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Dubai - Planning your trip

Can you believe that less than 200 years ago Dubai was a small fishing village? The city exploded in prosperity after the United Arab Emirates discovered oil in the 1960s. Years later a decision was made to turn the trading port into a luxury tourist destination, leading to a development boom that has resulted in the tallest, biggest and richest something in the world. Dubai has an ambitious tourism strategy to attract 25 million visitors a year by 2025, this would make it the most visited city in the world soon.

What you need to know before you go

Transportation - Dubai International Airport (DXB) is one of the busiest airports on the planet and has been the gateway to the emirate since the 1960s. Although the Dubai Metro has two convenient lines offering comfortable seating, affordable prices and is fully air-conditioned, the most convenient way to get around the city is by car. You can rent a car at the airport because drive is the easiest way to visit Dubai. Most places offer parking for free, hotels offer a valet service with no additional costs and most shoppings allows you to park up to 3 hours for free. You can also grab a cab or call a Uber from almost anywhere in the city. When ordering a cab, make sure is not a black car so you can follow the rates and pay an affordable price to go whatever you need.

Regarding the metro, the Dubai metro is among the easiest and quickest ways to get anywhere in town. These trains are driverless and run automatically every few minutes throughout 7 zones.

Accomodation - Dubai is famous around the world for its luxury resorts including the Burj Al Arab, which is popularly known as the world's only 'seven-star hotel'. From boutique gems to luxury hotels, the hotel landscape is very broad with plenty of choices for everyone. Hotels can be much cheaper during the low season when most chains offer huge deals in 3-5 days packages with half-board meals applicable for breakfast and lunch or dinner.

Food - From street food to fine dining, you can taste a world of flavours in Dubai. There are hundreds of nationalities living in Dubai, whether you’re looking for celebrity restaurants, traditional Emirati cuisine or Instagram-worthy hotspots, you’ll find it there.

Weather - Indoor and outdoor facilities and attractions ensure Dubai is a year-round destination, but oh OMG, avoid visiting Dubai on Summer. The summer season lasts from June to September with temperatures reaching the mid-40s (~110° F), which means no matter how far you go, you'll be sweating and begging to be in a place under the AC. The ‘winter’ months last from October to May with warm temperatures ranging from 20–35°C (68–95°F) which are much nicer to visit the city. Good news: Dubai has 300+ days of sunshine a year!

Some tips to be respectful to the culture in Dubai 

Marhaba! This short greeting means ‘welcome’ in Arabic, the official language of the UAE.

Alcohol – Drinks are served in licensed establishments such as hotels and bars to those over 21 years of age. However, drink and driving are not acceptable and most restaurants don’t offer any alcoholic beverages.

Affection – Holding hands is acceptable, but kissing and hugging in public areas is not permitted in Dubai. Be discreet!

Dress code –  it’s recommended to dress modestly, particularly in public spaces like shopping malls or when visiting the heritage areas. If you are a women, it’s better to use blouses covering your shoulders and bring a scarf to cover your hair if you are planning to visit the mosques. Some mosques offer a room where you can borrow and change your clothes during your visit to be respectful to the culture.

Ramadam – For Muslims, Ramadan is a period of introspection and most people will be fasting until the sun sets for the entire month. Tourists can expect to see several restaurants closed when owners observe the Ramadan.

TIps for first visit

1. The weekends are Friday and Saturday – The weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday. Friday is holy day and similar to Sunday in most countries people have Friday as their day off. This is an important information to plan your activities because some places will be closed on Fridays.

2. WhatsApp is allowed for messages only – You can send texts on WhatsApp, however, WhatsApp voice and video calls are not allowed in Dubai.

3. Visit the souks crossing the creek with the abras  – One of the most affordable yet authentic experiences in Dubai is to hop aboard one of many traditional ferry boats, known as abras, to cross the creek to visit the souks. The souks are places where traders from dozens of nationalities sell their bargains, as your senses are attacked from every direction. Jewelry, fabrics, spices, perfumes and souvenirs – you’ll find it all! While the abra costs 1EAD which is 0.27 USD only, it’s hard to leave the souks without some bags! Negotiating in one of the oldest and most fascinating traditional markets in the emirate is a must-go experience in Dubai.

4. Exchange the money at the shopping mall – You’ll find exchange houses all over Dubai. The shopping malls have the best FX rates. And remember, Dubai has about 65 malls in a city of just over 3 million people, with 10 more on the way!

Looking at Dubai Aquarium

Essential Information

Passaport and Visa – Most nationalities can simply get a visa on arrival at the airport. You just need a valid passport to visit Dubai.

Currency – The currency in Dubai is the dirham, which is shortened to AED (United Arab Emirates Dirham). The dirham has been pegged to the US dollar since 1997, meaning the exchange rate never changes. One US dollar is worth AED3.67.

Language – Dubai’s official language is Arabic, the second most commonly used dialect is Egyptian Arabic. However, English is the most commonly spoken language in Dubai. Most people speak English as a native or second language, you’ll find it easy to make your way around the city.

Voltage – The voltage in Dubai is 220V-240V, and plug is type G.

Tax free – Value-added tax (VAT) is 5% in Dubai, but tourists still get to enjoy easy tax-free shopping in the city. In order to claim a refund, request a Tax Free purchase, which is valid on a minimum expenditure of AED250. You must present your passport to be scanned, get a sales receipt and then, a digital Tax Free form will be created. Tourists need to take the goods and tagged receipt to the Tax Free validation points located at all the three terminals at the Dubai Airport to receive the tax refund.

Tipping – No matter where you go, every place in Dubai offers a high level of service. Although there are no rules when it comes to tipping in Dubai, everyone working in the service industry will be expecting a little extra. Be prepared to add 10-15% in your bill.

Population – There are approximately 3.4 million people living in Dubai and almost 10 million in the United Arab Emirates.

Economy – The UAE economy is heavily reliant on revenues from petroleum and natural gas. Tourism is one of the bigger non-oil sources of revenue in the UAE.

Medication – If you are travelling with prescribed medication, remember to bring your doctor’s note with you. The prescription should also detail the quantity of medication you intend to carry.

Curiosity – Of the 85 per cent expat populations that live and work in Dubai, 71 per cent are from Asia. India accounts for more than half of that, while Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines make up the rest. As a result, you’ll find that Hindi, Urdu and Tagalog are widely spoken, along with Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil and Farsi.

Useful Links – Official Dubai Visitor Guide

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