How to organize your trip to Dubai ? That’s a good question!
Dubai is the dream destination par excellence, the place you must go to at least once in your life! But (you) better not improvise a stay in the city of excess! Indeed, everything is so luxurious and there are so many things to see and do thatyou should really prepare your trip (quite a long time) in advance.
To help you organize your stay, I have prepared a small guide. It will be very useful and will allow you to better manage your vacation budget.
For example, I will tell you about the formalities to follow, the accommodations to choose or the attractions not to be missed once you are there. I will even give you tips and advice on when to leave or how to make your various reservations (plane, hotel, activities...).
In short, you have here all the information you will need before leaving for the sunny United Arab Emirates... 😊
As a U.S. citizen (or if you are an EU citizen), you must have a valid biometric passport for travel to Dubai. This means that your passport must be valid for at least six months after your date of entry into the United Arab Emirates.
If you have an american passport, you will need a visa for Dubai. Upon arrival, your passport will be stamped with an authorization to stay. This stamp will be valid for 1 month, you will therefore need to organize your trip to Dubai in order to fulfill the requirements to get the visa.
If you are planning to stay longer than 1 month, you will have to apply for a new tourist visa for an additionnal 30 days or twice this amount: different types of visas will be offered to you. But first you will have to find a sponsor that will take the procedures for you, such as a travel agency, an airline, a hotel or even a resident of Dubai. As a US citizen, you can find more details and information about the conditions of travel and planning your trip in Dubai here or go directly on the website of the UAE 😉.
If you decide to apply to a specialized agency for a visa, know that the procedures will be done online and you will obtain an electronic visa (E-visa)
If you have a European passport however, you won't need a visa at all as long as your stay doesn't exceed 3 months, and will therefore not need to worry about visa requirements. As for stays of more than 90 (or 30) days, I explain the procedures to follow in my article on visas 😊.
Also note that you do not need any special vaccinations to go to Dubai! However, make sure that your vaccinations are up to date. And if you can, get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B as well as typhoid. But don't worry about hygiene: it is very good in Dubai.
Beware! Dubai has been heavily exposed to the coronavirus, and health restrictions for travel to the emirate are strict.
All travelers to the UAE must present a negative PCR test at the airport of departure. The test must be performed no later than 72 hours prior to departure.
But that's not all: as announced on June 19, 2021 and implemented on June 23, 2021, travelers from certain countries will be required to have a negative PCR test, performed within 48 hours prior to departure.
Travelers from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Congo, Ethiopia, India, Liberia, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Vietnam, or Zambia will be required to have additional testing.
In addition, people (residents and tourists) arriving in Dubai from the following countries will be required to undergo additional COVID-19 PCR testing upon arrival at Dubai airports: Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia.
COVID-19 negative certificates should be printed in English or Arabic ; PCR certificates in other languages are acceptable if they can be validated by the laboratory of origin (date and time of test should be detailed). The printed certificate must include a valid QR code. Handwritten, SMS or digital certificates will not be accepted.
You may be required to re-test upon arrival at Dubai airports if you are coming from certain countries or if you have symptoms of COVID-19. All travelers will be required to meet the health requirements of their country of origin prior to travel. Children under the age of 12 and passengers with severe or moderate disabilities are exempt from PCR testing.
Before you leave, make sure you have international health insurance that will cover you abroad should you contract COVID-19. If you are traveling with Emirates or FlyDubai and purchased your ticket after December 1, 2020, you will automatically have additional comprehensive insurance provided by AIG Travel.
All in all, better play it safe: before you fly, be sure to check with your airline for specific details about your destination country!
PLANNING A TRIP TO DUBAI: WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR?
Dubai is a sunny destination all year round. However, there are two seasons:
- a hot season from May to September with temperatures up to 113 °F (or 45°C) - there can even be sandstorms!
- a milder season which goes from November to April with milder temperatures between 77°F and 95 °F (25°C - 35°C) on average, and around 62,6 °F at night (17°C).
The second season would be the best to visit the emirate without suffering from the intense heat and high humidity (you will be able to really enjoy outdoor activities). If you don't know when to go to Dubai and you have flexibility in choosing your vacation dates, I recommend the milder season.
On the other hand, you should know that the warm season is the low tourist season. There are fewer tourists, flight prices are more affordable (count on average 564 dollars/person in summer and about 902 dollars in winter) and so are the prices of different activities. As such, there may be a financial advantage to leaving during the warm season, depending on your budget.
And if you choose this option, don't worry so much about the heat: everything is air conditioned! But once in the streets and to avoid dehydration, remember to drink plenty of water. And to avoid sunburn, don't forget to take sun cream and after-sun lotion with you! You should also prefer loose and light clothing, which will be much more comfortable to wear.
ORGANIZING YOUR TRIP TO DUBAI: WHEN TO BOOK A FLIGHT?
The first thing to do to organize your trip to Dubai is to start searching the prices and the best airlines to come to Dubai.
If you prepare your trip eary enough (3 to 4 months before departure), you will be able to find rather affordable flights. For this, don't hesitate to use flight comparison services such as Expedia, Last Minute...
Another good plan: Think about all-inclusive stays, i.e.: "stay on site + airfare". You could find very competitive offers that might satisfy you.
It is also important to know beforehand which events you want to see - or avoid. The Ramadan period, for example, can be a hindrance for some activities, as Dubai is temporarily slow. In fact, eating and drinking in public before sunset is prohibited during this time!
So be sure to book a trip outside of this month - unless you want to experience the local lifestyle during this time of year! With any air travel,come potential problems due to travel risks. However, these risks can be minimized.
For example, to compensate for a possible incident (flight delay, lost or stolen luggage...), or an accident on site or during your transfer to Dubai, think about taking out a travel insurance. Don't hesitate to take one out, as it will cover you for all emergencies, even medical ones (medical care in Dubai can be very expensive!) and will allow you to have a carefree stay.
The flight between the USA and the emirate of Dubai is rather long. From New-York, count on a direct flight time of between 12h30 and 15h25. Major airlines such as Emirates Airlines will provide you with a good level of comfort that will make this long flight as bearable as possible.
WHAT TYPE OF ACCOMMODATION TO CHOOSE?
Booking accommodation in Dubai will certainly be the biggest drain on your travel budget! Fortunately, there is no shortage of choice, as the emirate is full of hotels. Choose according to your budget, but also according to the activities you plan to do there.
I give some advice on this in my article on where to sleep in Dubai, but first try to find a room in an area away from Downtown Dubai, because this is where the room rates are the highest. This is where you will find some of the best and most luxurious hotels in the world; in short, it's where the 5-star hotels are!
In the city center, you can expect to pay an average of $225-450 for a room in a high-end hotel, and $170-280 for a mid-range hotel. Unfortunately, these are the rates per night...
If you can afford it, you can stay at the famous Burj Al Arab (which a British journalist described as "so luxurious it should be seven stars" in his article about the hotel) or at the Sheraton Dubaï Mall of the Emirates. This hotel is very convenient, because it offers its guests a direct passage to the mall. Planning your trip to Dubai is important and so is the location of your hotel!
Alternatively, you can head to Palm Island or Jumeirah Beach, a residential area filled with luxury hotels. Or you may find your perfect match in the Marina, Dubai's newest modern district!
In the emirate, there are of course also hotels of the “Holiday Inn.” or “Ibis” chain that offer good services and nice comfortable rooms.
If you have a smaller budget, you may prefer to stay in areas away from the center, such as the old districts of Bur Dubai and Deira. They are rich in cultural and architectural activities and you will still be close to the subway. Most importantly, you'll be able to find rooms at much more reasonable prices (around $80, $112 or $170).
Watch out for every promotion on the net and also think about looking up apartment-hotels, which are much cheaper and can be a better solution for long stays and family trips!
HOW TO GET AROUND IN DUBAI?
Dubai is a huge city, but it is easy to get around.
AIRPORT - ACCOMMODATION TRANSFERS
You will most surely land at Dubai International Airport. Once you leave the terminal, you can take a cab, bus or subway to your accommodation.
Please note that you can book your transportation before you even leave for Dubai.
GETTING AROUND IN DUBAI
Planning your transportation once you are in Dubai is also an important part of organizing your trip!
If you have a small budget, take the Dubai Metro: it is the most practical way to get around the city. The network is safe (although it is an aerial subway) and will allow you to access the biggest attractions of the city such as the Burj Khalifa or the Dubai Mall (all while enjoying the air conditioning).
Be sure to sit in the car that corresponds to the class indicated on your ticket: first class (Gold) or second class (Regular).To get to the Marina, take the streetcar. The same goes for the Jumeirah district. For sites not served by the subway, take a cab or bus.
HOW MUCH DOES public transportation cost?
For public transports (bus and subway), buy a NOL card. You can recharge it according to your needs or the duration of your stay.
Type of card
2 AED ($0.54)
You recharge it according to your travels (up to 10 trips)
25 AED ($6.81)
It includes 19 AED of travel + possible recharge depending on your travels
Ideal for a one week stay
50 AED ($13.61)
Gives you access to first class
Perfect for Dubai residents
Fares range from AED 3 (or UAE dirham) for a single trip (i.e. within a single travel zone), to AED 7.50 for trips within all zones.
Remember to validate your card at the beginning and end of your trip. Also, please note that there are cars reserved for women and children.
For your cab trips, payment is according to the meter, so beware of traffic jams during rush hour, which will increase the price.
Note again that there are cabs reserved for women (Pink Taxis).
To cross the Bur Dubai/Deira, take the water cabs. The trip costs 1 AED, which makes them cheaper than any other means of transportation.
Finally, you can also rent a car in Dubai (the roads are wide and very well developed). There are rental agencies all over the city. However, to get the best rates, I advise you to make a reservation online before you leave, with agencies such as Hertz, Europcar or Avis. You will be able to pick up your car as soon as you’re down the plane.
SHOULD YOU BOOK YOUR ACTIVITIES IN DUBAI IN ADVANCE?
Yes, booking your activities in Dubai well in advance will allow you to leave with peace of mind and make the most of your time by avoiding the long lines at attractions. Excursions and attractions are often 20-30% more expensive at the ticket booth. Online prices are much more attractive!
WHAT ARE THE MUST-DO ACTIVITIES?
In Dubai, there are plenty of activities to do and a ton of great places to see. So make a list before you leave: it will allow you to plan your stay in detail and save a lot of time!
Here are the activities that I recommend you to do in priority:
- Visit the Burj Khalifa, which is still (for now) the tallest building in the world (at 828 meters), and is the symbol of Dubai. You can enjoy a spectacular view from the top of its observation platform, and admire the fountains on the artificial lake located at the foot of the tower.
- Dine at the Burj Al Arab, a luxury hotel that has been described as "seven star".
- Have fun at one of the city's many water parks, including the famous and largest water park in Dubai, the Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark. You can also meet the Dolphin Bay and observe the multitude of fish species at The Lost Chambers.
- Do a variety of water sports on the Persian Gulf: jet skiing in Dubaï, paddle boarding, diving....
- Take a dhow cruise (a traditional Arabian sailboat) on the Dubai Creek.
- Go on a desert safari with a choice of camel, quad or 4x4 ride; or enjoy a dinner and sleep under the stars.
- Fly over the desert in a hot air balloon, or overDubai in a helicopter, and enjoy the sunset.
- Shop in the big malls, including the Dubai Mall, and even skiing in Dubai yes, it's possible! - at one of the malls, the Mall of the Emirates.
- Stock up on souvenirs in the souks of the medinas, in the old districts.
ORGANIZING YOUR TRIP TO DUBAI: TOURIST PASSES
To save even more on the price of attractions in Dubai, opt for a dubai pass. Buy it preferably online and choose the one that best suits what you want to visit there.
There are two passes that are very interesting: the "Go Dubai Explorer Pass" and the "Go Dubai All Inclusive". Here is some information that will help you choose one of them.
- The “Dubai Explorer Pass”
This pass will allow you to choose between 3, 4, 5 or 7 activities that you will be able to do within 60 days.
Go Dubai Explorer Pass
Children (from 3 to 12 yrs)
- The “Go Dubai All Inclusive”
This pass gives you access to more than 35 unlimited activities, for a period of 2 to 7 days.
Go Dubai All Inclusive
Children (from 3 to 12 yrs)
If you want to try a maximum of parks and attractions in Dubai, you should obviously choose the second pass: All Inclusive!
You will see that if you add up the unit price of each activity and compare the result to the global price of the pass, the saving will be very important. It will be the same for the first pass, but the difference is much more obvious with the second pass. And if you feel like doing an activity again, you won't have any problem (except for some attractions, but they will be indicated in the booklet) 🙂
A little extra tip: the days of use do not have to be consecutive, but they do have to be used within 14 days of the first pass activation.
GOOD TO KNOW
- The local currency in the United Arab Emirates is the Dirham (AED). You can exchange your money at your bank in the USA or at a money exchange office once you arrive in Dubai. You will find ATMs (called "ATM machines") everywhere in the city.
- You can of course use your credit card but be careful with the fees related to foreign payments! Go and see your banker, he will offer solutions for your stay abroad. Don't forget this step when you organize your trip to Dubai!
- For cash purchases, prefer bills.
- Many free hotspots in Dubai will allow you to connect to the internet and contact your family.