There are many top ten lists for Dubai, most of them focused on spending a quite a lot of money! It is a fact anyone can spend a fortune and have a good time, the trick is how do you have a good time when you are on a budget (and possibly short of time)? And still be happy after the trip when looking at the wallet?
My take on traveling and having fun is tied with two things i.e. how much of the culture of the place you can experience in the process learn from it and of course the food. I thoroughly believe that food and culture are intertwined. The kind of food people have most definitely explains much about their traditions and cultures.
Okay so this is my list of top ten things I would do in Dubai, if I came here for the first time or the second or third time. The locations I’ve picked are like barometers that keep reflecting Dubai’s cultural and economic status. I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible with the costs involved and at the time of writing this article and have done a reality check, this is also something that really depends on what you are made of whether you are as stingy as scrooge? or a spendthrift like a?
1. Visit Burj Khalifa 134th floor viewing gallery - ( 100 AED to 400 AED)
This is something that you can do for as little as 100 AED or pay as much as 400 AED per person, if you booked this tour before hand it costs only 100 AED and it can be done online at On The Top @ Burj Khalifa. If you try to get an immediate entry ticket it costs 400 AED. Burj Khalifa is an engineering marvel and has become an icon of Dubai, I can still remember the 20 days that I used to wake up to see it outside of my window, that is the first twenty days of my life in Dubai where I stayed in a hotel apartment which was just across Sheik Zayed Road facing Business Bay. At that time it was such a complicated and massive construction site one cannot make out the end or the beginning of anything. When it was finally completed in 2009 everyone was awestruck not only because of it’s sheer height that dwarfs all buildings surrounding it, but because of the attention to detail the developers had given to it.
Suppose you are not satisfied with just going to the top and you have the money to spare there is a restaurant at the 122nd floor named Atmosphere, supposedly it is the worlds highest restaurant (also in terms of cost it is one the highest) and minimum you need to spare 130 USD per head.
In addition to this there is the Armani Hotel’s- Oasis Bar, I’ve been here a couple of times and frankly in my opinion for the money and the hype it is really a dull place.. But has a stunning view of the Dubai fountain from sixth level which is my next item on the list.
2. Visit Dubai fountain (Doesn’t cost a thing, only the cost of getting there)
This 218 million dollar man made extravagance is definitely one mesmerizing experience. The fountain spans 30 acres in the Burj Khalifa Lake, designed by WET designs of US (the same people who built the Belaggio Fountain in Las Vegas) . It is an ingenious idea in the sense of aesthetics that it adds to the location as well as economics. Dubai fountain is certainly a crowd puller, every single show is filled with people and if you assume that each person visiting the fountain spends on average 20 dollars (the amount it will cost for a simple meal here) the fountain is churning out at least 20,000 USD every 20 minutes to 40 minutes.. (And please don’t hold me responsible for that number!!)
3. Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort ( Cost 15 AED)
If you are a big history buff then Dubai Museum has very little to offer, of course it is incomparable to the big museums such as Louvre, but its a good starting point for the rest of the items on my list. Dubai museum is located in the heart of Bur Dubai, and closer to the creek, this is part of the reason why you would want to choose to start here because it gives you the freedom of choice to do multiple things either eat to your hearts fantasy, shop at the old cloths souk (Arabic for market) or just enjoy the hussle and bussle of real Dubai.
4. Walk along the Creek visit the creek side restaurants, Al Bastakia, Al Maktoum house
Once you are done at the museaum walk along the creek towards the Al Shindagha historic area through Bastakia the original town center of Dubai, now known for its restored windtowers. Some of which are in buildings with cafes and art galleries including the Basta Art Café. The area was originally built by Persian merchants in late 1800’s and they named it after the town of Bastak in Iran (this where the persian merchants were from); it is a 20 to 30 minute walk, but guranteed you will not feel it (unless you chose to do it in the peak of summer), towards the later end of the walk there are couple of nice restaurants (the food here is really delicious and well priced), personally I’ve tried the Al Bandar restaurant many times and the food is exotic except the fact they do not make fresh Qubus (Arabic Bread).
5. Dhow cruise at the Dubai Creek or at Dubai Marina - Costs 75 AED to 350 AED (Little bit of haggling would help)
You have the choice of going on a Dhow cruise either from Dubai creek at Bur Dubai or from Dubai Marina the later is more expensive due to the lack of choices. There are many Dhow’s operating from Dubai creek the cost per person varies from 75 AED to as much as 350 AED, all of them provide dinner and shisha!!
6. Visit to the Old Gold Souk, Naif Souk and spice souk (Cost – Nothing to millions if you wish!)
This is a must do if you want to experience the old Dubai and the way life was before the real estate bubble and the bubble burst. All of them are located in the Deira district and you can walk from one to the other, the best sequence would be start at the Naif cloths souk and move to gold souk and finish off at the spice souk.
7. The Big bus tour Costs from 60 USD to 150 USD
This is a good way to get maximum city coverage in minimum time, the big bus tour is operated by an independent organization and provide a tour bus service with a proper time schedule where you could hop on or hop off at specific destinations. There are 24 and 48 hour tickets available and tour routes provide a personal recorded commentary available in multiple languages.
8. Visit to the malls (Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and City Center Malls, Dubai Outlet Mall) or Copy Cat center of the city the back alleys of Karama.
Dubai is nothing if it is not for the malls!! that is really not an overstatement. They come in various sizes from the mega sized worlds largest Dubai mall (where you could buy a half a million dollar watch) to the wallet friendly Dubai Outlet mall down the Al-Ain road.
If you are really short on budget and looking for gifts for plethora of your friends back home forget the mall and head to Karama the place is located between the fish market and the Lu Lu gardens you will find hundreds of shops selling anything you could imagine (including edible Lingerie!!) , but be careful of buying stuff that you had not already assessed the price because the guys could try to sell you something that costs 10 AED at 100 AED if you don’t haggle!!
9. Desert Safari Costs 150 AED to 300 AED
There are many tour operators who arrange desert excursions with BBQ sessions and dune bashing, sand surfing etc… Many desert safari camps provide you quad bike renting services and it is worth trying (provided you know how to handle a bike!! the last thing you want is to end up in a hospital bed during your holiday)
10. Eat at the restaurants in Dubai Marina..
A walk along the beautiful Dubai Marina walk and trying some of the restaurants would be a great way to end your trip, Dubai marina is one of the prime residential locations in Dubai and has a buzzing community of Yacht enthusiasts and sea goers..
This particular article would be a work in progress and I intend to add more details as and when I have time, I hope you enjoyed it and love to hear what you think about it.