An insider guide: 30 things all Dubai residents should know
We’ve searched the city streets to find you Dubai’s hidden gems, from new dog parks in the desert and old-school restaurants off the beaten track, to must-have memberships and the car wash company you can call to your house. Want to be in the know? Read on…
Proper little life hacks to make living in Dubai better… than it already is!
01. Have your clothes tailored at home
In an ideal world, everything we bought would fit perfectly – even that online shopping haul. Since this isn’t an ideal world, we’re grateful for Scissors Tailoring Studio. Its team will visit you at home to pick up your ill-fitting garment and measure you for adjustments, then deliver the customised piece back in as little as one day. A lifesaver during events season.
Kempinski Hotel And Apartments, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, daily 10.30am to 7.30pm. Tel: (050) 9617959. Taxi: Kempinski Hotel And Apartments, Palm Jumeirah. facebook.com/scissors-tailoring-studio
02. Let your dog run wild in the desert
Since it’s illegal to have your dog off-leash, the aptly named new Bark Park is a haven for pet owners. The desert park is a fully enclosed, clean and private area for dogs to exercise and socialise off their lead – and it’s certified and approved by the Dubai government. It has some fun obstacles for dogs to play around and a paddling pool, and is well-lit at night. To find it, just put Bark Park Dubai into Google Maps.
03. …then have them cleaned up (without leaving the house)
As much as we love our pups, bath time is rarely fun for them, or for us. Shampooch is a mobile grooming service that takes this messy chore off your hands. Its distinctive pink and yellow vans will come right to your door, and your dog will be groomed inside the self-contained facility.
Street 8, Al Quoz, Sat to Thur 8am to 7pm, Fri 8am to 5pm, from Dhs 250. Tel: (04) 3400507. Taxi: opposite Alserkal Avenue. shampooch.ae
04. Have a load of laundry done for a flat rate
Paying someone else to do your laundry might be the most ‘Dubai’ thing ever, but when you’re strapped for time (or just feeling incredibly lazy), there’s nothing better. The lovely folk at Washmen will take it all off your hands: just fill up their all-you-can-wash laundry bags and they’ll pick it up, wash it, dry it and fold it, then drop it off within two days, for a flat rate of Dhs79 per bag.
05. Never queue for the car wash again
There are few things as annoying as losing hours of your weekend queuing up to have your car washed. Which is why we’re such fans of Green Steam. All you have to do is download the app, use it to pinpoint your car’s GPS location and book your cleaning service. Its team will turn up and give your car a deep clean inside and out using eco-friendly steam, even sterilising your A/C system, leaving it looking and smelling brand new. Yes, it’s a bit pricier than the garage car wash (from Dhs130 for a sedan or Dhs150 for a 4X4) but worth it for the quality of the service and the time you’ll save.
06. Find the right handymen
Whether you need to paint your house, fix your car or plan a party, MR Usta is your guy. Well, it’s not exactly one guy. It’s more of an aggregator of handymen around town. Download the app, and it’ll find the right person for the job you need doing.
OUR TIP: Spring clean your house
“Carpets, curtains, sofas, mattresses – Churchill will dry clean or wet clean just about any fabric for a reasonable price. You will be horrified when you see what gets sucked up and washed away.” – Sara (Art Director, What’s On)
Food inspiration, whether you’re pushing the boat out or trying to make your dirhams stretch until payday
08. Eat from a customised menu
Reif Othman’s test kitchen above his Play Restaurant at the H Hotel invites guests to an intimate dinner at its 12-seater table. When you’re booking you’ll be asked about your favourite food and flavours, and Reif will customise a menu to suit you and your guests. Get ready for an exceptional, one-of-a-kind dining experience that’s
like nothing else you’ve tried in Dubai.
37th floor, The H Hotel, Dhs750, daily 7pm. Tel: (04) 3362222. Taxi: The H Hotel. email@example.com
09. Enjoy a three-course feast from a celebrity chef (for under Dhs200)
Marina Social’s Early Supper may be the best reason ever to have an early night. The Dubai Marina restaurant from celebrity chef Jason Atherton offers a sweet deal for diners: a set menu served between 7pm and 8pm with two courses for Dhs150 or three courses for Dhs195. Standout dishes include hand-chopped beef tartare, BBQ veal short rib and an Eton mess dessert. Award-winning food at a fraction of the cost? Sign us up.
InterContinental Dubai Marina, Bay Central, Dubai Marina, Dubai, daily 7pm to 8pm, Dhs150 for two courses, Dhs195 for three courses. Tel: (04) 4466664. Taxi: InterContinental Dubai Marina. marinasocialdubai.com
10. Stuff yourself on Iranian bread (for less than Dhs5)
Everyone knows about Al Wasl Road’s 24-hour Lebanese bakery Al Reef, but it’s worth heading even further out of town for your carb fix. Satwa is home to Najm Al Mawsem, a brilliant Iranian bakery serving fresh-out-of-the-oven bread for around Dhs1 a slice (although you could splash out and get bread with cheese for around Dhs3 a slice).
Al Satwa Road, opposite Union Co-op, near Ravi’s restaurant. Tel: (04) 3312319. Taxi: opposite Union Co-Op on Al Satwa Road.
11. Discover more than curry in Karama
There’s more to this old neighbourhood dining scene than good curry. Skip the balti and fill up on momos, tasty Tibetan dumplings stuffed with everything from paneer cheese and spinach to garlicky shrimp. There are loads of cafés that do them, but Yalla Momos is the place to go – it’s always packed to the rafters. Bonus tip: order a side of the masala fries too.
4B Street, Al Karama, Dubai, Sat to Thur noon to midnight, Fri 1.30pm to midnight. Tel: (04) 3852233. Metro: ADCB. yallamomos.ae
12. OUR TIP: Brunch like a pro
“Don’t be afraid to bargain when you book brunch. If you’re dining with a large group, lots of places will be open to giving a discount if you make a booking for a big table ahead of time.” – Ashleigh (Features Writer, What’s On)
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From urban farming to free yoga, these are our favourite ways to stay healthy in the city
13. Enjoy a massage for cheap
In desperate need of a massage? We hear you. Schedule one for Sunday at the Palm Jumeirah or Motor City branches of Dreamworks Spas and you’ll pay just Dhs149 for a 60-minute treatment.
Shoreline Apartment Building 7, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, Sun 10am to 11pm. Tel: (800) 6277243. Taxi: Shoreline
ALSO: Motor City
14. Do a free workout in a mall
Dubai’s Lululemon stores are more than a place to spend the week’s food budget on some super flattering leggings. Every weekend they host free fitness classes, ranging from yoga to barre to HIIT and Pilates. You don’t need to register or bring any equipment – all you have to do is turn up.
Lululemon Store, Mall Of The Emirates, Al Barsha, Dubai, Fri or Sat 8.30am to 9.30am. Metro: Mall Of The Emirates. facebook.com/lululemonMiddleEast
15. Grow your own veggies
If you’re tired of spending hundreds of dirhams a month on buying organic produce, you should look into growing your own. It’s surprisingly easy to garden in the desert with the help of My Green Chapter, specialists in indoor and outdoor urban farming. They offer a range of seeds, accessories and products to help you on your way, and even have tools and kit especially for children to inspire them to get involved.
16. Do yoga for free on the weekend
Voyoga, a cool community-minded yoga studio in Barsha Heights, offers a free class every Friday afternoon to Dubai residents. Every week features a different instructor, so it’s a great way to try out lots of different yoga styles from hot yoga and hatha to vinyasa flow.
Voyoga, i-Rise Tower, Barsha Heights, Dubai, Fri 4pm, free. Tel (04) 5538630. Metro: Dubai Internet City. facebook.com/VoyogaUAE
17. OUR TIP: Proven personal trainer
“If you’re desperate to get fit but your budget won’t stretch to a gym membership or a personal trainer, get in touch with Lisa Dee. Her online eight-week transformation course, the Dee Body Plan, includes eight weeks of recipes and workouts all mapped out for you, for just Dhs300. Plus, she offers plenty of online support through her Facebook and Instagram page.” – Stacey (Features Writer, What’s On)
From booking cheap flights to dodging rush hour traffic, these tips will take the stress out of getting from A to B.
18. Beat the traffic – travel by ferry
Have guests in town and fancy giving them a tour with a difference? Hop on the RTA water taxi. The journey from Dubai Marina to Al Ghubaiba costs just Dhs50 per person (half price for children aged two to ten). Ferries leave at 11am, 1pm and 6.30 from each station. The one-way trip takes around an hour, but it’s a great way to see old and new Dubai, and avoid battling Sheikh Zayed Road traffic. Al Ghubaiba is within walking distance of tourist-friendly sites like the abra stations, spice and fabric souks and the Al Fahidi Fort.
19. Book a boat for the price of a brunch
Embrace your inner Dubai baller and book a yacht for a surprisingly reasonable price. Charterclick is like Uber for yachts. Simply go to their website and select the date, time and length of the trip you want to book, and you’ll be presented with a list of super-sleek boats, and what facilities are on board (think water slides, showers, sun beds and sound systems). Just pick your boat, pay and voila — nothing more to do until it’s time to board. Organise a group together and a day out can cost from around Dhs33 per person
20. Avoid the Dubai Mall car park crush
There’s more to Dubai than malls and the fountain show (yeah, we’re talking to you New Yorker) but if you do decide to drive there, here’s a tip: Give the stressful Dubai Mall carpark a wide berth and park in the cooler, calmer Souk Al Bahar instead. You can watch the fountains from that side of Burj Lake.
21. Find cheap flights for summer
Flystein is one of those websites that we wish we’d found out about years ago. Here’s how it works: you pay Dhs180 and experienced travel experts will find you a flight for cheaper than you can find on your standard web search engines. If they can’t beat the price, you don’t pay the fee. This service is especially handy if you’ve got a complicated itinerary with multiple stops.
22. Enjoy serious hotel discounts every month
When people think Privilee, they usually think about the monthly beach club access. But it’s not just about having somewhere to sunbathe – the membership, which starts at Dhs499 a month – also offers massive savings on hotel properties, including restaurants and spas. Some of the properties where you can get a great deal include Fairmont The Palm, Sofitel and the Waldorf Astoria.
23. Benefit more with your Nol card
Everyone knows that a Nol card is pretty crucial if you’re a regular on the metro, but did you know that it can also be used to pay for RTA parking and some taxi fares (it’s in the process of being rolled out in all cabs). Bravo, Nol.
24. What’s On weighs in: Secret camping spot
“Going camping? Let me tell you my secret camping spot, which is on the way to Ras Al Khaimah. It’s one hour by road from Dubai. Basically, you follow the road straight into Ras Al Khaimah and make a beeline for the Khaleeji Market (it’s on Google Maps). Head off road towards the mountains following a narrow path between the rocky cliffs. Eventually this ‘road’ opens up into a wonderful secluded bowl. The clear evenings often lead to nights gazing at starry skies. There’s no better place to sit and eat an overcooked burger.” – Laura (Associate Editor, What’s On)
Dubai might be ranked one of the world’s most expensive cities, but there are still ways to bag a bargain
25. Buy organic groceries for cheaper
Time your big grocery shop right and you can make big savings. Organic Foods And Café offers 20 per cent off your shopping every third weekend of the month, including fresh produce, dairy, meat and baked goods. It’s one of the best places to get hard-to-find health foods and supplements.
Sheikh Zayed Road, next to Oasis Centre, Dubai, daily 8am to 1pm. Tel: (04) 3382822. Taxi: Oasis Centre. organicfoodsandcafe.com
26. Rent a designer outfit for less
Events season never seems to slow down, and who can afford a new outfit for every single occasion? If you want designer threads without bankrupting yourself, check out Designer 24. The website lets you borrow an outfit from a huge designer collection – think ball gowns, cocktail dresses and everything in between.
27. Have cheap fruit and veg delivered
Everyone knows the importance of getting your five-a-day, but the price of organic produce in most supermarkets is enough to put you off the healthy life. Thank goodness for Kibsons, the online wholesaler that provides high-quality food for reasonable prices, and provides free next-day delivery too (as long as your order is above Dhs100).
28. Give flowers (and give to charity)
Do some good when you’re gifting, with Magna Flora. Ten per cent of sales go to charity. Plus, you have the option to make your own arrangement and they’ll make a video of the creative process to include with your gift, just to add a personal touch.
29. Apple masterclasses
Want to master the art of taking amazing photos on your iPhone? The new Apple Store in Dubai Mall is going to offer free training sessions in skills such as photography and video, as well as art, design, music and coding.
Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, Sun to Wed 10am to 11pm, Thur to Sat 10am to midnight. Tel: (800) 04449012. Metro: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. apple.com
30. OUR TIP: Carpet shopping 101
“Buying a carpet? Ask to see the ‘book’. After a beautiful Persian rug? Sharjah Blue Souq is a great place to look: I bought a glorious Kashan carpet there. When discussing the price with the seller, take a look at the number written on the carpet, and then see if they have a big book with a list of the carpets. They most likely will and the suggested selling price should be in there next to the carpet’s ‘code’.” – Nyree (Head of Digital Content)