Dubai Travel Guide for First Time Visitors

Article provided by Neha Singh

Want to visit Dubai but not sure when to travel or what to add in your travel program? This simple yet elaborate Dubai travel guide for first time visitors encompasses everything that you should be aware when you gear up for your debut travel in Dubai, from cool travel hacks and visa information to its must-sees and experiences. 

Topics Covered In This Dubai Travel Guide

Fast Dubai Facts 

  • Dubai is the UAE’s most popular city, so much so that most people think that it’s the capital city. But, in reality, Abu Dhabi is the country’s capital. 
  • HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is Dubai’s ruler. He’s also the prime minister and vice president of the UAE. 
  • Speaking of its location, it’s nestled along the Arabian Peninsula’s eastern coast and lies in the Arabian Gulf’s southern corner. The country is situated south of Qatar and east of Saudi Arabia
  • Dubai’s time zone is UTC/GMT +4 hours. 
  • Once a fishing settlement before the discovery of oil, Dubai is a relatively young city and now one of the world’s most visited global destinations, thanks to its wondrous engineering marvels, soaring skyscrapers and the world’s longest automated metro to name a few. 

Prior to your Dubai travel

  • Keep the right Dubai visa ready (only if applicable)
  • Get your PCR test done within 96 hours of your Dubai travel 
  • Bring your negative test result printed in Arabic or English. You should further make sure that this is not hand-written or in any digital format. 
  • Fill in a health declaration form as stipulated by the Dubai Government. This states that you’ll bear all the expenses of COVID-19 treatment including quarantine in case you’re tested positive. 
  • Bring your medical travel insurance which offers coverage for COVID-19 treatment. 
  • Those who get their airline tickets after December 1, 2020 are eligible for AIG-approved travel insurance. But this is applicable to only who travel to Dubai via Emirates or FlyDubai airlines. 

Once in Dubai  

  • Submit your PCR report and health declaration form before you undergo a thermal checkup at Dubai International Airport 
  • There will be a mandatory COVID-19 test in the airport. You’ll be instructed to remain in your accommodation until the test results are out. You can get outdoors if the test result is negative. 
  •  But if the test result is positive, you’ll have to strictly abide by Dubai Health Authority’s quarantine and treatment requirements. 
  • Download  COVID-19 DXB app 
  • Make sure that you mandatorily follow all preventative measures against the spread of COVID-19, such as wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and sanitizing your hands at regular intervals etc. 

Best Time To Travel To Dubai 

Dubai has a distinct appeal in every season, so plan your Dubai activities as per the type of holiday you wish to have here. 

November to March is the peak season. With cool weather, this is one of the best times to visit Dubai for pleasant outdoors, fantastic events, and amazing attractions including Dubai Miracle Garden, Dubai Glow Garden etc. However, you can expect the place to be crowded and super expensive, particularly in December to February during the times of Christmas, New Year’s Eve and events such as Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). 

From April to September, the weather gets hot and this becomes somewhat unbearable in June – August. But on a positive note, this time is ideal for anyone who wants to see Dubai in its least packed state or looking for a budget holiday with maximum luxury. After all, this is the time when prices drop for everything from high-end accommodations and airfare to sightseeing and other activities. 

Important Things To Know 

  • Pre-plan your Dubai travel. For maximum savings, it’s a must to start your planning at least three to four months before your travel, particularly in peak season. 
  • Don’t wait ‘til the last minute; book your accommodation, flight tickets, and tour packages well in advance. 
  • Travel in this uncertain period is not easy. So don’t hesitate to ask your provider to ensure whether your chosen service is backed by a flexible cancellation and refund policy. 
  • Dubai’s culture and customs are greatly inspired by Islamic beliefs. And it expects its guests to respect its long-standing traditions. 
  • Dress modestly in public places as well as cultural / religious landmarks. 
  • Get ready to pay a hefty fee if you’re found smoking or consuming alcohol in public places. 
  • Avoid eating or drinking in public in Ramadan – the month of fasting. 
  • Get permission before you take pictures of important government structures and locals. 

Dubai Travel & Visa Requirements 

  • Apart from airline tickets, make sure that you’ve these things in place before you travel to Dubai. 
  • Dubai Visa: Pre-procurement of a Dubai visit visa is a must for all those visitors who do not qualify for any kind of visa exemptions in the form of visa on arrival or visa-free entry. There are various types of visas which you can select as per the purpose and number of days you plan to stay here. This includes 96-hour transit visa, tourist visa and multiple entry visas valid for 30 days or 90 days. 
  • Ok to Board (OTB): This is a mandatory airline procedure for nationalities traveling to Dubai or UAE from certain Asian countries, mainly India, Pakistan etc. It’s mainly carried out to ensure the authenticity of your key travel documents such as passport, Dubai visa etc. Yes, it’s so vital to get this procedure done that your airline service provider has the complete right to stop you from boarding the flight in the absence of OTB. 

Covid-19 Guidelines 

  • With the outbreak of pandemic, travel is not anymore just about grabbing your bags and boarding the flight. You have to comply with certain strict rules no matter where you plan to visit. In fact, Dubai too has its set of safety guidelines and regulations which you should adhere to assure yourself of safe travel. 

Getting Around 

Dubai is a compact city with a variety of cool options to get around the city. 

Public Transport 

Dubai’s exceptional network of metro, buses, cabs, ferries etc make it both easy and cost-effective to travel from one place to another in the city. Of them all, Dubai Metro with red and green lines holds a special distinction being the world’s longest automated metro. Public buses are equally efficient and come with enough leg room and dedicated sections for ladies and families. Cabs are a bit expensive, though it wins for its uber convenience aspect. You can make payment for all the above using the smart NOL card. 

Private Transfers 

Now if you’ve got only a very limited time in Dubai, it’s ideal to skip public transportation and instead rely on a private transfer arranged by an experienced travel provider. They are available with or without a driver. You’re welcome to drive here, but an international driving license is a must for this. 

Accommodation 

As for a stay here, Dubai caters to every budget and distinct holiday preferences. 

  • Hotel Apartment: Besides all in-room comforts, this offers the luxury of cooking your own meals, as they’re usually inclusive of a well-equipped kitchenette. You’ll find this option across all prime areas of the city. 
  • Low-cost & Mid-Range Hotels: These mostly take the form of two-star and three-star hotels. They all come with decent amenities and facilities, but the catch is to find one closer to a metro station. There are plenty of them in the Deira and Bur Dubai areas. 
  • Luxurious Hotels & Resorts: From blissed-out desert retreats to perfect island beach fronts to a deluxe city stay, there is no shortage of opulent hotels in Dubai. What’s more; the city even holds the world’s only seven-star hotel, The Burj Al Arab. 

Dining 

Dubai’s culinary scene is one of the best with a wide assortment of choices to satiate every taste bud.  Rightly so, this Emirati metropolis is the second home to nationalities from over 200 countries. 

Food Courts: Every massive mall in Dubai has one or more food court with outlets representing diverse tastes and flavors from all over the world under its roof. 

Supermarkets / Markets: From giants like Lulu and Carrefour to popular names including Waitrose, Spinneys, Choithram, West Zone etc, most supermarkets in Dubai have a dedicated section to purchase your favorite dishes that are freshly cooked and all ready to eat. 

Cafes: Take a quick stroll across the narrow alleys of Bur Dubai, Dubai etc – you’ll come across a variety of small cafes which are big on their offerings with delicious shawarma, crispy falafels, and several different varieties of juices, desserts and more  available at super cheap rates. Well, they are found in all parts of Dubai. 

Restaurants: From affordable to the exotic rooftops to most lavish and dreamy venues, restaurants in Dubai come in almost all shape, size, and theme imaginable. For dining with the most lavish indulgences, visit Pierchic overlooking Burj Al Arab or take to Burj Al Arab itself to dine within a spellbinding setting. There are some fantastic dining choices in Atlantis, The Palm Resort, and Burj Khalifa. 

Top Things To See And Do In Dubai For First Time Visitors

  1. Burj Khalifa: Part of the stylish upper-class Downtown Dubai, it’s a must-visit on your first time trip to Dubai. The 828 meter high structure designed after a desert flower is the world’s tallest building. It’s especially popular for the quickest ever elevator ride and three observation decks where people flock for the most extraordinary standpoint over Dubai’s stunning skyline. 
Dubai Travel Guide: Burj Khalifa
  1. The Dubai Mall: This is another top attraction in Downtown Dubai. Crammed with over 1200 outlets, 200 plus diverse dining choices and loads of amusement options, this colossal mall is beloved by shoppers, leisure-seekers, and connoisseurs of tastes alike. Most popular among its highlights are Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Dubai Ice Rink, VR Park Dubai, and KidZania Dubai. 
The Dubai Mall
  1. Dubai Fountain Show: Lying outside of the Dubai Mall at Burj Lake, this choreographed aquatic show along with the striking LED laser illuminations over Burj Khalifa, makes one of the city’s best nighttime sights. What’s even more delightful is that it’s a free attraction. But for a nominal charge, you can take its viewing experience to the next level by heading to Dubai Fountain Boardwalk or via an abra cruise along Burj Lake. 
Dubai Travel Guide: Dubai Fountain Show
Dubai Travel Guide
  1. Palm Jumeirah: Dubai’s ever resplendent palm-tree shaped island needs no introduction. So, on your debut Dubai visit, be sure to see this man-made splendor in person on a monorail ride or via a helicopter ride or an epic skydiving adventure. There are also many attractions that are worth a trip here, particularly Atlantis, The Palm and the recently unveiled Palm Fountain at the Pointe, which is also the world’s biggest fountain show. 
Palm Jumeirah
  1. Dhow Cruise: Dhows are traditional Arabian vessels and were once crucial to boost the region’s economy. Although its real purpose waned after the discovery of oil, a sail aboard a dhow now offers an invigorating perspective to admire Dubai’s stunning waterfront views along Dubai Marina or Dubai Creek.  Lasting for not more than two hours, this cruise is mostly complete with welcome drinks, buffet dining, and live shows like Tanura. 
Dhow Cruise
  1. Shopping: For most people, the main inspiration to visit Dubai is its plethora of shopping choices. There are over 70 huge malls including the world’s biggest mall (Dubai Mall) and the largest themed mall in the form of Ibn Battuta Mall. They mostly represent modern and world-renowned brands. However for retail therapy with a touch of culture and tradition, walk down the city’s traditional souks or Arabian bazaars; these are also where you’ll find some real Emirati treasures at the best rates. 
  1. Desert Safari: Dubai is not just about its ultra-modern cityscape; its desert landscape which is still preserved and protected from any kind of development is a favorite of anyone looking for an easy and quick retreat from modernity. So don’t miss a desert safari in Dubai – the concoction of adventure, nature, cultural experiences, lavish dinner and traditional shows makes it an once-in-a-lifetime escape. 
Dubai Travel Guide: Desert Safari
  1. Dubai Parks and Resorts: We’ve included this mainly for our theme park lovers. The region’s first integrated resort is one of the ultimate attractions for those who adore theme park rides and attractions developed around their most beloved movies, super heroes or cartoon characters. Thanks to its four unique parks including Motiongate Dubai, LEGOLAND Dubai, LEGOLAND Water Park, and Bollywood Parks Dubai. 
Dubai Parks and Resorts Legoland
  1. Al Bastakiya Quarter: Set in the heart of Old Dubai close to Dubai Creek, this ethnic quarter is one of the best preserved historical sites in the UAE. Much of its allure and charm is due to the modest structures that dot its narrow alleys, with its beautiful wooden courtyards, traditional architectural details, and wooden wind towers whose purpose was once to serve as air-conditioners. Among the most recognizable attractions here are the region’s oldest of its kind Al Fahidi Fort with Dubai Museum, and Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. 
Dubai Travel Guide: Al Bastakiya Quarter
  1. Ski Dubai: Whether you’re a theme park lover or not, a visit to Ski Dubai is a genuine must-do on your first Dubai visit. It’s one of the world’s biggest indoor ski resorts. It’s open year-round which means you can indulge in your favorite winter activities like skiing and snowboarding even when the summer is at its heightened peak, more than 50 degrees Celsius. 
Ski Dubai

Conclusion 

With this comprehensive Dubai travel guide by your side, set forth and do your part. This would definitely help you to discover Dubai like a seasoned pro. So let the planning begin!

About The Author Of ‘Dubai Travel Guide For First Time Visitors

Neha is a travel blogger and creator of Dubai Wikia who enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and learning about the local culture and food. She is always looking forward to visiting new places and likes to play tennis in her spare time.

Dubai Travel Guide for First Time Visitors

Please note that this is a guest post and the normal Jet Set Together policy rules of free picture usage do not apply to the wonderful photos Neha has so graciously provided.

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