Glitz, glam, and a whole lot of luxury. If this is this first thing you think of when Dubai comes to mind, you wouldn’t be wrong. It’s big and flashy: home to the tallest buildings, the largest malls, and the most extravagant experiences. However, there are some differences to the western world that are worth mentioning. Here are six tips for first-time travelers to get the most out of their time in Dubai.
1. Mind your manners
Dubai’s futuristic vibe and glossy, Western veneer makes it easy to forget that you’re on an Arabian peninsula. However, the United Arab Emirates’ cultural norms are different from the West. What might seem like a regular outfit for a night out or one drink too many could land you in a potentially uncomfortable situation. Sure, there are bars that serve alcohol and western dress abounds, but it’s never a bad idea to err on the side of caution.
2. Hop in a cab (or bus)
Dubai has two seasons: hot, and hotter. For travelers used to taking on cities by foot, we’ve got news for you: Dubai is not made for walking. It’s made for driving and riding. Or, if you’re feeling opulent, take to the skies in a helicopter.
3. Get your weekend started right
On Friday. That’s right—the weekend begins on Friday morning in Dubai, and it starts with brunch. If you hail from the West, you’re most likely accustomed to weekends that span from Saturday to Sunday. Dubai does things differently. Emiratis work from Sunday to Thursday and enjoy their weekend on Friday and Saturday.
4. Visit the desert
It takes no time at all (45 minutes, max) to go from the glittering towers of Dubai to endless desert dunes. So go ahead: leave the city behind and head into the starkly beautiful Arabian Desert. Take to the skies in a hot air balloon and search for emerald green oases, gazelles, and wandering camels. If you’d rather stay on the ground, consider a sundown safari and dune drive. No matter what you choose, the desert doesn’t disappoint.
5. Explore massive malls
Emiratis take their shopping seriously. We’re pretty sure even “shop til you drop” enthusiasts will be a bit overwhelmed. Why? These malls are enormous, and they have everything. Designer clothes? Check. Jewelry? Check. Food, souvenirs, entertainment, ATMs for withdrawing physical bars of solid gold? Check. Even if shopping isn’t your thing, you have to see these malls to believe their splendor and size.
6. Head to the beach (but only in the winter)
The beaches of Dubai are beautiful. And hot. Very, very hot. Temperatures from June to August can reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius), so it’s best to save your beach visit until the winter. If you’re visiting Dubai between November and March, you’re in luck. This is when it cools down enough to make beach lounging enjoyable. Between lounging, jet skiing, and soaring above the Arabian Gulf on a parasail, there’s no end to amazing things to do.