Dubai – the place that quickly bacame a dream destination for millions of people. This city in 1960s used to be just a desert with few ethnic citizens. Now it’s a lively metropolis that develops in unbelievable pace. Toursits are flooded by attractions breaking all world records: highest buildings, biggest malls, best hotels, artificial islands and many many more… Interested? Read our Things To Do In Dubai – Travel Guide to find out what spots are waiting there for you!
How To Get In Dubai
Dubai Al Maktoum (DWC) is a small, brand-new airport in the far suburbs of Dubai that operates low cost flights.
There are hundreds of options to get in Dubai from around the world. Cheapest options from Europe are Wizz Air flights from Budapest (Hungary), Katowice (Poland), Bucharest, Cluj Napoca (Romania), Sofia (Bulgaria).
Dubai International Airport (DXB) is the main airport in Dubai used mostly by traditional (rather expensive) carriers. It’s quite close to the center and perfectly linked with the center by Green Line of the metro.
Budapest – Dubai World Central Al Maktoum – Budapest (Wizz Air, $180)
FROM AIRPORT TO THE CITY
Dubai Al Maktoum airport – Ibn Battuta Metro Bus Stop – Dubai Al Maktoum airport (bus F55, costs 5 AED (approx. $1.40), goes every full hour from 6am to 22pm, takes 40 minutes). The bus stop is in the front of the terminal.
If you land at night, you need to take bus F55A to Satwa Bus Station, which departs every full hour from 11 pm to 5 am.
How To Get Around Dubai
To use public transport you need to buy a card. You can buy it at the RTA counter at the airport. There are a few kinds of cards for public transport but we recommend to invest in NOL Silver Card. It costs 25 AED (approx. $7) and acts like a e-purse. You get 19 dirhams (approx. $5) for the start and can charge it anytime and for how much you want at the ticket offices and vending machines around Dubai. In the end of your holidays you can empty your NOL card at RTA counters except that one at the Al-Maktoum airport. The card is valid for metro, buses and trams. We used almost all means of transport in Dubai to see this city in the most efficient way.
PRICES FOR PUBLIC TRANSPORT (with NOL Silver Card)
– within 1 zone/ 3 AED (approx. $0.81)
– 2 Zones/ 5 AED (approx. $1.37)
– More than 2 zones / 7.5 AED (approx. $2.05)
You can reach some attractions by the metro. There are 2 lines of metro in Dubai: Red and Green. Red Line goes through the famous highway Sheik Zayed Road and takes you to modern parts of Dubai with great spots like Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall and Dubai Marina. Green line links DXB airport with the old district of Dubai – Deira. Metro stations are huge, modern buildings with golden roofs and all of them look completely the same, so it’s easy to notice them, even from long distance. Metro’s carriages are unbelievably clean and well-maintained. Remember not to drink, eat or chew gum inside the train – there are huge fines for doing it.
If you want to see Burj Al Arab or Madinat Jumeirah (of course you want!) you need to take a bus. Always after hopping on a bus, touch the reader with your card and don’t forget to touch again just before you hope off. If you forget, the system will charge you for the whole remaining route (to the last stop). What’s interesting is that bus stops have air-con inside and look a bit unusually.
In Dubai there’s a short tram line, which you can use for a ride between Dubai Marina and the bottom of the Palm Jumeirah. It’s slow, but comfortable and clean. Unlike in buses, card readers are not inside trams but on the platforms.
To move on the Palm Jumeirah it’s interesting to use private train Palm Monorail. It’s a special train that runs only on one truck and has no driver. It connects the bottom of the Palm (Gateway station) with the top (Atlantis Aquaventure station) and presents beautiful views. By Monorail you can reach Aquaventure Waterpark and see the famous Atlantis Hotel or stylish housing on the Palm with the Arabian Gulf in the background. It goes every 15 minutes and costs 15 AED (approx. $4)/ OW or 25 AED (approx. $7)/ RT.
To get around Dubai Marina try a short ride on the board of Water Bus. It goes every 15-20 minutes between Marina Mall, Marina Walk, Marina Promenade and Marina Terrace. Tickets are fairly cheap – between 3-11 AED / OW (approx. $0.80-$3) and can be bought at the counter next to your water stop. Water buses have air-con and it’s very possible that no other passengers will be travelling with you, as we noticed that it’s a bit hidden attraction of Dubai. We took a route between Marina Walk and Marina Mall for 5 AED (approx. $1.40) and really enjoyed it! We floated through the whole Marina surrounded by amazing skyscrapers! Apart from being just a mean of transport, water bus is a must-do attraction among all awesome things to do in Dubai.
Taxis in Dubai are cheap and easy to be found, so sometimes it can be a good idea, especially for short distances or if you travel with your friends. A regular taxi has a creamy color with a roof in some other one, most popular are red-roof taxis (there are many colors of taxis’ roofs – it’s not really important for you, but remember that pink-roof taxis are intended only for women and kids and drivers are only women as well.
Starting fare with street pickup: 3 AED (approx. $0.82)
Starting fare when booked: 6 AED (approx. $1.64)
Meter fare: 1.6 AED/ km (approx. $0.44)
Things To Do In Dubai
If you are planning to visit Dubai, you need to know that you surely won’t get bored there. There are plenty of fantastic things to do in Dubai. We can only assure you that this city really has a lot to offer for tourists. Here you are the most worth-seeing places there:
There are many interesting things to do in Dubai but visiting the tallest skyscraper in the world (of all time) is definitely a must. 829.8 meters high. The proud of Dubai, which broke tons of world’s records. You can get at the top by a fast elevator in only 1 minute and 22 seconds, where spreads an unbelievable view on the city.
Tickets at the top bought online cost 125 AED (approx. $34) for admissions between 8.30 am to 3 pm and between 6.30 pm to closing. However, for prime hours (from 3.30 pm to 6 pm) tickets cost 200 AED (approx. $55). Don’t forget to buy your ticket online because on the spot they cost 300 AED (approx. $82). Our tip for you is to plan your visit there at 3 pm to get cheaper tickets, see Dubai during daylight and wait a bit to see the sunset from the top.
World’s largest choreographed fountain system. Its magnificent shows take place daily in front of Burj Khalifa every 30 minutes from 6 to 11 pm. Also you can attend afternoon shows daily (except Fridays) at 1 and 1:30 pm and on Fridays at 1:30 and 2 pm. Seeing this shows was an unforgettable experience and one of the most moving and romantic things to do in Dubai. And also some good news for budget travellers – the show is free of charge, so you don’t have to pay at least for this attraction :)
Next to Burj Khalifa you’ll find the world’s largest mall with over 1200 stores. Apart from typical stores there’s the enormous Dubai Aquarium with over 400 sharks and rays, Ice Rink and world’s largest candy store (btw: candies are delicious there).
As you can see, there are so many engaging things to do in Dubai Mall that you wouldn’t be able to get bored there!
BURJ AL ARAB
One of the world’s most luxurious hotels. It’s designed to be in a shape of the ship’s sail and it’s build on a small artificial island. You can admire it while relaxing on the Umm Suqeim Beach (Sunset Beach).
A 5 kilometer-long artificial archipelago with attractions like Atlantis Hotel and Aquaventure Waterpark on the north edge of the island. Definitely one of the most amazing things to do in Dubai! In the park you can try extreme water slides (for us the best ones are: The Leap of Faith, Poseidon’s Revenge, Zoomerango), long lazy rivers and Shark Safari (now Atlantis Aqua Trek). What is it? It’s a 20 minutes walking at the bottom of the pool surrounded by blacktip reef sharks and rays. Keep in mind that it costs fairly much – 315 AED (approx. $86) and you can’t do this without buying a pass to the park but it was really worth it and we absolutely recommend that. The nicest way to move on the island is by Monorail train. Check out our note about this above in the section “How to get around Dubai: Monorail”.
Costs: 1 Day Pass to the Aquaventure costs 260 AED (approx. $70), small locker 40 AED (approx. $11), large locker 75 AED (approx. $21). Here’s our advice – a small locker is suitable for 2 people.
Notice: A worker of the security control in Aquaventure Waterpark didn’t pay attention that we brought our own food and drinks on the park premises (it’s not permitted according to the rules). Try your luck as you will spend many hours in the waterpark and dining inside is extremely expensive.
Luxurious district in Dubai with an artificial canal in the middle surrounded by impressive skyscrapers. It’s a wonderful place to walk around or if it’s too hot – to take a water bus (detailed description of a water bus ride we wrote above in the section “How to get around Dubai: Water bus”). Also there’s Dubai Marina Mall nearby where on the top floor (food court) you can find a terrace with a view over the whole Marina.
Large and extraordinary resort close to Burj Al Arab. It was designed to look like a traditional, historical Arabic town. It’s full of canals, gardens, bridges. Great place especially for people who love greenery, peace and lazy walks in a shadow of palm leaves. The entrance is free for everyone, but to take a ride on abra (traditional wooden boat) you need to be a guest of the resort.
MALL OF THE EMIRATES
Another huge shopping mall, but there’s one thing that makes this place special – Ski Dubai. It’s first indoor ski resort and snow park in the Middle East. It’s probably one of the most unusual things to do in Dubai and the whole Middle East :) If you’d like to feel the winter in a desertic country – go there, wear skis and test out the 400-metre-long slope. The temperature there is set at minus 1-2 °C , so the snow doesn’t melt.
There are many options to choose but a standard pass for ski slopes costs 210 AED (approx. $57) for 120 minutes or 310 AED (approx. $85) for all day with multiple entries. What’s good is that a pass includes a jacket, trousers, skis, ski boots, snowboard, snowboard boots, ski poles and disposable socks. You need to pay extra 30 AED (approx. $8) for a locker. If you still have some money to spend, you will have a possibility to meet penguins there to hug them and play with them! Unfortunately, this attraction is pricey – 510 AED (approx. $139). To make things worse, you can’t bring your own camera and pics made by workers are very expensive as well.
Sleeping, Eating, Safety and other tips
Dubai is famous for its luxurious hotels and resorts, but if you can’t afford to pay over 7000 AED (approx. $1900) for a night in the cheapest room in Burj Al Arab you will need to find something from limited budget options. Yes, it’s not easy to sleep on a budget in Dubai and a standard double room goes for 150 AED (approx. $40). Sometimes there are discounts that cut prices to 100 AED (approx. $28). Don’t forget about city tax for 10AED (approx. $3)/night/person. Most of the cheap accommodations you will find in the old district of Dubai – Deira.
We picked the 4-star Arabian Dreams Hotel Apartments in a nice neighborhood Al Raffa. And it was a great choice. Because of a mistake made by the hotel (our room turned out to be booked for someone else for that period), they gave us a big apartment instead for all 5 nights with no additional costs! We paid a discounted price of 180 AED for a night in a room, which normally costs 210 AED and got an apartment for 410 AED/ night. What a deal! :) Apart from that, the hotel was clean and renovated, staff friendly, the apartment spacious and comfy. There’s also a small supermarket nearby.
Moreover, the hotel is located in the area of mosques that provides an authentic Middle East atmosphere. Between the hotel and the closest metro station ADCB there’s a nice settlement for Emirati citizens, where you can see their beautiful houses and how they live. To sum up, Arabian Dreams Hotel made our trip special, had everything we needed, so we recommend it for you as well!
Notice: Due to obtaining Sharia law, you mustn’t share the room with your partner, if you’re not married. Some hotels can ask you to show your marriage certificate.
As there are many shopping malls in the whole Dubai their food courts are the best places to eat tasty diners. In main malls, food courts include dozens of counters with dishes from around the world. It’s easy to find something for anyone, however sometimes finding the place to seat is not so easy though. For a standard meal you need to pay at least 30-40 AED (approx. $8-$11).
Products for breakfasts and suppers we were buying in supermarkets in malls or in a shop close to our hotel. Prices of food products are reasonable, cheaper than in Western Europe countries. Expensive ones are meat and fruits/vegs. What suprised us is that water or other drinks are quite cheap, even from vending machines. You will need to drink a lot in Dubai, especially if you’re planning to go there in summer when the temperature passes 40 degrees. Alcoholic beverages are not easy to find and can be bought only with the permission that you get can at the police station (or you can order overpriced drinks in posh restaurants).
Dubai is the safest place we’ve ever been to. We have never felt anxious there, even when walking around at the night in darker areas. The law is strict and effective. You shoudn’t worry about the safety in Dubai.
Work week in Dubai is from Sunday to Thursday. Friday is a first day of the weekend and a prayer day for Muslims. On friday some smaller shops and restaurants open a few hours later because of morning prayers.
Always dress up properly, according to the habits in Muslim countries, even if it’s extremely hot outside. Of course, you don’t have to cover your body as muslims do, but it’s forbidden to wear shorts and sleeveless shirts. Women should also avoid miniskirts, short dresses and any provocative clothes. Although Dubai is one of the most liberal cities in the Middle East, it’s always principal to respect local culture. Surely, you can wear a swimsuit on the beaches.
You may need to use lots of sun cream, but you don’t need to take it from home. We found a big bottle of strong sun cream in a drugstore in Dubai Marina Mall for only 10 AED (approx. $3).
Dirham AED is the currency of Emirates. We are funs of paying for everything and everywhere by debit cards. If we need to have notes, we take them from ATMs rather than going to exchange offices. In Dubai this method of payment is accepted almost everywhere. But, remember!: when a cashier asks you if you’d like to pay by card a) with a guaranteed rate in the currency of your home country or b) in the local currency, always pick the second option. It’s a long subject to explain and not for a travel blog, so simply: It’s always cheaper to pay by card in the local currency. It’s the same with withdrawing money from ATMs. This situation is common in Dubai, so don’t let to be screwed.
How Much Does It Cost? (per person)
Visa on Arrival: free (for 30 days)
flights RT: $180
public transport (Nol Silver Card): 60 AED (approx. $16)
Monorail: 25 AED (approx. $7)
Water Bus: 5 AED (approx. $1.40)
taxi (3 times): 46 AED/ 2 persons = 23 AED (approx. $6)
Burj Khalifa at the top: 125 AED (approx. $34)
Aquaventure Waterpark 1 day pass: 260 AED (approx. $70)
locker in Aquaventure: 20 AED (approx. $5.50)
Shark Safari: 315 AED (approx. $86)
hotel and city tax: 500 AED (approx. $136)
food spending: 280 AED (approx. $76)
souvenir: 2 AED (approx. $0.50)
TOTAL for the whole trip: $619
Spending for 1 day (food + transport + accommodation): $47
Notice: As you can see it has been our most expensive trip so far, but Dubai was one of our dream destinations, so we decided to spend a bit more. There are alluring things to do in Dubai, so it can be hard to spend little money there. For example we paid 600 AED (approx. $164) /person for visiting Aquaventure Waterpark on Palm Jumeirah. If you are not a water park lover you can easily cut the cost of a similar trip by 30 %.
You shouldn’t be worried what things to do in Dubai, but more about how to organize time for all this wonderful attractions! We hope you liked our guide on what Things To Do In Dubai and we encouraged you to visit this incredible city!