Dubai travel

8 things to know about Dubai for first-time visitors

It will be our first time in Dubai when we jet off there in a week so we’re trying to prepare well. At the moment, I think that going from the balmy 5°C to 50°C may be nice – I’ll revise this statement in a few days.

I asked my fellow travel bloggers for their tips for first-time visitors to Dubai and here’s what they said.

1. Pre-book your tickets to Burj Khalifa – by Nomadic Boys

Our big tip for first-timers to Dubai based on our experience as first timers there is to book your tickets online for Burj Khalifa before going. It’s really easy to do and you can secure your own time slot (aim for the sunset time slots). Doing this will save you so much time when you get there as you go straight in and completely avoid the huge queue.

The Burj Khalifa is Dubai’s most iconic monument and tourist attraction. At 829.8 metres (2,722 feet) it is the tallest building in the world. But you better hurry and see it before the Jeddah Tower takes over in 2019 which will be towering at 1,008 metres (3,307 feet)!

Nomadic Boys Stefan Burj Khalifa Dubai1

2. You can ski inside a shopping mall – by Travels with Carole

You’re probably not thinking about snow when you set off to visit Dubai, what with being in a desert and all. But just for the fun of it, you can add “go skiing” to your itinerary. At the gargantuan Mall of the Emirates, you can visit Ski Dubai. This indoor ski resort operates inside a gigantic refrigerated glass box and comes complete with a 25-story black-rated ski run, and you can rent everything you might need. There’s a lift and you can also snowboard and toboggan. But if you’d rather not, you can also sit in a cafe and sip something warm, or cold, and watch the show.

DUBAI-Mall of the Emirates-Ski Dubai 5-c2010 Carole Terwilliger Meyers-watermark

3. Don’t swear – by Contented Traveller

A first time tip for travellers to Dubai is not to swear. Most Emirati citizens are Muslim and live under Islamic law. One of the aspects of responsible tourism is to be respectful of the country where you are the guests, and this means no swearing in Dubai.

To quote from a statement from the Dubai government: “Dubai is tolerant and cosmopolitan, and all visitors are welcome. However, Islam is a way of life in the city, and therefore, tourists should adopt a certain level of cultural and religious sensitivity for the duration of their stay”.

This means you have to watch your mouth in public places, and even on social media. One many got in trouble for swearing on WhatsApp. The statement issued by Emirates 24/7 News, says “People swearing online at others could be fined Dh250,000 and jailed, while expatriates could also be deported from the UAE under a new federal law governing internet users”.


4. Avoid the summer – by Once in a Lifetime Journey

I lived in Dubai for 5 years just when the emirate started to be on the map for most people, over ten years ago. Back then, not much was known and, to be fair, not much was there. Most of the hundreds of towers that exist today were not there then, it was all just a huge construction site of Biblical proportions. At the peak of the development, Dubai had 25% of thew world’s tall cranes, mind you this is a city with 1,5min inhabitants. What I always found quite interesting is the amount of Europeans, mostly British, who would flock to the beach without realising that, if the stunning 5* hotels were offering incredibly attractive rates there had to be a reason why. Indeed, in the summer months, Dubai is excruciatingly hot. For four months temperatures are 45 degrees and above and you simply stay indoors. Swimming pools are cooled, everywhere, but the sea is not and it reaches bath-level 36-38 degrees. Needless to say, if the temperatures on the sand hit 50 degrees and the water is a warm 37, going to the beach is not an option. Unless you are looking for a shopping AC-ed experience, avoid Dubai from June to September.


5. Don’t visit Dubai during Ramadan – by Karolina & Patryk

Best tip for visiting Dubai? Do not go there during Ramadan! We were irresponsible enough to haven’t checked it before our trip. When we arrived in Dubai we knew that it’s the Ramadan time right away. We couldn’t eat or drink in the public and trust us – it is extremely difficult to sightseeing on the dessert without permission to drink water. If you break this official law, you will pay a fine or even go to prison! Most shops and restaurants are closed all day, there are only a few places where you can actually buy something. Everything comes back to normal at night, after the sunset.


6. How to negotiate in the gold souk? – by Travel Addicts

Dubai’s gold souk is steeped in history and can be more than a little intimidating to a first time visitor. By watching others you can get a feel for the market before jumping in to make your purchases.

The Dubai gold souk caters to patrons from Asia, particularly Indian buyers who purchase large quantities of gold jewellery as dowries for their daughters. This means most of the gold in the souk is the darker 22-carat gold. However, American and European visitors are more accustomed to the lighter and brighter 18 carats, which can also be found but is less plentiful.

When purchasing gold, two prices are posted. The first rice is the market price for gold based on weight and will be uniform across all vendors. But the second price is for the craftsmanship or workmanship of the bracelet, ring or necklace. You can negotiate on craftsmanship. Start your negotiating at about a quarter of price offered and work up from there. It’s not uncommon for multiple stalls in the gold souk to have very similar pieces, so don’t be afraid to move on. You’ll find vendors are more motivated later in the day (stores close at 10pm) and will give better rates for cash (instead of paying with a credit card).


7. Always put the baggage in storage – by Tiki Touring Kiwi

Dubai is fortunately located between Europe and Asia, therefore receives lots of international visitors who have layovers for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Many of these layovers involve collecting your baggage and having to check it in on the next flight. With a long layover, you have a choice, put your bag in storage or carry it with you.

In Dubai, always put the baggage in storage. Always. The average high year-round in Dubai is 34 degrees Celsius. It’s hot enough where you’re left searching for the nearest air-con without your pack… with your pack on the predicament is horrid. For someone who doesn’t like shopping malls, spending time in the Dubai Mall was suddenly plausible.

8. Dubai’s Metro – by James Merriman

The public transport network in Dubai has improved massively over the last 10 years.

Dubai’s Metro system opened in 2009 and is perfect for those who don’t want to use taxis to get around the city to see the sights or to hit the shops.

There are currently two lines in operation and both are useful for first-time visitors to Dubai. The red line connects the airport with sights such as Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa and the Palm Jumeirah resort. The green line connects with the red line and is useful for exploring the Deira (Old Town) area of the city where the souks and the Dubai Museum are located.

As a tourist, you’ll need to purchase a “Red Nol Card” which you can load up with credit at any Metro station. The card itself costs 2AED (about $0.55) and single ticket prices start at 4AED for adults (about $1.10).


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  • Reply
    July 8, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Love this post and some excellent tips for visitors to Dubai. Delighted to be a part of it 🙂

    • Reply
      Aga Kozmic
      July 12, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      Thanks to you we pre-booked our Burj Khalifa tickets! 🙂

  • Reply
    July 8, 2016 at 10:28 pm

    Great tips! It is an honour to be a part of this collab post 🙂

  • Reply
    July 9, 2016 at 8:54 pm

    Fun post! I don’t like having to put on a filter for potty talk, but when in Dubai I guess 🙂

    • Reply
      Aga Kozmic
      July 12, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      thank you for being a part of this collab! 🙂

  • Reply
    Lara Dunston
    July 21, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    Hi Aga, I’m a travel writer who lived in the UAE (Abu Dhabi and Dubai) from 1998 (the year that tourism first boomed in Dubai when Burj Al Arab opened, so 18 years ago) until 2006 and have visited regularly on assignment since. My husband and I wrote over a dozen guidebooks to Dubai, the UAE, Arabian Peninsula etc for Lonely Planet and more, and scores of magazine stories etc. Please do check out some of the posts on our site, filed under ‘Dubai’, from How to Experience the Real Dubai to The Best Local Experiences for loads of tips.

    A couple of things I wanted to point out:
    * It’s not only swearing that is not allowed, but – like Cambodia, where I live – dressing disrespectfully is not acceptable, so no short skirts, no bare shoulders, nothing too revealing. While many tourists choose to ignore this there are fines for this in many places. In Cambodia recently they’ve banned people from visiting the temples unless they cover up. (I’ve just written about it on my Responsible Travel Guide to Cambodia).
    * For many people, expats and tourists, visiting during Ramadan is absolutely wonderful. It was my favourite time of year. There are plenty of places where non-Muslims can go to sip water and even eat during the day. Many restaurants are open but they’ll be partitioned off for foreigners or have the curtains closed out of respect for Muslims. People are very tolerant and forgiving of foreign faux pas. You’ve just missed out on Ramadan but I’ve got a Guide to Ramadan Around the World on my site too.

    My #1 tip: a Cultural Breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is the best thing to do in my opinion and #2 a Frying Pan Adventures street food tour with Arva or Farida.

    Enjoy! And do let me know if you need further tips but lots on my site.

  • Reply
    Andrew Darwitan
    August 9, 2017 at 2:18 pm

    They are really good at pushing the extraordinaire, don’t they? Absolutely avoid the summer, I agree. Other than that, I think it’s good to some day trips while in Dubai. The neighboring Abu Dhabi, which is still bustling with culture, is just 1.5 hours away. And also, the fjord-like landscape of Musandam Peninsula is also just next door. Who knew they have such a beautiful rugged coastline so close to the megapolis that Dubai is!!!

  • Reply
    Sujit Singh
    October 11, 2017 at 3:34 pm

    Very good info keep writing these gems =D

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