Our Ultimate guide to Dubai

We have been to Dubai numerous times and every time we go there it fascinates us that how much has changed since our last visit. City that has 365 days of sunshine, tax-free income and ultimately luxury life style. It will then acquaint you with the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, and the grandiose version of Las Vegas’ Bellagio fountains. In Dubai you might even get to swim with a shark in an aquarium at a hotel. Dubai is a modern city that welcomes visitors from around the world. However, as it is also a Muslim city, there are certain factors to take into consideration in terms of dress code and behaviour.

Just like the integrity of the city and its inhabitants, Dubai’s past has been glorified with its modernisation. Visitors to Dubai should dress modestly, particularly in conservative areas and public places. Swimwear is acceptable at the beach or around the swimming pool, but visitors should cover up elsewhere. Shorts and T-shirts are suitable attire in many places, although when visiting mosques, religious sites or older parts of the city, both men and women may feel more comfortable wearing loose-fitting clothes that cover shoulders, arms and legs. Women will usually be required to wear a headscarf when touring mosques.

Dubai Museum, now the oldest standing institution in the city, lives two levels below the ground is one of few architectural structures other than Dira that narrates the true tale. It is located in the Al Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 and is the oldest existing building in Dubai. The museum was opened by the Ruler of Dubai in 1971, with the aim of presenting the traditional way of life in the Emirate of Dubai. 

The streets of Deira are the birthplace of today’s Dubai. Here, the Grand Souk, Spice Souk and Gold Souk have been selling wares, spices and gold for centuries. Culture in Dubai is rooted in Islamic traditions that form UAE National’s lifestyles. It is highly important that when tourists visit Dubai they must respect and behave suitably. 

When the British left in the late 60s, United Arab Emirates had just started to discover gold and oil in its land.

Some of the other historical facts which we discover while in Dubai Museum are…

1830: The small fishing settlement of Dubai is taken over by a segment of the Bani Yas tribe from the Liwa Oasis, led by the Maktoum family who still, interestingly, rule the emirate today.

1892: Foreign traders are drawn into Dubai due to the declaration that they will be exempt from tax, the population doubles and the pearling industry is now booming.

1930-1940: The recession hits Dubai’s pearl industry which falls into decline leading to social pressures and feuds between the royals.

1958: Sheikh Rashid officially becomes the ruler of Dubai after his father’s death.

1959: The Emir of Kuwait lends Sheik Rahid millions of dollars to renovate the Creek so it can accommodate large ships in order to develop Dubai’s reputation as being a major trading hub.

1966: Dubai discovers its own oil, attracting traders to settle in Dubai which in turn enhances economic growth.

1968: Dubai begins exporting crude oil and petro-dollars rush in.

1973: The Dirham becomes the offical unit of currency in Dubai.

1980: Dubai’s annual oil income decreases to US$3.

1985: The Emirates airline is established and Dubai plans its reinvention as a tourist destination.

1990: Sheik Maktoum takes over as the ruler of Dubai, due to his father, Sheik Rashid, passing away during the first Gulf War.

1996: The Dubai shopping festival and the Dubai World Cup are launched and happen to become very popular annual events.

1999: One of the tallest hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab opens, enhancing Dubai’s reputation further as a tourist destination.

2003: Dubai is recognised by The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as a financial hub. Also, at this time the property market in Dubai suddenly grows due to the introduction of freehold properties.

2006: Sheik Mohammed becomes the Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE, as well as the ruler of Dubai. He updates the Liberal policies of his Maktoum forefathers and develops Dubai further, raising the city’s business profile.

Local Emiratis who are inexhaustibly wealthy. You know you’ve spotted one if you see a polished metal Jaguar carrying a furry pet Jaguar in the front seat. Exotic animals as pets are a common sight among the rich.

If you’re a young local here, the government pays for your education and have plenty of opportunity to learn and grow and if tourist then plenty to see and do. As the humble desert sits quietly on the east of the city. 

There are lots of activities for children, both in and around the five-star hotels, special amusement parks and many green areas. Children under 12 usually qualify for discounts on admission fees to most museums, amusement parks, swimming pools and entertainment centres. The city of Dubai offers you the latest and the most electrifying rides that will make your adrenaline rush. Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark, the Ferrari World or the Dolphin Experience and Lost Chambers at Atlantis The Palm, you are assured to get a thrilling once-in-a-lifetime experience. Our kids loved their time in Dubai and were lucky enough to visit few amusement parks as well. 

Burj Khalifa, is a must do for every tourist who wants to experience the amazing panoramic view of the Dubai city skyline from the 124th floor ‘Observation Deck’. The marvellous journey will take you through the vision and construction of Burj Khalifa and also let you shop ‘At The Top’, to take home a souvenir. Presently, Burj Khalifa tops the list for the tallest skyscraper in the world at a height of 2,717 ft. Part of the new development called Downtown Dubai; the tower is the address to the most elite hotels, shopping centres, residences and offices in the world.

Desert safaris is also one of the must do attractions in Dubai. Summer safaris give you a chance to get away to a cool desert evening; low humidity and groundwater levels in the desert means the heat from the day goes away quickly, leaving it up to seven degrees cooler than metro areas. We experienced a truly local Bedouin (nomad) lifestyle of a true Arabian spirit of the desert and we enjoyed it. After a lively time in the desert, we were taken to an area where tents have been set up for a hearty feast. We also enjoyed Henna, Tanoura (traditional Egyptian dance) and belly dancing as buffet dinner and Arabic Coffee was serviced to all the tourists.

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 Things to do with Kids:

  1. Dubai Mall: Kidzania, Dubai Ice Rink, Sega Republic, Dubai Aquarium
  2. Wild Wadi Water Park
  3. Atlantis The Palm: Lost Chambers Aquarium, Aquaventure, Dolphin Bay and Sea Lion Point
  4. At The Top at Burj Khalifa
  5. Karting at Autodrome
  6. Dune surfing
  7. Ski Dubai and Penguin Encounter
  8. Dubai Fountains
  9. The beach 
  10. Za’abeel Park – Stargate


Cultural Must Do’s:

  1. Souks (gold, spice, textile)
  2. Dubai Museum
  3. Sheikh Mohamed Centre of Cultural Understanding
  4. Dhows
  5. Jumeirah Mosque
  6. Art Galleries
  7. Henna Hands
  8. Frying Pan Adventures authentic food tours
  9. Arabic Cooking Lessons
  10. Breakfast with a Bedouin in the desert


Dubai Public Parks:

  1. Al Barsha Pond Park, Al Barsha 2
  2. Al Mamzar Beach Park, Deira
  3. Al Nahda Pond Park, Al Nahda
  4. Al Twar Park, Al Tawr
  5. Creekside Park, Bur Dubai
  6. Jumeirah Beach Park, Jumeirah Beach Road
  7. Mushrif Park, Al Khawanij
  8. Safa Park, Sheikh Zayed Road
  9. Zabeel Park, Sheikh Zayed Road
  10. Al Rashidiya Park


Dubai Theme Parks:

  1. 20th Century Fox World
  2. Aquaventure Water park, Atlantis, The Palm
  3. Dubai Butterfly Garden, Al Barsha 3
  4. Dubai Miracle Garden, Al Barsha 3 South
  5. IMG Worlds of Adventure
  6. Marvel Superheroes Theme Park
  7. Motiongate Dubai
  8. Six Flags Dubai
  9. Wild Wadi Water Park, Jumeirah Beach Road
  10. Dubai Parks and Resorts
  11. Bollywood Parks Dubai
  12. LEGOLAND Dubai
  13. LEGOLAND Water Park


Dubai Visa Requirements

Do I need a visa to travel to the UAE?

People from different nationalities have to satisfy different criteria to get a valid visa to enter United Arab Emirates (UAE). Read on to know all about getting a UAE visa while travelling to any of the Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah)

Visa requirement for US citizens:

American citizens who have regular passports do not need to have a visa to visit the UAE. However, please make sure you fulfil following criteria’s:

  1. Original passport signed by the bearer, should not expire within six (6) months from the expected time of arrival in the UAE.
  2. Confirmed round-trip airline ticket or airline ticket to other destination(s).

The visas are available upon arrival at the UAE airports and the American citizens can stay for 1 month in the UAE. However, if you are going to stay longer, you have to contact the immigration officer at the airport or the local immigration office in the UAE and apply for the same.

Visa requirement for Non-US citizens

It is mandatory that your original passport (not a travel document), should not get expired within 6 months from the expected date of arrival in the UAE.

  1. Confirm round-trip airline ticket or airline ticket to other destination.
  2. If you are a citizen of one of the following countries: 
  3. Andorra, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Brunei, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Kuwait, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland (Except the British overseas citizens), Vatican.
  4. Upon your arrival to UAE airports, the visas will be granted to you. This also includes those who hold visas in their passports or entry stamps from other countries and visa is valid for a one (1) month stay in the UAE. However, if you are going to stay longer, you have to contact the immigration officer at the airport or the local immigration office in the UAE and apply for the same.

The visas are available upon arrival at the UAE airports and the American citizens can stay for 1 month in the UAE. However, if you are going to stay longer, you have to contact the immigration officer at the airport or the local immigration office in the UAE and apply for the same.

Visa requirements for GCC nationals

The citizens of GCC countries i.e. the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, do not require a visa to visit the UAE.

The GCC residents who are not the national citizens but are working as high-level official such as doctors, managers, engineers or public sector employees along with their families can have a 30-day non-renewable visa at all the airports in the UAE upon arrival.

Visa requirements for other nationalities

Tourists from all the other nationalities must apply for a visa before they enter the country. They can do so through their respective embassy, a local UAE sponsor or even a local hotel in the UAE.

About Sponsors:

The travellers can get a Tourist Visa which is valid for 30 days, a Service Visa for 14 days or even a Visit Visa from a hotel or a travel company, but must first make a reservation. They must then transfer a copy of their passport and other documents to the hotel or travel agency along with their plan and arrival date. The hotel or the respective organisation will then fax you a visa copy when it is ready.

Other individuals, organisations who are based or residing in the UAE can apply on your behalf for a Visit Visa. Also, Work Visa can be obtained on your behalf from the employer or sponsor if you are planning to work in the UAE.

Airlines and airlines-handlers can apply for a 96-hour Transit Visa on behalf of their crew members.

Other UAE companies may apply only for Service Visa or a Visit Visa.

person putting a passport on bag
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Types of Visas

Visit Visa

Tourists who wish to stay in the UAE for more than 14 days or those coming on family or business visits can apply for Visit Visas. These are valid for either 30 days (short term visit visa) or 90 days (long term visit visa). Both visas are non-renewable. Apart from the visa fees, a deposit is to be paid by the local sponsor/relative/resident which is reimbursed after the Visit Visa holder has left the country.

90-Day Long-Term Visit Visa for individuals is valid for 60 days from the issue date and non-renewable. Valid for 90 days from the arrival date and non-renewable

30-Day Short-Term Visit Visa for individuals is valid for 30 days from the issue date and non-renewable. Valid for 30 days from the arrival date and non-renewable

Tourist Visa

The Tourist Visa is a special category under the Visit Visa type and entitles the holder to a 30-day stay and in non-renewable. If visa holder of the Tourist Visa stays for more than 30 days, that person has to pay a fine per day plus some charges for an out pass.

Multiple-entry Visa

Multiple-entry Visas are issued to cruise ship passengers since their schedule entitles them to enter the country more than once in a single trip. Such visas are also issued to business visitors who are frequent visitors to the UAE due to their ties with a multinational company or a reputable local company. Multiple-entry Visas are valid for six months from the date of issue and the duration of each stay is 30 days. The visa is non-renewable. The individual must enter the UAE on a Visit Visa and then obtain a Multiple-entry Visa.

Transit Visa

Transit passengers stopping at the UAE airports for a minimum of 8 hours are eligible for a 96 hour Transit Visa. A valid onward ticket is required. Passport and other travel documents should be valid for at least three months.

Documents required (Individuals):

  • Clear passport copy of the sponsor
  • Clear passport copy of the sponsored person
  • A copy of the salary certificate or employment contract of the sponsor (resident) must be attached
  • Proof of family relationship (kinship)
  • Travel insurance
  • Copy of confirmed flight booking
  • Bank approval letter
  • Passport-sized colour photographs
  • Visa fee
  • Visa application form, duly filled

Rules and conditions:

  • Entry into the UAE is subject to immigration approval.
  • The ticket is non-refundable if the visa has been issued and utilised.
  • Visa processing time is approximately three to four working days.
  • Visa fees once paid are non-refundable.
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