From its flashy skyscrapers to its sweeping sand dunes, Dubai offers a variety of unique experiences for your first time trip. Dubai is the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Over the years, Dubai has developed into a fascinating and vibrant city in the Middle East. It has attracted the world’s attention through large construction projects, most particularly the world’s tallest building–the Burj Khalifa. Aside from this, the city also offers world-class shopping experience with the largest malls and fancy staycations through its luxury hotels. The easily accessible desert where you can drive or ride camels along the majestic dunes is also something you should not miss.
Upon setting foot on Dubai, the multi-cultural city has a few similarities with Manila that reminded me of my home country’s capital. Just like Manila, Dubai is a city trapped between the old and the new. Dubai is a is a mixture of its Bedouin heritage and ultramodern style, while Manila is a combination of its colonizers’ heritage (the most remarkable of which is the Spanish influence as reflected in the city’s old houses and churches) and budding skyscrapers. However, the strong distinction is the cost of living. As of 2012, Dubai is the most expensive city in the Middle East. Dubai is a metropolis with a conservative culture and old world customs. At the same time, it is also thriving global city and central business hub.
Dubai is often considered as a stopover destination for travelers flying in and out of UAE. But Dubai is so much more than just a stopover city. It is actually a fascinating city that offers a wide variety of things to do and places to explore. Despite being known as the most expensive city in the middle east, you can still plan a trip that won’t break your budget.
Our FIRST Time in Dubai
My first time in Dubai was also was my first time to be in a long haul flight for a vacation. Although I have been to Jeddah before because I studied there, this was the first time I flew long haul for a travel adventure. And we all know that first time experiences mean lifetime memories! I loved the time I spent in Dubai, including all the new experiences and memories that I gained. I was surprised at how much the city has to offer and how much you can explore in a few days. It is indeed a glamorous multifaceted city that is built on ancient traditions and futuristic vision.
Pre Travel Guide
Where to book flights?
Cebu Pacific Airlines is the largest and low-cost carrier in our country that offers direct flights from Manila to Dubai. It’s a non-stop 8 hours flight and will typically cost you at around 6,000 PHP TO 13,000 PHP one way. But if you’re lucky, you can score a ticket for as low as 967PHP!! Moreover, Cebu Pacific Airlines has daily flights to Dubai usually at 4:45PM – 10:40PM.
If you’re still unconvinced on booking your flight via Cebu Pacific Airlines, let me provide you reasons why this airline is the best one for your Siargao trip!
- Ultimate Convenience– direct flights to Dubai doesn’t always happen to most local airlines. But as for Cebu Pacific Airlines, it is definitely possible. Ang hassle ng connecting flights, you know.
- Lowest Year-Round Fare– Cebu Pacific Airlines offers one of the cheapest (or probably the only cheapest one) flights from Manila to Dubai.
To score the cheapest rate, here are some tips:
- Visit their websites regularly to see promos and discounts
- Like their Facebook Page to be updated on their ganaps. (You can also use the “See First” thing on their page to get a higher chance of knowing their promos.)
Where to get cheap tours?
Based on my experience, I highly recommend you to book discounted tours for your trip in Dubai from KLOOK to enjoy a hassle-free way of exploring the city. Don’t worry, as most of my suggested tours from KLOOK are reasonable and are within the fair market value + of course, has your money’s worth!
- iVenture Card – let you explore Dubai unlimitedly for 5 days and have access to over 20 key locations.
- Burj Khalifa Observation Deck– you wouldn’t miss witnessing the view of Dubai City from the world’s tallest tower’s perspective, right?
- Abu Dhabi Full Day Tour– a jam-packed day tour in the wonders of Abu Dhabi City.
- Dubai Overnight Desert Safari Tour– THE BEST AMONG THE REST! An adventure of a lifetime in the magical desert of Dubai!
Mode of Transportation:
- Dubai City Sightseeing Bus Pass – an open top bus tour of the city with unlimited travel for one day
- Private Car Charter – let you explore the city at your own pace in a chauffeured vehicle
- Rent a 4g Wifi to stay connected:
- Google Maps: This has been my ultimate travel buddy during my trip in Dubai. I consider this as my “how to get there-buddy,” as it provides me with routes and walking trails towards my destination.
- UberX and Careem Go
Do we need UAE Visa?
For Philippine Passport Holders, we are required to secure a visa before entering UAE. Based on our experience, getting the UAE Visa is the easiest one we got- but it is quite expensive!
How to get around?
From / To the Airport:
- Public Taxis: One way you can access Dubai City is via their public taxis. There is a taxi terminal outside the airport with a bunch of taxis parked awaiting your arrival. These taxis can take you to your accommodation or preferred destination in under 30 minutes. There’s an AED25 flag charge from the airport and will charge you an additional AED1.96 per each km. They also accept most major credit cards and soon enough, wifi will be available on board for passengers to stay connected. Moreover, apps like UberX and Careem Go can be alternatives to hire a taxi.
- Metro: The Dubai Airport metro consists of the two lines: the green and red lines. Most stations in these lines can connect you to buses and taxis when you get off. To get to the city center, use the red line. The train cost depends on the number of zones you pass through but is always extremely affordable- averaging at around AED 5.8 / PAX.
Getting Around The City:
Getting around the city can be pretty much easy since there are a lot of selection for you to hop from one place to another. However, do take note that Dubai can be really traffic at times especially during rush hours which happens at 7-10am and 4:30-7pm. One more thing to consider is their work week which happens during Sunday to Thursday, while their weekend days are Fridays and Saturdays. There is less traffic during the weekend.
- Hire A Private Charter: This will let you explore the city at your own pace in a chauffeured vehicle with a private driver. In this way you could plan your own route and avoid stifling buses and long taxi lines.
- Book Here: Klook Private Charter
- Taxis: One of the most common transportation means in Dubai is riding a Taxi.
- Rate: Normal Fare: AED 5 starting rate + AED 0.5 for every 292 meters. During the night, starting rate is at AED 5.5 while during peak hours, starting rate is at AED 12.
- Uber or Careem App: As said earlier, you can also book a taxi via these app.
- For you to save money while hiring the taxi, avoid the fancy Lexus taxis and opt the regular ones instead.
- Metro: Dubai’s Metro System is developed and won’t give you a hard time to utilize it. These cars can take you to most of the popular neighborhoods in the city. However, this might also be time consuming in some cases since there are stations that are a bit far from the attractions and would require you to have a long walk for a couple of minutes. Nevertheless, this could also save you from traffic during rush hours.
- If you’re planning to maximize the Metro, I highly suggest you to purchase a prepaid NOL card which can be used for the Metro, Tram, buses and taxi. This is like our own version of Beep Card which definitely save time from purchasing tickets station by station and also gives you a discount on standard fares.
- Hop On/ Hop Off Buses: An open top bus tour of the city with unlimited travel for one day. All you have to do is hop on the bus, hop off whatever tour stop you wish to explore, and then when you’re ready, just hop back on the next incoming bus at the stop.
- Book Here: Klook Hop On/ Hop Off Buses
Where to stay?
You will definitely not have a problem when it comes to finding hotels that fit your preference. Ranging from airbnbs to luxury ones, Dubai have them all! I highly suggest you to book your accommodation in advance since based on our experience the price in the booking platforms compared to the walk in rates are incredibly different!
Budget Tip: Avoid luxury hotels and book a place near Deira, Bur Dubai and Karama instead.
You can book via these platforms:
Where did we stayed:
- Name of Hotel: Dulf Hotel Dubai
- Rate: 1,400PHP / 2PAX
- Access: Dubai Creek Night Cruise (1.33 km); Reef Mall (1.35 km); Dubai Gold Souk (1.58 km); Bastakiya (1.74 km)
What Made Dubai Unique
Our first time in this grand city was indeed a one-for-the-books experience and a memory to be remembered forever. Because of this trip, I witnessed how amazing Dubai is- from its sparkly and breathtaking cityscape to its magical sand dunes, this multi-cultural metropolis definitely is a city worth exploring. Moreover, this trip also opened my eyes to how unique this city is. Here’s why:
Dubai offers an exclusive view of the world
Dubai boasts of the tallest building in the world. The iconic Burj Khalifa is no doubt an impressive architectural beauty, but it offers a lot more than its outstanding exterior. In fact, the views from the top floor is breathtakingly beautiful. Witness a stunning panoramic view over Dubai. Take a ride to the 125th floor using the world’s fastest elevator. Enjoy the bird’s eye view of the 360-degree heart-stopping views. Do not forget to watch the sun set over the city from the observation deck.
Home to the most luxurious resorts and hotels
Dubai is known for its extraordinary luxury hotels that pamper guests with regal rooms, refined international food and lavish amenities. In 2014, Dubai’s hotel rooms were rated as the second most expensive in the world! In fact, this is where the Burj Al Arab, the 3rd tallest hotel in the world and the “world’s most luxurious hotel” is located. This gigantic hotel boasts 1,790 square meters of 24-carat gold leaf decorations that could cover 46,265 Mona Lisa paintings!
We were also given the opportunity to experience a lush staycation in Cove Rotana Resort , Ras Al Khaimah, an hour drive from Dubai. This resort is undeniably charming as it embraces the uniqueness of the Arabian culture. With a Nubian touch in their design, the rooms and villas are well-crafted and aesthetically designed to offer comforts that you would expect of a 5-star resort. The rooms are cozy, designed with a distinctive Nubian touch, and well equipped.
You can witness the most unique souks in the world
Although Dubai has a reputation of a thriving modern metropolis, traditional Arabian markets are still a remarkable part of daily life and trade. ‘Souk’ or ‘souq’ is the Arabic word which stands for the market or place where any kind of goods are brought or exchanged. Discover Dubai’s shopping heritage at the city’s top Arabian markets. The souks of Dubai are touristy but it is so much more than that. It is also chance to experience Dubai the way it was, long before luxury hotels and high-end shopping centers arrived. You can find a fascinating mix of traditional items in Dubai’s exciting souks—perfumes, fabrics, spices. A wander through one of Dubai’s bustling souks is an essential experience for first timers.
Experience An Authentic Desert Safari
There is a reason why they call Dubai the desert city. Dubai is home to sweeping sand dunes that provides a view of the mesmerizing serene sandy landscape. It is the best spot for sunset photos and thrilling adventures. A lot of tour-operating companies offer an array of activities from camel rides, 4×4 dune bashing, qualk bike rides, and sand boarding. You can also try to have henna art and watch the famous fire shows and belly dancing shows. Some say that there is nothing exciting about deserts but this desert in Dubai proved them wrong. Being able to be in such a beautiful place such as Dubai’s desert is truly an adventure of a lifetime.
Dubai’s Culture Is AMAZING
With locals making up only a fraction of the population, Dubai is a bustling city shared by cultures from all corners of the world. What makes Dubai unique is its ability to stay true to local culture, religion, and traditions. Its ties to culture and tradition remains intact despite its rapid modernization. Many young Emiratis from Dubai still practice their local traditions and cultures, and are proud to be part of a city that both embraces change and newcomers, while also staying true to its past. The diversity brought by new cultures from all over the world expresses itself in the culinary landscape, fashion, music and performance. Although rooted in Islamic tradition, Dubai is an open society where it is easy for visitors to connect with a lot of experiences. Dubai is definitely a place that is open to many possibilities—including breaking down cultural barriers.
There will come a time when we will not have the enough time or energy to do the things we have always wanted or see the places we have always wanted to explore. Whether it’s conquering that mountain, jumping off a cliff, getting lost in the forest, camping out by the shore, leaping out of a plane, or traveling solo to a country you have never been to before, wipe away your worries and give it a go. Whatever it is that you want to experience, do not wait any longer. Pack your bags and immerse yourself in the possibility of endless discoveries. Seize each opportunity, say yes to every adventure, and make first moments happen! Can we say yes to Dubai?
- Long Haul Flight Survival Tips
- Dubai Travel Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before You Visit
- Dubai Travel Guide: A 16,800 PHP Itinerary