Being over the top. Dubai is home to some of the biggest, largest, longest, things in the world including, the Burj Khalifa. The building stands at 2,716.5 feet tall, making it the tallest in the world. Dubai will without a doubt exceed all of your expectations.
You know that saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas”? Well, the same could be said about Dubai and they take it to the EXTREME. From being the home of the world’s tallest building, the largest mall, the longest indoor ski slope, if there’s an ist at the end of the word, it’s most likely in Dubai. Not only is the city obsessed with breaking records it’s also keen on the finer things in life… Cough cough, the Burj Al Arab - the world’s most luxurious hotel. Everything is over the top and glamorous in Dubai.
CHECK OUT MY DUBAI DESTINATION GUIDE VIDEO!
Dubai is in a subtropical desert climate. That means they enjoy mild and pleasant winters and unbearably hot and humid summers. To avoid crazy temps you should try to visit between November and March.
While Dubai’s history dates back to prehistoric times, the Dubai we know today is relatively new. Everything changed when oil was discovered in 1966. Following that discovery, Dubai became the capital when the United Arab Emirates was formed in 1971. (The UAE consists of 7 emirates. An emirate is a territory or state under the rule of an Emir aka a leader/ruler). Now Dubai is home to a forest of skyscrapers and is one of the most diverse cities in the world. 80+ percent of the population is expats!
There are direct flights from many US cities to Dubai (including Chicago, New York, LA, Washington, and Huston). It’s about a 13-hour flight from Chicago non-stop. I highly recommend flying Emirates to Dubai. And if you can swing it, fly Emirates Business class. The service and food are too amazing to put into words.
Dubai is a MASSIVE layover destination if you’re flying to Australia, India or other countries in Asia. If you do find yourself stopping there, I highly recommend trying to find flights that have extended layovers so you can see a little bit of the city while you’re there.
If you need help booking your next trip, check out Scorby Travel and Cruise.
Once you’re there you can take Ubers, taxis, public transit or rent a car! The city is pretty spread out so we didn’t do a whole lot of walking from place to place.
Some stuff you should know:
Local currency: Dirhams (DHS) but you won’t have problems using cards at most places.
Safety: Dubai is one of the SAFEST places in the Middle East. Many local women we talked to told us they had no issues walking home alone late at night.
Do women need to cover up: NOPE! Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the Middle East and the old traditions are starting to relax. But I would suggest dressing a bit more conservative because it is a Muslim country.
Can I drink?: Dubai is one of the most open-minded emirates of the bunch and you most certainly can drink alcohol in the city. You can drink anywhere that has a license (hotels, restaurants & clubs). If you’re not staying at a hotel and want to drink, I suggest picking something up at the duty-free shops when you land at the airport.
When it comes to picking your hotel in Dubai, location is KEY. And there are quite a lot of options to choose from. I’ll break down some of the different areas and give recommendations for each neighborhood.
Home to the Burj Khalifa aka the tallest building in the world. But in this part of town, you’ll see TONS of skyscrapers. This is where we stayed for half of our stay and I gotta say I loved the location. Everything seemed close by. This is where you’ll also find tons of luxury hotels, the Dubai mall and the Dubai fountain that puts the one in Vegas to shame.
This is where we stayed for a majority of our stay in Dubai and I gotta say, this hotel is everything I could have hoped for and MORE. From the crisp clean marble that runs throughout the hotel to the stunning flower arrangements that greet you upon your arrival. And omg, the smell. It was quite literally a breath of fresh air that smelled so sweet after escaping the Dubai heat.
The attention to detail is amazing (tv remotes are hidden in white leather boxes) and the beds are insanely comfortable. Each room comes with an expansive balcony and honestly, there’s no better hotel to enjoy the Dubai Fountain show.
You simply CANNOT beat this location if you want to be at the center of all the action. The Palace is quite literally right next to the Dubai Fountain and Dubai Mall. Aside from its convenient location, this hotel really makes you feel like you’re in the Middle East. From the classic pointed archways synonymous with Islamic architecture to the lobby’s golden marble fountain - you will certainly feel like you’re staying someplace magical.
If you’re looking for luxury and a beach - look no further. Jumeirah beach is one of the world’s most famous man-made islands (see a theme here). It’s also home to the infamous Burj Al Arab hotel - the world’s only 7-star hotel. Which ps, is really not a thing. But it is REALLY luxurious. This area if you choose to stay is about a 20 min drive to the Burj Khalifa.
I mean I kind of have to recommend this hotel. If you’re looking to ball out and have a once in a lifetime hotel experience in Dubai, there’s really no other place. The Burj Al Arab is constantly referred to as a 7-star hotel. There really isn’t such a thing. As the story goes, a travel writer was staying at the hotel and was so in awe of it she described it in her article as a 7-star hotel. The name apparently stuck… If having a fleet of Rolls Royce Phantoms at your disposal and a team of round the clock butlers is your vibe, then this is your hotel. But be prepared to pay…
This place is INSANE. This resort is made up of three hotels, 29 summer homes, and 7 villas. It was built as an authentic recreation of ancient Arabia and it sits on its own private beach. There are more than 50 restaurants and bars, and the whole property is connected by waterways. It’s basically its own town.
This would be a perfect spot for any family traveling to Dubai. Plus it’s conveniently located right next door to the Wild Wadi Waterpark and guests get free unlimited access. Woah this is really weird that I’m talking about kids and family stuff...idk where that came from.
In 2014 the Palm Jumeirah island was built. It’s one of a few man-made islands in Dubai and you’ve most likely seen it from aerial photos online. If you’re looking to be away from the hustle and bustle of downtown you should consider staying here. If you’re looking for a sea view, this is the best place to stay. Just be aware that if you stay here, you will always need a car or some sort of transportation. The good news, most of the main attractions you would want to see are about a 20-minute drive away.
If you want to feel like you’ve quite literally stepped into an 18th-century palace - stay here. Owned by the same company as Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi, Emerald Palace in Dubai is equally as opulent. The hotel spares no expense as much of the decor is painted in 24-karat gold leaf. From impeccable service to top of the line dining options, there’s no doubt you’ll leave feeling like a princess (until you get to your economy seat on the plane lol).
This is the more budget-friendly area of Dubai. This is where you’ll find the cities gold & spice souks and tons of other activities to keep you busy. The one downside to this area is it’s certainly geared towards tourism so it might not be the place to stay if you’re looking for a relaxing place to unwind.
This is such a stunning property. It’s only a ten-minute drive from the airport and overlooks Dubai Creek. And if you’re into golf (idk why you would be…) it’s right next to the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. The entire hotel is so serene and impeccably decorated with Moorish and Mediterranean influences. But for me what took this hotel over the top: the restaurants. The Normandy-inspired Brasserie du Park serves up unpretentious Mediterranean cuisine that’s both nice to look at and even better to eat. I also loved the hotel’s nautical-themed NOÉPE. There’s swinging chairs, fire pits and the freshest seafood around.
I feel like Dubai truly has something to offer EVERYONE. If you’re looking to go nuts at the world’s largest mall, have at it. Or if you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for a thrill, how about skydiving over the Palm? There really is no shortage of things to do in Dubai, which makes sense because it’s often referred to as the entertainment capital of the Middle East.
At the VERY least you need to see this building. And you’re in luck because it’s not hard to miss, seeing as it’s the tallest building in the world. Every morning we had a lovely view of the Burj as we ate breakfast at the Address Downtown. But I’ve gotta say watching the Dubai Fountain show at night with the Burj in the background - EPIC.
Fun fact: in 2018 the Burj Khalifa had more visitors than the Eiffel Tower. Crazy right? It has 200 stories and cost $1.5 billion to construct. It also took 22 million man-hours and six years to see this building become a reality.
Inside you’ll find the Armani hotel, the world’s tallest swimming pool, a fine dining restaurant (At.Mosphere) and an observation deck. You can go all the way up to the 124th floor for a spectacular view of Dubai.
Tickets will run you about $40 and I suggest buying them in advance. There’s a ton of different packages to choose from on the site. Make sure to pick General Admission if you want to basic package.
If you’re looking to take your #views to the next level you NEED to take to the skies with Seawings. Imagine seeing this city from the sky and getting a bird’s eye view of both the Palm and the world islands. This was by far my favorite thing I did in Dubai and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone who wants a totally unique experience.
They offer a 45-minute flight and a 20-minute flight. Click here to check out their prices and book your flight!
A shoppers paradise. The Dubai mall offers endless opportunities to spend your money at some of the most exclusive luxury stores in the world. Truth be told, at this point in my life, I’m only window shopping there. But it’s not just shops you’ll find. You have to check out the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo while you’re there. There’s also an ice skating rink (cause that’s necessary…) & a virtual reality theme park.
Gold Souk & Spice Souk: Give me a souk and I’m a happy girl. While I haven’t perfected the art of haggling just yet, I love this form of shopping. These places tend to be a bit overwhelming, but they’re great spots to find fantastic souvenirs. Dubai’s Gold Souk is world renowned and people fly from all over just to visit it and score deals on jewelry.
Al Ras, Deira
Dubai Marina + Boat Cruise:
Another favorite activity - a boat ride. Head on over to Dubai Marina and set sail for the afternoon. There are TONS of options when it comes to renting a private yacht, joining a boat cruise or taking a tour. My recommendation is to ask your hotel which company they recommend.
Watch the show at the Dubai Fountain:
Hey guess what, this is the tallest performing water fountain in the world. Bet you’re not surprised to hear that lol. Dubai’s fountain is modeled after the Bellagio’s in Vegas but it takes things to the next level. The show lasts for 5 minutes and takes place on the half hour from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. I know it seems touristy and kinda lame but I can assure you it’s not.
Guess what, this is the world’s largest flower garden. SHOCKER! But seriously this place is a must visit. You’ve most likely seen the heart shaped flower path on Instagram and let me say, this is the spot for photos. Virtually everything is covered in flowers.
Head out to the desert:
I kinda feel like you have to experience the desert when you’re in Dubai. If I were planning a trip I would allow myself an extra day to do some fun activities outside of the actual city.
One of the coolest things we did was “Dune Bashing”. Now that sounds really aggressive and scary and to be honest if you don’t like roller coasters this might not be for you. Basically you head out into the middle of nowhere and these experienced drivers take you on a wild ride through the sand.
IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! If you want to understand what the heck I’m talking about, watch this video.
I mean, don’t you want to ski at the longest indoor ski slope? If that’s not your vibe you can still walk around and snack at some food spots featuring cuisine from around the world!
This is a great spot to peep and take photos of the Burj Al Arab. It’s also a perfect place to chill out. You can lay on the beach, swim and even learn how to kite surf! There’s a ton of restaurants nearby in case you get hungry.
Oh and right around the corner is Skydive Dubai. This is a popular bucket list item for many people visiting Dubai. I HAVE to do this next time I’m there. But if you’d like to check it out, here’s their youtube channel. It looks absolutely EPIC.
Day trip to Abu Dhabi:
If you’ve got the time make sure to add in a visit to Abu Dhabi. It’s about an hour and 15 minute drive from Dubai and is another emirate within the UAE.
One of the biggest draws to Abu Dhabi: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. And in this case, the word “Grand” is totally warranted. This place is UNREAL. You can’t come to Abu Dhabi without visiting. The mosque was modeled after the Taj Mahal and is utterly breathtaking both inside and out. For me, the 7 chandeliers inside were what caught my undivided attention. They are stunning and made out of Italian Murano glass and Swarovski crystals.
Side note: dress code at the mosque is VERY strict. This is the one place where women need to be FULLY covered, I mean down to the wrist. Now they do hand out these robe things to women who need them but they do run out and if they do and you’re not properly covered you’re not getting in. If you’re now thinking what the heck do I wear, click here.
Don’t leave without trying the 23k gold cappuccino at the Emirates Palace. This hotel is WAY over the top, with essentially every inch DRIPPING in gold. I LOVED IT.
Flamingo Room: I am SO MAD I didn’t get to visit this restaurant but the decor and creative cocktails are enough to make me want to go back just so I can eat here. The interior reminds me of one of my favorite restaurants in Indian Wells (The Pink Cabana) and the concept seems similar. Go for brunch or dinner and don’t forget to check out their curated store.
If you don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a room you can still get a glimpse of this glamorous hotel by stopping by for a drink. Sip on a cocktail 200 ft in the sky at their SkyView Bar. Or if you want to take things to the next level you can dine at Al Mahara. The restaurant doesn’t just serve seafood, it takes you into the sea (metaphorically speaking) with the floor to ceiling aquarium that’s the centerpiece of the restaurant.
If the weather is nice, enjoy an outdoor meal at the Park Hyatt’s Mediterranean style restaurant. We visited for lunch and I had the most delicious fattoush salad. OOOO and after you have to check out their pastries counter…
Comptoir 102: This place has California cool vibes and healthy food. So basically it’s Venice in Dubai. Grab a freshly squeezed juice and hang out in the quirky-cool cafe while you shop for home goods and jewelry as Comptoir is both cafe & shop.
101 Dining and Lounge at One and Only the Palm: If you’re looking for an incredible view of the Dubai skyline, this is your spot. The restaurant is an overwater lounge situated on the resorts private marina. It’s stunning and a great spot for lunch or dinner.
If you’re looking for an instaworthy burger - you gotta check out the Salt food truck. You’ll find this well-known food truck parked at Kite Beach serving up Wagyu beef burgers as only a food tuck in Dubai would do.
BEST PHOTO SPOTS:
You TRULY cannot go to Dubai without getting a photo of the Burj Khalifa. If Dubai had a mascot, this would be it. Whether you take it from the outside or WAYYYYY up at the observation deck inside the photos will be BOMB.
I’m so bummed I didn’t get the chance to visit the gardens while on this trip (guess I’ll have to go back). They are so beautiful and FULL of color. If you go make sure to visit early so you don’t have LOADS of people in your shot!
This is another iconic building in Dubai. And if you read this entire guide you already know it’s the most luxurious hotel in Dubai and easily the world. The sail like exterior makes for the perfect background for your instagramming needs. You can easily get a shot of the building by visiting Jumeirah Beach.
There’s nothing like a shot of you walking in the sand with not a soul around. I think these photos totally take your feed to the next level.
From the Sea
I feel like a boat cruise is a must when you visit Dubai. There’s nothing quite like the view you get from the water of the INCREDIBLE skyline. Plus a visit to Dubai Marina where the boats take off from is a fun photo option too.
This is a new beach spot in Dubai and an instagrammers DREAM spot. There’s graffiti and murals and these cute little beach huts. Make an afternoon out of it and stop for some yummy food after you’re done shooting.