Firstly, I can never say no to a good travel offer, ever!
An offer floated in to my inbox from British Airways way back in 2016. BA were running an improved Avios air mile redemption offer so I had to jump on flights to Dubai. Usually people go to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, just en route to somewhere else and I booked flights for a week… I’ll be honest, I thought it was maybe a little too long. Were there enough must do things in Dubai? Did Dubai change my mind?
Yes! Wow, what a place!
The scale of Dubai is crazy, the number of sky scrapers, the size of shopping malls, the distance between places, the height of the buildings. It’s like nowhere I’ve really been before considering the place was just desert around 20 years ago! Here are a few things you just have to do.
Get thrown around in the back of a 4×4!
The first thing you have to do is book a desert safari! We used a company called Red Dunes and those guys picked us up outside our hotel in their 4×4 at around 4pm. We joined two other couples and headed towards the desert. The first place we stopped at was a small market area with plenty of shops, photo opportunities and other activities like quad biking were available as optional extras. This was the warm up to the real event.
If you’re prone to travel sickness (and even if you’re not!) then don’t sit in the back of the 4×4! You can feel every bump in the sand, every bump… The drivers throw the 4×4 up and down the sand dunes and it’s an amazing experience: the sudden drops, the tight turns. You then stop to watch the sun setting over the desert. Classic Instagram post! You’re then transported to a camp where you can enjoy traditional food, camel riding, sand surfing, henna tattoos and drinks. There are also a few shows to take in including belly dancing. It takes around 5 hours in total and it’s something you really have to do!
Eat and Drink Everything!
In Dubai, a Friday brunch is a popular event. Essentially it’s an all you can eat meal including alcohol (or soft drinks). Alcohol is very expensive in Dubai so this is a cost effective way of having a few beers and getting some good food. It can be pretty expensive at around AED 350 (£75 / $95) but you’ll still find it difficult to get a reservation. I would recommend booking somewhere before you go, google the best places to go and book early. We left it very late and eventually managed to squeeze, at the last minute, in to brunch at the Atlantis. The Atlantis is amazing!
If anyone wants to treat me to a few nights stay at the Atlantis, get in touch!
Speedboat Tour: Phenomenal!
Just incredible! We bought our tour through Splash Tours at AED 200 (£42 / $54) each for a 90 minute trip along the sea. We booked online the day before with a few spaces still left so you shouldn’t have to worry about booking well in advance. You’ll travel along at a speed of 30 knots with a few sharp turns thrown in for good measure. Hold on! Don’t forget to take some water along too.
The tour leaves from the Dubai Marina and you’ll be able to get some amazing views (and pictures) of the Dubai skyline, the Atlantis, Burj Al Arab and Palm Jumeirah amongst others. Check out my Instagram profile for some of the pictures. The tour guides are great with some interesting and funny remarks plus they’ll also help out with taking photos of you if you want. I can’t recommend the speedboat tour enough!
How can you go to Dubai and not visit the tallest building in the world? You can’t!
One thing we definitely wanted to do was visit the Burj Khalifa. The standard ticket is AED 125 (£27 / $34) which gets you access to levels 124 and 125. The views are absolutely incredible. Breath taking. On a clear day you can see so much of the sprawling city, try and avoid early morning viewings to avoid any foggy starts to the day.
One top tip: Check Groupon!
I would recommend buying a ticket in advance because the queues can be extremely long and the most popular time slots sell out relatively early in the day. Fortunately I looked on the Dubai version of Groupon before booking because they were offering fast track entry worth AED 300 (£64 / $82) plus entry to the James Bond 007 Exhibition worth AED 125 (£27 / $34) for only AED 175 (£37 / $48)! That was worth the fast track entry alone. It let us skip every queue and get to the top much quicker than others. Check Groupon before you book!
Aquarium and Skiing. Inside malls?!
Dubai is famous for its extravagance and one way to really experience that is to visit some of the huge malls. The Dubai Mall is the most famous of them all. This mall is the largest mall in the world, at around 12 million square feet! It contains 1,200 shops, an ice rink, a 5 star luxury Armani hotel, 120 restaurants and the famous aquarium. It is ridiculous! You have to visit this just to see what it’s like. It’s right next to the Burj Khalifa so you can go from the largest building in the world to the largest mall in the world.
The Mall of the Emirates is also worth a visit. This is the mall that houses Ski Dubai. There are not many places in the world where you can walk around 630 outlets, watch a movie, go bowling and then do a bit of skiing or watch a penguin parade! The malls are really something else and a great place to do a spot of shopping.
Freebie: Wear sun screen!
Now this one is close to my heart with me being a relatively pale guy from Scotland. After my trip to Dubai you could have put me on a plate and I wouldn’t have looked out of place being served in a seafood restaurant. Fortunately (kind of) I suffered heat stroke on the night before we were due to leave rather than at the start of the holiday. Unfortunately that involved a lot of trips to the bath room to be sick… Wear sun screen!
I can’t wait to go back to Dubai, let me know in the comments what I should be doing next time I visit.
Thanks Chloé, I’d definitely recommend visiting!
My friend lived there for a semester of uni and swears that jumping out a plane was one of the best experiences there!
That’s something we looked at and it looked amazing! We’ll have to do it next time we go!
Dubai is so travel worthy for everyone .. and Burj khalifa is on top of my bucket list.
Great. But every time i read about experience from Dubai, everything is so expensive 🙁
Enjoying the sand dunes in the 4×4 would definitely top my list. I’m sure the view from Burj Khlifa would have been amazing. Thanks for this list.
I’ve heard sky diving is a must there. It is pretty hard to believe that it was not much more than a desert a few years ago. I would spend a ton of time checking out all of the extravagant hotels.
Where else in the world can you find such unique wonders. I’ve wanted to visit Dubai for the longest while. Atlantis is at the top of my list of places to visit in Dubai.
Don’t forget skydiving! The skydiving scene in Dubai is phenomenal, especially when you see the Palm Jumeriah. We would love the 4X4 activity, especially during the sunset when the sand becomes gold in color. 🙂
We pretty much did all these same things on our trip back in 2014 to Dubai. Our favorite was definitely the desert safari. I’d like to return and do sky diving in Dubai.
What a great post and these pics looks great .. Your post has made me to pack my bags now .. Have bookmarked this post for my future travel
I had no idea that Friday brunches were popular! Such a fascinating insight into the culture as an outsider. The 4×4 sand duning would be my ideal activity of choice, I just love the thrill of it all!
love to visit and want to enjoy evening buggy riding in open desert