Dubai was on my short top ten list of places to visit. My good fortune of career choice allowed me to visit Dubai several times before this journey. I feel somewhat blessed to have had a front row seat to the development and transformation that took place and has resulted in Dubai being one of the top places to visit in the world. My first visit to Dubai was around 2004. It was still in the development stages and buildings were being built faster than an ant cartoon.I distinctly remember being in taxi’s and the taxi driver would say” Do you see that?” pointing some new project, “do you know Disney World?, well its going to be ten times larger than Disney world”. Dubai’s mission has always been to have everything larger than what the current world record was.
I always knew that I wanted to visit on my own terms, from those conversations I had in the back of my taxis. I wanted to witness what the world largest everything would look like. Fast forward to 2009 my last time visiting Dubai and it had become an even more intriguing place. The Burj Khalifa was on its final stages of being completed and Dubai was indeed on track to become the top tourist destination in the world. As the year came to an end in 2014, I went over my list of top 10’s, Paris and Dubai both being in the top 5. The beginning of 2015 brought an opportunity of a lifetime and just like that I was on my way to Dubai! My best friend’s birthday is in March so we settled on that being the occasion, gathered two more friends, one of which was on the same path as me to discover Dubai outside our military uniform and we were off!
Since there is so much to cover about the trip I’ll do the blog in two parts.The first part focusing mainly on logistics, planning is key to this trip and the second part focused on the fun things I did while there with my friends.
Airfare: So this is where I let you in on a little secret. If you are serious about traveling you need to be following the right people on Instagram and subscribed to the right internet blogs( including mine of course) . This will change the way you travel and how much it cost for you to travel. As an avid traveler I do both. I am connected to tons of blogs dedicated to travelers and traveling secrets as well as Instagram pages that also give you those secrets. As the new year began Etihad Airways gave travelers who were hip to these blogs sites and travel secrets a present.. in the form of a glitch fare( I will cover glitch fares at some point on my blog). Don’t be mad at me, I followed the blogs and took full advantage of it. Just like that I was on my way to Dubai for a price that was 10 times less than what I would have paid if I had not been in the know. I flew Etihad Airways and flight time was around 14HRs 30 mins, however realistically it will take a little over 12hrs to get there. I flew into Abu Dhabi because it was cheaper than flying straight into Dubai. Etihad Airways provides a free shuttle from Abu Dhabi airport to Dubai. You must book this shuttle online prior to departure. It is possible to get on the shuttle as a standby but only if there is room after booked passengers. A taxi to Dubai from Abu Dhabi will run you about 25OAED or $70.00. The trip is about an hour and a half.
TiP: I suggest you do some reading on the United Arab Emirates (UAE)prior to going so that you understand the layout of the country and also understand that there is more to the UAE than Dubai. Dubai is the most famous but not the only good thing there.
Hotel: As I do for most of my trips that I do not book all inclusively I went to my go to website, hotwire.com. I Did the blind booking and got the 5 star hotel on Jumeirah beach, Amwaj Rotana. The hotel was beautiful and was located at The Walk a famous stretch of restaurants and shopping in Jumeirah Beach.
*****As a golden nugget there is really no central location in Dubai everything is fairly spread about, so while staying in a certain area may allow you easy access to a particular landmark or attraction you will have to venture to the other neighborhoods for other attractions. The best I can say is if you want easy beach access stay in Jumeirah beach area, the public beach is going through major renovations and has limited access but the hotels have private access to the beach. If beach life is not your flavor then by all mean stick close to one of the mall areas wether it be Dubai Mall or The Mall of Emirates.
Hotel: Abu Dhabi:
I booked my hotel for my one day stay in Abu Dhabi via Expedia. I stayed at Traders a Shangri-La Hotel. It was beautiful with a private beach. the atmosphere was luxury chic and it was located within 2 miles of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Souk.
Tip: wi-fi is essential to travelers.. unfortunately these day most hotels are allowing free wi-fi in the lobby and charging a fee for in room access. If wi-fi is as important to you as it is to me, be sure to verify the wi-fi policy before you commit .
BOOK TOURS IN ADVANCE.. I cannot say that enough, it will save you tons of money and make your days more organized. I used viator.com and localdubaitours.com. The tours were all well-organized and most of them included pick up and drop off at the hotel. Read the reviews of other travelers. Try not to overwhelm your trip with tours or else you will be exhausted and not get much time to enjoy the luxurious relation provided at your hotel pools on on the beach. The Desert Safari is a must as it provides lots of bang for your buck. The top of the Burj Visit was awesome. We chose to explore during the night but he prime hours are between 5pm and sunset. So book early so you can pick your time.
The best tour I took advantage of was the private yacht rental cruise. I booked through xclusiveyachts.com. They were superb. From beginning to end we were treated like royalty. The packages vary and you choose what you would like to add based on your own budget. We got a complete package that included food, pick up in a Rolls Royce , birthday cake and decorations. The prices are based on how many hours you rent and the additions to the package. They are great and really professional.
Taxi’s are abundant and can be found everywhere. The driving in Dubai is a little crazy because they drive really fast and don’t seem to have many road rules. There are metered taxis and non metered taxis. You will be charged more for taking non-metered, so stick to metered. The issue with taxi’s in Dubai is that they never really know where they are going, which will end up costing you when they get lost. There aren’t really any street numbers and addresses in Dubai so Taxi’s find destinations based on what well-known landmark is in the area you wish to get to. It’s a bit frustrating especially if your from a big city that taxi drivers know the layout like the back of their hands. Cars are available for rental and cheap but if you are not familiar with Dubai you will be lost. I have never seen anyone using GPS there so my guess is that it is very limited in availability, partly because Dubai is a fairly new city that has a new building everyday, so if you choose to drive, best of luck finding places.
Dubai Metro– another great way to get around is the metro. It covers most of the city and is fairly cheap. I did not use the metro because it seemed I was always in a rush to get somewhere and a taxi was th fastest way to get there.
I flew in and out of Abu Dhabi so I knew that I would plan to spend my last day in Abu Dhabi to ensure I made my early morning flight. One of my regrets of this trip was that I did spend more time in ABU Dhabi. A day was not enough. Like Dubai Abu Dhabi offers many interesting places and things to do. Abu Dhabi is more relaxed than Dubai but offers the same luxuries.
While in Abu Dhabi the highlight is visiting the Grand Mosque. It will take your breath away with its beauty. Its open until pretty late around 10ish. Warning about the Mosque: This is a place of significant religious worship and prayer for Muslims. Please respect the rules of the Mosque carry yourself accordingly or they will ask you to leave. They will also ask to see your phones and camera if they baklava you have taken any pictures that were disrespectful or not tasteful. They will delete the pictures as well so just don’t do anything extra while there they are on you like white on rice! The Mosque provides traditional clothing to wear inside the mosque. Women who have exposed skin are required to wear this covering and everyone must remove their shoes prior to entering the mosque.
Dubai is very modern and is a melting pot due to so many contracted workers living there. So you will not feel alone no matter which country you are from or whatever your ethnicity, you are guaranteed to see others just like you who live in Dubai. Dubai is very much influenced by the western world and there are indeed two worlds living there so be cautious of both.While Dubai is not your typical Muslim state with less conservatism you must still familiarize your self with the rules and the culture so that you do not offend those who are from this country. The muslim culture can be a bit intimidating but whats the point of travel if you leave as uneducated as you were when you got there.
You cannot take pictures of Muslim women it is illegal and will be treated accordingly. Alcohol is mostly only available in some hotels and restaurants as well as night clubs. Outside of these places you will not be able to purchase alcohol. my friends and I bought alcohol at the duty-free prior to leaving the US and kept it in our rooms so that is an option for you drinkers who are reading. Alcohol is also very expensive at the night clubs. Drugs is absolute negative. If you are caught doing it or with it you will end up in jail in Dubai. As with any country to courteous and respectful and you will also be treated as such.
There is no way for me to cover everything in this blog but if you’re heading to Dubai and would like more details contact me via mt contact me button or check back as I write part 2 of this blog as well update the tabs above!!