The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven emirates on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula. The seven emirates that make up the UAE are Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain, Ra’s al Khaymah and Fujairah. Dubai, one of the seven emirates, is home to the world’s tallest building, palm tree shaped man-made islands and other futuristic mega structures. Visiting this part of the UAE will certainly feel like a trip to the future. But beyond those stunning modern marvels and mega projects, Dubai also boasts rich cultures and traditions. In this 5-day suggested itinerary, you will see most of Dubai’s key attractions, from its historic and cultural sites to its huge shopping centers.
Dubai invest insanely amount of money in its national airline – the Emirates, which became one of the top airlines in the world. Flights to and through Dubai are cheap, which makes Dubai a perfect destination for a layover or on its own. Round-trip tickets from New York start at 730 USD, from Hong Kong round-trip tickets can be found for less than 400 USD, from Amsterdam or Berlin you can easily snap a deal for about 350 USD (just be flexible with your dates). For more up-to-date info you can check current prices on Tripadvisor.
Day 1: Historical Dubai Tour
Where to stain in Dubai:
Raffles Dubai (Sheikh Rashid Road | Wafi, Dubai 121800, United Arab Emirates)
Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf at Madinat Jumeirah (Al Sufouh Road | Madinat Jumeirah Resort, Dubai 75157, United Arab Emirates)
Grosvenor House Dubai (Al Sufouh Road | Dubai Marina, Dubai 118500, United Arab Emirates)
The Address Dubai Marina (Al Marsa Street, 66 | Dubai Marina, Dubai 32923, United Arab Emirates)
Residence&Spa at One&Only Royal Mirage Dubai (Al Sufouh Road | Jumeirah Beach Road, Dubai 37252, United Arab Emirates)
The Palace Downtown Dubai (Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, 29 | Downtown Dubai, Dubai 9770, United Arab Emirates)
Who would have thought the once small Arab settlement will become one of the world’s major trading hub in a very short space of time? On your first day, embark on a trip to the places in Dubai that will showcase how the community all started. Begin early in the morning in Bur Dubai and visit Harib Bin Harib Mosque. Not so far from the mosque, you may also visit The Heritage and Diving Villages (Al Shindagha Rd,Al Shindagha – دبي – United Arab Emirates; tel: +971 4 393 7151), a living museum where visitors can learn Dubai’s past and its pearl industry. Visit two more houses of worship, the Al-Mulla Mosque and the Al-Otaibat Mosque, and marvel their traditional architecture. Your last destination for this morning is Bastakiya, the historic old town.
For a true taste of Dubai’s culture and spectacular views of this sprawling city, take a ride on an abra (water taxi) to Deira in the late afternoon. From Deira Old Souk Abra station, cross the road to the Spice Souk, where you will be welcomed by the fragrant smells of Arabian spices and seasonings. Then head to Al-Ahmadiya Street where you will find the Heritage House (admission is free of charge and the museum is easily accessible by public transport – the nearest metro station is the Al Ras and the nearest bus stations are Gold Souq and the Al Ras) , a prime example of a pearl merchant residence. You may also drop by the Gold Souk, Perfume Souk and Grand Souk Deira in the evening for some sightseeing or shopping. It is best to visit in this area in the evening since most shops close during the heat of the afternoon.
Day 2: Desert Safari Tour
On your second day, join a thrilling desert safari tour, organized by a tour operator. You will be picked up by a 4×4 jeep in your hotel for a 5-hour excursion through emirate’s spectacular sand dunes. Tours include a visit to a traditional camel farm, a camel ride around the enclosures and sand boarding. In the evening, you will enjoy a delicious barbecue dinner and watch belly dancing performance around the campfire. You may also opt for an overnight desert safari tour. The next morning you will be served by a sumptuous breakfast and will be dropped back to your hotel. Please note visitors with spinal or back problems, pregnant women and senior citizens with heart conditions are not recommended to go for Desert Safari Tour.
Day 3: Dubai Walking Food Tour
The Emirati cuisine is a rich mix of different cultures and ingredients from the Middle East, Europe, India and other parts of the world. In every restaurant, you will notice a fusion of global influences with a mixture of local Emirati ingredients.
Food is an essential part of travel and an important cultural experience, so on your third day in Dubai, join Frying Pan Adventures. It is a walking food tour of the Old Dubai which will introduce you to authentic Dubai dining, away from the skyscrapers and five-star hotels. You will be able to explore the back streets of Old Dubai and get insight into local culture. Tour is about 4 hours and costs 380 AED (105 USD) and can be booked in advance at Frying Pan Adventure’s website.
Day 4: Waterpark and Beach Day
Many of the beaches along the Jumeirah beach strip belong to posh beach hotels and are only accessible to their guests. For a luxurious beach experience, you may try Le Meridien Mina Seyahi or Jumeirah Beach Hotel which allows you access to their beach for a fee. Other good alternatives are Jumeirah Beach Park, Al Mamzar and Kite Beach. If your accommodation is located or near Deira and would like a closer public beach, then you can go to Mamzar Beach Park. If you would like to experience water adventure instead, then head to Dubai’s most popular water parks, one of which is Wild Wadi Water Park.
Day 5: Shopping
Start off early in the morning and head back to Deira and explore its old traditional souks. Walk along the Gold and Spice souks where you can bargain the best price for a good piece of souvenir, medicinal herb or exotic seasonings. You can also visit the other souks like the Fish Souk, Perfume Souk, and Grand Souk Deira. Even if you are not buying much, a walk through the souks is definitely worth it as it offers plenty of sights to photograph. For Dubai’s most upscale boutique shops and high street brand, you may visit Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, and Wafi City. Dubai is definitely a shopping paradise, so indulge and shop till you drop!
Have you been to Dubai? Do you have any tips or suggestions to share? If so, you can leave your comments below.