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Old 17th March 2022, 12:54   #1
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Default Habibi, Come to Dubai!

I have had Dubai in my wish list for some time now so decided to celebrate my 2nd Anniversary there. Initially I was planning for a 3/4 nights trip but after listing down the places I wanted to cover I extended it to 6 nights. I won’t write down the entire itinerary but will share my key takeaways from the trip.

Note - All Photos/Videos are at the end of the post

Travel Formalities

Visa
The Visas are not issued directly by the UAE government but through third party private sponsors or travel agencies. I got mine through MakeMyTrip that costed my around 6k and was a pretty smooth process, got the visa in 1 day. My wife has a US B1 visa so she was eligible for visa-on-arrival. After landing there’s a counter near the Transfers counter for visa at DXB. There was just a single operational counter and it took us 45 min to 1 hour to get the visa and paid around 125 AED

Flights
We were getting more options for Sharjah but then we would have to take a couple of buses or an expensive taxi to reach Dubai so we decided to land at Dubai only – FlyDubai (worse than SpiceJet in terms of seating space) for DEL to DXB and Air India for return

Accommodation
We booked 2 hotels for 3 nights each :
A. Marcopolo Hotel : Located in Diera (Old Dubai), this one was near to the airport and a 5 min walk away from the Metro station. The hotel was decent and relatively cheaper (~Rs 5k) but the area was not with a lot of staring going on by the locals. Luckily we spent the majority of those 3 days out of the hotel
B. Mercure Hotel : Located in Barsha Heights, this hotel was everything you imagine a Dubai hotel would be. Located in the more fancy part of Dubai close to Jumeirah and Marina areas and adjoining a metro station. The room was big with a separate living area. The hotel had 2-3 options for dining and a grocery store (with non-inflated prices) as well.

Covid Tests
When we were planning the trip, we were required to go through an RT-PCR 48 hours prior to departure and a Rapid PCR 6 hours prior. However, the latter one was removed as a requirement by the UAE govt which was great news as it would have meant that we would have had to reach the airport 4-5 hours prior as well as spend Rs 2900 per person. On landing at DXB, they will also perform an RT PCR (free of cost) and you’ll get the reports in a day. On arrival to India, we only had to show our Full Vaccination certificates. Note : Do carry the print outs of your negative PCR during departure to Dubai, they asked for a physical copy.

How to spend
The Niyo Global card has been my primary choice for foreign spending. You simply add money in your account in INR via UPI/NEFT and you pay the current exchange rate displayed in the app when you make the payment. It applies the lowest net conversion rate based on my research and hence I used it for bulk of my spending. I also carried some cash (500 AED) for local markets but almost all places were accepting cards.

How to travel
The cheapest way to travel within Dubai is through their public transport system – Metro and buses. You need to get a Silver Nol card (at any metro station) which gives you access to the transport system at very affordable rates (3 AED for buses, 5-7.5 AED for metro). Download the S’hail app which helps you plan your journey with bus and metro timings. However, not all destinations are fully connected by this and hence you’ll have to take taxis. There are 4 ways of taking a taxi in Dubai and I’ll write in a sequence of cheapest to costliest:
1. Local Taxi (HALA) : These are Dubai local taxis and you have to catch them the old fashioned way – extend your hand and hope someone spots you. These are the cheapest alternative but can be difficult and time consuming to find.
2. HALA taxis via Careem app : You can book a local taxi via the Careem app as well but this is going to be slightly costlier
3. Uber : Similar to how it operates here, just that I found its rates to be slightly cheaper than the next option
4. Private cabs via Careem app

I got my International Driving License a little late so couldn’t go for rentals. However, with the strict traffic rules I am not sure how comfortable or cheaper an alternative it would have been.

Where to Shop
Electronics – For this you have to visit the Bur Dubai market. Due to strict laws, you won’t be tricked into buying a duplicate iPhone or something (In fact the shopkeepers explicitly mentioned if they are showing you a first copy product) but you have to be careful of the variants. I got a couple of iPhones at prices equivalent to what you could get it in the US or even slightly cheaper (I’ll write a separate post on that)
Souvenirs – Search for 1 to 10 stores (mostly found in Old Dubai area). Here you’ll find most of the things to be under 10 AED and have a wide variety of souvenirs as well
Gold/Clothes/Other Items – There are multiple Souks (markets) in the old dubai area where you can find stuff at good prices. I personally didn’t shop much from there

Places to Visit/Things to do

Al Seef – Adjoining the Dubai Creek, this place has a rustic charm to it as the architecture has tried to emulate the traditional Arabic style. You can find a number of cafes and shops to spend a pleasant evening there. Recommended

Dubai Expo 2020 (only till March end) – The way this event has been marketed, you just cannot ignore it if you go to Dubai. A lot of companies (Emirites, Emaar etc) are offering complementary tickets and you can buy then for around 50 AED. We spent an entire day there – I won’t go into details, you can find a lot of videos on Youtube. Key points are that be prepared to walk a lot, carry a water bottle which you can refill, be prepared to wait for more than an hour to get into popular pavilions and food is in general a little costlier. The experience was pretty good and we enjoyed the tech that was on display as well as wide variety of food. Recommended

Sky Views Observatory – I personally preferred this over the Burf Khalifa views as this gives you brilliant views of the Burj Khalifa as well as its nearby buildings. Located at around 50th floor and the tickets are also decently priced. Plus you additionally get to do a glass slide with the Burj on your right side. Go around 5pm to enjoy both day and night views. Recommended

Marina Dhow Cruise – We booked this for our anniversary dinner and boy was it worth it! Basically it is a mini-ship with an open deck and they take you around the Dubai Marina area, Ain Dubai and at the start of Palm Jumeirah. You enjoy live saxophone with close up views of the skyscrapers. I booked one through Xclusive Cruise via MMT (Rs 7200 for 2) and it was a very pleasant experience. Recommended

Burj Khalifa views – I found this a bit overrated. No doubt you get amazing views of the city but the long waiting lines and the crowding at the top is a big turn off. The tickets are costly as well. Could be avoided
Wings of Mexico and surrounding Area – You can take a photo with metallic wings with the Burj in the background if you like but I am writing this to recommend the area behind that. It is a peaceful area with few benches and excellent view of the Burj. Plus there are no shops there so very low crowding – mostly saw expats playing with their kids and chilling around. Recommended

Ain Dubai (Dubai Eye) – I am a fan of areal views and have been on the Singapore eye so wanted to check out this one as well. You get a good view of the Marina skyline as well as Palm Jumeirah and post the ride you can chill in the Bluewaters area adjoining it. Recommended

Global Village – Although this is slightly far away from the main city, this could be a good spot to spend 2-3 hours in the evening. I primarily enjoyed the variety of food available but you can go shopping as well. Take your call

Madinat Jumeirah – Go here primarily to enjoy the wide variety of cafes and restaurants there. The vibe there in the evening is simply amazing. Recommended

Dubai Frame – Quite a distinct construction so you are tempted to check it out. My recommendation would be to go to Zabeel Park and not buy the ticket for the Frame complex. You can find many spots in the park to admire the Frame and take a few cool photos.

Salt Camp behind Museum of the Future – The museum was perhaps my favorite building in Dubai with its unique construction. However I didn’t want to go inside it as I was not interested and the tickets were costly. However, there’s a nice café type area just behind that known as Salt Camp where you can admire the views and enjoy a quick meal. Recommended

Beaches – Kite, La Mer, Jumeirah, Marina – Not anything particularly unique to report, didn’t spend much time on the beaches here. Could be avoided

Malls – Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirites etc – Again, overrated unless you are really into shopping big brands. Could be avoided


Photos!

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View from Ain Dubai

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Ain Dubai

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Starbucks at Al Seef

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The Al Wasl dome at Expo 2020

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Azerbaijan Pavilion Expo 2020

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Burj Al Arab at night

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Burj Khalifa in daylight

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Burj at Night

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The Marina Dhow Cruise

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Expo 2020

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Dubai Frame

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Global Village

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Dubai Marina

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Madinat Jumeirah area

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Museum of the Future

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Saudi Arabia Pavilion Expo 2020

Habibi, Come to Dubai!-saltcamp.jpg
Salt Camp near Museum of the Future

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Sky Views Observatory

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Sky Views Observatory

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Burj from Sky Views

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Wings of Mexico (this is not me)

Habibi, Come to Dubai!-ferrari.jpg

Habibi, Come to Dubai!-lambo.jpg

Videos - Wasn't able to embed Youtube Shorts

















Conclusion
For a budget traveler like me, Dubai can seem to be a little costly but if you play it smart you can do a nice trip with a strict budget. Highly enjoyed my time there. It is brilliant to see how they have transformed a barren desert into highly developed nation which serves as a benchmark for other countries.
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Old 19th March 2022, 18:31   #2
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Default re: Habibi, Come to Dubai!

Nice informative post, have been to Dubai in 2017 on a work trip, wife has been wanting to visit for a family vacation for a long time, your post will be referred too when we plan our trip.
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Old 20th March 2022, 11:23   #3
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Default re: Habibi, Come to Dubai!

The UAE was my home for almost twenty years and your travelogue took me for a walk down memory lane
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Old 20th March 2022, 12:43   #4
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Default re: Habibi, Come to Dubai!

The sweat and blood of countless unpaid, underpaid, unprivileged, and deprived migrant workers scream through the concrete and glass walls of what makes Dubai, everytime i look at it.

~a former expat
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Old 20th March 2022, 16:42   #5
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Default re: Habibi, Come to Dubai!

Quote:
Originally Posted by LaRoca View Post
The sweat and blood of countless unpaid, underpaid, unprivileged, and deprived migrant workers scream through the concrete and glass walls of what makes Dubai, everytime i look at it.

~a former expat
Dubai or India, which big city, big malls, big hotels, huge townships are not "the sweat and blood of countless unpaid, underpaid, unprivileged, and deprived migrant workers"?
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