Dubai is truly a city like no other – this souped-up Emirate is an exhilarating mix of glamorous boomtown and petrodollar theme park, where towering skyscrapers and glossy developments seem to pop out of the desert like glass mushrooms.
Where to stay in Dubai
Where to stay in Dubai
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The city is a masterpiece of naked ambition, with a fast-growing population of international residents who help drive Dubai’s reputation as a global centre for media, IT and finance.
This dynamic diversity makes Dubai a fascinating melting pot of Middle Eastern tradition, western culture and futuristic vision, with a relaxed vibe that guarantees a good time for everyone.
There’s very little you can’t do here – from world-class shopping to sublime dining and even skiing on an indoor snowy mountain, Dubai is an extraordinary and unique experience that you won’t forget.
Food and drink
Dining out is a big deal in Dubai – the restaurant scene has evolved over recent years into a foodie’s paradise, with over 5000 restaurants packed with top chefs and fresh local produce.
For sheer choice and quality Dubai can’t be beaten, particularly if you love the flavour-filled cuisines of the Middle East. A traditional Arabic mezze is a must, or you can head to the top of one of Dubai’s many skyscrapers and dine in the clouds with oil barons and celebrities.
After dark, Dubai is very much a party town – you can’t drink alcohol in public, but the big hotels are home to some of the best bars and clubs in the world, whether you’re looking for a quiet nightcap before heading back to your serviced apartment or a hedonistic night out.
You’ll be hard pushed to find anywhere in the world that does shopping with more in-your-face bling than Dubai.
Their shopping malls are glitzy theme parks packed with shops and extravagant entertainment - the biggest have huge fountains, aquariums and waterfalls. If you only visit one, go for the palatial Dubai Mall; it has 30,000 square metres of shoe stores alone, and you can easily spend a whole day here and barely scratch the jewel-encrusted surface.
For traditional shopping and local crafts, experience the sensory wonders of one of Dubai’s vibrant souks – there are also specialist souks for textiles and gold, but be prepared to haggle for the best price.
Dubai’s economy may have originally been built on oil, but modern Dubai is a city built on technology, finance and media – the city has even created sectors like Media City where you’ll find all the local and international businesses.
Dubai is home to major IT companies like Hewlett-Packard, EMC Corporation, Oracle Corporation, Microsoft, Dell and IBM here, as well as global media organisations like MBC, CNN, BBC, Reuters, Sky News and AP.
Dubai is a city designed for cars, and historically it has been a difficult city to navigate without one, particularly as development means the road layout changes all the time. However public transport in the city has improved enormously, with a metro system that covers the city centre, suburbs and the coastline, as well as the airport.
Dubai’s bus network is clean and cheap, but infrequent and not hugely reliable.
Taxis are plentiful outside of peak hours and relatively cheap, but be warned that some Dubai locals drive like they’ve never seen a car before, let alone driven one. It also pays to check they know where they’re going before you set off, as not all taxi drivers know the city as well as you might expect!
Things to watch out for
Dubai is a relaxed and tolerant city, and it’s easy to forget that the UAE is still a Muslim country, and visitors are asked to respect local culture. Alcohol is only served in the hotels, and Dubai has a zero tolerance attitude to public drunkenness, drink driving or unseemly behaviour. Sunbathing in a bikini by the hotel pool is fine; but if you’re out in public, it’s respectful for western women to dress conservatively - covering shoulders and knees is all that’s required.