Dubai is “bling city” and proud of it. Everything here is bigger, taller and often crazier too. But there’s something about this wonderfully over-the-top oasis that wins you over. It’s such an entertaining place that next time you’re in transit or dropping in for business, it’s well worth adding a few extra days to explore.
Oil money saw the city shoot up around what used to be a fishing village in quite a brief timeframe. Now this high-rise, money-driven city boasts excellent restaurants, flashy hotels and a scintillating nightlife.
About 80% of the population are foreigners so there’s also a real mish-mash of cultures. And if bling isn’t your thing, you can shun the glitz and glamour and find decent restaurants or cheap street food, markets to rummage around in and hotels where not everything is gold plated. There are also some still fascinating traces of the old Arabian lifestyle left.
Take a jacket or a wrap. Yes, the heat is enough to melt the soles of your shoes, but the air conditioning inside most buildings is permanently set to freezing. Don’t even think of going outside without sunglasses, because the light can be far too bright for naked eyes. Don’t go out with naked anything, really. Dubai may be liberal by Middle Eastern standards, but scantily clad foreigners still offend.
English is the business language and is spoken by most people that any casual visitor would meet. All road and shop signs, menus and tourist information leaflets are in Arabic and English.
Alcohol is available in clubs, hotels and tourist-oriented venues, but it’s expensive
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is GMT +3 hours with no Daylight Saving Time.
The currency is the dirham (AED), pegged to the US Dollar at a rate of $1 = Dhs3,67. You can change money in banks, hotels and forex offices, or draw cash from the plentiful ATMs. Credit and debit cards are widely used.
It’s scorching. Even in winter you can tan in 10 minutes, while summer temperatures from June to September can top 48°C. It’s also very humid so you’ll get sweaty. You won’t see any rain, because it very rarely does.
The UAE uses British-style electrical plugs with three square pins and the standard voltage is 240V.
No problem here. Dubai’s communications system is thoroughly jacked so there’s excellent mobile coverage and hotspots aplenty.
The high-speed train system makes getting around a doddle. It’s easy to use, cheap and efficient. With typical Dubai flash, it was built on sky-high tracks rather than underground, so you get fabulous views on the journey. If the train doesn’t go where you need to be, taxis are everywhere.
Airport to City Center
The quickest and cheapest way in from the airport is by metro train. They run every 10 minutes, except on Friday mornings when they only start at 1pm. There are connecting buses and taxi ranks at most stations when you disembark, although most major hotels and tourist destinations are close to a station. You buy your ticket from the machines first which have instructions in English. There are buses into the city too and again you buy a transport card before you get on. There are also taxis available and car hire agencies.