A stopover in Dubai en-route to India was an obvious choice for us as almost all flights from Europe to Asia go through Dubai. Most flights arrive late in the evening/early morning and the connecting flights leave hours later. We thought it would be much better to spend a couple days gawking at the engineering marvels in Dubai. Since the early 2000’s Dubai has been dumping money into infrastructure and luxury accommodation to attract tourists and has become a city of the world’s biggest/best everything. As an example of how far the country will go to attract tourists you just have to look at the Palm Islands: because the beautiful pristine coastline wasn’t long enough for the amount of tourists, Dubai built the Palm Islands with the first (Palm Jumeirah) adding 78 kilometers of beach to the city and another two islands are in the works.
The 2001 September 11 incident had a major effect on tourism but 14 years later tourism has picked back up. Given Dubai’s geographical location close to both Europe and Asia, it’s beautiful beaches and sunny climate, and it’ low crime rates (possibly partially due to the fact that they practice Sharia law) it really does make sense as a tourist destination. As long as you can manage to keep your tongue in your own mouth and stay relatively sober in public (both are punishable by law) then you’ll be fine. And really, the USA just announced a “Worldwide Travel Alert.” So, if you’re still OK travelling to Europe, you shouldn’t second guess a trip to the UAE…. as long as your pocket book can afford it.
Dubai is by no means a budget destination. It’s quite the opposite – hotel rooms on average are the second most expensive in the world. Our Airbnb room (a private room/bathroom in a family’s beautiful apartment) cost almost double the most expensive place we’ve booked so far this trip! That said, you can visit Dubai – short term – and see the sites, and not go broke. We managed to do and see everything we wanted and spent less than 300 dollars a day between the two of us. (Still, by far the most expensive city we visited over 35 countries). It also helps that most flights arrive early in the morning and leave late at night optimizing your time in the city with two overnight flights saving you money on hotels… as long as you can function on little sleep.
We arrived in Dubai at 04:00 AM and spent our first day (after a quick nap) at the Dubai Mall, yes, the mall. But not just any mall; it’s the world’s largest mall, right next to the world’s tallest building, has the world’s largest choreographed fountain system and the aquarium inside the mall has one of the world’s largest Acrylic panels. In 2012, the Dubai Mall continued to hold the title of the world’s most-visited shopping and leisure destination, and attracted more than 65 million visitors (more than New York City!). Oh, and I bought myself a new phone – a Samsung Galaxy S6 (my locked iPhone 4S wasn’t cutting it anymore). Everything in Dubai is tax-free which helped with the cost, as did the sale the store was having!
To see as many of the sites as possible during our short stay, we opted for a 4-hour city tour on our second day. The city tour included stopping in front of the famous Atlantis Hotel located on the Palm Jumeirah, an artificial island created using reclaimed land.The Palm Jumeirah takes the form of a palm tree, surrounded by a crescent that acts as a breakwater. Once on the island, and even from the beach across from it, it’s difficult to see the palm-shaped land: it just feels like another peninsula or more ocean front. You can really only see the beautifully shaped island from above, and a helicopter ride wasn’t quite in our budget.
The tour stopped at Jumeirah beach for some photos of Burj Al Arab, arguably the world’s only 7-star hotel and the third tallest hotel in the world. The hotel’s shape is designed to mimic the sail of a ship. Burj Al Arab also stands on an artificial island and is connected to the mainland by a private curving bridge. Note the Asian models (?) jumping in the photo below – there were camera crews all over photographing and filming them.
That evening we bought tickets to the world’s highest viewing platform on the megatall skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. This building alone holds more world records that I care to list but to name a few: tallest structure ever built: 829.8 m; building with most floors: 163, world’s highest elevator installation (situated inside a rod at the very top of the building); highest vertical concrete pumping (for a building): 606 m; world’s highest observation deck: 555 m; and world’s highest nightclub: 144th floor. Sunset time is the most expensive time to go up the Burj Khalifa and given that it was hazy, we really didn’t think it was worth it. Instead we chose to visit in the evening because there really isn’t anything like a city lit up at night. Of course, the views were stunning.
We spent an afternoon at the beautiful and impeccably clean, JBR beach. The Walk (that runs parallel to the beach) is lined with shops and restaurants. The pathway along the beach is swept constantly keeping it clear of sand and garbage. The entire area carters to tourists and locals alike and has a completely different atmosphere than in the city behind it. A courtesy policy is posted reminding guests to cover up once they leave the sand among other things – and there are security guards that will quickly stop if you happen to not see or respect the signs.
Check out more photos on Flickr
How did we get there: Flight: Izmir-Dubai via Istanbul (Pegasus)
Transport cost: $205 CAD per person
Recommended nights: 2-3 nights
Accommodation: Private Room with Airbnb at $135 CAD per night
Average Cost per day: $287 CAD/day for two people