I can admit it when I’m wrong, and boy was I wrong when I said I didn’t really care to go to Dubai. I always thought I’d end up going someday but it was on the bottom end of my travel list. So let me just say that while it wasn’t high on my list, it is the one place I’d be excited to go back to! It exceeded all expectations and I’m so happy it was top of Shaun’s list.
When looking at all the things to do in Dubai it felt a little overwhelming, because I typically don’t travel to cities, I’m more of a fly into a city, see the sites and then get out of dodge to the country side. But there is a ton to do in Dubai and if you’re gonna fly all the way there, you’re gonna wanna get in as much as possible. Here’s what we did and some helpful tips to help you get started.
We flew in on a Monday and after a 15 hour flight we went for a little walk down by the Burj Khalifa and the mall just to see the lights and stretch our legs.
Day 1: Burj Khalif, Aquarium, Fountain Show, Al Seef Market
Tuesday morning we hit the ground running and went straight to the Burj. We didn’t book tickets in advance so I was told to get there right at 8 am if we wanted to get tickets for that day. I think its best to reserve in advance as you can by pass the lines, but if you don’t, make sure you get there first thing in the morning and beat the crowds. We waited 10 minutes and opted for the VIP experience as the regular tickets were sold out for almost the entire day. We only had to wait about 30 minutes before our allotted time, but by the time we were done the line just to get tickets was super long and looked at least an hour wait just to get to the ticket window.
VIP Burj Khalifa gives you private access (group of maybe 20) to additional floors with food and drinks and private decks for better pictures. Little more expensive but a splurge every now and then is good, plus saved us so much time!
After the Burj, we walked the mall, went to the Aquarium, which is included with the VIP ticket price and grabbed lunch at the mall. During Ramadan, which is when we were there, the fountain show doesn’t start until after sunset. So while we were waiting for that we went over to Al Seef market, to walk around the promenade, see some spice shops, and experience a little bit of the old Dubai charm. We ended our night back at the Burj mall where we grabbed dinner by the fountain and watched the show.
Day 2: Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace Hotel, Ethics Tower, Ferarri World, Sunset at Grand Mosque
Abu Dhabi is about an hour drive outside of Dubai and it CAN NOT be missed. The grand mosque is gorgeous at sunset and I recommend getting tickets to see the inside of the mosque any time of day that works for your schedule (tickets are free and again make reservations to by pass the long lines) and then go back for sunset. Best pictures are across the road from the mosque at the memorial, google Wahat Al Karama and you will be taken straight to it. One thing to note there is a dress code at the mosque and the memorial, the website will show you pictures of what you can and can not wear. Most outdated blogs will tell you they provide free attire to borrow or rent but that is not the case anymore, you will need to buy your coverups and head attire or come with your own.
We visited the mosque in the morning which I’m glad we did, because with all the extra clothes I had on it gets hot quick! After the mosque, we visited the Emirates Palace Hotel and the Ethics Tower for some photos. We didn’t think we were gonna visit Ferrari world which is right in this area, just about 15 minutes away, so we ended having to drive all the way back up here a different day to hit Ferrari world but I would definatly try to do this all in one day. Ferrari World really only needs a 3-4 hours in my opinion. And if you are not going on a Friday or weekend chances are you will not have very long lines. We never waited more then 15 minutes when we went. Once again, Ferrari World was something Shaun wanted to do that I only went for him, but I loved the Worlds Fastest Rollercoaster and a few of the other rides, so its something to try and do.
Day 3: Road trip to Oman
One thing we did that I don’t expect anyone else to do is a one day quick road trip to Muscat, Oman. Shaun wanted to go and I was down but I do think it is a long drive and wish we would of just planned to spend one night there so we had more time. However, if you do want to cross the border its actually fairly easy to do just make sure you head to the border that allows you to buy car insurance on the spot. Not all border stations into Oman offer this so check before you go and check the border crossing hours. Other then that is was a great drive, good roads, very remote desert mountains and great sunsets. We went to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque which is gorgeous and visitors are welcome but with limited hours. After the mosque we went for a swim in the Arabian Sea and grabbed dinner before we headed back to UEA.
If we had an extra day in Muscat I would of gone to the Wadi Ash Shab, which is a couple hours south of Muscat and these gorgeous green river canals through some desert mountain canyons. Also the Bimmah Sinhole looks fun, so will definatly be on our list for next time.
Day 4: Dubai Marina & JBL walk
This may sound crazy with all that Dubai has to offer, but my favorite day of the entire trip was the morning we woke up and did a run down the marina on the JBL Walk. I LOVED the Marina. Its crazy cool buildings, with tons of resteraunt lining the river and a gorgeous walking path we ran along. I can’t remember the exact length of the walk but we did get in a good 6 mile run. We lounged on the Jumeriah Beach for a few hours, however as the morning went on this beach gets insanely busy so we opted for some Pina Coladas back at our hotel on the Palm which is more exclusive and quiet with views of the Marina.
If you have time this would be a great day to do Ain Dubai, which is the wheel. It was closed while we were there so I can’t give reviews but I would for sure do it next time we go back.
Day 5: Beach day, The Palm, Aura Sky Pool
By this time we feel like we had seen and done a lot and needed just a beach day and a day to do anything around town like shopping or getting pictures of anything we missed before. It was a really nice relaxing day laying at the Hilton on the Palm and at night we booked tickets for the Aura Sky Pool which was another one of my favorite things. All day tickets were sold out so if you want some sun action then make sure to book in advance, however we loved going at night! Warm water, great food, swanky poolside cocktail feelings, good music and amazing views. Roof top pools are all the rage in Dubai and unfortunately we didn’t really discover this until the end of our trip. But we did get to use a few rooftop pools I would highly recommend and I broke down my top pools in Secrets of Dubai.
Day 6: Beach morning, Sand Dunes
Visiting the Sand Dunes is not to be missed! And there are a ton of different tours and options. Again, overwhelming. So I will tell you what I recommend and have a great review for the company we used.
First, we booked just a half day tour and did the 2 pm pick up so we could enjoy a 5 start authentic dinner a Bedouin camp. We did include a camel ride, which if a fairly short ride but gives you a fun experience and pictures, and we also did the star gazing. You can do all of this and include four wheelers or dune buggy rides but we have done this a lot in our life so didn’t think it was worth including in our package and I’m glad we didn’t because you do get really dusty and dirty and it didn’t really look all that fun, its super busy area where you follow someone around and was pretty short experience as you are usually booked in a car with others who maybe didn’t book the four wheeler experience so they are waiting in the tents for you to finish.
Now onto the good part! Dune bashing is super fun, but let me break it down for you. It at first seems a little scary and like you are gonna roll in the SUV. After a few slide down the sand dunes you start to trust these drivers really know what they are doing and the reality of an accident is super rare. But if you get motion sickness you absolutely want to be in the front seat. I sometimes get motion sickness and if I wasn’t in the front I for sure would of been sick, and a few in the back to feel nauseated only because its a little bit of a wild ride, but most people were fine. I would also recommend asking for a driver that is a leader because you caravan with other SUV’s in the desert and the leader leads the way so its not as sandy, better views and a more enjoyable ride. I’ll include my review for who we used and I highly recommend them! All dune bashing rides stop for sand boarding and picture taking and I can not get over how fine the sand in the dunes is.
I would absolutely include the Bedouin camp dinner, it was one of my favorite things, and the food was to die for! Literally some of the best food I have ever had.
Exceeded expectations for sure! Loved our driver Akku he did an amazing job! Super fun and felt safe with him as he drove us off the edges of the sand dunes. Felt crazy at first but he knows what’s he’s doing so we had a ton of fun. He stopped in the best spot for pictures and gave us a little photo shoot and took great pictures for us. And then I have to say the camp where we had dinner was super cool, felt authentic and the food was to die for. We loved every bit of this experience, can’t recommend Akku enough and think this company Ocean Air was the right choice they really have this experience dialed in!
Day 7: Return to home
We left after 6 days, and I am not usually an arrive early kind of gal at the airport but you really do need to get there at least 2-3 hours before your flight. The lines can get long, and the signage to get to the car rental was confusing and could easily be missed so allow for extra time. One other thing I learned is Dubai airport is a silent airport, meaning in the terminals they don’t make announcements, they do when you are at the gate but not through the terminals so you need to pay attention to your time.