The comments on our call for Dubai tips don’t shy away from the city’s less appealing points. But they’re certainly useful intel if you have any travel planned in the near future. Here are some highlights.
Each Monday on Hack Your City, we ask readers for your best tips on a city: driving tips, restaurant recs, things to do, and any other advice for visitors and locals. Then on Thursday, we present the best comments. We’re working our way around the U.S. and around the globe.
Visiting Dubai on a budget is tough but doable. A good suggestion is using Careem (the local ride-sharing app, similar to Uber) as it’s significantly cheaper than local Taxis. Opt in to eat at small local restaurants instead of large restaurants you find in touristic areas (for help with that, either find a local or use Yelp/Zomato).
There is a “Questions and Answering” presentation where no question is off limits. […] Foreigners and westerners get to ask whatever otherwise embarrassingly inappropriate question they wish and it’s answered as if it’s a real opportunity to educate the audience on Arab culture, Islam, Dubai, etc.
Sami, who’s lived in Dubai for 10 years, has a long list of tips you should read before you go. A few good ones:
Dubai Metro has a gold compartment which is not super expensive and worth the extra money in terms of comfort.
There are plenty of laundry shops around mall of the emirates. Your hotel laundry services would probably be expensive.
If you are into Persian cuisine; there is a wonderful authentic old restaurant closer by called Ostadi. Try their Kebabs and rice. The owners run tables themselves at times and are genuinely nice and friendly people.
Go on a weekday and have breakfast at the At.mosphere restaurant. Beautiful view, no crowd, sunrises, etc. When you combine the ride up and the meal, it’s a much better value than the other Burj tickets (At The Top, etc.)
Friday and Saturday are the official weekend days, and its very common among the locals to go have a sumptuous Friday brunch at one of the many hotel restaurants (which are very popular in Dubai) or chic cafes.
Treybert has a hack for arranging a one-day Dubai visit:
If you’re flying Emirates, and if you have a layover overnight, they will give you a free hotel stay. I had a trip to Vietnam where we arrived in Dubai around noon, but our connecting flight was in the morning. This allowed us to spend the day seeing the sights.
JubiTheGreat gives several tips and recommended activities. Some highlights:
Flying into Abu Dhabi can be a great deal instead of flying into Dubai directly. Etihad provides a free shuttle between the Abu Dhabi airport and Dubai but you can only take it within 24 hours of your flight.
According to Hashish16, not all visitors are treated equally:
I’m South Asian and we all noticed restaurants would go out of their way to serve others first. We talked to some Africans and East Asians that had the same experience.
Hashish16 also recommends taking a joy ride in the sand dunes:
Dune Bashing: Don’t forget to plan a day. Go for a ride in a Toyota Landcruiser through the desert, then go to a camp where they have food, sheesha’s, camel rides, belly dancers, and shopping. Just make sure you get a private car because you don’t want to be cramped with strangers. Amazing sunset, like Star Wars.
The jeep rides in the sand dunes (with dinner and camel rides later) are freakin’ awesome. It’s like a half hour roller coaster ride; they zoom you up one side of the dune, try to catch some air going over the top edge, then slalom down the other side, and repeat until they get you to the dinner-in-the-desert site. The dinner was pretty good, the camel rides are fun, and they let you smoke a hookah (or is it a sheesh?).
They also have their own warnings:
It’s illegal to photograph the local women (it’s okay if they wander into your shot, but don’t take a photo of a woman). It’s illegal to photograph police officers, police cars, and government buildings. Yes, even accidentally. It’s illegal to do a lot of things, and it’s not always obvious to a visitor what sorts of things might be a problem. They did reassure us that most foreigners who get into trouble just get deported promptly, rather than put in jail.
And, of course, Dubai effectively has a bit of slave labour, which I didn’t know at the time and which bothers me a lot now. Construction workers and cleaning staff, in some cases, are basically trapped there because their employer took their passport, and the wages are often not what was promised or even adequate.