If you’re stopping over in Dubai for a couple of days, David Whitley has some advice that will help prepare you for what you’re about to encounter
1. Although about as liberal as you’ll get within the Arabian Peninsula, Dubai is still a Muslim country. You don’t need to cover up head to foot, but dressing respectfully is a good idea. Strolling around the mall in hotpants or going shirtless anywhere other than the beach/ hotel pool is not a clever plan.
2. If you get pork cravings then, contrary to popular belief, you can find some tasty dead pig in Dubai. The secret is generally to head to the Irish pubs – especially the ones that are part of apartment blocks rather than hotels.
3. Similarly, if you like a drink or two, then alcohol is not unobtainable. Just don’t expect to be able to walk into an off-licence and snap some up. All bars are attached to accommodation, and prices are enough to make you go teetotal. However, you can bring four litres of wine and spirits through duty free – and that’s a worthwhile investment for anyone who fancies a couple of nightcaps in the room before going to bed.
4. Accommodation is generally on the pricy side (well, non-brothel accommodation anyway). Good luck paying less than £60 a night – particularly in the peak season between November and March. There are, however, lots of apartment hotels which offer nothing fancy, but reasonably good value. Most are in the Bur Dubai area.
5. Food is only expensive if you eat in upmarket hotel restaurants. Venture into slightly shabby-looking standalone Lebanese, Yemeni, Somali, Indian and Pakistani joints, and chances are you’ll feast for very little wallet damage.
6. Taxis are cheap too, but beware that Dubai is very spread out. It’s essentially a long strip that follows the coast. The 23 mile journey from Dubai International Airport to the skyscraper-drenched Dubai Marina will take around 40 minutes providing there’s no traffic, costing £12 to £14. Note the “providing there’s no traffic part”. There’s usually traffic, and sometimes it’s dreadful.
7. The Metro is dirt cheap, however, and links a lot of key spots in Dubai (including the airport). Trains arrive frequently, and it’s often quicker to take the Metro than a cab. Picking somewhere to stay with easy access to a Metro station can greatly improve your experience in Dubai.
8. Note that I said “easy access to a Metro station” rather than “close to a Metro station”. Often in Dubai you’ll be able to see something but not get to it due to multi-lane roads separating you from your goal. It’s not unknown to have to get in a cab to cross the road. One of the main problems with the Metro is getting to and from it – be prepared to use the Metro for most of the journey and a taxi for the last stretch.
9. Part of the reason why Dubai is so pedestrian unfriendly is that it gets so debilitatingly hot during the summer months – we’re talking mid 40s in Celsius at least. No-one walks then. And if you’re expecting dry heat, then think again – the seaside location makes it humid. Should you want dry rather than sticky heat, head into the deserts like the coastal Bedouins have done for years.
10. If you decide to hire a car, expect to do lots of U-turns to get where you need to be and some utterly horrendous driving from the locals. It’s, in short, stressful as hell – but at least the petrol is cheap.