Dubai (Arabic: دبي‎‎ Dubayy) is a cosmopolitan metropolis and global city on the Arabian Peninsula. The city is one of the ten most popular tourist destinations in the world. The city is also considered one of the most modern and progressive cities in the Middle East – certainly in the Arab world – and is also sometimes nicknamed as "City of Gold" due to historically being a hub for gold trade as well as the rapid transformation from a desert into a luxurious city.

Shoreline of Dubai as seen from space, with artificial islands

Dubai is characterized by a vast landscape of desert which transforms into a futuristic style of skyscrapers along the coastline. The city offers both insights into the old merchant and pearl diving history of the Arabs in Deira and Bur Dubai and the new modern skyscraper business and bustling life in Jumeirah and Jebel Ali. Dubai is sometimes mistakenly thought of as a country, but it is actually one of the emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates. It is the financial centre of the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai is also considered a commercial and cultural hub of the Middle East, it's a global transport hub, and has attracted world attention through many large innovative construction projects and sports events. The city is symbolised by its skyscrapers, including the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, in addition to ambitious development projects including man-made islands, world-class luxury hotels, and some of the largest and extraordinarily modern shopping malls in the world.


The old financial centre, today a bustling commercial-residential district with old souks, including one specializing in spices
  Bur Dubai
A historical district on the south side of Dubai Creek, with attractions from abras to souks to floating restaurants to the famous Creek
A diverse mix of residential and tourist destinations. It's influenced by European architecture and designs. Jumeirah is favored by Westerners due to easy access to the beach. Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Road are the top attractions. Marina is a mega-development full of skyscrapers. The Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa lie in Downtown Dubai, which is between Jumeriah and the rest of Dubai's suburbs.
  Jebel Ali
Mega man-made port, location of the new airport, Dubai World Central, the venue for Expo 2020, and the entry point to the Palm Jebel Ali
  Suburbs and Hatta
Suburban Dubai inland from the coast and Hatta, the exclave at the border to Oman.



Dubai began as a small fishing village on the coast of the eastern Arabian Peninsula. At the beginning, the town made its income as a small pearl diving town. However, as expanding trade boomed across the gulf, it became a trading hub between Iran and India and gained a lot of notoriety for its imported goods from the East. In fact, the currency of Dubai used to be the Indian rupee historically. It was also used as a smuggling town to smuggle gold from Africa and elsewhere and import it to India, this made Dubai a well-known point in the map for various traders. When oil companies looked for oil around the Trucial States, Dubai was shown to not have any significant oil reserves compared to Abu Dhabi. Sheikh Rashid Al Maktoum, then the leader and Sheikh of Dubai, continued on the booming expansion of trade in Dubai instead of relying on any oil income. He welcomed Indian traders, Iranian traders, and even Western officials and travelers to his hometown. The open policy of commerce and tolerance of foreigners made Dubai a willing destination for any non-Arab or non-Muslim, in stark contrast to other cities in the Arabian peninsula which viewed non-Muslims with suspicion. Sheikh Rashid's son, Sheikh Mohammed, had a vision of establishing Dubai as a Middle Eastern tourist destination. In his memoir, when he met with other GCC heads of state after the British withdrawal from the gulf and proposed on making Dubai a tourist destination, the rest of the Sheikhs laughed at him. They told him nobody would like to come and visit a barren desert. Nevertheless, Sheikh Mohammed made the effort to hire experts and change the entire infrastructure of the city to welcome tourists, established free-zones with no taxes, invested in major tourism projects and opened the city for everyone regardless of race or religion. Multiple Western companies and institutions, wanting to expand their influence in the Middle East, welcomed Dubai's tax-free open-arm invitation. Dubai was seen as the only city in the Arabian peninsula that would allow non-Muslims to live, drink, and enjoy their lives by their own laws and Western or non-Islamic standards, though it is now rivalled by nearby Doha and Abu Dhabi in this regard.


Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation+Snow totals in mm
Dubai has a hot desert climate (BWh). (Source: w:Climate of Dubai)
See Dubai's 10 day forecast.
Imperial conversion
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation+Snow totals in inches

The city of Dubai is situated on a coastal strip bordered by desert and gets very hot in the summer. It is dry on the hottest days and humid during the cooler days in the summer. Cooler, more pleasant weather lasts from the end of September to the beginning of May (although pleasant is relative, with daily temperatures from October to January and March to May still being 20–25 °C (68–77 °F), but be prepared for cold night temperatures. In winter the temperature at night is usually from 10 to 16 °C (50 to 61 °F). From May to September, the sun is intense and in August temperatures can touch 54 °C (129 °F) in the city and even higher in the desert. The heat, coupled with a humidity of 60%–70% near the coast, effectively precludes most activity outdoors for the daylight hours during summer. Summer and winter are effectively the only two noticeable seasons the city experiences.

Wild Wadi Waterpark and Jumeirah Beach Hotel

December to April generally produces the highest precipitation, though little of it, at 100 mm (3.9 in) total per year. Some years yield no more than a few minutes of shower. Rain is celebrated in the UAE and most people take days off and some schools give rain days off to enjoy the little amount of precipitation the city experiences.


Arabic is the official language, but as foreigners outnumber Emiratis by almost 4 to 1 in Dubai, English serves as the lingua franca. All signs are bilingual in Arabic and English and speaking Urdu, Hindi, or Tagalog will get you further than Arabic given that most retail and service staff are expatriates from Pakistan, India, and the Philippines.

Visitor information[edit]

Get in[edit]

See the Get in section for the United Arab Emirates for visa and customs regulations.

By plane[edit]

Dubai is a five-hour flight from Europe and three hours from most parts of the Middle East, the Near East, and the Indian subcontinent.

Dubai's main airport is the Dubai International Airport (DXB IATA). Its eventual replacement, Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC  IATA), is open to passenger flights but is only serving a few flights. You can also enter Dubai by using Sharjah International Airport (SHJ IATA) in the nearby emirate of Sharjah.

Dubai Airport

Airlines often have price wars to glamorous destinations like Dubai and this can work to your advantage by careful planning and comparison of the various airlines serving Dubai. Emirates is the flag carrier of the emirate of Dubai, and connects Dubai to over 100 destinations while FlyDubai is Dubai's low-cost carrier. Etihad has shuttle services from their exclusive check-in facility in Sheikh Zayed Rd or Central Business District of Dubai to and from Abu Dhabi Int'l Airport, you can also fly with Sharjah's low-cost carrier; Air Arabia which flies to over 46 destinations within the Middle East. Low fares from North America are most often found on Qatar Airways.

  • 1 Dubai International Airport (DXB IATA). This is the largest hub in the Middle East and the home base of Dubai's flag carrier Emirates and its low-cost wing flydubai. It has grown at such a furious pace that its terminals are bursting at the seams, especially during the peak hours around midnight. Frequent visitors from countries granted automatic visas on entry may wish to purchase an e-gate card to speed up immigration formalities and save passport pages. The e-gate card office is situated in the upstairs food court area of the Terminal 1 departures concourse. To buy an e-gate card in Dubai, you must have entered UAE via Dubai airport. Dubai International Airport (Q193439) on Wikidata Dubai International Airport on Wikipedia
  • 2 Dubai World Central - Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC  IATA). The airport opened to passenger flights in October 2013 and has grand ambitions to be the largest airport in the world, capable of serving 160 million passengers a year. (For comparison, London Heathrow has around 70 million, and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson has more than 100 million.) For the time being it's only served by several low-cost carriers such as Wizz Air and flydubai (other carriers usually operate seasonal charters from Europe). It is a major hub for cargo flights. Emirates is not planning to shift until 2025 or so. The airport is in Jebel Ali at the far western end of Dubai, nearly 60 km from central Dubai and about 110 km from Abu Dhabi. A train line is planned, but the current transport options are taxi and bus lines F55/F55A. F55 connects Al Maktoum Airport with Ibn Battuta Metro Station during the day, while F55A runs between Al Maktoum Airport and Al Satwa Bus Station during the night. Buses depart every hour from the airport. Al Maktoum International Airport (Q1065223) on Wikidata Al Maktoum International Airport on Wikipedia
  • 3 Sharjah International Airport (SHJ IATA) (in the emirate of Sharjah). It is 30 min by road from Dubai and takes an increasing number of international flights as Dubai Airport struggles to keep up with demand. The principal carrier here is Air Arabia, a low-cost carrier serving the Middle East and South Asia. The airport is fairly basic but is being expanded. A bus service by Air Arabia also runs from the Airport to the Rashidiya Metro Station in Dubai. Rashidiya metro station is located close to the Dubai International Airport. Sharjah International Airport (Q635826) on Wikidata Sharjah International Airport on Wikipedia
  • 4 Zayed International Airport (AUH IATA) (in Abu Dhabi). There are ultra-low-cost flights from Europe, Africa and Asia. If you are somewhat flexible in your travel, you can get cheap intercontinental flight. There is an E102 bus service connecting Dubai (Ibn Battuta Bus Station) directly with Abu Dhabi Airport. It will cost 25 AED if you are using a nol card (cannot be purchased at Abu Dhabi Airport as of September 2022) or 35 AED if you buy a ticket at a counter at the Abu Dhabi Airport.

By car[edit]

Dubai's only international road border is with Oman at Al Wajajah. Expatriate residents of Oman will require an official permit to exit Oman by road. Visitors do not require a permit. There is a charge per vehicle to exit Oman and, if returning, retain the charge receipt as it will be required to re-enter. Ensure that insurance is valid for the UAE (preferably before commencing the journey). Temporary UAE insurance can be purchased at the border for a premium price.

There are also road borders between the neighbouring Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Oman at the Al Burami Oasis which divides the sister cities of Al Ain and Al Burami, Oman.

Dubai is a very car-oriented city and most visitors will choose to take taxis instead of the public transportation system. You can easily find them in the taxi queue or you just simply wave at one on the road, but this could be just difficult during rush hours. Also, some of them even refuse short rides in jammed areas.

Signage is terrible in Dubai, and taxis often get lost. The best thing to do is navigate from well-known landmarks, such as hotels. GPS devices are often outdated. Street and road names can be very confusing, because the different transliterations from Arabic, you will notice that the slight variance in the spelling is very important.

You can find a lot of car rental agencies that will give you a vehicle with very cheap rates and only an International Driving Permit, if you don't have an UAE one. Some agencies also offer a car hire service with drivers, an option much more comfortable for visitors, especially if the driver speaks English and knows the way around the city better than most taxi drivers.

Some of the best car rental companies are: Careem Car Services, which offers an easy booking system with a real-time tracking app and, if you need it, you can hire a car with a child seat. Ahdab International Luxury Transport is a highly experienced team of professionals but their rates tend to be quite expensive.

By bus[edit]

The Government of Dubai operates a network of buses linking Dubai city with the capitals of the other six emirates of the UAE. The buses run under the name Emirates Express and operate from various bus terminals in Dubai, for timetables see the website.

  • From Abu Dhabi: Buses operate every 40 minutes starting at 06:20 from Abu Dhabi's main bus station to Dubai's Al Ghubaibah or Ibinu Bathutha bus station. The two-hour journey costs 25 dirham.
  • From Sharjah: Frequent buses run between Dubai and Sharjah. There are several different routes and buses depart from various bus stations in Dubai including Al Karama, Gold Souq, Baniyas Square, Jebel Ali and Al Ittihad Square.
  • From Al Ain: Buses operate every hour from Dubai's Al Ghubaibah bus station. It's a two-hour journey.
  • To/from Fujairah: The bus to Fujairah leaves from the Rashidiya Metro station and takes about 3 to 4 hours.

For bus travel from Saudi Arabia, SAPTCO offers daily bus services from cities such as Dammam and Riyadh.

By boat[edit]

Dubai is a trading hub for dhows from around the Indian Ocean. Travellers wanting to arrive in the city this way will probably need to make their own arrangements with the captain of the vessel. Most of the dhows sail to Iran; some also head to Yemen and Somalia. Emulating Michael Palin and heading to India on a dhow is difficult-to-impossible.

Dubai has an international cruise terminal[dead link] at Port Rashid. During wintertime, Costa Cruises has bases at least two of its cruise ships (Costa Luminosa & Costa Fortuna) in Dubai.

Valfajr Shipping Company[dead link] runs a boat service that leaves Bandar Lengeh and Bandar Abbas in Iran supposedly every second day and docks in Port Rashid in Dubai, returning the following day. Crossing the Persian Gulf takes roughly 6 hours. The ticket includes Iranian-style lunch.

Get around[edit]

Dubai Metro routes. The Red and Green lines are the operational routes while the rest are in planning/construction phase.

Dubai's public transport system is probably the best in the Middle East, especially after the launch of the metro, but it's still a very car-oriented city and most visitors end up taking taxis quite often. The Wojhati journey planner can suggest the best way to travel.

There is a day pass valid for unlimited rides on the metro, tram and buses, while the Nol Silver stored-value card gives a 10% discount on both metro and bus fares. Both are available at metro stations and major bus stations. The Silver card is useful for public transport users who stay in Dubai for more than a day. Check out at the end of your trip (this includes buses).

Card type Price Notes
Red ticket Rechargeable ticket; suitable for tourists, valid for 90 days; however should only be used in one type of transport ticket (e.g. one zone ticket cannot be reloaded with two zone ticket or day pass even after used up), can store up to 10 journeys.
Silver card Rechargeable ticket, valid for 5 years. Recommended if staying for more than a day.
Gold card Rechargeable ticket, can be used in Gold Class.
Blue card Personalized card, with online services like transaction history and online recharge.

By metro[edit]

Dubai Metro
Street signs that point to the direction of the Metro are found throughout the city.

Dubai Metro & Bus fares (May 2017)

  • 1 trip, 1 zone – 3 dirhams
  • 1 trip, 2 zones – 6 dirhams
  • 1 trip, all zones – 7.5 dirhams
  • unlimited trips, all zones, for 1 day – 20 dirhams
  • All prices doubled for Gold class

Deira is zone 5. Between the Creek and the Water Canal is zone 5. Water Canal to Marina is zone 2. Jebel Ali is the last coastal zone (1). Three other zones are inland and not served by Dubai Metro.

Dubai Metro has two lines which are open as of 2024:

The Red Line is 52 km (32 mi) long and opened in September 2009. It's the second metro in the Arab world after Cairo. While the line does not serve the old city centre, it's handy for zipping along Dubai's long coastline and includes stops at the airport, Burj Khalifa and the Mall of the Emirates.

The Green Line, which burrows through the city core, opened in September 2011. You can transfer between the two lines at Union Square and Khalid Bin Al Waleed (BurJuman).

There are also Blue and Purple lines under construction with opening dates in the next few years. The track 2020 expo was completed in 2020.

A single non-rechargeable ticket cost starts at 6 dirhams for a trip within one zone, 8 dirham for two zones, etc. Tickets can be purchased in automated machines, ticket offices or at the gate information clerk. Cash and payment cards are accepted (Visa and MasterCard). Trains run every 3–5 minutes from 05:50 to midnight every day except Thursday and Friday, when services are extended to 05:50–01:00 limited to 13:00–23:59, respectively. All stations are air-conditioned and there's a large network of feeder buses. If you plan to travel late in the evening, check station working hours as the last train may depart earlier than the official system operating hours.

By monorail[edit]

A 5 km (3.1 mi) monorail system shuttles passengers across the Palm Jumeirah to the Atlantis hotel. It connects with the Dubai Tram. This is not a part of the rest of Transport, and therefore, you will need to buy a separate ticket (15 dirham one-way and 25 dirham return).

By tram[edit]

Dubai Tram

The latest of Dubai's modern transportation system is the Dubai Tram, which opened on November 12, 2014. It provides commuters with a comfortable transit service around the prime business and leisure districts of Dubai. The Dubai Tram operates for 19 hours daily running for 14.5 km along Al Sufouh Road. It passes around the vibrant Dubai Marina where passengers are treated to breathtaking sights of towering skyscrapers and luxury yachts, and then travels down Jumeirah passing by the iconic Burj Al Arab.

The Dubai Tram connects with the Dubai Metro at the Jumeirah Lakes Towers and DAMAC stations, and links with the monorail of Palm Jumeirah. Outside of Europe, the Dubai Tram is the first tram system that uses the state-of-the-art ground-level power supply cable system which eliminates the unsightly and overhead cables.

By bus[edit]

Dubai Public transport [dead link] is a cheaper means of travelling within the several districts of Dubai. A map of the bus system can be found online[dead link], as well as detailed route maps and timetables[dead link]. Public buses are clean and cheap, but unfortunately not very comprehensive and (on some routes) quite infrequent. The bus system is most useful for getting between different areas of central Dubai, or between the various suburbs, rather than general transport. Taxis or a fair amount of walking will also be required if you visit Dubai without a car of your own.

You will require a Nol card or ticket for fare payment. Cards can be purchased from most bus stations, metro stations, and sometimes from the bus driver.

The main bus stations are Gold Souq Market (in Deira) and Al Ghubaiba bus station (in Bur Dubai). Clear route maps and timetables are placed inside a few bus stands. Ramadan timings differ. The front seats are reserved for women.

Probably the single most useful service for the casual tourist is Line 8, which starts at the Gold Souq, takes the tunnel under the Creek to Heritage Village, and then sets off down Jumeirah Rd (just behind the beach) and all its hotels and malls, up to Burj al-Arab and Wild Wadi. It terminates near the Internet City, while its 8A variant goes down a little further and also serves the Mall of the Emirates.

By taxi[edit]

Taxis ply the streets of Dubai and are relatively easy to spot with their cream bodies and coloured roofs. The easiest place to find them is at the taxi queue at one of the malls or outside a hotel. Taxis can also be booked on the Careem mobile app which is similar to Uber. Waving down a taxi on the road is possible, but can be difficult during rush hours. At peak times (07:00-09:00 & 16:00-19:00 workdays, and Friday evenings) demand exceeds supply, and not only are taxis hard to find, but those who deign to pick you up may demand crazy off-meter fares or refuse short rides in congested areas entirely. If you accept an off-meter quote, ensure that the driver clearly says 'Dirhams' as occasionally the word metamorphoses into 'Dollars' when you reach your destination. Also, the drivers of Dubai Taxi Corporation go through their shift change between 16:00-18:00 daily and it can be more difficult to find taxis during this time. The standard of driving in Dubai ranges from poor to wild - taxis are some of the worst on the roads. Taxi drivers are pretty good at knowing where the main shopping malls and hotels are, however less well known places will mean the driver calling his brother-in-law to get directions, whilst he drives around in circles on your time - hence it is a good idea to have a rough idea of where you are heading or what a nearby landmark is.

Taxis are metered at 2.19 dirham/km day and night, so no haggling is necessary. The rates of all taxi companies — Dubai Transport, National, Cars, Metro, and Arabian — are identical, so just take the first one that comes along. Street pickups attract a standing charge of 5 dirham during the day and 5.50 dirham at night (22:00-06:00). From the airport, there is a standing charge of 25 dirham; there is a surcharge for going to Sharjah. A minimum total fare of 12 dirham applies. Taxis are exempt from the Salik road toll charges.

Beware of unmarked hotel taxis and limousines though: while some of these are metered, they are not tied to the official rates, and can be much more expensive. One way to spot whether a taxi is official or not is to look for a meter: no meter, don't get in.

If you can't find one otherwise, you can attempt to call Dubai Taxi on 04-2080808 (each franchise has its own booking number but one central system), there's a surcharge to book. The booking system was notorious for its unreliability but with a significantly increased taxi fleet, many taxis now deliberately wait in unofficial holding areas waiting for bookings. As a result, on a good day it can be possible to book a taxi and have it arrive within less than five minutes. If you absolutely have to get somewhere at a certain time (say, the airport or a meeting), it's still best to book a hotel taxi in advance, and get their estimate of how bad the traffic will be.

Women should travel in the back of the taxi as some drivers see it as a sexual invitation if you get in the front.

Taxi drivers are usually friendly, but may have a different ideas on hygiene.

You can also use Careem or Uber services for moving in Dubai.

By car[edit]

There are countless rent-a-cars that will provide a mode of transportation for very cheap rates and very little paperwork. An International Driving Permit is not necessarily required, but hire companies may not rent a car without one.

Some agencies will hire out cars complete with drivers. Visitors taking advantage of this option will need to make certain that their driver knows his way around as many do not.

When driving on the main roads, such as Sheikh Zayed Road, the junction numbers are not in logical order. Junction 13 is just after Junction 18 and is rarely shown on the maps. Road names can also be very confusing with slight differences in spelling (due to different transliterations from Arabic) being very important. The construction work that is taking place throughout and around Dubai can make finding your destination a challenge. Temporary road layouts change with alarming regularity and temporary signs can be misleading or non-existent. As GPS maps are not up to date (and usually not anyway available to rent with hire cars), you will be very well off with a printed map (you can get an excellent one in Virgin stores, for example. There is a Virgin Megastore on the top floor of City Center).

Driving during morning and afternoon peak hours is not recommended, as traffic slows to a standstill and even a simple trip across a bridge can take up to 45 minutes. There is also a scarcity of parking spaces in many parts of the city.

With such a mixture of nationalities residing in the city, driving styles are mixed, to say the least. Both dangerous and experienced driving will be witnessed or experienced frequently. Dubai has one of the highest per capita road death rates in the world. There is zero tolerance for alcohol and driving with stiff penalties meted out including jail and deportation.

See Salik[dead link] for information about tolls on certain routes in Dubai. If you rent a car, usually a Salik tag will be provided by the car hire company and you will be charged separately when returning the car.

By boat[edit]

An abra motoring across Dubai Creek from Bur Dubai to Deira

An easy way of crossing Dubai Creek is by abra, a small ferry. Abra stations are located along the Creek on both the Bur Dubai and Deira sides, and the system of filling the boats is remarkably efficient. The cross-river trip is payable to the driver after the boat has left the station, and affords a very picturesque view of the city. Abras set off very regularly, and the service is available round-the-clock.

Air-conditioned water buses are a way to avoid the abra crowd and the heat. They are part of the public transport system, so a Red Nol ticket or a Nol card is required. Tickets can be purchased at the water bus station. The water bus also features a 'tourist route' round trip – while it is convenient, it can get quite expensive.

The Creek is also the home of many boats offering more comfortable (and correspondingly more expensive) tours, often in boats designed to resemble dhows. Prices tend to be higher, particularly for dinner cruises with on-board entertainment.

By bicycle[edit]

While not at all a bicycle-friendly city, there is a growing network of cycle lanes. Careem[dead link] offers a bike sharing system with stations in Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach, downtown, Palm Jumeirah, Deira and a number of other districts. It costs 20 AED per 24 hours with as many 45-minute rides as you want. A phone with a data plan and a credit card is needed though.


Individual listings can be found in Dubai's district articles
Dubai Museum – al-Fahidi fort and a dhow
Old Dubai. The Al Bastakiya neighborhood was once the major center of Dubai. The old buildings are now preserved as a cultural landmark and tourist site.

Dubai is a mixture of old and new, traditional and modern. From old traditional souks and historical buildings (now being preserved for cultural reasons or already part of the national heritage) to modern Dubai's overwhelming shopping malls, incredible artificial islands and giant modern skyscrapers that include the world's tallest building, Dubai is a world in itself and offers plenty of wonderful attractions.

The city has numerous museums and historical buildings, but Dubai Museum is a must see for a first-time travellers to the Emirates. It provides a glimpse of the old life of Dubai, its people and their culture and heritage. A number of other museums are located in nearby Sharjah.

Dubai has a justified reputation as a concrete jungle, but there are nice pockets of greenery within the city, such as Safa Park. The city parks are modern and very well-maintained, with the most popular located in Jumeirah.


Individual listings can be found in Dubai's district articles
Fossil cliffs near Dubai
China Pavilion in Global Village
  • Abra ride. A boat ride is best done at night in the cool weather and to enjoy the city lights. Abras can be hired for a private tour (for a price negotiable with the driver, but usually very cheap). This is quite a popular activity at sunset on a clear day, particularly if the driver is able to enliven the tour with stories about the structures on either side of the Creek. Just make sure that the purpose of one's abra hire is made clear at the outset, otherwise, you will be in for a very expensive cross-river trip or a crowded private tour.
  • Beaches and sea. There are endless water sports opportunities as Dubai has some of the whitest and sandiest beaches in the world. Ocean temperatures range from 22 °C (72 °F) in winter up to 35 °C (95 °F) in summer, there are few wave breaks and the strong winds can make swimming difficult. The water is also very salty so many prefer to use their hotel swimming pool. Diving activities have been severely affected by offshore construction work for the Palms and The World; consequently, long boat trips are necessary to reach wreck sites. Alternatively, one can make the 90-minute road journey to the East coast Emirate of Fujairah or the Sharjah enclave, Khor Fakkan, for top-class diving on coral reefs supporting extensive marine life.
  • Camel race track. One of the more unusual attractions, with races being held on Thursday and Friday in the winter. You can watch the races, and you'll have the opportunity to visit the paddocks. Vendors sell everything from beads to rugs and blankets, so you can purchase souvenirs.
  • Horse racing has a long tradition in the Arab world, and Dubai's Meydan Racecourse is one of the most famous horse racing venues in the world, holding races for both Thoroughbred and purebred Arabian horses. Gambling is illegal, so there are no on-site betting facilities, but the grandstand is a marvel of modern architecture, and particularly spectacular when lit up at night.
  • Desert safari or dune bashing. Head out to the desert in an SUV with specialist desert drivers. The drivers will take you for a thrilling roller-coaster ride over sand dunes, show you the sunset from a strategic vantage point and then take you to a traditional Arabic Bedouin campsite where you'll be offered lavish barbecue buffet dinner with music and belly dance to complete the atmosphere. The duration of the tour is usually around five hours. You may want to stay clear of the dune bashing if you get carsick easily. A desert safari is one of the best things to do while in Dubai. Another option would be renting/buying a 4x4 and joining the many growing 4x4 clubs in the UAE, but only if you're an extremely experienced driver and hold an international driving license. Neighboring cities including Abu Dhabi also have their own, such as AD4x4. For all of the Dubai-based clubs, membership is free of charge and they conduct trips for beginners into the desert on a regular basis.
  • Natural outdoors. Although at first glance the outdoors may seem dull and uninteresting, and even dangerous due to the desert conditions, there are actually amazing natural destinations in the Emirate of Dubai, which extends into Hatta. There are pristine waterfalls, cliffs lined with fossils, and even freshwater lakes.
  • Yacht charter is an easy way to explore the man-made Palm Islands and coastal skyscrapers. Fleets are available for hire from Dubai Marina from many of the yacht charter agencies.
  • Dubai Creek cruise. Dubai Creek is the foundation from which Dubai grew. It was built as a port for trading vessels plying to and from India, Africa and the Middle East. Today a bit of the old shipping culture still remains. In and around the Creek one can see some of the original buildings that have served as customs houses and defence structures. You can book a ride (usually four hours) on the Dubai Marina cruise or rent a private boat to take you on an hour-long ride up and down the Creek.
  • Burj Khalifa: Visit the tallest building in the world with the magnificent centrepiece of Dubai, Burj Khalifa is surrounded by hotels, must-visit shopping destinations and a world of entertainment options.
  • Golf. It may be a desert, but a lot of money and water is spent on irrigating opulent golf courses. Alternatively, for a more local flavour, try sand golf.
  • The Dubai International Film Festival is the city's not-for-profit cultural event. As a major festival for Arab cinema, it showcases a selection of films from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.


While Dubai tries to promote itself as the business and entertainment capital of the world, the government has a complex and at times frustrating work permit procedure that the inexperienced should not attempt on their own. It is best to go through official channels when looking for work in Dubai as spot inspections are frequent and if found working illegally, both the employee and the employer will be subject to fines and even deportation.

All the necessary forms and documents are written and processed in Arabic and is best left to a professional intermediary agency. These go by the name of "Government liaison officer" / "Public relations officer" (nothing like a PR in the general context) and offer so-called "PRO services".

With the price of rentals soaring in Dubai and neighbouring Emirates, it is a good idea to discuss a housing allowance when negotiating remuneration.

Despite all of this, there are a few upsides, Dubai companies are generous with holidays averaging almost 39 paid vacation days a year (including public holidays), a round trip ticket home once a year (depending on your contract) and the UAE government does not impose income taxes on foreign workers. Instead it imposes fees and charges on almost everything, so the cost of living in the UAE, and especially Dubai, is quite high.

Recruitment fraud is quite pervasive in this part of the world. Read your employment contract carefully before signing and do not pay any fees to recruitment agencies, as they are usually paid by the companies. Your passport is your personal property and cannot be withheld by the employer unless you are in a position of trust or are handling large sums of money.

Dubai-based companies have been accused by numerous organizations of effectively enslaving poor migrant workers from Southeast Asia by taking their passports and not paying them the promised salaries. Foreign workers, Western and otherwise, have no rights that will be upheld by the courts, and so they have no recourse should they feel their rights violated. Potential workers should be aware of this when considering work in Dubai.


Individual listings can be found in Dubai's district articles
All that glitters is gold at the Gold Souk.

Dubai is practically synonymous with shopping and could be called "Do buy". Low tariffs and a huge amount of cargo passing through its port ensure that practically anything is available at fairly competitive rates, although the appreciation of the Dirham and the plentiful supply of shoppers means that Dubai is no longer a bargain basement shopping city. You'll also find products in Western chain stores, still with the original tags quoting euro or sterling prices, being sold with a 20–30% mark-up once converted to dirhams. The best things to buy are textiles, electronics and gold; electronics are believed to be much cheaper, while there is a wide selection of textiles and gold.

Dubai shops suffer from the standard developing world shopping phenomenon of having no storeroom and no stocks in reserve, even in the mega-malls – and for clothes shopping this may mean that you struggle to find the style you want in the size you want. Shops open as early as 09:00 and stay open until 22:00, and on weekends to midnight or 01:00.

Remember to haggle in the souks, as discounts are almost always available and even in situations where the item will not become much cheaper, the customer is always expected to "play the game" of haggling. A simple question of "What's your best price?" will often result in a shopkeeper going to extraordinary lengths to sell his stock. Prices in the malls and other Western shops tend not to be negotiable. Far from being a bad thing, this allows the canny visitor to work out comparative prices for common souvenirs – an invaluable aid when a shopkeeper in a souk is asking for a higher price.

Dubai Shopping Festival has been the biggest shopping event in the Middle East since 1996. Almost every shop has a sale, starting in January and ending in February. The DSF is not limited to Shopping but also produces some mind-blowing stages shows and performances performed by international celebrities.[dead link] There's also a very similar Dubai Summer Surprises trying to pull in punters during the summer low season.


Mall of the Emirates

Dubai is known for its gigantic malls and is a magnet for shoppers. Among the dozens of malls, two stand out due to their size and quality. See the district articles for more details on malls. Several malls have a large supermarket where you'll find the lowest cost electronics, and groceries for self-catering. There are many supermarkets, and international brands such as Carrefour, Géant and Waitrose have multiple locations as do 'home-grown' brands Choithrams, Spinney's, Union Co-Operative and Lulu, amongst others.


Individual listings can be found in Dubai's district articles
Mezze selection commonly found in Arabic restaurants in Dubai

Shawarma is the most available food item on almost all streets (and cheap) in Dubai. It is the Arabic equivalent of the burger. It is meat that has been cooked on a skewer and then cut into thin strips and placed into a kuhbus (pita) bread with vegetables and dressing. There is the plain-jane variety and the more exotic Lebanese and Iranian varieties. The shawarma sold by Indian restaurants are arguably the cheapest.

Another local snack is fala-fil (felafel, falafel), which is as cheap as shawarma.

Traditional Emirati food normally involves rice and meat/chicken cooked with different spices. As such, mandi is a very popular meal and generally affordable, except when served in high end restaurants. Emirati restaurants can be mostly found in areas with local residents, such as Deira, Bur Dubai and Jumeirah. Traditional desserts are also worth trying. Search for luqaimat, deep fried dough balls tossed with date syrup on top. You'll find it at any Emirati restaurant as well as some small cafeterias or street markets.

Most of the American fast food chains have set up shop, including KFC, Chillis, TGI Fridays, Starbucks, and McDonalds. The beauty of the food in Dubai is that you will probably find cuisine for every taste. All food is halal.

Dubai has a big selection of budget Indian food. Dosa, vada, idlee, samosa, chapaati/roti, with generous servings of sabji (cooked vegetable stew) are available for cheap. Bur Dubai (particularly Meena Bazaar area) and Karama are the places that abound in these restaurants. Most of them are open from 07:00 to 22:00 or 23:00 throughout the week.

Typical Emirati traditional food

Pork is eaten here mostly by non-Muslim Filipinos and Europeans. Pork sections exclusive for non-Muslims are found in Spinneys (numerous branches, including ones in Jumeirah and Dubai Marina), Al Maya Lal's (generally caters to Filipinos; there's a branch in Satwa) New Westzone Supermarket (has a branch in Satwa that's bigger than nearby rival Al Maya Lal's), Choithrams and Waitrose.

During Ramadan, while it is not illegal for non-Muslims to eat and drink in public spaces during daylight hours, it's better to avoid doing so out of respect for those fasting. Most restaurants remain open as normal. Once the sun sets though, many locals will gather for iftar, or the breaking of the fast, and many hotels will serve elaborate iftar meals catering to this market. As a tourist, you are welcome to partake too, but be sure to reserve in advance as these are very popular.

Dubai hosts several food festivals in the spring (March - May). The largest is the Dubai Food Festival which lasts for two weeks. Across the city, there are discounts at restaurants and home / kitchen stores (such as Crate & Barrel, Williams Sonoma, etc.) World-class chefs offer master classes, special collaborations, and tasting menus.


Most malls have food courts, which offer good value menus and are a fast and reliable option for visitors and locals. There are also several food chains of many different types (Pakistani, Indian, Western) scattered all over the city. See the district articles for individual recommendations.


  • Automatic, this is a chain of popular Lebanese restaurants found all over Dubai. Famous for its lamb chops & Friday lunch buffet. No alcohol served.


The top hotels all have at least one restaurant serving (most commonly) some form of international cuisine - Italian, Japanese, Indian and so on. Quality tends to be high, along with price, but non-guests are able to reserve tables as well, thus allowing the rest of us to experience a bit of these hotels. Floating restaurants for dinner come sight seeing in Dubai Marina are also popular among both non-travelers and travelers. And agencies have licensed floating restaurants and hence charge a high price for the quality of food and service.


Arabic coffee served with traditional Emirati sweets called Lugaimat.
Individual listings can be found in Dubai's district articles

Dubai has supercharged the nightlife in the last decade and most international known brands have a sister location in town. Most 3-5 star hotels have bars and nightclubs for those interested in the nightlife. World-class DJs frequent Dubai's nightclubs, and many A-list musical celebrities are adding Dubai to their list of tour dates. There is nothing missing and during the high tides of the party time, the impression of being in Ibiza is not misleading. Most of the night life is geared at the beaches of Jumeirah or the Dubai Marina. Bur Dubai is more family-oriented (e.g. Dubai Fountain), while Deira was able in parts to maintain its more Arabic focussed style. Dubai is very popular with Arabic travellers, so an Arabic blend is added quite often.

Dubai has several laws regarding alcohol which travelers should be aware of:

  • Alcohol is available only at licensed premises, usually attached to hotels (most nightclubs and bars are in or attached to hotels, though they may have separate entrances). As of 2023 there is one public cinema that serves alcohol (Cinema City's Azul Lounge & Theatre), as well as a few private cinemas that can be booked for groups.
  • Alcohol is not sold on religious holidays. From 2016, it can be sold during Ramadan.
  • It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places, and there is a zero-tolerance policy on drunk driving. Anyone involved in a collision found with alcohol in their blood will usually get a month's jail sentence and fine.
  • Alcohol can be bought only for home consumption at certain outlets in Dubai, and an alcohol license is required. Supermarkets only stock non-alcoholic beers. Even food items containing alcohol are not sold in supermarkets.
  • Remember to carry some sort of identification when visiting a bar if you are young, as you will not be let in otherwise. The law prohibits anyone below 21 to enter.
  • The authorities take disruptive behavior while intoxicated very seriously, which will lead to jail time or deportation.
  • Prostitution is illegal but can be seen in bars. Both parties act illegally, but in rather (in-)famous clubs it can be rather obvious. Keep in mind that most hotels have a strict guest policy.


Individual listings can be found in Dubai's district articles

Due to substantial increase in hotel rooms, only during Islamic holidays do prices rise substantially. The cheapest places, mainly catering to small-scale businessmen, can be found in near the souks of Deira. In Dubai you find a youth hostel and several backpacker hostels.

See the individual listings in the districts for hotel recommendations. In general tourists tend to stay at the beach hotels in Jumeirah or Jebel Ali, while city dwellers have ample choice in Deira or Bur Dubai. Dubai is a stretch along the coastline and taxis are cheap and the metro reliable, so there are always alternative options. The only hassles are ever-new construction sites and the rush hour. During the summer heat a hotel with access to a mall or shopping complex is beneficial to have a greater area for air conditioned walking.

There are luxury glamping resorts in the desert far from the city. The most well known is Terra Solis. Reservations need to be made more than a month in advance, even in summer. As of 2023, the cheapest type of accommodation (tents) cost 950 dirham per night on weeknights and 1400 dirham per night on weekends.

For long trips (a month or more), the Rove hotel collection offers summer rates from 4000 dirham per month with significant discounts on F&B, laundry, and Lets work membership (co-working space). This is cheaper than the monthly rent for an unfurnished 1-bedroom apartment in a popular neighborhood, and Dubai residents will take advantage of this if they happen to be between leases or to help a friend who has newly moved to the city.

Stay safe[edit]

Dubai is a safe city. Call 999 if facing any trouble or altercations.


Driving and pedestrian safety has also been an issue given the different nationalities that share the road. Do not jaywalk or cross where there are no clear pedestrian markings. Speeding is common here, and the odds of you being hit by a car are quite high unless you follow the rules. Avoid driving on the extreme left lane of highways to avoid being "flashed" and being forced to move a lane over. Road rage is also starting to become an issue given the increase in traffic jams and poor driving courtesy.

Rude hand gestures (the "finger", etc.) and profanity can lead to fines and jail times if reported, so keep your cool if you are cut off or are behind an erratic driver. In general, you will find those gestures and actions that some may find only slightly offensive in your home country, or perhaps not offensive at all, can at times be extremely offensive to the Dubai locals. Therefore, err on the side of caution and keep your cool.

Islamic laws[edit]

The United Arab Emirates might seem to have more relaxed laws than their other Arab counterparts, but the laws are still very different from most Western countries, and their laws are strictly enforced. Having an alcoholic drink in the wrong place or even losing your temper could land you a month or more in prison. Exercise caution and common sense when visiting, and make sure you are aware of all their laws or expect severe consequences that could seriously ruin your visit.

Dubai strictly follows Islamic laws which should be respected by all visitors. Islam is the official religion, therefore do not publicly criticize or distribute material against it.

In conversations about politics and world affairs, avoid criticizing the ruling family of any of the seven Emirates or prominent business families. The United Arab Emirates has formal relations with Israel but publicly supports causes that involve the Palestinian people and Palestinian statehood.

Public displays of affection are frowned upon and public sexual acts can lead to prison sentences followed by deportation. In 2008, a British couple were arrested and faced prison sentences because they had sexual contact on a beach in Dubai. If all tourists remain respectful, decent and ensure that they do not upset the local people, there should be no problems.

Homosexuality is a criminal offence with possible deportation or months of prison. Egregious public displays of affection or cross-dressing may lead to prison sentences and/or deportation. In 2013 a Norwegian woman reported she had been raped but then, following bad advice, rescinded it. She was then sentenced to 16 months in prison for extramarital sex and filing a false police report. After public pressure she was pardoned and deported. As of January 2022, extramarital sex has been decriminalized.

Women should dress sensibly and avoid wearing revealing outfits when travelling to districts like Karama, Deira and Bur Dubai, where the streets are packed with men, especially on evenings and weekends. While swimsuits and bikinis are a common sight on Dubai beaches, avoid sunbathing topless —even in the private beach of a hotel.

Prostitution is illegal in Dubai but still it is visible at nightclubs, bars and other places. Law enforcement ignores solicitation to a degree, but penalties are high if it is made too obvious or if the police are called. Human trafficking and forced prostitution are real issues in Dubai.

Petty crime[edit]

While petty crime is hardly reported or mentioned in the news, keep an eye on your wallet or purse when in crowded areas like Naser Square or Deira in general. If withdrawing large amounts of cash from ATMs, either conceal the notes or ask the bank's security to escort you to your vehicle. Cases have occurred where people have been robbed of large amounts of cash in crowded areas because they were not careful.

Conmen are ever present in Dubai, especially the "Nigeria 419" scammers. Do not arrange meetings or entertain their requests or give any personal details. Should they not comply, individuals who will be happy to listen to their business propositions are the police.

Thanks to Dubai's new property boom and bust, real estate fraudsters are also popping up, so exercise extreme caution if you are interested in buying or renting.

Drug use and distribution are serious criminal offences, even when in the company of the person consuming the material, and can lead to a prison sentence of several years or even the death penalty. Passenger baggage is screened quite thoroughly when entering Dubai. Even prescription drugs (without original prescription note and sometimes even with one) or ones that you bought over the counter in your country can lead to a prison sentence.

You need to be careful when you are a tourist in Dubai, like many places around the world, people have a keen eye for tourists and can cheat you. For example, taxi drivers can drive a longer way to the destination given that you pay by meter or try to charge you US$20 when you are sure you heard them say 20 dirham (they do sound rather similar).


See United Arab Emirates#Connect for details of Internet and mobile connectivity in Dubai, including restrictions on popular services internet telephony services like WhatsApp, Messenger and Skype.

GSM – Those with GSM smartphones or feature phones can expect auto roaming from their home countries. As roaming fees are quite high and incoming calls are also charged, consider buying a local prepaid GSM SIM card, designed especially for tourists, from one of the two cellular providers of the UAE:

  • Etisalat - product Ahlan - available at the Duty Free Shop (arrival hall) of Dubai Airport
  • Du - product Visitor Mobile Line - available at the Telefonika kiosk in the arrival hall of Dubai Airport. Incoming calls are free of charge.

Phone booths – Phone booths are located on most streets. Phone cards can be purchased from hotels and tourist shops.

Internet – Internet cafés can be hard to find. There are a number of cafés on Al Musalla Rd/Al Mankhool Rd in Bur Dubai, including one at 38 Al Musalla Rd and one at Computer Plaza next to the Ramada Hotel. A number of Internet cafes are found in Satwa too. In Satwa there is the French Connection in the Al Wafa Tower on Sheikh Zayed Rd (opposite side of road from the Dusit Hotel), which has wi-fi access and nice cakes and pastries. In Al Qusais, there is an internet café a 5-minute walk northwest of the Dubai Youth Hostel. Turn right out of the gates and walk to LuLu's Hypermarket. The café is located inside the food court.

Gaming cafes aimed at teenagers are dotted around, notable examples including Escape gaming zone (opposite Lulu Hypermarket hypermarket in al Barsha), Que Club in al Barsha and behind Lamcy Plaza.

Surprisingly, the malls do not have internet cafés. Dubai Mall offers free Wi-Fi throughout. Mall of the Emirates offers free Wi-Fi, but you must have a local phone number. Many coffee-shops, restaurants and attractions also have free Wi-Fi, and you'll usually have to ask for the password. Most hotel business centers are equipped with internet cafés but are expensive.

Etisalat, UAE's telecom operator, offers a roaming, postpaid Wi-Fi internet connection known as iZone . Most coffee shops and malls across Dubai provide this service. Prices are available on the website. For those still using dial-up internet Etisalat provide a service when you can plug into any phone line.

Dubai International Airport (DXB) has free Wi-Fi in the terminal. Bring your laptop to use free Wi-Fi at some hotels. There are many free public Wi-Fi spots in Dubai.

Post service[edit]

Emirates Post[dead link] service is pretty efficient. You will need to rent a post office box as postal service to the door is not the standard.

Newspapers and radio[edit]

Thanks to the large influx of expatriates, Dubai has a wide selection of English-language newspapers and radio channels.

International newspapers are also available in most hotels and airport terminals. Carrefour and Borders bookstores sell British and American newspapers. Todaily, a local printing house, can furnish newspapers and periodicals from around the world daily.


The weekly day is traditionally Friday, as it is considered the end of the week and a blessed day in Islam. However, since 2022, the public sector has Friday as a half working day, ending at noon, and the weekend extends through Sunday.

Religious services[edit]

Dubai gives freedom of religion to its residents and citizens.

  • St Mary's Catholic Church is a Roman Catholic church located in Oud Metha opposite the Indian High School. Masses are celebrated in Tagalog (Filipino), some Indian dialects as well as in Arabic and English. There is also a Catholic school near it.
  • Holy Trinity Church, a Protestant church, is also in Oud Metha.


Many countries have established full service consulates (Consulates General) in Dubai to provide consular services for their nationals living in the UAE or certain areas like Dubai and the northern Emirates, as well as visa services for others seeking to visit their respective countries. Most of the consulates are located in/around Al Karama and Um Hurair (consulate district) in the Burr Dubai District, south of Dubai Creek. They can also be located in other parts of town too. If corresponding by mail/post use their PO box address as mail is only delivered to a PO Box with no post codes. If delivering to a street address with DHL, FedEx, UPS or another private courier be sure to include a recipient phone number so that the delivery driver can call for directions or clarification on the address. Some countries may have no consulate in Dubai but rather handle everything from their embassy in Abu Dhabi, while others may assign their consular duties solely to the Dubai consulate. Check their website links or call before going to or sending any correspondence:

Go next[edit]

Within the United Arab Emirates:

  • Neighbouring Sharjah. While dry (no alcohol) and mostly suburban, has a few beaches and museums of interest.
  • Abu Dhabi. Capital of the Emirates, is an entirely different city and worth the 1½-hour ride to see the contrast.
  • The city of Al Ain (near the border with Oman). It is surprisingly a city of lush gardens and trees - an aspect quite unusual in this region considering its desert surroundings.
  • Peaceful Umm al Quwain emirate. If you want a cosy and relaxing environment, free from city hustle and bustle.

Other countries[edit]

  • Dubai has an arrangement with Oman to allow visitors who qualify to get an Omani visa on arrival by road through Hatta.
  • The Iranian island of Kish. A free trade zone that does not require a visa.
  • Fjords of Musandam Peninsula (two hours' ride north to this Omani exclave). Explore beautiful caves and enjoy the awesome scenery of the desert and the mountains. to hike in the mountains or dive in the fjords.
Routes through Dubai
AjmanSharjah  N  S  Jebel AliAbu Dhabi
END  W  E  Hatta
END  N  S  Al Ain
AjmanSharjah  N  S  Jebel AliAbu Dhabi

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