When to Visit:
The best times to visit Dubai are late fall through early spring—anytime from November to March—when average temperatures range between the high 70s and high 80s Fahrenheit and you can enjoy the outdoors (provided you’re armed with sunscreen). Summer temperatures hover around 100°F and come with high humidity, making Dubai something of a sauna from May until September, but hotel rates also plunge by up to 75 percent, and you can simply hop from one air-conditioned attraction to another.
Arriving and Departing:
You have several options for reaching Dubai from its airport: metro, taxi, or bus. Take a metro train from Terminal 1 or 3 for key areas such as Deira, Downtown, and Dubai Marina—the trains operate roughly every 10 minutes from around 6am to midnight, but don’t run Friday mornings. Otherwise, taxis leave from each of the three terminals: Expect a 25-dirham standing charge, plus a metered fare of about two dirhams per kilometer. If you’re on a budget, buses are your cheapest option. Catch them at all terminals, but do your homework beforehand—the route network can be daunting for newcomers.
Dubai’s heat and highways work against walking, although it’s easier to go by foot in Deira and other older districts. The easiest alternative is a taxi, with plenty to flag down and reasonable rates—think about $1 to $2 per kilometer, plus an initial standing charge. For longer distances, use the Dubai Metro, which runs between Dubai Airport and the Creek, and on to Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, and Downtown. To save hassle, buy a Nol card, and pre-load it to avoid the often-long ticket lines at stations. You can also use your Nol on Dubai’s buses, trams, and waterbuses.
Hotels and restaurants automatically add a 10- to 20-percent service charge to bills, and sometimes an extra tourism levy of around six percent. That’s quite a sting, but it’s still customary to leave a 10- to 15-percent tip at restaurants, and to give porters and hotel room cleaners a few dirhams. Bear in mind that service charges don’t usually get to waiters and that hospitality worker earnings in Dubai are usually low. In taxis, it’s customary to round up fares to the nearest five dirhams at least.
What the Locals Know: If you’re after cheap souvenirs away from Dubai’s upscale shops, the Karama Market in the old town is the go-to of savvy locals, and does a roaring trade in low-cost clothes, gifts, and accessories. Don’t be surprised if you’re invited into backrooms filled with replica designer handbags and watches, and brace yourself for lots of elbow-tugging and pleading from the vendors. One rule: There’s no point in shopping here unless you haggle—and haggle hard.
Keep the kids entertained and up-to-speed at Dubai Children’s City, where learning is fun for children aged two to 15 years old.
Designed for kids, families and school groups, there’s everything here for children to explore, play, discover, and learn about the world in which we live.
From science to nature and space, the exhibits include a planetarium, theater, and a space for under-fives. All exhibits are signed in English and Arabic. A daily schedule of workshops, exhibits and entertainment programs ensure there’s always something different at Children’s City.
Kids love Dubai’s many theme and water parks, and WonderLand is the biggest of them all in the UAE. Take your pick from more than 30 exciting rides, including freefall waterslides, disco rides, roller coasters, the Lazy River water ride, activity pools, rapids, carousels, trampolines, go-karts and the pirate ship. Perfect for cooling down on a hot day, and providing endless entertainment for little ones, WonderLand is a world within a world, with restaurants, shops and refreshment carts.
At Dubai Dolphinarium you can see six bottlenose dolphins and six seals perform a show full of acrobatics, dancing, juggling, jumping through hoops, and painting. You read that right. Painting. The 45-minute show is a popular Dubai attraction, and receives over 30,000 visitors a month.
Opened by the Dubai government in 2008 in order to teach younger generations about marine life and protection of the environment, Dubai Dolphinarium is the first marine center in the Middle East to be fully indoors and air-conditioned. Photo sessions with the dolphins and seals are available, and you can also arrange to swim with the dolphins.
Another popular attraction at Dubai Dolphinarium is the Creek Park Bird Show, where over 20 species of bird fly over the audience. The dolphinarium is also home to the UAE’s only mirror maze, and a 5D and 7D cinema. There’s also a new, underwater-themed soft play area for small children.
The first national park in the UAE, Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve is the biggest area of land to ever be dedicated to a single project by the Dubai government. This land of shifting dunes and desert fauna was once a huge camel farm, but it was bought by Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 1993, who, inspired by the national parks of South Africa, decided that Dubai needed its own reserve.
About 5 percent of Dubai's land area (225 square kilometers) were fenced off as a way of protecting indigenous species. Since then, over 6,000 trees have been planted in order to replace the ones that were trodden over and chomped on by the camels, and indigenous grasses and shrubs have been regenerated in order to promote biodiversity.
But the true success story of the national park is that of the Arabian oryx. Before the park was established in 2003, the Arabian oryx was close to extinction. Today, well over 100 live in the national park.
The Bedouin people are a desert-dwelling ethnic group found throughout the Arabian peninsula. While rapid modernization throughout the region has led a majority of these former herders and nomadic traders to seek new livelihoods in the cities, it’s still possible for visitors to experience a night in a traditional Bedouin camp.
Located in the dunes of the Dubai Desert far from any signs of permanent human habitation, these camps offer visitors a glimpse into what it might have been like for a Bedouin family trying to survive in the harsh desert landscape. A typical evening will include a barbecue dinner, shared while seated on Arabian rugs, a belly dancer and time to chat over a hookah -- a type of water pipe used to smoke shisha.
The experience could end there, or you can opt to spend the night at this desert camp beneath the stars. To make the most of your time in the desert, combine your Bedouin camp experience with a camel safari or sand boarding excursion.
This tiny traditional village in the Al Hajar Mountains is an impressive replica of Dubai’s old world wonders. Comprised of some 30 buildings, the grounds of Hatta Heritage Village have been attracting travelers in search of authentic UAE since 2001. Visitors can wander through original forts, a mosque built of sticks and mud, experience the vibrant cultural dance and get an up close look at the colorful traditional dress of locals. While a trip to Hatta Heritage Village is worth the trek, travelers agree that adding a swim at nearby Hatta pools in Oman will certainly round out the experience.
Only in Dubai can a hotel be considered a top tourist attraction, and such is the case with the extravagant Atlantis Palm Hotel. The 1,539 room ocean-themed resort occupies the top portion of the crescent of land surrounding the man-made Palm Island, just off the coast of Dubai and included 42 acres (17 hectares) of amusement and entertainment space.
Even if you’re not a guest of the resort, it’s worth while to spend a day enjoying everything it has to offer. In sticking with the theme of the resort, many of the attractions are aquatic in nature. Aquaventure Waterpark houses 42 rides and attractions, including a near vertical body slide. Dolphin Bay brings guests face to face with some of the ocean’s most endearing and intelligent creatures, while The Lost Chambers Aquarium involves a journey through the Lost City of Atlantis, surrounding by thousands of marine animals.
Shimmering skyscrapers and towering condos rise high above smooth desert sands at this unique port in the heart of the Middle East. While indoor ski resorts, luxury hotels, white sandy beaches and duty-free shopping have made Dubai an adult wonderland, travelers can still experience some of the city’s former charm (and the natural beauty of the nearby desert) on a day excursion to this popular port.
Start the day exploring Dubai’s past at Dubai Creek. This landmark divides the business district from touristy sections of the city and is an ideal spot for witnessing where old meets new. Stop at the Eheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House, for a taste of Dubai before the oil trade took off. Then head to the observation deck on the 124th floor of Nurj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world—for unmatched views of the city skyline. Round out the day with a stop at Burj Al Arab, the only seven-star hotel on the planet.