Dubai is undoubtedly a marvellous city, full of things to do and see: from futuristic skyscrapers to beautiful beaches, from almost improbable buildings to traditional Arabian markets.
There are so many things to do and see that time never seems to be enough, also considering the city’s considerable size. But to spend a different day, there is nothing better than going on an excursion to discover the surroundings of Dubai.
There are many tourist agencies in the city, although they are not so easy to locate. Some are located inside shopping malls, but many tourists have the option of booking excursions directly at the hotel reception desk. In fact, almost all hotels in Dubai offer an excursion desk, with the convenience of not even having to go out to plan a different day out.
It is possible to go on several excursions, some lasting only a few hours and others even two or three days, with an overnight stay included.
The easiest excursions to find, and at the same time the least expensive, are simple guided tours of Dubai. Usually such a tour starts early in the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel and put on comfortable air-conditioned buses: you will be able to visit all the most beautiful places in Dubai in no time.
A tour of this kind is of course most convenient when time is short, or when you prefer to rely on expert tour guides who can explain the life, death and miracles of the city’s monuments and buildings.
The other side of the coin is that tours like these often last too short, the stops are reduced to a few minutes, sometimes just enough time for a photo, and the whole day can even give the impression of being a bit of a drag.
Not to mention the fact that a tour of Dubai on your own might be a bit of a nonsense: the city is very easy to get around on your own, and often on your own you really get to choose what to visit and how much time to spend at an attraction.
An advantage of a guided tour of Dubai is that it often includes extra amenities such as a cruise on the Creek aboard a Dhow, a traditional boat of the area. More comprehensive Creek cruises, lasting about two hours, may also offer welcome drinks and an international buffet with drinks, or tea with typical Arabian sweets. Often these cruises depart at sunset to enjoy a magnificent view of the modern buildings in the area.
A desert safari is a magnificent and highly recommended, if highly touristy, experience. Different agencies in Dubai offer different packages, but for the most part the various tours are very similar.
Each includes an exciting dune bashing session, i.e., getting in and out of the dunes in a car at breakneck speed, and an evening at a desert camp, where one can dine while watching a typical Arabian belly-dancing show, as well as various leisure options such as getting a henna tattoo or dressing up in typical Arabian costumes for fun photos.
Variants of a tour like this can include a quad bike ride, a chance to watch the sunset in the middle of the desert and a thrilling snowboard descent down the dunes.
A tour of Abu Dhabi is a great way to visit the capital of the United Arab Emirates without moving from Dubai. The two metropolises are less than two hours away by motorway and as soon as you arrive in Abu Dhabi the first stop is at the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of the most beautiful mosques in the entire Islamic world, very white and enormous, with marble, stucco, magnificent carpets and decorations.
Continuing on we reach the Corniche, the city’s waterfront lined with futuristic skyscrapers, to arrive at the Heritage Village, an open-air museum showing what life was like in these parts before the discovery of oil.
A relaxing stop at the Marina Mall, one of Abu Dhabi’s most important shopping centres, and then off to Ferrari World, the theme park inspired by the Prancing Horse of Maranello. Beware that the cheapest excursions do not include entrance to the park, only a photo stop.
An unusual but wonderful way to see Dubai is from the air aboard a helicopter. Such an excursion is rather expensive, but those who can afford it will be delighted. The tour usually starts from the Creek and skirts the waterfront to the Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina.
Turning back, you flank Sheikh Zayed Road for a fabulous view of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, until you return to base. It is possible to book a completely private Dubai helicopter excursion or join a group tour, in which case savings are guaranteed.
You can spend a very different day in Dubai enjoying water sports. Jet-skis are all the rage, especially in the Dubai Marina area, but in recent years Flyboarding, an adrenalin-pumping discipline in which you literally feel as if you are flying over water, has been gaining popularity.
Other water sports excursions in Dubai include deep-sea fishing, a fun day out that appeals to tourists from all over the world, who can brave the waters of the Persian Gulf to catch fish of all shapes and sizes.
Perhaps the most interesting excursion to take in Dubai is to discover the Sultanate of Oman. The country borders the United Arab Emirates and one of the most beautiful places is the Musandam Peninsula, located a few hours’ drive from Dubai. Here you will find beautiful fjords, and you are given the opportunity to sail them on board a typical boat, with many stops for refreshing baths and spectacular photos.
Although it is not easy, there is even a chance to spot dolphins. An excursion like this can be extended by a few days, making it a true mini-tour of Oman, passing also through its capital Muscat before returning to Dubai, usually after two or three days.
City Card allow you to save on public transport and / or on the entrances to the main tourist attractions.