Travel Tips to Dubai: 21 Things to Remember When You Travel to the Emirates

Dubai, the most beautiful city in the United Arab Emirates, houses the tallest skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa and the world’s only seven-star hotel, Burj Al Arab. Not just this, Dubai is still expanding to become one of the most elegantly structured cities in the world, known for its rich cultural diversity and its popular fiestas.  However, Dubai is so, so much more than its sky-touching superstructures and fancy malls. Planning a trip for the first time to this Middle Eastern Emirate and a bit anxious? Not to worry! Here are a few tips to ensure that your visit to the Gulf city is one which you can forever cherish:

1. When To Visit? 

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Best Time
November to March is the best time to visit Dubai when the temperature ranges from 30° C to 12° C, and the weather is reasonably comfortable. Moreover, Dubai Shopping Festival is held during December, which is exquisite, and you get every product from brands across the world.
Avoid
However, it is better to avoid visiting in February due to torrential downpour during this month.
Extreme Conditions
Visiting Dubai in the month of April-October would be an uninformed decision as it would be almost impossible to go outside due to the hot and humid weather and you would be stuck to air-conditioned malls and fancy spas.

2. What To Pack?

For your luggage, whatever you forget, do not forget to pack large bottles of sunscreen. Dubai weather is unforgiving, and it is recommended to carry sunscreen with the highest SPF formula you can find. Carry deodorants and body/face wipes, sunglasses, hats, water bottle, mosquito repellant etc.

3. Essential Documents

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Well, this is the most important part. Double-check and triple check your documents, make photocopies of them and carry the photocopies with you at all times while keeping the original documents locked in your hotel. Be sure to check with your local embassy for visa requirement which is prone to changes.

4. Common Financial Hassles

Money, however, is pretty safe to carry in the UAE. The official currency of the country is AED or United Arab Emirates Dirham, commonly shortened to DH. You can get your currency exchanged from many local shops which actually, tend to offer a better exchange rate. International credit and debit cards are widely accepted too. Stealing is hardly a problem in the country due to its strict legislation. However, it is better to be safe than sorry.

5. Track Electricity and Emergency

Make sure that you have your list of emergency contacts and an emergency number list of Dubai. UAE accommodates 220V electricity. Thus, be sure to carry a universal adapter and travel charger.

6. Accommodation Research

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Do does not just jump into booking an expensive hotel. Read and research about your stay options keeping your budget in mind, for Dubai has something to offer to every traveller. However, book in advance to avoid chaos. Flight tickets and hotels are exclusively cheap during summer, but you would practically boil should you choose that season to visit Dubai.

7. Dress Up, but Be Modest

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First, we need to remember that Dubai, no matter how modern, liberal or progressive it is, is an Islamic country where locals respect their culture and traditional values. You can dress up as much as you would like because well, the city is quite fashionable, but be sure not to hurt the sentiments of your host city. It is better to cover your shoulder and knees. Dubai is a tourist place, and you need not dress traditionally in an abaya or a kandora, but revealing too much skin in public places is generally frowned upon. Of course, it would be weird to not wear a swimsuit, shorts or a bikini on a beach and you can dress the way you would on any other beach. Blend in, rather than offend someone’s sentiments, and dress according to the occasion and the place you are visiting. Moreover, most of the times, the temperature is scorching. So, unless you would like your skin burned with the harmful UV rays, you better cover-up.

8. Observe and Note Local Etiquette

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Dubai, being one of the largest Emirates and a tourist place is relatively modern in its outlook as compared to its neighbour Sharjah or any other Middle Eastern city. However, there are a few basic rules you need to keep in mind if you don’t want to make a tour to the prison, being handcuffed. Remember the movie, ‘Sex and the City’? Well, the situation is not too unrealistic. First and foremost, kissing in public is an uncompromising no-no, even if it is a peck on the cheek, let alone snogging. Since Sharia Law is observed in UAE, unmarried couples are advised to book different accommodations. Last, but not the least, swearing in public would earn you a ticket behind bars. The “F” word is unappreciated, and it is better not to make any references to religious entities.

9. Equality is Dubai 

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As for women, Dubai is a city where women are respected. Rid your head of the misnomer that women are ill-treated in Dubai. But there are certain unsaid rules you should keep in mind while you are in an unfamiliar environment where there are certain etiquettes. Do not offer your hand for a shake to a man you have just met, or any, for that matter, as it is scorned upon unless he does. It is better to nod or smile to show your respect or acknowledgement. If you are below 25 years, let someone you know accompany you while you go out. Yes, the independence of women is necessary, but life and safety is a priority.

10. Capturing Memories

Going to one of the most hyped-out cities in the world and not clicking the picture is almost a sin! For all the photographers out there- yes, it is impossible to contain your excitement but also vital to remember a few tips. Please remember to ask someone for permission if you would like to take their pictures. Avoid taking pictures of Muslim women. Also, avoid capturing pictures of government buildings, airports, docks, military or industrial installations etc.

11. The Middle East and Alcohol

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Speaking of alcohol, restaurants, your hotel and bars will offer you the widest range of drinks from the cheapest beer or spirits to the sumptuous champagne. Although the minimum age limit is 21 years, a few bars do not allow people below 25 years of age to drink. If you want to buy alcohol in the city, you need a liquor license to buy one, and it is expensive. However, you can also buy alcohol from the airport shop which is offered duty-free, but there is a certain limit to your purchase, which would be checked in the customs office. During the holy month of Ramadan, hardly any restaurant or bar would provide you alcohol, even if you are a tourist or a non-Muslim.

12. Drugs and Medication 

Drugs are strictly prohibited, and Dubai has a zero-tolerance policy toward drug abuse. If you are taking medicines with you, do not, I repeat, do not forget your prescription. It is safer to carry only the amount you would need for the duration of your stay. Also, remember that poppy seeds are banned in UAE because it is a source of opium. 

13. Eating in Public is Offensive

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It is considered rude to eat in public places, especially public transportation in Dubai. Although visitors and non-Muslims are not prohibited from doing so, it is considered polite not to drink (even water) or eat in public during the holy month of Ramadan.

14. Public Transport or Private Taxis - Make Your Choice!

Public Transport in Dubai
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While a lot of websites and blogs would suggest you to hire a private taxi, let’s not forget how cheap your travelling would become public transport. You can use that money on food and shopping instead. If you want a comfortable travelling experience and do not mind spending, go for a taxi but do download Google maps and remember the important landmarks. You can’t expect your driver to know every nook and corner of this enormous marvel of a city. However, if you are on a budget or would like to keep your travelling expenses low, why not opt for metros and public busses? Most of the essential landmarks have a metro station near them or else; buses ply almost everywhere. Dubai metro even has a gold compartment which albeit expensive, is worth every penny. If you would like to rent a vehicle, you would need an international driving license. While the wheels are on the left, vehicles keep to the right side of the road in Dubai.

15. Tick the Tip?

Although tipping isn’t a custom in Dubai, it is more of a personal choice and common practice. Restaurants usually tend to add a tip to your bill while you need not tip a taxi driver. However, you can do so to a luggage carrier or even your hotel bellboy for their services. It would earn you a smile.

16. Prohibit the Footwear at Houses and Mosques

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Dress modestly if you are visiting a mosque. You can opt for loose-fitting, full-length clothes. It is advised to cover your head too, as the traditional Muslim women or men would. This is also a chance for you to flaunt your abaya or a kandora/dishdasha if you have bought one at the local market. Be sure to remove your shoes, even if you are visiting a local household and use your right hand to give or receive something. 

17. How Necessary is Arabic

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Well, it may surprise you, but a large proportion of the population in Dubai are immigrants from other Asian countries. You need not speak Arabic at all, as English is the most commonly used language in the city. Even Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil and Malayalam are quite standard due to the influx of Indians to the Gulf nations. Other than that, Chinese, Persian, Tagalog are among the numerous languages spoken in the city. Common Phrases: Inshallah - God has willed Shukran - Thank You

18. LGBT and Dubai

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Since Dubai and the entire country of UAE follows a strict Sharia Law, any sexual relationship other than one of heterosexual marriage can result in punishment or deportation for a non-citizen. It is therefore advisable to not come out while you are in the country.  

19. Foodies, Dubai is Your Haven!

Street Food in Dubai
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The best part of Dubai apart from shopping is the food. Be it traditional cuisines from all over the world in the Global Village, or an expensive and fancy restaurant or the mouth-watering street food, Dubai is a heaven for foodies. If you are a vegetarian, your choices may be limited, but if you are a non-vegetarian and take great joy in exploring the enormity of cuisines, the streets of Dubai is your place. It ranges from the local delicacies to the best Shawarma to the traditional food of various countries including India, Lebanon etc. to the best-grilled chicken from KFC. Don’t worry about hygiene. The Emiratis, as well as Expatriates in Dubai, take great pride in creating a healthy and safe environment.

20.  Turn Away From Political Gatherings

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As a tourist, it would be a waste to ruin your stay by being dragged into unnecessary trouble. The Middle East nations are disturbed by terrorism. It is, therefore, best to avoid political gatherings or demonstrations as these areas are more prone to attack.

21.  Desert Ventures or Ocean Sunbaths

Last but not least, Dubai is so much more than the multistoried skyscrapers and shopping malls offering you a variety of brands. Divulge yourself in a day of sunbathing beside the Persian Gulf or take a safari to the red sands of the Arabian Desert. Do not forget the Dubai Creek where the city began or the beautifully structured Palm Jumeirah.
Desert Safari in Dubai
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While it is comfortable to hop through the air-conditioned malls and hotels, Dubai much merrier if you know the right places. With the travel tips mentioned above, you are sure to enjoy a gala time in Dubai if you plan all the right places during the right time!

This post was published by Shreyasee Deb

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