Dubai is one of those mystical cities that you hear so much about, but still never really know what to expect before travelling there. This was certainly the case for me last year when I made my first ever trip to Dubai. After spending a total of 3 weeks in the city, I feel as if I have come back with a good understanding of how Dubai works, and I picked up some great tips along the way. Here are the things you need to know before visiting Dubai, and the things I wish I knew before my first trip…
1. What to Wear in Dubai
I’ll state the obvious first. The UAE is a Muslim country, so it’s especially important to think about bringing clothes that will allow you to dress modestly in certain areas. When it comes to dressing appropriately in Dubai, the first thing is to distinguish the difference between public and hotel spaces.
In public areas (e.g. malls, cafes, the airport, public transport), men and women are expected to dress modestly. Shoulders should be covered and too much leg, boob or bum is not a good look. Whilst nobody is going to call the fashion police if you’re showing too much skin, it’s far better to think like a savvy traveller and be respectful of the local culture. Pair a maxi skirt and t-shirt with some glamorous jewellery and sandals for a modest yet stylish look.
Hotels are seen as ‘international zones’ where standard holiday / beach / hot weather attire is perfectly acceptable. I wouldn’t advise you wander around the hotel lobby in your bikini and shorts, but all of that is absolutely fine by the pool and beach. There are also plenty of day beach clubs where you can lounge in your beachwear and bikinis all day.
Travelista Top Tip: Ladies, keep a pashmina packed in your bag at all times for public areas and bring some kaftans and cover ups for at the hotel.
2. Book Restaurants in Advance
Dubai isn’t the easiest place to be spontaneous. If you’re going out for dinner, pick a restaurant in advance and make a reservation. Unlike many other bustling cities, it’s not so easy to just rock up somewhere and get a table, especially to the more upmarket eateries.
3. The rules around Alchohol
There are plenty of great independent restaurants in Dubai, but none of them are licensed to serve alcohol. If you’re planning to have a few drinks, make sure you’re going to restaurants and bars that sit within a hotel complex. Again, being an ‘international zone’ means that alcohol is permitted and you’ll find that all of the most well-known restaurants are all found within Dubai’s hotels. You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to eat at their restaurants,
Travelista Top Tip: Don’t be afraid to walk straight in to a hotel lobby and ask for directions to your bar / club / restaurant.
4. Nightlife in Dubai
Dubai has an overwhelming choice of stylish bars and clubs, so much so that you’ll never get round them all. Similarly to my point about alcohol, the clubs are all located within the hotels, which makes it feel like more of a ‘secret scene’. There is no main ‘strip’ or nightlife hub. If you’re planning a night out, you need to know where you’re going and exactly where it is. Chances are, it’s most likely tucked away through the lobby of a swanky hotel or on the top of a skyscraper.
5. Taxis in Dubai
Whilst prices in Dubai are similar to London standards, taxis are dirt-cheap. This makes taxis a cheap and incredibly handy way of getting around the city. There are endless taxis on the roads and it never takes more than a few minutes to flag one down. The meter starts at 5 dirhams.
Travelista Top Tip: When you get into a taxi, always make sure the driver puts on the meter and confirms he knows where your destination is.
6. The Call to Prayer
The Islamic Call to Prayer can be heard from pretty much anywhere in the city. All of the mosques are wired up to public speaker systems and the call is heard from the minaret 5 times a day. Depending on how close the nearest mosque is, you may hear calls throughout the night too. Don’t worry, it’s totally normal!
7. How much to tip in Dubai
Tipping is a custom in Dubai, but it’s not expected and is nowhere near as compulsory as the U.S.A. Take in to account the quality of service provided and don’t feel inclined to tip if something was bad. Just take it on a case-by-case basis. Dubai-based journalist @BellaKay recommends the following as a rough guide to tipping in Dubai:
Waiter /waitress: 10 to 15 per cent of the total bill, if service has been good.
Taxi driver: Round up to the nearest note, if driving was acceptable.
Food delivery man: Round up to nearest note, or AED 5 to 10.
Valet-parking assistant: AED 5 to 10.
Bellboy: AED 5 to 10.
Supermarket bag-packer: A couple of coins, up to AED 5.
Hairdresser: 10 per cent.
Beauty / spa therapist: AED 5-20, depending on amount spent.
Want to read more? Check out more of my Dubai posts:
- 10 Fun things to do on a Girls Holiday in Dubai
- A Luxurious Review of The Four Seasons Dubai
- A Taste of Tepanyaki at Green Spices, Dubai
What did you think of my 7 things to know before visiting Dubai? Are you planning a trip to Dubai soon for the first time or have you recently visited? If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, please leave me a comment in the box below! x