Dubai is the dream of luxury and all things possible. A dream that costs much less than you imagine: thanks to the cost of fuel, which in this area is among the lowest in the world, and the forward-looking airport expansion policy, airlines are able to offer competitive rates for those who want to land in Dubai.
So set off on a mind-blowing journey, where excess is the norm, the impossible becomes real and world records are continually broken.
You can ski even when temperatures reach a dizzying 50°, play golf from the top of a skyscraper, dine in a mega-aquarium with fish passing over and under it, shop in the world’s largest mall, admire a man-made palm-shaped island from the top of a scenic monorail.
Or you can go on a discovery of a lesser-known Dubai, that of the low houses and souks, of the scents of spices and hand-crafted leather.
But leave with one thing in mind: both the modern Dubai of record-breaking skyscrapers and billions and the Dubai of everyday life and traditions will disorient you. Nothing can prepare you for a trip to Dubai because there is nothing else like it in the world.
Dubai is the capital of an emirate of the same name, one of the seven that make up the United Arab Emirates. It lies along the coast of the Persian Gulf, in the Arabian Peninsula, in desert territory. Unlike the other Arab emirates, the Dubai desert is sandy rather than rocky.
Dubai’s climate is desert-like, with mild winters (more like a warm spring) and scorching summers that test human endurance. Staying outdoors during the daylight hours of summer days is virtually impossible, which is why travellers to Dubai in July and August end up cooped up in air-conditioned rooms.
It is much better to go to Dubai in winter: you can safely walk around in short sleeves without suffering.
The absolute best time to go to Dubai is over Christmas and New Year’s Eve, but of course on these dates, flight and hotel prices rise sharply.
Dubai is a very special city, totally different from the big European cities we are used to. Don’t expect a historic centre, a main square, a long pedestrian street, museums and ancient monuments; however, it has plenty to see.
Get ready for an out-of-the-ordinary travel experience: here are the 5 must-see attractions in Dubai.
An engineering masterpiece, a monument to excess or simply madness? Palm Jumeirah knows no half measures, and you either love it or hate it.
It is an artificial island that, seen from above, has the shape of a palm tree, where only super-luxury hotels and exclusive villas with private access to the sea stand. In a city devoted to luxury, Palm Jumeirah is a kind of oasis for the wealthy.
The most emblematic building in Palm Jumeirah is the Atlantis Hotel, easily recognisable by its distinctive sail shape.
In a city where getting around on foot is very difficult, it is not surprising that one of the most popular areas for tourists is the one with a long promenade. And if this pedestrian boulevard runs alongside the world’s largest marina, then success is guaranteed.
Even in Dubai Marina there is no shortage of high-class hotels and mega-constructions typical of Dubai, but the atmosphere is completely different. Moreover, here you will find one of the best publicly accessible beaches (many of Dubai’s beaches are in fact reserved for hotels or villa owners).
Don’t be fooled by Dubai’s modern image: even though unfortunately few traces of it remain, the city has its own past.
You can fantasise about the Dubai of yesteryear by strolling through the narrow streets of Al Bastakiya, the Persian Quarter, where instead of skyscrapers you will find the characteristic houses with roofs called ‘badgers’, thanks to which the wind was channelled into the rooms to bring some relief from the heat. You can also visit the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai (dating back to 1700).
Shopping is an integral part of any holiday in Dubai.
Dubai’s shopping malls are certainly not the best place to buy cheap, but they should be seen because they are something incredible. Huge, with an impressive number of shops and not a few oddities inside, such as a ski slope or thematic areas dedicated to different cultures and civilisations, they are both shopping areas and important socialising places.
A completely different atmosphere can be felt in the souks, the traditional markets. There are some specialised ones (the souk of gold, spices, perfumes, textiles), but all of them are rich in colours and smells. The rule that applies in every souk: always haggle over the price.
The only easy way to reach Dubai is by plane: by land or sea would be complicated, expensive and in some cases even dangerous because of some borders to cross. The only safe and attractive alternative to flying is a cruise.
Even if you have to travel with scheduled and not low-cost airlines, flights to Dubai are cheaper than flights to equidistant destinations.
In addition toDubai International Airport, you can also consider Abu Dhabi or Sharjah.
Dubai is a huge city, so before you start looking for a hotel, it’s a good idea to decide which area to stay in. The choice is dictated by several factors such as holiday budget, what you want to see and do, and flight schedule.
Deira is the recommended area for those who want a mid-range hotel and for those who want to experience the most authentic Dubai.
If you want glamour and beaches, head for Jumeirah, a chic neighbourhood where the city’s most luxurious hotels are located. Remember that super-luxury comes at a price, and a lot; moreover, the area is a city in itself compared to the rest of Dubai, more like a giant resort than a neighbourhood.
Other recommended areas to sleep in Dubai are Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai Marina and the business district.
Getting around on foot in a megacity like Dubai that stretches over 40 km is unthinkable. To visit the city’s tourist attractions you will necessarily have to use public transport and taxis; the good news is that both are efficient and cheap.
Dubai’s public transport network includes metro, buses, trams, sea taxis and a monorail. The metro is ultra-modern, fully automated and currently has two lines, the red (much used by tourists) and the green.
Although the network is extensive and widespread, getting around Dubai by public transport takes a long time due to the huge distances involved. Consider taking a taxi or water taxi.
The flag of the United Arab Emirates consists of three horizontal stripes of green, white and black (from top to bottom) and a vertical red stripe on the left side.
The four colours together symbolise Arab unity; green is a symbol of fertility, white of neutrality and black of oil wealth.
The current flag has been in use since 1971.
The currency in use in Dubai and throughout the UAE is the dirham, officially abbreviated to AED (Arab Emirates Dirham) but often referred to on websites and in guidebooks as Dhs or DH.
One dirham is equivalent to about 0.25 euro, but of course this figure is only indicative because exchange rates can vary over time. There are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 10000 dirham notes, 1 dirham coins and 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 fils (the ‘cents’ of the dirham).
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.