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  • Writer's pictureAndi Dela Torre Griffiths

Dubai Travel Guide Part 1 | What You Need to Know

Traveling to Dubai for the first time need not stress you out. It’s a beautiful place full of tourists that is easy to navigate. This vibrant spot in UAE is an organized city that is generally safe for everyone, solo travelers included.


If you are heading there soon, keep reading. Today, we’ll talk about the basics. Then, in the second part of this guide, the places you can visit. 


Dubai Travel Guide | Memento Vivere | A Lifestyle Blog by Andi

A Quick Background | Where you’re Going


Before we jump in, it’s always good to know a few things about the place that you’re visiting, so here are some:


  • Dubai is one of the seven emirates that form part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is the largest city-state in the country. It was founded in 1833;

  • Dubai is multicultural, and expatriates constitute the majority of its population;

  • It is also the home of structures that hold world records, such as: the deepest pool (Deep Dive), tallest hotel (Gevora Hotel), tallest building (Burj Khalifa), and the largest picture frame (Dubai Frame), among a whole lot more. 



Dubai Travel Guide | Knowing The Basics 


Photo by Mohammed Tareq

Travel Insurance


Getting health insurance is not mandatory for travelers heading to Dubai, but it is highly advisable, just in case anything happens to you during your stay. 


Arrival at Dubai International Airport (DXB) & SIM Cards


Entry to Dubai is fast and hassle-free. You only have to present your valid visa (if applicable), passport, and hotel accommodation document. 


As for SIM cards, they give out free Du SIM cards before they let you pass through. Once you activate it, you can claim your 1GB of mobile data and start using the number to sign up for the mobile apps you need to download for your trip. Note: the 1GB data expires after 24 hours- just enough to get you started.


If you’re not interested in the free SIM, you can get your own from Du or Etisalat (available at the airport and inside most malls). Another option is opting for an e-SIM from Airalo. See their available packages for UAE here.


Airalo e-SIM Registration | How Airalo works

During our trips, on both our 7-day and 28-day stays, we were able to go around and enjoy our activities without purchasing a SIM card (yup,this is okay). We just used the hotel wi-fi or connected to the network of the establishments we visited. Public wi-fi is also available almost everywhere in case you need to look something up.



Currency & Payment Methods


The Arab Emirates Dirham (AED) is the official currency of the UAE, which is among the most stable ones in the world. For making payments, you can use your card or pay through online channels, but it is still advisable to keep cash, especially if you are traveling as a tourist.


Photo from Maravic from Getty Images

Outfits


Dubai is not strict when it comes to outfits, but it’s good to dress modestly in public places since it is still part of a Muslim country. You can still wear your favorite shorts or tank top, as long as they’re not too short or revealing to the point that they look distasteful for an afternoon stroll.


Since it is hot outside even at night, I suggest going for comfortable clothing with fabrics made from cotton or linen. If you have summer dresses and light, airy tops hidden in your closet, this would be the place to wear them.


Dubai Outfit Ideas | What to wear in Dubai

Transportation & Getting Around


There are different ways to get around Dubai. You can ride the train, hop on a bus, or book a taxi. If you’re staying for quite some time, you can get a Dubai Metro NOL pass (as suggested by my friend), which you can use for the Dubai Metro, buses, and water taxis. You can get this from the ticketing offices at Dubai Metro stations.


For us, the latter was the best option because it saved us a lot of time, and there was never an instance where it was hard to get a taxi. The Dubai government regulates most of these taxis, so they are safe.


Photo by Nikada from Getty Images
Dubai Metro Station | Photo by Nikada from Getty Images

Mobile Applications


These mobile applications can be helpful during your stay, and you can sign up using your Dubai number:

  • Careem- car, taxi, food, groceries, and more

  • Cobone- deals and promos for activities

  • Headout- deals and promos for activities

  • Uber- car, taxi services

  • Talabat- food delivery (recommended)


Where to Stay | Picking your Hotel


There are plenty of great hotels you can choose from in Dubai. It’s just a matter of preference. Factors to consider include affordability, accessibility, facilities, and safety. For reference, here are some hotels you might want to check online: Rove at the Park, Grand Mercure, Wyndham Dubai Deira, White Fort Hotel, Novotel Bur Dubai, or Savoy Suites Hotel Apartment. 


We stayed at the Grand Excelsior Hotel in Bur Dubai during the two times we went there. The front desk people were so-so, but the bellman, restaurant servers, and cleaning staff were friendly. We also enjoyed the amenities, especially the sauna. 


The pool area at Grand Excelsior BurDubai
The pool area at Grand Excelsior BurDubai

Grand Excelsior is near Dubai Frame, Al Seef, BurJuman Mall, and Al Mankhool Library. It is at the heart of Old Dubai, accessible to convenience stores and other establishments.


Grand Excelsior BurDubai | Book your Stay | Travel to Dubai 2024

Shopping


With dozens of boutiques and souks, you’ll never run out of shopping options in Dubai. Here are some places you can visit: 


Malls

  • Dubai Outlet Mall

  • Dubai Festival City Mall

  • City Walk 

  • The Wharf at Bluewaters Island

  • Wafi City (this is where AYA Universe is) 

  • BurJuman Mall

  • Dubai Marina Mall

  • Dubai Mall

  • Mall of the Emirates


Inside Dubai Mall | Photo by Elnur
Inside Dubai Mall | Photo by Elnur

Souks

  • Gold Souk

  • Al Seef Heritage Souq 

  • Dubai Textile Souk

  • Meena Bazaar in Al Fahidi

  • Spice Souk

  • Souk Madinat Jumeirah



Where to buy Pasalubong/ Gifts 


You can shop for gifts at all the destinations I mentioned in this post, but here are some of the best stores that offer reasonably-priced goods if you plan to get gifts for many people. 


  • Al Jaber Gallery- they have a lot of unique finds and customized items you can display in your home or give as gifts. They have branches in Dubai Mall, Bluewaters Island, Souk Madinat, and more. 

  • Day to Day- the best store to shop for cute and affordable Dubai souvenirs. Clothes, slippers, and other essentials you may need during your trip are also available here.


Jewelry at the Gold Souk in Dubai

Others | Practical Tips 


  • Like most cities in the Philippines, Dubai charges for the use of plastic bags, so it would be better if you bring your own each time you go to the grocery (it's a simple, sustainable action, too). 

  • It’s best to buy bottled water from the grocery or the convenience store, then take some with you when you go out, rather than buying outside- unless outside food and drinks are prohibited. You can save a lot from doing this and use the saved money for something else. To give you an example, a 500mL bottle typically costs 3-5 AED outside (it was 10 AED at IMG Worlds of Adventure), while at the grocery, it’s around AED 0.95 per bottle.

  • If you have friends or family in Dubai, it would be best to ask for recommendations and/or meet with them.

  • Plan your days ahead to maximize your stay and check which attractions are within the same area. 

  • Remember to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a cap or hat to protect yourself from the heat. 



That would be all for today. Feel free to share this Dubai travel guide to whoever may need it. Thanks for reading!


Make sure to check out the second part of this travel guide, which is a list of 12 places you can visit. You can read it on the link below.


Dubai Travel Itinerary | Travel to UAE

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