Two days to do DubaiWritten by Judy Pfaffenberger | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, has become a prime tourist destination. It is certainly an oil-rich country, but since that income is finite, they are developing other souces of revenue, including tourism.
Currently it is most famous for being the home of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, at 160 stories. Most people are also familiar with the man-made Palm Island and the 7-star hotel, Burj Al Arab, which looks like a sailboat.
Dubai itself is somewhat off the beaten path, but it has become an important cruise ship port. Many begin or end there offering opportunities to spend extra time, which is what we did in January, 2011. At the end of a repositioning cruise from Barcelona to Dubai on the RCI Brilliance of the Seas, we stayed an extra night in Dubai to take in a few of the sights. Because our flight didn’t go out until about midnight, we had almost two full days to explore with just one night in a hotel.
After reading some of the information available on cruisecritic.com, we were a little wary about entering the UAE. There were links to websites that listed the things that are illegal to bring in the country like 49 pages of banned drugs,medicines, and such items as CD’s, DVD’s, and even books. In the end we simly picked up our bags in the terminal and walked out to get a taxi, with no passport or customs control.
We were not able to find an ATM in the port area so we had to pay our taxi in dollars. The driver readily said he would accept them but then would not give us the 3 to 1 exchange so our trip to the hotel cost $45 instead of $15. We should have just asked him to stop at a bank, or if we had been more observient, we might have noticed an ATM in the doorway of our hotel. Oh well…
We stayed at the Golden Sands Apartment Hotel which is in nine buildings in a several block area. It was about $100 a night double and was sufficient for us. We chose it because it seemed like a central location, near public transit, but we ended up taking cabs or walking anyway. With six of us to share a cab, that was faster and fairly economical.
On our first afternoon there we walked through the older section where the various souks such as gold and spices are founds. For about 30 cents we crossed Dubai Creek in a Dhow and then continued to Heritage House. This is a preserved typical Arab extended family home built around a courtyard. Admission was free and it was an enjoyable visit. Here we were also recipients of a travel bonus. In the courtyard a woman was preparing some native foods and offered us some samples as we were seated on big cushions under a canopy. Of course, we had eaten ourselves silly at our last breakfast buffet on the ship, but after being on a cruise, if one goes more than one or two hours without food, withdrawl sets in. So these tasty bites and a cup of tea really hit the spot.
That evening four of us went on a desert safari at a cost of $55 per person. We were picked up at the hotel about 4 PM for a one hour ride out to the desert. Then for about 45 minutes we had a wild ride over the dunes – not for the faint of heart or those prone to suffer from motion sickness. We ended up at a not very authentic replica of a Bedouin camp. We were entitled to a camel ride which we did, and enjoyed not having to tip. Low tables with cushions were set up under the stars in the middle of somewhat more permanent structures than tents. Our meal was an extensive buffet followed by entertainment. It was all very touristy but I loved it anyway.
For our sightseeing in the city, we had considered the Ho-Ho (Hop-on, Hop-off) toursit bus but it cost $70 for just one day. When we had arrived at our hotel a man came up to us and offered his services as a guide in his vehicle that would hold all 6 of us. It cost each of us $30 for a 6-hour tour. His English was pretty good and he took us where we wanted to go. We had purchased tickets on-line for Burj Khalifa for about $36 and were to be there at 10 AM so that was our first stop. (Buying tickets at the door can often cost more that $100,) Near there we visited the Dubai Mall (1000 stores, huge aquarium, and 45,000 parking spaces), Emirates Mall with the indoor ski resort, the Emirates Golf Course where they were setting up for the big tournament, and Palm Island. We stopped for lunch at the Boardwalk along the beach in the Marina Disrtrict.
We had a few hours left to pack and have a quick dinner before leaving for the airport for our flight to Atlanta. All of us felt that we had accomplished much in a short time for a resonable cost.
E-mail travel columnist Judy Pfaffenberger at email@example.com.