No trip to the Middle East can be complete without visiting the jewel of the Emirates – Dubai. You hate it or love it but you cannot just ignore it. Its one of those in your face cities that you cannot comprehend unless you have seen it with your own eyes. And with Dubai comes its twin sister Abu Dhabi. Albeit if I were to compare the two I have found a breathing soul inside Abu Dhabi while Dubai seemed more to be the Amrish Puri of Bollywood movies. Having said that, I enjoyed by Dubai sojourn much more than I had thought I would and will definitely love to transit again for a couple of days if not longer. This trip though was more to catch up with my sister who at that time was in Dubai and soak in bits of the city in a leisurely fashion.
Duration of stay: 8 days
Visa: Rayna tours (Multiple entry short term tourist visa)
Key takeways: All the glam and glitz that your eyes can take and valuable lessons in visa rules governed by the airlines you fly.
If you are flying the Emirates then you can apply for your visa at the nearest VFS Global office with minimal documentation. You dont even have to apply for ‘Ok to Board’ before you fly. But if you are entering the UAE through any other airlines other than the Emirates it is advisable to go through a travel agent. I had applied for a multiple entry short term tourist visa and had gotten it done through the Dubai based Rayna travels. I have found their services for visa as well as booking other activities in Dubai to be the most efficient.
Things to do in Dubai
While in the UAE, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to everything that money can buy. You can stare down the tallest building on Earth, shopping at the largest mall in the world, ride the fastest roller coaster on this planet and eat and drink at the finest anywhere.
- Burj Khalifa – At the Top: Elevate yourself to the top (124th floor) of the Burj Khalifa, presently the tallest building in the world. Although the viewing is open for most part of the day and evening, I would suggest the sunrise or the sunset view, more preferably the sunrise view. On a clear day, you can see the sun ise above the horizon and it is just spectacular.
- Dubai Miracle Gardens: If you are visiting Dubai during between late November in April, you will have the opportunity to visit the Miracle Gardens, which holds the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest vertical garden in the world. This year (2016) it entered the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest flower arrangement (the A380). The quickest and most economical way to reach the DMG is to take a metro to the Mall Of Emirates. Take the stairs down to the road opposite the mall where you will find a direct bus to the DMG. Buses leave every 20 mins from each side and these are non stop services. You can use your metro card at these buses. Each way ticket costs AED 5 while the entry to the gardens will set you back by another AED 40.
- Atlantis the Palm: Take the monorail to The Atlantis and spend couple of hours to an entire day based on what you want to do. Visit the Lost Chambers, go to the Dolphin Bay and indulge in one of the best water parks in the world The Aquaventure. And if food beckons then get served at the finest restaurants run by some of the most celebrated chefs of modern times- the eponymous Nobu restaurant and The Bread Street by Gordon Ramsay being just a couple of them. While booking tickets to Atlantis ensure that you have checked their website thoroughly as there are discounts on advance booking.
- Jumeirah Beach: Spend an afternoon at the Jumeirah sitting at the beachside and the many cafes and restaurants that dot the shoreline. Watch the sunset at downtown Dubai and catch a leisurely dinner
- The Desert Safari: There are multiple desert camps which offer an evening full of Arabic entertainment, culinary delights and ofcourse, the most thrilling of them all, the dunebashing. Most of the tour agencies provide a hotel pick up to the desert site. Once you hop off, you shall be directed to a Range Rover for the dunebashing experience. See if you can get lucky by grabbing the seat by the driver. The middle seats are not all too bad, but try to avoid the back seats as you might bump your head as the vehicle traverses atop the dunes. Once you reach the camp there are a number of activities(additional charges) such as a camel ride, sandboarding etc for your amusement.
- The Dhow cruise @ Marina: Enjoy a breathtaking view of the Marina while dining at a Dhow cruise. Choose from a variety of travel agencies available online who provide good deals on availing the Desert Safari + Dhow Cruise packages. Insist on a roof top table while making the booking. You can book the cruise as well as the Desert Safari through Rayna travels
- The Dubai Fountain: Just outside the Dubai Mall is the view of the mighty and tall Burj Khalifa, and courting it the beguiling beauty of the Dubai fountains.
Things to do in Abu Dhabi
Before I begin I must acknowledge that the credit to building this itinerary belongs to my younger sibling Antarlina Mukherjee.
Dubai to Abu Dhabi on road is about 1.5 – 2 hrs. You could take the coach / bus to Abu Dhabi and back or take a shared taxi. If you are in a mood to splurge you can ofcourse take the private taxi (you would be running up a bill of about AED 250 ). Please note that the taxi fares in Abu Dhabi are considerably less compared to what Dubai charges.
If you are planning on a day trip to Abu Dhabi, I suggest the below itinerary.
Leave Dubai by 11am and take a shared cab from Al Ghubaiba bus station.
Upon reaching Abu Dhabi bus station, take a cab to the Emirates Palace. Spend time looking around and inside the palace, which is also a hotel. You could choose to dine here as well.
With your fill of royal luxury at the Palace, take a cab to the Marina Mall. You can have a late lunch at any of the restaurants there, we had chosen La Brioche and wasn’t let down by our choice. The food was excellent and the complimentary WiFi was obviously an added advantage.
Right opposite the mall across the sea is the UAE Heritage Village. It is walkable on a winter morning but we had taken a cab (AED 6) as we were not entirely sure of its location. The village has on display artifacts of the traditional Arab way of life such as campfire with coffee pots, a goats’ hair tent, and a falaj irrigation system. Apart from the museum and the spice shop, there is a restaurant at the waterfront. The waterfront itself provides for great photo op.
You can head off to the World Trade Centre, where you will find The Souk and the WTC Mall. I would suggest you buy your souvenirs of UAE from The Souk. The prices here are much cheaper than anywhere in Dubai and you will get a good collection of souvenirs too. Idle along in the adjoining mall and may be grab an afternoon beverage while you are here. Just when you have about an hour for sunset, take a cab for the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
It will take about 30 mins to reach the mosque and another 10 mins to enter the mosque after the usual frisking. Make sure that you are essentially covered and have a head scarf with you. Also ensure that your clothes are not body hugging. The dress code applies equally to men and women with an exception that men are not required to keep their head covered. The traditional abaya and shaya are also available at the service desks if you wish yo borrow them. Make sure you do not have eatables in your bag and for all the ladies out there, vanity mirrors are also not allowed unless it comes attached to your powder foundation. Enjoy the beauty of the mosque in the retreating daylight and then as the sun sets, let the full glory of the mosque stun you. The beauty is such that it will turn the most ordinary of you into a class photographer. Spend as long as you want at the mosque and head off to the Abu Dhabi bus station from where you will get your ride back (shared cab or bus) to Dubai.
Once at the bus station, if you want to have a quick dose of caffeine, stop by at the Al Wahda mall which is just across the bus station. The shared taxi will drop you at most of the metro stations with the last one at Al Jafiliya. The shared cab fare from Dubai to Abu Dhabi is AED 50 per person whilst the trip back from Abu Dhabi to Dubai is AED 25 per person.
Shopping and Eating in Dubai
Coming up soon…….