In the cooler months we all plan or dream our secret escape to somewhere warm with close proximity to large and open water supply. Curiosity got the better of me and we decided to go visit Dubai for about a week. Many years ago I visited the desert city but new builds and vast additions of new tourist attractions attracted me again (plus the flight tickets and hotel were fairly reasonable and in budget). So here are my updated impressions and recommendations on things to do/places to visit.
Few things to clarify before we start – the city is a concrete jungle, meaning you need a car/taxi to get pretty much everywhere; restaurants are in hotels so you will end up going from your hotel to another hotel for food and drinks; Tuesday night is ladies night, which means free drinks or massive discounts on drinks for ladies, no entrance too; most (95%) beaches are private so there is very limited space to lounge around on the beach. With technicalities out of the way let’s begin with review of some attractions.
Tallest building and singing fountains
Burj Khalifa towers over Dubai Mall and provides great bird view of the city. We went to 120th floor on one hot summer evening and enjoyed the city lights and almost 360 view of the entire city. Security is strict and takes time to board the elevators. Also if you can pre book your tickets, since it works out much cheaper. Views are nice and definitely worth checking.
In close proximity is the Dubai Musical Fountain which have performance every half hour starting from 6.30pm. The show last for about a minute and attracts a good crowd of people desperate to take a picture or video. Make sure you arrive a bit earlier to secure good spot and avoid elbowing. The show is interesting and there many changes of color and well-coordinated shapes made from water. Also it is completely free.
Aquariums and water parks
I love colorful fish and underwater adventures so we visited the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. There were was plenty to see and explore, with added adventure bits. For example you will get in a boat with glass bottom and cruise around a large pool filled with sea predators having meal. It felt totally safe and quite exciting to see quite large fishes. The underwater zoo also included many individual aquariums filled with colorful jelly fish, piranhas, crabs and even large crocodiles. If you like large aquariums and the sea world you will certainly enjoy this place.
Atlantis Dubai Water Park is in general a good idea for a full time activity during the day. Problem is that is very overcrowded and exhausting considering you have to wait 30min for 1 minute ride. Not my best experience and rides are really not worth the wait. There is a beach you can retire to but problem is the water is still and instead of sea you get some sort of a lake.
Barasti beach bar is one of the most popular beach places to retire. Situated next to the marina you can enjoy free beach bed and the view of fancy large boats cruising around. Personally not my favorite spot during the day but great for evening beach fun. There is a small stage and resident DJ. Kite beach was much better during the day packed up with many activities such as jet skis, banana boat and many other I was too scared to try.
As mentioned before for dinner or drinks you will end up going to another hotel. Restaurants are nice and food variety is lavish but it seems to be a bit overpriced considering it was nothing out of this world. There are many American food chains for ice cream, pizza, burgers, cinema buns etc. (disclaimer: I live trying new fine dining restaurants and can really appreciate/distinguish skill from mediocrity). Drinks and alcohol are expensive so keep that in mind when you plan a big night out. There are tons of bars with a view to pick from.
Shopping and gold markets
If you are going to Dubai for shopping be prepared to be very disappointed. Although the variety is there and brands from USA and Europe and fuddling the mall floors there is a significant difference in price. Everything seems to be more expensive even basic brands such as H&M and Zara. Luxury goods are way overpriced even on sale. Gold markets are probably the only places where we as tourist you can get some feel of the culture. They are not the most pleasant places to visit after dark since it can be a bit uncomfortable and borderline unsafe. Again there are barely any deals to be found since majority of gold pieces they sell are quite solid and therefore very pricy.
Dubai is interesting city to visit once and perhaps for only few days. There is not that much to explore when it comes to culture and spending a day at the Mall loses its novelty after you’ve done it once. Its always hot, in some months too hot so keep that in mind.