Orientation:

You could say that Dubai is the geographical center of the world. Located perfectly between all continents, the mega-airport "DXB" can be reached not only with the national airline of the UAE but also with almost all other international airlines. In addition to a vacation, Dubai is also ideal for a short stopover.

The airport is nice and new, but the entry can sometimes take longer (especially if you don't arrive with the national airline; a rascal if you think bad things). The suitcases are usually waiting for you on the luggage belt.

Depending on the location of the accommodation, there are various options for getting away from the airport: Taxis are safe, fast and inexpensive, which is why I prefer this option, especially for late arrivals. Another quick alternative is Uber. The airport pick-up zones can be found on Uber's website. Those who prefer to travel by train can take the metro (red line, Terminal 1 and 3 stop). The metro runs parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road to the southern industrial district of Dubai. Of course, you can also first take the metro and then take a taxi for the last few meters. Overall, Dubai is very safe, it is not made for pedestrians only. There are no sidewalks, but three- to seven-lane expressways with no end. So even a few hundred meters on foot become insurmountable.


Dubai is big, Dubai has no city center and no shopping street as you know it from other major cities. There are various shopping malls in Dubai and the sights are spread across the entire metropolis. So it's worth making a plan before spending a lot of time in the taxi or metro.

I always divide Dubai into four parts (from north to south):

  • The north = older part with museums and culture, the airport, the Dubai Frame and the Burj Kalifa / Dubai Mall

  • The middle part = company headquarters and residential areas

  • "The Area near the Palm Island" = newer part with beaches, the Burj al Arab, the Marina and the "Mall of The Emirates"

  • The south = industrial district



Depending on your taste or length of stay, I recommend staying either south of the airport or the area near "The Palm".

My favorite hotel near the airport is the "Grand Hyatt Dubai" with its huge pool area, a beautiful garden and an impressive lounge. The rooms are very large and luxurious.

If you are traveling on a smaller budget and want to stay close to the airport, you can stay at the Pullman Dubai Creek City Center. The hotel is located within the Deira City Center shopping mall, which has a number of restaurants and shops. In addition, it is not far from here to the souk.

For those who stay longer in Dubai and want to go to the beach, there is a hotel on JBR Beach further south. In addition to the beaches in front of the hotel door, various restaurants on the beach promenade are within walking distance. The immediately adjacent Dubai Marina also invites you to stroll and eat. I stayed at the two Hilton Hotels. The "Hilton Dubai Jumeirah" and the "Hilton Dubai The Walk" are connected by a bridge and share the beach and pool with an integrated bar.


Coming around:

The northern Part:

Spice & Gold Souk | Heritage Village | Museums | Dubai Frame | Burj Khalifa | Dubai Mall | Dubai Fountain

Not far from the airport is "Deira", the old district of Dubai, in which you will find the markets for spices, gold and textiles. Of course, as a tourist you are constantly chatting up here, but it is nowhere near as extreme as in Marrakech, for example. A tour is worthwhile, especially if you need supplies of Indian curry, saffron or other spices for your home kitchen. But be careful: haggling over the price is not only optional, it is expected. The dealers are friendly and with a smile and a good mood you have a lot of fun negotiating here.

If you are looking for a bit of peace and quiet after the hustle and bustle of the souk, it is best to take one of the boats and cross Dubai Creek for one dirham. On the southern bank is the "Heritage Village", the replica of an Arab settlement built in 1997, as well as other small museums and the "House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum".

On the way to the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall there is the "Dubai Frame", a 150-meter high-rise building that is reminiscent of a picture frame. The bridge that connects the two towers can be visited for 50 AED (January 2021 around 11 EUR). The last time I was in Dubai, the frame wasn't finished yet. However, presumably the building looks better from the outside than the view from above. The next time I'm in Dubai, I'll stop by and give an update here.

The most famous in and around Dubai is probably the "Burj Khalifa", the tallest structure in the world at 828 meters. The viewing platform is located at a height of around 450 meters and offers a sensational view of the city. The sunrise tickets that I had back then are apparently no longer available. A ticket for around 35 EUR is still worthwhile.

Directly adjacent to the Burj Khalifa is the "Dubai Mall", a mega-mall with 1200 shops, 120 restaurants, an ice rink, an aquarium extending over three floors and the famous water features of the "Dubai Fountains". A visit is particularly recommended here at sunset. The fountain show with changing music and the glittering Burj Khalifa make Las Vegas look pretty old.


All around the Palm:

Burj al Arab | Madinat Jumeirah | Mall of the Emirates | The Palm | Atlantis | Aquaventure Water Park | Dubai Marina | JBR Beach

The area around the Palm Island is a newer area with a focus on (luxurious) tourist attractions. In addition to the well-known "Burj al Arab" hotel, you will find the "Souk Madinat" here. The Souk Madinat is integrated into a hotel area, which is why you can eat and drink well here in the evening. Anyone who wants to buy local products, but for whom a "real" souk is too stressful, is in good hands here. The market is a beautiful replica of a traditional souk with modern shops and unobtrusive retaillers.

If you are not tired of shopping, the way to the "Mall of the Emirates" is not far. With 400 shops and 65 restaurants, the shopping center is smaller than the "Dubai Mall", but the "Ski Dubai" indoor ski area is integrated here. As Europeans, this is certainly a rather disturbing picture and we don't want to think about the energy costs. For the locals and expats, however, the indoor ski area is fun.

Another highlight for tourists from all over the world is the palm island and the "Atlantis The Palm - Hotel" located on it. However, one sees relatively little of the hotel without a valid room reservation. A trip to Atlantis is only worthwhile if you pay a visit to the adjacent "Aquaventure Waterpark" (around EUR 60). The highlight of the park is a slide that leads through a shark tank. If you want, you can swim with dolphins in Dolphin Bay for large bills. Whether you have to do that, however, is an open question. A little tip for the otherwise worthwhile water park: The operators are really big at selling all additional services (they must have been copied from an airline). Lockers and towels have to be payed separately. My personal highlight - besides the countless water slides - is the "Rapid River", a 1.4 kilometer long river on which you can drift comfortably around the park within 45 minutes. In addition, the water here is cooled (!) to a bearable level, Especially in summer with air temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, a blessing.

When the evening temperatures are bearable again, a stroll at the "Dubai Marina" is worthwhile. Disappointingly, for structural reasons, there are no ships here that are otherwise known from Porto Cervo, Monaco or Cannes. However, the high-rise buildings of the marina with the water in the foreground offer a great flair and you can find numerous restaurants on the promenade.


Outside the City:

Various providers of desert tours provide a little action outside of the city. Often an off-road tour through the dunes (dune bashing), sandboarding, camel safari and a meal in a recreated Bedouin village are included. If you get sick quickly while driving, the 45 minutes through the dunes will be an ordeal. If you don't get enough, you can usually optionally book a short distance with a quad bike. The desert tours are of course very touristy and well-timed, but offer a good introduction for everyone who has never been to the desert and is in the mood for a little adventure.

If you've had enough of Dubai and want to spend a little more time in Abu Dhabi, a trip is definitely worth it. Especially the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at sunset has to be seen once in a lifetime. The cheapest and but still very comfortable way to get to Abu Dhabi is by one of the new, clean and air-conditioned buses that run regularly. The buses (Line E101) depart from the "Ibn Battuta Bus Station" in Dubai, and there is also a metro stop directly connected. The boring journey takes around 1.5 hours and costs just under AED 30 (around EUR 7, as of January 2021). You can either use the metro card as a ticket and validate it on the bus or buy a single ticket directly at the bus station.


Eating and Drinking:

One thing is certain, nobody has to starve to death in Dubai. The typical American chains such as the "Cheescake Factory", "Shake Shack", "Chili's", "TGIF" and whatever they are called can be found in the big shopping malls and on JBR Beach. Around JBR and the marina you will also find plenty of other restaurants with dishes from all over the world and various price ranges. At the marina you can also sit outside, if the temperatures allow it.

The Souk Madinat also offers a great atmosphere in the evening, and there are also some restaurants here. Since this is officially a hotel area, in contrast to the restaurants at the marina, you can also get alcoholic drinks here. And while you're already there, it is worth taking a short detour to the rooftop bar at the "Jumeirah Beach" hotel after your meal. From here you will have a great view of the "Burj al Arab". If you are looking for a place on the beach with a small snack with a non-alcoholic drink and a shisha, "Smokey Beach" at the JBR is ideal. However, one can argue about the usefulness of large air conditioning systems outdoors.

For breakfast or snacking, I can recommend "Eggspectation" at the JBR. Here you can get everything from fresh orange juice to pancakes and egg benedict to omelets or crêpes.



Excursus: Business Model Dubai

Dubai is not called "Do buy" for nothing and the ruling family is very business-minded. In case you have ever asked yourself why the flight tickets of the national airline are much cheaper compared to other airlines: For Dubai the complete business case of the travel chain counts and not individual silos. When tourists fly to Dubai, they not only spend money on plane tickets, but also on hotels, taxis, eating, drinking and shopping. Everything flows into the cash register of the emirate, which wants to finance the time after the oil. In addition, locals and expats hardly pay taxes on their income, which makes Dubai an interesting place to live.

Although Dubai is a paradise for shopping with its numerous shopping malls and luxury shops, the prices are comparable to those in London / Paris or Berlin. So you will hardly find a bargain. But there are many shop and restaurant brands that are rarely or not at all found in Europe. If you stock up on luxury goods in Dubai, think about the duty-free limit on your return.

Dubai has always been known for the spice trade and that is still the case today: whether saffron, curry powder, cardamom or cinnamon, the selection of spices from all over the world is overwhelming. If you don't feel like bargaining or if the traditional spice souk is too stressful for you, you can shop wonderfully in the spice shops in one of the malls or in the Souk Madinat.



I have been to Dubai 11 times so far and there will probably be a few more stays. Dubai is simply perfect to escape the cold winter for a few days or as a transfer airport for Southeast Asia and Australasia. With a time difference of just three hours (from mid Europe), the jet lag is also kept within limits. There are also some US chains in Dubai that you cannot (yet) find in Europe. Instead of sitting on the plane in winter for at least 9-12 hours to get to warm Florida or California, it is more worth flying 6.5 hours to Dubai and enjoying the warm weather there. By the way, I'm writing this on January 10th at -2 degrees and I'm really excited to fly back to Dubai immediately ...

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