Dubai travel information and travel guide

dubai

Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It is rather like an independent city-state and is the most modern and progressive emirate in the UAE, developing at an unbelievable pace in the tourist and trade sectors especially. A relatively new tourist destination, Dubai was gaining popularity in recent years until the global economic crash of 2009.

Dubai is essentially a desert city with superb infrastructure, liberal policies (by regional standards), that became popular for its excellent tourist amenities. Just 5 hrs from Europe and 3 hrs from most parts of the Middle East, the Near East, and the subcontinent of India, Dubai makes a great short break for shopping, partying, sunbathing, fine dining, sporting events, and even a few sinful pleasures. It is a city of superlatives: for the fastest, biggest, tallest, largest and highest, Dubai is the destination. It has the largest immigrant population in the world.

Districts

  • Satwa — One of Dubai’s Little India and Little Manila, due to the presence of Filipinos and Indians, a rise in Filipino and Indian restaurants, shops, supermarkets are seen here. Gold and textiles is what people come here for, Gold Souk might be your top destination but Satwa too has gold shops and is hassle free, not so crowded.
  • Karama — More of like a mixed commercial residential district, one of Dubai’s Little Indias and Little Manilas, cheap eats and cheap buys are the top things here.
  • Bur Dubai — A historical district and Bur Dubai is usual term for the area from Jumeirah to the creek, the creek separates Bur Dubai from Deira. Tourist attractions from abras to floating restaurants to the famous creek are found here.
  • Deira — Dubai’s old Financial centre, today Diera is a bustling commercial-residential district.
  • Jumeirah — A diverse district whose residents are the Europeans to the Filipinos to the Pakistanis; a mixed Little Europe, Karachi and Manila. Jumeirah is much favoured by Europeans due to the ease of access of the beach, Beautiful villas are seen here. Jumeirah Beach, Jumeirah Beach Residence’s the Walk and Jumeirah Mosque are the top attractions.
  • Arabian Ranches and Emirates Hills — These are two separate places, residential rents here are expensive due to the land value, just like the whole of Dubai, these two are Man-made.
  • Mirdiff/Mirdif — A commercial-residential district which is somewhat newly built, Uptown Mirdif is one of the attractions. This is also a another residence for the well-to-do.
  • International City — Just a simple residential area in the middle of the desert, what special about it is its architectural design, the residential rents here are cheap and is somewhat the next Chinatown as many Chinese businessmen and women reside here.

Climate

The city of Dubai is situated on a coastal strip bordered by desert and gets very hot. It is dry on the hottest days and humid during the cooler days in the summer. Cooler, more pleasant weather lasts from the end of September to beginning of May (although note that pleasant is relative, with daily temperatures from October to January and March to May still being 20°C-25°C (68°F-77°F), but be prepared for cold night temperatures. In winter the temperature at night is usually from 10°C-16°C (50°F-60°F). From May to September, the sun is intense and temperatures can touch 45°C (113°F) in the city and even higher in the desert. The heat, coupled with a humidity of 60%-70% near the coast, effectively precludes most activity outdoors for the daylight hours during summer.

December to April generally produces the highest precipitation, which at 10 cm (5 in), still is little. Some years yield no more than a few minutes of shower in Dubai. November 2006 brought record rains up to 50 cm (25 in) of rain, with temperatures at record lows.

Get in

There are plenty of airlines offering flights to Dubai from major UK airports including London Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester, Aberdeen, Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff, New Castle, London Gatwick.

By plane

Dubai has one airport, you can also enter Dubai through – aside from Dubai Int’l Airport – Sharjah and Abu Dhabi International Airport. Frequent visitors from countries granted automatic visa on entry may wish to purchase an e-gate card to speed up immigration formalities and save passport pages. The e-gate card office is situated in the upstairs foodcourt area of the terminal 1 departures concourse. The card will cost AED 200. Note: If you intend to buy an e-gate card in Dubai, you must have entered UAE via Dubai airport.

Airlines are often having price wars to glamorous destinations like Dubai and this can work to your advantage by careful planning and comparison of the various airlines serving Dubai. Emirates is Dubai’s official airline carrier which connects Dubai to over 100 destinations while FlyDubai is Dubai’s low-cost carrier. Etihad has shuttle services from their exclusive check in facility in Sheikh Zayed Rd or Central Business District of Dubai to and from Abu Dhabi Int’l Airport, you can also fly with Sharjah’s low-cost carrier; Air Arabia which flies to over 46 destinations within the Middle East, bus services operated by the Road and Transport Authority (RTA) have daily bus routes from Dubai to Sharjah and vice versa.

Dubai International Airport

Dubai International Airport (IATA: DXB) is the largest hub in the Middle East and the home base of Dubai’s flag carrier Emirates and its low-cost wing FlyDubai . In fact, it has grown at such a furious pace that the present terminals are bursting at the seams, especially during the peak hours around midnight.

  • Terminal 1 is the main terminal, used by most major airlines and long-haul flights.
  • Terminal 2 serves regional and low-cost flights, including all FlyDubai flights.
  • Terminal 3 is used exclusively by Emirates.

Terminals 1 and 3 are directly connected to each other via the airside (no immigration needed for transfer), while Terminal 2 is located at the other end of the airport. Terminals 1 and 3 are models of modern airport design, but Terminal 2, despite the recent renovations, is still reminiscent of developing world airports, with long check-in lines, queue-jumping and every other passenger checking in 70 kg of luggage. Shuttle buses between the three run every 20-30 min. However shuttles to Terminal 2 are sporadic at best, so a 30 min taxi ride may be your only option.

The airport is famous for its duty-free shopping . However, prices in the airport’s duty-free stores are equal or higher than what you can find in the many malls of the city. Alcohol here is very cheap, though. Alcohol is also available at an inbound duty free store situated in the baggage reclaim area. The allowance is 4 bottles (or four 6-packs) per person.

Taxi: Most visitors will opt for public taxis from the airport, which are readily available just outside arrivals, which use the meter and start at Dhs 20.

Public transport: Terminals 1 and 3 are served by the Dubai Metro. There are also buses just steps from the baggage claim, the most useful for visitors being lines 401 and 402 (Dhs 3), which go to the Al Sabkha and Al Ghubaiba bus terminals respectively.

Sharjah International Airport

Sharjah International Airport (IATA: SHJ) is located in the emirate of Sharjah. It is only 30 min by road from Dubai and takes an increasing number of international flights as Dubai airport struggles to keep up with demand. The principal carrier here is Air Arabia , a low-cost carrier serving the Middle East and South Asia. The airport is fairly basic but is being expanded. A taxi ride to Dubai will typically cost Dhs 50. A Bus service by Air Arabia also runs from the Airport to the Rashidiya Metro Station in Dubai. Rashidiya metro station is located close to the Dubai International Airport.

By car

Dubai’s only international road border is with Oman at Al Wajajah. Expatriate residents of Oman will require an official permit to exit Oman by road. Visitors do not require the permit. There is an OMR 3.000 charge per vehicle to exit Oman and, if returning, retain the charge receipt as it will be required to reenter. Ensure that insurance is valid for the UAE (preferably before commencing the journey). Temporary UAE insurance can be purchased at the border for a premium price. There are also road borders between the neighbouring Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Oman at the Al Burami Oasis which divides the sister cites of Al Ain and Al Burami, Oman.

By bus

The Government of Dubai operates a network of buses linking Dubai city with the capitals of the other six emirates of the UAE. The buses run under the name Emirates Express and operate from various bus terminals in Dubai.

  • To/From Abu Dhabi: Buses operate every 40 minutes from 6.20am from both Dubai’s Al Ghubaibah bus station and Abu Dhabi’s main bus station. The two-hour journey cost Dh20.
  • To/from Sharjah: Frequent buses run between Dubai and Sharjah. There are several different routes and buses depart from various bus stations in Dubai including Al Karama, Gold Souq, Baniyas Square, Jebel Ali and Al Ittihad Square. Fares are about Dh5.
  • To/from Fujairah: The bus to Fujairah leaves from the Rashidiya Metro station and takes about 3 to 4 hours.

By boat

Dubai is a trading hub for dhows from around the Indian Ocean. Travellers wanting to arrive in the city this way will probably need to make their own arrangements with the captain of the vessel.

Dubai has an international cruise terminal at Port Rashid. Costa Cruises has based one of its cruise ships (Costa Luminosa) at Dubai.

  • To/from Iran:

A boat service by Valfajr Shipping Company leaves Bandar Lengeh (and also Bandar Abbas) supposedly every second day and docks in Port Rashid in Dubai, returning the following day. Crossing the Persian Gulf takes roughly 6 hours, and a two way first class ticket costs as of February 2010 US$145 (IR 1,450,000) and also two way economy class ticket costs US$122 (IR 1,220,000). The ticket includes lunch (Iranian style).

Get around

Especially after the launch of the metro, Dubai’s public transport system is probably the best in the Middle East, but it’s still a very car-oriented city and most visitors end up taking taxis quite often. The Wojhati journey planner can suggest the best way to travel.

A day pass valid for unlimited rides on the metro and buses costs Dh14, while the basic Nol Silver stored-value card costs Dh20 (including Dh14 worth of balance) and gives a 10% discount on fares. Both are available at metro stations and major bus stations.

Card type Price Notes Red ticket Dh 2 Rechargeable ticket; suitable for tourists, it lasts for 90 days however should only be used in one type of transport, can be used for 10 journeys. Silver card Dh 20 (Dh 14 value) Rechargeable ticket, valid for 5 years. Gold card Dh 20 (Dh 14 value) Rechargeable ticket, can be used in Gold Class. Blue card Dh 70 Personalized card, with online services like transaction history and online recharge.

By metro

Dubai’s 52-km long Red Line, opened in September 2009, is the second metro in the Arab world after Cairo. As of May 15, 2010, 21 stations are open and the rest are scheduled to open by the end of the year. While the line does not serve the old city center, it’s handy for zipping along Dubai’s long coastline and includes stops at the airport, Burj Khalifa and the Mall of the Emirates. The Green Line, which will burrow through the city core, has been pushed back to August 2011. Single tickets range from Dh2-8.50, or double that for use of the “Gold” first class carriage. Train run every 6-8 minutes from 6 AM to 11 PM every day except Friday, when services are limited to 2 PM-midnight. All stations are air-conditioned and there’s a large network of feeder buses.

In addition, a 5 km monorail system shuttles passengers across the Palm Jumeirah to the Atlantis hotel, but it’s not connected to the metro network and is thus of very limited utility.

By bus

Dubai Public transport is a cheaper means of traveling within the several districts in Dubai. A map of the bus system can be found online, as well as detailed route maps and timetables . Public buses are clean and cheap, but unfortunately not very comprehensive and (on some routes) quite infrequent. The bus system is most useful for getting between different areas of central Dubai, or between the various suburbs, rather than general transport. Taxis or a fair amount of walking will also be required if you wish to visit Dubai without a car of your own.

You will require a e-bus, swipe card for fare payment on most routes. The card costs AED 20, and is good for ten journeys, also usable for Water taxis and trains. Cards could be purchased from most bus depots, and from the bus driver.

The main bus stations are Gold Souq Market (in Deira) and Al Ghubaiba bus station (in Bur Dubai). The flat fare is 2 AED, but might be higher for hour-long rides to distant suburbs. Clear route maps and time-tables are placed inside a few bus stands. Ramadan timings differ. The front seats are reserved for women.

Probably the single most useful service for the casual tourist is Line 8, which starts at the Gold Souq, takes the tunnel under the Creek to Heritage Village, and then sets off down Jumeirah Rd (just behind the beach) and all its hotels and malls, up to Burj al-Arab and Wild Wadi. Line 8 terminates near the Internet City, while its 8A variant goes down a little further and also serves the Mall of the Emirates.

For a good, hop on – hop off, type tour try the Big Bus Company. It runs two routes; the blue route through Jumeirah and the recently constructed areas, and the red route centering on the older parts of Dubai. The hub for both routes is Wafi City mall, and an 175 AED ticket covers 24 hours of riding.

By taxi

Taxis ply the streets of Dubai and are relatively easy to spot. The easiest place to find them is at the taxi queue at one of the malls or outside a hotel. Waving down a taxi on the road is possible, but can be difficult during rush hours. At peak times (7-9AM & 4-7PM workdays, and Friday evenings) demand far exceeds supply, and not only are taxis hard to find, but those who deign to pick you up may demand crazy off-meter fares or refuse short rides in congested areas entirely. The standard of driving in Dubai ranges from poor to wild – taxis are some of the worst on the roads. Taxi drivers are pretty good at knowing where the main shopping malls and hotels are, however less well known places will mean the driver calling his brother-in-law to get directions, whilst he drives around in circles on your time – hence it is a good idea to have a rough idea of where you are heading or what a nearby landmark is.

Taxis are metered at 1.60 dhs/km, so no haggling is necessary. The rates of all taxi companies — Dubai Transport, National, Cars, Metro, and Arabian — are identical, so just take the first one that comes along. From the airport, there is a standing charge of 20 dhs; all other street pickups attract a standing charge of 3.00 dhs during the day, 3.50 at night (10 PM-6AM), but a minimum fare of 10 dhs applies, and there is a surcharge of 20 dhs for going to Sharjah. Taxis are exempt from the Salik road toll charges. Beware of unmarked hotel taxis and limousines though: while some of these are metered, they are not tied to the official rates, and can be much more expensive.

If you can’t find one otherwise, you can attempt to call a taxi at 04-2080808, there’s a surcharge of 3 dhs to book. The booking system was notorious for its unreliability but with a significantly increased taxi fleet, many taxis now deliberately wait in unofficial holding areas waiting for bookings. As a result, on a good day it can be possible to book a taxi and have it arrive within less than five minutes. If you absolutely have to get somewhere at a certain time (say, the airport or a meeting), it’s still best to book a hotel taxi in advance, and get their estimate of how bad the traffic will be.

Women should travel in the back of the taxi as some drivers see it as an invitation if you get in the front.

By car

There are a countless number of Rent-A-Cars that will provide a mode of transportation for very cheap rates and very little paperwork. An International Driving Permit is not necessarily required, but hire companies may not rent a car without one.

Some agencies will hire out cars complete with drivers. Visitors taking advantage of this option will need to make certain that their driver knows his way around as many do not.

When driving on the main roads, such as Sheikh Zayed road, the junction numbers are not in logical order. Junction 13 is just after Junction 18 and are rarely as shown on the maps. Road names can also be very confusing with slight differences in spelling (due to different transliterations from Arabic) being very important. The construction work that is taking place throughout and around Dubai can make finding your destination a challenge. Temporary road layouts change with alarming regularity and temporary signs can be misleading or non existent. As GPS maps are not up to date (and usually not anyway available to rent with hire cars), you will be very well off with a printed map (you can get an excellent one in Virgin stores, for example. There is a Virgin Megastore on the top floor of City Center).

Driving during morning and afternoon peak hours is not recommended, as traffic slows to a standstill and even a simple trip across a bridge can take up to 45 minutes. There is also a scarcity of parking spaces in many parts of the city.

With such a mixture of nationalities residing in the city, driving styles are mixed to say the least. Both dangerous and experienced driving will be witnessed or experienced frequently, and bear in mind that Dubai has one of the highest per capita road death rates in the world. There is zero tolerance for alcohol and driving with stiff penalties meted out including jail and deportation.

See Salik.ae for information about toll to pay on certain routes in Dubai. If you rent a car, usually a Salik tag will be provided by the car hire company and you will be charged separately when returning the car.

By boat

An easier way of crossing the Dubai Creek is by abra, essentially a small ferry. Abra stations are located along the Creek on both the Bur Dubai and Deira sides, and the system of filling the boats is remarkably efficient. The cross-river trip costs 1 Dirham (AED 1) per passenger, payable to the driver after the boat has left the station, and affords a very picturesque view of the city (not to be missed). Abras set off very regularly, and the service is available round-the-clock.

Abras can also be hired for a private tour (for a price negotiable with the driver but usually very cheap). This is quite a popular activity at sunset on a clear day, particularly if the driver is able to enliven the tour with stories about the structures on either side of the Creek. Just make sure that the purpose of one’s abra hire is made clear at the outset–otherwise you will be in for a very expensive cross-river trip or a crowded private tour.

The Creek is also the home of many boats offering more comfortable (and correspondingly more expensive) tours, often in boats designed to resemble dhows. Prices tend to be higher, particularly for dinner cruises with on-board entertainment.

Places to See in Dubai

Old Dubai

  • Al Ahmadiya School, Deira. Built in 1912, this was Dubai’s first school and has now been nicely restored. It would be a stretch to call the exhibits of old reed pens and diplomas fascinating, but they’ve tried pretty hard, and if nothing else, the air-con and clean toilets may come in handy. Free entry.
  • Bastakiya District. One of the last remaining pockets of Old Dubai, home to many reconstructed buildings in the traditional style. While information on the structures is slim here (see the museum in preference), the atmosphere is very evocative and there are plenty of delightful art galleries and cafes to explore.
  • Dubai Museum, Al Ibn Abi Talib Road, ph: +971 (4) 353-1862. A must-see for anyone interested in the social history of the Emirate (and indeed the country). A visit starts at the al-Fahidi fort, which has a few examples of the traditional reed houses and other artifacts, but isn’t much to look at. The more interesting part is the modern extension built underneath the fort, showcasing Dubai’s history using the latest technology and culminating in a reconstructed souq from the pearling days, complete with authentic sights and sounds. It is quite fascinating to see the speed at which the transition from poor pearling village to modern metropolis occurred. Admission 3AED.
  • Jumeirah Mosque, Jumeirah Road, Jumeirah 1 (opposite Palm Strip Mall). Is the largest in the city, and a wonderful example of Islamic architecture. Built in the medieval Fatimid tradition with the interior decorated with elaborate Arabic calligraphy. It is one of few mosques in the city open for visits by non-Muslims, the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding conducts special tours for non-Muslims to help promote understanding of Islam. Guided tours are available on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday beginning at 10AM, followed by a question-and-answer session. Located on Jumeirah Road, the mosque is an especially great place to visit in the evening when it’s dramatically illuminated by floodlights.
  • Shindagha District — Home to the open museums of the Heritage Village, and has the home of former Sheikh Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Modern Dubai

Don’t miss Dubai’s overwhelming shopping malls, listed under Buy.

  • Burj Khalifa, . Until recently called Burj Dubai, at 828 metres and 160 floors this is the world’s tallest structure by a long shot, over 300m taller than the previous contender in Taipei. The observation deck at the 124th floor is also said to be the highest in the world. Already dominating the Dubai skyline, the newly opened tower houses nine hotels and a Las Vegas-inspired fountain system. The visitors’ entrance is located at the lower ground floor of Dubai Mall. Tickets cost Dhs 100 or Dhs 400 if you do not want to queue.
  • The Dubai Fountain, . At 900 ft in length and sporting a jet that shoots water up to 500 ft, the Dubai Fountain is indeed the world’s largest dancing fountain and one with a very enticing display – a definite must see. The show starts every evening at the Burj Dubai Lake. Easy way to approach it is via the Dubai Mall.
  • Burj al-Arab hotel . For a real glimpse into “how the other half lives”, (self-proclaimed as the only 7 star hotel in the world), afternoon tea, or cocktails, may be an interesting experience. Entry to the hotel requires a reservation which will be confirmed at the entry gate, although residents of adjacent Jumeirah hotels may be able to visit by arrangement. Other tourists may occasionally be able to book tours of the hotel itself, however these will not run when the hotel is full. A “very smart casual” dress code applies. Reservations are usually required about a month in advance for a room, but a few days will generally suffice for a meal.
  • Dubai Marina. One of the newer and more popular areas of Modern Dubai, both with residents and tourists. It offers numerous features such as a phenomenal skyline, world class hotels, a fabulous beach, a mall, and 2 different walkways (The Walk and Marina Walk) with coffee shops, restaurants, and shops. Marina Walk is right on the “Marina water”, and there are many yachts there. You can rent a yacht for a cruise around the area. The Walk has a nice open market run from October till May, every Fridays and Saturdays at daylight.
  • Palm Islands. The three largest artificial islands in the world are located just off the coast of Dubai; a major urban development to add a significant amount of upscale beachfront property to the area. Each of the islands is shaped like a palm leaf, with a trunk connected to the mainland, fronds extending from the trunk, and a crescent (a breakwater encircling the trunk and fronds). Of the three planned, the Palm Jumeirah, at 5km square and near Dubai Marina, is the only one yet open, connected to the mainland by a freeway bridge and a monorail and sporting marinas, luxury resorts, and upscale shopping areas.

Things to Do in Dubai

  • Beaches and sea. There are endless water-sport opportunities as Dubai has some of the whitest and sandiest beaches in the world. Ocean temperatures range from 22°C in winter up to 35°C in summer, there are few wave breaks and the strong winds can make swimming difficult. The water is also very salty so many prefer to use their hotel swimming pool. Diving activities have been severely affected by offshore construction work for the Palms and The World; consequently, long boat trips are necessary to reach wreck sites. Alternatively, one can make the 90 minute road journey to the East coast Emirate of Fujairah or the Sharjah enclave, Khor Fakkan, for top class diving on coral reefs supporting extensive marine life.
  • Al Safa Park is one of the oldest in Dubai. It’s a favorite for sports enthusiasts, and many visitors enjoy playing tennis, volleyball, and soccer. Children love playing games in the video arcade, or riding the ferris wheel and bumper cars. The park even has a maze to wander through. Barbeques and picnic areas are available for those who want to make a day of it.
  • The Camel Race Track is one of the more unusual attractions, with races being held on Thursday and Friday in the winter. Not only can you watch the races, but you’ll have the opportunity to visit the paddocks. Vendors sell everything from beads to rugs and blankets, so you can purchase souvenirs. Madinat Jumeirah is also known as Jumeirah City, and is a complex of residential neighborhoods, two luxury hotels, and a shopping mall.
  • Desert Safari or Dune Bashing. Head out to the desert in an SUV with specialist Desert Drivers. The drivers will take you for a roller-coaster ride over sand dunes, show you the sunset from a strategic vantage point and then take you to a lavish dinner with music and dance to complete the atmosphere. You may want to stay clear of the dune-bashing if you know that you get carsick easily. They have recently added a Hummer H3 to the roster, which costs a bit more but is worth the money.
  • Ski . Dubai now has its own snow skiing centre. Located in the new Mall of the Emirates (MOE), on the Sheikh Zayed Road, it offers both skiing and snowboarding. The slope is quite large for an indoor area. All equipment is available for hire. Although it is -4°C inside, you don’t need to bring a jacket because they supply pretty much everything except gloves and a hat (which you can buy right there). A 2 hour pass costs Dhs180 plus Dhs20 for a locker.
  • Wild Wadi . Wild Wadi Park is the perfect place for the entire family to spend a day as well as being a great way to beat the heat and enjoy the day away from the bustle of the city. Located close to the hotels and resorts of Jumeriah Beach, the park has water rides, slides, and a lagoon that’s hidden away. You’ll enjoy waterfalls, out of the way swimming holes, and a tidal pool.
  • Dubai Creek Cruise/Ride. The Dubai creek is the foundation from which Dubai grew. It originally served as a port for trading vessels plying to and from India, Africa and the Middle East. Today a bit of the old shipping culture still remains. In and around the creek one can see some of the original buildings that have served as customs houses and defense structures. You can book a ride on the creek with a dinner cruise or even rent a private boat to take you on a hour long ride up and down the creek.
  • Golf. It may be a desert, but a lot of money and water is spent on irrigating opulent golf courses. Alternatively, for a more local flavor, try sand golf!
  • Hot Air Balloon. Great Fun seeing all the sand Dunes and mountains early in the morning or during sunset.
  • Dubai Zoo, Jumeirah Road. An outdoor zoo near to the beach. Considering the extreme temperatures during the summer months, there are plans bring the zoo indoors. The zoo is not worth visiting as the number and variety of animals are few, and housing conditions are also appalling. Animals are trapped in cages too small for them to take more than a few steps, and are frustrated and bored. Admission 3AED.
  • Global Village. Happens Annually and is operated by Dubai Land, this usually happens during winter; from Late November to late February. Countries around the world gather and set up a small village in the outskirts of Dubai, each country/region has its own pavilion with a unique replica of their famous landmark(s). This is usually like a flea market where you can get souvenirs from almost every corner of the earth for a bargained price and experience as if you’re in that certain country for at least 10 minutes of your life even if you’re 10,000km away. Raffles for cars and gold bars also happen. You’d see the hieroglyphics of Egypt, temples of Thailand, Forbidden city of Beijing, the Eiffel tower and many more. Admission is usually 5AED.

Food in Dubai

Shawarma is the most available food item on almost all streets (and cheap!) in Dubai. It is the arabic equivalent of the Burger. It is meat that has been cooked on a skewer and then cut into thin strips and placed into a kuhbus(pita) bread with vegetables and dressing. It costs about AED5($1.30) for the plain-jane variety and up to AED 5 ($1.30) for the more exotic Lebanese and Iranian varities. The Shawarma sold by Indian restaurants are arguably the cheapest.

Another local snacks is Fala-Fil (Felafel, Falafel) also available at about the same costs as the shawarma.

Most of the American fast food chains have set up shop in Dubai, including KFC, Chillis,TGI Fridays Starbucks and McDonalds. The beauty of the food in Dubai is that you will probably find cuisine for every taste.

Stay safe

Like any major metros experiencing rapid growth, Dubai has its share of problems but nothing that using common sense cannot avoid.

Dubai strictly follows Islamic laws which should be respected by all travelers. Islam is the official religion, therefore do not publicly criticize or distribute material against it. Eating in public during the holy month of Ramadan is prohibited from sunrise until sunset and visitors should consume meals in the confines of their hotel or residence.

In conversations regarding politics and world affairs, avoid criticizing the ruling family of any of the seven Emirates or prominent business families. The United Arab Emirates does not have any formal relations with Israel, and the government publicly supports any cause that involves the Palestinian people or Palestinian statehood.

While petty crime is hardly reported or mentioned in the news, keep an eye on your wallet or purse when in crowded areas like Naser Square or Deira in general. If withdrawing large amounts of cash from ATM’s or banking institutions, either conceal the notes or ask the institution’s security to escort you to your vehicle. Cases have occurred where people have been robbed of large amounts of cash when in crowded places just because they were not careful.

Conmen are ever present in Dubai, especially the “Nigeria 419” scammers. Do not arrange meetings or entertain their requests or give any personal details. Should they not comply, individuals who will be happy to listen to their business propositions are the police. Thanks to Dubai’s new property boom, real estate fraudsters are also popping up, so exercise caution if you are there to shop around for a new home.

Public display of affection are frowned upon and public sexual acts can lead to jail time followed by deportation. In 2008, a British couple were arrested and faced jail sentences because they had sexual contact on a beach in Dubai. If all tourists remain respectful and decent and ensure that they do not upset the local people, there should be no problems.

Gay Lesbian Bisexual Transgender travelers should be particularly careful as homosexuality, along with sexual relations outside of marriage, is a criminal offense with possible deportation. Public displays of affection or cross dressing may lead to jail time and/or deportation, and therefore this should be avoided completely while in public to ensure that no problems arise.

Women should dress sensibly and avoid wearing revealing outfits when in busy areas. This is especially true when traveling to districts like Karama, Deira and Bur-Dubai,where the streets are packed with men, especially on evenings and weekends. While swimsuits and bikinis are a common sight on Dubai beaches, avoid sunbathing topless or wearing micro bikinis–even in the private beach of a hotel.

Recreational drug use and distribution is a serious criminal offence, even when in the company of the person consuming the material. A few grams can lead to a prison sentence of several years, while production and distribution could land yourself in front of the firing squad. Passenger baggage is screened quite thoroughly when entering Dubai. Even prescription drugs or ones that you bought over the counter in your country can lead to a prison sentence. A list of banned medication can be found , with an official UAE list of controlled drugs found at .

Driving and pedestrian safety has also been an issue given the different nationalities that share the road. Do not jaywalk or cross where there are no clear pedestrian markings. Speeding is common here and the odds of you being knocked over are quite high if you don’t follow the rules. Avoid driving on the extreme left lane of highways to avoid being “flashed” and being forced to move a lane over. Road rage is also starting to become an issue given the increase in traffic jams and poor driving courtesy. Rude hand gestures (the “finger”, etc.) and profanity can lead to fines and jail times if reported, so keep your cool if you are cut off or are behind an erratic driver. In general, you will find those gestures and actions that some may find only slightly offensive in your home nation–or perhaps not offensive at all–can at times be extremely offensive to the Dubai locals. Therefore, using a degree of common sense of what is right and wrong will usually help you stay out of trouble.

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