Visit Dubai with Orient Tours agency
First, I would like to introduce you to the Orient Tours agency, recommended by Visit Dubai, to get to know Dubai better. A renowned agency founded in 1982, pioneering tourism in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman. It is one of the largest tourism agencies today, specializing in all kinds of tailor-made experiences. With this agency, you can get:
- city tours
- desert and mountain safaris
- balloon rides, seaplane rides and cruises
Orient Tours works with companies and many travel agencies worldwide for reservations of hotels, restaurants, car rentals, group tours, multi-lingual tour guides, etc.
Their main ambition is to make you live tailor-made experiences to discover the traditional culture, religion, and gastronomy of the country with its different tours.
The advantage of this agency is that it creates and operates its own activities. The prices are attractive, competitive and the team is reliable and professional. Just say what you like and let yourself be led!
Thanks to Orient Tours, I spent a full day visiting the most famous sites or off the beaten track with my French speaking guide.
Then a second day was organized around Hatta National Park, including a desert excursion to do dune bashing and a visit to a bee farm.
Small anecdote: I paid for my activities with Orient Tours with my HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® and this was considered travel expenses: 6 points per dollar and no foreign currency conversion fee!
The birth of Dubai and its expansion
The first to set foot on the lands of Dubai and to settle there were nomadic shepherds in 2500 BC.
They began to live off the production of agriculture and camel breeding.
From the 12th century onwards, the pearl trade began with the work of fishing, followed by gold, spices and textiles mainly.
From there, the creation of the souks that you can visit in Dubai.
To learn more about Dubai’s heritage, nothing better than visiting the Dubai Museum located at Al Fahidi fort in the old historical district of Dubai.
The city now has a population of over 3 million and has gradually expanded to create multiple distinct neighbourhoods, consisting of skyscrapers, residences and single-family homes.
In this article, I won’t talk about restaurants, cafes, clubs or hotels in particular: the offer is really wide, there is something for all tastes and budgets! I assure you.
Here is a tour of the main areas of the city and their attractions as well as activities by profile that I suggest for an unforgettable experience.
The historic Al Fahidi district
A first visit should start in this district located along the Dubai Cove in order to understand the past of the city, discover its heritage, its traditions and the culture of its people. Stroll through the narrow streets of the traditional old town of Al Bastakiya and then cross the Creek on board an abra, a traditional Arab boat to reach the northern part of Dubai, Deira.
Discover the souk of spices and gold. Note the signs that indicate the price of gold. If you wish to buy jewellery, you will have to negotiate. Ignore the flapjacks who sell fakes. For complete immersion, visit the Heritage House (free) to see how a yesteryear house was organized.
Al Seef is a traditional representation of the old city in a more modern way. The walk is well laid out and pleasant under the canvases stretched in places sheltered from the heat. Boats are waiting for you to cross or cruise the Dubai Creek.
Beautiful shops and nice views!
Dubai Zabeel Area
The Dubai Frame was designed by architect Fernando Donis to link the old and new Dubai. Thus, when you look at one side of the frame, you can see the more historic area of Dubai while on the other side you can see impressive modern skyscrapers.
The visit is quick (30-45 minutes) but it’s an attraction that I really enjoyed, especially the film presented at the end of the visit of more than 4 minutes on the future of the city. Beautiful and impressive!
At night, I suggest you go with your family to the Dubai Garden Glow which includes the Dinosaur Park as well as the Ice Park and the Art Park. Everything is illuminated, an enchanting world for young and old. Finally, for a touch of illusion, you have Magic Park.
Let’s continue to the most famous district, where the famous Burj Khalifa is located. When you come from far away, you try to admire it from everywhere, so impressive is this skyscraper!
During a first visit, a passage At The Top is almost indispensable in order to have a panoramic view of the city from the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa or the 148th floor. For a different experience, a lounge at levels 152,153 and 154 allows you to have brunch or tea in the clouds or an evening drink under the stars.
In the shopping mall Dubai Mall there are various activities such as a haunted house, an aquarium and an underwater zoo, virtual reality activities, go-karting, skating, or flight simulation aboard a A380 of Emirates.
Finally, find an evening terrace overlooking the man-made lake to watch one of the 24 free Dubai Fountain Shows that take place between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. every 30 minutes.
Its construction has been completed since October and it should open soon in 2021. The structure is a masterpiece of ingenuity and deserves a look. You won’t be able to miss it anyway. Once open, this museum will offer exhibitions, theatre and attractions to keep an eye on the future and human openness. A place of learning, experiences and challenges for adults and children alike.
Umm Suqueim and Madinah Jumeirah
I like this area because it offers beautiful views of the Burj Al Arab. It is close to the shops, the Marina and the Jumeirah palm tree. And the beach is big and public. Cafés and restaurants also offer a simple, summery and relaxing atmosphere for the whole family.
Several games in the corner for children such as the water park Wild Wadi, outdoor games on the beach or a skate park. Others will enjoy kite surfing, kayaking or running.
A few minutes away, take a stroll to the Madinat Jumeirah, another neighborhood built in the style of traditional bazaars. We’re going back in time here!
I recommend the sunset at the end of the day on the beach, you will keep a memorable memory of it.
The Marina impressed me with its multiple skyscrapers built around an artificial canal.
I felt small, a little like when I first discovered New York. I liked the walk along the shoreline and suggest you do it at nightfall.
Why not have dinner on one of the pleasure boats that will take you on a tour of the Marina in the middle of these tours?
Commercial centers are present for those who would like to shop (The Beach and Marina Mall) but also a long sandy beach, restaurants and cafes.
The beach isn’t the thing that won me over the most. Nothing special in itself. It is occupied by many tourists but allows you to enjoy a beautiful view of Bluewaters. Find a place away from buildings. Several water activities such as sailing or water skiing are possible. Otherwise, licking on his towel is perfectly respectable. A classic seaside atmosphere.
If your heart is set on it, I suggest you cross the Marina with the XLine, the longest and fastest urban zip line in the world (from 12 years old).
Stroll through the new Bluewaters district and climb to the top of the world’s largest Ferris wheel, the Eye of Dubai. You will have a breathtaking view of the Marina and JBR as well as the Jumeirah palm tree. The shops and the wheel opened in the year 2020.
There are a few cafés, restaurants, bars, clubs, shops, a grocery store, etc. A place preserved from tourism because little known yet.
Over the years, Dubai has built 3 artificial archipelagos in the shape of palm trees:
- Palm Jebel Ali: a project one and a half times the size of Jumeirah – unfinished.
- Palm Jumeirah: the one that hosts Atlantis and is the smallest archipelago – complete.
- Deira Islands: le plus grand des trois – inachevé.
The most interesting of the archipelagos remains that of the Jumeirah Palm since it is finished. You can get there by subway and take the monorail to Atlantis. otherwise the simplest way is the taxi/uber.
The hotel Atlantis offers multiple activities such as the Aquaventure amusement park and the Dolphin Bay aquarium. And why not book at the underwater restaurant Ossiano for an exceptional evening or an afternoon on the beach.
For those who would like to shop, there is the center commercial Nakheel. Hotels are also accessible even if you are not a customer. Nothing prevents you from having a drink there, enjoy the outdoor facilities and there are several good restaurants to try as well.
The Pointe is the perfect place to stroll and watch the kids run or play in the sand, all with a beautiful view of Atlantis. End the evening in a shisha bar to watch the world’s largest fountains.
For those who would like to discover Muslim culture, it is possible to take a guided tour of the Jumeirah Mosque (the only one to offer this to non-Muslims).
Nearby is the seaside, also called La Mer. You will find a public beach but also many cafes and restaurants as well as a water park for young people. In the evening, the avenue is lively.
A little further on Jumeirah Street, stands the
. It will allow you to learn more about the creation of the United Arab Emirates, about an agreement signed by the 7 Emirates in 1971.
When you’re in Dubai, you’re usually looking for new experiences. Dubai understands this and caters to all types of customers. The crazy ones, the romantics, the families, the sportsmen, etc… Here are my suggestions!
Activities for couples in Dubai
The first activity that comes to mind when you arrive as a couple is booking a desert safari. You could also link this with a dinner in a Bedouin tent like the old-fashioned way. Nothing could be more romantic, you’ll see!
Other ideas in the desert: surf the dunes, drive a quad bike, or even treat yourself to an early morning hot air balloon ride – it’s magical! Orient Tours can help you plan all this.
Treat yourself to a helicopter or plane ride to fly over the city, the Jumeirah palm tree or The World, a project of 300 artificial islands representing the world.
A meal with your feet up in the air at Zero Gravity or a dinner cruise on a boat in the Marina is another idea.
The sunsets are fabulous in Dubai and remain very romantic. So here are a few suggestions:
- Meet at the end of the day at Dubai Creek Harbour to watch one of the most beautiful sunsets over the city of Dubai. A very pleasant walk along the marina dock. Work has also begun on the world’s next tallest skyscraper, the Dubai Creek Tower. In the future, it will be possible to stroll around Dubai Square, inspired by the most beautiful districts in the world.
- Before going to the Dubai Opera, I suggest you watch the sunset over the Burj Khalifa as you exit the Dubai Mall.
- Book at the restaurant Shimmers, a few steps away from the Burj Al Arab and take the opportunity to tread the sand by moonlight before leaving. Magic.
Activities for the family
The activities are numerous, it all depends on your desires. If you prefer to make a cultural, traditional or relaxing trip!
A ride in the desert on a camel? Meeting 30 minutes from Dubai at the camel farm in Al Lisaili, you can also feed the camels and other animals with the children (+ 10 years old for the ride).
Why not try the Outdoor Cinema. Several places organize screenings, some free, of cult films.
In admiration of acrobats? The show La Perle is just what you need for an evening that will blow your mind.
Want to be challenged? Do an escape game alone, as a couple or with your family!
In the Al Wasl neighbourhood, you can enjoy The Green Planet. It is a tropical forest in a greenhouse that brings together different animal species such as reptiles and birds and many others. The place offers magnificent views of the Burj Khalifa. Once the visit is over, cross the road and walk in the city walk. There are cafes, restaurants and some shops. The place is nice in the evening.
Just a thought for Canadians, that’s also where the Canadian University of Dubai is located!
In the same area, Adventure zone is a huge indoor playground that allows you to get active with your family. Between climbing, accrobranche, zip line, trampoline, skateboarding, etc., there’s plenty of fun and a change of scenery to take your mind off things. Another sports complex, the BOUNCE Dubai offers trampolines to let off steam with the family.
At Mushrif Park, you can stroll, bike, have a BBQ, let your kids have fun in the playgrounds or go to the Aventura Parks tree climbing park. Not far away, children who love contact with animals should be happy with the Dubai Safari Park or the Dubai Crocodile Park.
The Miracle Garden is a flowery park where it is pleasant to walk. Magnificent decorations for children and adults alike with for example an Emirates A380 covered with flowers.
The Global Village is a theme park for the whole family with entertainment, shops, restaurants and rides that takes you on a journey around the world.
Activities for children
If you want to have fun with the kids, you won’t have any trouble in Dubai! Here are a few ideas for outings that they might enjoy and change conventional visits:
- Kidzania is a leisure centre for children allowing them to discover a multitude of jobs through role-playing games. For a day or a few hours, they can be a surgeon, a fireman, a cashier, a cameraman, etc.
- The center OliOli is an experimental museum for children to awaken them to science and inventions. I love this kind of museum!
- The Children’s City is a theme park located in Creekside Park, one of the largest parks in the city. Activities include a planetarium, a nature centre and workshops to discover the human body.
- The IMG Worlds of Adventure is an indoor theme park with lots of rides. There are dinosaurs, Marvel characters, Cartoon characters.
Activities for sports and nature lovers
For those who like running, cycling or just walking, the walk along the
Dubai Water Canal
(between Business Bay and Jumeirah Beach) is perfect and offers beautiful views of Dubai’s skyscrapers. Join the parc Safa then, a large green park that offers beautiful views of the skyscrapers of the downtown district.
For the speed freaks, go to the autodrome, a racetrack to drive a racing car, a go-kart or even a vintage car!
Once a year is held the Desert Warrior Challenge, an event for those who love obstacles and racing all in an exceptional setting.
If you want to let off steam together, you can go to the Dubai Sports World for a game of tennis, badminton, squash, etc, in the World Trade center district.
For those who would like to jump… into the void with a parachute, launch yourself with the skydive Dubai and live an intense and unforgettable moment.
Running out of snow dear Canadians? The Emirates Mall offers ski slopes ! Skiing lessons are available, as well as tobogganing runs or meeting penguins.
For golf lovers, there is no lack of choice, there are courses everywhere! And if you’re looking to improve your Swing, why not take a one-to-one lesson with a professional?
Finally in another spirit, you could go horseback riding in one of the many centers equestrian or attend a horse or camel race!
If you have time and like to have fun, I recommend you to go to the Parc National d’Hatta, the new trendy “hub” in a superb natural setting.
In addition to its Heritage Village, a reconstruction of a traditional mountain village, the town is the new address for adventurers who want to be in nature: mountain hiking, biking (rental with equipment), kayaking, paddle or canyoning descents, archery, skydiving, a water park, airbag jumping, descents in a wagon or zorbing (air-filled ball), climbing or even camping and enjoy the barbecue facilities, phew. Picnic areas are also available.
Not far away, a non-sporty visit but which would be a pity to miss for the experience, that of a visit of a bee farm in the area.
For the shopping lovers
How can you not talk about shopping when you’re talking about Dubai? It contains centers commercial and shopping areas, some of which I can’t talk about.
For a traditional walk, visit its souks. Between spices, gold, fabrics, souvenirs, you will find everything. You can do business in Bur Dubai or Deira. But also to the Medinah Jumeirah under beautiful modern wooden arcades (less racc raccoleur). Finally you also have the luxurious souk Al Bahar near the Dubai Mall, far from the traditional ones.
On the shopping mall side, I recommend you to visit the classics of course: the Dubai Mall, but also the Emirates Mall even if it is only for window shopping and finally the IBN Battuba Mall. The latter has been decorated on the theme of travel, to see!
I know that for some people, it’s a bit crazy to want to visit a commercial center but sometimes the architecture is crazy and is worth a look, especially for the latter!
Finally the center Dubai Festival City also brings together a multitude of activities.
Art related activities
The city of Dubai is not free of art lovers. I am thinking of several places in particular that offer art galleries, exhibitions or events:
- the Jamel Art Center.
- the space Foundry in Downtown Dubai
- Aserkal Avenue at Al Quoz
- the Dubai Design District
Each of these places offer free exhibitions, shops, cafés or library. You may even come across some beautiful vintage cars on Aserkal Avenue.
Finally, I would like to end with Expo 2020, the universal exhibition proposed by Dubai. I had the chance to visit the exclusively the Expo 2020, still inaccessible to the general public! Thanks to Kerstie for this amazing and fabulous visit!
Don’t miss it if you’re going to Dubai during the Expo!
The goal is to bring humanity together to remember what unites us, celebrate the human spirit and highlight great examples of collaboration and innovation from around the world. The theme of Expo 2020 in Dubai is “Connecting Minds, Building the Future”.
For 6 months, starting October 1st 2021, the exhibition will welcome the humans of tomorrow (artists, pioneers, leaders, chefs, etc) with a rich cultural program mixing technology, culinary specialties and world music.
A journey representing more than 190 countries around the world to share ideas on innovation and progress through the following sub-themes:
- the square of opportunity: building the future by unleashing the potential of individuals and communities.
- the mobility triangle: developing intelligent movement of people.
- the circle of sustainability: Respecting the world around us for a sustainable future.
These three sub-themes are found in the design of the site’s master plan, a flower and its three petals. Each theme district will include innovative galleries, parks, outdoor gardens, and food and beverage areas. The Al Wasl square of the Arabic word “connection” will be the focal point of the entire Expo 2020, a steel piece that should surprise many, I say no more!
A magical tree, two intrepid Emirati brother and sister and three guardian robots will be the mascots of Expo 2020 to launch this adventure through time and space.
4 main entries will be available. The site will be accessible in 15 minutes by metro from center.
Namely, the site cultivates all its flowers and plants, all its trees.
Countries were thus able to choose the area where they wished to settle. New Zealand, for example, is in the sustainability district with the installation of solar panels on its structure.
I was fortunate enough to get a glimpse of the Canada Pavilion (you can see the details here) which celebrates the multi-dimensional Canadian identity by integrating a graphic element of Arabic architecture with the geometric lattice Mashrabiya made of wood. Canada has chosen to locate in the sustainability neighbourhood as well, close to a park.
Canada will develop the themes of diversity, artificial intelligence and aerospace.
It will offer the world’s largest 360-degree projection screen from which we can see in and out from underneath.
The American and Japanese pavilions will also be impressive, but many others as well!
Something to know
- When you make your hotel reservation, expect 20AED per room per night on your final bill.
- Download the applications Emirates, Visit Dubai or DHA (for Coronavirus tests), Uber or EatApp to reserve a table at the restaurant.
- Be aware of the dress code everywhere you go, especially in places of worship.
- Do not possess or consume alcohol in an outdoor public place.
- Do not take a picture of anyone without their permission.
- Know a few Arabic words: you will be even more respected and appreciated!
- Most of the parking lots are free.
- Don’t leave without tasting the dates or the Arab pastries!
Another tip: call and book your activities in advance. Quite simply because with the VIDOC-19 crisis, many have had to revise their opening hours and the number of seats in order to comply with the distancing instructions, or are perhaps still closed unfortunately.
I wish you a nice trip to the country of the United Arab Emirates. No doubt that once you visit, you’ll want to go back!
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When to visit Dubai?
Many people are wondering when to go to Dubai, and that’s a pertinent question. It would be a shame not to be able to enjoy it because of the heat. Ideally I recommend you to go there between November and April where the temperatures will stay between 20 and 30 degrees in general.
When will Expo 2020 Dubai take place?
Expo 2020 will open its doors for 6 months from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. Don’t miss this meeting on the theme “Connecting Spirits, Building the Future”.
How do I get around Dubai?
Walking is easy in the same neighbourhood. But as soon as you want to get out, you will have to choose a means of transport. Dubai offers different ones to suit your budget.
The most economical will be the subway. A trip costs between 4 and 8 AEDs and day passes are available. It’s up to you to assess whether the cost will be recovered. Be aware that once you get out of the metro, you will sometimes have a long walk to take before reaching your goal. On average, count less than 30 AEDs for a 10-minute taxi ride.
Taxis are the most common means of transport in Dubai, as are Uber and Careem (the local Uber). Download the applications for the latter two. Run a query on Uber for example to get an idea of how much your trip would cost and then see if the taxi would be cheaper. Cost may vary depending on traffic. In a taxi, make sure the driver starts his meter.
Finally, renting a car is possible and may be the solution if you have a lot of trips planned, are several or with children. Parking is free and everywhere, and petrol is cheap. You just have to be careful with the driving of the locals who sometimes drive fast and can cut the road. Have your international permit with you.
How to dress in Dubai?
When you visit the UAE, it is important to observe certain rules regarding dress code. In public places, it is recommended to wear respectful clothing, especially covering shoulders and knees for women. You should carry a scarf in your bag, it will help you at all times.
If you visit a mosque, your outfit should be respectful, not tight or transparent. Women will have to cover their hair and body from head to toe.