Dubai travel tips: What to do and see in Dubai!
Dubai is a city of superlatives! Everything is bigger, higher, more modern and hardly any other city changes as fast as Dubai. No matter if just for a city trip or on a stop over to Asia - Dubai is definitely the most popular travel destionation in the Emirates.
Some people come here to see the most important sights within one or two days just to fly back again.
Others spend their entire vacation here and combine sightseeing with trips to the beach.
No matter which group you belong to, in our article you’ll find the most important tips for your vacation in Dubai.
We’ll show you the modern and historic sights in Dubai, reveal our Highlights, which trips are worthwhile and give you practical tips for your time in Dubai.
#1 Burj Khalifa
Of course, the absolute highlight in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa. Since everything in Dubai always has to be bigger and better, it’s no wonder that the highest building in the world is located here.
The Burj Khalifa stands tall at a proud 828 meters (2,716.5 feet). By comparison: The Berlin TV Tower, the highest building in Germany no less, isn’t even half as tall at 368 meters. Crazy!
A visit on the Burj Khalifa is a must on a Dubai trip. You best buy tickets for the Burj Khalifa before coming here to avoid standing in line for long.
We show you most important ticket options in the table below. Here we have written an extensive blog post about the different tickets available: Burj Khalifa tickets.
|Price per person|
|Ticket for morning & night||44.50 euros||Book here|
|Tickets for the 148th Level||106 euros||Book here|
|Ticket with hotel pick up||95 euros||Book here|
|Ticket city tour (preferred language)||from 150 euros||Book here|
You can also spend the night at the Burj Khalifa. The Armani Hotel isn’t exactly a bargain, but then what is in Dubai?
#2 Dubai Mall
A mall as a highlight? For real? Sounds odd, but it actually fits in this case. The Dubai mall at the foot of the Burj Khalifa is not simply a shopping mall, it’s a world for itself.
We actually managed to get lost in there and still didn’t even get close to seeing all of it. Just so you understand the scale we’re talking about, let’s take a look at what the Dubai Mall has to offer over a total area of over 1.1 million square meters:
- Over 1,200 shops
- The world’s largest gold souk with 220 shops alone
- An enormous aquarium with 33.000 sea animals including sharks and stingrays
- An Olympic-sized ice rink
- Etc. etc. etc.
Sounds ludicrous? It really is! Even if you’re not a big fan of shopping malls just like us, you should take a look.
You won’t come around going to the Dubai mall anyways, as the entrance of the Burj Khalifa viewing platforms is located in here.
#3 Dubai fountain
Every night, directly at the Dubai Mall, the famous fountains in front of the Burj Khalifa take place.
The Dubai fountain on the Burj Khalifa lake is, how else could it be, the biggest fountain in the world and every night its water dances to the beat of music.
The show lasts a few minutes and starts at 6pm. After that the show is repeated every half hour until 11pm.
There are also two afternoon shows at 1 pm and 1.30 pm (fridays 1.30 pm and 2 pm). However, at night the Dubai fountain is illuminated and therefore definitely more impressive.
There is always quite a crowd around the fountains and patience is needed to find a good photo spot.
A boat trip on the Burj Khalifa lake during the times of the fountain show is a a nice alternative.This costs around 15 euros and you can buy the tickets online here: Bootsfahrt Dubai Fountain.
#4 Mall of the Emirates
Compared to the Dubai Mall the Mall of the Emirates is a real midget with a total of 600 stores. Still, it once used to be the biggest shopping mall in the world.
The highlight of the Mall of the Emirates is definitely the integrated ski slope, where you can jump into the snow while it’s over 100°F outside. No need to talk about the nonsense of this facility. We prefer to go skiing on real mountains.
#5 Burj Al Arab
In a city where a shopping mall is a sight, it’s not surprising to hear that a hotel is one of the top sights as well.
The Burj al Arab is one of the most luxuriousand well-known hotels in the world and aside from the Burj Khalifa the symbol of Dubai.
It is located on one of the artificial islands in front of Dubai and a real eye-catcher. Unfortunately you cannot simply walk into the hotel just like that, because even though it is one of Dubai’s top sights, they want to keep a little privacy for their guests.
You do have a few options. Here are 3:
- You admire the Burj Al Arab from afar.
- You take about 2,000 euros and book a night in the Burj Al Arab.
- You enjoy a dubai night tour with dinner in Burj al Arab. It still costs 216 euros, but compared to the overnight stay it’s a real bargain. It’s the cheapest option to get into the Burj Al Arab. Here you can book your visit: Dinner at Burj Al Arab + Dubai Night Tour
#6 The Palm Jumeirah
The Palm Islands are artificial islands at the coast of Dubai, formed to look like palm leaves. Yet another crazy project that is so typical for Dubai.
Only the Island Jumeriah is finished so far, two are still under construction. Of course, you get the best view from above. If you’re lucky, you can spot the inslands from your plane.
On the insland there is one luxurious hotel next to the other. The prices per room may not be as high as in the Burj Al Arab, but still not cheap either.
You can also go visit the islands. The Palm Jumeirah Monorail, a single-lane line, goes through the entire island and makesfour stops along the way. The rail starts every 15 minutes between 10 am and 10 pm.
A single ticket costs 20 VAE (1.80 euros) and a round way ticket costs 30 VAE (2.70 euros). The tickets are available at the first and at the end station cash or with credit card.
The Island Jumeriah is also worth seeing from the water. On a boat tour, you can see the island and its fantastic hotels from a completely different angle.
Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk: free
Tickets Monorail: from 1,80 Euro
# 7 Dubai Creek
The Dubai Creek is a 14 km long estuary and the lifeline of the old Dubai. The Creek devides the old parts of the town Deira in the East and Bur Dubai in the West.
For every visit in Dubai, a trip in one of the water taxis from one part to the other is mandatory.
The boats, called Abras, leave once all the seats are occupied, which happens pretty fast. The ride only costs 1 dirham, which is about 25 cents. The ride on the water taxi is probably the cheapest highlight in Dubai.
#8 Gold and Spice Souk
Deira is the second oldest district in Dubai. It is located East of the creek close to the airport.
The highlights and most exciting sights in this district are definitely the markets, called souk in Arabic. We liked the gold market and the spice market the most.
At the gold souk, immense amounts of jewelry is being traded and at the spice souk there are spices over spices.
The markets come to live at night, when it’s not as hot outside anymore.
No matter how beautiful the souks may be, a trip to the market can be pretty exhausting as the dealers are not known for their restraint.
However they do it, the dealers have an eye for finding out which country you come from and approach you with funny sentences in your native language. Our favorite so far: “Aldi prices! Take a look.”
#9 Al Bastakiya
West of the Dubai Creek, there is the oldest district of the city: Bur Dubai. Here you can also find the oldest buildings of the city.
Especially worth seeing in Bur Dubai is the Bastakaya with its old loam buildings. The historic buildings with its characteristic wind towers, which serve as a natural air conditioner, were beautifully restored and invite to a cozy stroll through the streets.
#10 Dubai Museum
Directly next to it is the oldest existing building in Dubai, the 200 year old Fort Al-Fahidi. Today the Fort accommodates the Dubai Museum.
It’s worth a visit, because the museum is quite nicely done and you can learn a lot about the history of Dubai from being a Bedouin settlement to this city of superlatives. We liked it a lot.
Beaches in Dubai
Dubai has a total of 170 kilometers of beach. Who would have thought? The coast along the city alone is almost 70 kilometers long, in addition to that there are the countless beaches along the man-made islands.
The Jumeirah Beach, located directly in the city at the inflow of the Dubai Creek, is very popular. If you want to combine your city trip to Dubai with some beach feeling, Jumeriah Beach is the right place for you.
Many beaches in Dubai belong to the big hotel complexes and are usually reserved for the guests. Some beaches, however, can be visited by external visitors.
If you intend to visit Dubai for a beach vacation, we definitely recommend to book a hotel directly at one of the beaches. One of the most well known is the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
Trips and activities
In addition to its many sights, Dubai has a lot more to offer. In this section, we’ll show you which activities in Dubai are worth it and what else there is to see and experience.
If you want a more detailed overview over the trips and activities in Dubai, take a look at this blog post.
Desert tour: Explore the other side of Dubai
A desert safari is definitely a highlight in Dubai. When you’re standing in the midst of skyscrapers you easily forget that all these buildings are in the middle of the desert.
Outside the city, of course, there is still desert and a desert tour is fun for young and old. On a desert safari you drive through the dunes in a jeep. If you get sick easily, you should definitely sit in the front. A desert tour can be a bit like a roller coaster.
Of course, you cannot drive by yourself since it takes some skill and practice. On a desert safari, you are being picked up at your hotel and then you’ll go straight out of the city. Once arrived in the desert, a large part of the air is let out of the tires and you’re good to go.
There will be stops along the way so you can romp around the sand for a bit by yourself. You can also slide down the dunes on a board or ride on a camel.
A typical tour takes about 6 hours and costs between 40 and 50 euros per person. The pick up from the hotel, a barbeque or arabic buffet, as well as camel riding and sandboard sliding.
Here you can book our favorite tours:
Sand, sand and even more sand!
Trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi
Did you know, that Dubai is not even the capital of the Arab Emirates? Abu Dhabi is. Abu Dhabi is about 140 kilometers south of Dubai and can be reached within 90 minutes.
If you have seen everything in Dubai or if you’re there for a longer period of time, you should not miss out on a trip to Abu Dhabi. The most important sights are easily explored on a day trip.
Guided bus tours to Abu Dhabi and its most important spots cost between 60 and 80 euros per person.
However, we’d reccomend a private tour. It may be expensive, but it is always nicer to not walk around with a giant group and being able to create a more individual tour.
You can book tours to Abu Dhabi here:
Amusement Parks in Dubai: traveling with kids
In Dubai and its surroundings, there are a whole lot of amusement and theme parks. Not only travelers with kids will consider a day trip to one of the parks a nice change.
The Ferrari World is located in Abu Dhabi, but is easy to reach from Dubai. The Ferrari World is a classical amusement park with roller coasters and other rides. Adrenalin junkies can take a ride in the fastest roller coaster in the world, which accelerates from 0 to 240 mph in just 4,9 seconds.
For motor sports enthusiasts there is a lot to see, such as an exhibition of numerous Ferrari models and different racetracks for driving by yourself.
Aquaventure Waterpark & Lost Chambers Aquarium
The Aquaventure Waterpark is located on the premises of the hotel “The Palm Atlantis” and is a lot of fun for all water lovers.
There are countless water slides, rapids, a shark laguna and many more. It’s best to come in the morning right when it opens. Then the park is the emptiest and there is no waiting in line.
More amusement parks in Dubai
You can find many more parks in Dubai. There is a Bollywood theme park, a Hollywood theme park, a lego land, a super hero park and many more.
Dubai travel tips: Practical information for your stay
Last but not least, we still have a few practical tips for your Dubai vacation.
If you’ve made up your mind to stopover in Dubai, here are a few more practical Dubai travel tips for your stay. Let’s start with the local transportation.
Dubai is no place for pedestrians. That’s just the way it is and you’ll understand why once the unbearable heat hits you. The time from November to April is the most pleasant — or at least the most bearable. So you are definitely dependent on different mediums of transportation.
Public transportation in Dubai
The metro is a great way to explore Dubai. But some things are different than in the rest of the world.
For example, there’s a first class, always located in the rear carriage, and there’s a compartment just for women, in between the 1st and 2nd classes.
Singles cost between 1 and 3 euros, depending on the distance. A day pass costs 22 Dh (≈5.50 euros), which is a pretty good deal. You have to hold the tickets up to the ticket reader when you enter or leave the station.
Taking a taxi
Taxis in Dubai are cheap and reliable. Drivers always turn on the meter and a fare rarely comes to more than 10-15 euros.
Taxis are omnipresent and you will easily find one anywhere.
Taking the hop-on/hop-off bus
Hop-on/hop-off busses aren’t really our style, but in Dubai they’re actually very convenient. Metro stations are often a fair distance from the actual sights. Burj Khalifa station, for instance, is about a kilometer from the skyscraper itself.
The Hop-on/Hop-off buses will take you right up to the major sights, which is much more accommodating.
How to get to the city from the airport
The easiest way is to take the metro. The red line runs frequently every day between 6 am and midnight, passing through Deira and Bur Dubai to Burj Khalifa and even further.
The journey is fast, comfortable and only costs a couple of euros depending on the distance. A taxi is a good alternative if you arrive after midnight.
There’s a taxi stand in front of the airport and it isn’t even that expensive. We paid 8 euros for the trip to our hotel, the Somewhere Hotel Apartment in Deira, but then again it wasn’t very far from the airport.
City tour in Dubai
If you don’t have much time in town, a guided city tour of Dubai is probably worth considering. Usually your guide is also your driver, which means you won’t have to take care of the transportation.
This way you won’t have to make sure to get from A to B and can see more sights within a shorter period of time. As Dubai is not a city in which you can stroll around, a city tour is a smart option.
Depending on what you want to see, you can choose from a couple of different tours and find the one most suited for you:
Dubai stopover: Discovering the city in two days
We visited Dubai as a stopover on our way to Myanmar and we’d recommend that you do the same. If we’re being honest, two days in Dubai was more than enough.
Taking a stopover in Dubai is really easy when you’re flying to another destination with Emirates. If you have to change planes in Dubai anyway, why not stay for a day or two?
Conveniently enough, Emirates doesn’t charge any extra for a longer stopover. If you’re flying with Qatar Airways, for example, a longer stopover in Doha would cost you an extra 100 euros.
And there’s another thing that comes in handy: Emirates flights are always cheapest when you book them through the Emirates website. There are no third-party sites that offer Emirates flights at a cheaper price.
To book a stopover in Dubai, select the ‘advanced search’ tab and enter the flights individually, e.g Frankfurt-Dubai, Dubai-Bangkok, Bangkok-Frankfurt.
It’s up to you if you want to stopover on your outward leg or when you return — or both. It makes a lot of sense to do it on your way there because stopping over in Dubai mellows the jet lag so you’ll get more out of your vacation.
Where to stay in Dubai
We stayed at the Somewhere Hotel Apartment in the Deira quarter. The hotel is perfectly located for a stopover in Dubai: right by the metro station. You can get to the airport in 10 minutes by metro, and it’s also only a short journey to all the sights.
The rooms are very large, well-furnished, and not all too expensive by Dubai’s standards. We’ll definitely stay there again if we ever stopover in Dubai again.
But we also have an even more detailed blog post about hotels in Dubai, in which we show you the best districts to book your hotel. Of course including our personal hotel tips!
The best time to visit Dubai
The best time to travel to Dubai is between November and April. That’s when the temperatures in Dubai are the most pleasant, which certainly not means that it is cold. You can wear T-Shirts and the weather is really good for bathing.
From May until October, Dubai is quite literally extremely hot. Temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius and more is definitely not uncommon and the heat outside is unbearable.
We were in Dubai at the beginning of October and the heat was not fun. Thus for a vacation at the beach the summers are definitely way too hot.
For a stopover to the most important sights, however, you can certainly go there in summertime as well. You can easily stay in air-conditioned rooms and still see everything.
Money in Dubai
The official currency in Dubai is the Emirati dirham (AED). The euro conversion rate is about 1:4, that means you get around 4 dirhams for 1 euro. There are ATMs everywhere so withdrawing money is no problem.
Overall, Dubai isn’t a cheap place to visit, but if you can make do with a simple hotel and local food (very delicious!), then you won’t have to spend heaps of cash.
If you really want to live the high life, then Dubai offers ample opportunities to go wild, and you can easily drop a small fortune there in no time.
Travel guide for Dubai
We bought a Marco Polo travel guide for Dubai at the airport before leaving for Dubai. It’s small, compact and more than enough for a stopover in Dubai.
It’s a bit annoying that the travel guide keeps throwing around the term “insider tip” like there’s no tomorrow but then lacks essential features such as a metro map.
And the so-called insider tips listed on almost every page are actually pretty run-of-the-mill tourist tips, but it’s still a decent enough travel guide for a short stay.
Our final thoughts on Dubai
Dubai is definitely impressive and we can recommend taking a quick stopover in the city. It’s worth visiting for a day or two, but that’s about it.
For a longer vacation we would not recommend going to Dubai. There might be one or the other imressive building, but there is one important thing missing: Flair.
The city lacks a heart and a soul, just like malls have neither heart nor soul
Have you ever been to Dubai? What did you think of it? Do you have a great must-see tip? Or perhaps you can convince us to return and give it a second chance? We’re looking forward to your comment!