Whether you’re looking for sun and sea, luxury, a cultural desert tour, shopping or a family-friendly getaway, Dubai has something for everyone. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering a trip to Dubai.
1. When to visit Dubai
Dubai is hot and it is best to visit in their winter, which is October through December. And even though it is winter, don’t be fooled. Temperatures get as high as 33 during the day and 22 at night. If you’re planning to stay indoors in air-conditioned environments, then anytime is fine.
2. Do South Africans need a visa?
Yes, South Africans do need a visa and there are different visas available depending on the length of your stay. Dubai Visas usually cost between R760 – R1370, can be booked online, and take between 3-5 working days to process. Even if you only plan to stop over for a few hours and leave the airport, you need a visa.
3. Flights to Dubai
Thanks to Emirates, Dubai Airport has become a portal to the rest of the world. Dubai makes a great holiday destination or use it as the perfect way to break up a long flight on to another destination. Only an 8-hour flight from Johannesburg, Emirates’ economy class offers a reasonable amount of space, has a great entertainment offering and offers provides 2 hours of free in-flight wifi. Visit Emirates or Travelstart for flight info.
4. Wifi in Dubai
Most places offer complimentary wifi, but do request either an email address or Facebook authorisation. I was unable to make Whatsapp calls, but otherwise had wifi connection most of the time. You can buy a SIM card at the airport if you’re not keen to rely on public wifi. Cost: 1GB of data valid for 30 days will cost AED 100 (R400).
5. Getting around in Dubai
There is no shortage of ways to get around in Dubai. In addition to public transport like buses and metros, you can also use Uber, taxis or tour guides. For a full list of what the different types of transport will cost, click here.
In Dubai, they use the Dirham and at the time of writing, the exchange rate was R4 to UAE1. Most places take card machines and there are ATMs available everywhere if you would like to draw cash.
Tips are usually included in your bill (ask if you are not sure) but it’s customary to tip between 10% and 15% depending on the service.
7. Where to stay
Would it be a Dubai holiday if you didn’t stay in a glam hotel? There are loads of 5-star hotels (as well as the world’s only 7-star, which has a waiting list even though a room costs R300k per night), which are a nice way to spoil yourself. Make sure to make the most of the hotel amenities and include some downtime in your itinerary. Plus there are a variety of ultra-lux beach clubs.
If luxury isn’t your style or suited to your budget, there are a variety of affordable 3-star hotels and you can take a look for budget accommodation in Dubai on Airbnb.
8. Crime and safety in Dubai
Dubai is a safe destination for tourists. Be warned: the recent introduction of a linked CCTV system, means that the police have eyes all over the city. Using AI and face recognition, police will be alerted to almost any crime immediately. This is also true when it comes to traffic, so if you’re hiring a car, stick to the speed limit and don’t swear or use rude gestures towards anyone – as this is illegal.
9. Important rules to follow when in Dubai
- Avoid public displays of affection (only really allowed between a husband and wife. Holding hands is fine avoid kissing to be on the safe side)
- Don’t swear or use rude gestures
- Don’t insult Islam or the royal family
- Don’t drink in public (only drink in designated bars, hotels or restaurants)
10. What to wear in Dubai
Women should cover their shoulders in mosques, but otherwise, it is not as big of an issue as you would think it would be. You can wear a bikini at the beach and at a hotel or water park. It’s best to be mindful of the area you are visiting when deciding what to wear. Always remember that you are visiting Dubai and should respect their customs and laws.
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