Are you wondering what area to stay in Dubai? Perhaps you have a whole lot of questions about Dubai or maybe you just want to know how someone else (like myself) found their way around Dubai for the first time. I travelled solo to Dubai in 2015, so I shall impart with you what I learnt from this trip.
If you have never been to Dubai before you may be asking yourself the question ‘which is the best area to stay in Dubai from a tourist perspective’. I asked myself the same question when I was looking to book my accommodation. I didn’t want to make the wrong decision, so naturally, I asked friends, googled, checked out various forums and yet I was still procrastinating about making the best choice.
I had 6 days in Dubai at the beginning of my 5 week trip to Southern Europe and then a further 2 days at the end before I flew back to Australia. I was quite torn about staying at the beach or whether I should stay downtown. Being from Australia, the beach is definitely a huge part of my life and that is where I wanted to stay but I also wanted easy access to Dubai’s main tourist attractions . The beach is about a 35 minute drive from the airport and the Downtown area of Dubai is about a 20 minute drive from the airport.
So what I ended up doing was booking 4 days at the beach at the JA Ocean View Hotel (hit the link to read my review) and then a further 2 days in downtown at the Ramada. On my return I then stayed at the Dusit Thani just outside the main tourist area of Downtown Dubai. My original plan when I arrived back into Dubai was to stay Creekside near to the old part of Dubai, but I was meeting friends at the Dubai Marina on my last night, so I settled on something a little closer as I would be catching a taxi.
The area I stayed at was opposite the Marina Beach, near the Palm Jumeirah. In this area there is plenty of shopping, restaurants, cafes and of course the beach. The beach area is well designed and has a promenade walk separating the beach from the hotels and restaurants. There is a shopping strip called “The Walk” which is a recent addition to the area. There are a number of hotels in the area, where you will find up market dining options, along with the service of alcohol at hotel bars. Restaurants that are not in a hotel are not allowed to serve alcohol at any time. The proximity to the Marina was also a bonus, it’s easy walking distance and also gives you a whole lot more dining options, shopping, nightlife and bars.
For me, I preferred this location as I enjoy being near the beach. If you have more than a few days then this location is ideal. You have plenty of options for dining, shopping and nightlife, not only at the beach but at the Marina too. With the hotel I stayed at, there was a complimentary shuttle bus service that left twice a day to take you to a couple of tourist attractions. Taxi’s are cheap and easily available, so getting around further downtown was no issue.
The Marina beach area is about a 35 minute drive from the airport.
I spent two days at the Ramada Downtown hotel which overlooked the Dubai Fountains in Downtown Dubai. The area is lively with plenty of hotels, restaurants, the Burj Khalifa and of course the amazing Dubai Mall. I got around on foot exploring the area. It’s quite dazzling at night with streets lit up with fairy lights and interesting things to discover in and around the fountain area. If you are into shopping, sipping cocktails and fine dining then this area will most definitely suit your style. If you stay in this area, make sure you get a hotel room that faces the Dubai fountains or if you can a view that takes in both the fountains and the Burj Khalifa. I quite enjoyed sitting on my balcony watching the dancing fountains put on their show every 30 minutes. Another great spot to sit and relax is at ‘The Address Hotel’ at a bar called Neo’s. It’s perfectly positioned opposite the Burj Khalifa and the dancing fountains. Get there right on sunset and you can see the sun go down right beside the world’s tallest building. The view is just incredible.
Downtown Dubai is around a 25 minute drive from the airport.
I didn’t stay Creekside which is in the old part of Dubai. I did visit the area to check out the Gold Souks and the immediate area near the creek. I wasn’t too fussed with this area and a day spent here was long enough for me. I will admit that I didn’t spend enough time in the old part, so there were areas I didn’t explore and therefore I couldn’t get a general feel for the area.
If you wanted to be close to the airport then this would be a good option to stay and there a some good hotels located along the creek.
Creekside is around 5 to 10 minutes from the airport (depending on what part you are staying)
Other useful information
I travelled to Dubai solo, which also coincided with Ramadan. Having never travelled to a muslim country before, I came here well read on the do’s and don’ts of this culture. When I arrived I was amazed at how the country was in harmony with an array of different cultures and all walks of life. It even felt like I was visiting a Western country at times, until the call to prayer would come over the loud speakers to remind me of where I was. I did quite enjoy the prayer time as I walked about on my own in the streets, it really made me feel worlds away from my own country.
Ramadan is a month long religious event where muslims practice fasting from sunrise to sunset. You may want to read my blog post on what to expect in Dubai during ramadan by clicking this link here: Visiting Dubai during Ramadan. Ramadan usually happens in the summer months and generally is a time that is quieter than the rest of the year. Temperatures in summer are really hot at around 40 degrees Celsius and does not dip below 35 at night.
I felt safe when I was walking about the streets. I even walked back to my hotel late at night on my own. Having said that I walked in areas where there were lot’s of people and was well lit up. I would’t walk about in an isolated area on my own and you need to use common sense when visiting a foreign place.
Be respectful and do not break the law. Read up on cultural considerations before you travel, as what you may consider okay in your own country may be frowned upon or worse even breaking the law in this country.
The only unusual incident I encountered was at the beach near the Burj Al Arab. I asked a local who was passing by if they would take a photo of me with the building in the background. This person was happy to do so and after, he asked if I wanted to go to the building itself. He insisted that I get in his car and he would take me there. After quite a long discussion and him trying to convince me, he eventually gave up. I have no idea why he was so persistent but I wasn’t about to find out. Other than that, everybody I met was very personable and friendly.
If you are an Australian citizen you do not need a Visa to enter the UEA, as long as your stay is 30 days or less. If you are unsure if you need one or not, then check out this link on visa requirements.
Taxis and public transport
The taxi service is reliable and cheap. All you need to do is walk out the front of your hotel or even before you get the chance the staff are organising one for you. Hailing on from the street is easy too. All taxis are metered.
From the airport, the easiest way to your hotel is via taxi. When I first arrived, it was around 11pm and I found my way to the official taxi rank. At this rank, a taxi will be organised for you. There are plenty of taxis waiting in the undercover part of the airport. I was told that a ‘pink lady’ would be taking me and to head up to the pink taxi. These are lady only taxis (or families) with female taxi drivers and can be identified with the pink roof. Ladies also drive the regular taxis too. There is a charge of 25 AED that is added to the fare when leaving the airport.
At the airport always head to the official taxi rank and do not be persuaded to jump into a black taxi. These are VIP taxis and will cost you a hefty price.
You will also find these guys at the entrance of the Dubai Mall, they will ask you if you want a taxi and will take you down stairs to the car park. These guys are at the front entrance of the Dubai Mall because taxis are not allowed to pick passengers from this main entrance. You need to walk to another part of the mall where the official rank is. I did jump in a cab out the front and the taxi driver said he wasn’t allowed to stop and pick up passengers there but did anyway and said next time I had to go to the official taxi area.
Getting back to the black taxis, I was approached by a guy who asked if I wanted a taxi, to which I did and he proceeded to escort me down stairs. We waited for the lift and then I kind of got suspicious, so I asked how much the cab would cost to where I was going. He had the flat rate of an exorbitant amount. To which I commented that it was far to expensive and he said it was because it was a private transfer company, even though he originally said he was a taxi. I said not to worry about it as I didn’t have far to go and it was far too much from what I paid to get to the mall. We parted ways at that point, no hard feelings and I found a regular taxi instead. If you find a long queue for taxis, it might be better to go and hail one from the street.
I didn’t try the metro rail system as I either got around on the free hotel shuttle bus or I caught a taxi. There is 49 stops throughout Dubai and the system is fully automated. Trains are driverless and there are women and children only carriages (which is optional). There are two lines – the Red line and the Green line.
The Hop On Hop Off Bus
A Dubai city tour with the Hop on Hop Off Bus is a must. I can’t recommend this highly enough in getting your bearings around Dubai. Dubai is quite spread out and having 24 hours to get on and off this bus to check out a number of tourist attractions is money well spent. You can then later decide on what you would like to see more of and the distance to get to each attraction. You can buy tickets online. The Big Bus company are currently offering a discount for online bookings. Follow the link below to see special offers.
If you need a heads up on things to do in Dubai, you many want to read my blog post on what to see and do in Dubai
Getting an Aerial shot of Dubai
Getting an aerial photo of Dubai when you fly out of Dubai is best during the day. To get a shot like I did below, you will need to sit on the left side of the plane. Most planes that are leaving the Dubai airport will do a fly by of the city before setting off on their flight path. You should be able to get some great shots (depending on the weather) of Downtown Dubai and the Palm Jumeirah as the plane travels past. I took the below photo on my iPhone 5 around mid-morning.
Hotels I stayed at in Dubai
I always book my hotels through booking.com as it gives me the option of free cancellation, great rates and flexibility.
You can check hotel prices here, even if you don’t have specific dates.
JA Ocean Hotel
As I mentioned earlier, I really liked the beach area and this is the hotel that I stayed at along the Marina Beach. If you are interested in this area, then have a look at what this hotel offers it’s guests by following this link: JA Ocean Hotel. I had an excellent stay here.
This is the hotel I stayed at in Downtown Dubai. I liked the area as it was walking distance to the Dubai Mall, the dancing fountains and the Burj Khalifa. The Ramada is quite reasonably priced within this popular area. My room was quite large, with a separate living, dining areas. A fully equipped kitchen and a balcony facing the Dubai Fountains.
Dusit Thani Trade Centre 2
I had two days at this hotel and whilst the hotel was very nice, I found that the location was a little inconvenient. Even though just across the highway is the Downtown area, you cannot just walk across the road to get there. There is no provision for pedestrians, (when you see the highway, you will understand) so you need to catch a taxi to the Mall which takes you around 10- 15 minutes because you have to drive in the opposite direction due to the one-way highways.
Has this article helped you?
I’d love to hear if this article has helped you plan your trip to Dubai. If you have just returned from Dubai or are planning to visit Dubai, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how your trip went and if you have any other tips to add for other travellers.
Heading to Dubai soon on holiday. Very helpful article. Thanks for putting it together.
Thanks Andre, I’m glad it’s been of help to you. Enjoy your time in Dubai, there is plenty to see and do! Wendy 🙂
Thanks Wendy, for your very interesting and informative article and especially your review on the Ramada Downtown Hotel and its immediate neighborhood. My family is planning to visit Dubai next year to coincide with the Food Festival and the Ramada Downtown is almost next to Burj Park where the very interesting food trucks are assembled. Also thanks for your tip that 1 day in the Deira area is good enough. That will make our choice of Ramada easier as we were initially torn between staying at the creek side. Also, thanks for your great information on taxis as I my family will be using this mode of transport.
Hi David, I’m so pleased you found the article helpful and you will be very close by to all the action in Downtown Dubai. The food festival sounds great, something I would like to experience (maybe next time). I think you have chosen a great spot and the hotel is very good, rooms are very spacious and an easy walk to the Dubai Mall. Taxi’s are so easy to get around and having them metered is of great peace of mind. I hope you enjoy Dubai, it’s great city to explore.
Thank you – your review was most helpful as i will be travelling solo for the first time and will have 2 nights in Dubai on the way to England and 1 night on the way back. The Ramada Downtown sounds ideal for me. Also your tips on taxis will be most helpful.
Hi Brenda! I’m so glad that you found my article helpful. Good on you for travelling solo, it’s an amazing experience, something that I just love doing. I hope you have a great time in Dubai, it’s a big and exciting place and if you are there for a short amount of time then you have picked the right area. The Ramada is a very nice and reasonably priced hotel too – good choice. Taxi’s are so cheap and very safe 🙂
gerat info. wendy. my friends were insisting to stay near Dubai marina, but you one line ” If you are into shopping, sipping cocktails and fine dining then this area will most definitely suit your style.” made up my mind for for downtown dubai.
That’s awesome Gaurav! Each area has it’s great points but if you are into shopping the Dubai Mall is absolutely amazing! You could easily spend a whole day in there! There are plenty of great restaurants in the area but make sure that if you want to enjoy a cocktail or an alcoholic drink that you choose a hotel restaurant, as normal restaurants are not licensed. I hope you have a wonderful time in Dubai 🙂
Thank you, Wendy, for your insight on where to stay. Was the weather warm enough for beach days & pool lounging in Nov/Dec? Would you recommend the Dubai Mall over the MOE, or is that like comparing apples to oranges? Also, is there reliable Metro transport from the airport, or would you recommend a taxi or hotel with an airport transfer? Thanks, again!
Hi Hall, thanks for your questions! The weather in Nov/Dec will be around the mid 20s, so warm enough for swimming in the pool but of course the weather can be unpredictable. It will get cold at night though. I would totally recommend the Dubai Mall over Mall of Emirates. The Dubail Mall is very big and you can easily spend a whole day there with plenty of things to entertain you or within the surrounding mall area. If you are interested in skiiing and high end stores then you may well check out the MOE. Personally I preferred the Dubai Mall out of the two. You can take the metro from the airport into Dubai (there are only two metro lines) but you will then need to catch a taxi to your hotel if it is not near a stop. Taxi’s are really cheap, so it’s easy to get one from the airport to your hotel. I hope this helps you out! ?
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I am planning my 40th and I came across your site. I am planning to visit Dubai around August of this year. Would you recommend going at that time and can you help with things to do for unmarried couples?(I know the laws are different for unwed couples)
Hi LaKeesha, thank you for checking out my site. Dubai will be very hot during August, so any tourist activities you might want to do in the morning or in the evening. Personally I don’t mind the heat, so it didn’t stop me from doing tourist things during the heat of the day. In regards to being an unmarried couple, I wouldn’t be too concerned. There are thousands of tourists that visit Dubai who stay in hotels that are not legally wed. Hotels that cater for foreigners wont enforce the unmarried rule and are unlikely to ask you. As long as you don’t draw attention to yourselves, no public displays of affection etc then you will be fine. There are plenty of this you can do as a couple, have a look at my other article on things to do in Dubai for ideas. https://traveldrinkdine.com/travel/what-to-see-and-do-in-dubai/ or just search Dubai in the search box on this site. I hope you have a wonderful 40th birthday and I’m sure you will love Dubai!
Hi LaKeesha! I would like to recommend Al Habtoor Polo Resort as a place for you to stay in Dubai. The deals are great as well their villas and private pools. You could also enjoy the views and the food.