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Dubai Travel Guide

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Welcome to Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Introduction

Dubai is an amazing place to visit, a city of contrasts, where East meets West and old meets new. Situated on a coastal strip bordered by majestic desert and calm blue waters of the Arabian Gulf, Dubai offers year-round sunshine and a unique Arabian experience of fantastic scenery, world-class shopping, luxurious hotels and fabulous dining. Dubai has been transformed from a small fishing village to a modern vibrant city where celebrities holiday and the Dubai skyline competes to be the world's biggest, brightest and tallest.

Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. Dubai operates as a constitutional monarchy ruled by the Al Maktoum dynasty since 1833. The current ruler, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

While Dubai's economy was built on oil wealth, it does not have the oil reserves of Abu Dhabi. In the 1990s, Dubai launched an ambitious campaign to become one of the world's top tourist destinations supported by a huge program of hotel building and the launch of its Emirates airline. Today, Dubai is known for its man-made islands in the shape of palm trees and the map of the world and the reputation as an international shopping destination. It makes for a perfect stopover destination when travelling between Asia and Europe.

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Travel to Dubai

Dubai International Airport (DXB) is the largest airport hub in the Middle East and the home base of the Dubai's Emirates airline. The Dubai airport is located only 5 km from the city centre suburb of Deira with thousands of flights to Dubai arriving each day.

Taxi is the easiest the way to get to Dubai city. The journey time between the Dubai airport and city hotels is between 10 and 30 minutes depending on traffic. Jumeirah Beach hotels are 30 kms from the airport taking 30 mins to 1.5 hrs in traffic. If travelling to the Dubai airport it is advised to book a hotel taxi in advance as taxis can be difficult to find.

Metro - The Dubai Metro is planned to open late 2009 and will service stations at both Dubai Airport Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

Bus services are available from the airport to the Al Sabkha and Al Ghubaiba bus terminals.



Sharjah International Airport (SHJ) located in the Sharjah emirate is Dubai's original airport. The airport is 30mins drive from Dubai. Air Arabia, a low-cost carrier serving the Middle East and South Asia, is the main carrier.

Taxi is the easiest the way to get to Dubai city.



Maktoum International (JXB) is a new airport under construction in western Dubai. The airport is handling cargo flights and the passenger terminals are under construction. The airport is expected to open in 2010.



Cruise Ship - Dubai is fast becoming a major port of call for all the luxury cruise liners. The cruise terminal at Port Rashid and is able to handle 2 luxury liners simultaneously. The cruise terminal is designed with easy immigration and an infrastructure that ensures your time in Dubai is a pleasure.

Dubai Transport

Taxis are metered but can be difficult to find as there is an undersupply of taxis in Dubai. To avoid missing out it is advised to book a taxi from your hotel in advance.

Metro Rail system has commenced construction and the first line is scheduled to be complete by late 2009. There are plans for more than 6 metro lines covering various Dubai developments including the airports.

Dubai Metro Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road

Bus services are inexpensive but mainly useful for travelling between areas of central Dubai, or between the suburbs. The main bus stations are Gold Souq Market, Deira and Al Ghubaiba bus station, Bur Dubai. The most useful route for tourists is route 8 starting at the Gold Souq, travelling through the tunnel under the Creek, along Jumeirah Rd pass the hotels and malls, to Burj al-Arab, Wild Wadi and the Mall of the Emirates. [Fares start from AED1.50]

Car rental is popular to visit Dubai and the surrounding areas which are easy to drive around except the traffic conditions are heavily congested in the peak times. There are large parking lots at the shopping centers, hotels and other attractions but generally parking is scarce. Dubai drives on the right side of the road.

Abra is a small ferry traditionally used for crossing the Dubai creek. There are many Abra stations located along the Creek on both the Bur Dubai and Deira sides and a cross-river trip costs AED1 per passenger. This makes an inexpensive river tour for visitors.

Language

Arabic is the official language, however, English is spoken by people in the tourism business. Many staff at hotels, shops, restaurants and museums will speak English.

Culture

Islam is important in most aspects of life in UAE. On Fridays, government departments, schools and universities, multi-national companies and many shops and offices are closed, and the community gathers for prayers at noon. The holy festival of Ramadan, in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, requires Muslims to fast during daylight hours. During Ramadan, visitors to Dubai should refrain from eating or drinking in public places during daylight hours as it is a criminal offence. However, eating and drinking in hotels is acceptable. Also, there may be limited time for business meetings during Ramadan.

Tourists, especially women, should wear modest clothes to avoid causing offense or attracting unwanted attention from locals. Open public displays of affection such as passionate kissing, cuddling, caressing or petting are an offense which could lead to up to 6 months in prison. Western women should avoid visiting the Old Town on Fridays, unless accompanied by a male, as it is a holiday and the streets are packed with local Muslim men.

Dubai Weather

Summer in Dubai is very hot, with daytime temperatures over 36C (can reach 45C in July and August) with high humidity of 60-70%. At night temperatures can reach 30C. The cooler season, between October and April has more pleasant temperatures of 16-22C during the day and 10-16C (50-60F) at night. Sun protection is important as the UV exposure risk can be extreme especially in summer. December to April is the wettest season however the annual rainfall is only 10 cm yielding light showers.

Dubai Attractions

Burj Dubai Tower

Dubai Tower is the world's tallest building located near Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai between Dubai city and Jumeirah Beach.

Big Bus Tours is a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus that has two routes visiting Dubai's most famous attractions. The red route travels through the older parts of Dubai including Dubai Museum, Al Fahidi Fort, Spice Souk, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum's House, Dhow River Cruise. The blue route travels through Jumeirah and the recently constructed areas. The services are air-conditioned and include on-board commentary, in 8 languages, detailing the attractions near each stop for visitors to explore at your leisure. [Both routes start at the Wafi City mall Adult AED175]

Dubailand is the biggest and most ambitious building project in the world designed to elevate Dubai to the world's premier tourist destination. The project includes leisure, hotel, retail, entertainment, theme parks, residential areas, and the world's largest shopping mall.

Desert Safari, also known as Dune Bashing to locals, is a popular tour where visitors are taken to the desert in a 4WD and specialist desert drivers take you for a roller-coaster ride over red sand dunes. The tour may include a barbecue dinner with music and belly dancing.

Ferrari World is the world's largest indoor theme park featuring a host of rides and attractions to create an unforgettable experience for every member of the family. The feature attraction is the worlds fastest roller coaster where you will blast off and accelerate 0 - 240km/h in 4.9sec (0 -100km/h in 2sec) with a maximum acceleration force of 1.7G. Other thrill attractions include the G-Force tower ride, the V12 ride where you travel into the heart of a 12-cylinder Ferrari engine passing pistons, inner chambers and tight squeezes eventually exiting the exhaust, the Fiorano GT challenge roller coaster and state-of-the-art racing simulations. There are many family orientated rides, exhibitions and cinemas. There is a world just for kids where the Ferrari magic comes to life as children can get behind the wheel, learn to drive and cruise through mini streets in Ferrari cars just their size. The park is located in Abu Dhabi on Yas Island only a 10-minute drive from Abu Dhabi International Airport or a 90-minute drive from Dubai International Airport. The park opens 12 noon to midnight.

Snow Ski Dubai Dubai Ski Centre is located in the Mall of the Emirates shopping complex on the Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai.

Ski Dubai is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East and offers an amazing snow setting to enjoy skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing or just playing in the snow. There are 5 runs that vary in difficulty, height and steepness. The longest run being 400 meters with a fall of over 60 meters. Skiers and snowboarders of all skill levels will enjoy these various slopes and snowboarders can also practice their stunts on the 90-metre long quarter pipe. [Open Thu to Sat 10am-Midnight and Sun to Wed: 10am-11pm]

Dubai Creek & Abra Cruise dubai creek is highly recommended for visitors to experience the Dubai creek as it is the foundation from which Dubai grew into a port for trading vessels sailing between India, Africa and the Middle East. Today, some of the old shipping culture still remains and visitors can view some of the original buildings that have served as customs houses. The dinner cruise option is popular.

Dubai Museum is situated in Bur Dubai and is incorporated in the Al Sahidi Fort. The Fort was built in the late 18th century and was in the past a seat for the government and the rulers main residence. The restored fort now provides a fascinating insight into olden days in Dubai. [Admission AED3]

Jumeirah Mosque is located on Jumeirah Road opposite Palm Strip Mall and is a dominant landmark of the Dubai landscape being built in the medieval Fatimid tradition using modern building materials. It is one of the few Mosques which are open to non-Muslims for tours. There is a Cultural Centre designed to foster understanding between religions.

Palm Islands are the three largest artificial islands in the world and are a spectacular and amazing experience.

Dubai Zoo is located on Jumeirah Road near the beach and hotel districts.

Golf Dubai travel guide has become popular in Dubai. There are some of the world's most amazing golf courses with luscious green fairways and smooth greens. This truly is a golfer's paradise. Alternatively, for a more local flavor, try sand golf!

Diving and snorkeling - There are many dive operators in Dubai running day scuba diving trips to the wreck sites or take a 90 minute road journey to the East coast Emirate of Fujairah for excellent diving on coral reefs.

Hot Air Ballooning is available throughout the year as the Dubai region has excellent weather for ballooning. Experience the fun & unique sensation of being in a hot air balloon flying gently high above the sand dunes and mountains early in the morning during sunrise. Visitors are picked up early from their accommodation and taken inland to the desert where the balloon flight takes off at dawn.

Wild Wadi dubai Wild Wadi is a water amusement park situated between Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, it's just a 20-minute drive from the city centre. Themed around the tale of Juha, a popular character from Arabian folklore, the waterpark boasts 30 rides and attractions. [Open 10am 6pm, Adult AED195, child AED165]

Beautiful beaches with warm, clear water and white sand located on the Arabian Gulf invite visitors to participate in endless water-sport opportunities year round. Ocean temperatures range from 22C in winter up to 35C in summer.

Nightlife and Entertainment

Dubai skyline

Dubai's nightlife has grown considerably since Dubai launched it's ambitious campaign to become one of the world's top tourist destinations. Most bars and nightclubs are in or attached to hotels, though there may be separate entrances. The legal drinking age is 21 years and identification requirements are rigidly enforced.

Alcohol is only served at licensed premises and is not sold in supermarkets as it is illegal to drink alcohol in public places and alcohol is not generally consumed at home. Alcohol is not sold during daylight hours in Ramadan or on religious holidays. There are strong penalties for drunk driving which may include a jail sentence if involved in a collision.

Vu's Bar is a smart and sophisticated nightspot with impeccable service and a selection of the finest international cocktails. Vu's Bar is located on Level 51 of the Hotel Tower of Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the Dubai cityscape.

Sky View Bar at the Burj Al Arab Hotel, has incredible vistas, live music and entertainment in an opulent and sophisticated setting. Reservations must be made several days ahead.

Jumeirah Beach Hotel has a Bar on the 24th floor with spectacular views over Dubai beach and the Burj al-Arab Hotel.

Dining

There are many restaurants in Dubai serving a huge range of cuisine from around the world. Lebanese restaurants are plentiful and popular. Most hotels have at least one restaurant serving an international cuisine such as French, Italian, Japanese, Indian etc. The restaurants in hotels are of very high quality and can be expensive.

Visitors can purchase inexpensive meals at shopping center cafes and food courts. American fast food chains are in Dubai, including KFC, Starbucks and McDonalds.

Al Dawaar Revolving Restaurant, Hyatt Regency, Deira is Dubai's only revolving restaurant. It is a beautiful restaurant that has breathtaking panoramic views of the Dubai cityscape and serves an assortment of cuisines. [Lunch 12.30pm-3.30pm, dinner 7pmmidnight]

Shopping Dubai

Dubai is known as a shopper's paradise, whether it's designer label products, gold and jewellery or a range of locally-made souvenirs, the choice is endless. There are many modern and magnificent shopping malls as well as traditional souks (markets). Shopping hours are 10am to 6pm, however during Ramadan when shops are closed for large parts of the day, many shopping malls open to 10pm. Prices in the malls and other Western shops are not negotiable but bargaining is acceptable in the markets.

Shopping Dubai Festival was launched in 1996 and is the biggest shopping and entertainment event in the Dubai Middle East during January and February each year. Almost every retail outlet takes part with everything on sale from gold and perfume to electronics and textiles. There are many events including fashion shows, fireworks and the world's richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, takes place during the festival.

Mall of the Emirates is one of the largest shopping malls in the world with the widest variety of shopping, including luxury designer brands, international high street outlets, teen fashion, furniture, electronics, accessories, jewellery, shoes, bags, toys, bookseverything you could possibly wish for! There is also a cinema complex and the Dubai Ski Centre. [Open Sunday - Wednesday 10am - 10pm, Thurs - Saturday 10am midnight, Carrefour opens 9am midnight every day. Mall of the Emirates offers a complimentary shuttle bus service between Dubai's major hotels and the mall.]

Deira City Centre is a large and very popular mall in Dubai. There are over 370 retail outlets including cinemas, restaurants, cafes and a Carrefour hypermarket. [Open Sunday to Wednesday 10am to 10pm, Thursday to Saturday 10am to midnight]

Emirates Towers Boulevard is part of the Jumeirah Emirates Tower Hotel complex, Dubai's finest city hotel, located on Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai in the centre of Dubai's commercial business district just 12 km from Dubai International Airport. The mall is considered the most expensive in Dubai with very high class shops merchandising international luxury designer brands. This is a popular nightlife spot with many restaurants, bars and nightclubs. [Open Daily 10am-10pm, Fri 4pm-10pm.]

Mercato (Italian for market) is a large themed mall which brings together the choicest lifestyle offerings from the Mediterranean, in addition to many exclusive international brands, restaurants, cafes and cinemas. The mall is based on a distinctive Renaissance architectural concept capturing Italian, French and Spanish influences. It is ideally located on Jumeirah Beach Road, one of the fastest growing residential and retail districts in the city.

IBN Battuta Mall is a large themed shopping mall revolutionizing the retail and entertainment experience in Dubai. Uniquely designed to celebrate the travels of the famous Arabic explorer Ibn Battuta, it is an exciting mix of over 275 retailers, 50 restaurants and food outlets, 21 cinema screens including an IMAX theatre. [Open Sun-Wed 10am -10pm, Thu-Sat 10am - midnight, Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai between interchanges 5 and 6]

Town Centre Jumeirah, located on Jumeirah Beach Road, is a great place to shop, relax and casually dine. As well as many shops, there is an indoor/outdoor food court with a large selection of international cuisine.

Wafi Mall indulges in a unique up-market shopping experience, with over 350 stores offering the world's most original and influential brands within an Egypt-themed architecture. The mall has many upmarket restaurants and bars which are licensed. The mall is conveniently located just south of the Creek and only 10 minutes from Dubai International Airport. [Wafi operates complementaryshuttle buses to and from a number of Dubaihotels, open Sat toWed 10am to 10pm, Thurs and Fri10amto midnight]

Festival City is another amazing mall which has 550 shops including Ikea and many electronics stores.

Burjuman Centre is a shopping mall situated on the Trade Centre Road in Dubai Bur, and has over 300 retail outlets. If you like designer then this is the place to visit with household names such as Saks 5th Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Dior, DKNY, Polo and more. [Sat-Thu 10am-10pm, Fri 2pm-10pm]

Souk Madinat Jumeirah opened in 2004 and is part of the Madinet Jumeirah complex located on the beach next to the world famous Burj Al Arab hotel, and is designed in traditional Arabic fashion. Visitors will enjoy a night out within the complex as there is a vast choice of restaurants and bars, where you can sit alongside the waterfront and enjoy the atmosphere and the setting.

Dubai Outlet Mall is marketed as the first dedicated shopping Dubai mall for all factory outlets and the biggest outlet mall in the world.

Markets

Gold Souk is a historic market located at the mouth of the Dubai creek. Visitors are amazed by the large quantities of gold for sale. Gold items are sold by weight at the current international gold price with a markup for the workmanship. Shoppers can bargain the markup but generally not the price of the gold.

Spice Souk is a historic market located at the mouth of the Dubai creek near the gold market. The market is declining in popularity as supermarkets are more convenient and the market is not air-conditioned.

Beyond Dubai

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and is only 1.5hours drive from Dubai. It is well worth a visit to contrast with Dubai. Note that Abu Dhabi is more conservative than Dubai and visitors should dress appropriately.