We went to Dubai a few years ago now and it was a trip of many firsts for us. It was our first time in the Middle East, first time on plane rides over 10 hours long, and the first time we traveled to a country with a completely different culture than our own (in my opinion at least).
It was incredible. Everything about Dubai is fancy, dramatic, grand, and gorgeous all at the same time. I cannot recommend the city enough to any travelers considering venturing to the Middle East. I absolutely guarantee we will be going back as soon as possible!
Unfortunately the 8 days we were there was in no way, shape, or form long enough to experience everything the city has to offer, but I think I created a pretty solid list of must dos!
- Go to the beach
So many to choose from! Dubai has so many sunny days and constant warm weather you’d be remiss if you didn’t take advantage of it and get some sun! We were in Dubai in February and we actually had a few cloudy days, which is nearly unheard of (of course).
We spent the day at Jumeirah Beach at a club called Zero Gravity Dubai. It was perfect, because your entrance fee covers unlimited drinks and food with a private pool and section of the beach. I don’t know if the ocean water gets warmer in the summer, but in February it was freezing!
2. Go Skydiving!
Have you noticed jumping out of things is on so many of my to-do lists? Well this time you should really listen to me. The dive spot in Dubai is freaking incredible. In case you haven’t seen it, Dubai has one of the largest man-made islands in the world – and it’s shaped like a palm tree! Well you jump over the island so you get the best view of any sky dive I have ever seen.
Even though planes are going up constantly, this jump books up FAST, so you must book pre-travel. There is another dive site in the desert but it’s not nearly as cool IMO.
3. Go to the mall
Never in a million years did I think I would recommend going to a mall on vacation, but holy crap. The malls in Dubai are the definition of a spectacle. The Dubai Mall is the 2nd-largest mall in the world, has 4 floors, an ice rink, the largest fish tank I have ever seen, has 1,200 shops, and the entrance to the Burj Khalifa. In 2011 it was the most visited building on the entire planet! Some of the richest people in the world shop there, so you can image the people watching is top notch!
If Dubai Mall didn’t cut it for you, the Mall of the Emirates is nearby. You can get a few runs in on their indoor ski slope.
4. Take a Desert Safari
We spent most of our time in Dubai in the city, so the desert safari was a really nice change of pace. A car will pick you up from your hotel and drive you to the desert to start your experience. I think most of the safaris are similar, although I highly recommend the overnight one, but we just did the evening.
The driver takes you “dune bashing”, which is driving off sand dunes and nearly rolling an SUV. It was fun for a little, but I definitely started getting a little nauseous. I mostly enjoyed getting to their camp and hanging out. They provided dinner, drinks, entertainment, sandboarding, henna, shisha (hookah), camel rides, and little souvenirs.
The desert is a wild place to see. You truly feel like you’re in the middle of no where. Literally all you can see is sand, so I do not recommend going into the desert without a guide!
5. Have dinner in the sky
This is something we did not get to do, but it looked so cool! Very touristy, but still really unique. A crane lifts you up into the sky so you can eat dinner while suspended in the air with 360 degree views. Forbes.com included it in their list of the 10 most unusual restaurants in the world, and I am all about unusual things!
I am 100% sure it is way over priced, but if you’re looking for unique, look no further.
6. See the fountain show
Have you ever seen the fountain show in Las Vegas? Like it? Then you will love the show in Dubai. It is definitely the perfect ending to a day at the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa. The video doesn’t do it justice, but check it out.
7. Go to Deira and shop at the gold souks
Josh loves to haggle and it is pretty entertaining to watch. When we were in Morocco he spent 3 whole days haggling with souk owners because I had food poisoning. Dubai was the first time we got to see a marketplace full of souks and it was so cool!
What’s unique about Deira is that they have gold souks. So. Much. Gold. More gold than you will ever see in your life. Ever dream of wearing solid gold armory? Well wish no more!
8. Take a day trip to Abu Dhabi
We rented a car and took the 45 minute drive from Dubai to Abu Dhabi one day. The main reason we went there was to see The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, but there were some other great stops and cool things along the drive as well.
The mosque is gorgeous. It’s so extravagant, but peaceful and serene at the same time. The dress code inside is very strict, but don’t worry if you aren’t dressed appropriately, because they will provide you with clothes and a headscarf. You also must take your shoes off inside, so you may want to wear socks!
Before heading back to Dubai I would also recommend: Emirates Palace Hotel, Ferrari World, Yas Island, and Emirates Heritage Village.
9. Eat, shop, and people watch at City Walk
City Walk is a large shopping center with tons of restaurants, entertainment, and people so it’s a great place to hang out at night. The people watching in Dubai is amazing – so many different people from all over the world with totally different backgrounds. The diversity also creates for great eating. You can have a cheeseburger and fries or you can walk next door and have Pakistani food.
10. Go to the top of the Burj Khalifa
I think this is my #1 suggestion. I love love love this building! It’s insane: it’s the tallest building in the world, 160 stories tall, it breaks 7 world records, and it’s always decorated for the holidays! Is it a touristy and kind of overpriced? Of course, but still do it anyway!!
So you can either go to floor 125 or 148, but please just go to 148! The view is totally different between the two so just do yourself a favor. Unfortunately you cannot go to 160, but you will still feel like you’re on top of the world (because you basically are). You can step out onto the balcony and get an unobstructed view.
The enormous city of Dubai will quickly feel tiny from that high up, and you will realize you are truly in the middle of the desert!
Some last minute tips:
- Avoid going to Dubai during Ramadan (a Muslim holiday, which lasts one month) because many businesses will be closed during the daytime.
- Dubai gets really hot in the summer. Really, really hot – just keep that in mind. We went in February and the temperate was great.
- Alcohol rules are strict. I do not recommend being drunk in public.
- It seems like anything goes clothing wise, but I would definitely bring pants and a scarf to put on your head if needed depending where you go.
Dubai is amazing and it has only gotten better since we were there. The world expo is being held in Dubai from October 20, 2020 to April 21, 2021 so that would be a unique time to visit – you may even see us there then!
Life is short, buy the plane ticket.
S & J