A city of many faces, Dubai is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Home to the tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, this global city is known for its lavish architecture, incredible skylines and a plethora of tourist attractions that break records to be the tallest, longest and biggest. Dubai has abundant opportunities when it comes to adventure activities like Desert Safaris through golden Arabian Dunes, Skydiving over the beautiful Palm Islands, Reef and wreck diving, kite surfing, wakeboarding, etc.
Flaunting its glittering infrastructure amid the glorious Arabian desert, the city of Dubai was once known to be a barren land.day, this man-made miracle is filled with shimmering skyscrapers, fancy hotels, shopping malls and restaurants. Burj Khalifa - the tallest manmade building, Dubai Fountain with jets and lights choreographed to music, Atlantis, the Palm and an aquarium resort are among the top tourist destinations in Dubai. With the biggest population of all the seven emirates and the second largest in size, Dubai will overwhelm you with its amalgamation of futuristic marvel and ancient Arabian traditions.
United Arab Emirates and Dubai travel guide, including map of the UAE, top Dubai travel experiences, and tips for travel in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah and Dubai
Formerly known as the Trucial States, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is an exclusive, oil-rich club with seven members: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain.
Of these, Dubai grabs the headlines (and most of the visitors) with its extravagant landscape of seven-star hotels, km-high skyscrapers and reclaimed, artfully arranged leisure islands. The building boom may have been stalled for now, but Dubai remains the brash but scintillating hub of the Gulf – a stopover that’s become an iconic sun-and-fun destination in its own right.
Beyond Dubai, though, the UAE is quieter and perhaps more interesting. Abu Dhabi has its fair share of luxury hotels (and now an F1 Grand Prix to gawp at), but also stunning mosques and a lush, kayak-friendly shoreline.
Inland, the desert city of Al-Ain and the oasis villages of Liwa are reminders of more traditional Arab life. And further north in the smaller emirates, the landscape becomes mountainous and you enter a world of sawtooth crags and wadis dense with mango trees.
Distances are not great in the UAE, making it easy to turn a layover into a mini adventure. So get out of Dubai’s mega-mall airport and explore…
- Explore Liwa Oasis, a string of romantic desert villages deep in the Empty Quarter
- Book a kayak tour to Abu Dhabi’s mangroves to discover the Emirates’ green side
- Take a drive in the desert. Roads can be spectacular: this is car ad territory.
- Have coffee with an Emirati at Dubai’s Sheik Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
- Hone your haggling skills – Dubai’s Gold Souk is one of the best places to buy the shiny stuff
If you’ve only got a short visit to Dubai or Abu Dhabi, book a desert excursion rather than trying to self-drive a 4WD. Arabian Adventures - part of the Emirates group – come recommended.
Travel in the United Arab Emirates: vital statistics
- Capital of the UAE: Abu Dhabi
- Population of the UAE: 4 million
- Languages in the UAE: Arabic (official), Persian, English, Hindi, Urdu
- Time in the UAE: GMT +4
- International dialling code in the UAE: +971
- Voltage in the UAE: 220-240 AC 50 Hz
- Visas for the UAE: Dubai & UAE visas
- Money in the UAE: UAE Dirham (Dh) All major credit cards are widely accepted and you will have no problems finding ATMs in the city centres of all Emirates. Avoid changing money at the airports, as the rates are not the best there. Restaurant and hotel bills usually include a 15 per cent service charge. If not, it is common to add a 10 per cent tip
- UAE travel advice: Foreign & Commonwealth Office
- UAE tourist information: Dubai Tourism Abu Dhabi Tourism
When to go to the United Arab Emirates
The UAE’s climate is sub-tropical. Temperatures reach mid-40 degrees in summer, with a humidity of up to 90 per cent. The best time to visit is from November to March, when it is warm and sunny.
Sports fans could time their visit around a fixture: the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix is in November, the prestigious Dubai World Cup horse race is in March, the UAE Desert Challenge in October and the Dubai Rugby Sevens in November.
Abu Dhabi (AUH) 35km from the city, Dubai (DXB) 5km from the city, Ras Al-Khaimah (RKT) 15km from the city, Sharjah (SHJ) 10km from the city
Getting around in the United Arab Emirates
By metro The Emirates’ first metro was opened in Dubai in 2009. The driverless, fully automated trains connect the airport with the city.
By road Buses run from Dubai-Abu Dhabi every 15 minutes, also serving Liwa, Al-Ain and Sharjah. For info visit the Dubai Road and Transport Authority, or Abu Dhabi Department of Transport. Metered taxis are plentiful, or you could ask the driver to turn off the
meter and act as chauffeur for a set period (approx Dh300/£50 for six
By air Budget airlines offer short hops starting at about £20. These include Air Arabia, Jazeera, FlyDubai, Felix and Bahrain Air. Keep an eye out for special offers.
United Arab Emirates accommodation
Luxurious and extravagant hotels compete with each other all over the Emirates, particularly in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Book online in advance to get discount rates – sometimes up to 50 per cent. You might also get a good deal when you book your hotel together with your flight. Budget accommodation is difficult to find, but the YHA runs three hostels in Dubai, one in Sharjah, one in Fujairah and one in Khor Fakkan.
United Arab Emirates food & drink
Emirati cuisine uses a lot of fish, meat and rice for its main dishes. Kebab kashkash, meat and spices in a tomato sauce, is a favourite in the UAE. A delicious side dish is tabouleh, a light couscous salad with tomatoes, lemon juice, parsley, mint, onion and cucumber. Shawarma is a typical snack bought from street vendors: lamb or chicken meat is carved from a kebab spit and served in flat Arabian bread, often with lettuce and sauces. Falafel, deep-fried chickpea balls, are lovely with spicy aubergines, bread and hummus. For dessert, try fresh dates and Umm Ali (literally ‘Ali’s Mother’), a type of bread pudding. Cardamom coffee is often served for free as a symbol of hospitality. Alcohol is usually only available in hotel bars.
Health & safety in the UAE
Healthcare facilities in the UAE are generally comparable with those of the UK. The UAE currently requires expatriates to be tested for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and Hepatitis B.