Monday, 21 July 2014

A Guide to... Dubai

I have visited Dubai a couple of times to visit a friend, and so when another friend of mine asked for a couple of recommendations for an upcoming trip I quickly jotted down the below. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and is geared towards the type of thing I think her and her boyfriend would enjoy, but for a basic overview I think it suits!

* Dubai is HOT
* Dubai is EXPENSIVE 
* Dubai is CONSERVATIVE [cover your shoulders and don't smooch in public though and you will be fine]

Dubai working weeks are Sunday - Thursday, and a mega tradition in Dubai is the Friday Brunch. This is something you HAVE to do whilst you're there - even if it's just for the experience of seeing all that gluttony on display. It is pricey, but the concept is all you can eat and drink for the afternoon, and the ranges of food on offer are so ridiculous even the fussiest of eaters will be able to find something to suit.
Last time I was there we went to the Bubbalicious brunch at the Westin hotel - this costs 390 AED for the alcohol-free brunch, and 490 / 650 AED for the brunch with free-flowing sparkling or bubbly respectively.
Pretty much every hotel in Dubai will have their own version of brunch so have a look at what your hotel is doing as you may get a discount as a hotel guest.
I repeat - this is a must.

The Dubai Museum is situated in the old-town, which is also worth a wander around. The museum is pretty basic but is worth a visit, especially for all the models of camels and the video at the end that seems to predict dinosaurs will be in Dubai soon. Keep an eye out in this area for places serving more traditional food - there are a couple of gems round here which will have delicious food for a very good price. In this area you can also get a boat across the river to various markets (spice, gold, etc), and also make sure you stop off for a mint-lemonade at one of the cafes with tables on the river-bank. You can get a lovely view of the river here, especially in the evening (also it's not so hot to sit in the sun then!)

The Dubai Mall is worth a visit, if only just for the giant aquarium in the middle of it. The mall is huge, and contains every type of shop right from the budget end to designer. The fountain show is also worth a watch (it's worth finding out beforehand what times this is going to be), and maybe try and time lunch during this as there are a few (not too pricey) restaurants from which you can see the fountains. You can also get a really good view of the Burj Khalifa from here. I think we might have eaten in a place called Madeleine when I was last there, but if you can't see the fountains from their outside area then that is incorrect!

All of the hotels have their own restaurants and bars (at least three in most hotels) which will be variably priced and cuisined. If you fancy a view then the bars at the Burj Khalifa and Burj al Arab may be worth a visit - both of the hotels have viewing platforms which you have to pay to get up to, so you may as well visit the bar instead!

Eating out in Dubai can be expensive. There are always a range of cheaper options but these are likely to be chains so keep that in mind. Last time I was there we ate at Fogueira in the Ramada Plaza hotel, which is a brazilian-style restaurant with, basically, an unlimited supply of meat. They also have a decent salad section so worth a look. A lot of the nice restaurants in Dubai like to look quite fancy - whether they are part of a hotel or an independent - so it's best to work out your budget beforehand and then take it from there.

Again, drinking is going to be pricey so be sensible with the evenings out you plan. Some places that are quite nice and perhaps worth the money are Buddha Bar (great for business-men spotting), The Palm at the One and Only, and Maya at The Royal Meridian.

Most hotels will have their own bar(s) and restaurant(s) so check out what these have to offer - and, of course, the concierge will be able to provide you with restaurant recommendations to suit your tastes.

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