Planning a family trip to Dubai? Well, we are here to help. I’ll be running you through what you have to keep in mind when traveling to Dubai, some awesome things to do there and give you a few tips along the way to help you make the best out of your vacation time. So, let’s get into it.
Best time to Visit:
The best time to visit Dubai is between November and April. November is when Dubai’s winter starts setting in and the weather is pleasant and suitable for outdoor activities and fun times at the beach. It’s the perfect time to visit Dubai, the world-famous Dubai shopping festival also takes place in January and usually the last month of the year and the first couple of months of the new year is when you will find the most crowds. The summer is quite unbearable in Dubai like seriously, you’d be joking if you think traveling in the summer to Dubai is a great idea. Don’t be a hero or think that you are getting an amazing deal with cheap fares and hotels. The heat is unbearable and everyone including the locals will be practically hiding indoors to escape the heat. Even if you do manage to beat the heat, you definitely won’t be able to enjoy most of the things that Dubai has to offer. Also, DO NOT travel to Dubai during Ramadan, a lot of establishments like bars will be closed since it’s their holy month, no events take place during this time as well. Avoid it at all costs unless you absolutely can’t and even then be mindful and respect the people and their culture. Eating, drinking, smoking and even chewing gum at this time in public will get you fined.
Where to Stay In Dubai:
Dubai is quite big, 4114 km2 big to be exact. So, the distances between each attraction or area of interest are quite long. To give you a rough example, the distance between the Dubai Marina (an area that is quite close to The Palm Jumeirah) and Downtown Dubai (where the Burj Khalifa & Dubai Mall are) is around 22km. So, where you stay not only dictates how long it’s going to take for you to reach attractions, it’s also going to dictate your overall experience since each area has certain characteristics and things it can offer. When it comes to accommodation in Dubai there are 5 main areas that travelers generally migrate towards. So, let’s take a look at what each of these has to offer.
Downtown Dubai is where all the bigshots like the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall are. This is the most expensive area in Dubai and this is the Dubai that you see on Instagram. If you want to eat at the best restaurants, shop at the most luxurious outlets and be among the tallest skyscrapers. Well, downtown Dubai is where it’s all at. All this comes at a cost though, obviously. Downtown has some of the most expensive stays in Dubai. So if budget travel is what you’re after. Then this isn’t the place to be at.
The Dubai Marina is known to be the most western of all areas in Dubai. A lot of expats tend to stay here since the restrictions aren't as harsh. Lots of restaurants & bars, you’ve got the canal and the beach. All this put together makes it one of the best places to stay. A lot of people prefer this over the downtown area because of its access to the beach, canals and toned down restrictions. However, the downside is that it is still quite an expensive area to be in. You do have more affordable options popping up in the Marina area these days. so, be on the lookout and you might find something that fits your budget.
Al Barsha is kinda the middle ground both in terms of where it's located and what it offers. This is the functional part of Dubai, quite close to both the downtown and marina area, well connected via public transport and doesn’t have the same glitz and glamour as the other two areas we’ve spoken about. Not a lot of tourist attractions here either apart from the Emirates mall which is the world’s second-largest mall. What it offers though is cheaper accommodations, a great mix of local restaurants, It’s well connected and centrally located.
Bur Dubai is the cultural heart of Dubai. Narrow streets, old buildings, bazaars, it's got that charm and this is where you can experience the culture. Also, it’s quite close to the Dubai International airport, has some of the best Indian Restaurants and has the most affordable stays in Dubai. Also, all the opulence of the downtown area is just a ten-minute drive away making this a great place to stay for most travelers.
Deira is an extension of old Dubai and it’s very close to the airport. What differentiates it from Bur Dubai is that it's a bit more modern and this is also the business area in Dubai. So you’ve got some fine dine restaurants & bars, more modern buildings and you’ve also got the world’s largest Gold Market ‘The Gold Souk’ here’. This is a great alternative to Bur Dubai and if you wanna stay somewhere overnight before you board a flight, this is the place to be.
Activities and Sightseeing:
Dubai is a very family-friendly destination in general and there is a lot that can be enjoyed here with kids because in Dubai, kids aren't an afterthought. So much of Dubai’s attractions are centered around kids and families and you will see shortly what I mean by this. Also, about the duration of the vacation. If you wanna just explore Dubai a 4-5 Day trip would suffice. However, If you are planning to explore Abu Dhabi, stay at the Atlantis or Lapita Resorts, a week’s vacation would be more ideal. So now lets run through the most popular activities and sightseeing options in Dubai and just a fair warning here. I will be using the word ‘Largest’ a lot in the following segment.
1. Dubai Mall:
The Dubai Mall in the downtown area is the world’s largest mall and what makes it fun isn’t just the shopping aspect of it. You have a number of different activities that you can do just here. To list a few, you’ve got Kidzania where it's basically like a mini town with different jobs that kids can take part in & learn about the job and also earn some Kidzania currency along the way that they can then use on some fun rides. You’ve got the Dubai fountain and its accompanying show in the man-made Burj Khalifa Lake. It’s one of the best fountain shows that I have seen. Best experienced in the evenings and it's free. Moving on, If you wanted to know what flying a real plane feels like you’ve got the Emirates A380 Flight Simulator. Want a taste of the Jurrasic? You’ve got the Dubai Dino with various fossils of dinosaurs and kids do really love dinosaurs and you can have a great time reminiscing about your childhood days watching Jurassic park as well. All this is just scratching the surface of what is there to do in the Dubai Mall and there is something for anyone and everyone here.
2. The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo:
Now even though the Dubai Aquarium is technically a part of the Dubai Mall, at its very center nonetheless. It does deserve a spot on its own since it's the largest aquarium in the world. With over 140 species of aquatic life housed here with over 300 sharks and rays being a part of that, The aquarium is very impressive to say the least and there are multiple ways to experience it. For starters, you can get a glimpse of it for free through the world’s largest acrylic panel housed in the Dubai Mall. Yes, that is a real record and I’ll take any excuse to use the word ‘largest’. Coming back, you can feed rays, interact with otters and have a thrilling encounter with sharks. The list goes on and on and so does the aquarium. It's that huge.
3. The Burj Khalifa:
The world’s tallest building, that’s enough said right? Well, don’t let the pictures fool you. Being there in person and seeing the Burj is totally different, no image or video can convey how tall the Burj Khalifa really is. You have to be there and experience it. If you can afford it, take the more expensive 148th floor access at prime time (3 PM to 6:30 PM). Primetime tickets start at around 210 AED but the sunset experience is definitely worth it and the elevators are a lot of fun too. Pre-booking tickets will work out in your favor, you’ll get better deals and won't have to stand in a queue with your family (Non Prime hours are 8:30 AM to 2:30 PM and 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM, Ticket Prices start at AED 135)
4. Desert Safari:
The desert safari is another mainstay in Dubai itineraries and it's super exciting. You will be taken out to the Arabian desert and can take part in some amazing dune bashing which is a form of off-road riding where drivers carefully maneuver the car up and down the sand dunes in the desert. It gives you a huge dose of adrenaline and definitely isn't for the faint-hearted. However, it is very safe and a lot of precautions are taken to make sure that thrill-seekers aren't hurt. If you are traveling with kids below the age of 6 though it’s better to avoid dune bashing. The desert safaris do come coupled with a few other activities like camel rides, a bbq dinner, belly dance show, fire show and you also get to see the sunset over the Arabian desert as well. There are two timing slots that are available. If you want to just see the desert and take part in some dune bashing you can take the morning slots. However, if you wanna see the sunset in the desert and have a more relaxed time, The evening slot with dinner works better.
5. Miracle Garden:
Open every year from the mid of November to the mid of May, the Miracle Garden in Dubai truly does feel like a miracle and yeah it is a man-made miracle. A 72,000 sqm park that houses over 50 million flowers in the middle of the desert, who would have thought? It’s the world's largest flower garden and It’s breathtakingly beautiful and has a ton of attractions packed into one place. Kids will definitely love the butterfly garden here which houses over 15,000 butterflies that you can get up close and personal with.
6. Dhow Cruise:
The Dubai dhow cruise is a 2 hour evening dinner cruise with some entertainment on board. It also happens in two different areas in Dubai. The Dhow Cruise at the creek as it's called happens near the older parts of Dubai while the dhow cruise at The Marina happens near the Palm Jumeirah and the artificial canal around it. The Marina has the superior views and atmosphere but it's more expensive but more than makes it up with overall experience on the cruise. Either way, the dhow cruise is a great way to spend an evening soaking up the sights of the city at night.
7. Abu Dhabi tours:
Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the UAE and is home to many attractions such as the Sheikh Zayed mosque which is UAE’s largest mosque, The Ferrari World theme park that houses the world’s fastest roller coaster, The emirates palace, The presidential palace and so on. If you wanna see the cultural side of the Emirates, Abu Dhabi gives you that experience.
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Priyanka is a Dubai tour consultant at pickyourtrail and a passionate writer whose love for words can only be complemented by profound interest in travel. My world exudes of bright colours & fluffy pets which I can't live without.