Throughout much of history, the Middle-east was the centre of the world. As the staging point for major 3 world religions and the spine of the silk road, the Middle-east was the epicentre of trade, culture and human advancement.
And once again, the Middle-east is once more establishing itself as the middle of the world. The oil and tech boom has seen multinational companies shift their operations eastwards, and of course Middle-eastern airports serve as transport hubs for air traffic from Europe towards Asia and Australia.
This is what we are going to talk about today. If you ever take a flight from London to Bangkok or Paris to Sydney, there is a good chance that you will be changing somewhere in the United Arab Emirates and most probably in Dubai.
Getting The Most From Dubai
Rather than simply having to hang around in an airport for a few hours, let the long haul flight layover in Dubai present the opportunity to explore the wonderful city of Dubai.
Dubai is well set up for shortish trips and there are even sightseeing buses that do a 4 hour loop from the airport. These are perfect for those with layovers of just 6 – 12 hours.
However, the best way to experience Dubai is if you have at least one night. You can usually arrange this with your airline and ask them to schedule your onwards flight for the next day. Alternatively, you can jump on Skyscanner and book each leg of your journey individually giving you full control.
Many passport holders can get a short stay tourist visa issued on arrival, no-questions asked. However, do note that clearing customs is not always so straightforward and backpackers are routinely targeted for full, invasive bag searches on the way in and out of the airport. If it happens to you, it can be frustrating and will slow down your progress by at least 30 minutes. Try to stay calm, courteous and cooperative even if you feel you have been “singled out” and even if the custom officials are not exactly pleasant.
Safety In Dubai
At this point, a quick word on the rules in Dubai. The United Arab Emirates are ruled by fairly authoritarian royal dynasties who lean towards Islamic Conservatism. Some customs are a bit different from back in the west. In order to avoid falling foul of the authorities, simply dress modestly (but ladies don’t have to cover their face of hair), drink only in licensed bars and restaurants, avoid lewd behaviour and do not say anything that could offend Islam! Oh, and for some reason drinking water in the metro is punishable by a fine.
Accommodation in Dubai
Accomodation in Dubai can be on the pricey side. There are no shortage of high end hotels if you are looking to put $100 per night or so down. If you are budget conscious then I suggest getting into Airbnb and trying to find a private room in an apartment – these can sometimes be picked up for as little as $30.
Food in Dubai
The Dubai food scene is basically one big international buffet.
Whilst there are loads of high-end Michellin starred restaurants, you can find taste sensations at every corner for all budgets. My tip is to dive into the “local” falafel and shawarma joints that do a raft of middle eatern cuisine at great prices. I recommended Fattoush, Shawarma’s washed down with Pomegranate juice.
What To See and Do in Dubai
There is no shortage of cool stuff to do in Dubai. If you are into shopping then there are loads of malls packed with chic boutiques – these do tend to be on the expensive side so may not be for anybody.
One of the most striking things about Dubai is the sheer abundance of tall buildings and there are loads of world record you can experience in the city state such as the tallest building in the world, the highest restaurant in the world, the fattest roller coster and the worlds largest hand knitted carpet!
For a panoramic view of the city you can take your pick of these tall buildings and head up to the viewing platforms. Admission costs vary. The best time to see the city panorama is at sunset although the platforms do get crowded.
My personal top tip for Dubai is to visit the Palm Jumeirah monorail. It is essentially a mono-rail that goes to a man-made sand island. The ride is epic and offers a soul stirring view of the city and takes in some sublime and awesome neo-mughal architecture – it has to be experienced and is best around sunset when the light is changing.
Tips For Surviving Dubai
Dubai can is a fast-paced, buzzing city. It often feels like Dubai never sleeps and that everything is happening at once. Whilst this is exhilarating, it can also be tiring and kind of stressful. If you also factor in the inevitable bit of jet-lag & heat, then this could all be quite overwhelming for a visitor.
The first thing you need to do is stay hydrated. Dubai is hot so make sure you bring a water bottle and keep it filled up. The tap water is not really good to drink but there are drinking fountains in malls and bottles are available across the city.
Fortunately, the good news is that Dubai does respite and relaxation just as well as it does excitement. All across Dubai there are world class spas, treatment and wellness centres available. Whether you want a thai massage, a sauna or even a facial, you can pop into a great Dubai spa and get your relax-on! The most well regarded Dubai spas and treatment centres can fill up so we recommend booking ahead on-line and securing your reservation.
Final Thoughts on Visiting Dubai
Dubai is a futuristic vision of a city state and will blow your mind. We hope that you found this quick useful and that you have an awesome time in Dubai. Just don’t forget to make time to visit one of Dubai’s top Spas and remember to book ahead!