I think Dubai is one of those places that people have pretty strong opinions about. You either love it or you… don’t. It’s not for everyone and I can say from personal experience that I very much grew to like it. I am currently on my fourth trip and unlike the first or second time here I can honestly say that I now appreciate Dubai in a way I didn’t think I could when I first came here some 10 years ago.

On one of those past trips I shared with you my Dubai Do’s which i still think offer some great insider tips on where to go for a cool experience. However, Dubai changes quickly so it’s time I shared some of my most recent learnings, especially since now I am traveling with my son and family travel is a whole different ball game (spoiler, no tips on bars and clubbing in this post).

Here we go, some of my best insights on Dubai coming right up:

1. Hotels, hotels, hotels

This may be a personal preference, but to me, one of the best parts of being in Dubai is staying in amazing, yet affordable 5-star hotels. I’ve been trying different stays every time I came here but on this trip I am zeroing in on the Sofitel – The Obelisk as my main dig. Why? It’s modern, has an awesomely large pool area, an air of luxury throughout the building, and one of the best breakfast buffets I’ve had the pleasure of tasting in my 12 years of travel blogging.

Our party of 3 (I went with my 7-year-old and my friend) have unanimously agreed that our two days at the Obelisk were actually our favorite part of the trip. It’s so modern and impressive as well as new that I felt like it stands for everything I appreciate about Dubai. Having stayed at more than 10 hotels in Dubai I can definitely say that this one is not only my favorite one, it also has the best bang for your buck.

Possibly the best part of the Obelisk is actually its 3 phenomenal restaurants. Even if you don’t end up staying here – do yourself a great service and try out one or all of their three restaurants.

My favorite one must have been Taiko, an Asian-Fusion-Cuisine place where I had the most awe-inspiring tasting menu, maybe of a lifetime. The Ambiance, the taste explosion, everything here is amazing and not to be missed.

Brasserie Boulud is a typical french fine dinging experience from the first glass of champagne to the Crème Brulée you should have for dessert. All the French classics people love are prepared here by a Michelin-Star winning kitchen.

Last but not least there The Nine which could easily be perceived as the underdog in this trio, but the amazing dishes here will quickly teach you otherwise. Come here for mind-blowing burgers, delectable steaks and incredible vegan options as well. Did I mention that the wine selection is insanely nice?

2. Save your cash

On none of my 4 trips have I ever needed any Cash to get around Dubai as credit is accepted virtually anywhere. That said, sometimes it’s nice to have some pocket money handy for tips. A final tip for card payments – whenever you are asked whether you’d like to pay in AED or your local currency, always favor AED since your bank is more likely to give you a good exchange rate.

3. Check for discounts

Dubai can get expensive very easily because most things you can do here will absolutely cost money and sometimes quite a bit of that. A while before I even arrived I found myself checking out deals on groupon and a site called greatdeals.ae for, well, great deals. This is where I bought tickets for one of those must do Desert Safaris (think camel ride, dune bashing in Jeeps and BBQ in a desert camp while watching belly dancers perform), our visit to Motiongate Park and cheaper entrance to Kidzania (a place that lets kids try their hands at many different professions – my 7-year old son’s favorite thing ever!).

4. Choose taxis over any other transport option

The bad news about Dubai is that walking places is almost never an option. More often than not there are simply no sidewalks, this city is built for cars. What is however a positive is that taxis are quite affordable and there are a couple of freeways built right into the city making travel quick and efficient, at least outside of main traffic hours.

Before I knew better I ordered cars on Uber, thinking I would be saving money that way. Turns out actual taxis are actually around 20-40% cheaper than Uber! Also watch out for any drivers at supposed taxi stands trying to get you to drive to your destination in their car just to charge you 4 times the normal rate. Always stick to taxis!

5. Wifi everywhere

Our arrival in Dubai was off to a good start when we were gifted free sim cards at the airport! OK, maybe it was only free for on day, but that’s still better than nothing, right? We had 10 days on our trip here and a few times I wondered whether I should get a sim but then I quickly realised that fast Wifi was pretty much everywhere and the only time I missed it was just on cab rides from one place to another. Save your sim card money and just roll with publish wifi.

6. Do the Desert

I first did a desert safari when I came to Dubai in 2013 and had so much fun! Desert safaris are a fun bundle that typically comes with dune bashing in 4×4 trucks, followed by camel rides, quad bike rides and a bbq buffet in a desert camp where you can eat and drink while watching fire-breathers and belly-dancers perform.

It’s worth shopping around for different pricing and we opted for a cheap tour costing less than 18€ per person (including pickup and drop-off) but overall these safaris are extremely good value for money.

7. Get your amusement park fill

Manmade fun, that’s what Dubai is all about. Rarely have I seen so many single dads and their children at an airport as I have in Dubai, it really is a great place for adventure and kids (both adult and actual kids).

We headed to Motiongate Park, which is part of an epic complex that comprises various other parks such as Legoland or Bollywood Park. I thought it would be impossible to manage more than one park in one day but if you go during the week and during Corona chances are you will not be queuing much and you can actually breeze through all the attractions in just a couple of hours per park. This is what happened to us, but to be honest, I was glad when it was over. It’s very much for kids and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone over 12.

dubai sunset

The biggest learning has once again been that Dubai is a great place to travel to if all you have is a week but you want to go somewhere that’s guaranteed to be warm and full of fun stuff to do. It’s adventurous, fun and a bit weird, which I consider a positive through and through. It’s very much the Las Vegas of the Middle East but there really isn’t anything wrong with that. Check it out and form your own opinion!

 

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