Holidays in Dubai
Holidays in Dubai for tourists and visitors - finding the best holiday deal in Dubai, how to have a good holiday, when to go for a visit, what sights to see, how to get a visa for American, Arab, British, European, Indian, Russian, and other nationalities. Public holidays in Dubai and UAE.
When to go for a holiday to Dubai and UAE
Weather, climate, temperatures in UAE
Generally the months from November to March are the best (bring warm clothes in January). October and April to May are also good but can be hot during the day. Early June might be tolerable. July to September are horrible outside - too hot and humid. On the bright side, hotels and airlines sometimes have cheaper package deals and special offers in the summer, but don't expect to enjoy being outside.
- Summer (June, July, August) - Avoid this time. Very hot outside, 40-50 degrees C daytime, 35-40 night time. Too hot to do anything comfortably, even at night sitting outside you'll sweat buckets. Sea temperatures hot (30-40 Celcius) and unpleasant for swimming. Skies are hazy so not great for outdoor photography. Almost all indoor areas, shopping malls, hotels, cars, buses, metro have good airconditioning. Weather is hot and sunny almost every day. June is a bit more tolerable - humidity is lower, possible to sit outside very early mornings and evenings.
- Autumn (September, October, November) - September still too hot and humid to be comfortable outside. October pleasant to hot early morning or late at night. Sea temperature becomes perfect for swimming, not too cold or too hot. November is one of the best months for traveling to the UAE.
- Winter (December, January, February) - a great time to be in Dubai. Weather is usually sunny with clear skies (much clearer than summer). Can be cool to cold at night (less than 20 C, sometimes below 15). Sea temperature 17 to 22 Celcius, refreshing to cool for swimming. Sometimes rain and wind.
- Spring (March, April, May) - early spring is one of the best times to travel to Dubai, weather not too hot or cold, ocean temperature becoming pleasant for swimming, skies still clear.
Busy and peak holiday periods
Note that Islamic holidays are not fixed to a particular date each year as the Islamic calendar is a different length, and usually the exact dates are not confirmed until shortly before the holiday as Muslims rely on moon-sightings to confirm holiday dates.
- Christmas - many expats are Christian and celebrate Christmas. Shopping centers have Christmas trees and other events, although it's not the same as a snowy marketplace or mountain village in Europe. Air tickets are expensive. Dubai is busy with many families visiting residents to celebrate Christmas on the beach.
- Eid holidays - Eid al Fitr, Eid al Adha. Periods of 2-5 day (sometimes longer) Islamic holidays. Significant for Muslims in various ways. For visitors it means flights are full and expensive, and shopping centers are busy.
- New Years Eve - roads are jammed with traffic, generally as plans for traffic management don't work in practice like they do on paper. Park yourself somewhere early and expect to take a long time to get home afterwards. Fireworks shows at the Burj Khalifa, Palm Island Atlantis, Burj Al Arab are impressive. Anywhere along Jumeirah Beach Rd gets a good free view (of both fireworks and traffic gridlock).
- Ramadan - not a holiday but an Islamic month long period when Muslims celebrate their faith. Ramadan does not occur at the same time each year. During the day Muslims fast which means for visitors that almost all restaurants and cafes are closed daytime. Generally the pace of life is slower. Not a great time to visit the UAE unless wanting to take part in Ramadan events and celebrations.
- Several other public holidays which are usually 1 day do not make much difference to holiday travel plans unless part of a weekend (making it longer). But note that banks and government offices are usually closed, sometimes bars and restaurants do not serve alcohol. Shopping centers are always open.
List of events in Dubai, includes some for Abu Dhabi and other emirates. Most outdoor events take place between October and April - golf, tennis, concerts, sports, horse racing. Major events include:
- Dubai International Film Festival. Annual, in December.
- Dubai Tennis Championships. Annual, in February and March.
- Dubai World Cup horse race in March.
- F1 Grand Prix end of October or beginning of November, in Abu Dhabi.
- Sharjah Art - every two years.
Best holidays in Dubai
The best holiday in Dubai depends on what you're looking for. Usually the major factors are best in terms of price, luxury, weather, events, places to visit, shopping.
- Best shopping holiday in Dubai: Visit Dubai Mall for things to see and do besides shopping. Mall of the Emirates to see an indoor ski field and try it out, also easy to access by metro. Dubai Outlet Mall if you feel like going far from Dubai for cheaper shopping but selection is not great, not easy to get to except by taxi (expensive) or private car. Karama for fake bags (quality mostly ok), watches (quality poor to ok), DVDs (bad quality, don't bother). Deira or perhaps Karama for fake smartphones - iPhones, Samsung, etc (but even the best quality ones still have problems and you'll fry your batter or phone and end up buying a new one anyway, don't bother). The Gold Souk in Deira jewellery at tourist prices, or the Gold and Diamond Souk (First Gulf Bank metro station) for more reasonable prices and a more relaxed environment, but not as interesting for photos.
- Best outdoor experience holiday in Dubai: Don't visit in summer. Seriously, don't visit the UAE in summer if you want to spend time outdoors. When you get the timing right, go for a desert drive experience, the Liwa is fantastic but organised tours don't exist and it's not easy to organise a trip as a visitor - you really need to know someone living in the UAE. Another time-consuming but worthwhile place to visit is Sir Baniyas Island off the coast of Abu Dhabi (Sir as in part of the name, not an honorific because you want to be polite to the island). Trip to the Musandam Peninsula (Oman - border crossing required) and boat ride - there are a number of organised journeys, the road and scenery on the way is impressive, the Dhow trips are a bit overrated unless you like just relaxing on a boat in the sun for a long time. Drive through Wadi Bih in Ras Al Khaimah - might or might not be possible, there is an Oman border crossing which is often or usually closed to many nationalities, also the road can be washed out badly enough to be unnavigable in normal 4wd vehicles (rarely if ever possible in a sedan car unless a new road is built). Beaches - sunny almost the whole year, too hot in summer (water and air temperature), water a bit cool in winter, great in spring and autumn. Avoid jet ski rentals unless part of a hotel resort on the beach, there are many scams and ripoffs which will spoil your holiday.
- Best luxury hotel resort experience in Dubai: Burj Al Arab to stay in an iconic Dubai landmark, it's not an official 7 star hotel (no such thing exists) despite what journalists say, but it is luxurious, a bit over the top for many. Al Maha Resort is likely to be the best experience for anyone ... with the money to spend. Zighy Bay resort - in Oman and a bit of a drive, but a spectacular resort. Atlantis Palm Island - impressive to look at, and popular, but not really the best, mentioned here because so many people will wonder about it, stay in one of the other Palm Island hotels on the crescent for a more luxurious experience, or Atlantis if you want dolphins, water park, fine dining restaurants, and noisy kids disturbing your peace and tranquility.
- Best cultural holiday in Dubai: not really. For Arab culture and history visit Jordan or Turkey, perhaps Syria if it calms down, for a better experience than anything you'll find in the UAE. There are museums, culture and art events and institutes, but that's still a developing sector.
- Best nature and scenic holiday in Dubai: again, not really, unless you like sand dunes. The UAE is a dry sandy desert with occasional green bits when it rains or where hosepipes have been installed. There are bigger sand dunes in the Liwa area which are spectacular, and mountains in Ras Al Khaimah which are also sort of scenic - in a barren Mars or lunar landscape kind of way (Oman has better sceneray from that perspective anyway). But you won't get the same sense of awesomeness and wow factor compared to being in the Swiss Alps, Rocky Mountains, Great Barrier Reef, other other well known scenic nature areas around the world.
- Best sightseeing holiday in Dubai: Most of the tourist sights in Dubai can be seen from a Big Bus Tour which is worth doing - the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab Hotel, Jumeirah Mosque (although the Al Farouq Mosque in Umm Suqiem, Dubai is better, but not on the Big Bus Tour), Dubai Museum. Other sights or areas not on the Big Bus Tour include the Al Serkal Avenue art gallery area (art shops, not art museums), Bastakiya culture and heritage historical area. One of the Dubai Ferry trips is a good experience, better than one of the Dhow trips on Dubai Creek which are mostly overrated.
Budget holidays in the UAE
Dubai and the UAE is not really set up for backpacking hosteling style holidays. There is only one Youth Hostel in Dubai, it's not great for single women, and no other hostel style accommodation. One reason is that it is illegal for unrelated men and women to be in private areas together in the UAE, for example sharing hotel rooms or hostel accommodation. This rule is mostly ignored - unrelated men and women share cars, apartments, bedrooms, hotel rooms usually without any problems. A couple of ways to find a budget holiday in Dubai are:
- Sign up to one of the websites that encourage travellers to meet and stay with each other for free, for example couchsurfing. This works well for single young women (or young women claiming to be single) since there are a large number of bachelor (or claiming to be bachelor) men wanting to meet young single women, and who have jobs providing good accommodation. It doesn't work so well for single young men since women are generally more reluctant to host strangers, and there are fewer women with jobs where companies provide good accommodation, also the men who have hosting availability are usually more interested in hosting women anyway.
- Staying with friends or family. An advantage is that they are likely to show you around, and feed and water you for minimum cost. A disadvantage is that friends might become unfriended if the visitor is a pain in the ahhh ... neck. It's more difficult to undo family bonds.
- Package deals - this is likely to be one of the better ways to find a budget holiday, or a better price for a luxury holiday. As in a hotel and flight combination.
- Airbnb has a few options in Dubai but is not as common as in other cities due to laws regarding rentals, tenancy, and operating a business. Technically, receiving money for renting out a bed means you should be licensed to do so by the relevant authorities. Also, many residents rent their properties and it is common for the tenancy contract to have a clause disallowing subletting, and restricting the number of people allowed to stay in an apartment or villa. These rules are often ignored, and often without any problems, nevertheless, they exist.
- Finding hotel and flights separately doesn't always mean significant cost savings compared to a similar approach in other countries. Flights are generally expensive and very few budget airlines operates flights to the UAE.
- Usually it's not worth getting a rental car, unless you have a good reason to drive around a lot, and you know your way around Dubai and the UAE. GPS systems are useful but go out of date quite quickly in the UAE especially in Dubai.
Visitor and tourist visas for Dubai
See one of the relevant pages:
- Tourist visa for UAE (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, etc). Valid 30 days, renewable once, sponsor is travel related company (airline, hotel, travel agent).
- Visit visa for UAE. Valid 30 days or 90 days, not renewable (except for free visa on arrival nationalities), sponsor can be company or person but some restrictions - person must usually be a close relative.
- Parent category - Dubai, Travel Dubai, Tourism in Dubai.
- Child pages - Cheap holidays to Dubai.
- Related pages - flights to Dubai, visa for Dubai, hotels in Dubai, accommodation in Dubai, sights in Dubai, history of Dubai, museums and culture in Dubai. List of public holidays UAE.
Last update Thursday 06-Feb-2014. Page development 1H 2T 3D 4L 5C.