DO: Go to Dubai
Dubai is an amazing, first class city like no other and definitely worth a visit.
DO: Take taxis
Dubai is not a pedestrian friendly city, and that’s how they like it. Emiratis much prefer driving to walking. Points of interests are far away from each other. The metro can be great, but there might not be a stop close to you. Unless you have access to your own car, chances are you will have no other option but to take taxis. Luckily, the taxis in Dubai are safe, clean and relatively cheap. Plus, most taxi drivers speak english and are very friendly!
DO: Ride the Dubai metro
It’s the most luxurious system of public transportation you will ever experience. You need to see it to believe it.
DO: Go to the top of the Burj Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa is tallest building in the world! For $30 you can go to the top via the world’s fastest elevator which ascends 163 stories in 60 seconds. At the top awaits an amazing aerial view of Dubai. While you’re on the observation deck, I recommend taking a moment to look around and see if you can find where shiny New Dubai ends and dusty Old Dubai begins.
DO: Visit the Gold Souk in Old Dubai
If you're looking for an authentic Middle Eastern experience, you can take a 30 minute metro trip to Old Dubai. Going to Old Dubai is like being transported through time. You can see what Dubai was like before it fast tracked its why to being the first class city it is today. Visit the Gold Souk and browse the many jewelry shops and window displays. If you’re in the market for quality gold jewelry, you will definitely find something that suites your fancy at the Gold Souk. Don’t forget to bargain for the best possible price!
DO: Go on a desert safari
Who wouldn’t want to ride a camel, hold a falcon and ride a 4X4 vehicle down sand dunes in the middle of the Arabian Desert?! $70 can get you all this and more. You can book through your hotel or travel agent.
DO: Go to the Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall is the largest mall in the world with 1,200 shops spanning an area the size of 50 football fields. The mall offers the best of everything in the world. The shops are clustered together by category to create malls within malls. On my third day in the mall, I found the greatest mini mall of them all: Shoe Land (cue the hymns of the angel chorus). The Dubai Mall has multiple food courts to please every taste. You can get exactly what you are craving. There’s also a free aquarium!
DON’T: Spend your entire day (or week) in the Dubai Mall
DO NOT let the Dubai Mall win. Accept that you will only be able to see a mall portion of its offerings, and get out before it’s too late.
DON’T: Go to Ski Dubai
Ski Dubai offers indoor skiing in the middle of the Arabian Desert. It is part of the Mall of the Emirates complex. If you have skied prior to visiting Ski Dubai, you will be severely unimpressed. I went into the experience with low expectations and was still disappointed. There is only one real slope which is covered in icy, artificial snow. When we bought our tickets, an employee told us the Ski Dubai Ski Patrol might ask us to leave, if we looked too shaky. The course is so small that inexperienced skiers pose a serious danger to others! In lieu of skiing, we paid $100 to inner tube and roll down an icy hill in something called “giant ball” (It’s exactly what it sounds like). The only highlight of the experience was the Peng-Friend Encounter. We were able to get up close and personal with some poor penguins who live in the middle of the desert so that tourists can pay lots of money to pet them and take pictures.
DON’T: Assume locals speak Arabic
Expats account for 90% of people living in Dubai. That’s huge! The city is a mixed salad of languages, cultures and ethnicities. “As-salam alaykom” (hello) and “shukran” (thank you) are commonly used and universally understood, but that’s about all the Arabic you will need.
DON’T: Break the law
In Sex and The City 2, Samantha runs into trouble at the airport when she tries to bring hormones and vitamins into the UAE. She later lands herself in jail for engaging in public displays of affective with a man to whom she is not married. While these situations provide comic relief in the movie, the real life scenarios are much more terrifying.
The UAE operates under a system of Sharia law. There is no separation of religion and state. Things that are perfectly acceptable in most western countries, like public displays of affection for example or hormone supplements, can put you in the slammer. It is also illegal for one to share a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex to whom you are not married. Make sure you know the laws before you go.
DON’T: Worry about your safety
Dubai is a very safe city. Violent and non-violent crime rates remain extremely low. This is partially due to the severe penalties deterring crime. Additionally, there is hardly any tourist-targeted crime. So you can leave your weird money belt at home and enjoy the city at ease.
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