New Year’s Eve in Dubai has something magical. The eyes of the whole world are focused on the thousand lights that illuminate the great Burj Khalifa and the feeling you get, sitting on your knees on the coloured carpets at the foot of the skyscraper, is a mixture of emotions and fears.
Fears, perhaps, arise from cultural differences. From the ignorance that I felt when I crossed the glance of a girl under her veil. A warm look, accomplice and enthusiastic, that has revealed in a moment the story of a population so distant but so close to mine.
I have endlessly savoured that moment, so unique and unrepeatable, when the fears all in a sudden have left room to admiration.
A Dubai Trip in 5 days is a Guinness World Record adventure. Today on the blog I will reveal the best things to do in Dubai over 5 days, chosen by me and the beardy boy for our Dubai Trip, with my usual unmissable tips for travelling low cost!
Use the subway to move around Dubai. In Dubai, taxi is the most used transportation and prices are very modest. Distance however are sometimes astronomical as, to move from one place to another, you will have to travel more than 30 km. This is why I recommend you to visit Dubai using the metro to get closer and then eventually take the taxi to reach to your final destination. The Dubai metro is a rail network consisting of two lines: the Red Line, that crosses the city along the coast, and the Green Line, near the old city, that travels almost perpendicularly to the first. For 135 AED – approx. 38 USD – you can buy the NOL card, which allows you to use metro and buses for a week and includes 19 AED – around 5 USD – to be used on taxis, or for trips that require extra-urban fare, as for the local buses connecting the Mall of the Emirates and the Miracle Gardens.
Buy a local sim card. Visiting Dubai without a GPS is not easy. Moreover, if you want to share your adventures or get in touch with your friends and family, you certainly cannot do it without a few GBs of data traffic. That’s why you should totally buy a local sim card. The best option would be to buy an Etisalat sim card with 1 GB of traffic. The sim card cost is 100 AED – approx. 27 USD – and is enough to comfortably move around, share your activities on social networks and text your parents when needed.
Stay just outside Dubai Marina. If you want to save some money my advice is to stay in the South part of Dubai, one or two metro stops from Dubai Marina, where you can quickly reach the seaside and nightlife area. For our Dubai trip, me and the beardy boy stayed at the Premier Inn hotel in Ibn Battuta Gate. A nice hotel, cheap an clean, with an internal connection to the shopping centre of Ibn Battuta.
From Dubai airport you can easily reach the city centre via metro. If, as I have recommended, you will be staying around the area of Dubai Marina, I suggest you take a seat, the trip is going to take about 45 minutes.
After an exhausting overnight flight, me and the beardy boy spent the morning of the first day relaxing in the hotel surroundings. We woke up at lunchtime and we immediately became fully operational. Quick lunch and time to discover the city, with the typical enthusiasm of two children at the thought of going to the beach on December 31st!
We spent the afternoon in the area of Dubai Marina, walking barefoot on the beautiful white beach of Jumeirah Beach. Dubai Marina is one of the liveliest and most interesting areas of the city with a myriad of shops, bars, typical restaurants (and fast food) and tourist attractions.
In the evening we had dinner in the Burj Khalifa area, strategically positioned for the astonishing fireworks show that every year, on New Year’s Eve, are fired from the world’s highest skyscraper. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn right for us, as for the first time ever in the history of Dubai, the Sheikh decided to welcome 2018 with a midnight light show in place of the fireworks exhibition.
The light show (good but not unmissable) has however conquered another of the most coveted trophies of the city: the Guinness World Record for the biggest lights and sounds show on a single building.
See the fireworks from Kite Beach. If you plan your Dubai trip for New Year, I suggest you go to Kite Beach to enjoy the amazing fireworks by the sea. Choose the area near the famous skyscraper, the Burj Al Arab. From here you can also see the Burj Khalifa lasers in the distance.
What’s better than opening the new year with a dip in the most beautiful blue sea in the Middle East? Me and the beardy boy certainly could not miss an experience like that! If you like the idea you can do like us and spend the second morning in Dubai sipping a cocktail (non-alcoholic of course!) with your feet soaking in the Indian Ocean and walking on the public beach near the Burj al Arab (the beach is always part of Kite Beach, but in the south area you will have a top view of the skyscraper).
Lunch on the seafront, in one of the many places that you will find along the promenade and direction Souk Madinat. Souk Madinat, a modern reproduction of the ancient Arabian souks, is located just 20 minutes walk from the public beach and enriched by traditional shops and wonderful views. I suggest you to have a stroll through the shops and enjoy the scent of incense and Arabic music.
Later on, we opted for an afternoon at the Mall of the Emirates, a well-known shopping mall in Dubai, where you can venture out in unrestrained shopping (poor beardy boy, he has suffered a bit!) or skiing over the famous ski slope inside the shopping centre, Ski Dubai.
As for dinner, get closer to your hotel. If you followed by accommodation advice, in the Dubai Marina area you can have a delicious sushi without spending too much at the Sushi Art sushi restaurant.
For the third day of your Dubai trip I recommend an excursion in the ancient area. I’m sure the old Al Bastakiya district will leave you breathless! Strolling through the narrow alleys and the coral stone houses of this ancient Arab city, dating back to the 19th century, we experienced a completely new and different face of Dubai: a city which is not only made of vertiginous skyscrapers and record figures but also of real men, the local merchants who still sell products rich in culture and traditions, in the prestigious souks of gold, spices, perfumes and fabrics.
The souks of gold, perfumes and spices, where colours and perfumes inebriate your senses, are located in the eastern area of the Dubai Creek, the river that flows through the city. We decided to start from here and later cross the river with one of the marvellous wooden boats of the local merchants, the Abra (crossing the river costs only 50 cents!). On the other side of the Dubai Creek you can find the textile souk, a riot of colours and local products, where me and the beardy boy bought some hand-crafted coverings for our sofa cushions. From here you can reach the Al Bastakiya district with its mosque, the heritage village and the ancient souk.
To visit the whole ancient area without rushing and to fully enjoy the local traditions, it will take you a whole day. In the evening we used the Dubai Ferry to return to the Dubai Marina area for dinner. Alternatively, the metro is always a good solution.
We had dinner at Wise Kwai, a very good Thai restaurant located inside a skyscraper in the still not well known area of Dubai Internet City.
We loved Kite Beach so much that we went back on the fourth day! We deserved a refreshing dip indeed, after the long walk of the previous day in Dubai old town. You might wonder, why not another beach? There are several ones, like Palm Jumeirah, an artificial palm with a unique crystalline sea, but very often you have to pay a fee to access the area and if you decide to go there you should spend the whole day on the beach.
In the afternoon, we opted for another soft walk (just a few kilometres) inside Dubai Mall, the biggest shopping centre in the world, where we had a mouth-watering lunch at Shake Shack. Definitely the best burger since we left London!
The Dubai Mall is so big that young sheikhs and their wives often rent a kart to be able to comfortably wander among the 1200 shops, within 400000 square meters of building!
Sharks, piranhas, turtles and penguins swim in the maze of the shopping centre in the largest suspended aquarium in the world. A visit to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo will allow you to get away from the frenetic and confusing flow of crazy shopaholics looking for the best deal! Even if it is a bit overpriced, you should definitely cross the tunnel of the Dubai Aquarium. It is an absolutely unique experience!
Just out of this shopping colossus, don’t forget to watch the show of the dancing fountains in front of the Burj Khalifa!
Book attractions on the Internet. Dubai’s main attractions, such as the Burj Khalifa or the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, should certainly be booked in advance. Online prices are cheaper and at the same time will allow you to skip endless lines.
To finish with a bang your amazing Dubai trip make sure you visit the Burj Khalifa. It’s only when you get on top of the highest skyscraper in the world and remain paralysed by fear looking downwards, that you will slowly understand where the hell you are!
The “At the Top” experience of Burj Khalifa was certainly one of the most amazing adventures of this trip and the beardy boy really appreciated it (we stayed there more or less 3 hours and I managed to take almost 300 photos!).
To end in style our Dubai trip, we decided to visit one of the places that most impressed me from the photographs that I had found online with my research efforts prior to our Dubai trip, the Miracle Garden. A very beautiful garden, full of colourful installations and famous for the A380 plane completely covered with flowers. A Magic Wonderland just a few minutes away from the sea, where even Alice would be lost, dazzled by such beauty.
How to reach the Miracle Garden. To get to Dubai Miracle Gardens you can use a taxi or the direct bus from the Mall of the Emirates which costs 10 AED a/r – around 3 USD – on which you can pay with the 19 AED included in your NOL card.
Visiting Dubai was a very special experience, made of amazement and greatness but also of reflections and human experiences. And talking about experiences, I will soon tell you about the rest of the journey in the beautiful Abu Dhabi!
I hope I have helped you, for tips or recommendations you can always direct message me on Instagram!
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