What to Do before Travelling to Dubai

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Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, stands in front of the the first world functional 3D printed offices during the official opening in Dubai May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

Gone are the days when Dubai would attract only pearl merchants and British marines, remaining for the rest of the world an obscure land populated by exotic people almost sprung from the pages of Scheherazade’s tales. Now the city is so flooded with inquisitive foreign faces that Emiratis themselves seem to be hard to come by on its streets and resorts, outnumbered by expats to the tune of six to one. The popularity Dubai now enjoys among the westerners means that traveling to its shores no longer involves shooting in the dark. Anyone considering a journey to Dubai these days can arrive there sensibly equipped with information about its customs, tradition, national attractions, and even the useful ways to secure online privacy, when accessing tourists’ websites prudently blocked by the UAE government. Armed with this information, you will spare yourself inconveniences and embarrassment occasionally felt by earlier uninstructed travelers.

Planning a vacation to Dubai is no different from preparing for a trip to other countries, though some points may require more careful consideration. The first matter to think over is the time when to book your Dubai holidays. If you are leafing through your calendar and marking the summer months for your trip, turn a couple of pages more until you reach November. Heat in the spring and summer in that region is so unbearably scorching that you will see Dubai only through the window of your hotel room or taxi, if you make a mistake of flying there in this season. Venturing outside in the temperature that climbs to 45 degrees °C is equivalent to jumping into a well-preheated oven, and you will not find this experience particularly enjoyable.

The most suitable time to travel to the United Arab Emirates is between November and March, when temperatures there average a pleasant 22 °C degree and when loitering outside at the local bazars would not immediately cause you a headache and dehydration. Therefore, aim to spend your Christmas, New Year Eve, or the Valentine’s Day in Dubai, and make sure you order your plane tickets in advance. Holidays in the United Arab Emirates are so in demand that all reasonably priced tickets are sold out months before the date of the flight. You will have a less costly adventure, if you do not board the plane to the Emirates on the spur of the moment having bought your ticket straight from the airport ticket counter.

Equally important is to pack the right set of clothes, when you go to the United Arab Emirates. Although Dubai is crowded with foreigners not adhering to the Five Pillars of Islam, its authorities do not look kindly upon the display of flesh in public places. Naked torsos in men and exposed arms and legs in women are bound to elicit critical responses from the local government and might get you fined. Whatever is your personal taste in fashion, choose the least tight and revealing clothes for your pastime in Dubai’s malls and restaurants. You do not need to imitate the Emiratis people by wearing abaya (a female cloak) or hijab (a female headscarf) or thobe (a male cloak) or ghutra (a male headcover), but you will appear respectful of their traditions, when you dress smartly and modestly in their country.

For the same reason, it is appropriate to refrain from demonstrating affection in public, when you are in Dubai. Authorities in the United Arab Emirates deem public kissing, hugging, and even hand-holding between people of the opposite sex as lewd and offensive and never show leniency to those who disregard this restriction. Before you decide to spend your vacation in Dubai with your significant other, discuss this sensitive topic between yourselves and make sure that both of you understand that behaving affectionately there might lead you to imprisonment.

What will also make your trip to Dubai easier and more enjoyable is acquainting yourself with its topography in advance. It will help you greatly, if you study the map of the city and read about its cultural and tourist attractions online, taking notice of their exact locations. Taxi drivers in Dubai will not always know routes to the places you will want to visit or will not always understand your instructions, unless you point to a desired destination on the city’s map. However cheap Dubai taxis are, they are not always useful as a means of transportation from one address to another. Yet even if your taxi driver takes the longest route or loses himself in the city, do not forget to tip him, because tipping is expected in Dubai. To slip money into the hands of the staff in your hotel or bar, you will need to have cash in your pocket. Withdrawing at least a small amount of the United Arab Emirates Dirham from the airport ATM machine is, therefore, advisable, though you will be able to pay for other services and goods with your credit card.

Daniel Cheong

Most of all, however, prepare to be amazed by this unique and dazzling city. Dubai will inevitably take your breath away the moment you see its buildings, cars, and people and will occupy your mind with its beauty long after your trip comes to its end.

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