5 Things to Know About Dubai Before You GoBy Anne-Marie Earl
Of all the Dubai attractions, you can’t miss the Burj Khalifa Tower. Here it is floodlit in the white, green and red colors of the flag of the United Arab Emirates to celebrate the 42nd National Day. (Photo: Iain Masterton/Alamy Live News)
Dubai reigns as the glitziest city in the United Arab Emirates, with ATMs that dispense gold bars, a 1,200-store mall and a fleet of police vehicles that includes the names Lamborghini, Ferrari and Bentley. Think you’re ready? Of course you are! But first, here are five more things to know before you go.
It’s as over-the-top as you think. If Dubai didn’t invent the phrase “go big or go home,” it should have. The city seems to have a limitless appetite for superlatives, currently boasting the tallest building in the world (the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa), largest shopping center (Dubai Mall), fastest roller coaster (Ferrari World’s Formula Rossa) and tallest hotel (the 1,164-foot JW Marriott Marquis Dubai), among other list-toppers.
It’s easy to get around. Most of Dubai’s key spots — including the Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa and the airport — can be reached directly via the Dubai Metro (the world’s longest fully automated metro, natch). Air-conditioned public buses, taxis and the Dubai Tram can get you everywhere else. Buy a Nol card at any Metro station; it’s accepted by all four of these transport modes.
It ain’t cheap — except when it is. Dubai is not a budget vacation destination, to be sure — and some things are surprisingly expensive, like salads, because vegetables aren’t grown in the UAE. On the flip side, some of the best attractions in Dubai are, amazingly, free: the magnificent light-and-music show at the Dubai Fountain, the aromatic Spice Souk and camel racing at Al Marmoum Camel Racetrack, to name just a few.
It’s cosmopolitan — and then some. People from more than 200 countries live in Dubai, so you’ll find cuisine and name-brand shopping from all over the world. And English is widely spoken.
Yes, it’s cosmopolitan — but it’s still conservative. Wherever you go in the UAE, you’ll want to respect Islamic mores. In Dubai, a great way to get inside the culture is at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, which offers education sessions over a traditional Emirati breakfast or lunch.