Written by Kristian Kongstad Holm – Dubai 2014.
I moved to Dubai in 2013 and I’d like to share with all of you the best experiences, where to stay, where to go clubbing, where to dine, what to see, how to do business, tips and tricks and the upsides and downsides of Dubai that I have experienced so far. My experiences have been made on holidays, business trips and now living in Dubai, so whether you are planning holidays or you are thinking about moving here, I have put together a good sample of tips that you might find useful.
First I’d like to start whit at little good-to-know for residents as well as vacationers.
-First of all, and this is mostly to residents, in Dubai there is no tax and VAT!! First and primarily reason to live here.
-Next is WEATHER, Dubai has approximately 320 days with sun a beautiful weather.
-Third is living in a country were main language is English.
-Fourth is living in a country were 80 % of the population are Expats, is gives you a feeling that everyone is in it together. It units people in a very good way.
-Fifth is the felling of living in a business city, and it really is! because you can only live in UAE – Dubai, if you have a work visa unless you are born here.
But please mind! – it can be highly addictive.
Good tips before you travel into Dubai.
In Dubai it is not normal to drink alcohol because of there religion, but Dubai is dependent on their tourists so they have made many compromises, in hotels and restaurants ‘belonging’ or nearby hotels, they serve alcohol etc. If you are a resident you can get a license to buy alcohol and a tip for residents as well as vacationers, you can per person bring 4 liters of alcohol into Dubai every time you arrive at the airport. Pork is only served in a few five star hotel restaurants or buyable in supermarkets – normally – but there are ways to get around that, see my ‘Shopping’ section. Finally and this is a downside seen from lover’s perspective, you cannot show physically attraction in public areas in Dubai. No kissing, hugging or holding hands, if you are a tourist they normally overlook it, because they see you as an ‘ignorant tourist’ but if you are a resident, you will be punished for it if anyone sees. When you go out, remember to wear proper clothes. It is frowned upon to wear small skirts and tops. Some places are stricter than others. If you go visit a mosque, wear clothes that cover your knees up to the neck and shoulders, as well as when you go to a mall, the same is required. If you go to and from the beach it is not necessary. If you just make sure to consider your surroundings, not to offend anyone then you’ll be fine.
Where to stay: House, Apartment, Hotel and ?
A one bedroom apartment located 30-40 km outside the midtown is per month around 4000 AED. A beautiful 1 one bedroom in Dubai Marina or downtown is per month 8.000-12.000 AED. If you find an apartment in the Marina you will most definitely have a view over the ocean or the Marina.
Best place to live, in my opinion. If you are on holidays for a shorter period 10-14 days, I would recommend that you stay in one of the big hotels, where the hotel is an experience in itself.
If you wish a more price friendly holiday, where you experience some of the local society, as I prefer, I would recommend you to rent an apartment or a villa. An apartment with 2 bedrooms is about 500-800 AED per day in Dubai Marina. If you decide to stay in a villa or an apartment further outside the city there is the train RTA that combines all of Dubai very good.
For living in Dubai, in the Marina there are a lot of great buildings and the price range is 100-120.000 AED per year for a one bedroom and 150-250.000 AED for 2 bedrooms. The Iris Blue, Botanica and Cayan tower are good examples. “best value for you money”
Here are some links to of were to find apartments and Villas in Dubai.
Hotels I have stayed at in Dubai that I can recommend. All of the hotels listet below have minimum 4 stars.
‘ Atlantis – The Palm is in my experience the best hotel for families with children.
‘ Kempimski – The Palm a romantic getaway, but with plenty of Russians.
‘ Jumeirah Beach Residence – Jumeirah, fantastic for children and has great sports facilities as well as dining.
Jumeirah Madinat – Jumeirah, a very romantic place, with nice restaurants.
The Address – Dubai marina – ( Business hotel )
Grosvenor house – Dubai Marina ( Business hotel )
The address – Dubai Mall ( Business and pleasure )
Marina view apartments – Dubai Marina ( good value for money 3 stars only )
One and Only – Dubai marina ( romantic )
Areas in Dubai
Dubai has several areas and they are not all in the same reach. I have chosen my favorite places where I have used most of my time since I’ve moved here.
-Dubai Marina, most expats live here, especially young people between 20 and 40 loves this area.
– JBR is close to Dubai Marina, it is a long beach promenade filled with fantastic dining facilities, shops and of course the beautiful beaches. I recommend to spend a bit money to use the facilities on one of the hotels, where you have sunbeds, food, drinks, bath/WC and shade. If you want to use the public beach go after 3 or remember shade, sunscreen and water. Always wear shoes in the sand as it is very hot.
– Dubai Downtown or Dubai International Business Center (DIFC) is the most trendy area with the best restaurants and nightlife, and of course, as the name states, the place for business. The area is located very close to Dubai Mall.
– The Palm is the most exclusive area in Dubai, exclusivety for me includes the voice of the waves, endless white beach, not much noise and the best view which this area contains. Here, most of the 5 star hotels are located and even if you are not staying at one of them you can still use their facilities. As an example, Nasimi Beach at The Atlantis, which I will explain more about in my ‘Restaurats, Clubs and Beaches’ section.
– JLT, is mostly an area for offices and business, you can also find apartments here where the prices are near the smallest in Dubai, and still okay close to the Dubai Marina (where it happens). This area is not yet finished, restaurant and stores is nothing special… yet… In my experience, you’ll need a car if you decide to live here.
– The Hills, it is mostly Expact families with good income that lives here, it is one of the most exclusive areas in Dubai.
Need to see in Dubai:
Please see my complete guide link
Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, take the elevator to the 144. floor and you can put it on your resume, it is spectacular. You can buy tickets on the App ‘At the top’ or in Dubai Mall on Ground Floor with same name. The price is, if you buy it at Dubai Mall 450 AED. If you want the view but isn’t in need of going all the way up, my advice is to go to the 127. floor (for adults only) where you can visit the sky bar. It is free, though you have to spend 200 AED as a man, women are free, which gets you a few cocktails or coffee and cake.
Burj al Arab, better known as The Sail, the worlds only 7 star hotel is an incredible experience. The cheapest way to see this place is to book the afternoon tea between 3 and 5 pm. You’ll get the best cake platter and the absolute view.
Are you bringing your children to Dubai, you have to try one of the big water parks. One is in Jumeira Beach Residence. The best in my opinion is at Atlantis at the Palm, the trains go directly to it. And to make a two in one experience you can also visit the aquarium at Atlantis, its free to look at from the outside, but you can also buy tickets to go inside, you will get a discount if you buy the ticket to the water park at the same time. This is one of the places where you can use these very popular vouchers or coupons. If you have a coupon book, like the Entertainer you can make your money worth, because on this coupon for the water park / aquarium you can save 50% which is more than the coupon book costs.
Skydive Dubai for the brave
Please see these video about Dubai and how it is made :
Get around – Cars, Taxis, Limousines, Trains:
The price on a car is nothing, comparing to Europe. A new VW Passat will cost you 89.000 AED
Petrol is ridiculously cheap, 85 liters will cost you around 110 AED, 100 for the petrol and 10 for the guy who put it on while you sit and relax, never again petrol smell on your hands.
Renting a car in the UAE is very price friendly, and of course it helps even more with the petrol price being so low. Renting a car is a good way to see Dubai, but I recommend, if it’s your first time here, take a taxi. Taxi prices are very low, the meter starts at 3,50 AED and you can take a 30 minute ride for less than 50 AED. The more luxurious way of getting around is taking a limousine, they are white Lexus’ and they are to be found where the normal taxies are, you can also order these limousines with an App called UBER. The price is about 20% more than a normal taxi. The RTA Train is a good way to get around in Dubai, you can locate them from a very far distance as they are made in gold color of course, there are only 2 directions which make it easy to handle, simple commute. Waterbus is also an opportunity. I have experienced them in the Dubai Marina, they make stopovers 4 places in the Marina, they sail every 10 minutes and the price is 2 AED. If you decide to rent a car, take note that they do not always use names of the roads, they use landmarks, names of buildings etc. It can be difficult to get around and if you miss your exit or take a wrong turn, you’ll have to guard yourself with patience. Be aware, exit numbers will mess with your head, if you pass exit 47 the next exit can easily be exit 52, and not 48 as in my opinion would be normal. Also, they drive like maniacs, even after 4 years in the Southern France, driving every day, among French drivers (!!), it still was a bit of a challenge to me in the beginning. As if the rule is, there are no rules, the biggest and fastest car have majority.
Restaurants, Bars & Clubs, Beaches.
I would like to underline some of the greatest places I have experienced so far in my time in Dubai. Be aware that you can, in many restaurants smoke inside. I just got uses to the non-smoking politics in many European countries, but here, its still allowed. Especially the Sisha’s is a pain, so be on the looks for those, they mostly appear places with couches and relaxed area.
In Dubai Marina, I enjoy the Barasti Beach as restaurant, bar and beach. It is a bar/restaurant/sportsbar/lounge/beach. Plenty of expats come here every night after work. Prices are reasonable and everything is outside, with the amazing view of Dubai Skyline in the back. Buddha Bar in the Marina is also worth a visit. It is a great place to eat and enjoy a couple of drinks, come after nine when the bar gets busy.
One of the coolest beach restaurants is Nasimi Beach on the Palm. Nasimi transforms into a huge beach party around 3 pm. Entrance is free but to use the sunbeds you have to spend a minimum of 150 AED in the bar or for lunch. The view over the Dubai Skyline is when the sun starts to go down, fantastic, and the atmosphere is awesome.
A new place, I am starting to use quite a bit, is Zero Gravity, it is a mix of beach, business meeting point, lounge, club, sports and restaurant. Zero Gravity is placed in the Dubai Marina in connection to the Dubai Skydive. Every 15 minutes, new skydivers drop down from right above you. Nice surroundings for doing business on the terrace as well as spending the day on the beach.
Zuma is placed in the business area and is the most, of my experience, trendy place in Dubai. The bar serves art in a glass and have the absolute best quality of liqueur. The bar is worth experiencing. Then to the dining, this place serves Japanese inspired food. The have good sushi and some of the best meat I have tasted. The wine list is as I would want a wine list to be, a nice selection of wines to a fair price. Bring your friends or business partners here, either way, they nailed it, great experience.
Al Qasr – Madinat has the best brunch in Dubai. After paying 550 AED everything you can eat and drink is free including champagne “ad libitum”.
Please also visit www.timeoutdubai.com for more reviews and tips.
– You will not find a 5th Avenue here, it is simply too hot to be outside most of the year. Instead there are mall’s, and many of them. The two biggest malls, and the two I like the best are Dubai Mall and Mall of The Emirates.
-Mall of The Emirates: Aside from the endless shopping opportunities, this mall stands out it has indoor skiing. So put on your skiing gear and enjoy the slope and the cold for a little while. It is a great experience for both children and adults.
– Dubai Mall: The newest and biggest mall. And like Mall of The Emirates you’ll of course find all the shopping you need, and also here, there is plenty of other features. You can go ice skating on the Dubai Ice Rank, you can drop the kids of at Kidzania, a kids-country while you go shopping. You can see the waterfall inside the building 3 stories high or you can spend a few hours looking at the aquarium in the middle of the mall. Outside the Dubai Mall is the Dubai Fountain, on both the hour and half-hour you can/shall enjoy the beautiful show they put on. It is a watershow that fills the whole fountain, it is stunning in itself but it also have the greatest background, Burj Khalifa (the highest building in the world) is right next to it. So if you are not into the show, which I highly doubt, then you can admire this great peace of art in the meantime. If you don’t want to stand in the crowd with plenty of other people, the Dubai Mall has numerous of restaurants on the fountain side and on terraces where you can be on the first row. On the hour it is music in English and half-hour it is in Arabic or it is the other way around. When you are at the Dubai Mall you should at the same time take a walk around the fountain, they have made the surroundings very nice. Also you will find restaurants, if you cross the bridge (by foot) where they serve alcohol, as they are a part of a hotel nearby.
You will never be done shopping, in any of these malls.
In both of the malls, there is great dining, there is the easy ‘foodcourt’ where all McDonalds, Burger Fuel, Subway etc. etc. is and there is the more fancy restaurants, the list is long.
The best thing about Dubai Mall is without a doubt the Platinum Cinema Suites, it is a cinema, but it is nothing like a cinema. You sit in comfortable couches; have blankets and pillows, and a little table with a button you can press to get service. A five star experience, which I never get sick of. The price is around 150 AED.
– Groceries: There are numerous supermarkets, you have the monstrosities like Carrefour where you can get everything and 100 different kinds of the everything. Then you have the more ‘English’ supermarkets like Spinney’s and Waitrose. Here you’ll have most of the common English products and the most important of all; Pork! There is a Non-Muslim section in both supermarkets where you can find all the pork you need.
Business, Work, Visa
One of the greater things about Dubai is all the expat life, 80% of people living and working here, are expats. Makes you feel a part of the group right from the beginning. I have been living in Monaco for the past years, and that is still a old-fashioned society ‘work-class’ and ‘upper-class’. Here, everybody works, everybody have an identity through there job, and you need a job in any case, because to get a visa you have to have a job.
To start a company in Dubai
– What kind of strategy to go with, what kind of company form should you pick ? all these questions I will answer if you send me a email, use the contact form here.
Tips and Tricks:
– On most hotels, you can for a fee, use their facilities for a day, sunbeds, pool, parasols and all the luxury they have.
– Coupons / Vouchers and Apps with 2 for 1 offers, has spread out here, and is something you can save a lot of money on, almost all the best restaurants are in, see two links here:
– Always bargain everyone can give discount.
Are you thinking about moving to Dubai, and have questions you’d like answered, don’t hesitate to contact me, I would be honored to help out a fellow expat please do not hesitate to send me a email true my contact form here.
Please see my complete guide about Dubai here.
I hope you will enjoy Dubai and UAE – as much as I do.
Written by Kristian Kongstad Holm