Dubai | Travel Guide
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Update May 20: Dubai is on the UK's red list, and the FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Dubai, but Dubai and Abu Dhabi are open to non-essential UK visitors.
Negative PCR swab test 72 hours before arrival, with random additional testing and health checks on arrival with quarantine until a negative result comes back.
When you're there:
Many events have been cancelled, so it's worth checking before you go. You'll need to wear a face covering whenever you're away from your accommodation.
Traffic light status:
Dubai has been confirmed to be on England's red list, meaning that while it is techniclly legal to travel there for any reason, including a holiday, it is strongly discouraged and visitors returning to the UK wouild need to quarantine for 10 days in a government hotel at their own expense. At time of writing the FCDO advises against non-essential travel to Dubai.
Dubai Travel Guide
Dubai is considered by some as the Las Vegas of the Middle East - with luxury hotels, all day entertainment and high-end shopping. It may be the playground of the rich and famous, but it's also a great destination for families and it is possible to visit on a budget. Here's what we cover in our Dubai Travel Guide!
Dubai is the most visited city and emirate within the United Arab Emirates - it is home the world's tallest building the Burj Khalifa. The city is known for luxury, entertainment and modern architecture - and has becoming an increasingly popular holiday destination.
The desert climate means that whenever you visit you're sure for warm temperatures - if you visit in summer be prepared for scorching heat. Most UK tourists are more comfortable visiting between December and March when temperatures are more bearable.Time zone: GMT +4.
Currency: United Arab Emirates dirham (AED).
Power adapter: Dubai uses type G (same as UK).
Flight time: 7 hours on average.
Getting to Dubai
Dubai is served by Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest airport by passenger numbers. It's a great modern airport, with plenty of shops to keep you busy on departure.
The easiest way to get from the airport to your hotel is to ride in an Uber - there's even a designated drop-off and pick-up area for Ubers and we waited no more than five minutes for ours. We took about a 20-minute journey and it cost 85 dirhams, which is about £17. It's a very convenient way to get to your hotel, but there are of course cheaper options or alternatives if you don't wish to use Uber.
If you prefer to have the trip to your hotel sorted before you fly we recommend booking an airport transfer.
Getting around Dubai
Dubai is a city that has been built around the car. Multi-lane highways criss-cross the city and using Uber or local taxi app, Careem, is generally the quickest way to get around. If you're looking to rent a car for your stay you can hire one for as little as £16 a day. This is the city of fast and fancy cars so we recommend taking a look at the luxury cars section!
If you prefer to use public transport Dubai has some of the cheapest public transport tickets in the world - so if you'd rather save cash than time, then getting the metro can be a good idea. We recommend getting a NOL card for your trip, which is the equivalent to an Oyster card in London. You load up the card with an amount for your stay and then simply tap in and out when you ride the metro. They also cover buses and trains and even give you entry to some of the parks.
There are two lines, red and green, with more lines either under construction or being planned. As a tourist you're most likely to use the red line, which runs parallel to the coast and stops at major sites such as the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates. In fact, at 52km the red line holds the very specific world record for the longest driverless single metro line.
Tips for riding the metro:
- The front carriage is often for women and children only.
- Eating or chewing gum on the metro is not allowed.
- There's free wifi on board.
- And of course, no smoking.
Top places to visit in Dubai
Mall of the Emirates
Now visiting a shopping centre might not sound like your idea of a holiday, but this really is like no other! There are of course hundreds of shops to browse, but not only that this is home to Ski Dubai - an indoor ski slope with real snow. You can hit the slopes here on skis, snowboards, snow tubes and zorbs. Plus, you can have breakfast with penguins, as Ski Dubai is home to a colony of King and Gentoo penguins!
Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Fountain
No trip to Dubai is complete without a trip to the Burj Khalifa, after all it dominates the skyline wherever you go. If you've got a head for heights then you can ascend the tower - most people will book tickets for floors 124 and 125 as these are the main observation decks, though you can pay a little extra and head as high as floor 148. The busiest time to visit is at sunset, so if you want to see this from the tower we recommend you book well in advance. To avoid crowds head there during the day on weekdays as this tends to be the quietest time. If you're not great with heights and want to give it a miss, we recommend at least travelling to the foot of the tower where there are some amazing water fountain shows akin to those you'd see in Vegas.
Though there's plenty to keep you occupied in the city, it would be a shame not to get out of the city and experience the desert. There's various desert safaris on offer, so you can pick the one that appeals to you the most. There are opportunities to ride camels, go sand boarding, drive dune buggies, go dune bashing and have a BBQ in the desert. It's a great experience, and one you'll be sure to remember.
There are a number of different souks to explore within the city. If you're looking for some statement jewellery to remember your trip then head to the gold souk. Or visit the vibrant spice souk for some authentic middle eastern spices to take home with you. Just remember prices aren't set in stone, so don't be afraid to haggle for a better price!
Best beaches in Dubai
There's no shortage of beaches in Dubai and most of them are free to visit. There are however some private beach clubs you can pay to enter and some are well worth the expense.
La Mer is without a doubt one of the best beachside neighbourhoods in Dubai, especially for families. There's dining, shopping, an inflatable play park, a cinema and a water park. There's really no need to go anywhere else in the day!
This used to be a hidden gem amongst ex-pats but now it's a very popular and well known place to hang out, with great beach side amenities, including free wifi and food trucks. The beach offers loads of different watersports for you to try, including kite boarding which gives the beach it's name! There are fantastic views of the Burj al Arab and a beach front running track, if you like to keep fit even when on holiday!
Accessibility in Dubai
Dubai had ambitions to become the most accessible city by 2020 and to showcase this at the 2020 World Expo, however that expo has now been delayed until October 2021.
That being said, the city is already well set up for travellers with accessibility needs. Dubai is famous for being an ultra-modern city, which means that many of the buildings, sites and attractions have been built with accessibility in mind.
The Dubai Metro has dedicated spaces for wheelchair users on each train, and there ticket machines are set up with audio-visual accessibility options too. The metro doesn't cover the entirety of the city though, so there may be some distance to cover between the stations and sites you are visiting. There are accessible taxis available - but these must be booked in advance.
Most of the sites are accessible, including the Burj Khalifa. There are also set accessible beaches throughout the city - at Al Mamzar Creek, Al Mamzar Corniche, Jumeirah 2 and 3, as well as at Umm Suqeim Beach.
Dubai for LGBTQ+ travellers
Homosexuality is illegal in Dubai and is punishable by prison sentence and/or fines. Many LGBTQ+ related websites, including dating apps, are blocked and not accessible from inside the UAE.
If you do decide to travel there you must avoid all public displays of affection. This rule applies to heterosexual people too.
Being trans or gender diverse is punishable too, with people facing up to a year in prison and a large fine.
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