The Dubai Tourist Playbook: Everything you need to know before you visit
Your guide to a smooth sailing Dubai holiday…
Visiting Dubai for the first time? You’ve landed in the right part of the Internet, for this is your starter pack to stocking up on all tips, tricks and information bits for the best holiday ever. Travelling to any new country can be stressful, even a notoriously stress-free destination like this city, but trust that this guide will equip you with everything you need.
Habibi, welcome to Dubai.
Quickfire facts to get you started
The UAE is made up of seven emirates
There are seven emirates in the UAE – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah. Prior to the unification of the seven, each emirate was an independent princely state. The unification took place in 1971, with the departure of the British, and the UAE (United Arab Emirates) was formed.
Bonus: While Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah are the more happening cities, the Northern emirates are more quieter, serene getaways by the beach. Pay a visit to see the natural beauty of the country.
The currency of the UAE is Dirhams (AED)
The local currency countrywide is United Arab Emirates Dirhams (AED). Before the establishment of the Dirham, the Qatari and Dubai Riyal were in circulation in all emirates except Abu Dhabi, where the Bahraini Dinar was in use. A unified common currency was instated for the first time in May 19, 1973, two years after the formation of the country.
Bonus: While card machines are available in most places, including taxis, remember to keep cash on hand when you visit the Old Souk – it’s an open market where you can bargain for your buys.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the country. It was the home of the Founding Father of the country, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was born into the ruling family of the emirate. The city of Al Ain is also part of the wider Abu Dhabi emirate. Abu Dhabi is an island and the entire area of the emirate includes a group of stunning, smaller islands like Yas, Saadiyat, Al Maryah, Sir Baniyas and more.
Bonus: By road, getting from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is a two hour journey. If you can’t drive here, there are other ways – taxis and the more economical bus service, which starts from Ibn Batuta Mall.
The official language of the UAE is Arabic
The language of the locals in the UAE is Arabic. Even if you don’t know Arabic, moving around the country is easy, as English is spoken widely by natives and expats alike, and the society is quite multicultural so you’ll find a variety of languages being spoken around you.
Bonus: It will be useful to learn some beginner phrases if you want to interact with the older inhabitants of the country – the nomads and the Bedouins.
The official religion of the UAE is Islam
Also the faith of the local population, the official religion of the country is Islam. While the pillars of the faith play an important role in the way the country works, all residents and visitors are free and welcome to practice a faith of their choice, so long as it does not conflict with public policy and morals. Places of worship from all the major faiths are present here, including mosques, temples and churches.
Bonus: Remember – public or disruptive acts of worship are prohibited to maintain the peace of the country. You can visit any of the spaces of worship for this.
PDA is a big no-no
Pretty strict laws are in place against overt displays of affection in public, especially in densely crowded places like malls, restaurants, public transport and more, to make sure that everyone is having a good time and no one has to feel uncomfortable in their surroundings.
Bonus: You can catch a hefty fine or worse, jail time, for violating the PDA laws, so be extra careful. To learn more about other different kinds of fines here, visit here for Metro rules and here for general fines.
The RTA Metro and bus network is your best bet to getting around in Dubai. The Metro network covers almost all the major areas of the city and the bus networks branch out further from the stations to take you everywhere. It is also the most economical mode of transport, with a one-way trip from start to finish of the entire line costing you Dhs8.5 on the one-time Nol, which is what train passes are called here. Look out for the ticket – it’s bright red and hard to miss.
Bonus: The Green Line will take you across areas like Deira, Nahda, Qusais and bits of Bur Dubai. The Red Line will take you from Karama through to Sheikh Zayed Road, Downtown Dubai, DIFC, Business Bay, Marina, JLT and all the way to Expo City.
For areas where the train and bus network doesn’t reach, you can take taxis, which are plentiful and easily available. If you’re not for standing by the road and flagging one, there are multiple apps that operate here that will help you book taxis of all types. The most popular and reliable ones are Careem and Uber, so download those and give them a spin.
Bucket List Experiences
Camp in the big wide outdoors of Hatta
There’s so much natural beauty to discover in the UAE, a major landmark of which is the region of Hatta. With majestic mountain ranges and breathtaking views of valleys, wadis and rare greenery, it’s the perfect place to pitch your tent, get a bonfire going and savour the weather, which of course, will be even cooler up there. Check out all of Hatta’s glamping experiences here. All you have to do is kick back and have a good time. Make your reservations here.
For more information, visit visithatta.com
Witness incredible views with a hot air balloon ride
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Not only is a hot air balloon the perfect date idea, but it is also a great way to appreciate the beauty of the desert, which we might miss when we’re right in the middle of it. Nothing can beat bird’s eye aerial views of not just the dunes and the wildlife that inhabits them, but also a spectacular sunrise. The winter is the time to enjoy every bit of it. Try Balloon Flights – Dubai’s newest hot air balloon experience which takes you to 4,000 feet in the air over the desert. Rates start from Dhs879.
Book via 04 208 7222, or purchase your tickets and get more information on balloonflights.ae
Get the complete family fun experience at Global Village Dubai
Everyone’s favourite family fun destination closes every year for summer before reopening as the cooler months roll around. This year is no different. Global Village Dubai has been back in action for a new season. As always, it will be open for six months, meaning you have half a year to shop, play and dine on delicacies from around the world. But there’s always something new going on – so multiple visits are a must.
Frolic among the flowers at Dubai Miracle Garden
Dubai Miracle Garden is one of Dubai’s most popular attractions. It is, after all, the world’s largest natural flower garden. It is quite the spectacle featuring 150 million flowers in full bloom spanning over 72,000 square metres. The colourful heart-shaped arches that we’ve all seen all over social media has once again become the backdrop for Instagram photoshoots galore.
Take a seaward trip to Musandam
The mountainous peninsula of Musandam is all clear blue waters, dolphins and dhow trips. Those looking for history can head to the capital of Khasab for museum displays and forts that date back to the 17th century. Hop aboard a traditional dhow and sail through the majestic fjords, spotting the local pods of dolphins as you go. Companies like Musandam Sea Adventure offer full and half-day dhow cruises, or options to create multi-day packages for those looking to maximise their adventure time.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
Besides a list of incredibly thrilling rides, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the home of all things Ferrari and for all the speed junkies, the Formula Rossa at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi is the fastest roller coaster in the world. It reaches a maximum speed of a whopping 240 kilometres per hour in 4.9 seconds. The roller coaster track is 2.07 kilometres in length and the shape was inspired by the legendary Italian racetrack, the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. It’s a lot of speed, a lot of legacy and a guaranteed adrenaline rush.
Ferrari World, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Daily, 11am to 8pm, Tel: (600) 511 115, ferrariworldanudhabi.com
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The famed Desert Safari
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This all-inclusive overnight desert safari is a UAE staycation must. Camp out in a deluxe tent on a raised platform with a world of amenities and experiences to complete your stay. Included in the package is a thrilling dune drive, camel ride, walking night safari, waiter service, set menu BBQ dinner, traditional shisha pipe, unlimited soft drinks, premium beverage package and a gin bar and hot breakfast. Amenities include breakfast, waiter service, pick-up and drop-off
Arabian Adventures, Tel: (800) 272 2426, arabian-adventures.com
- For a guide to the perfect day spent exploring Old Dubai, visit here.
- For a list of unmissable spots to visit across the emirates, visit here.
- For all the best places to visit to explore the nature in the UAE, visit here.
- To pick out the most unique stays to complete your experience, visit here.