This is a short guide based on my travel to the UAE and also some tips from friends who have lived there. Back in 2017, I spent a few days in Dubai and enjoyed the sun, architecture and food. The old markets are bustling and colourful, and have a mix of foods, crafts and jewellery.
From the Burj Khalifa viewpoint, it was surprising to see that beyond the city, there is just desert sand! The shopping malls were out of this world with aquariums, waterfalls and even a ski slope. And for food, I found great Indian food and also some favourite treats from different parts of the world. It felt like a mix of many cultures. I’ll write a separate post with more details about Dubai.
- Dubai, a big city with interesting architecture and impressive malls
- Burj Khalifa, tallest building in the world from 2010 until at least January 2023
- Visit the old Souks, markets
- Burj al Arab, a 7 star hotel, the outside is impressive but you can’t enter unless you have a hotel or restaurant booking
- Try camel milk gelato- very creamy!
- Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE
- Desert Safari including sandboarding
- Watching a belly dancing show
- Riding a camel, if you want to
- Enjoy the wide variety of local and international foods
Before you go
- There are seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
- The capital of UAE is Abu Dhabi
- Visa available on arrival for many countries including USA (30 days) and UK (40 days)
- There are strict laws about consuming alcohol; drinking age is usually 21 years. Alcohol can be consumed at home and in licensed venues. A permit may be needed
- Zero tolerance laws against drugs
- Dress conservatively and bring a head covering for mosques
- The weather is warm for most of the year, and extremely hot the summer months. It can rain between November and March
- Dubai International Airport is an international hub. I have passed through on the way to other countries, and I stopped for a visit for a few days. Lots of shopping!
- Abu Dhabi international airport. It is smaller than Dubai but still well-connected
- The Dubai Metro system is clean and safe, and there are women-only carriages
- In Abu Dhabi, there is a bus system and there are plans for a metro
- I stayed at the Carlton Palace Hotel, which was a 5-star at a reasonable price
- The location was quite central and easily reached by metro
- Rooms are large and air-conditioned
- As usual, I recommend checking Booking.com for available hotels and reviews
The official currency is the Dirham. As of January 2023, one British pound is equal to 4.45 Dirham.
I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates
When I asked some friends about local foods from UAE, no one could think of anything specific. They said Middle Eastern food. I found a recipe for chicken freekeh, and made that at home. It has Lebanese herbs and a dried grain called freekeh, which is made from green durum wheat. During my visit, I didn’t have anything like this though.
In the desert outside of Dubai, the traditional meal served to our tourist group was barbecued meats.
There were lots of Indian restaurants including traditional street foods, which I remember having in India. Someone explained that a lot of Indians work in Dubai, and so the food caters to that population. Lucky for me as it was delicious!
In addition to the interesting foods from different countries, I noticed a lot of foreign chains. These included Dunkin Donuts, Baja Fresh, ShakeShack, Ben’s Cookies, Laduree, and more.
Traditional sweets are delicious and often made with dates and nuts. One unusual dessert I tried was the camel milk ice cream. It was surprisingly tasty and creamy.
Q: Do I need a tour guide?
A: No, it is easy to find your way around
Q: Do people speak English?
A: Yes almost everyone speaks English
Q: Can I travel solo?
A: Yes it is safe to travel solo. However, if you are a single woman then you should be more cautious. I was followed and harassed sometimes while walking around Dubai.
Q: How easy is it to send postcards?
A: It is easy to find postcards at tourist shops. There are plenty of post offices in the bigger cities. See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.
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