Dubai, as a huge city with several districts, is one of the seven emirates. The emirate actually looks more like an independent city-state. It is the most modern, most progressive and according to many also the most beautiful emirate of the whole UAE.
The desert city is one of superlatives. Nothing is too crazy. We have been there three times in the past seven years and each time the city seemed to have reinvented itself with new sights and activities each time.
Dubai has a good infrastructure and excellent tourist facilities. In addition, the city can be reached within a six-hour flight from both Western Europe and Asia. For these reasons the emirate is a fantastic destination for a short holiday. For instance, for shopping, sports, delicious dining, partying (for example New Year’s Eve) and sunbathing. When it comes to sports, don’t just think of water sports, but also golf and even skiing!
Where should you be in Dubai?
The big city is divided into several municipal districts and neighbourhoods of which we’ll mention a few.
The former centre of the city, now called Old Dubai, includes the districts on both sides of the Dubai Creek including Deira and the historic Bur Dubai. You will find many abras (traditional, wooden boats), several ‘souks’, a large fresh market and many authentic (floating) restaurants. Your visit to Dubai is not complete if you have not seen the area around the Dubai Creek.
Although Bur Dubai and Deira are traditionally seen as “downtown”, there is also a district called Downtown Dubai. You will find the district in the centre of the “new” Dubai between the Dubai Marina and the border with the city of Sharjah in the north. You must be in Downtown Dubai if you want to see the Burj Khalifa (the tallest skyscraper in the world), the Dubai Mall (the world’s largest shopping mall), the Dubai Aquarium, the Dubai Ice Rink, Souk Al Bahar or the Dubai Fountain.
Thanks to its shape, Palm Jumeirah is perhaps the most recognisable district of Dubai. The Palm is one of the largest man-made islands in the world. It is home to luxury hotels, including the world-famous Atlantis the Palm. In addition, there are excellent restaurants, luxury spas, beautiful beach clubs and the Aquaventure water park suitable for all ages. Here you will also find the boarding point for the Helicopter Tour Dubai.
The Jumeirah district is a district that is particularly popular among Europeans because of its direct access to the beach. Here you will find beautiful villas, Jumeirah Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) the Walk and the Jumeirah mosque. Also located here is the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, as well as the Wild Wadi Water Park and hundreds of restaurants and shops.
Another neighbourhood where we like to stay is Dubai Marina. The new district is a large development project located just southwest of Palm Jumeirah and reasonably close to Jebel Ali (the largest artificial harbour in the world). The area is full of skyscrapers and you will find the “Jumeirah Beach Walk” along the beach of JBR, and many (cosy and particularly good) restaurants and hotels. It is a district where there is always something to do. Once we also rang in the new year celebrating on the beach.
Quite recently, the artificial peninsula of Bluewaters has also been constructed. The peninsula can be reached by viaduct and a pedestrian bridge from JBR Beach and the Dubai Marina. In this lively district you’ll find the Ain Dubai, the largest Ferris wheel in the world. What’s more, you’ll find over 150 shops and restaurants and many luxury hotels and resorts.
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In Dubai there are many, mostly luxury hotels and apartments. Let your choice depend on the district you would like to be in and, of course, your budget. Prices vary widely from less than €100 per night to many hundreds or even thousands of euros per night. If you’re with a large group, consider renting a luxury villa on the Palm Jumeirah.
By the way, the most talked about hotel in Dubai is the Burj al Arab, one of the most luxurious and highest hotels in the world. The hotel has the shape of a ‘dhow’ sail. It is located on an artificial island just under 300 metres from Jumeirah beach. You get there via a bridge, at least if you are a guest of the hotel, the Skyview Bar or one of the many excellent restaurants. Another possibility is to rent a Cabana for a day at the swimming pool. Count on over €400 for a ‘standard’ cabana.
Getting to and from the city
Most travellers who are going to visit the desert city come via the main airport, the Dubai International Airport (DXB). However, you can also reach the city via Sharjah International Airport (SHJ) in the nearby emirate of Sharjah or via Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH).
From the international airport, most tourists take a public taxi to the city. The starting rate on the meter is 25 AED. It is also possible to travel by public transport. From Terminal 1 and 3 you can take the subway to Dubai.
Getting around in Dubai
Especially since the arrival of the metro, public transport in Dubai is the best in the Middle East. But Dubai is still a city where by far the majority of people get around by car. Just like most tourists we almost always took a taxi. A day pass for the subway and the bus costs around 5 euros. All taxis use the same meter rates of around 35 cents per kilometre, so traveling by taxi as a couple or group is often not much more expensive than travelling by public transport.
By the way, Dubai also has a 5-kilometre-long monorail but this is not connected to the metro network.