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The speed of Dubai’s metamorphosis is unparalleled, creating a thriving metropolis in the heart of the desert in less than half a century. Many people are likely to be dazzled by the whiteness of the sand and the scale of the skyscrapers, but it’s also still possible to step back in time with a desert safari or boat trip on the creek.
Make your holiday even more memorable, along with soaking up the sun on the prominent beaches of Dubai, enjoy limitless culinary delights in award- winning Michelin starred restaurants, some with awe-inspiring iconic views of the city. Or watch your sporting heroes take part in some of the most prestigious international sporting events around the year. Alternatively, shop till you drop in any one of Dubai's 96 malls or souks.
Book today and enjoy guaranteed savings, low deposits from £100, upgrades and many more extras to make your next holiday truly special.
Flying time: UK to Dubai 7hrs
Emirates gateway: Dubai International Airport
Time zone: GMT + 3 hours
Currency: Emirati Dirham. Currency is easily exchangeable beforehand. ATMs are plentiful and credit cards widely accepted
Languages: Arabic, with English is widely spoken
Dialing code: +971
Plug sockets: 240 volts AC, 50Hz. Britishstyle plugs with three pins are standard
Transfers from Dubai Airport to Dubai City: 20 to 30 minutes
Transfers from Dubai Airport to Jumeirah Beach/Jumeirah Beach Residence: 40 to 50 minutes
Transfers from Dubai Airport to Palm Jumeirah, Jebel Ali or desert: 50 to 60 minutes
From beaches that fringe the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf bathed in year-round sunshine, to the architectural marvels that punctuate the skyline and define the destination, Dubai is irresistibly dynamic, with some of the world’s most unique and modern attractions.
Expect year-round sunshine – it’s just a case of exactly how hot you like it. October to April provides the most pleasant option (small potential of rain and wind in January and February), with temperatures around 25-28C. From May, these temperatures really rocket between June and September (upwards of 40C) but Dubai offers plenty of incentives to visit then, such as shopping festivals in air-conditioned malls, indoor attractions and fantastic value offers.
These high temperatures require light, breathable clothing, but always have a cover-up for when you hit the air conditioning. Whilst a liberal and popular holiday hotspot, it’s still good to bear in mind that Dubai is a Muslim destination, so dress respectfully outside of your resort (for example, women should wear clothing that covers the shoulders and the knees in shopping malls, and if entering a mosque, hair must be covered). Desert trips are best in comfortable safari-type clothing.
This ambitious artificial archipelago, created using land reclamation, was one of many projects that put Dubai on the map, with its crescent-like “fronds” extending out from a “trunk” that runs the length of the central section – all the way from the mainland up to Atlantis The Palm. The 5.4km Palm Jumeirah Monorail also runs from the Gateway Towers at the base to Atlantis The Palm and is home to many thousands of private homes, and numerous hotels by some of the world’s leading brands, such as Fairmont, Sofitel, Jumeirah, One&Only, Waldorf Astoria and Anantara.
One of the original homes of tourism here in the emirate, Dubai’s main beach area is washed by the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf and lined with excellent hotels, such as the iconic wave-like Jumeirah Beach. Also here is Wild Wadi WaterparkTM, which will keep everyone amused for hours, while Jumeirah beach park is a great public space that’s also popular with local families.
The anchor of this futuristic district is the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, which took five years to build and opened in 2010, boasting a staggering 828 metres to its name; from the viewing area at its upper levels, other buildings below seem like crumbs. Inside the Burj Khalifa is the first-ever Armani hotel, while other attentiongrabbing attractions of this area include Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountain - both the world’s biggest - where jets of water shoot up to 150 metres high, and seem to “dance” in time to music as they are illuminated by more than 6,000 lights.
Sitting on the south side of Dubai Creek, the oldest part of the city dates to the 1900s, with sandy-coloured buildings, museums and minarets. Here you’ll see Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood with its charming car-free, narrow streets and houses topped with wind towers, or barajeel. The area was previously known as Bastakiya after the Iranian town of Bastak, where the original Iranian settlers came from across the Gulf to take advantage of free land and low taxes. You can find out more about Dubai’s history with a look inside Dubai Museum or browse the rainbow of fabrics, clothes and slippers in the Textile Souk.
Named for the much-revered first president of UAE, this is where life has spread out to from the Creek, and has been the epicentre of development, amassing a collection of skyscrapers each more audacious than the next, such as Emirates Towers. Technically, it’s just part of the highway running across the whole of UAE, but it’s also where you’ll find many of the city’s hotels, restaurants and shops. For example, just some of the junctions off here will take you towards Mall of the Emirates, Gold & Diamond Park, Madinat Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab, Wild Wadi Water Park™, Downtown Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and Dubai Marina.
Wander one of the city’s oldest districts, dating to around 1841. Once just a sleepy waterside village, Deira soon took over the original settlement of Bur Dubai in scale and is still a cornucopia of ethnicities mixed with tourists, here to check out the souks, where gold is among the cheapest in the world. You can cross Dubai Creek between Deira and Bur Dubai in an ‘abra’ (water taxi) for just AED2 (approximately 40p).
Sophisticated, skyscraping, and buzzing – Dubai Marina is designed to evoke Riviera-style living in a contemporary setting. This attractive and central place to play and stay in Dubai is a waterfront development built around a 3.5km canal. Along its banks are Dubai Marina Mall (with around 140 stores); The Address Dubai Marina hotel; Pier 7 Dubai Marina - which boasts seven restaurants, each on its own floor and with a unique atmosphere; and Dubai Marina Yacht Club.
Now 11 years old, this place changed the face of shopping in Dubai forever. Billed as the world’s first shopping “resort”, it is a destination in its own right, home to Ski Dubai, hundreds of shops, two hotels including Kempinski Mall of the Emirates, Magic Planet for family entertainment, a 14-screen VOX Cinema, Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre and more than 90 dining options. Al Barsha the residential area surrounding the mall offers affordable accommodation and local dining options close to many of Dubai’s key attractions.
No trip to Dubai would be complete without a desert safari. Hop into a 4x4 and leave the city behind as you head into the wilds of the desert - go dune ‘bashing’ or camel-riding before sunset, then enjoy remote Bedouin-style camps with fireside tales and delicious dinners, or even spend the night sleeping out in tents before returning to Dubai after breakfast.
This area combines casual outdoor living with top-notch shops, restaurants and the beach. The Walk at JBR, which was Dubai’s first outdoor promenade, has a 1.7km stretch of shops and restaurants and more recently has also been joined by The Beach, with even more dining and leisure options formed around a pedestrian esplanade.
Jebel Ali is the thriving commercial port area of Dubai, around 35km southwest from the city, and given its historic establishment, can also boast one of the most longstanding and largest resorts in the emirate – the JA Jebel Ali Beach Resort, which has a lovely private beach, golf course and a myriad of other leisure attractions. Jebel Ali is also the new home of a dazzling new attraction - Dubai Parks & Resorts. This is the first integrated resort destination in the region, opening in late 2016, and home of LEGOLAND® Dubai, LEGOLAND® Waterpark, motiongate™ Dubai and Bollywood Parks™, as well as Riverland™.
International restaurants and top global chefs are in abundance, but if you want to try Emirati cuisine, you’ll sense a range of regional influences. Most likely, you will find roast lamb with rice and nuts (ghuzi), stuffed vine leaves (warak enab), chickpea and sesame paste (hummus), bulghur wheat with mint and parsley (tabbouleh), spit-cooked meat in pitta bread with garlic sauce (shawama), cooked balls of chickpeas with herbs (falafel) and plenty of fish. Goat may also be on the menu, but no pork, in accordance with Muslim beliefs. Alcohol is tolerated and drinking is possible in the plentiful hotel bars and restaurants.
Culture in Dubai is rooted in Islamic traditions. Emirati men tend to dress in traditional dishdasha or khandura (long white shirt-dress), with ghutra (a white headdress) and agal (a rope worn to keep the ghutra in place), while women tend to wear an abaya (a long black cloak), with a sheyla or hijab (a scarf used to wrap around the face and head). The most religious time of the year is Ramadan, when Muslims fast for approximately a month and a festival atmosphere can be found in the evening when the locals break their fast. But as well as the minarets of mosques, you will also see temples and churches. A new opera house is also set to open this year.
Hares and lizards - such as the spiny-tailed lizard - may scamper around the desert but you would be hard pushed to see much natural wildlife in Dubai these days. However, there are many excellent reserves and conservation projects you can explore – which provide the thrill of seeing the iconic oryx, an Arabian leopard, mountain gazelle, sand gazelle or caracal. In the waters, you might have the chance of spotting the biggest fish of the ocean, a whale shark.
The human history of Dubai dates back to the bronze age (2500BC) when nomadic cattle herders are first thought to have settled in the area. A couple of millennia later and Dubai was still little more than a small fishing settlement until members of the Bani Yas tribe, led by the Maktoum Family, settled at the mouth of the creek in 1833. The creek was a natural harbour and Dubai soon became a centre for the fishing, pearling and sea trade. The population was later buoyed by the lure of tax-free living attracting traders from the Indian subcontinent. Oil was discovered in the 1950s and the first cargo left Dubai in 1969. In 1971, the six emirates agreed a Federal Constitution, gained independence from Britain becoming the United Arab Emirates, with Ras Al Khaimah joining the following year to form the UAE as it is today.
This adrenaline-pumping waterpark set within Atlantis The Palm includes the chance to take the Leap of Faith or zoom through the darkened tunnels of Shark Attack; as well as an invite to tackle Aquaconda, the world’s largest water slide. Or, perhaps you prefer to just sit and mind everyone’s towels as you relax on 700 metres of private beach. Ticket prices from £55 per person.
This attraction is spread across levels 148 and 125 of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. The experience starts with the lift up to level 125, where you can marvel at the view from the 380-degree enclosed observatory. Then it’s up a little more, to the 148th floor at 555 meters, where you step onto the world’s highest outdoor observation deck. After all that sightseeing, visit Level 122 which is home to the restaurant and bar, At.mosphere. Ticket prices from £35 per person.
Dubai’s first mega themed entertainment destination will be the largest temperature controlled indoor park in the world and will wow guests with its four epic adventure zones. Two are created with global adventure brands Cartoon Network and MARVEL, while IMG Boulevard and the Lost Valley – Dinosaur Adventure are original concepts from the IMG Group. Think rollercoasters, thrill rides and attractions – all based on popular characters and hair-raising dinosaurs. Combine with the amazing array of retail temptations and exclusive dining venues and you have a day of fun for the whole family.
The brilliant KidZania® is a super-interactive and educational attraction inside The Dubai Mall where children play grown-ups as they try on various careers for size. There are more than 80 roles to choose from including firefighters, radio hosts, jewellery designers and mechanics. Ticket prices from £30 per person.
One of the best family days out in Dubai, Wild Wadi Waterpark™ is set in front of the iconic Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, and offers 30 watery rides and attractions. Themed around the tale of Juha, a character from Arabian folklore, the rides range from sedate “lazy rivers” where you can bob along in a rubber ring, to the Jumeirah Sceirah, which has two tandem slides you zip down from a 32 metre high tower.
The 270-degree acrylic walkthrough tunnel takes you under one of the largest tanks in the world so you can see some of the 33,000 animals - representing more than 85 species including 400 sharks and rays. You can also just stroll past it from The Dubai Mall, with one of the world’s largest viewing panels to gaze through to the aquarium. Ticket prices from £20 per person.
There’s only one way to really get to grips with the scale of things here - from the air and these tours by seaplane do just that. Giving the finest views over Dubai, these comfortable little planes can use 27 different water landing strips and runways across UAE, so any combinations can be arranged. The 40-minute Dubai Silver Air Tour flies you over all the Dubai classics, taking off from either Dubai Creek or Jebel Ali Resort, then cruising along the coastline, giving you a bird’s-eye view of The World, Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab Jumeirah. Ticket prices from £356 per person.
Situated within the Mall of the Emirates, this made the world sit up and take notice of Dubai’s many ambitious projects when it first opened – and still does. It was the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort and today offers a snow park, Ski School, Penguin Encounter and Snow Bullet. Ticket prices from £27 per person.
One of the many attractions inside The Dubai Mall, SEGA Republic is a high-adrenaline, indoor family theme park, featuring 15 attractions and more than 170 games, from cutting-edge motion simulators to virtual experiences. Ticket prices from £36 per person.
Calling all adventure seekers, Dubai Parks and Resorts opened its doors in October 2016 and should be at the top of your must-visit list. Home to three world-class theme parks, one water park and over 100 attractions ranging from rollercoasters and waterslides to cinematic rides and live shows, Dubai Parks and Resorts is sure to delight guests of all ages. Lapita, a four star Polynesian style hotel is located within the parks and offers guests the convenience of a night’s rest only a few minutes from the rides. Located on Sheikh Zayed Road, opposite Palm Jebel Ali, a trip to this fun-filled resort is a great option for guests staying in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
If you want to do more than “fly and flop”, you’ve come to the right place. One way to get the measure of Dubai is to catch it from the air – whether that be via an adrenaline-fuelled skydive over The Palm Jumeirah, or a scenic seaplane ride. Other aerial options include a sunrise hot air balloon experience, which will lift you off the ground 1,200 metres above the desert as you spot oases and the occasional wandering camel below. Kite surfers will love Kite Beach, one of Dubai’s best stretches of sand, and one where watersports operators aplenty await to help you pick up a new skill or hone your talent. Meanwhile at Dubai Mall, you can try a snorkeling cage experience within the huge tank at Dubai Aquarium, or even swim with sharks.
Dubai offers something for every type of traveller, from thrill seekers to people looking to lounge in the sun. Before you book your holiday to Dubai, be sure to check out our special offer pages including all-inclusive, Business Class, and our exclusive Dubai Parks and Resorts offers.
Book today and enjoy guaranteed savings, low deposits from £100, upgrades and many more extras to make your next holiday truly special.
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