It had been a destination that had been on my bucket list for years: Dubai – a millionaire’s playground full of glitter, gold and opulence with gorgeous beaches, futuristic skyscrapers and year round sunshine. A city that since the discovery of oil in the 1960’s has barely stopped building. Anything the rest of the world can do, Dubai tries to do it better.
What is there to do in this unique destination? Here's my top 13 things to do in the city.
Things to do in Dubai
1. Watch the sunset at Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building. Pre-book so you don’t miss out.
2. See Old Dubai – So Dubai’s history only dates back about a century but long before they struck lucky with oil, Dubai was originally a place of pearl diving with the first persian settlers.
3. See one of the world’s largest aquariums at Atlantis Palm Hotel – this is absolutely amazing and you’re guaranteed to spend hours just gawping at rays and sharks as they mesmerise you. You can even dive with sharks here.
4. Take a dune safari – Don’t be confused as this has got nothing to do with animals! Instead you can race across sand dunes in a 4×4.
5. Go shopping – Dubai has the some of the best shopping in the world. You could literally spend days within the three main malls. Most hotels have free shuttles to the malls. Just remember to cover your shoulders and knees even when shopping to adhere to the signs on the malls.
6. Go skiing! – Yes, you can ski in one of the world’s deserts! Inside the Mall of Emirates you’ll find indoor ski slopes and even if you don’t want to ski it is definitely worth seeing and looks like a giant snow dome.
7. Lay on the beach – No trip here is complete without a dip in the warm waters of the sea. Most of the hotels have private beaches which you can pay to enter or you can choose the public beach of Jumeriah beach.
8. Have a drink at the Skyview Bar in Burj Al Arab – the world’s first 7 star hotel built like a sail. It’s pricey with a minimum spend and the decor may remind you of a cruise ship but on a visible night you can see the lights of the Atlantis Palm in the distance and if you’re lucky you can see ‘The World,’ Dubai’s latest development in the ocean.
9. Splash around at a waterpark. There’s two but the best one has to be Aquaventure at Atlantis Park. Are you brave enough to take ‘The Leap of Faith?'
10. Visit Souk Madinat Jumeriah – Dubai’s own little Venice where you can take a boat ride through the narrow waterways to the Arabian Market. This area has great restaurants and bars and is vibrant at night.
11. Go camel racing – The Emiratis love their camel racing and the Nad Al Sheba Camel Track can be found just outside the city but as betting is forbidden, it’s all about the taking part. Visit during October to April for camel racing.
12. Take a ride on a Dhow: an old boat along Dubai Creek.
13. Visit the Souks – the spice market and the gold market are worth a look and a haggle.
Travelling Alone in Dubai
Dubai is the more modern of all the seven Emirates and is very cosmopolitan with over 80 nationalities living here. Like any destination in the Middle East, ensure that you respect the culture and cover up when you are not on the beaches. This also applies during the incredibly hot summer months. Most hotels and malls are air-conditioned but look for travel outside June/July/August if you prefer it more bearable.
If you’re travelling solo this probably won’t apply but for those of you lucky enough to meet someone, Dubai has very strict rules and any public displays of affection (PDAs) are forbidden. This even means no holding hands within the malls. Remember this? Couple caught in Dubai kissing – This is definitely what not to do in Dubai.
If you're lucky enough to be there on business or to set up your own business, Dubai has furnished offices in luxury apartment buildings. Wok hard during the week and explore the desert on the weekends – perfect.
Are you now tempted to fly to this desert oasis? Emirates are Dubai’s national airline and offer great fares to the city. They are actually my favourite airline and have amazing service with the new A380 (double decker) airbuses on most of the London to Dubai routes which takes under 7 hours. If you’ve only got a short layover here before your connecting flight, you can still do a tour of the city (book through the tourist stands at the airport).