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Travelzoo Experience: Dubai on a Grand Scale

One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.

I recently had the opportunity to spend a month in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Set along the Persian Gulf, the global business hub has a remarkably international population -- fewer than 20% of the residents are UAE nationals.

Dubai is renowned for its larger-than-life attractions, which live up to the hype. Take the elevator to the viewing deck of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa, to see skyscrapers dwarfed below you. If you find yourself short on gold, you can purchase a bar from the vending machine at the top. Drive along the outer edge of the manmade Palm Jumeirah islands for distant skyline views, or cool off on the Mall of the Emirates’ indoor ski slopes (bring gloves and a hat, since they’re not part of the provided winter gear).

For a more casual day, I recommend visiting the Dubai Marina and neighboring Jumeirah Beach Walk, where you can browse sidewalk stands and dine alfresco along the waterway, with easy access to one of the few public beaches. Malls here are main draws that go well beyond shopping and are more like entertainment complexes – you’ll find aquariums, ice skating, cinemas and dozens of dining options ranging from regional cuisine to Texas Roadhouse. Alcohol is only served at hotel restaurants, but most other restaurants have a menu of “mocktails.” My favorite was a goji berry, mango and mint concoction at Ping Pong, a dim sum restaurant in the Dubai Mall with outdoor seating featuring views of the spectacular Dubai Fountain show.

General tips when visiting Dubai:

  • English is prevalent throughout the city, so there’s no need to worry about a language barrier.
  • The metro is affordable and remarkably clean, but since there are only two lines, many tourist destinations still require a lot of walking from the stop. Watch for signs above the doors to make sure you’re not getting on the wrong car -- generally the first car is for riders with gold cards (which cost extra) and the second car is women only.
  • Dress modestly while exploring the city. A good rule is to keep shorts and skirts below the knee and shoulders covered. Some areas have more liberal standards, such as on hotel grounds and in Dubai Marina. On the beaches, normal swimwear is acceptable.
  • Dubai has no street addresses, so when taking a cab, it’s helpful to know a major landmark near where you want to go.

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Tips by

Deal Expert, New York
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
See more Tips from
Kelsey Rexroat