Travel Planner: Dubai

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Dubai remains one of the most popular cruising ports of call in the Middle East, as well as a must-do stopover on flights between Europe and Asia and Australasia. Although brash and glitzy, it has evolved far from its roots as a small trading and fishing port, and a gateway on the Arabian Gulf. Today, however, it has plenty of sights to see beyond shopping and flashy hotels; the trick is to look beyond what catches your eye initially, then scratch beneath the surface and be prepared to be surprised.

Need to Know

Location: South of the Arabian Gulf.

Language: Arabic, but English is widely spoken.

Money: UAE Dirham. ATM’s are plentiful and currency exchange bureaus are fine to change money.

Time Difference: GMT + 4 hours (no daylight saving)

Getting Around: Taxis are still the best way to get around Dubai and you can get from one side of the city to the other inexpensively. The Dubai Metro runs until around 11pm. 

When To Go: November to April is the best time to visit with pleasant temps in the late 20’s and low 30’s. The summer is unbearably hot with temps pushing 50C, and many locals head to cooler climes. 

Tipping: A 10% tip is adequate for hotel bellhops and restaurant staff - if there are no service charges. You don’t need to tip taxi drivers, but a few extra dirhams will be appreciated.

Where To Stay

Hotels are expensive in Dubai so do your research to try and secure a reasonable deal. There are hundreds to choose from, especially at the luxury end of the scale, but basically the two best locations for first timers are the beaches and downtown Dubai. If you feel the need to try and book on a budget, at least make sure you have air conditioning.  

Sightseeing Essentials

* The Burj Al Arab/Burj Khalifa: This remains a top pick of Dubai’s many landmarks, built in 1999 and dubbed the world’s first “seven-star” luxury hotel as well as its tallest skyscraper. If you do nothing else in Dubai, take a ride to the observation deck.
* The Gold Souk: The traditional wealth standard of the East, gold is also a good buy here. For an abundance of choice and the chance to practice your bargaining skills, head for the Gold Souk in Deira. With rows of shops filled with elaborate jewellery and ornaments, it isn’t just a shopping opportunity but also a major tourist attraction.

* The Creek: This is where the city’s heritage meets some of its most famous landmarks, a natural sea-water inlet which cuts through the centre of the city. It's also the historical focal point of life in Dubai offering a colourful insight into the trading ways of a bygone era. 

* Al Fahdi Fort: This is home to the Dubai Museum, featuring exhibits telling the city’s history. The nearby Jumeirah Mosque is also one of the largest and most beautiful examples of modern Islamic architecture.

* Golf: Dubai is a pioneer of golf in the Middle East, and the city has some impressive courses including ones designed by legends Colin Montgomerie and Jack Nicklaus. Located on the edge of the city, the first and most famous of them all is the Emirates Golf Club, with two beautifully landscaped courses suiting all standards. 


* If you are a first-time visitor, a city tour will get you around most of the major sights, including some incredible hotels, man made islands and a souk or two. 

* A popular alternative, however, is a desert safari. A 4WD safari offers a real taste of the true heart land of Arabia; even in a half-day tour, you can cover plenty of terrain taking in sights including remote villages and camel farms. 

* Further afield, a popular day-long tour is to Al Ain, a charming desert oasis known as "Garden City". It's surrounded by red sand dunes and curiously shaped hills, and is an important stop on caravan trails, with tombs dating back to the Bronze Age.

Best Happy Snap

Besides the observation deck at The Burj, one of the best ways to get a full picture of the city is from up in the air. Marvel at the glitzy skyline, the distinctive minarets, and the large man made islands. If you are in Dubai overnight, there is a raised pedestrian footbridge on Sheikh Zayed Road which offers great views of the road and the skyline.

Shopping And Souvenirs

Dubai’s reputation as a shopper’s paradise isn’t overstated. It’s helped along by low import duties and an open market status, and as a result, from souks to shopping malls it has it all. The Dubai Mall, part of the Burj Khalifa complex, is the world’s largest shopping centre with 1,200 outlets, and the Mall of the Emirates, located in the Al Barsha district called “New Dubai” has shopping, entertainment and a world famous indoor ski resort.

Eating And Drinking

If you have an overnight stay in Dubai, head out for dinner at one of a growing list of top restaurants. Just a few to put on your potential list include La Petite Maison for the best French using fresh ingredients, the Japanese Tomo, which enjoys a 17th floor location and amazing views of the Burj Khalifa, Teatro for an eclectic mix of cuisines, and Mythos Kousinza & Grill which is like an intimate taverna. If you prefer to go really local, however, head for Al Dhiyafah Road in the centre of the city, which has an impressive line up of restaurants of all food types and is a popular venue for street performances and parades.

Hot Tip

Dubai is a major cruise hub and this is a good way to see the city and a lineup of other Arabian Peninsula destinations all in one hit, and from the comfort of a cruise ship. 

Got An Emergency?

Dubai Police: 999
Australian Consulate: +971 4 5087 100 

Joanna Hall


  • 5
    Love Dubai

    Posted by Lauren on 17th Sep 2018

    We travel to the UK usually once every 2 years to visit family and we always try to do a stopover in Dubai as we love it so much.....great hotels, great places to eat and geat shopping!