Last year, I finally crossed Dubai off my travel bucket list, and it was an epic experience. The trip was everything that I imagined it to be…plus more! Here’s a list of some of the things that I did and a definite recommendation for you on your next trip to the Emirate.
I highly recommend a hop-on hop-off tour as a day one activity. In my opinion, it is a convenient way to see and familiarize yourself with the city. For $72 dollars per person, City Sightseeing offers a choice of four routes and over 40 stops. I know $72 sounds like a lot, but when you put into perspective cost of taxis and other ride sharing options from one point of the city to another, this is relatively cheaper. Plus, as a newbie, you can conveniently explore without having to worry about getting lost. My fiancé and I chose to do the “Red Route,” which included stops at the Burj Khalifa, traditional markets (Gold and Spice Souks), Dubai Museum, Al Fahidi Fort, tour of the Dubai Creek on a Arabian Dhow Cruise, etc. You can certainly Google other tour companies to find alternatives if City Sightseeing doesn’t fit your need, but don’t skip out on a hop-on hop-off!
As a culture fanatic, I absolutely love the concept of the Global Village. It is a massive multicultural theme park that is sectioned into 90 “countries.” Each “country” is a shopping and entertainment center, where you can experience bits and pieces of the culture – anything from food, clothing, fragrance, music, etc. It is a great place to try new things and learn about other countries. For instance, while visiting “Yemen,” I got to taste white honey for the first time. I learnt that Yemen is home of some of the world’s most expensive and quality honey (no kidding – I spent $64 on a jar of white honey that is supposed to help improve my memory…I guess I will find out).. I also learnt that Saudi Arabia has some of the best dates in the world. The most amazing part of this experience was hopping from one country to another, trying different foods, bargaining for great deals, and getting sprayed with tons of try-on fragrances! Did I mention that I left “Kuwait” with two full bags of fragrances?
Some things are better off seen than described, and Dubai Miracle garden is one of them. Imagine a place where everything is a flower – bears, planes, hearts, houses, women, disney characters and much more.
4. Visit Al Bastakiya
Dubai is well known for over the top architectures, exorbitant lifestyles and luxuries. But before the skyscrapers and fancy cars, life was quite different. At the Al Bastakiya cultural center, aka “Old Dubai,” you can get a taste of traditional housing and lifestyle that was prevalent during the mid 19th century and learn more about different aspects of the culture. It is a great way to get a little history lessons while having fun!
Al Seef is one of my favorite places in Dubai! It is similar to Al Bastakiya but different with respect to some infusion of modern day Dubai. There are number of contemporary restaurants, shops and stores housed in traditional buildings made from things like stones, teak, fonds, and palm wood. The win-win of visiting Al Seef is that it is in walking distance to Al Bastakiya so you can be sure to kill two birds with one stone!
You cannot go Dubai and not do at least one ridiculous activity. My pick was Dinner in the Sky! But I am not going to lie – it was a terrifying experience. As someone who is terribly afraid of heights, I look back and think to myself, mahn that was crazy! The experience begins with a walk on a red carpet (fancy fancy) to a table that is later suspended by a crane at 50 meters high! Dinner lasts for about an hour and 30 minutes and during the entire time, the table rotates to give you different views of the city. It was a surreal experience that literally had me asking myself, am I really doing this? Will I do it again, you wonder? Hell naw. I really think it is one of those once in a lifetime experiences – something to checkoff the bucket list and never look back again 😉
Before you start thinking, but it’s just a mall…hear me out. Aside from being one of the biggest shopping centers in the world with tons of shopping options, the Dubai mall provides an entire experience – the aquarium and underwater zoo, Dubai fountain, huge multicultural food courts, and so much more! One of my favorite experiences was playing a Sheikh’s wife for a photo shoot at the Tent Studio. Next to that was the glass-bottom boat ride tour at the top of the aquarium, where I got to experience full view of the aquarium from the surface of the water.
8. Relax and People Watch at Jumeirah Beach
If you are looking for something free to do ( I don’t see why you wouldn’t :), I encourage you to add the Jumeirah Beach to your to-do list. It is a white sand beach in the Jumeirah district, offering great views of some of Dubai’s well-known and extravagant structures like the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. It is also a busy place with a number of food vendors, so you would have couple of food options, people watching opportunities, and some relaxation.
9. Explore the Palm Islands
I purposefully planned my trip to spend two nights at The Atlantis The Palm to experience the Palm Islands. But you don’t have to spend a night in order to do so. You can get a rental car and drive around or even better, take a tour bus. City Sightseeing “Pink Route” will take you to the islands. Honestly, I didn’t do a lot there. The Atlantis has so much to do and I didn’t have enough time to cover all the activities there in addition to exploring the islands as much as I would have loved to. One thing that I did do was drive around and take in the various architectures and sceneries.
10. Take a Road Trip
But Lehsee, why are we taking road trips in Dubai? Where are we going? If you are up for some serious adventure, grab a rental car and take a road trip to Al Ain, a city in the Abu Dhabi Emirate just about 2 hours away from Dubai. But I totally understand if this suggestion is too far fetched for you. The comforting news is, you can find places in Dubai to do the next couple of activities I have listed below. But if you are up for the challenge to, I highly recommend at least a night stay at the Telal Resort where you can truly enjoy the desert experience, great customer service, and relaxing atmosphere. Before you go on the drive, make sure you take along a backup GPS.
11. Sand-Board on Dunes
I sandboarded for the first time in my life. As a rookie, I will list for you my lessons learned:
- Sand-boarding on dunes may appear scary at first.
- But then you would quickly learn that the sand is sticky and there is no real risk if you lose control.
- You may fall. But falling is not that bad compared to having to climb back at the top of the dunes to try again.
- You have to deal with sand blowing all over your body especially in your eyes.
- But overall it is a lot of fun and totally worth the try.
12. Zip-line in the Desert
On this trip, I also zip-lined for the first time in my life and I was terrified! Honestly, it wasn’t that much of a scary experience but I psyched myself up so much that I could not mentally let myself relax. As you can see from the video below, I clinked onto the rope so tightly, kept my eyes closed and hoped to stay alive! Looking back, this makes me laugh so hard and makes me want to redo the experience. Whether in the desert or somewhere else, I am definitely zip-lining again!
13. Take on ATV in the Desert
ATV has been on my bucket list for a while now, and I finally had the opportunity to experience it. Yet again, I psyched myself up to thinking it was a near death experience to try to ride a bike on dunes. As you have noticed by now and will continue to notice as you walk along with me in this Flight89 journey, I am adventurous at heart but not so much in reality. I would plan the most adventurous activities, get everyone excited, and freak out at the last minute. Yep, I am that chick you have to talk into doing an activity before it actually happens – even though I was the one who brought up the idea!
14. Ride a Camel
Why are there two camels, you ask? Well, one was intended for me and one for my fiancé but I insisted that I must ride with him because I didn’t trust the sturdiness of the camel’s back enough to ride one by myself. Turned out it was pretty sturdy and I had nothing to be concerned about. As a first time rider, sitting on a camel’s back as it raises up to its feet can be nerve racking. But soon as the camel settles and you begin the ride, you would realize it is super fun and no big deal!
15. Take Early Morning Walks in the Desert