Travelling to Dubai for the first time and not sure where to start? Follow our top tips on what to see and do, and you'll find your way around in no time.
Experience new heights
If there's only one place you can visit while on a trip to Dubai, let it be the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa
. Take in incomparable views as you step out onto the world's highest observation deck on the 124th floor, perched 555m high. Admire the desert sands and sparkling coastline in the distance, and ultra-modern towers all around, which perfectly capture Dubai's journey from desert city to modern metropolis. This is a photo opportunity you cannot afford to miss.
Tip for first-time visitors: Book your tickets to At The Top online ahead of time and skip the queues.
Shop, snack, skate
With a mall in almost every neighbourhood, there is no shortage of places to shop at in Dubai. But you haven't truly experienced retail therapy unless you've spent a day at The Dubai Mall in Downtown. From luxury to high street brands, jewellery stores, home decor, electronics and more... this destination has it all. Afterwards, put the shopping bags aside to enjoy skating at the mall's indoor ice rink, or visit the sharks and crocodiles at Dubai Aquarium's Underwater Zoo. Then head over to watch The Dubai Fountain in action, while enjoying a snack at one of the many dining outlets along the way. We weren't kidding when we said you can spend the entire day here!
Tip for first-time visitors: The Dubai Mall offers a free 'shop and drop' service so you can enjoy shopping with ease.
Discover Dubai's past
Beyond the record-breaking sights, a visit to Dubai's historical treasures, museums and heritage areas should be on every holiday itinerary. Head to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
to tour centuries-old architecture, as well as to shop for authentic souvenirs at nearby souks. Unlike stores in malls, there are more traditional wares here – just make sure to haggle for the best prices. You'll also find lots of art galleries and cafes in the area, making it a memorable way to spend an afternoon.
Tip for first-time visitors: Bargaining is expected, so don't be shy to negotiate!
Get around like a local
Dubai is an easy city to navigate with multiple transportation options. Jump aboard the Dubai Metro
for a ride that conveniently stops at the city's top shopping and leisure destinations, including The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Marina. There is also the tram that goes along Dubai Marina and beyond, and a dedicated monorail on the Palm Jumeirah. For something a little different, we recommend a scenic evening commute to Dubai Festival City aboard a sleek water taxi
, or a traditional abra boat ride across Dubai Creek for just AED1.
Tip for first-time visitors: Make sure you get a Nol card which works across Dubai's public transport system.
Think global, eat local
With nearly 200 nationalities residing in Dubai, you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to finding good food with a world of flavour. From fiery Indian curries and meaty Arabic grills, to the finest French fare and masterful Japanese sushi, you'll find it all
and more in the city. If you're a foodie, make sure to time your visit for the Dubai Food Festival
, a citywide culinary celebration of epic proportions that takes place between February and March.
Tips for first-time visitors: For a taste of street food – Al Mallah in Satwa has some of the best manakeesh (cheese bread) in the city.
Indulge in unique experiences
When in Dubai, a superlative experience always awaits. Adventure enthusiasts
can sign up for the thrill of a lifetime by booking a skydiving experience at Skydive Dubai or riding the world's longest urban zipline, XLine Dubai Marina. For the more leisure-inclined, charter a yacht and go deep sea fishing while admiring the city skyline from a different perspective. And if anyone asks about your trip to the desert, don't forget to tell them about your time on the snow-covered slopes of Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the region.
Tips for first-time visitors: An early morning hot air balloon ride over the desert with Balloon Adventures is a must-see experience.
Gain insight into local customs
Dubai is a welcoming city that is home to many different cultures, but it's best to be mindful of local traditions. Dress modestly in public spaces such as malls and especially while visiting historical and religious areas. If you're keen to learn more about the Emirati way of life, stop by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding where helpful guides can explain the nation's rich customs
Tips for first-time visitors: English is widely spoken, so you don't need to worry about asking for directions or recommendations.