Travel

Dubai: Your Complete Travel Guide to this Land of Excess

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Have you ever dreamed of completely exhausting your credit card in the world’s largest shopping mall, then having your driver carry your bags up to your suite at an opulent 5-star hotel, while you give benjamins to all the many, many staff who assist you along the way? How about partying until dawn while scantily-clad bartenders bring you sparklers in $5k bottles of Cristal? Or skiing indoors, in the summer, then reclining on the beach, wearing diamonds? Neither have I. But for those who do, there’s a place where that lifestyle is a reality for some: Dubai. The city is as artificial as its island, and yet its population has tripled in the last decade. It’s the land where even the cops drive Lamborghinis and Ferraris (yes, really!)

Dubai: Your Complete Travel Guide to this Land of Excess

You’re probably on the edge of your seat, booking the plane tickets now, aren’t you?

Dubai: Your Complete Travel Guide to this Land of Excess

The Dubai Skyline

But wait, you have your bags packed and your sunglasses draped over your head, but there is one final hurdle that is stopping you from jumping on the next plane to Dubai: Is it safe there?

Safety and Dress Code in Dubai

You can throw your worries into the same trash can you’ll be throwing any expenditure restrictions; Dubai is one of the safest places to travel to. I know it might be hard to imagine that, given its location in the Middle East: a little too close to Israel and Syria for comfort. But honestly, Dubai is one of those places where you don’t have to give a second thought about taking a midnight walk after a hearty, Arabic-style dinner.

Dubai: Your Complete Travel Guide to this Land of Excess

That being said, I do think it would be wise to not venture to Emirates like Sharjah and Al-Ain at night. But metropolises like Dubai and Abu Dhabi are very safe, especially if you’re travelling alone as a woman.

Dubai: Your Complete Travel Guide to this Land of Excess

There isn’t any lawfully-enforced dress code in Dubai, except in mosques where women and men are expected to cover their heads in traditional Arabic scarves.

Pack the same clothes as you would if you were taking a summer trip to Hawaii.

Dubai is a city with a population of 90% expats, most of whom come from (cold) countries in Europe. Enforcing a dress code that requires people to cover themselves up would drive most of these expats out of the city, which would all but ruin the local economy — and lawmakers are well-aware of this.

Now that we’ve covered safety, let’s move on to how to get there, all the fun things to do there, and what to pack:

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Paakhi lives in the United Arab Emirates and is an avid reader of historical fiction. She is a passionate feminist and blogs about politics and feminist issues. She likes to listen to music and document her life in a series of journals she will probably never show to anyone.

55 Comments

  1. Rubby Hankins

    Dubai is one of the best and most beautiful places in the world. It has world tallest building” Burj Khalifa” which has 163 Floors and you can look at the entire city, the best time is sunset its called Prime hour.

  2. Geraldina Lee

    Dubai is the place where I enjoyed my best time with my friend last year. Their structural view and saw the sea-beach is just mindblowing. I am a great fan of Dubai.

  3. Francis Walton

    I know Dubai is one of the best city to Travel, but still, I do not go there. But I hope to travel there with my friend as soon as possible. This article makes me more crazy to visit Dubai.

  4. Cody Pierce

    Thanks for the article. Dubai its a place of magic, a place for entertainment and adventure, a lot of activities for children and whole lot of fun to go with family and friends, desert safari is just amazing car ride; bounce is a must go and for food and shopping 🙂

  5. Deborah Henry

    It is a very well written blog and a whole lot of information put together in one place. After reading this it has eased many jitters I was having. I am definitely going to refer this to plan my upcoming trip to Dubai! Thanks a lot again!

  6. Kimberly Thompson

    Great guide! Wish it was published a month ago. Last month on a visit to Dubai, we went out to Babs Al Shams for cocktails, dinner and a beautiful sunset. It was a nice escape from the concrete jungle of Dubai and it was only 45 minutes away by private car. Next trip, we are staying out there for a few weeks. 😊

  7. Lin Del Rey

    Love the article! I too am a solo female traveler. I have a question not necessarily about safety or harassment but about regulations. I heard that you have to be a certain age to be able to stay in Dubai if you are alone. I’m 24 years old and would like to go to Dubai but am I allowed to enter and stay in Dubai if I don’t have anyone with me the whole time?

    • Yes of course you are. There’s really no truth in that. I think Dubai is a very safe place to travel, especially solo. Tourism is one of their main sources of revenue and they take tourist safety really seriously.

  8. Jae Medina

    Very good read with lots of insider info someone might not be able to find in a typical guidebook. Excellent tips! I will certainly be paying attention to these on my upcoming trip to Dubai 😀

  9. Kaitlyn Barrett

    Great advice for having a beautiful trip to Dubai. As on coming month I am going for a trip to Dubai with my friends group. I hope your tips will be helping us to have memorable days out there.

  10. Ingrid Winston

    Dubai Dutyfree is no doubt the greatest duty free shop I have ever seen. Last time me and my husband traveled through Dubai we had a stopover for over 7 hours that passed like 15 minutes of entertaining shopping. 😀

  11. Sibel Jenkinson

    I love Dubai, and it’s a gorgeous place, but I’m very disappointed that in UAE they censor all websites that are thought to be used by groups who oppose the rulers or website they believe is against ethicals of the country. And it can be very hard to get on to some webpages, some are all blocked… and even viber apple app and so on and also some unneccesary… I was shocked in the start but well you get use to it.

  12. Lynn Hayes

    What a fantastic post about visiting Dubai. I’ve never left the airport… but after reading this I want to! Wonderful tips about thing I’d never think about.

  13. Sabrina Grattidge

    You’ve made me want to visit Dubai! Oh I’ve got such a travel wanderlust right now…! Some super tips here, thank you!

  14. Winona Miller

    Always good to get great tips from those on the ground. This was a fantastic and informative list of things. I have heard so much about Dubai lately I am very keen to visit . Looking forward to a local breakfast and a bit of drumming in the dessert! 🙂

  15. Anna Kaplan

    Gosh! What a wonderful travel guide, Paakhi! I have never been to Dubai and have to say, after reading this post, I’d love to go! Thanks for this huge list to research and plan for.

    • Thanks so much, Anna! I hope you have a wonderful trip whenever you decide to go.

  16. Carol Warren

    I want to visit Dubai for the same reasons you mentioned, it is crazy how quickly a little fishing town has exploded into the one of the most expensive and fancy cities in the world! I’ve heard that tea time at the Burj Khalifa is a must. And I would love to take an overnight trip out into the desert in UAE! 😊

  17. Andrea Mitchell

    Dubai is amazing. The architecture is just breath taking. The mix of old and new is so different. If you go you must hav afternoon tea in The Burj Al Arab and go to the top of the Burj Khalifa. I have a photo from the top of the World’s tallest building and it’s a wow moment!

  18. Gwen Keaton

    We were in Dubai for a week last year. Truly it wasn’t enough. Are these your own photos? They are a great selection of Dubai’s must-sees! Definitely loving this article! Sharing on Facebook. xo

  19. Emma Blackwood

    It really is hard to believe that it has grown fro a fishing village to the mega city it is today in just 50 years! Dubai is on my travel bucket list (long list), hope I get there one day soon.

  20. Julia MacLean

    I still haven’t made it to Dubai! All the photos are amazing – so much color! My husband would want to drive on the desert. 🙂

  21. Kimberley Foulkes

    Finally I have found a very informative post about Dubai. Thank you Paakhi, this is a great post – I am super excited to go to Dubai it seems like it’s impossible not to have an awesome time out there. 😀

  22. Loraine Aguilar

    Thank you for the amazing guide. I am going in September, and I am so excited. Now, I have never taken an international trip. What is your suggestion about currency?

  23. Matilda Parker

    Dubai was never really a place on my radar but recently I’ve found myself wanting to go. Quite the place for modern architecture buffs! For me, I’d love to get out in the desert and do some exploring. 🙂

  24. Pearl Nguyen

    Hi dear. Thanks for your tips. This is really very important for me. As I am planning a holiday trip to this amazing city of the world on coming month I have to know something about the city. From now I am collecting some most adventures things list like Jet Ski ride, enjoy Ferrari world, dinner in dhow cruise, spending on the night in the desert etc. from my Alt Dubai travel agent. But your tips are very much helpful to me on my trip. Thank You. By the way nice photos.

  25. Sasha Rosswell

    Very nice list, so helpful to know this before visiting. But despite the rules it’s well worth the visit… I have read many articles but you have some very interesting things to add up here. The pictures are adorable.

  26. Hi can a couple who are not yet married can stay together in dubai? me and my boyfriend are planning to visit dubai within this year but some people are saying that we can not stay together in dubai if we’re not yet married.

    • Yes of course you can! There are rules against PDA at some places, but you can definitely stay together. Have a blast!

  27. Dubai is close to bankrupt. Isn’t obvious that such a thing is unsubstainable? Indoor skiing in the desert? How much oil is burned daily to keep that going? 😮

  28. I;ve been to Dubai a few times now and agree it is a wonderful place. I believe there was plans to create a theme park called dubailand that was supposed to be ten times the size of dineyland on florida, with 10 section each with its own unique theme. Was really looking forward to this but i think construction has stopped due to the global recession.

  29. One of those places that should be a lifetime goal to see in person and you did a great job of highlighting the reasons why. Awesome pictures and great writing!

  30. Earlier this year I was invited to go and work and live there and I turned it down! Reading this is making me think I made a wrong decision! It certainly looks fantastic. I am just slightly concerned that its looks will equate with the expense of staying there. Or is it reasonably priced?

  31. I think one of the most amazing things about Dubai is its incredible growth from a small fishing village into a huge, international destination. It helps to know about the culture too before heading to a place like Dubai.

  32. Dubai…

    The PROS: It’s the center of skyscrapers, malls, resorts and glittering urban extravagance.

    THE CONS: Definitely ONE of the HOTTEST tourist destinations in the Middle East.

    Well, every travel destination has its pros and cons anyway…

  33. A friend of a friend lives in Dubai, originally from the UK. They live exactly the lifestyle you describe…luxurious and fun! Great post! I’ll pack my bags now… 😜 Hahaha I wish! Definitely a place I’d love to visit. 🙂

  34. Incredible article. A lot of people do not realise what a magnificent city Dubai really is. Contrary it to being in the middle east, there is a shock for ‘western’ travellers when they find out how open and multicultural it is. My favourite city in the world, even better than my home town of London. Bookmarked. 👍

  35. I’ve been working here for three years or so; most of the population are working expats. Dubai has little oil revenue now and is making tourism (high class) their means of sustenance. Yep a lot of beautiful hotels and very clean and safe. And no, the women do not have to queue up separately etc. Dubai is very cosmopolitan (for a ME country) and welcomes all. Just be aware of the rules regarding dress and propriety and you will be OK.

  36. Great article on Dubai! You’ve pushed it up by several slots on my future travel “to-do” list. I would want to experience the beauty of these places someday. 😊

  37. Selene Leynes

    Wonderfully written article. I am getting ready for my Dubai trip and I’ve read a lot of blogs and travel articles about great destinations. Indeed your article add something for me. Thanks! By the way, I am a natural food enthusiast and would like to taste something new every time I travel, any recommendations for Dubai?

    • Hi! Thanks for the nice words.
      My personal favorite is Pita Pit. They serve healthy and natural food. Their Arabic breakfast is absolutely amazing!

  38. WOW! I would like to get lost in Atlantis! Whenever I talk about my plans of visiting Dubai, I always receive this warning: BE HYDRATED always! Is it seriously HOT?!

  39. A friend of mine travels there and nothing he said swayed me to want to visit like your article has. Super informative – love the pics & I’ve caught your enthusiasm. Nice work!

  40. How beautiful! I’m making plans now! Very enticing and interesting. What is the fastest way from Hawaii?

  41. I would love to visit, just to see the amazing architecture. But I’m not optimistic about any cheap flights to Dubai from the USA.. – lots of good travel info here. Thanks!

  42. I visited several years ago for business and have wanted to return for fun. Wonderful place simply to have fun. The airport feels like a high end shopping mall not an airport at all. Fascinating place.

  43. I saw a documentary on this once and it was fascinating how this place was developed, what luxury indeed. Great review of Dubai as it has unveiled it’s magic. 🙂

  44. Love the article! I am a frequent solo female traveler. I have a question not necessarily about safety but about regulations. I’m not sure how true it is but I heard that you have to be of certain age to be able to stay in Dubai if you are alone. Would know if there’s truth in this?

    • Hi Trisha. Like I’ve said to Lin, there is no truth in that. You can visit here as a tourist at any age.

  45. Ruth Esguerra

    I am a woman currently in Dubai alone, and would agree with everything you have said here. I am only here for a few days for work but would love to explore more over the weekend. So far, I’m enjoying!

  46. Palazzo Versace Dubai is amazing!!! I’m googling this hotel now!

    But this part definitely caught my attention: “Make sure to pack at least a couple heels.” I never thought of bringing heels when I travel to a Middle East country, I mean with the sands… yeah, the stereotype… hmmm…

  47. Oh wow! Thanks for writing about Dubai! I’ve heard good stories from friends who’ve visited but I still have safety and dress codes concern. I was hesitant. After reading your post, I’m reconsidering this travel destination.

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