A city of gleaming skyscrapers and golden beaches paired with modest mosques and Arabian markets, we love Dubai for its unique blend of old and new, East and West. Spend a day in this dynamic, progressive destination and go from bustling, vibrant souks to vast air-conditioned malls and streets lined with super cars, all under the watchful gaze of Dubai's centrepiece, the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building. Dubai is also a great stop over destination to the rest of the Indian Ocean, making it perfect for a short stay en-route to places like the Maldives and Mauritius or as part of a longer multi centre holiday.
Read our Things to do in Dubai blog for further inspiration.
You can't visit this desert city and not explore its surrounding sandy plains and dunes, some of which reach heights of over 200 metres. Swap the bustling cityscape for a peaceful camel ride across desert scenery, go sandboarding down the dunes or tackle them on an exhilarating 4x4 jeep safari. Alternatively, experience the desert at night and enjoy a barbecue under the stars.
There aren't many places you'll find soaring temperatures one minute and ski slopes with real snow the next. The five indoor slopes at Ski Dubai, part of the huge Mall of the Emirates, run from a 60-metre-high manmade mountain complete with ski lifts and -1°C temperatures. Next to the slopes there's a 3,000-square-metre snow park with toboggan runs, an ice slide, climbing towers, an ice cave, and even penguins.
For many tourists, shopping is Dubai's biggest draw, with smart, modern malls offering an endless range of tax-free consumer goods. The Dubai Mall is the largest in the world, with big names like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Hermes alongside spectacular fountains, an ice rink, and access to the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Don't miss the chance for a bargain in the souks either, where haggling is the norm.
Dubai's water parks, pools and beaches are welcome relief for the dry desert climate. For water slides, river rides and a private beach; head to Aquaventure, the thrilling water park at Atlantis, The Palm. All the best water sports can be found along the Jumeirah coastline, with everything from water skiing and windsurfing to kayaking and banana boat rides.
Enjoy a round or two on Dubai's world-class greens and fairways. The Emirates Golf Club hosts the Dubai Desert Classic every year, and Jumeirah Golf Estates is home to two courses designed by Greg Norman. Other courses include the Els Club at Dubai Sports City, Montgomerie Dubai, The Desert Course at Arabian Ranches and Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
There are a number of carriers offering flights to Dubai from the UK.
Direct Carriers: Emirates, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Qantas offer direct non stop services from the UK.
Indirect Carriers: KLM offer regional UK departures via Amsterdam.
Departure Taxes: There are no relevant departure taxes in Dubai.
British Citizens are not required to have a visa to enter Dubai but will be given a 30 day visa on arrival free of charge. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay in Dubai. Please contact the United Arab Emirates Embassy for up to date country and visa information on 020 7581 1281.
The official currency is the UAE Dirham. You can buy them before you leave the UK. If you need cash when you’re there, you can exchange UK Pounds at most hotels and banks. You’ll also find currency exchanges in many of the large shopping malls.
Major UK credit cards are widely accepted. Cash machines accept major debit and credit cards and can be found across Dubai.
Ten percent is standard, but many restaurants add a service charge straight to the bill, so check before you pay. Taxi drivers don’t expect a tip, but it’s polite to round up the fare. A tip of 10 to 20 UAE Dirhams is fine for hotel porters and other staff.
June - September, December - January.
No special vaccines are required or recommended for travel to Dubai. All travellers should be up to date on routine immunizations. Yellow fever immunisation is required if arriving from an infected country. For full details, please contact your GP.No specific vaccinations required
Holidays in Dubai are hot and sunny all year round. Pack modest clothing for activities away from the beach and pool though; aim to cover your shoulders and knees. Don’t forget layers and cover-ups for indoors too; air conditioning can feel very cool compared to the outdoor heat. Dubai uses the same three-pronged plugs as the UK, so you won’t need to buy an adaptor. Finally, make sure you have your credit card ready to hit the luxury shopping malls. Cool, lightweight clothes in natural fabrics like cotton or linen, including modest outfits that cover your shoulders and knees;
Comfortable walking shoes for exploring.
Layers and cover-ups for over-the-top air conditioning.
High factor sunscreen.
A hat to keep the sun off your face.
An underwater camera for snorkelling.
Suitable clothing for when out visiting mosques.
You will find every cuisine imaginable in Dubai, from fish and chips to seven course tasting menus in celebrity-chef-run restaurants. But be careful not to overlook the local food. The main ingredients of Emirati cuisine include lamb, beef, goat, fish, and rice. Expect skewered meats, grilled local fish, and mouth-watering meze served with flatbreads and moreish dips like hummus. For something sweet, snack on delicious medjool dates; the UAE boasts over 30 million date palm trees.
Popular with tourists, this tasty dish consists of spit-cooked chicken or lamb with tomatoes, garlic and pickle, all served in a soft roti and eaten with tahini or hummus.
Often eaten as a side dish, falafel is a filling mix of chickpeas, herbs and spices usually fried in small balls. Try a falafel sandwich with salad and garlic or chilli sauce.
Rice is an integral part of Middle Eastern cooking, and this is a unique way of serving it, mixed with spices and wrapped in an edible vine leaf.
Signature dishes like shawarma are perfect for eating on the go, and there’s a strong parallel between the Arabic foods served in the restaurants and at the roadside. Other grab-and-go snacks include fluffy naan bread and hot sweetcorn doused in butter. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh and cooked right in front of you
When it comes to spending on Dubai holidays, the sky really is the limit. On average though, a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant could set you back 150 UAE Dirhams, with a bottle of beer at 30 UAE Dirhams. When you’re out and about, a 1.5 litre bottle of water might cost you two UAE Dirhams.
While many destinations have left their national dress behind in favour of more Western clothing, the Dubai remains traditional. Women wear the abaya, a full-length loose-fitting dress (usually in black), and cover their hair with a hajab, a scarf which is wrapped around the neck leaving the face uncovered. The niqab face veil isn’t compulsory, although some women do choose to wear it. Men wear the dishdasha, an ankle-length, long-sleeved cotton garment, with a kaffiyeh headdress held in place with an agal.
A place where seemingly clashing cultures work harmoniously together, Dubai is a fascinating destination. On one hand, it is very westernized; and on the other it is guided by laws and customs reflecting its dominant Islamic beliefs. As a Muslim city, citizens do not drink alcohol, although it is widely available in tourist establishments. While Emirati women are expected to wear a hajab, foreign women are not required to do the same.
When it comes to etiquette, try to remember the following:
• For men, a light handshake and smile is the most common form of greeting. Men and women should greet Emirati women with a polite hello
• Touching a member of the opposite sex during conversation is a no-no. Men should avoid staring directly into the eyes of an Emirati woman.
• Dress modestly away from the pool and beach, covering your shoulders and knees at least
• Remember to take your shoes off before entering a mosque
• Always use your right hand to eat, shake hands, offer or take something. The left hand is considered unclean
• Avoid pointing with your finger, use the whole hand
• Don’t show the sole of your foot, point your foot at others or use your feet to move anything. Feet are considered the lowliest body part
• Keep displays of affection private—kissing or embracing in public is considered disrespectful
• If you drink alcohol, only do so in bars, hotels, restaurants, never in the street. Drink moderately; drunken behaviour is extremely offensive
• It is illegal to eat, drink or smoke in public in daylight hours during the holy month of Ramadan
Swim with Dolphins
From hugs, kisses, and playing ball to being towed through the water, a range of dolphin encounters await you in Dubai at Atlantis resort’s Dolphin Bay. Meet the bottlenose dolphins and make sure someone snaps a photo of this experience of a lifetime.
Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
Not many shopping centres boast a 10 million litre aquarium, but Dubai Mall does. This gargantuan tank houses thousands of sea creatures, including over 400 sharks and rays. Watch them glide over you from the underwater tunnel, or get closer with glass bottom boat rides, snorkelling and shark dives. Then visit the underwater zoo to see otters, penguins, caiman crocodiles, giant spider crabs, piranhas, and more.