Its no secret Dubai is the epitome of luxury and glamour. With state of the art hotels, rooftop bars, and high end brands everywhere, this is a stop where you'll feel like royalty. I've traveled here 6 times in the last 18 months for work so I've experience the UAE from a variety of angles. This post is meant to focus on the short term traveler and the vacationer. Traveling for work? Shoot me an email and I'm happy to help you customize an itinerary to fit with your schedule!
Ideal Time to visit: October - November or February - April
Where to Stay & Eat
Dubai Marina - 15 - 20 minute taxi to major sites; ~25 minutes from DXB, ~90 minutes from Abu Dhabi. Taxis in UAE are usually a Lexus and relatively inexpensive (keep in mind many do not accept credit card, so ask in advance, and generally do not accept American Express.) Uber is available in Dubai, Careem is an Uber alternate that is more reliable and available throughout the whole country.
Grosvenor House - $$$$ Luxury Hotel; Buddha Bar; Access to Le Meridian Beach
Marriott Harbor - $$
Budget Option -
Must See & Do
1 - 2 Days In Dubai
Burj Khalifa: The most iconic and tallest tower in the world is one not to miss. Next to the Dubai mall, a traveler can easily spend half a day exploring this area. Insider tip- Reserve a table at At.mosphere Restaurant (entrance through the Armani Hotel). This way you can take in the sites, while sipping on a delicious cocktail without the bustle of the crowd one floor above and for a similar price. Visiting on short notice, you can usually do walk in between 2-6 pm, just make sure you're nicely dressed. The minimum spend for At.mosphere is around 300 AED per person, however two drinks will hit your minimum. Traveling with kids, then I'd recommend the viewing deck "At The Top." Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the Dubai Mall entrance. (3 - 6 hours easy to extend or cut short)
Dubai Mall: One of the largest malls, it has a movie theater, an aquarium, an ice skating rink and much more. There is a wonderful outdoor area with views of the Souks & the Burj Khalifa. Starting at 4 pm they will have fountain shows. If you visit At The Top after this time, you may be able to catch a show with the aerial perspective.
Mall of Emirates (Indoor Skiing)
Rooftop Bars & Shisha Lounge: Keep in mind, in the UAE Alcohol can only be served at restaurants & bars attached or within hotels. Shades (Dubai Marina) Rooftop; Siddharta Lounge (Dubai Marina) Rooftop with great sushi; Budda Bar (Dubai Marina); Al Khaima (Dubai Marina); Reem Al Bawadi (Downtown Dubai)
3 - 5 Days in Dubai
Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall: 3- 6 hours (Easy to extend or cut short)
Mall of Emirates (Indoor Skiing)
Burj Al Arab
Palm Islands / Beach Day at Jumeriah Beach
Dubai Marina: This is a newer area where many expats live. There are loads of restaurants and things to see. Its a lovely area to walk around and even take a boat cruise.
Gold & Spice Souks: There are a few throughout the city, I visited the old town souks near the Airport / Deira. Its a bit further from the Marina and an outdoor market. However this is in a very local part of town and gives you the opportunity to see and experience local life and do some shopping.
Adrenaline & Adventure
Take a day to see Abu Dhabi!
1 - 2 Days in Abu Dhabi
Grand Mosque: This beautiful mosque is a hard one to miss if you are driving in from the Abu Dhabi airport or Dubai. I went in the heat of August and still loved my time there. Dress is conservative (including head covered for women) as it is a place of worship, but if you don't have the right clothing, they do provide abayas for women and robes for men. Also another side tip - pictures are generally allowed, but please be respectful of your poses and actions. (1-2 hours.)
The Louvre Abu Dhabi: Recently opened last November, this is another stop I'd encourage, even for those less interested in the arts. The architecture is fascinating and the collection is actually quite consumable. Most of the pieces are on loan from the Louvre in Paris, however you can easily move through the entire collection in about 1-2 hours. Having been to many museums including the Met, The Louvre and the Hermitage, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was refreshingly simple and had highlights from most standard collections. Not to mention there's a da Vinci!
Palace of the Emirates: Treat yourself as royalty and enjoy the high tea, every day around 3 or 4 pm. Drink options can include a gold leaf espresso, pots of tea and treats of all kinds. Also you can also purchase a gold coin, however the machine was down for maintenance when I visited.
Ferrari Museum & Park: Yas Island
Desert Safari: Easiest to book through your hotel or online!