Dubai! A place known to many of us for its lavish lifestyle, souks, easy shopping, desert safaris, tall buildings and metropolitan living. Yet, I was one who had never been to Dubai until last year. Just that it never was planned. Like many Indians living abroad and visiting home once a year, we planned this trip in December last year. While booking the tickets, we noticed that if we stay over in Dubai for few days, we might get cheaper air tickets to fly to India on later dates. Basically we just needed a reason to explore Dubai and this reason ‘made sense’ back then. Hence, we planned our trip to Dubai.
We find reasonable prices for flying with Emirates to Dubai and further in India. I was so happy with the air service. Even though they don’t need any validation,yet I would love to reiterate that Emirates is indeed one of the best. Flying with Emirates airlines is an absolute joy! They were puntual, professional and safe. Even though I love travelling, I am not the fun person while flying. I hate turbulence. So Emirates were good to keep them at minimum or avoid them! Infact I enjoy flying with many Scandinavian Airlines as well when it comes to avoiding turbulence.
I usually check my tickets via Momondo website. They list many options on offers for cheap fare tickets. But I must say Emirates website was also easy to navigate and actually had prices which were equally reasonable.
Find information about the visa
As soon as we booked tickets, we were concerned about visas. Though there was a news we had read and were positive it won’t be an hassle. So, turns out the new was true. EU residence and work permit holders with Indian passport can enter Dubai and apply for visa on arrival. We arrived at the airport with the UAE and Indian consulate website clipping. We only had that to our rescue.
So after we arrived at Dubai. We could see clear signs of online visa counters. We paid the money at the desk and got a receipt. We moved to the immigration counter and explained. There was a 10 minute discussion between the officers who were not used to this new law. At the end of discussion, we were given visa on arrival to enter Dubai. Links given below will be useful for people travelling from Sweden.
We had our accommodation booking papers, residence /work permit cards, and return tickets from Dubai to show them and assure that we were indeed leaving in three days.
Besides Mauritius this was my first visa on arrival experience. I am glad about all the improvements in diplomatic relations between India and UAE which led to this improvement.
Find an excellent place to stay
When we travel as a couple in Europe, we prefer hostels over hotels. Both of us are not splurgers when it comes to accommodation in luxury hotels and resorts. We both love to spend on experiences in the new country and finding hostels in Europe is easy and convenient. I have never found a bad hostel or had terrible experience. Hence I wondered if Dubai also offers good quality hostels or we have to book in a hotel. To my surprise I found the best located hostel called as ‘At the top’ Hostel.
‘At the Top‘ Hostel is located in Elite Residence building in Dubai Marina area. Elite Residence is 4th tallest residential building in the entire world and this hostel was situated on 66th floor. If you have fear of heights, this might not be your choice but we had none and absolutely enjoyed the view.
Currency and Public transport
We had converted money into UAE Dirhams before we arrived in Dubai. I would suggest to do so as visa fees are required to be paid in cash. We even paid hostel charges in cash.
We purchased metro tickets for few journeys. This metro card can be reloaded if you run out of money. Metros have clear demarcation of ladies and gents compartment. Ladies compartments usually being at the beginning of the train. It is crucial to tap the card at the start and end of every journey.
Better information can be found on this link.
Make an excellent itinerary
Okay! Here comes the most interesting part of the travel. This is the simplest suggestions for your itinerary. We explored Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountains, Dubai Marina, Souks, Mall of Emirates and Jumeirah Public beach in Dubai. We liked each of these places and thoroughly enjoyed them.
One ‘must do’ attraction we missed or avoided doing in this Dubai trip was the desert safari. I will recommend it to others but we couldn’t do it due to time and some other practical constraints. Hence, I will write about everything else that we saw and did plus what would we highly recommend.
Tallest building in the world. Measuring at 830mt till the top. Easy way to remember the height is that it is nearly as tall as a kilometer. Burj Khalifa has 163 floors above the ground and only 1 below. It took 6 years for the building to be constructed and was open in January 2010. It took 22 million man hours for construction.
This year Burj Khalifa saw opening of The Lounge on floors 152, 153 and 154 making it the highest opened restaurant in the world.
Burj Khalifa is now gearing up for Expo 2020 happening next year which will see release of new business, restaurants and shops
It’s impossible to miss Burj Khalifa from anywhere near it but what I wasn’t aware that Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall are next to each other. Same metro stop but takes a while to reach the place as one crosses the entire mall to reach the building. Light and sound show on Burj Khalifa happens every evening, I think once every hour. Place gets super crowded, so secure your place well in advance. You can find the show we witnessed on IGTV video of my Instagram account.
Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountains
First and foremost I would like to mention is please remember that the wall from the metro station for Dubai Mall to the actual mall is atleast 15 minutes or more. Mall is humongous and one needs to spend more than an entire day to experience it. We went to the mall twice and I am sure we have still missed a lot. Its the second largest mall in the entire world and there is so many experiences a person can enjoy. In particular I enjoyed the Dubai Aquarium inside the mall. I hadn’t seen so many dishes and aquatic life before so I was super excited. Mall has innumerable shops and branded showrooms to explore and some attractions like indoor ice skating arena and snow world. It also has beautiful versions of old Souks and a surprise element of Dubai Mall dinosaur standing inside the mall.
Outside the mall and in front of Burj Khalifa are Dubai Fountains. Dubai Fountains are world’s largest choreographed fountain system. Shows happen twice in the afternoon and every half an hour in the evening starting from 6pm.
Dubai Marina walk and JBR Marina beach
We stayed quite close to the JBR Marina beach and hence decided to take a walk in the Dubai Marina area to reach the beach. We ended up admiring many skyscrapers within the area. JBR Marina beach is beautiful and long with nice blue waters. There are restaurants, cafes and shops around the beach. I was surprised to find extremely clean public toilets as well in the area.
Souks of Dubai
It is impossible to leave Dubai without exploring the Souks. Souks are old style markets. There are different souks within Dubai. Textile souk, Spice souk, Perfume souk and most famous Gold Souk. Gold Souk area has exclusively shops selling gold and gold ornaments.
Jumeirah Public beach
We love beaches and decided to visit Jumeirah Public beach exclusively for the sunset views. We reached the beach quite early evening and secured a perfect place. We loved staring at Burj Al Arab during sunset.
Fair warning : Asian tourist buses arrive in the evening and they are super excited to click pictures as expected. If you wish to capture clear views of Burj Al arab, reach early and setup your camera accordingly.