Dubai is a city of wonders, from its majestic architecture and state-of-the-art theme parks to bargain finds at souks, or markets. Here’s what to do and where to go in this metropolis in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – without breaking the bank.
- Dubai Parks and Resorts is the first integrated resort destination in the region. It’s home to three world-class theme parks and a water park. There’s also Riverland Dubai and Lapita Resort, a Polynesian-themed family resort.
- IMG Worlds of Adventure opened last year and is the world’s largest temperature-controlled indoor, themed entertainment destination, covering an area more than 1,5 million square feet. It features a unique array of adrenaline-pumping rollercoasters and thrilling attractions based on popular Cartoon Network characters and Marvel superheroes. There are also spine-tingling dinosaurs. The park offers special rates for children under 1,2 metres tall, who get AED20 (R71,50) off the ticket price of AED245 (R878,60). Children shorter than 1,05m enter free, while senior citizens get AED95 (R340,68) off the ticket price.
- Journey back in time with a visit to the Etihad Museum, which offers visitors insight into the UAE’s past. The newly opened institution explores the era before the country was founded. Children below the age of five enter free and there’s a discount of AED5 (R17,93), off the full price of AED25 (R89,65?) for people with disabilities and for a group of 10 people or more.
- No stay in Dubai is complete without visiting the tallest performing fountain in the world, the Dubai Fountain. At more than 275 metres (m) high, it’s majestic at only AED65 (R233)!
- Jumeirah Mosque offers a unique opportunity to learn about Emirati culture in a relaxed, casual and open atmosphere at this iconic mosque, one of only two mosques in Dubai that are open to non-Muslims. The beautiful Jumeirah Mosque with its towering twin minarets framing a large central dome is large enough to hold up to 1 200 worshippers and was built entirely from white stone in the age-old Fatimid tradition. Don’t forget your camera!
- If you also visit the Mall of the Emirates, you’ll be spoilt for choice. While parents can enjoy all the stores, young kids have can watch the penguins free of charge from a viewing deck at Ski Dubai.
- The Dubai Mall Underwater Zoo & Aquarium is one of the largest tanks in the world and features one of the largest viewing panels, at 33 m wide and 8 m high. Dubai Aquarium has more than 33 000 living animals, representing more than 85 species, including over 400 sharks and rays combined. Prices start at AED100 (R358,61) per person, or free from the outside.
- Kite Beach is a firm favourite with kite surfers, kayakers, soccer and volleyball players. You can soak up the sun and enjoy fun, free outdoor activities.
- Lunch at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding: Enjoy a traditional meal with local flair while chatting with an Emirati host about UAE culture, customs and religion at this centre set in a traditional wind tower house in the historic Al Fahidi neighbourhood.
- Rove Hotels are conveniently located in central neighbourhoods across the city. These hotels have easy access to public transport. They’re designed for comfort and convenience, and come with spacious, family-friendly rooms at affordable rates. They have high-speed Wi-Fi, plenty of add-ons and ultra-modern amenities.
- XVA Hotel, AI Fahidi District: Inspired by the heritage and history of the region, the XVA Hotel boasts unique guest rooms that highlight architectural and cultural motifs. The hotel is in the heart of Al Fahidi, one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Dubai. Known for its architectural heritage and maze-like alleyways and proximity, Al Fahidi is viewed as one of the most important heritage sites in Dubai.
- Novotel World Trade Centre Dubai: Check into four-star comfort at this hotel that’s located next to the Dubai World Trade Centre. The hotel features airy, modern rooms that are ideal to work or relax in, and feature impressive skyline views.
- Dinner at XVA Art Hotel and Café: Tucked away in the charming quarters of the Al Fahidi district, the XVA Art Hotel and Café is an interesting, eclectic space for artistic and cultural expression. The café is set in a traditional open-air courtyard and offers a wide variety of vegetarian dishes inspired by the cuisine of the region – including pumpkin kibbeh, beetroot kebabs, an eggplant burger, a rose cheesecake and refreshing mint lemonade.
Travelling through the city
- Abras are motorised traditional wooden boats linking the historic areas of Dubai. The one-way fare is payable directly to the driver, with two routes available:
- Bur Dubai Abra Station to Deira Old Souq Abra Station operates daily between 5am and midnight
- Dubai Old Souq Abra Station to Al-Sabkha Abra Station operates around the clock.
- Dubai Metro: Fares vary from AED2 (R7,17) for stops within a single zone to AED6,50 (R23,31) for stops within five zones. Opened in 2009, the Dubai Metro is one of the cheapest and most convenient ways of getting around the city. Running for almost 75km across key sites in Dubai, the metro features the Red Line that runs for 52,1km parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road from near Dubai International Airport to Jebel Ali. There’s also the Green Line, which runs for 22,5km and links the Dubai Airport Free Zone with the Dubai Healthcare City. Trains arrive every two to five minutes, from 6am to 11pm, Saturday to Thursday, and 1pm to midnight on Fridays. Cabs and feeder buses are available from most stations to take you to your destination.