Planning a trip to Dubai? Here’s some answers to those important questions you might have:
Between the glitz and glam of the lavish lifestyles offered in Dubai, skyscrapers, Friday brunches, attractions and world class championship golf, is a very complex and misunderstood judicial system as well and an air of mystery around the destination.
Having personally lived in Dubai from 2014 – 2018 and having always worked in the leisure and tourism sector, I believe my experience can really help you have a better understanding of Dubai before you travel, and if there are any other questions you may have, please reach out to me.
So, to help you fully prepare, here’s some of the most common questions tourists have about Dubai with answers and explanations for you.
1. Is Dubai safe to travel to for tourists?
Absolutely yes – Dubai has rapidly become one of the most popular go-to destinations for holidays and travellers and has a multitude of attractions, sight-seeing, activities, historical spots to explore and amazing golf courses.
In fact, Dubai is one of safest cities and arguably THE safest country in the Middle East. Thanks to stricter laws, crime is kept to a minimum and you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that many tourists feel very safe during their stay in Dubai.
Having moved back to London a few months ago and having been lucky enough to travel quite extensively around the world, I can honestly say Dubai is the safest place I’ve ever been to, period.
2. Can you take alcohol to Dubai?
Tourists visiting Dubai can bring the following goods free of duty into the city:
• Gifts with a value of no more than AED 3,000
• 400 cigarettes OR 500 grams of tobacco OR 50 cigars
• Up to 4 litres of alcohol OR 48 cans of beer (each not exceeding 355 ml)
• So yes, tourists can buy and bring alcohol into Dubai. Which leads us onto #3…
3. Can you drink in Dubai?
The city is continually enhancing its tourism industry, and so those visiting will have no issue purchasing a drink while staying here.
Tourists will find that most restaurants, bars and hotels serve alcohol to those above the UAE’s legal drinking age of 21.
If you’re a resident living in Dubai – that’s a different story, as you should purchase and register for an alcohol license. Provided you’re a non-Muslim.
From my personal experience, Dubai has some of the best nightlife I’ve ever seen. There is no wonder it’s a celebrity hotspot and you don’t get celebrities letting loose without a few drinks!
4. Can you swear in Dubai?
No, you should endeavour to keep your potty mouth shut while out and about in Dubai! Particularly in public places where crowds will form, like at the beach, or in a mall or restaurant. Be mindful of who is around you – Dubai is a melting pot of many different cultures, so it’s best to refrain from swearing to ensure you don’t accidentally insult someone.
In the comfort of your own hotel room or holiday residence, swear all you like – just don’t say anything that might cause offence in public.
5. Can you smoke in Dubai?
Dubai is one of the few tourist destinations left that still allows smoking indoors – which is great news if you smoke, but horrible news if you can’t stand it.
But don’t be alarmed – all restaurants that do allow indoor smoking will provide seperate seating areas for those who wish to smoke and those which don’t.
And if you’re a fan of shisha – you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find lots of local cafes or Arabic restaurants that serve it. If it’s your first time visiting, and you’re not against giving it a go – you can try it as part of your ‘authentic Middle Eastern’ experience!
Those who do smoke will also be pleased to learn that Dubai’s tobacco prices are still extremely cheap in comparison to other Western countries. For example, a pack of Marlboro Gold costs AED 20 for 20 cigarettes, which is around £2!
6. Can you hold hands in public in Dubai?
If you’re a married couple, holding hands is tolerated. But kissing, hugging or petting is a bit of a no no, keep this to the hotel!
7. What do you have to wear in Dubai?
As a rule of thumb, make sure your holiday outfits keep you covered from shoulders to at least the knee in public to prevent any issues from arising should you cause offence to anyone.
Back at your hotel, wear whatever you like.
At the beach, it’s fine to wear your swimwear, so long as you’re appropriately dressed once again after leaving the beach vicinity.
8. Do I need a visa to visit Dubai?
Requirements for obtaining a visit visa to travel to Dubai vary depending on your nationality, the purpose of your visit and its duration.
If you hold a British passport, you can obtain a visit upon arrival for a 30-day period.
Guld Co-operation Council nationals are granted entry upon arrival (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman) and other citizens from the following countries can obtain a visa upon arrival that lasts 90 days; France, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Holland, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Finland, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland, Switzerland, Estonia, Portugal, Malta, Spain, Cyprus, Denmark, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia.
Additionally, citizens of the following countries can obtain a visa upon arrival for 30 days, with a 10-day grace period; Andorra, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Hong Kong, Monaco, South Korea, Brunei, Ireland, New Zealand, The Vatican, Canada, Japan, San Marino, United States and Russia.
9. What language is spoken in Dubai?
Although Arabic is the primary language of Dubai and the UAE, you’ll find that English is most commonly used in public areas, on road signs, in restaurants and shopping malls.
10. What tourist attractions are in Dubai?
There are SO many, and all suit different ages and lifestyles. From the Burj Khalifa, to The Beach in JBR, to the IMG Worlds of Adventure theme park, to City Walk’s HUB ZERO as well as Burj Al Arab, Souk Madinat, desert safaris, sand dune buggy rides, to the Dubai Canal and Dubai Marina… There’s SO much to see and do during your time in Dubai, with options that suit all budgets.
11. Do I have to tip in Dubai?
Many restaurants and bars include the service charge in the price of the meal/drinks bought, however there may be some instances like using a valet or using a Dubai taxi that you might feel it appropriate to tip – which is fine. Anything between the 10% – 20% mark will be fine.
12. When’s the best time to visit Dubai?
You’ll be very aware of just how HOT it can get in Dubai and the UAE during summer, but tourists wishing to visit Dubai will be glad to hear that this heat does cool down in the winter months. From October to April, the temperature is generally cooler – with the best time entirely being from November to March.
September & May: 28 – 39
October & April: 25 – 36
November – March: 18 – 31
13. How many golf courses are in Dubai
There is now a total of 12 golf courses in Dubai, which it’s quite remarkable seen as it’s such a small city.
There are also further developments ongoing.
There is a Tiger Woods designed golf course opening at the Trump International resort, as well as a further Emaar golf course called ‘Emaar South’ which is located near the new DWC airport.
1. Emirates Golf Club, Majlis Course (Home on the Omega Dubai Desert Classic)
2. Emirates Golf Club, Faldo Course (Fully Floodlit Night Golf)
3. Jumeirah Golf Estates, Earth Course (Home of the Race to Dubai Final & DP World Tour Championship)
4. Jumeirah Golf Estates, Fire Course
5. The Els Club Dubai
6. The Address Montgomerie Dubai
7. Arabian Ranches Golf Club Dubai
8. Dubai Hills Golf Club
9. Dubai Creek Golf Club
10. Trump International Golf Club
11. The Track at Meydan (Fully Floodlit 9 Holes)
12. Jebel Ali Golf Club
14. What are the best golf courses to play in Dubai?
This is such a tough question and its obviously very much opinion based, but I’ll give you my verdict!
As a former tour pro and currently playing off +1 handicap, my opinion of golf courses will be somewhat different to say an 18 handicapper, but what I can tell you is that every single golf course is top quality and a joy to play.
At every golf course you will be given a golf buggy, range balls and water as part of your green fee and the daily operation and how these golf courses run is remarkable.
My favourite course in Dubai would have to be Jumeirah Golf Estates’ Earth Course.
The Earth Course is the venue for the European Tours season ending Race to Dubai and it’s such a fitting venue.
The course is designed by Greg Norman who is very well known for his huge bright white bunkering, it’s just so visually impressive.
The course conditioning is amazing, the club’s golf academy is a European Tour Performance Institute and as a whole it’s golfing paradise!
15. Best beaches in Dubai
The Beach – JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residences)
A hip, beach hangout.
For a taste of the idyllic beachside lifestyle make your way down to the relaxed district of The Beach at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residences).
This bustling cosmopolitan area is like a beach resort anyone can access and enjoy a day in the sun with a contemporary Arabian touch. The family-friendly area is easily accessible from anywhere in Dubai. There’s plenty to do – from a wide selection of beachside dining and shopping to water sports such as parasailing and wakeboarding.
There’re also banana boat rides and even a train for the kids to enjoy. If you’d prefer to keep your feet dry, you can take a camel ride along the beach – and all with the iconic city landscape in the background.
Plus, there’s a 600m running track, outdoor gym and beach volleyball court if you’re keen to work up a sweat. Or take in an outdoor yoga class to get your day started the way you like.
If your visit coincides with the other end of the day, there’s a good chance of encountering some live entertainment to get your excitement levels up.
Take your pick among a huge variety of dining options and your day is made, I would strongly recommend The Cheesecake Factory!
If you’re serious about your water sports and wish to test your skills on one of the best free beaches in Dubai, Kite Beach has the challenge you seek.
Located steps from Jumeirah’s main street, you’ll find high quality water sports equipment available along the sand, with kitesurfing, wakeboarding and stand-up paddle boarding gear all ready to go. Head down in the afternoon, as this is when the wind picks up and presents some better conditions.
If staying on land is more your thing, you’re bound to find a game of beach volleyball to join, along with a welcoming vibe and plenty of new friends to make in the process. Or, if you’re looking for a more chilled out vibe, Kite Beach exudes adrenaline as much as it does serenity and a casual beachside atmosphere.
Want to walk or jog along the coastline? Kite Beach’s 14km track is the perfect spot. Whatever beachside activity you wish to enjoy, at this stretch of sand you’ll have amazing views of the majestic Burj Al Arab to admire.
You’ll also find some casual bites to eat right off the beach at the shops and food trucks; don’t miss your chance to grab some sliders and a lotus shake at the ever-popular Salt!
16. Getting around in Dubai
Rent a Car
To hire a car, you need an international driver’s licence (UK Licence is fine), passport, credit card and third-party insurance. Once you’re on the open road, take a drive out to Dubai’s mountain town of Hatta.
Want to get in on the luxury car action? One of Dubai’s favourite past times is cruising down the streets in style in a car that turns heads; opt for a Bentley with Paddock Rent A Car or a Bugatti with Apex Luxury Car Hire.
Looking for ultimate flexibility? Try a pay-as-you-go car rental app, like UDrive or ekar.
Dubai’s taxis are available to hail nearly everywhere at just about any time, day or night. If you prefer to schedule a ride, you can call for a Dubai taxi pick-up at +971 4 208 0808.
While taxis are extremely cheap in Dubai, the price per kilometre does change depending on a few factors, like tolls or the time of day.
If you prefer to use an app to book a ride, Uber or Careem are available. Feeling extravagant? You can even book an Uber chopper for a bird’s-eye commute to the golf course!!
Travel by Rail
The metro is a world-class, fully-automated, driverless railway system. Most of the metro rides above ground providing a great view while you travel to landmarks like the Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina, the Gold Souk and Dubai’s financial district (DIFC).
Dubai Metro tickets must be purchased in the form of a Nol card – which can also be used to pay for bus, tram and taxi fare – and rides can cost as little as AED3. Discover the city by its metro stations or use the journey planner app, Wojhati, to make the most of your Dubai itinerary.
The Dubai Tram runs from Al Sufouh to Jumeirah Beach Residences in 42 minutes. Running on the Nol card, the tram provides access to destinations like Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Lakes Towers and more.
The Palm Monorail
The tram connects directly to the Palm’s monorail station, which runs from the trunk of the Palm to the iconic Atlantis, The Palm. Whether you’re having a play day at Aquaventure Waterpark, making friends a Dolphin Bay, or enjoying the Boardwalk, don’t miss the chance to take in views of the Gulf from the Palm’s crescent.
Travel by Boat
Dhow Boats and Abras
Travel back in time on Dubai’s traditional mode of transportation with an abra ride down Dubai Creek or through Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Enjoy a dinner cruise on the much larger dhow boat, a vessel used traditionally for sailing. For a modern view, travel down the cosmopolitan passages of Dubai Marina or the brand-new Dubai Water Canal.
Ferry and Water Taxi
Another way to take in the sights is aboard the Dubai Ferry. Starting at just AED15, you can take a tour across the city’s key water links starting from Business Bay to the Marina via Dubai Canal. Ferries from the Al Jaddaf station depart daily at 10am, 12pm and 5:30pm.
Whatever your preferred mode of transport, we can offer private transfers for you. Just let us know when booking!
17. The best places to shop in Dubai?
From traditional souks to gleaming malls
While today Dubai is famous for the country’s oil boom and riches, not many people know about its ancient history of pearl diving.
Well before the money from the oil boom, the UAE was thriving off the money made from the pearls. Pearl diving offered seasonal if not full-time work for many local Emiratis, and many UAE families can still trace their fortunes back to the historic pearl diving their forefathers did.
While pearls are no longer an exclusive commodity only from the UAE, some of today’s most top-ranking brands began their careers by using UAE pearls for prestige and quality insurance. Cartier is one of the most famous examples of a loyal customer of the pearls of the Arabian coastline, with Jacques Cartier making his first journey to the region in 1912 to hunt for the mother of all jewels, which is what the pearl is so often referred to as.
While today shopping is a national pastime in the UAE, a place where high street and designer brands from around the world stand side-by-side in shiny, air-conditioned mega malls, while old-school souks still look much like the mock historic market on display in Dubai Museum. Elsewhere, emerging artisans are carving a niche off the beaten path.
The Dubai Mall
The UAE’s highest concentration of designer boutiques can be found here, alongside the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and an Olympic-sized ice rink, while the Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa are on the doorstep. Walking through the several million square feet of retail space is a workout: you can navigate with the Dubai Mall mobile app and be sure to pack comfortable shoes – or buy a pair. With more than 1,300 shops, including anchor departments stores Galeries Lafayette and Bloomingdale’s, finding the right footwear for the job shouldn’t be a problem.
Mall of The Emirates
The only place in the UAE where you’ll find a ski slope, Mall of the Emirates is a magnet for Middle Eastern travellers who’ve never seen snow. The mall’s Fashion District looks like the pages of Vogue brought to life, with Bulgari, Dior and Gucci stopping shoppers in their tracks with attention-grabbing window displays. High-street offerings include Next, Topshop and the popular Turkish equivalent, Koton, while Harvey Nichols and Debenhams go head to head as the flagship department stores. The ‘Hands Free’ service means shoppers can have their bags collected and delivered later anywhere in the mall, car parks or connecting hotels (Kempinski and Sheraton hotels in the mall itself).
The Outlet Village
This incongruous Tuscan village-styled mall on the outskirts of Dubai is to the UAE what Bicester Village is to England. From Armani to Ermenegildo Zegna, several discounted high-end collections can be found in bespoke boutiques or one of three multi-brand department stores: The Deal, Priceless and Galeries Lafayette L’Outlet. Hotfoot it to Coach, Dunhill, Michael Kors and Montblanc for luxury leather accessories, and bag high street bargains at stores including Banana Republic, Gap Factory, Diesel, Superdry and Ted Baker. In addition to the 100 or so shops, there’s a food court and Stay & Play, a care facility where children can be entertained while grown-ups splurge.
All set for your Dubai Golf Holiday? See our extensive list of golf holidays here
Did this not answer your question? Speak to our Middle East Manager Richard now: firstname.lastname@example.org