Dubai Halal Travel Guide
Dubai (Arabic: دبي) is a cosmopolitan metropolis and global city on the Arabian Peninsula. Dubai is one of the ten most popular tourism destinations in the world. Dubai is considered one of the most modern and progressive cities in the Middle East and is also sometimes referred to as “City of Gold” due to historically being a hub for gold trade as well as the rapid transformation from a desert into a luxurious city.
Dubai is characterized by a vast landscape of desert which transforms into a futuristic style of skyscrapers along the coastline. The city offers both insights to the old merchant and pearl diving history of the Arabs in Deira and Bur Dubai and the new modern skyscraper business bustling life in Jumeirah. Dubai is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a country, however it is an Emirate and is part of the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is a commercial and cultural hub of the Middle East, it’s a global transport hub, and has attracted world attention through many large innovative construction projects and sports events. The city is symbolised by its skyscrapers, including the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in addition to ambitious development projects including man-made islands, world class luxury hotels, and some of the largest and extraordinarily modern shopping malls in the world.
The old financial Centre, today a bustling commercial–residential district with old souks, including one specializing in spices
A historical district on the south side of Dubai Creek, with attractions from abras to souks to floating restaurants to the famous Creek
A diverse mix of residents and tourists at the beach. It is a mixed Little Europe, Karachi and Manila. Jumeirah is much favoured by Europeans due to easy access to the beach. Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Mosque are the top attractions. Marina is a mega-development full of skyscrapers. Also covering the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa.
Mega man-made port, location of the new airport, Dubai World Central, the venue for Expo 2020, and the entry point to the Palm Jebel Ali
|Suburbs & Hatta
Suburban Dubai inland from the coast and Hatta, the exclave at the border to Oman.
Introduction to Dubai
Despite being a relatively new tourism destination, Dubai is essentially a desert city with superb infrastructure and liberal policies (by Islamic standards) that became popular for its excellent tourist amenities. Just a five hour flight from Europe and three hours from most parts of the Middle East, the Near East, and the Indian subcontinent, Dubai makes a great short break for shopping, partying, sunbathing, fine dining, sporting events, and even a few sinful pleasures. Homosexuality is a crime that carries the death penalty in Dubai, and gay persons may be arrested and subsequently executed for public displays of affection of any kind. There is not a single independent media outlet in the UAE. The country is not a democracy, and while there are laws in Dubai, they apply more to some than to others. This being said, Dubai is noticeably less draconian than many of its neighboring countries. Dubai has one of the largest per capita immigrant populations in the world, and the ethnic cuisine on display is superlative by international standards. Personal safety is not an issue in Dubai, and both women and men can walk freely at all hours of the day and night.
Despite the fact that Arabic is the official language, due to the fact that foreigners outnumber Emiratis by almost 4 to 1 in Dubai, it is safe to say that most of the population does not speak it. English serves as the lingua franca, and most Emiratis speak English to be able to communicate with the migrant workers who work for them. In fact, most shops are staffed by Indian or Filipino migrant workers rather than Emiratis.
The weekly day off is Friday. Since September 2006, a harmonized weekend of Friday and Saturday has been adopted for the public sector and schools. Government departments, multinational companies, and most schools and universities take Friday and Saturday off (after years of a mixed bag of Friday/Saturday and Thursday/Friday weekends). Some local companies still work half a day on Thursday with a full day on Saturday, but larger companies tend to permit time off work for their employees on Friday and Saturday.
The city of Dubai is situated on a coastal strip bordered by desert and gets very hot. It is dry on the hottest days and humid during the cooler days in the summer. Cooler, more pleasant weather lasts from the end of September to the beginning of May (although pleasant is relative, with daily temperatures from October to January and March to May still being 20–25 °C (68–77 °F), but be prepared for cold night temperatures. In winter the temperature at night is usually from 10 to 16 °C (50 to 61 °F). From May to September, the sun is intense and in August temperatures can touch 54 °C (129 °F) in the city and even higher in the desert. The heat, coupled with a humidity of 60%–70% near the coast, effectively precludes most activity outdoors for the daylight hours during summer.
December to April generally produces the highest precipitation, though little of it, at 100 millimetres (3.9 in) total per year. Some years yield no more than a few minutes of shower.
See the Get in section for the United Arab Emirates for visa and customs regulations.
Dubai’s main airport is the Dubai International Airport (). Its eventual replacement, Al Maktoum International Airport , is open to passenger flights but is only serving a few flights. You can also enter Dubai by using Sharjah International Airport in the nearby emirate of Sharjah and Abu Dhabi International Airport in nearby Abu Dhabi.
Airlines often have price wars to glamorous destinations like Dubai and this can work to your advantage by careful planning and comparison of the various airlines serving Dubai. Emirates is Dubai’s official airline carrier which connects Dubai to over 100 destinations while FlyDubai is Dubai’s low-cost carrier. Etihad has shuttle services from their exclusive check in facility in Sheikh Zayed Road or Central Business District of Dubai to and from Abu Dhabi Int’l Airport, you can also fly with Sharjah’s low-cost carrier; Air Arabia which flies to over 46 destinations within the Middle East. Low fares from North America are most often found on Qatar Airways, however since June 2017 Qatar Airways has been banned from flying to Dubai until due to a diplomatic spat.
- Dubai International Airport. This is the largest hub in the Middle East and the home base of Dubai’s flag carrier Emirates and its low-cost wing flydubai. It has grown at such a furious pace that its terminals are bursting at the seams, especially during the peak hours around midnight. Frequent visitors from countries granted automatic visa on entry may wish to purchase an e-gate card to speed up immigration formalities and save passport pages. The e-gate card office is situated in the upstairs food court area of the Terminal 1 departures concourse. The card will cost 200 dirham. To buy an e-gate card in Dubai, you must have entered UAE via Dubai airport.
- Dubai World Central – Al Maktoum International Airport. The airport opened to passenger flights in October 2013 and has grand ambitions to be the largest airport in the world, capable of serving 160 million passengers a year. (For comparison, London Heathrow has around 70 million.) For time being it’s only served by several low-cost carriers such as Wizz Air and flydubai (other carriers usually operate seasonal charters from Europe). It is a major hub for cargo flights. Emirates is not planning to shift until 2025 or so. The airport is in Jebel Ali at the far western end of Dubai, nearly 60 km from central Dubai and about 110 km from Abu Dhabi. A train line is planned, but the current transport options are taxi, which will cost over 100 dirham to most parts of the city, and bus lines F55/F55A. F55 connects Al Maktoum airport with Ibn Batuta Metro Station during the day, while F55A runs between Al Maktoum airport and Al Satwa Bus station during the night. Buses depart every hour from the airport.
- Sharjah International Airport (in the emirate of Sharjah). It is 30 min by road from Dubai and takes an increasing number of international flights as Dubai airport struggles to keep up with demand. The principal carrier here is Air Arabia, a low-cost carrier serving the Middle East and South Asia. The airport is fairly basic but is being expanded. A taxi to Dubai will typically cost 50 dirham. A bus service by Air Arabia also runs from the Airport to the Rashidiya Metro Station in Dubai. Rashidiya metro station is located close to the Dubai International Airport.
Dubai is home to a thriving private aviation community, with luxury charters and business jets traveling between London, Moscow, and the United States on a daily basis. There are numerous FBOs to accommodate luxury and business travelers, and companies such as PrivateFly and Dubai Private Jet Charter offer on-demand private air charters from on a variety of planes, from luxury Gulfstreams and VIP airliners to twin-engine pistons and helicopters for small groups and individuals.
Dubai’s only international road border is with Oman at Al Wajajah. Expatriate residents of Oman will require an official permit to exit Oman by road. Visitors do not require the permit. There is an OMR3 charge per vehicle to exit Oman and, if returning, retain the charge receipt as it will be required to re-enter. Ensure that insurance is valid for the UAE (preferably before commencing the journey). Temporary UAE insurance can be purchased at the border for a premium price.
There are also road borders between the neighbouring Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Oman at the Al Burami Oasis which divides the sister cites of Al Ain and Al Burami, Oman.
Dubai is a very car-oriented city and most visitors will choose to take taxis instead of the public transportation system. You can easily find them at the taxi queue or you just simple wave at one on the road, but this could be just difficult during rush hours. Also some of them even refuse short rides in jammed areas.
Signage is terrible in Dubai, and taxis often get lost. The best thing to do is navigate from well-known landmarks, such as hotels. GPS devices are often outdated. Street and road names can be very confusing, because the different transliterations from Arabic, you will notice that the slight variance in the spelling is very important.
You can find a lot of car rental agencies that will give you a vehicle with very cheap rates and only an International Driving Permit, if you don’t have an UAE one. Some agencies also offer a car hire service with drivers, an option much more comfortable for visitors, specially if the driver speaks English and knows the way around the city better than most taxi drivers.
Some of the best car rental companies are: Careem Car Services, that offers an easy booking system with a real-time tracking app and, if you need it, you can hire a car with child sit. DotTransfers also offers additional services like an executive transportation and limousine service with fair rates and good booking assistance. Ahdab International Luxury Transport is a highly experienced team of professionals but their rates tend to be quite expensive.
The Government of Dubai operates a network of buses linking Dubai city with the capitals of the other six emirates of the UAE. The buses run under the name Emirates Express and operate from various bus terminals in Dubai. For timetables see the website.
- From Abu Dhabi: Buses operate every 40 minutes from 06:20 from Dubai’s Al Ghubaibah bus station and Abu Dhabi’s main bus station. The two-hour journey cost 25 dirham.
- From Sharjah: Frequent buses run between Dubai and Sharjah. There are several different routes and buses depart from various bus stations in Dubai including Al Karama, Gold Souq, Baniyas Square, Jebel Ali and Al Ittihad Square. Fares are at 7 dirham as of December 2010.
- From Al Ain: Buses operate every hour from Dubai’s Al Ghubaibah bus station. The two-hour journey costs 15 dirham.
- To/from Fujairah: The bus to Fujairah leaves from the Rashidiya Metro station and takes about 3 to 4 hours.
For bus travel from Saudi Arabia, SAPTCO offers daily bus services from cities such as Dammam and Riyadh.
Dubai is a trading hub for dhows from around the Indian Ocean. Travellers wanting to arrive in the city this way will probably need to make their own arrangements with the captain of the vessel. Most of the dhows sail to Iran; some also head to Yemen and Somalia. Emulating Michael Palin and heading to India on a dhow is difficult-to-impossible.
Dubai has an international cruise terminal at Port Rashid. During wintertime Costa Cruises has bases at least two of its cruise ships (Costa Luminosa, Cost Fortuna) at Dubai.
Valfajr Shipping Company runs a boat service that leaves Bandar Lengeh and Bandar Abbas in Iran supposedly every second day and docks in Port Rashid in Dubai, returning the following day. Crossing the Persian Gulf takes around 6 hours. A two-way first class ticket costs USD145 (1,450,000 Iranian rials) as of February 2010 and two-way economy class tickets cost USD122 (1,220,000 rials). The ticket includes Iranian-style lunch.
Dubai’s public transport system is probably the best in the Middle East, especially after the launch of the metro, but it’s still a very car-oriented city and most visitors end up taking taxis quite often. The Wojhati journey planner can suggest the best way to travel.
A day pass valid for unlimited rides on the metro, tram and buses costs 22 dirham, while the Nol Silver stored-value card costs 20 dirham (including 14 dirham worth of balance) and gives a 10% discount on both metro and bus fares. Both are available at metro stations and major bus stations. The Silver card is useful for public transport users who stay in Dubai for more than a day. Check out at the end of your trip (this includes buses).
|Red ticket||2 dirham||Rechargeable ticket; suitable for tourists, valid for 90 days; however should only be used in one type of transport ticket (e.g one zone ticket cannot be reloaded with two zone ticket or day pass even after used up), can store up to 10 journeys.|
|Silver card||20 dirham (14 dirham value)||Rechargeable ticket, valid for 5 years. Recommended if staying for more than a day.|
|Gold card||20 dirham (14 dirham value)||Rechargeable ticket, can be used in Gold Class.|
|Blue card||70 dirham||Personalized card, with online services like transaction history and online recharge.|
Dubai’s 52 kilometres (32 mi) long Red Line, opened in September 2009, is the second metro in the Arab world after Cairo. While the line does not serve the old city Centre, it’s handy for zipping along Dubai’s long coastline and includes stops at the airport, Burj Khalifa and the Mall of the Emirates. The Green Line, which burrows through the city core, opened in September 2011. You can transfer between the two lines at Union Square and Khalid Bin Al Waleed (BurJuman). There are also Blue and Purple lines under construction with opening dates in the next few years. The track 2020 expo will be completed in 2020 with a cost of 4.46 billion dollars.
Single tickets range from 2–8.50 dirham, or double that for use of the “Gold” first class carriage if a rechargeable smart card is used. A single non-rechargeable ticket cost starts at 6 dirhams for a trip within one zone, 8 dirham for two zones, etc. Tickets can be purchased in automated machines, ticket offices or at the gate information clerk. Cash and payment cards are accepted (Visa and MasterCard). Trains run every 3–5 minutes from 05:50 to midnight every day except Thursday and Friday, when services are extended to 05:50–01:00 limited to 13:00–23:59, respectively. All stations are air-conditioned and there’s a large network of feeder buses. If you plan to travel late in the evening, check station working hours as the last train may depart earlier that the official system operating hours.
A 5-km monorail system shuttles passengers across the Palm Jumeirah to the Atlantis hotel. It connects with the Dubai Tram. This is not a part of the rest of Transport, and therefore, need to buy separate ticket (15 dirham one-way and 25 dirham return).
The latest of Dubai’s modern transportation system is the Dubai Tram, which opened on November 12, 2014. It provides commuters a comfortable transit service around the prime business and leisure districts of Dubai. The Dubai Tram operates for 19 hours daily running for 14.5 km along Al Sufouh Road. It passes around the vibrant Dubai Marina where passengers are treated to breathtaking sights of towering skyscrapers and luxury yachts, and then travels down Jumeirah passing by the iconic Burj Al Arab.
The Dubai Tram connects with the Dubai Metro at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers and DAMAC stations, and links with the monorail of Palm Jumeirah. Outside of Europe, the Dubai Tram is the first tram system that uses the state-of-the-art ground cable system which eliminates the unsightly and dangerous overhead cables.
Dubai Public transport is a cheaper means of travelling within the several districts of Dubai. A map of the bus system can be found online, as well as detailed route maps and timetables . Public buses are clean and cheap, but unfortunately not very comprehensive and (on some routes) quite infrequent. The bus system is most useful for getting between different areas of central Dubai, or between the various suburbs, rather than general transport. Taxis or a fair amount of walking will also be required if you visit Dubai without a car of your own.
You will require a Nol card or ticket for fare payment. Cards can be purchased from most bus stations, metro stations, and sometimes from the bus driver.
The main bus stations are Gold Souq Market (in Deira) and Al Ghubaiba bus station (in Bur Dubai). The flat fare is 2 dirham, but might be higher for hour-long rides to distant suburbs. Clear route maps and timetables are placed inside a few bus stands. Ramadan timings differ. The front seats are reserved for women.
Probably the single most useful service for the casual tourist is Line 8, which starts at the Gold Souq, takes the tunnel under the Creek to Heritage Village, and then sets off down Jumeirah Road (just behind the beach) and all its hotels and malls, up to Burj al-Arab and Wild Wadi. It terminates near the Internet City, while its 8A variant goes down a little further and also serves the Mall of the Emirates.
By Hop-on Hop-off bus
Two Hop-on Hop-off companies are competing, with nearly the same tours and prices:
- Big Bus Tours. For a good, Hop-on Hop-off tour try Big Bus Tours. It runs two routes: the blue route through Jumeirah and the recently constructed areas, and the red route Centred on the older parts of Dubai. The hub for both routes is Wafi City mall. A 220 dirham ticket covers 24 hours of riding.
- Dubai Half Day City Tour, Al Nasr Palace shop No 02, Oud Metha Road (opp: Oud Metha Metro Station), , toll-free: +971 55 403 0943.
- Dubai city sightseeing tour is a stress-free alternative to explore both modern and traditional aspects of Dubai.
Taxis ply the streets of Dubai and are relatively easy to spot with their cream bodies and coloured roofs. The easiest place to find them is at the taxi queue at one of the malls or outside a hotel. Waving down a taxi on the road is possible, but can be difficult during rush hours. At peak times (07:00-09:00 & 16:00-19:00 workdays, and Friday evenings) demand exceeds supply, and not only are taxis hard to find, but those who deign to pick you up may demand crazy off-meter fares or refuse short rides in congested areas entirely. If you accept an off-meter quote, ensure that the driver clearly says ‘Dirhams’ as occasionally the word metamorphoses into ‘Dollars’ when you reach your destination. Also, the drivers of Dubai Taxi Corporation go through their shift change between 16:00-18:00 daily and it can be more difficult to find taxis during this time. The standard of driving in Dubai ranges from poor to wild – taxis are some of the worst on the roads. Taxi drivers are pretty good at knowing where the main shopping malls and hotels are, however less well known places will mean the driver calling his brother-in-law to get directions, whilst he drives around in circles on your time – hence it is a good idea to have a rough idea of where you are heading or what a nearby landmark is.
Taxis are metered at 1.82 dirham/km during the day and 1.82 dirham/km at night, so no haggling is necessary. The rates of all taxi companies — Dubai Transport, National, Cars, Metro, and Arabian — are identical, so just take the first one that comes along. Street pickups attract a standing charge of 5 dirham during the day and 5.50 dirham at night (22:00-06:00). From the airport, there is a standing charge of 25 dirham; there is a extra charge of 20 dirham for going to Sharjah. A minimum total fare of 12 dirham applies. Taxis are exempt from the Salik road toll charges.
Beware of unmarked hotel taxis and limousines though: while some of these are metered, they are not tied to the official rates, and can be much more expensive. One way to spot whether a taxi is official or not is to look for a meter: no meter, don’t get in.
If you can’t find one otherwise, you can attempt to call Dubai Taxi on 04-2080808 (each franchise has its own booking number but one central system), there’s a extra charge of 3 dirham to book. The booking system was notorious for its unreliability but with a significantly increased taxi fleet, many taxis now deliberately wait in unofficial holding areas waiting for bookings. As a result, on a good day it can be possible to book a taxi and have it arrive within less than five minutes. If you absolutely have to get somewhere at a certain time (say, the airport or a meeting), it’s still best to book a hotel taxi in advance, and get their estimate of how bad the traffic will be.
Women should travel in the back of the taxi as some drivers see it as a sexual invitation if you get in the front.
Taxi drivers are usually friendly, but may have a different ideas on hygiene
There are a countless number of Rent-A-Cars that will provide a mode of transportation for very cheap rates and very little paperwork. An International Driving Permit is not necessarily required, but hire companies may not hire a car without one.
Some agencies will hire out cars complete with drivers. Visitors taking advantage of this option will need to make certain that their driver knows his way around as many do not.
When driving on the main roads, such as Sheikh Zayed road, the junction numbers are not in logical order. Junction 13 is just after Junction 18 and are rarely as shown on the maps. Road names can also be very confusing with slight differences in spelling (due to different transliterations from Arabic) being very important. The construction work that is taking place throughout and around Dubai can make finding your destination a challenge. Temporary road layouts change with alarming regularity and temporary signs can be misleading or non existent. As GPS maps are not up to date (and usually not anyway available to rent with hire cars), you will be very well off with a printed map (you can get an excellent one in Virgin stores, for example. There is a Virgin Megastore on the top floor of City Center).
Driving during morning and afternoon peak hours is not recommended, as traffic slows to a standstill and even a simple trip across a bridge can take up to 45 minutes. There is also a scarcity of parking spaces in many parts of the city.
With such a mixture of nationalities residing in the city, driving styles are mixed to say the least. Both dangerous and experienced driving will be witnessed or experienced frequently. Dubai has one of the highest per capita road death rates in the world. There is zero tolerance for alcohol and driving with stiff penalties meted out including jail and deportation.
See Salik for information about tolls on certain routes in Dubai. If you hire a car, usually a Salik tag will be provided by the car hire company and you will be charged separately (normally 5 dirham a gate) when returning the car.
An easy way of crossing Dubai Creek is by abra, a small ferry. Abra stations are located along the Creek on both the Bur Dubai and Deira sides, and the system of filling the boats is remarkably efficient. The cross-river trip costs 1 dirham, payable to the driver after the boat has left the station, and affords a very picturesque view of the city. Abras set off very regularly, and the service is available round-the-clock.
Air-conditioned water buses are a way to avoid the abra crowd and the heat. They are part of the public transport system, so a Red Nol ticket or a Nol card is required. Tickets can be purchased at the water bus station. The fare each way is 2 dirham. The water bus also features a ‘tourist route’ round trip – while it is convenient, it can get quite expensive (50 dirham per adult, 25 dirham per child).
The Creek is also the home of many boats offering more comfortable (and correspondingly more expensive) tours, often in boats designed to resemble dhows. Prices tend to be higher, particularly for dinner cruises with on-board entertainment.
Dubai is a mixture of old and new, traditional and modern. From old traditional souks and historical buildings (now being preserved for cultural reasons or already part of the national heritage) to modern Dubai’s overwhelming shopping malls, incredible artificial islands and giant modern skyscrapers that include the world’s tallest building, Dubai is a world in itself and offers plenty of wonderful attractions.
The city has numerous museums and historical buildings, but Dubai Museum is a must see for a first-time travellers to the Emirates. It provides a glimpse of the old life of Dubai, its people and their culture and heritage. A number of other museums are located in nearby Sharjah.
Dubai has a justified reputation as a concrete jungle, but there are nice pockets of greenery within the city, such as Safa Park. The city parks are modern and very well-maintained, with the most popular located in Jumeirah.
What to do in Dubai
- Abra ride. Best done at night in the cool weather and to enjoy the city lights. Abras can be hired for a private tour (for a price negotiable with the driver, but usually very cheap). This is quite a popular activity at sunset on a clear day, particularly if the driver is able to enliven the tour with stories about the structures on either side of the Creek. Just make sure that the purpose of one’s abra hire is made clear at the outset, otherwise you will be in for a very expensive cross-river trip or a crowded private tour. See also the Get around section above.
- Beaches and sea. There are endless water sport opportunities as Dubai has some of the whitest and sandiest beaches in the world. Ocean temperatures range from 22°C in winter up to 35°C in summer, there are few wave breaks and the strong winds can make swimming difficult. The water is also very salty so many prefer to use their hotel swimming pool. Diving activities have been severely affected by offshore construction work for the Palms and The World; consequently, long boat trips are necessary to reach wreck sites. Alternatively, one can make the 90 minute road journey to the East coast Emirate of Fujairah or the Sharjah enclave, Khor Fakkan, for top class diving on coral reefs supporting extensive marine life.
- Camel race track. One of the more unusual attractions, with races being held on Thursday and Friday in the winter. You can watch the races, and you’ll have the opportunity to visit the paddocks. Vendors sell everything from beads to rugs and blankets, so you can purchase souvenirs.
- Desert safari or dune bashing. Head out to the desert in an SUV with specialist desert drivers. The drivers will take you for a thrilling roller-coaster ride over sand dunes, show you the sunset from a strategic vantage point and then take you to a traditional Arabic Bedouin campsite where you’ll be offered lavish barbecue buffet dinner with live music and belly dance to complete the atmosphere. The duration of tour is usually around five hours and cost per person at around 150 dirham. You may want to stay clear of the dune bashing if you get carsick easily. A desert safari is one of the best things to do while in Dubai. Another option would be renting/buying a 4×4 and joining the many growing 4×4 clubs in the UAE, but only if you’re an extremely experienced driver and hold an international driving license. Many of them have websites including Emarat 4×4, Tour Dubai, and UAEoffroaders. Neighboring cities including Abu Dhabi also have their own, such as AD4x4. For all of the Dubai-based clubs, membership is free of charge and they conduct trips for beginners into the desert on a regular basis.
- Natural outdoors. Although at first glance the outdoors may seem dull and uninteresting, and even dangerous due to the desert conditions, there are actually amazing natural destinations in the Emirate of Dubai, which extends into Hatta. There are pristine waterfalls, cliffs lined with fossils, even freshwater lakes.
- Yacht charter. An easy way to explore the man-made Palm Islands and coastal skyscrapers. Fleets are available for hire from Dubai Marina from many of the yacht charter agencies.
- Dubai Creek cruise/ride. Dubai Creek is the foundation from which Dubai grew. It was built as a port for trading vessels plying to and from India, Africa and the Middle East. Today a bit of the old shipping culture still remains. In and around the Creek one can see some of the original buildings that have served as customs houses and defence structures. You can book a ride (usually four hours) on the Dubai Marina cruise or rent a private boat to take you on an hour-long ride up and down the Creek.
- Burj Khalifa. Visit the tallest building in the world with the magnificent Centrepiece of Dubai, Burj Khalifa is surrounded by hotels, must-visit shopping destinations and a world of entertainment options. More infos can be found in the Jumeirah district article.
- Golf. It may be a desert, but a lot of money and water is spent on irrigating opulent golf courses. Alternatively, for a more local flavour, try sand golf.
- Hot Air Balloon Ride (Balloon Adventures Dubai), . 8 Sep – 31 May. Great fun seeing all the sand dunes and mountains early in the morning or during sunset. 1,100 dirham/adult, 950 dirham/child.
- Big Bus Company tour. You can take a bus tour, both day time and night time, of many of the attractions in Dubai.
While Dubai tries to promote itself as the business and entertainment capital of the world, the government has a complex and at times frustrating work permit procedure that one should not attempt on their own unless they have prior experience. Therefore, it is best to go through official channels when looking for work in Dubai as spot inspections are frequent and if found working illegally, both the employee and the employer will be subject to fines and even deportation.
All the necessary forms and documents are written and processed in Arabic and is best left to a professional or a “P.R.O” to handle your paperwork.
There are rules about changing jobs, which apply to nationalities. They have to complete their contract period, which is 2 years. If the employee breaks his/her contract before the completion of 2 years, the new employer has to offer them salary above 5,000 dirham in-order to avoid ban. Otherwise the employee has to wait until the completion of the left over months of his cancelled contract. If the employer breaks the contracts, then the employee can join another employer immediately irrespective of nationality, religion, cast or creed.
With the price of rentals ever soaring in Dubai and neighbouring Emirates, it is a good idea to discuss a housing allowance when negotiating a pay package.
Despite all of this, there are a few upsides, Dubai companies are generous with holidays averaging almost 39 days a year of paid vacation (including public holidays), a round trip ticket home once a year (depending on your contract) and the UAE government does not impose income taxes on foreign workers. Instead it imposes fees and charges on almost everything, so the cost of living in the UAE, and especially Dubai, is quite high.
Recruitment fraud is quite pervasive in this part of the world. Read your employment contract carefully before signing and do not pay any fees to recruitment agencies, as they are usually paid by the companies. Your passport is your personal property and cannot be withheld by the employer unless you are in a position of trust or are handling large sums of money.
Dubai has been accused by numerous organizations of effectively enslaving workers from Southeast Asia by allowing companies to take their passports without returning them and allowing salaries to go unpaid. Foreign workers, Western and otherwise, have no rights that will be upheld by the courts, and so they have no recourse should they feel their rights violated. Potential workers should be aware of this when considering work in Dubai.
Dubai is practically synonymous with shopping and could be called “Do buy”. Low tariffs and a huge amount of cargo passing through its port ensure that practically anything is available at fairly competitive rates, although the appreciation of the Dirham and the plentiful supply of shoppers means that Dubai is no longer a bargain basement shopping city. You’ll also find products in Western chain stores, still with the original tags quoting euro or sterling prices, being sold with a 20-30% mark-up once converted to dirhams. The best things to buy are textiles, electronics and gold; electronics are believed to be much cheaper, while there is a wide selection of textiles and gold.
Dubai shops suffer from the standard developing world shopping phenomenon of having no storeroom and no stocks in reserve, even in the mega-malls – and for clothes shopping this may mean that you struggle to find the style you want in the size you want. Shops open as early as 09:00 and stay open to 22:00, and on weekends to midnight or 01:00.
Remember to haggle in the souks, as discounts are almost always available and even in situations where the item will not become much cheaper, the customer is always expected to “play the game” of haggling. A simple question of “what’s your best price?” will often result in a shop-keeper going to extraordinary lengths to sell his stock. Prices in the malls and other Western shops tend not to be negotiable. Far from being a bad thing, this allows the canny visitor to work out comparative prices for common souvenirs – an invaluable aid when a shop-keeper in a souk is asking for a higher price.
Dubai Shopping Festival has been the biggest shopping event in the Middle East since 1996. Almost every shop has a sale, starting in January and ending February. The DSF is not limited up to Shopping but also produces some mind blowing stages shows and performances performed by international celebrities. There’s also a very similar Dubai Summer Surprises trying to pull in punters during the summer low season.
Dubai is known for its gigantic malls and is a magnet for shoppers. Among the dozens of malls, two stand out due to their size and quality. See the district articles for more detail on malls. Several malls have a large supermarket where you’ll find the lowest cost electronics, and groceries for self-catering. There are many supermarkets, and international brands such as Carrefour, Géant and Waitrose have multiple locations as do ‘home-grown’ brands Choithrams, Spinney’s, Union Co-Operative and Lulu, amongst others.
Shawarma is the most available food item on almost all streets (and cheap) in Dubai. It is the Arabic equivalent of the burger. It is meat that has been cooked on a skewer and then cut into thin strips and placed into a kuhbus (pita) bread with vegetables and dressing. It costs about 5 dirham for either the plain-jane variety or the more exotic Lebanese and Iranian varieties. The shawarma sold by Indian restaurants are arguably the cheapest.
Another local snack is fala-fil (felafel, falafel), which is as cheap as shawarma.
Most of the American fast food chains have set up shop, including KFC, Chillis, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, and McDonalds. The beauty of the food in Dubai is that you will probably find cuisine for every taste. All food is halal.
Dubai has a big selection of budget Indian food. Dosa, vada, idlee, samosa, chapaati/roti, with generous servings of sabji (cooked vegetable stew) are available at throwaway prices, typically less than 10 dirham per course. The more expensive stuff costs up to USD 5. Bur Dubai (particularly Meena Bazaar area) and Karama are the places that abound in these restaurants. Most of them are open from 07:00 till 22:00 or 23:00 throughout the week.
Most malls have food courts, which offer good value menus and are a fast and reliable option for visitors and locals. There are also several food chains of many different types (Pakistani, Indian, burger) scattered all over the city. See the district articles for individual recommendations.
- Automatic, this is a chain of popular Lebanese restaurants found all over Dubai. Famous for its lamb chops & Friday lunch buffet.
The top hotels all have at least one restaurant serving (most commonly) some form of international cuisine – Italian, Japanese, Indian and so on. Quality tends to be high, along with price, but non-guests are able to reserve tables as well, thus allowing the rest of us to experience a bit of these hotels. Floating restaurants for dinner come sight seeing in Dubai Marina are also popular among both non-travelers and travelers. Few agencies like Trilogy-Yachts & Nalora Cruise have licensed floating restaurants and hence charge high for the quality of food and service.
Where to stay in Dubai
In the early 2000s demand for hotel rooms outstripped supply, resulting in some of the most expensive rooms in the world: it was difficult to find anything decent for under 600 dirham (US$150) especially during the September–May high season. Due to substantial increase in hotel rooms and the financial crises, only during Islamic holidays do prices rise substantially. The cheapest places, mainly catering to small-scale businessmen, can be found in near the souks of Deira. there is also a youth hostel and a backpackers hostel in Dubai.
See the individual listings in the districts for hotel recommendations. In general tourists tend to stay at the beach hotels in Jumeirah or Jebel Ali, while city dwellers have ample choice in Deira or Bur Dubai. Dubai is a stretch along the coastline and taxis are cheap and the metro reliable, so there are always alternative options. The only hassles are ever-new construction sites and the rush hour. During the summer heat a hotel with access to a mall or shopping complex is beneficial to have a greater area for air conditioned walking.
Stay safe and avoid Scams in Dubai
Dubai is a fast growing city that has its share of problems but nothing that using common sense can’t avoid.
Driving and pedestrian safety has also been an issue given the different nationalities that share the road. Do not jaywalk or cross where there are no clear pedestrian markings. Speeding is common here, and the odds of you being knocked over are quite high unless you follow the rules. Avoid driving on the extreme left lane of highways to avoid being “flashed” and being forced to move a lane over. Road rage is also starting to become an issue given the increase in traffic jams and poor driving courtesy.
Rude hand gestures (the “finger”, etc.) and profanity can lead to fines and jail times if reported, so keep your cool if you are cut off or are behind an erratic driver. In general, you will find those gestures and actions that some may find only slightly offensive in your home country, or perhaps not offensive at all, can at times be extremely offensive to the Dubai locals. Therefore, use a degree of common sense of what is right and wrong to help you stay out of trouble.
The United Arab Emirates might seem to have more relaxed laws than their other Arab counterparts, but the laws are still very different from most Western countries, and their laws are strictly enforced. A simple kiss in a public place, having an alcoholic drink in the wrong place or even losing your temper could land you a month or more in prison. Exercise caution and common sense when visiting, and make sure you are aware of all their laws or expect severe consequences that could seriously ruin your visit.
Dubai strictly follows Islamic laws which should be respected by all visitors. Islam is the official religion, therefore do not publicly criticize or distribute material against it. Eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan is not allowed from sunrise until sunset and visitors should consume meals in the confines of their hotel or residence.
In conversations about politics and world affairs, avoid criticizing the ruling family of any of the seven Emirates or prominent business families.
While petty crime is hardly reported or mentioned in the news, keep an eye on your wallet or purse when in crowded areas like Naser Square or Deira in general. If withdrawing large amounts of cash from ATMs or banking institutions, either conceal the notes or ask the institution’s security to escort you to your vehicle. Cases have occurred where people have been robbed of large amounts of cash when in crowded places just because they were not careful.
Conmen are ever present in Dubai, especially the “Nigeria 419” scammers. Do not arrange meetings or entertain their requests or give any personal details. Should they not comply, individuals who will be happy to listen to their business propositions are the police.
Thanks to Dubai’s new property boom and bust, real estate fraudsters are also popping up, so exercise extreme caution if you are interested in buying or renting.
Drug use and distribution are serious criminal offences, even when in the company of the person consuming the material, and can lead to a prison sentence of several years or even to be in front of the firing squad. Passenger baggage is screened quite thoroughly when entering Dubai. Even prescription drugs (without original prescription note and sometimes even with one) or ones that you bought over the counter in your country can lead to a prison sentence.
You need to be careful when you are a tourist in Dubai, like many places around the world, people have a keen eye for tourists and can cheat you. For example taxi drivers can drive a longer way to the destination given that you pay by meter or try to charge you 20 dollars when you are sure you heard them say 20 dirham: (they do sound rather similar).
Telecommunications in Dubai
The international code for UAE is +971, for Dubai, add a 4 afterwards for land lines.
Local mobile phone numbers start +971 50 xxx yyyy or +971 56 xxx yyyy for the GSM provider Etisalat and +971 55 xxx yyyy for the GSM provider Du.
GSM – Those with GSM phones can expect auto roaming from their home countries. As roaming fees are quite high (easily 3 USD per minute and often more for a call to Europe) and incoming calls are also charged, consider to buy a local prepaid GSM SIM card, designed especially for tourists, from one of the two cellular providers of the UAE:
- Etisalat – product Ahlan – 90 dirham – available at the Duty Free Shop (arrival hall) of Dubai Airport
- Du – product Visitor Mobile Line – 70 Dirhams – available at the Telefonika kiosk in the arrival hall of Dubai Airport.
Using these products, calls to Europe will be charged at maximum of about 0.55 USD per minute. Incoming calls are free of charge.
Phone booths – Phone booths are located on most streets. Phone cards can be purchased from hotels and tourist shops.
Internet – Internet cafés can be hard to find. The usual rate per hour is 3-4 dirham. There are a number of cafés on Al Musalla Road/Al Mankhool Road in Bur Dubai, including one at 38 Al Musalla Road and one at Computer Plaza next to the Ramada Hotel. A number of Internet cafes are found in Satwa too. In Satwa there is the French Connection in the Al Wafa Tower on Sheikh Zayed Road (opposite side of road from the Dusit Hotel), which has wi-fi access and nice cakes/pastries. In Al Qusais, there is an internet café a 5-minute walk northwest from the Dubai Youth Hostel. Turn right out of the gates and walk to LuLu’s Hypermarket. The café is located inside the food court and charges 4 dirham per hour. The Skype website is blocked.
Gaming cafes aimed at teenagers are dotted around, notable examples including Escape gaming zone (opposite lulu hypermarket in al barsha), Que club in al barsha and behind Lamcy plaza.
Surprisingly, the malls do not have internet cafés. Dubai Mall offers free Wi-Fi throughout. Mall of the Emirates offers free Wi-Fi, but you must have a local phone number. Many coffee-shops, restaurants and attractions also have free Wi-Fi, and you’ll usually have to ask for the password. Most hotel business Centres are equipped with internet cafés, but are expensive.
Etisalat, UAE’s telecom operator, offers a roaming, post paid Wi-Fi internet connection known as iZone . Most coffee shops and malls across Dubai provide this service. Prices are available on the website. For those still using dial-up internet Etisalat provide a service when you can plug into any phone line and the line will be charged 0.5 dirham a minute
Dubai International Airport (DXB) has free Wi-Fi in the terminal. Bring your laptop to use free Wi-Fi at some hotels. There are many free public Wi-Fi spots in Dubai.
Emirates Post service is pretty efficient. You will need to rent a P.O. Box as postal service to the door is not the standard.
Newspapers and radio
Thanks to the large influx of expatriates, Dubai has a wide selection of English-language newspapers and radio channels.
- The Gulf News.
- The Khaleej Times.
- The Gulf Today.
- The National.
- 7 Days.
- Emirates Business 24/7.
- Channel 4 – Plays current songs from the UK and US. 104.8FM
- Dubai Eye – Western oriented talk with focus on business, sport, lifestyle and entertainment. Owned by Arabian Radio Network. 103.8FM
- Dubai 92 – Mainly 90’s music. Popular with British expats. Owned by Arabian Radio Network. 92.0FM
- Virgin Radio 104.4 – Chart music. Operates under franchise from Virgin Radio International. Owned by Arabian Radio Network.
- City 101.6 – Broadcasts Indian music.
- Abu Dhabi Classic FM – Despite its name, this station broadcasts classical and jazz music across the UAE. In Dubai it is on 87.9FM
International newspapers are also available in most hotels and airport terminals. Carrefour and Borders bookstores sell British and American newspapers. Todaily, a local printing house, can furnish newspapers and periodicals from around the world daily.
Consulates in Dubai
Dubai is home to many people of different nationalities and language backgrounds. Therefore, many countries have established full service consulates (Consulate General) in Dubai to provide consular services for their nationals living in the UAE or certain areas like Dubai and the northern Emirates, as well as visa services for others seeking to visit their respective countries (if required). Most of the consulates are located in/around Al Karama and Um Hurair (consulate district) in the Burr Dubai District, south of Dubai Creek. They can also be located in other parts of town too. If corresponding by mail/post use their PO box address as mail is only delivered to a PO Box with no post codes. If delivering to a street address with DHL, FedEx, UPS or another private courier be sure to include recipient’s phone number so that the delivery driver can call for directions or clarification on the address. Some countries may have no consulate in Dubai but rather handle everything from their chancery in Abu Dhabi, while others may assign their consular duties solely to the Dubai consulate. Check their website links or call before going to or sending any correspondence:
- Australia, Level 25, Bur Juman Business Tower, Khalifa Bin Zayed Road; PO Box 124400, , fax: +971 4-355 1547.
- Bangladesh, Villa No. 36 & 145 Abdulla Hussain Al Malik Villa 123/3 Street, Abu Hail Road Al Wuheida, Deira; PO Box 4366, .
- Canada, 19th Floor Jumeirah Emirates Towers (Business Tower), Sheikh Zayed Road; PO Box, . Su-Th 08:00-12:00 & 13:00-16:00; Su-Th 08:00-14:00 during Ramadan. By appt only.
- China, Villa No. 14, St 8, Community 357, Umm Al Sheif St, Safa 2 Area, , fax: +971 4-3952207. Su-Th 08:30-12:00.
- Egypt, Al Hamariya, Khaled Ibn Al-Walid Street, , fax: +971-4-3971033. Sunday-Thursday 09:00 – 15:00.
- Ethiopia, Deira, Al Wuheida, Community 132, Street No. 6, Villa No. 1, .
- France, 32F Habtoor Business Tower, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah beach Road; PO Box 3314 (in front of Grand Habtoor Hotel, near Dubai Marina metro station), , fax: +971 4 408 4903, +971 4 408 4904. Daily 08:30AM-12:30.
- Germany, Jumeira 1, 8 ‘A’ St, . Su-Th 08:00-12:00.
- India, Al Hamariya, Diplomatic Enclave, Bur Dubai; PO Box 737, , fax: +971 4 394 0453. Su-Th 08:30AM-16:30.
- Indonesia, Al Hudaiba, Community 322, Villa No. 1, .
- Iran, No 256 Al Wasl Road, Jumairah Area; PO Box 2832, . Su-Th 08:00-12:00.
- Iraq, P.O. Box 85855 (Bur Dubai), .
- Japan, 28th Floor, Dubai World Trade Centre, , fax: +971 4 331 9292. Su-Th 09:00-14:30; stop taking visa applications at 12:30; return completed work between 12:30-14:30.
- Kenya, Jumeirah 2, Off Al Wasl Road, Street 15, Villa 5; P.O. Box 214933, , fax: +1 971 4-342 8181. Su-Th 09:00-13:00.
- Kuwait, Al Seef Street; PO Box 806, . Su-Th 08:30-14:30.
- Netherlands, Al Habtoor Business Tower, 30th floor, Dubai Marina; PO Box 7726, .
- Oman, PO Box 1898, . Su-Th 07:30-14:30; Visa Applications 08:00-12:00.
- Pakistan, Near Burjuman, opp. Iranian School, Umm Hurair One, Khalid Bin Waleed Road, Bur Dubai, , fax: +971 4-397 1975.
- Philippines, Al Qusais 3 Dubai; PO Box 94778, . Su–Th 08:00-14:00.
- Russia, Dubai, Umm Al Sheif, 6B st., Villa 21: PO Box 11876, , fax: +971 4 328-5615. Su-Th 10:00-13:30; Citizenship issues Wed 15:00-17:00. The visa application Centre is at another location at Wafi Mall, Level 2, Falcon Phase 2, Umm Hurair 2, Dubai (Tel +971 4 205-5717
- Saudi Arabia, Alhamreiah Area, Alsaeef Street, . Su-Th 09:00-15:00.
- South Africa, Khalid Bin Al Waleed Street (also known as Bank Street) (New Sharaf Bldg in Bur Dubai), , fax: +971 4 397-9602. Su-Th 08:30-12:30.
- Turkey, 29th Floor, Dubai World Trade Center Building، Sheikh Zayed Road, . Su-Th 08:30-14:00 (By Appt only).
- United Kingdom, Al Seef St Bur Dubai; PO Box 65 (Near the Dubai Creekside), , fax: +971 4 309 4301.
- United States (USA), Corner of Al Seef Road. and Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road,, .
- Yemen, Consulates Area, Um Hurair 1; P.O. Box 1947, . Su-Th 08:30-14:00.
Within the United Arab Emirates:
- Neighbouring Sharjah. While dry (no alcohol) and mostly suburban, has a few beaches and museums of interest.
- Abu Dhabi. Capital of the Emirates, is an entirely different city and worth the one and a half hour ride to see the contrast.
- The city of Al Ain (near the border with Oman). It is surprisingly a city of lush gardens and trees – an aspect quite unusual in this region considering its desert surroundings.
- Peaceful Umm al Quwain emirate. If you want a cosy and relaxing environment, free from city hustle and bustle.
- Dubai has an arrangement with Oman to allow visitors who qualify to get an Omani visa on arrival by road through Hatta.
- The Iranian island of Kish. A free trade zone that does not require a visa.
- Fjords of Musandam Peninsula (two hours ride north to this Omani exclave). Explore beautiful caves and enjoy the awesome scenery of the dessert and the mountains. to hike in the mountains or dive in the fjords.