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United Arab Emirates (UAE)

What to expect of UAE?

Dubai is glitter and glamour. Abu Dhabi is abnormally rich. If you’ve survived all of Dubai’s visual violence of iconic skyscrapers, palm-tree islands, the Dubai Mall with its 1,200 shops where you can drop the kids off at an underwater world, or go live to an ice hockey game while your partner goes shopping; not to mention the futuristic, light-flooded streets … then you’re ready to rest. Why rest? Well you have to recharge your battery for the impressive Burj Khalifa fountain show in the evening! There is really little you can’t do in UAE. Indoor skiing, diving on the coast, spending a lot of money, witness the flagships of the desert whizzing by you at 60KM/hour during a camel race, feel like a sheikh in an oasis, shop till you drop … the sky is the limit! It’s all possible in the oil-rich country. The country seems to be pursuing the idea of “if you can think of it, you can achieve it”. That sentiment is reflected in everything. By the way, did you know there’s a crazy rule? You can take pictures, but it’s forbidden to use a tri-pot (standard)! Anyway; if modern architecture and futuristic gadgets are ‘your thing’, don’t skip this country. Fortunately, you can escape the modern madness and visit the 1934m high peak of the Jebel Jais mountain or see what the UAE looked like before the oil wealth in the abandoned fishing village of Jazirat Al Hamra.

The capital of UAE is Abu Dhabi and the country has about 10 million inhabitants. It is, with the exception of the taxi, an expensive country to visit. The currency in UAE is the dirham (AED). 1 Euro is about 4.04AED. Therefore you can use the rule of thumb: /4 = 1 euro.

Read my travel story about UAE & Oman!

Ghost Town #5

Again? Do I bring bad luck? On my previous flight they also needed the assistance of a “doctor on board”. Where last time this was neatly handled to everyones liking, this time not as much. I guess, the unwell lady’s husband gets up in his dark robe with a dark cape that covers most of his face. He clearly does not agree that the male doctor, who wants to help the woman, must touch the completely covered woman. I have never seen such a robe before… it reminds me of a medieval robe in which people perform rituals and make sacrifices by flares centuries ago deep in the woods.

Travelroute

I entered UAE through Dubai Airport because I was travelling from Jordan. I ended my route in Dubai (Headed to Oman by bus). Ultra modern cities are not really ‘my thing’, so I stayed in UAE for a relatively short time. I completed the route in 3 days.

  • A. Dubai
  • B. Abu Dhabi
  • C. Dubai

My Travelroute through UAE

What to see?

Burj Khalifa fountain show
Dubai Mall
Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Jebel Jais mountain
Jazirat Al Hamra Fishing Village (abandoned fishing village)
Al Aqah (diving/snorkling)

“The old Arabic architecture is everywhere.”

“details…. love it!”

Burj Khalifa fountain

After sunset, hurry to the centre to be amazed by the Dubai skyline. The one skyscraper is even higher than the other. Total madness. This gives a wonderful impression, especially in the evening. In Dubai they love lights! Lots of lights. Even on the skyscrapers. And Dubai wouldn’t be Dubai if they didn’t go to the extreme. One of the skyscrapers is part of the fountain show. To music, ranging from Michael Jackson to classical and Arabic, the LEDs on the skyscraper dancing an elegant dance together with the water from the fountain. A definite must see. Admission is free and the shows take place approximately every half hour. If you want to have a more premium spot to watch the show (because it’s crowded!!) there are also a number of paid spots to be found; just google it. Up to you.

Dubai Mall

Yeah, where do I start? No words for it. 1200 shops, 150 food spots, a large dino-skeleton, a huge aquarium, a build-in ice hockey field and you will find every imaginable well-known and expensive brands, all under one roof. Download the app “the Dubai mall” so you don’t get lost and most definitely write down where you parked your (rental) car, otherwise you’ll never find it again. If you come by metro: a metro stops right at Dubai Mall.

“Eventhough the Dubai Mall is huge … it has it’s own signature”

Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Even if you have seen a lot of mosques all over the world, you still cannot skip this one! Believe me when I say that it’s a one-of-a-kind mosque. It’s huge, it’s beautiful and it’s surrounded by magnificent gardens. With approx. 1000 pillars, an impressive interior designed to blow you away and 107 meter high minarets, it is a beautiful structure. Last but not least: it is home to the largest carpet in the world. It has been worked on with an army of carpet builders for over 2 years. A visit to the mosque is free of charge and it is open for tourists. Park your car under the mosque and make sure you are wearing suitable clothing (covering). Tattoos must not be visible. For ladies it is important to cover the head as well. If you have forgotten one of these things in the holiday chaos, then the mosque offers clothes on loan free of charge. ProTip: make sure you are at the mosque by 4pm and experience the sunset and evening prayers. You won’t get a more gorgeous image inside and outside the mosque.

Jebel Jais, Jazirat Al Hamra Fishing Village & Al Aqah

If you want to escape the modern violence and glitter, choose a day trip to the Jebel Jais. You can almost reach the top of the 1934 meter highest mountain in UAE by road. You’ll get a great view of the impressive cliffs and deep ravines. If you don’t want to go up, but rather dive into the depths, move yourself to Fujairah, Al Aqah for a relaxing day of snorkeling or diving. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot sea turtles and sharks (they won’t nibble on your toes, so no worries). The third option to get away from all of the craziness is a visit to the antiquity of UAE. The antiquity from before the discovery of oil and the wealth that came with it. Jazirat Al Hamra is an abandoned fishing village since 1970. It is nice to wander around in this Ghost Town, especially at sunset when these stone houses get a lovely orange glow of sunshine.

“een must: a visit during the sunset”

What do you need to know?

Visa –Residents of the Netherlands need a visa for UAE. This visa is free of charge and can be obtained “on Arrival” (If you have another nationality please check the up-to-date information at the Embassy or Consulate). If you leave the country by land you pay an exit fee of 35 AED.

Accommodation – There are plenty of pricey hotels in the UAE. Cheaper hostels are limited, but in general you can still find them. Prices start from about 65AED for a dorm outside the center and 100AED for a double room. Spending the night in the centre between -or in a skyscraper of Dubai is of course a location where you’ll pay the most for the location.

Food & Drinks – After a day of skyscraper spotting or defying the Jebel Jais, you’ll have to quench your thirst with tea, Arabic coffee, soda or malt beer. Alcoholic beverages are practically unavailable (with the exception of tourist-oriented more expensive restaurants and hotels). The food and drinks in UAE are safe and mostly Western oriented. Of course you will also find Arabic food in the restaurants as well.

Some examples of prices:

  • Wrap chicken + fresh milk in supermarket 22 AED
  • Chicken Tikka with rice and curry in restaurant 31 AED
  • Coffee in restaurant 4 AED
  • Water in restaurant 2 AED
  • Cheese burger + milkshake 69 AED
  • Mango iced yogurt 12 AED

Transportation –If you enter the country by plane, it is best to fly to Dubai International Airport. Don’t be surprised if you hear a chant for the prophet Mohammed in Arab airplanes, before you take off. It will be explained in English that this is done to pray for a safe flight. From the airport you can easily take a subway to Dubai center. Easy, cheap and fast. The country has a good infrastructure, both in terms of buses, subway and the road network. For a subway day ticket (unlimited zones) you’ll pay 22AED. An ideal opportunity to discover Dubai. A good other option to move around the city are taxis as they are not expensive and all run at meter price. If you want to travel from city to city, you can take the bus, but make sure to reserve enough time for this. The ride from Dubai to Abu Dhabi (140km), for example, takes 2.5 hours. For this reason I hired a car for 36AED per day and drove Abu Dhabi and a number of other highlights myself. It is safe to drive your own car in UAE. The traffic is very orderly, people behave nicely in traffic and it is a relief that no one honks nervously! Parking costs are about 2 AED per hour, and just pay it; a parking fine is 159 AED. Take it from me! If you want to go to Oman from Dubai; there is a bus with a direct connection to Masqat, the capital of Oman, three times a day. This bus takes about 7 hours including border controls. Price: 55 AED and it has 3 pick-up locations in Dubai: Abu Hail Metro station, Dubai Airport terminal 2 and Rashidiya Metro station. Departures 7:30AM, 3:30PM and 11:00PM. Tickets must be booked in advance at the ticket counter which can be found at the pick-up locations.

Climate & Season – On average, the warmest months are July to August. This period has an average temperature rising to 41 degrees. The constant temperature in the country is around 27 degrees throughout the year. On average it only rains one day a month in winter and in summer generally not at all. The humidity in July and August is very high and therefore not really relax in combination with the high temperatures. The best months to visit the country are between November and April.

“It’s huge, but classy..”

Budget Tips

Suggested daily budget – EUR45 per day (low budget) EUR90 per day (medium budget) EUR 90+ (high budget)

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Car Rental Sounds like a crazy saving tip, but with a car for EUR36 a day you can see a lot in one day if you get up early enough. This means you'll have to stay for a shorter period of time in the expensive UAE if you're traveling through.
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Tours & Tour guides A tour guide in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and outside the big cities is really not necessary. With some research you can do this yourself!
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Food Gab Arabic food at Arabic food spots. You will find plenty of Western food but it's much more expensive. Or just score your food at the supermarket.
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Dubai Metro Buy a day ticket if you want to visit multiple locations with the subway. After 2 single tickets, you'll already benefit.
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