Different people have different preferences when travelling.
Some like relaxing weeks by the pool, for others their preference is a city break steeped in culture and then there are those who just want to experience something new.
If you’re looking for classic architecture, history and well-worn culture, then Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may not be the place for you. But if you’re looking for a unique experience with a futuristic feel and great craic, then it might just be the order of the day.
Dubai is a relatively new city, building up quickly over the last 50 years in tandem with the oil industry in the UAE.
Straight up, Dubai is flashy. Some might say fake. It depends on what way you look at it. What is undisputable though, is that visiting Dubai is a fantastic experience. From architecture to transport and entertainment, everything is modern and everything is done on a large scale.
Think huge high-rise buildings and extra everything, right in the middle of the desert.
Navigating Dubai is an interesting one. The classic advice of walking everywhere while on holidays to experience as much as possible, doesn’t really apply here. Firstly, it’s huge. Secondly, there are a lack of footpaths. For example, you can’t really just go out your door in Dubai and hit the pavements for a run. You have to head to a specific spot with a track.
A lot of people in Dubai use taxi apps such as Uber and Careem (which, top tip, I believe is the less expensive option) to get around. The metro is also one of the best ways to travel. It’s inexpensive and seeing as Dubai is pretty much one long strip, it can get you near most places and it’s hard to go wrong on it.
It’s important enough to know before you visit Dubai that it’s not cheap. Their currency is the UAE dirham (AED) – 4AED is worth roughly €1. A pint in an average Irish bar would be somewhere around 50AED. A fish and chips in the same bar/restaurant would be about 100AED. Just to give a ballpark idea.
On the subject of food and drink, Dubai does have stunning restaurants. So it’s probably worth splurging on a nice meal some evening. In terms of nightlife, Dubai is great. There are hopping pubs there where you’re sure to have plenty of craic, McGettigan’s and McCaffrey’s being favourites with the Irish contingent.
The Dubai Mall is definitely worth a visit. It’s hard to explain just how big it is. For those who are into a bit of retail therapy, it’s quite the treat. Even if shopping isn’t your thing, the fountain shows outside the mall are worth going to. They’re really something. They take place every 30 minutes from 6pm to 11pm. Also, while you’re there, cast your eye up at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
In this writer’s humble opinion, one of the nicest things to do in Dubai is take a long walk around the Marina area and then up around Jumeriah Beach Residence (JBR). Along the Marina there are lovely stalls while you take in the boats, which you can rent for a boat party if that’s what you’re into.
JBR is possibly the nicest area of Dubai, a walk along the beach here is the very best of what the city has to offer. You can take in or take part in the water sports here or go on Ain Dubai (the city’s answer to the London Eye), which is the world’s largest observation wheel – see what I mean about large scale!
To finish off, pop in and get something to eat in one of the many restaurants along the beach front.
JBR usually hosts Dubai’s famous drone shows, made up of 300 drones lighting the night sky, it’s supposed to be spectacular. Unfortunately, while Irish Country Living visited, all private drone activity in the UAE had been suspended due to a drone attack in nearby Abu Dhabi. If one is taking place while you’re there, definitely make it a priority to see. I’ve heard they’re spectacular.
Inevitably one of the questions you’ll be asked by a friend or family member if you’re a female travelling to Dubai is: “Is it safe for women over there?” The short and simple answer is: “Yes, it is.” That said, there were a few things as a woman that did grind my gears – a lot.
Getting into a taxi with a male colleague and the driver saying: “Good morning, sir.” The man at the table always being asked to try the wine. Small things in the great scheme of things, but still important to highlight in terms of (in)equality. I think it’s fair to say that women are not seen as equal to men there, whatever way you look at it. Some might disagree, but that’s my opinion after visiting.
I suppose one of the best ways to sum up Dubai is that the rules don’t really match the reality. For example, technically you shouldn’t show your shoulders or thighs in public, but it’s not really a big deal if you do. By the book, unmarried couples shouldn’t stay together in hotels, that’s not really enforced. All the same, it’s important to know these rules are there and to make your own of them.
Sunway travel has flights and accommodation packages for four nights from €1,049 per person.
Being in the middle of the desert, as you can imagine, Dubai is hot! In the winter temperatures are in the low 20°Cs, and in the summer can reach up to the low 40°Cs.
In the UAE, calls from messenger apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat etc don’t work. Texts do. If you need to make a call home, it’s important to keep this in mind, as making and receiving regular phone calls through your network provider can be expensive. Skype or Zoom are good alternatives.