How was your first international travel experience
7 days in the “city of superlatives”: My unforgettable trip to Dubai
Our colleague Laura is so excited about her vacation in Dubai last year that she brought you a travelogue right away. Now read what she has experienced in just one week and what tips she has ready for you.
Table of Contents:
A week in Dubai - just enough time to explore the mega city!
Arriving in Dubai: Barsha Heights
From Bavaria's state capital Munich, I took a Condor plane to the United Arab Emirates at 11 p.m. After about six hours of flight time, I landed at Dubai World Central International (DWC) airport in bright sunshine in the early morning.
From there we took the shuttle bus directly to the hotel, the Tryp by Whyndham Hotel in Barsha Heights. On the 40-minute drive I got a first impression of what to expect in Dubai in the next few days - and that should be quite a bit!
Entry requirements in Dubai: you need to know that now
As before at the airport, the reception at the hotel was very friendly and courteous.
Since I couldn't check in straight away, I decided to explore the local area after breakfast. Barsha Heights is a small, bustling area, formerly known as Tecom, which is home to hotels as well as residential and commercial buildings.
Culinary tip for Barsha Heights
In Barsha Heights I came across the small Lebanese restaurant “Jeita Lebanese Food”, which caught my attention due to the brightly colored design of the outdoor area. It reminded me of a typical kebab shop in Germany and was very well attended.
On artificial turf, white garden furniture and surrounded by colorful lights, I ate there cheaply and really very well. This one visit did not stay that way for the next few days.
Getting around in Dubai
During my tour I also discovered the “Dubai Internet City” metro station, which turned out to be particularly convenient for the rest of the day: The Dubai metro is not only modern and clean, it also matches the transport systems in Europe in terms of comfort and reliability in nothing after.
I bought a so-called Nol Card Silver from the ticket machine for 25 AED (around 6 euros). With a starting credit of 19 AED, you can use all transport offers of the RTA (Road and Transport Authority) flexibly and top up the card with credit at any time.
Experiences for all the senses: sights in Dubai
Dubai has so many experiences to offer that I would like to give you a few tips at this point:
Dubai Marina: Culinary highlights in the sea of lights
My first exploration tour with the metro started with the “Red Line”, took me to “DAMAC Properties” and from there by tram to “Mina Al Seyahi”.
With the numerous skyscrapers lined up in a splendid row at the Dubai Marina, I didn't even know where to look first - a magnificent and at the same time surreal sight. So I decided to first aim for the water.
What a panorama!
Then on the way I came across the Barasti Beach Club - a location that immediately cast a spell on me. With a huge terrace, a fully equipped bar, numerous seating areas, a pool and a beautiful stretch of beach, the Barasti is a classic among the mega-city's beach clubs and one of the most popular hotspots in Dubai's nightlife.
One of my culinary tips for you is definitely the Barasti Beach Club.
I decided to have lunch in the sun with a fantastic sea view - and the yachts weren't bad either. Such a “little boat” would have something, I fantasized, before the culinary delights brought me back to reality: the food and drinks were a bit more expensive compared to Germany, but still very tasty.
With plenty of sun and chilled music that created a special holiday moment, the whole thing was definitely worth it. In this “fashion” I enjoyed a sundowner and was able to end my first day in Dubai in a fitting way.
Incidentally, in the evening the Dubai Marina exudes its very own flair. The surrounding skyscrapers wrap the area in a colorful sea of lights.
The Dubai Marina is also absolutely worth a visit at night.
On the promenade I came across Pier 7. There are extraordinary restaurants on seven floors, in which you are served various international cuisines at a high level.
A meal from bottom to top is possible in Pier 7.
On a later day of my vacation I decided on the “AsiaAsia” and was really enthusiastic about the sushi that I enjoyed on a terrace with a view of the marina. Although the food was comparatively expensive, it was definitely worth the price due to the good taste and the great ambience.
I also found a rooftop bar on the top floor of Pier 7, where I had a drink. Alcohol is not served in all restaurants and when it is, it is a very expensive pleasure - but you are not out and about in the “boom city” every day ...
My highlight: boat tour in the Dubai Marina
During my rounds through the Dubai Marina, I was approached again and again by numerous boat tour sellers. So I decided to go on a private tour with a motorboat. Here, too, I was able to negotiate the price down properly.
Equipped with a life jacket, I made myself comfortable on the front deck of the motorboat. I was even allowed to express music requests. So I could see Atlantis and also the Burj Al Arab from the water - because we drove to the outer edge of The Palm Jumeirah and back again.
You can relax and discover the most important sights during a boat tour.
Dubai Mall: high end shopping
Of course, in the super city, I didn't want to miss the chance to stroll through one of the largest malls in the world. The Dubai Mall with over 1,200 shops is open every day from 10 a.m. to midnight and is also fully air-conditioned.
On the way to the mall, I took the metro again and drove to the Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall station. Via the so-called “Metro Link Bridge”, a connecting bridge over 800 meters long with several “treadmills” in both directions, you can get directly into the mall without even having been outside.
Even if a shopping trip with the budget of an average consumer in the at least shops offers itself, it was a great experience to rummage through the many boutiques.
Of course, I didn't manage all of the shops, because in addition to fashion, electronics and the like, there is something interesting to discover on every corner. After about three hours, the many impressions actually exhausted me a bit.
That's why I went to one of the main attractions in the mall - the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. You shouldn't miss this imposing wall of water in bright blue and with numerous sea creatures swimming their lanes in the huge pool!
If you want, you still have the opportunity to take a walk through the underwater tunnel. The ticket price for the standard ticket is around 29 euros per person. I just stood in front of it and just enjoyed the sight and the tranquility that this unique aquarium exudes - despite the hustle and bustle in the mall.
The aquarium immediately cast a spell on me.
Dubai Fountain: water feature with goosebumps factor
Right next to the mall is the Burj Khalifa - currently the tallest building in the world, which is bursting with superlatives. For “the Burj” I had booked tickets for the driveway and a subsequent dinner at the Burj Club in the late afternoon - but more on that later.
The famous water features of the Dubai Fountain are located directly below the Burj Khalifa on Burj Lake. When you leave the mall on the seaside, you are almost directly in front of it. Every 30 minutes you can marvel at the water show, which is accompanied by well-known songs.
I was so captivated by the interplay of water and music that I decided without further ado to have a bite to eat at the Souk Al Bahar opposite, in order to pass the time until the ascent to the Burj Khalifa. Despite the great connections with the metro, the distances are quite long and I had already walked a few kilometers behind me. The restaurants have huge terraces from which one can enjoy an excellent view of the play of the fountains.
My personal highlight was the spectacle for the song “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston - absolute goosebumps!
Burj Khalifa: superlative of superlatives and emblem of the emirates
With my previously purchased online ticket for the 124th and 125th floors (including a subsequent meal in the Burj Club), I was granted direct entry without long queues.
First you walk through a kind of exhibition where you can learn everything about the history and construction of the Burj Khalifa. At 828 meters, the tallest free-standing building in the world, the tallest restaurant, the building with the most floors (160) and the fastest elevators in the world - these are just some of the records that this fascinating structure currently holds. For me personally it is always a miracle what mankind can create.
With the elevator, it took just a few seconds to reach a height of 442 meters. A top-class all-round panorama platform awaited me here. The view was really breathtaking and all the skyscrapers that seemed so huge to me so far seem really small from this perspective.
Must-do in Dubai: A ride to heaven in the Burj Khalifa!
Fortunately, the view was very clear, so that I also had a clear view of the Burj Al Arab, which of course I also wanted to visit. In general, you should take into account that it gets dark very early in Dubai, so I chose my driveway for 4:30 p.m. So I could even enjoy the sunset.
Dinner at the Burj Club
So after I had enough time to admire Dubai from a bird's eye view, I went to the Burj Club for dinner. We waited in a small group in a foyer. It was very tastefully decorated and I was really excited about the location that awaited me.
Directly on the facade of the Burj Khalifa was a wonderful terrace with cozy lighting, atmospheric music and a few tables. I was really amazed because I would have expected a far more touristy restaurant when visiting such a tourist attraction - Dubai simply knows how to surprise again and again! It wasn't too crowded, the waiters introduced themselves by name and the service was excellent.
Dinner over the roofs of Dubai.
I was able to choose from three dishes for the starter, main course and dessert - which I was particularly happy as a vegetarian. The food was very nicely presented and the taste was really of the finest quality. I enjoyed the play of lights on the facade of the Burj Khalifa up close, which made an all-round perfect evening even more beautiful.
The price-performance ratio was really great and so I can definitely recommend the “ride up” in connection with a dinner at the Burj Club.
► But Dubai has so many more mega-sights to offer - this way!
Activities in Dubai: My recommendations
In Dubai there is not only a lot to see, but also a lot to experience! What I did there during my vacation and what I warmly recommend, I'll tell you here:
Tradition meets modernity: From the modern glittering world to the original Dubai in Dubai Creek
Hardly any other city in the world has developed as rapidly as Dubai. Where there used to be only desert, now one skyscraper rises up into the sky next to the other. It is all the more astonishing that the history of the emirate goes back to the 4th century BC.
So I was particularly excited about the original Dubai and made my way to Dubai Creek. With the metro I took the “Red Line” to “Burjuman” and then took the “Green Line” to the Al Ras station. Al Ras is part of the old town district of Deira.
The contrast to the part of Dubai that I knew so far was really extreme. It was like crossing an invisible border into another world. The buildings were suddenly no longer so modern and I felt a very traditional flair on the streets.
The Khor Dubai River is just a few minutes' walk from the metro station. From there, small wooden boats can take you across the bank to the historic Al Fahidi district in Bur Dubai. The trip cost about 1 dirham and it was really a great experience to be driven across the river on the bow of this small water taxi.
The boat tour in Dubai Creek showed me a new side of the city.
From there I explored the Gold Souk and the spice market. The smell of the many aromatic spices is omnipresent and keeping them in the spice bags is a feast for the eyes.
So many spices!
Of course, I had to do a few purchases for my spice collection in my home kitchen. The dealers are very friendly and you can negotiate the price with them.
► Read our article: Shopping in Dubai - all tips and tricks!
Before I took the wooden boat back to the other side of the Khor Dubai, I let myself drift through the narrow streets.
In addition to some luxury yachts, the so-called dhows also operate on Dubai Creek. This is the name of the traditional Arabic wooden boats with which you can take a tour of the creek. But I was drawn back to the Burj Khalifa, where I looked at the water features again.
The Palm Jumeirah Dubai: Pure luxury - with bathing facilities
Already from the plane I was able to take a look at the artificial archipelago of The Palm Jumeirah Dubai. I took a taxi to the Atlantis Aquaventure station, from where I had to cross a parking garage to get to the monorail station. A bit adventurous, but since I wasn't the only tourist I could just follow the crowd.
The train runs every 15 to 20 minutes from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. A ticket costs around 30 dirhams per adult. The advantage of a trip with the monorail is that you have seen the whole island in a relatively short time and you have a great view of the many dreamy villas as well as the luxury hotel Atlantis The Palm. To be honest, I had imagined exploring the islands on foot, but unfortunately that is not possible.
Since the Atlantis The Palm was swarming with tourists, I moved a little further and came across the Nasimi Beach Club. For women, entry (including loungers and parasols) is free, provided you order something to drink. With a magnificent view of the Dubai skyline, I spent a few hours here in the sun and was swimming in the sea in Dubai for the first time.
Perfect view of the city.
The return trip was my personal highlight of the day because I got a seat at the front of the monorail. The view of the city was really breathtaking!
At the very front of the monorail you have the best view.
Skiing in Dubai: simply surreal!
Since the day was still young, I drove to the nearby Mall of The Emirates. Here, shopping was less of a priority for me. I really wanted to see the first indoor ski hall in the Middle East - it's one of the largest indoor ski halls in the world!
Snow in the desert - completely surreal!
I have to admit that at first glance I couldn't believe what I was seeing: a gigantic winter landscape with a ski lift, children's area and half pipes - all in a mall! I watched a couple of skiers through huge picture windows and then made my way back to the hotel.
What was definitely on my bucket list was a tour of the Dubai desert. Also offers itself.My desert safari started at 2 p.m., followed by dinner and a show that was supposed to take place in a camp. I was picked up from the hotel in a jeep and after the 40-minute drive we left the paved road in a caravan.
The highlight of the excursion is definitely the desert safari in Dubai.
The desert tour is really fun, but not for the faint of heart! When gliding over the meter-high sand dunes you get shaken up quite a bit and I was happy to be seated in the front. You should hold on tight!
However, the guide was very experienced and told a lot about the country and its people - and was always in the mood for jokes ... He also had a really good taste in music and so we raced through the desert with "Hot in here" by Nelly and other R&B classics.
We made the first stop on the way to the desert camp shortly before sunset. I had never felt such fine sand under my feet before. The atmosphere was really exactly as I had imagined and the sunset over the dunes was just fantastic.
You can't beat a sunset in the desert.
As if out of nowhere, the camp was suddenly right in front of us, hidden behind huge sand hills, almost like a small town. In front of the entrance, which looked like a city gate, you could ride camels and have henna tattoos painted on. A kind of stage was set up in the middle and all around were numerous Arabic carpets and cushions with colorful patterns. There was an oriental feeling right away.
Such a photo should of course not be missing.
Huge tents with buffets were set up on the edge of the camp. Group by group we were led to our places. After a delicious desert barbecue, the show started. Fire breathers, belly dancers and many other acts wowed the crowd.
I'm actually not a fan of these typical tourist excursions, but the atmosphere was really special - just like in 1001 nights. The starry sky was totally clear and the lukewarm wind was very pleasant. I left my everyday life completely behind and was only in the here and now. We went back around 9 p.m. This time a bit more civilized in terms of driving style.
I really liked the tour, but what the guide told me about Dubai, the people, customs and his own family was particularly exciting. For example, I learned that only about 30 percent of the people living in Dubai are actually native Emirati. The rest of the population consists of guest workers who work under tough conditions and thus maintain the glittering metropolis. There is no unemployment there. Not having a job does not mean you have a residence permit.
My beach tips in Dubai
After my trip to the palm island, I was somehow taken with the beach and the sea and a little beach life is part of every vacation for me. You should therefore also visit these beaches in Dubai if you need a refreshment:
Beach life at Kite Beach
I took the Tryp by Whyndham Hotels shuttle to Kite Beach. You are let out at a parking lot and later picked up again.
I walked a bit towards Burj Al Arab and was really impressed by the spacious, wide and almost deserted beach. There are a few food stalls on the promenade.
Pure relaxation: Kite Beach.
Even if Kite Beach is a public beach, I felt totally safe and by no means uncomfortable going for a swim in a bikini. In addition to clean sanitary facilities, there are also several changing rooms.
After cooling off a few times in the sea, I took a nap on the beach. The sound of the sea, the wind and the muezzin's call to prayer were very relaxing.
Then I walked to the Burj Al Arab to see this luxury hotel up close. Since I had already walked a few kilometers again, I took a taxi (which women can use without any problems) back to the hotel.
Lifestyle at the JBR
As a big fan of cheesecake, I naturally noticed that Dubai also has the famous Cheesecake Factory. This is (as well as many other restaurants) on the beach mile "The Beach", which runs along the Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR).
One parallel street further is the 1.7 kilometer long promenade "The Walk". Allegedly this is the "place to be" in the southern part of Dubai and an absolute hotspot for tourists.
There was really a lot going on, the atmosphere was very lively and music was playing from the JBR's public beach. Numerous sports such as beach volleyball, water sports and a kind of open-air fitness park make every athlete's heart beat faster here.
Much entertainment is offered here.
After my huge piece of cheesecake, I preferred the beach and sun much more that day.
Nevertheless: I really like the hip part of the city. Young, happy people and international flair - really to be recommended.
Bye bye, Dubai! My conclusion on the mega-city
The last day of the trip dawned and I was waiting for my return flight. It's a shame that the time passed so quickly. Dubai, truly a mega city, impressed me so much that I vowed to definitely come back. The city is very clean and I felt safe as a woman at all times. The metro even has its own seating area for women and children, which I had never seen before.
Despite the very modern, progressive and cosmopolitan environment, religion is a noticeable and important foundation of culture in Dubai - a fact that you, as a tourist, should definitely pay attention to.
This is one of the reasons why it was particularly important to me, out of respect for the Emiratis, to adapt my clothing style to the cultural framework. Far away from the beach, I saw some other vacationers in very tight clothing - that doesn't have to be the case and it is also quite easy to avoid. If you respect the manners, people and customs in Dubai, you will have an unforgettable time there.
The biggest myths: You have to know that for your Dubai vacation
For me one thing is certain: I'll be back! On my next trip to this superlative city, I'll look at everything I couldn't do - and take a day trip to Abu Dhabi. By the way, you can book all of the excursions in Dubai described above directly at MeetingPoint on site. If you are now in the mood for Dubai, click here for our current offers!
► Would you like a little more? This way for our insider tips in Dubai!
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