Dubai Travel Guide: Expert Tips for Visiting

Welcome to our Dubai travel guide. Here you’ll find key details about the city, including best times to visit, how to get around, and key things to know about the culture.

Key Details

Province/State: Dubai

Country: United Arab Emirates

Population: 3,600,000

Time Zone: Gulf Standard Time

Languages Spoken: Arabic

Currency Used: AED

Our Take

Dubai, the glittering jewel of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), offers you an extraordinary blend of traditional Arab culture and ultramodern extravagance. As you wander the busy streets, you’re enveloped in the city’s rich history, seamlessly interwoven with state-of-the-art architecture that punctuates the skyline.

Dubai may dazzle with its modern amenities, but the city is deeply grounded in its Bedouin heritage. The Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood and the Dubai Museum hint at the sand-covered origins before oil transformed the city’s landscape and economy.

Best Time to Visit

When planning your trip to Dubai, weather is a primary factor. November to March is the ideal window for your visit, offering amiable temperatures for exploring the city and its outdoor attractions. During these months, daytime averages hover around a pleasant 25°C (77°F), dipping to cooler evening temperatures.

  • High Season (November to April): The perfect time for urban adventures. Outdoor activities such as desert safaris and rooftop dining are most enjoyable. I recall the gentle desert breeze in January, making even midday excursions comfortable.
  • Shoulder Season (April and May, September and October): These months mark transitions between sweltering heat and cooler climes. They offer a balance for sightseeing without the peak season crowds.
  • Low Season (June to August): It’s best to avoid these months due to extreme heat, with daily averages reaching 41°C (106°F), climbing higher at times.

Beyond the weather, the cultural and festival calendar can add unique experiences to your visit:

  • Dubai Shopping Festival (December/January):
    • Lavish sales, live concerts, and extraordinary raffles.
  • Dubai Food Festival (February/March):
    • A chance to taste global cuisines and local flavors in food carnivals.

Practical tip: Consider booking accommodations early during high season and festivals.

When I visited in February, the streets were busy and lively but that also translated into some significant traffic. Remember, Dubai’s generosity in hospitality is mirrored by its opulent lifestyle. Pack your attire for a blend of casual exploration and upscale venues, and don’t forget sunscreen, no matter the season. Always stay hydrated and embrace the temperate months for your Dubai adventure.

How to Get There

The best way to get to Dubai is by flying into Dubai International Airport (DXB). The airport is well-connected to most major cities worldwide, so finding a flight should not be a problem.

Reaching Dubai is a straightforward experience thanks to the Dubai International Airport (DXB), one of the busiest in the world. Your trip will likely begin with a flight landing here. From the US, Europe, and Asia, numerous airlines offer direct and connecting flights to Dubai. Depending on where you’re traveling from, you could look at anywhere from a few hours to over half a day in the air.

Here’s a quick breakdown of what to expect when planning your air travel to Dubai:

  • Airlines: Many leading carriers like Emirates, Etihad, and others operate frequent flights to Dubai.
  • Flight Duration: Direct flights from New York take around 12 hours, while London to Dubai is about 7 hours.

Once you land, the airport offers several convenient transport options to get to the city center:

  • Taxi: Readily available and metered.
  • Metro: The Dubai Metro’s Red Line connects you directly to many key areas of the city.
  • Bus: Less expensive, with extensive coverage.

Before you even set foot in the city, you might want to consider booking a Dubai trip package, which often includes airport transfers, ensuring a hassle-free start to your adventure.

A personal tip from when I visited: if you’re considering renting a car, remember that while road signs are in English, driving is on the right-hand side, and the traffic can be intense. I found using the Metro as a great way to skip the traffic and heat, plus it’s an excellent chance to meet both locals and fellow travelers.

How to Get Around

Getting around is relatively easy in Dubai, as the city has a decent transportation system. You can use the metro, taxis, buses, or even rent a car. Kayak.com is an excellent site for car rentals; you can always find a vehicle that suits your needs.Here are some options you can use:

Metro: The Dubai Metro stands out for its cleanliness and punctuality. It spans the city and connects major landmarks. It’s a cost-effective and reliable way to travel, especially during peak traffic hours.

  • Tip: Purchase a Nol card on various public transports, including the metro, buses, and trams.

Taxis are ubiquitous and can be hailed on the street or booked via apps like Careem. I found them a swift way to get to destinations not served by the metro.

  • Personal Insight: Once, a taxi driver shared local eateries off the beaten path, enhancing my culinary experience in Dubai.

Bus: Servicing areas that the metro does not reach, buses are air-conditioned and comfortable.

  • Tip: Check bus routes on the RTA Dubai app to plan efficiently.

Rental Cars: Renting a car provides flexibility. Remember, driving in Dubai is on the right-hand side, and traffic can be intense.

  • Experience: Driving down Sheikh Zayed Road offered me stunning views of the Dubai skyline, but be cautious of speed limits that can change frequently.

Tram and Monorail: Trams and the monorail are ideal for areas like the Palm Jumeirah and Marina. They are less crowded and offer scenic views.

  • Travel Tips: The tram connects with the metro, so consider it an extension of your journey for areas like JBR and the Marina.

Embrace Dubai’s diverse transportation options to enrich your travel experience, and remember, a friendly conversation with a taxi driver or a local might just give you the best travel tips not found in any guidebook.

Option Description Notes
Metro City-wide fast travel. Major sites connected.
Taxis Door-to-door service. Metered fares.
Buses Wide network. Affordable, AC.
Water Taxi Scenic Dubai Creek route. Historic to modern areas.
Car Rental Explore freely. License needed.
Tram Dubai Marina, JBR. Metro, Monorail link.
Abras Wooden boats. Quick, cheap.
Palm Monorail Palm Jumeirah exclusive. Great views.

Cultural Heritage

Dubai’s cultural landscape is a mix of its Bedouin origins and the colorful influences of its expatriate communities. The traditional dress—kandoras for men and abayas for women—showcases the UAE’s pride and cultural identity, balancing respect for religious traditions with the need for comfort.

The local food scene is a journey of flavors, featuring unique dishes such as camel meat, dates, and a rich palette of spices that season favorites like kabsa and luqaimat. The deeply rooted traditions of hospitality and etiquette, expressive art forms like calligraphy and henna, and the lively expressions of poetry, dance, and music all paint a picture of Dubai’s living heritage that visitors are invited to discover and enjoy.

Etiquette

When you set foot in Dubai, you step into a mix of modernity and traditional Arabian culture. Understanding local customs and etiquette is key to a pleasant journey.

Greetings

Start with greetings; a friendly, yet respectful “As-salamu alaykum” (‘peace be upon you’) is widely appreciated. Emiratis greet each other with a nose-to-nose touch, but as a visitor, a warm handshake is more typical.

Dress Code

Dubai is progressive, but modesty is paramount. Dress conservatively in public places, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. At beaches or pools, swimwear is acceptable, but cover up when you leave those areas.

  • For men: Avoid shorts above the knees in public.
  • For women: Cover shoulders and knees; a pashmina is a handy accessory.

Dining Etiquette

Remember to use your right hand for eating and passing items when dining, as the left is traditionally reserved for hygiene. If you’re a guest, wait to be directed where to sit and always accept the offer of Arabian coffee or a date — it’s polite.

Behavior Norms

Public Displays of Affection (PDA) should be minimal. Holding hands is okay, but more intimate gestures can offend. Stay sober in public; there’s zero tolerance for drunken behavior outside licensed venues.

Photography: Be cautious. Don’t take pictures of people, especially women, without permission, and be mindful of photographing government buildings.

Tidbit

During my visit, I found that simple gestures of respect, like accepting a business card with both hands, made a world of difference in interactions. Enjoy the wonders of Dubai with cultural awareness, and you’ll find your experience enriched.

Local Area

When you visit Dubai, each neighborhood unveils a unique aspect of this vibrant city — whether you’re looking for luxury shopping, cultural experiences, or seaside relaxation.

Downtown Dubai is a must-visit. Here, you’re dwarfed by the towering Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Wander through the expansive Dubai Mall, where retail therapy takes on a new meaning with over 1,200 stores.

For a seaside vibe, Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) offers that perfect blend of beachfront leisure and buzzing nightlife. The walk along the beach is a personal favorite. Last visit, a pop-up art gallery had me captivated with local works!

Head to Dubai Marina for that cosmopolitan flavor. It’s an incredible feat of urban planning, with a manmade canal surrounded by residential skyscrapers. Dinners on a dhow cruise come highly recommended for a different view of the city lights.

Don’t miss Palm Jumeirah, an engineering marvel shaped like a palm tree. It’s not every day you get to say you’ve lounged on an artificial island, right? The luxury resorts here offer exceptional views of the Arabian Gulf.

Lastly, Business Bay is becoming a bustling locale, with the new Dubai Water Canal carving its way through. It’s quieter but expanding rapidly, an exciting blend of residential spaces and business towers.

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Kyle Kroeger
WRITTEN BY

Kyle Kroeger

Kyle Kroeger is the Founder and Owner of ViaTravelers.com. He is a full-time traveler and entrepreneur. Kyle started ViaTravelers.com to help travelers experience a fully immersive cultural experience as he did initially living in Italy. He's a converted finance nerd and Excel jockey turned world wanderer (and may try to get lost on purpose). After visiting 12 countries and 13 national parks in a year, he was devoted to creating and telling stories like he'd heard.

Plus, after spending more time on airplanes and packing, he's learned some incredible travel hacks over time as he earned over 1 million Chase Ultimate Rewards points in under a year, helping him maximize experiences as much as possible to discover the true meaning of travel.

He loves listening to local stories from around the world and sharing his experiences traveling the globe. He loves travel so much that he moved from his hometown of Minneapolis to Amsterdam with his small family to travel Europe full-time. Read more about his portfolio of work.

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