Your Dubai holiday
There is archaeological evidence of life in Dubai dating back several thousand years. However, very few documents predate the series of European empires that occupied the territory from the late 18th century.
Britain was the most influential foreign power in Dubai during this period, and in 1892 formalised Dubai’s status as a British protectorate. The tax-free model, which remains a pillar of economic policy today, was introduced a few years later and Dubai quickly developed into an important port for international trade.
The turbulent global economy between the two World Wars hit Dubai’s lucrative pearling industry and trade partnerships hard. Increased social unrest threatened to bring down the Al-Maktoum dynasty that had ruled since 1833.
However, the discovery of oil in 1966, and the formation of the independent United Arab Emirates in 1971, launched an era of breathtaking expansion and modernisation.
Today, dwindling supplies of the black gold have shifted development projects to the commercial and tourism sectors, with visionary ruler Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum determined to make Dubai a world leader in every sense.
Spectacular, ostentatious, mind-blowing: these are just some of the ways to describe typical Dubai holidays. Indulge in the brazen luxury and VIP entertainment of the world’s most extravagant resorts, set on the sun-soaked Persian Gulf coast. Whether you are looking for retail therapy, spa treatment, or fine cuisine, this is a place to pamper yourself.
Record-breaking constructions are popping up all the time, so find a flight to Dubai and explore this man-made miracle in the Arabian Desert.
Best time to take a vacation to Dubai
Dubai has a tropical and arid climate, and the months of June through August are extremely hot and humid, with temperatures reaching as high as 48Â°C. The coolest month is January, when temperatures average 24Â°C. If you are interested in outdoor activities, consider planning a visit during the months of September through May. Dubai hosts many annual events, but some of the most popular include the Dubai International Jazz Festival and Dubai Shopping Festival, both held in February, the Dubai World Cup, held on the last Saturday in March, and the Dubai Summer Surprises, held in June through August. Ebookers can help you reserve hotel accommodation for whenever you decide to visit the city.
Insider tips for Dubai travel
Bab Al Shams
This desert resort offers customized menus for the perfect romantic dining experience.
Located in the Al Khaleej Hotel, the bar has an 80s feel, a friendly staff and inexpensive drinks.
The Black Beach
This is an out-of-the-way, intimate bay that sits on Jumeirah Beach Road between two palaces. It is often deserted, so it makes for a nice private getaway.
Al Quoz's Young Artist Auctions
You can get great art for a fraction of the usual cost at this monthly auction, which features many up-and-coming artists.
Abdul Rahman Isaq Mohd Trading
A store with an eclectic mix of African sculpture, Viking helmets, rusty swords and other items that the owner has been collecting for years.
Where to stay in Dubai
The Atlantis hotel is the standout complex on the man-made Palm Jumeirah Island, and not just because of its salmon-pink exterior. Voted ‘Best Visitor Attraction’ in the 2009 Best In Dubai Awards, the ocean-themed resort specialises in luxury and pleasure. Guests have free access to the exhilarating water park and spectacular underwater city-style aquarium called the Lost Chambers, as well as the opportunity to swim with dolphins.
With 1.2 kilometres of private shoreline and unbeatable views out over the Persian Gulf, the Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina is the place to be for beach lovers. If you can drag yourself out of Westin’s trademark ‘Heavenly Bed’, the resort offers an array of water sports and outdoor activities. Shopaholics (and ski fanatics) will be delighted by the easy access to the giant Mall of the Emirates.
The Jebel Ali hotel’s elegant blue marble lobby sets the tone for this elegant five-story resort known as the ‘Legend of Dubai’. Golf enthusiasts will want to play a round on the championship-standard 9-hole course, set among 128 acres of gardens and beaches.
Located right in the heart of downtown Dubai, the Moevenpick Hotel and Apartments makes sightseeing easy in the traffic-congested centre. Guests can choose from nine different dining options, ranging from authentic Indian food at Chutneys to Somerset’s traditional British pub-grub.
How to move around in Dubai
Dubai International Airport, famous for its duty-free shopping, is just 4 kilometres from the city centre. New arrivals at either terminal can easily find a taxi, with fares typically starting at 25AED (£4.50). Special airport buses with extra room for luggage also circle the main corridors in the inner city.
Taxis are well regulated, relatively inexpensive, and generally safe. The government-owned Dubai Taxi Corporation has distinctive cream-coloured vehicles, and offers special pink ‘ladies taxis’ for added security. All taxis are legally required to have a working meter. If a driver claims the meter is broken, look for another.
Water taxis operate around Dubai creek and the main coastal resorts, with fares starting at around AED50 (£9). A cheaper, and more serene, way to cross the creek is in traditional wooden boats called abras.
The city’s bus network is cheap and comprehensive, but rarely used by anyone except low-income workers.
In response to growing traffic congestion, the government is constructing an automatic, driverless metro system. One line is presently operational, with another expected to open in August 2011. The metro is scheduled to be complete by 2015, though delays are possible due to the economic crisis.
All public transport is paid with rechargeable ‘Nol’ cards, with fares varying according to the distance travelled.
Consider a car hire in Dubai if you value the extra freedom and opportunities you get from having your own vehicle. Just be ready to sit in the occasional queue.
As you might expect, Dubai has a wealth of top-end restaurants serving dishes from all over the world. Bear in mind that restaurants outside of the main hotels in Dubai and resorts are forbidden from serving alcohol, and that opening restrictions will apply during Ramadan.
For a truly decadent dining experience, try the Al Mahara restaurant in the seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel. Diners can try exquisite seafood dishes while watching hundreds of live fish through the floor-to-ceiling aquarium window.
Gordon Ramsay brought his fine dining to Dubai in 2001, and Verre (in the Hilton) continues to be one of the city’s top restaurants. Michelin-starred head chef Scott Price is now in charge of the kitchen, adding some innovative twists to the world-class menu. As you’d expect in a Ramsay establishment, the service and classy black-and-white decor are impeccable.
The award-winning Fish Basket (Oud Metha) is a great place to sample some of the city’s outstanding Lebanese cuisine. Seafood is obviously the main draw here: fish selected from a market-style display will be cooked to order and served with staple sides like hummus and fattoush.
Kabalen (Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan Building, Street # 16, Al Karama) is a charming family place serving excellent homemade Filipino food at bargain prices.
Those missing home might want to stop at the London transport–themed Double Decker (Al Murooj Rotana, Sheikh Zayed Road), where British pub staples and international plates mingle on a no-frills menu. Live football and karaoke may not appeal to everyone, but the down-to-earth vibe can be refreshing in ultra-chic Dubai.
Health & Safety
Visitors are not required to take any vaccinations or medication before entering Dubai. The risk of malaria is low, but you should take measures to avoid mosquito bites and always consult a doctor in the event of a fever—even after you return.
Temperatures in summer often rise above 40˚C. Stay out of direct sunlight during the hottest hours of the day and be sure to stay well hydrated. Not all water is potable, so stick to mineral water to be safe.
Accident or Emergency
Call 998/999 for an ambulance. Health facilities are generally of a high standard, but quality can vary even between departments in the same establishment. English is invariably spoken in health centres.
Dubai is largely very safe, with little in the way of street crime. However, it is prudent to keep expensive jewellery and electronics out of sight when on the streets—especially at night.
Dubai is one of the most progressive emirates, but be mindful of local laws and customs. Homosexual activity is strictly illegal, as is the possession or consumption of drugs. Women should avoid wearing revealing clothing when outside of tourist resorts and should not walk alone after dark. Alcohol is not served outside of the tourist areas, and drunken behaviour could cause offence.
Road conditions are excellent, though traffic congestion in the centre is a major problem, and drivers can be aggressive. The (often ignored) speed limit is 40–80 km/h in urban areas and 140–160 km/h on motorways.
Dubai Holiday Packages
The Al Murooj Rotana Hotel, just north of the main district of Jumeirah, offers extravagance on many levels. An impressive list of fitness and health facilities mean that guests can work out at the... More
133 Sheikh Zayed Road Map
FREE Internet access & local telephone calls
Unique fusion of Thai hospitality and the opulence of DubaiThe Dusit Thani Dubai is architecturally unique and stands out as a luxurious building in Dubai's business district. The property features... More
Crescent Road, Palm Island Map
FREE Breakfast and FREE Airport Transfers
Atlantis the Palm is world-renowned, and the first hotel to be built on this artificial island in Dubai. A five-star luxury resort themed around the ancient myths of Atlantis, it offers guests... More
P.O Box 5840, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashed Boulevard Map
Book in advance and Save 10%
First impressions last. That's why you'll be greeted by book-matched marble slabs, 22-carat gold plated walls and elegant chandeliers as you step into DAMAC Maison - Dubai Mall Street. The stylish... More
Elegant hotel with traditional Arabic decor, close to Dubai airport Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa welcomes guests with elegant furnishings and traditional Arabic decor. Relaxation is available... More
Melia Dubai is the first 5 star Spanish hotel in the Middle East. Envisioned by a Milan based architect, the hotel features cutting edge interiors with art pieces from all over the world. It... More
Mankhool Street, Bur Dubai Map
Upgraded Premier Apartment
The Golden Sands Hotel consists of three buildings' Golden Sands 3, Golden Sands 5, and Golden Sands 10' which offer a range of apartments with high-quality facilities. Part of the Al Moosa Group... More
From the classically-sculpted arcades of the outdoor pool to the high-tech ambience of the hotel's meeting rooms, the Villa Rotana makes for a distinctive Dubai hotel. A mock-antiquarian façade... More
The 47-storey Emirates Grand Hotel provides luxurious accommodation in contemporary Middle Eastern style and is conveniently located within walking distance from DIFC Metro Station. The rooftop... More
Millennium Plaza Hotel Dubai is one of the luxurious hotels in the city, facing the Dubai International Financial Center, close to the World Trade Center and at the footsteps of the Emirates Tower... More
Stylish hotel with stunning views, in the center of DubaiDowntown Dubai's Majestic Hotel Tower gives guests magnificent views of the city. Boasting 252 rooms and suites in 28 floors, the hotel... More
Cluster J, Jumeirah Lakes Towers Map
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The Bonnington Jumeirah Lakes Towers is a five-star resort located in the 41-floor Bonnington Tower, with its sister Almas and Saba Towers. While the towers are primarily dedicated to business and... More
Sophisticated, stylish Dubai accommodationsSoaring into the Dubai skyline with 72 floors, Rose Rayhaan by Rotana-Dubai is one of the world's tallest hotel, offering business and leisure travelers... More
Sheikh Zayed Road P.O. Box 30430, Dubai, U.A.E. Map
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Chic, sophisticated Dubai hotel close to Jumeirah BeachTowers Rotana-Dubai is a stylish, sophisticated hotel just a few minutes from stunning Jumeirah Beach. The hotel boasts an outdoor pool with... More