Home to one of the busiest airports in the world, Dubai has long been a transit hub for international travelers, but this futuristic metropolis in the United Arab Emirates is now a must-visit destination in its own right. So, instead of just passing through on your way to somewhere else, find out why you should make Dubai your next vacation destination.
The official and national language of the Dubai is Arabic, but English is used as a second language.
The currency in Dubai is Arab Emirates Dirham, more commonly known as Emirati Dirham. It is used throughout the UAE. The Dubai currency – when abbreviated – is known as the "AED" (officially) or the "DHs" (unofficially). Currency notes come in the Denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000, each with an alluring yet similar colour, which can also get confusing at times. 100 Fils (A subdivision of Dirham) makes up 1 Dirham.
Credit Cards and ATMs: ATMs are a great option to withdraw exchanged currency in Dubai. The international financial hub that Dubai is, you will never face any issues in finding an ATM, whether you are at a mall, the airport, metro stations, or just on the street. All foreign and Indian banks have their ATMs in the city as there are more digital transactions here than cash. Check if your local bank has an ATM in Dubai. This way, you will be able to withdraw cash and avoid paying the ATM fees. Foreign Credit Cards work flawlessly in Dubai. But you need to check a few things before such as, Check if your credit card is an international card. If it is, check whether the UAE is on the list.
Tipping in Dubai While there's no such rule that tipping is compulsory in Dubai, if you like a service, you can definitely be generous and give a small tip. It is totally upon your personal preference. No one would give you the angry eyes or frown if you decide not to tip. Just a thank you from your end would make their day.
The big hotels in Dubai are pretty much guaranteed to accept dollars and euros for all services. This includes the Burj Al Arab, the Emirates Palace, and the St Regis, as well as more mid-range chains. Even the souks of Dubai now widely accept dollars but be aware that most stalls will only take cash payment.
Places to visit
Glitzy Dubai is the United Arab Emirates' holiday hot spot. This city of high-rises and shopping malls has transformed itself from a desert outpost to a destination du-jour, where tourists flock for sales bargains, sunshine, and family fun.
- Burj Khalifa: Dubai's landmark building is the Burj Khalifa, which at 829.8 meters is the tallest building in the world and the most famous of the city's points of interest. For most visitors, a trip to the observation deck on the 124th floor here is a must-do while in the city. The views across the city skyline from this bird's-eye perspective are simply staggering. The slick observation deck experience includes a multimedia presentation on both Dubai and the building of the Burj Khalifa (completed in 2010) before a high-speed elevator whizzes you up to the observation deck for those 360-degree views out across the skyscrapers to the desert on one side and the ocean on the other. Nighttime visits are particularly popular with photographers due to Dubai's famous city-lights panoramas. Buy your Burj Khalifa "At the Top" Entrance Ticket in advance to avoid long line-ups, especially if you are planning to visit on a weekend. Back on the ground, wrapping around the Burj Khalifa, are the building's beautifully designed gardens, with winding walkways. There are plenty of water features including the Dubai Fountain, the world's tallest performing fountain, modeled on the famous Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.
- Dubai Mall: Dubai Mall is the city's premier mall and provides entry to the Burj Khalifa, as well as the Dubai Aquarium. There is also an ice-skating rink, gaming zone, and cinema complex if you're looking for more entertainment options. The shopping and eating is endless, and there are nearly always special events such as live music and fashion shows within the mall. The most famous of these are the annual Dubai Shopping Festival in January and February and the Dubai Summer Surprises Festival in July and August.
- Dubai Museum: Dubai's excellent museum is housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 to defend Dubai Creek. The fort's walls are built out of traditional coral-blocks and held together with lime. The upper floor is supported by wooden poles, and the ceiling is constructed from palm fronds, mud, and plaster. In its history, the fort has served as a residence for the ruling family, a seat of government, garrison, and prison. Restored in 1971 (and again extensively in 1995), it is now the city's premier museum. The entrance has a fascinating exhibition of old maps of the Emirates and Dubai, showing the mammoth expansion that hit the region after the oil boom. The courtyard is home to several traditional boats and a palm-leaf house with an Emirati wind-tower. The right-hand hall features weaponry, and the left-hand hall showcases Emirati musical instruments. Below the ground floor are display halls with exhibits and dioramas covering various aspects of traditional Emirati life (including pearl fishing and Bedouin desert life), as well as artifacts from the 3,000- to 4,000-year-old graves at Al Qusais archaeological site.
- Dubai Creek: Dubai Creek separates the city into two towns, with Deira to the north and Bur Dubai to the south. The creek has been an influential element in the city's growth, first attracting settlers here to fish and pearl dive. Small villages grew up alongside the creek as far back as 4,000 years ago, while the modern era began in the 1830s when the Bani Yas tribe settled in the area. The Dhow Wharfage is located along Dubai Creek's bank, north of Al-Maktoum Bridge. Still used by small traders from across the Gulf, some of the dhows anchored here are well over 100 years old. You can visit here, watching cargo being loaded and unloaded on and off the dhows. Dhow workers often invite visitors onto the vessels for a tour, where you can gain insight into the life of these traditional sailors. Many of the dhows here travel onward to Kuwait, Iran, Oman, India, and down to Africa's horn. This tiny remnant of Dubai's traditional economy is still a bustling and fascinating place to wander around. On the Bur Dubai side of the creek, rubbing up against the Bastakia neighborhood, the waterfront has been regenerated as the Al Seef district, with a waterfront promenade backed by traditional coral-block and limestone buildings, a floating market, and shops selling crafts. It's a great place for a stroll with excellent water views.
- Jumeirah Mosque Jumeirah Mosque: is considered by many to be the most beautiful of Dubai's mosques. An exact copy of Cairo's Al-Azhar Mosque, which is eight times its size, the Jumeirah Mosque is a fine example of Islamic architecture. This stone structure is built in the medieval Fatimid tradition, with two minarets that display the subtle details in the stonework. It is particularly attractive in the evening when lit with floodlights. The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding (which also runs a program of tours, lectures, Arabic classes, and cultural meals) organizes guided tours of the mosque designed to try to foster a better understanding of the Muslim faith. Tours begin at 10am daily, except Fridays.
- Sheikh Zayed Road: Sheikh Zayed Road is the main thoroughfare running through Dubai's modern downtown business district. This wide, eight-lane highway is rimmed with towering glass, chrome, and steel high-rises along its entire length. It's one of the best on-the-ground vantage points for Dubai's famed skyscraper views. Main attractions are along, or just off, the strip between the roundabout and the first intersection, and most of Dubai's famous malls are located along the road's route. The Dubai World Trade Tower has an observation deck on its top floor, which offers visitors panoramic views (a cheaper option than the Burj Khalifa), and the Gold and Diamond Park (Sheikh Zayed Road) is a one-stop shop for jewelry lovers, with 118 manufacturers and 30 retailers all under one roof
- Burj al-Arab: The Burj Al-Arab is the world's tallest hotel, standing 321 meters high on its own artificial island on the Dubai coastline. Designed to resemble a billowing dhow sail, the exterior of the building is lit up by a choreographed, colored lighting show at night. Decadent in every way possible, the Burj Al-Arab is one of the most expensive hotels in the world, with the most luxurious suites costing more than $15,000 for one night. For those without unlimited credit, the way to experience the over-the-top opulence is to go for dinner at the underwater Al-Mahara restaurant, where floor-to-ceiling glass panels in the dining room walls allow you to view sea life while you eat, or you can enjoy lunch at California-style fusion restaurant Scape. For the ultimate panoramic views over the city, book afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar (a minimum spend is required) on the 27th floor.
- Jumeirah Beach: This strip of sandy white bliss is the number one beach destination for Dubai visitors. Hotels are strung out all along its length, with this being one of the most popular places to stay for tourists. The beach has excellent facilities, with plenty of sun loungers, restaurants, and water sports operators offering jet skiing. While in the area, brush off the sand for an hour and visit the Majlis Ghorfat Um Al-Sheef, just a short hop from the beach. Built in 1955, this was the summer residence of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum. The residence, made out of gypsum and coral-block, has been restored and maintains much of the original beautiful decor, giving you a better understanding of the opulent lifestyle of Dubai's rulers. The Majlis Gardens feature a reproduction of an impressive Arab irrigation system and many shady date palms.
- Ski Dubai: Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort with 22,500 square meters of indoor ski area. The park maintains a temperature of -1 degree to 2 degrees Celsius throughout the year. It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world, located in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It was developed by Majid Al Futtaim Group, which also operates the Mall of the Emirates. Opened in November 2005, the indoor resort features an 85-metre-high indoor mountain with 5 slopes of varying steepness and difficulty, including a 400-metre-long run, the world's first indoor black diamond run, and various features that are changed on a regular basis. A quad lift and a tow lift carry skiers and snowboarders up the mountain. Equipment such as skis and jackets are provided with the ticket and one can buy equipment in the nearby stores. Adjoining the slopes is a 3,000-square-metre Snow Park play area comprising sled and toboggan runs, an icy body slide, climbing towers, giant snowballs and an ice cave. Ski Dubai also houses a number of penguins who are let out of their enclosures several times a day.
- Dubai Fountain: The Dubai Fountain is a choreographed fountain system. It is set on the 12 hectare manmade Burj Khalifa Lake, at the center of the Downtown Dubai development in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It was designed by WET Design, a California-based company also responsible for the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel Lake in Las Vegas. Illuminated by 6,600 lights and 50 colored projectors, it is 275 m long and shoots water up to 500 ft into the air accompanied by a range of classical to contemporary Arabic and world music. It was built at a cost of AED 800 million. The name of the fountain was chosen after a contest organized by the developer Emaar Properties, the result of which was announced on 26 October 2008. Testing of the fountain began in February 2009, and the fountain was officially inaugurated on 8 May 2009 along with the official opening ceremony of The Dubai Mall.