The Dubai Essentials
The Airport Queue - The Dubai Terminal 1 airport visa queues can be quite long during peak tourism months from November to March. In 2018, the city had an incredible 15.9 million people visiting. So the busy terminal's waiting times can vary from 15 min to 1+ hours. I strongly recommend that all Dubai visitors passing by this terminal, Terminal 1, pre-book a Marhaba Bronze meet-and-greet service which will fast-track you through airport formalities. Prices are approx 95 Dirhams per adult when booked online in advance.
The Dubai Duty Free - Alcohol is only sold in licensed bars and hotels. If you plan to predrink or drink in, you'll need to make sure you buy your stash from the airport duty free on the way in (alcohol vendors here only sell to UAE Liquor License holders).
The Transit - If you're transiting through Dubai and want to leave the airport and make the likely visit to Dubai Mall, you can leave your luggage at the airport and come back later to pick it up! Dnata offers baggage storage services in its Terminal 1 and 3 stands. It's 20 DHS for every 12 hours. Or 30 DHS for bigger bags.
The Telephone - You can purchase visitor mobile packages from either 1 of Dubai's 2 telecom providers: Etisalat or Du. Make sure to ask if data is included as you may not find WiFi access everywhere. Those guys have stores/stands in airports and malls, among other locations.
The Cash - In a few places around Dubai, cash is still king. Particularly in grocery stores, old souqs, and cabs (UBER and the like aside). Make sure to carry smaller denominations (50 and 20 Dirham bills) to avoid a 5% credit card surcharge.
The Transportation - You can book a cab in Dubai by calling 04-2080808. Cabs here have starting meter charges which vary between day and night time (and location: Rides from the airport are more expensive). The minimum cab fare is 12 DHS. Also, Salik toll charges are added to the cab fare if you pass one. Or download the local car hire app Careem and get picked up in minutes. Enter promo code 'wanderwithcareem' to get 20% off your first 3 rides! T&C apply. Click here for more details.
The Dubai Metro Rules - The Dubai Metro has a few rules you should watch out for to avoid fines. 1) Eating and drinking inside the train is expressly forbidden. This includes chewing gum. 2) Entering cabins reserved for certain categories (For ex, women-only areas, or the Gold Class section) 3) Sleeping is not allowed anywhere in the train stations.
The Light Jacket - Yes. It may be summer and what may seem like 100 degrees celsius. But Dubai malls are oddly freezing.
The Haggle - Before practicing the art of bargaining, scope out the market to see what the going prices are. Also, avoid answering the initial 'how much do you want to pay' question.
The Clubbing Hours - Clubs are usually open from 10PM until 3AM when the music and lights go out. Prime time is 1AM onwards.
The Reservation - Table reservations are necessary to increase your chances of getting in to clubs! Make sure you call ahead (2 or 3 days in advance) to get your name on a list. Also, do the same for restaurants as the popular ones are almost always fully booked.
The Unspoken Minimum - Clubs in Dubai can have 'minimum spends' for table reservations which you won't necessarily find on the venues' webpages. When you call, make sure to ask specifically if there are any. Also, be prepared for the bouncers to have a change of heart when you get there regarding minimums. P.S This bill is an exaggerated example.
The Female to Male Ratio - Some clubs will only allow entry for mixed groups. Ladies are at an advantage here. The cheerleader effect definitely outdoes the frat boys.
The ID - The drinking age in Dubai is 21+. For tourists, bouncers will typically ask to see your passports (not copies). Other international and recognized IDs may also work, such as driving licenses etc.
The Shoes That Fit - Ladies. Some bouncers around town can be selective in who they let in. Heels can be a dealbreaker. Gentlemen. Odds are not in your favor either. Sneakers can also be frowned upon. And 'Prada' sneakers don't count.
The Late Night Bites - For those unable tor resist a late night bite after an eve out, there are a couple of good casual places to ask your cab to stop by on the way home that are open 24/7 or until 4AM.
The Entertainer - The Entertainer app offers 2 for 1 for many of Dubai's restaurants, attractions, and activities. For visitors, buying individual coupons is a great money saver which can be done on ebay. Or send me a message and I'll see if I have any extras to give away. If you're staying longer, buying the entire book/app can save you hundreds of dirhams. Check out the Entertainer website for more info.
The Photography - There are some areas in Dubai where photography is prohibited. Those are usually embassies, airports, or security facilities. Just make sure you look out for signs or ask if in doubt!
The Sky Dive - If you plan on hugging the blue sky when you get here and have or have not done this before, make sure you book well in advance (1 to 2 months) as seats or in this case, no seats fill up quick. Also, if you plan on doing this solo, SkyDive Dubai has a minimum number of jumps (300 or 500 jumps) and a couple of other requirements you can find on their website here.
Hi! I'm Nada. A Dubai bred expat & founder of Wander With, a tour guide company in Dubai. I want to show you just why, I and many others who live here, love this city.