Well, I am no expert! But here’s my experience from the couple of days spent in Dubai. So if you are visiting Dubai for the first time, this can be your quick guide to the city (definitely, not comprehensive).
The three things that you must check out are:
- Shopping Malls
- Places to see
- and Food (of course!!)
Shopping Malls: Dubai is supposed to be the shopper’s paradise. You can get anything you want there – branded or fake, chinese or american..you name it, you will find it. If you are looking for good bargains on electronics, watches or gold, try Mina Bazaar. A full set of streets lined with shops, where you have work on the bargain. Hypermarkets are very popular. Carrefour and Lulu are huge and you will find some good deals there too, if you don’t mind the crowd. Spinneys and Mercato are nice too if you want a peaceful shopping experience.
Make sure you visit the Dubai Duty Free shops at the Dubai airport. In fact you should get all your chocolates, alcohol and smoke from there. There are two advantages here -
- Your check-in luggage will be lighter
- Dubai Duty Free have good deals
The Mall of Emirates is also a popular hangout. It also has an indoor ski slope, Ski Dubai. Another place I visited is the City Centre Mall. Both these malls have Carrefour.
Places to see:
I was recommended to visit Sheikh Zayed Road. And it is definitely worth one. It has all of Dubai’s sky scrapers, including the soon-to-be tallest building of the world, Burj Dubai. There is the seven star hotel, Burj Al Arab. I don’t know if you can go in but it is worth the sight from outside, especially after dark. There is a beach near the hotel. You can get a good camera angle from there!
I just enjoyed the long rides in Dubai. There are also some good amusement parks and of course, the indoor ski slope (both places, I didn’t go!)
The artificial islands, Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali are for real. You may have seen the Google Earth pictures. For a man-made structure, they are quite impressive. Entry is restricted to residents and officials on the island. So we were able to see only the main trunk road of one of the islands – Palm Jumeirah.
You should try lebanese cuisine. I missed it!! It’s basically clean and healthy food – not much spice and no much oil. You should definitely try the shawarma. I love it. Laban is Arabic for buttermilk and is available in tetra packs and plastic pet bottles. It is awesome. A famous company is Almarai.
You should also try out the Indian and Pakistani restaurants too. The biriyani you get there is very different from the ones you get in India. We visited a place called Karachi Darbar – nice place and good food.
If you are keen on Indian vegetarian food, there is the whole host of Indian vegetarian restaurants in Dubai including Saravana Bhavan, Vasantha Bhavan and Sangeetha for the South Indian fare.
If you like chocolates, you will find all variety there. Another must-try is the date biscuit. They are called Maamoul. It is biscuit with serious filling of fresh dates. I absolutely go nuts over this. My favourite brand is Al-Karamah. A box of 16 biscuits costs around 7-8 AED.
Stay. Hotel apartments seem a good option. They have all the amenities – phone, washing machine, microvave oven, electric stove etc. We stayed at Golden Sands in Bur Dubai.
Communication. There is only one provider – Etisalat. A new mobile connection would cost 165AED plus recharge. If you have a contact in Dubai, check whether they’ve a free sim card and just recharge it.
Internet. Hotels will have Internet but they’re very slow..even late in the night. We used to frequent an internet cafe in Al-Ain centre in Bur Dubai. They have wired and wireless connections and you can either use your own laptop or one of their desktops. The speed was decent enough and an hour cost 10 AED.
Language. If you know English, you can get around town without much issues. Knowledge of Hindi or Malayalam can have its special benefit. Lot of Indians and Pakistanis there, especially as cab drivers.
Also remember that UAE follow a Sunday to Thursday week. Most of the other GCC countries follow the Saturday to Wednesday schedule. Some companies in the UAE still follow the same schedule.
Hope this helps someone who is visiting Dubai. If you have anything to add to this list, please feel free to add as a comment here.
Taxis and buses are available as part of the public transport system. The buses look comfortable and in some places, even the bus stops are air-conditioned! Like I mentioned in my previous post, taxis are not freely available everywhere, everytime. There can be a waiting period before you get one. The other way is to book a taxi via telephone. But during peak hours in peak seasons (like Gitex), they don’t even pick up your call! I guess all their taxis are taken.
I don’t know about bus charges. But taxi fares start at AED 3 and during night hours, AED 3.5.