Travel Tips Podcast 155: Dubai UAE

Gary Bembridge of Tips for Travellers shares observations, tips and advice for visitors to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

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This show covers among other topics:


  • You either love Dubai or you hate it!
    Some say : Surreal, bizarre , draconian, soulless, superficial
    Others say : dynamic, bold, modern and adventurous
  • Mix of conservative and liberal with lots of inconsistencies (e.g. full burka wearing women next to skimply dressed ones and lack of alcohol tolerance but heavy drinking in hotels).
  • Seen as a shoppers paradise although I am not sure prices are that amazing despite being duty free nature.
  • Mix of nationalities in the population of around 2,5 million with less than 20% of the population being UAE nationals.
  • Safe and not lot of petty crime

British controlled the area until 1971 when 6 other states formed UAE (Abu Dhabi, Ajman,Fujairah , Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Qaiwain). Each has lots of autonomy though is a Supreme Council of Rulers that overseas total UAE

Dubai has biggest population and 2nd in size after Abu Dhabi – oil was discovered in Dubai in 1963 turning a quiet pearl diving, fishing and trade port into wealthy  oil producer – but unlike neighbours like Abu Dhabi it does not very large reserves and as will run out the ruling family (Constitutional Monarchy  ruled by the Al Maktoum family) has invested into creating a major hub for finance, transport, trade and tourism and went on vast ambitious program of infrastructure building. It almost came undone in the 2008 crash but neighbouring Abu Dhabi bailed them out.

Best time to go
Hot pretty much all year  round
Best time Sept to May

Getting there
Possibly best airline hub in the world !
Cruise lines increasingly calling here and the port is close to town

Where to stay
Jumeirah Beach areas – where most resort hotels with beaches are
More business hotels are on Sheikh Zayed road

Getting around

  • Drivers generally are poor!
  • Metro – modern, cheap, air conditioned , easy to work out – smart card tickets – get day pass – ticket machines / signs / on-board voice also in English – some carriages of women and children only at peak times
  • Monorail from base of the Palm Atlantis – not connected to the metro.
  • Taxis are cheap and efficient to use – though traffic can be bad at all times of day and night.
  • Busses  best left to locals.
  • Cross Dubai Creek on small boats called abras (water taxis).
  • Hop-on Hop-off bus operated by Big Bus includes tickets into attractions like Dubai Museum, Al Maktoum’s house, Arabian dhow, water bus ride and some walking tours

General tips

  • Remember you are coming to an Islamic country.
  • Wear respectful clothing (avoid shorts, exposed shoulders and ankles ).
  • Topless suntanning not allowed.
  • Avoid public signs of affection like hand holding kissing.
  • Same sex affection real taboo.
  • Illegal to drink or be drunk in public – drink driving will get you in prison.
  • Drugs and pornography laws very draconian and strict – even some prescription drugs are illegal.
  • Restrictions on some publications and affiliations like Jehovah Witness.
  • Take care what photograph – do not photograph women in traditional dress without prior permission.
  • English widely spoken.
  • Western-style toilets are not everywhere – but are in malls

Tips on must do things to see and do

Visit the new iconic buildings
Burj Khalifa
When opened in 2010 became tallest man made structure – viewing platform on 124th floor. Pre booking is much cheaper but need to do well in advance. Fast Track on the day for immediate entry 400 Dhiramas (about £60 or $100).

Burj Arab Hotel
Most luxurious hotel in world – designed to resemble a sail and has heli-pad above 27th floor. Entry only with a reservation – afternoon tea is classic – strict dress code of smart casual.

The Palm and Atlantis
Man made reclaimed land – visible from space – 4000 villas each with own beach front – 5000 apartments – restaurants -sports facilities – cinemas – Marina docking

Atlantis Hotel – based on original Bahamas hotel billed as a “watery world of wonder” – aquarium with 21 water exhibits including lost Chamber and waterpark


  • Wild Wadi Waterpark – in my view the best in the world!
  • Ski Dubai is  -4 degrees C with a big ski slope, tabogan run and ski lift – entry includes gear except hats and gloves which can be bought.
  • Four-Wheel Drive Sand Dune expeditions – high speed rides which also take you desert camps to do camel rides and dune surfing

Al Faheidi Fort
Dates from 1800s – oldest surviving building in city – now popular museum opened in 1970 –  tells story of development of UAE life and history with models and exhibitions.

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum house – former ruler who died in 1958 lived here – built around central courtyard in 19century around 30 rooms and traditional wind towers (old fashioned air conditioning system )

Grand Mosque – near the museum
(though the Jumeirah mosque is more impressive building


  • Explore the famous and traditional Souks – traditional ones all close to each other in Deira area across Dubai Creek (get there by traditional boat, metro or taxi ). Gold (priced by weight with small charge for work done to craft into an item) and Spice are the most impressive. Haggling expected!
  • Malls – lots of them-hugeair conditioned and up market. Three of note in my view:
    • Dubai Mall – sometimes referred to as biggest in the world – ice rink and also massive aquarium – go through to get to Burj Khalifa – free wifi – fountain show at night (like Bellagio Las Vegas).
    • Mall of the Emirates – more dated – Dubai Ski based here.
    • Emirates Towers Boulevard – luxury boutiques and reputation for being the most expensive and prestigious.

Other things to do

  • Helicopter or seaplane trips.
  • Arabian Dhow evening cocktail cruises on Dubai creek
  • Catamaran tours along beaches and around The Palm
  • Explore the Dubai Marina area

Check out this episode!

Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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