The snow has made headlines across Europe and the US in recent weeks, spurring more holidaymakers to make a trip to the sun. As a result, Dubai is abuzz with visitors right now. To survive the influx of guests demanding your time and local knowledge, use our fun Q&A to work out what type of host you really are, and then your perfect itinerary. But first, the answers to all those questions they’ll have asked before even getting here.
Pre-arrival survival… all their Dubai questions answered
When is best to visit? The best time of year for the weather is between November and April, when the weather hovers around 30°C. The Holy Month of Ramadan is scheduled to start on July 10 this year, during which many venues are closed, live music is cancelled and eating and drinking in public is forbidden during daylight hours.
Is it good for kids? Dubai offers loads of attractions for small children, and some hotels have babysitting services.
Do women have to cover up? Sunbathing on the beach is fine, although it’s best to choose one of the hotel’s beaches. You must don more substantial clothes over your swimsuit before stepping off the beach, and it is not advisable to go directly from the beach to the mall without covering up. In all other public places (streets, shopping malls and restaurants), shorts and skirts must be of appropriate length – avoid mini skirts or hot pants. Avoid wearing clothing that is low-cut, transparent or that displays obscene or potentially offensive pictures or slogans.
How much to tip? A ten percent service charge is added in many tourist establishments, though feel free to add more if your service was impressive. If the charge is not already included, ten or 15 percent is about average. For taxi drivers, it is appropriate to round up the fare to the nearest Dhs10 or give more if you’re impressed by the driver.
Driving Guests who qualify for a tourist visa (www.etihadairways.com/en/before-you-fly/visas) can use their native driving licence during the trip. Car rental costs around Dhs115 per day per car (www.rentalcars.com/Dubai).
Health tips Mosquitoes don’t pose a massive problem here, though you may get the occasional bite, so a suitable insect repellent won’t go astray. No special vaccinations or immunisations are required. Some medications are banned (see abudhabi.usembassy.gov/restricted_medication.html for details), and guests are advised to buy medicines when they arrive: a 24-hour chemist can be contacted via 04 223 2323.
Clothing Lightweight clothing is ideal, but at night it can get chilly due to the lack of cloud cover, especially if at sea or in the desert. Bring some long-sleeved layers and a pashmina.
Photos It is polite to ask before taking photos of locals, while taking pictures of government buildings or military equipment should be avoided.
Alcohol Consumption is only permitted in certain designated areas, such as licensed restaurants and bars attached to hotels. Residents must hold a valid alcohol licence.
Public affection: Holding hands in public is only allowed for married couples; but even they should not kiss or cuddle.
Time Dubai is four hours ahead of GMT, there is no summer time change.
Dubai police hotline 800 4888
Ambulance 998 or 999
Coastguard 04 345 0520
What kind of host are you? Find out here…
Do you enjoy having guests to visit?
A) I do, but it can be hard to find the time to look after them.
B) Of course, it’s a chance for me and the city to show off.
C) The more the merrier, as our kids always say.
D) I’ve been here so long, it’s tough finding new things to do.
E) Yes, but I still feel like a newcomer myself.
Which of the below do you think when guests arrive?
A) Have fun with them during evenings and weekends – but save time off for my holidays.
B) Always keep them coming back for more.
C) Even if they’re just friends, they feel like part of the family.
D) Here we go again!
E) We’re all in this together, so let’s explore!
What’s your favourite thing about living in Dubai?
A) The service: having everything at the touch of a button.
B) Doing all the things I can’t do back home.
C) How great it is for the kids.
D) After being here so long, I know nearly everyone.
E) There’s too much to choose from – I haven’t even had a chance to decide yet.
Mostly As: Time is tight You have a hectic workload and there is barely enough time in the day for you, let alone having more people demanding your attention. Your guests need to be independent.
Mostly Bs: Host with the most You are the stereotypical wannabe ‘perfect host’ who wants to do lots of adrenaline-packed activities to impress your visitors, and money is no obstacle in the pursuit of fun. Your guests better be up to the challenge.
Mostly Cs: Family guy and girl You have a partner, kids, a home and a dog, so a few more bodies won’t make a big difference. Having said that, your guests better be ready to help out.
Mostly Ds: Long-term resident You’ve lived in the UAE for a while and have lost count of how many guests you’ve entertained. You feel as though you’ve already seen everything, so guests should come with some ideas of new challenges that excite them.
Mostly Es: First-time host You’re an overly enthusiastic new arrival to Dubai, and everything is as new to your guests as it is to you. Like your guests, you’re after the ultimate to-do list, to get the essential must-dos done first.
Time is tight
Encourage your guests to spend the first day learning more about the city’s heritage. Send them out for an Emirati-style breakfast at cute and characterful café Klayya Bakery and Sweets on 24th Street near Al Barsha Pond Park (04 325 5335). Afterwards, they can join a tour at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (Dhs55 per person, Sat 9am; Sun, Tue and Thu 10.30am, 04 353 6666). The 90-minute tour features a walk through the historic Al Fahidi area, a visit to a mosque and a chance for a candid conversation with the Emirati volunteers about their life and culture, while enjoying Arabic coffee. If they’re still hungry for culture, advise them to visit the nearby Dubai Museum (04 353 1862), housed in the oldest building in Dubai.
Get your visitors ‘off-road’ by booking an amphibious tour with Wonderbus (Dhs140, 04 359 5656). Lasting 75 minutes, the tour will show them Dubai’s main sights, via both land and water, as the bus transforms into a water-vessel and plunges into the creek for waterside views. Next is Dubai by air, with a 40-minute plane ride (www.seawings.ae) over the skyline, but your wallet will need to stretch to Dhs1,375. End the day by hooking them up with a dinner partner on Restronaut.me, a new social supper club group running themed events.
Start the day with a last view of the major city sites aboard the Big Bus Tours: it’s Dhs220 per person and starts from Deira City Centre (www.bigbustours.com). Finally, send your visitors back to Old Dubai for a food-focused tour with blogger Arva Ahmed (aka I Live In a Frying Pan), where they’ll sample Arabic, Indian or North African backstreet eats (www.fryingpanadventures.com).
Host with the most
Ditch the standard desert drive in favour of a private breakfast with a local Bedouin and a wildlife-spotting safari in a Mercedes G-Wagen (Dhs495 per person, 04 388 4044). Beat your guests down Ski Dubai’s indoor slope (Dhs200 for two hours for an adult, www.skidxb.com) before retiring to a Dhs16,000 per night three-bedroom chalet (Kempinski Mall of the Emirates, 04 341 0000). For dinner, book out the cosy terrace at British bistro Rivi Bar at Souk Madinat Jumeirah for free (www.rivingtongrill.ae, 04 366 6464), then sink sundowners from one of the most exclusive vantage points in Dubai, the boast-worthy 360° club (050 107 6405, www.jumeirah.com).
If you have just one guest, rent a Lamborghini Aventador from Park Lane Rentals (Dhs12,000 per day, 04 347 1779) and cruise along Jumeirah Beach Road, stopping at each of the city’s sandy spots, such as Sunset Beach next to the Burj Al Arab. Move up a gear by heading to the brunch at Saffron in Atlantis (Dhs435 per person, 04 426 2626) and show them how Dubai residents roll at the best party brunch in town. End the night at a penthouse at JW Marriott Marquis (Dhs35,000 per night, 04 414 0000) or get dropped off at nearby DIFC for French fare at La Petite Maison (04 439 0505).
Head to Old Dubai for a day on a chartered 78ft yacht at Dubai Marina (Dhs3,000 per hour, Xclusive Yachts, 04 432 7233). Lead your guests off the vessel, Warren Beatty-style, then make your way to Skydive Dubai (Dhs1,750 per person, 050 153 3222) and prepare to throw them out of a plane for the coolest view of the Palm Jumeirah possible. Once they relax, enjoy a hearty lunch of mixed drinks, pulled beef tacos and burgers at beachside summer spot and Grecian-feel Nasimi Beach (Dhs95 per burger, 04 426 0700) and finish off at a private table at N’Dulge (www.atlantisthepalm.com, 055 200 4322), where it’s likely your
guests will be mixing with British reality TV royalty.
Family guy and girl
Wake up early for a breakfast of pancakes and omelettes at family-friendly IHOP on The Walk at JBR (04 361 2410). This allows you to get to Aquaventure waterpark early. UAE residents’ rates are well worth taking advantage of, especially if you have kids in tow (Dhs150 adults, Dhs125 kids, 04 426 0000). Pick up lunch afterwards at Burger Joint at the Atlantis The Palm (04 426 0606), where the big kids can try the Dos Hombres double burger. Head back to Dubai Marina Mall so your visitors can do a spot of shopping or take the kids’ train, before either enjoying an afternoon coffee overlooking the water at Little More, or hiring a bike from one of the Byky stations (from Dhs15 for 30 minutes, www.bykystations.com).
If you’re all feeling energetic, head out to Al Ain for a day of sun and sports at Wadi Adventure. The activities on offer include surfing, kayaking, white-water rafting, a zip line, climbing wall and an ‘air park’ – essentially an enormous climbing frame, challenging enough for both kids and adults. Make sure you book the activities in advance (park admission Dhs100 adults, Dhs50 kids, Dhs200 family pass, 03 781 8422). For dinner, take the gang to Madinat Jumeirah, where we recommend the family-oriented Italian eatery Toscana on the waterside (04 366 6730).
Head to The Dubai Mall to do some serious shopping – if your kids are old enough to play unsupervised, drop them off at Sega Republic (04 448 8484), or if not, try incredible edutainment centre and mini city Kidzania (free for under two year olds; Dhs92 two-three; Dhs140 four-16, 04 448 5222). This will give you plenty of time to hit the shops with your visitors, and take them up the Burj Khalifa (800 2875, book ahead for Dhs125). Afterwards, grab a gelato from Morelli’s on the mall’s lower ground floor to check out the fountain show, which plays at 1pm and 1.30pm then every 30 minutes from 6pm to 11pm (11.30pm at weekends). Finally, book a babysitter to take over for the evening (Sublime, 04 451 8400) and head to Rock Bottom in TECOM (04 450 0111) for a lively last night.
Surprise both yourself and your guests by skipping the Burj Khalifa in favour of a morning at the lively Fish Market, where colourful fresh fish and seafood from across the region is unloaded and sold from 5am until nearly midnight every day. It’s located in Shindagha in Bur Dubai, opposite the Gold Souk. Stay off radar by spending the afternoon checking out the detail on the handcrafted vessels at the little-known Dhow Building Yard, about 1km west of Garhoud bridge, on the south side. Having built up an appetite, head over to Karama’s Karachi Darbar (04 334 7272), a cheap and authentic favourite of Dubai’s Pakistani taxi drivers, before heading to the overlooked Hilton Dubai Creek Pool Bar (04 227 1111) for great views over the creek and good-value drinks. If you fancy partying, wow your guest by stopping by Filipino favourite Club Se7en (Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel, 04 377 1210), which hosts a great live band from 9pm until 3am.
Show your guest a different side of ‘new Dubai’. Do some cut-price shopping at the well-hidden Style Outlet in Murjan in JBR (04 435 5681), before cruising The Walk’s newest cafés, such as SimSim (04 454 2319). Wind up the evening with live music at JLT’s new Jazz@Pizza Express (Cluster A, JLT, 04 441 6342) before heading to brand new grape bar The Whistler (Ocean View Hotel, JBR, 04 814 5599).
If that hasn’t impressed your visitors, let them loose in one of the city’s new parks, including one on Palm Jumeirah – you can even jog on the manmade isle’s new 2.5km bouncy track (www.dm.gov.ae). Later, chill out and relive the memories with mixed drinks at No.5 Lounge & Bar’s new terrace area (The Ritz-Carlton DIFC, 04 372 2323).
See the city from different angles with lunch by the infinity pool at Shades at The Address Dubai Marina (www.theaddress.com, 04 436 7777) before heading to the nearby Marina Mall for an hour’s cruise on the 100-seater Dubai Ferry, which costs from Dhs50 and takes in iconic sights including the Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Atlantis hotel (www.rta.ae, 800 9090). For a change of climate, head to Ski Dubai at Mall of the Emirates (www.skidxb.com, 04 409 4000) to meet the penguins, which costs Dhs145 for a 40-minute visit. Then tuck into some dinner at Après (04 341 2575), while watching ski lovers frolicking about in the snow.
Apart from being the biggest shopping haven, The Dubai Mall is also home to the 10-million-litre Dubai Aquarium (www.thedubaiaquarium.com, 04 448 5200), so go there early to catch some of the 140 underwater species, including fish, seals and other aquatic attractions. Then head out of town along the Dubai-Al Ain Road to the Dubai Outlet Mall and show off bargain offers of up to 70 percent off to your guests
(www.dubaioutletmall.com, 04 423 4666). Book your ticket for At the Top, the observation deck of Burj Khalifa, ahead to save Dhs275 (Dhs125, www.burjkhalifa.ae, 04 888 8124), then enjoy dinner across town at Go West – the hearty and fun Wild West themed eatery at Jumeirah Beach Hotel (04 348 0000). Head upstairs and finish the night with some grape overlooking the night-time city skyline at the chilled-out Uptown Bar (04 406 8999).
Head out early into the desert for a three -and-half-hour morning trek. Pick up is at 8am and includes dune bashing, camel riding and sand skiing (from Dhs185 per person, www.desertsafaridubai.com, 04 357 2200). Dubai Creek is another must-see, especially over a four-course dinner on Bateaux Dubai (from Dhs350, www.jaresortshotels.com, 04 315 4777). Finish the stay with a trip to one of the city’s most popular beachside haunts: Barasti at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi (www.barastibeach.com, 04 318 1313), before your guests get ready to head home with a suntan.
Rates per single room stay from April 3-9 (quoted from the Booking.com website).
Dhs2,871: Lotus Hotel Apartments & Spa.
www.lotus-hospitality.com (04 292 8888).
Dhs3,710: Ocean View Dubai Marina, JBR.
www.jaresorts.com (04 814 5599).
Dhs4,475: Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers.
www.bonningtontower.com (04 356 0000).
Sheikh Zayed Road
Dhs1,966: Ibis Al Barsha.
www.accorhotels.com/Ibis (04 399 6699).
Dhs2,038: Holiday Inn Express Safa Park.
www.hiexpress.com/SafaPark (04 511 9333).
Dhs2,250: Byblos TECOM.
www.bybloshoteldubai.com (04 448 8000).
Dhs4,470: Radisson Blu Downtown.
www.radissonblu.com/Dubai (04 450 2000).
Dhs4,356: Al Murooj Rotana.
www.rotana.com (04 321 1111).
Dhs13,200: Armani Hotel Dubai.
dubai.armanihotels.com (04 888 3888).
Dhs1,080: Royal Falcon, Deira.
www.royalfalconhotel.ae (04 273 2222).
Dhs1,278: Middle East Hotel, Deira.
www.middleeasthoteldubai.com (04 297 3775).
Dhs1,350: Rush Inn Hotel Bur Dubai.
www.booking.com/Rush-Inn-Hotel (04 352 2235).
Return flights from April 3-9 2013
Dhs2,229 with Pegasus Airlines.
Dhs2,192 with Ethiopian Airlines.
Dhs3,675 with Aeroflot.
Dhs6,222 with Air China/China Southern Airlines.
Dhs3,245 with Jet Airways.
Dhs1,779 with Royal Jordanian.
Dhs2,087 with Royal Jordanian.