Dubai: a Middle Eastern city in the United Arab Emirates known for its wealthy resorts, modern architecture and varied shopping.
It’s a place where many Brits choose to go when they want to experience a touch of luxury. For this reason, understandably, many budget travellers may decide to give it a miss.
This New Year’s Eve, I was given the opportunity to fly to the city on a week’s family holiday. And what a NYE it was!
How to Get to Dubai
First things first, getting to Dubai from the UK is very straightforward.
Emirates offers direct flights from London, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Glasgow.
Then there are other airlines that have direct flights, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
How to Get Around Dubai
One of the easiest ways to get around Dubai is by purchasing a Nol card. You can find these at ticket offices, ticket vending machines and online, and they’re good for use on buses, the metro, the tram and some marine transport.
Otherwise, you have the following options.
- The metro, which runs only two lines but the main line serves most of the main tourist attractions
- The tram, which runs along by The Palm and Dubai Marina for a flat service fee
- The Palm Monorail, which provides service from the mainland to Palm Jumeirah at 10 AED for a single trip or 15 AED return
- A taxi or ride share (Uber and Careem)
Where To Stay in Dubai
I was fortunate enough to stay in Atlantis on The Palm for my entire trip to Dubai. And it was certainly an experience to remember!
However, you can also stay in the following areas.
- Downtown, which will be close to the malls, cinemas and food courts.
- Palm Jumeirah, which consist of the fanciest resorts and is close to the beaches and marina.
- Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), which is the best option for families and foodies (there are some great restaurants here as well as beautiful beaches, LEGOLAND and the Aquaventure Waterpark for children).
- Al Fahidi, which is the oldest district but heavily renovated; therefore, ideal for people interested in history, museums and galleries.
Top Things to Do in Dubai
Heading there soon? Read on for 7 exciting things to do in Dubai that you can’t miss out on.
1. Spend a Day at Atlantis Water Park
Exciting things to do in Dubai 101: visit Atlantis, The Palm (if you’re not already staying there).
In addition to an aquarium, Atlantis has private beaches, shops and numerous bars and restaurants.
And it also had its very own water park, which is a pretty fun way to spend a sunny day!
2. Visit Dubai Marina
One of the most exciting things to do in Dubai is head to the marina.
This part of the city is perhaps the prettiest bit I saw. Why? Well, it’s full of luxurious yachts and serene water in the foreground, coupled with what can only be described as a skyscraper painting in the background.
In fact, Dubai’s architecture in general is extremely impressive. They have buildings that twist and layer and buildings in unusual shapes that could replicate the Chrysler in NYC.
And who could forget that they have the tallest building in the world in the form of the Burj Khalifa (at 127 floors precisely)?
Needless to say, if you’re an architecture nut, you’ll especially love Dubai.
3. Have Afternoon Tea at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
While we were in the city, my family and I visited the prestigious Burj Al Arab Jumeirah for a special treat.
Haven’t heard of the Burj Al Arab? It’s the iconic sail-shaped building dubbed one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.
Here we wandered around the gorgeous hotel, marvelled in the architecture and proceeded to stuff our faces with afternoon tea at the rooftop restaurant.
Pricey? Absolutely. But worth every minute.
4. Shop Until Your Heart’s Content at Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping centre and is one of the most exciting things to do in Dubai.
Why? Well, it has an aquarium plonked in the middle of it, for starters.
Then it has a good mix of high street and luxury shops to fulfil the needs of even the most avid fashionistas.
5. Watch the Burj Khalifa Fountain Show
Head outside of Dubai Mall and you’ll find the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in all its glory next to the Dubai Fountain.
Stick around long enough and you’ll even experience the famous Dubai Fountain shows. The jets and lights are choreographed to music – and it illuminates the 800 metre-tall tower perfectly.
Three words: a must-see.
6. Go On a Desert Safari
Even though I didn’t get to do this on my trip, dune bashing across the desert is a popular tourist activity in Dubai.
There are several tour companies that take you to do this in a 4×4 vehicle. You can also go sand boarding, have a BBQ with traditional Middle Eastern cuisine and ride a camel.
Whether you take a trip during the day or under the cover of darkness, it looks like a fun, adrenaline-inducing activity not to be missed.
7. Experience The Atlantis NYE Event
Finally, one of the most exciting things to do in Dubai for New Year’s Eve is buy a ticket for their special event.
There are different packages available, but my family and I booked the one that consists of a five-course meal in one of the hotel’s many restaurants. (You get to decide.)
We chose Nasimi Beach, an outdoor eatery based (you guessed it) on the beach. It’s so young, trendy and opulent with a constant stream of DJ’s that you feel like you’re eating your dinner in the middle of an Ocean Beach Club rave in Ibiza.
After the meal, we were then given access to the hotel’s gala event on our package. This consisted of a live band, fireworks and a free bar. (Hurrah!)
And the whole night was so much fun!
Embracing Dubai Without Constantly Checking Your Bank Balance
Due to the fact that it can be on the expensive side, a lot of people opt out of visiting Dubai.
I totally get it.
That said, if you ever get the opportunity to go, it’s definitely worth a visit – just to marvel at the shiny architecture, if nothing else.
Have you been to this Middle Eastern city before? What would you say are the most exciting things to do in Dubai?