Booking the perfect trip to Dubai was made up of a few very important things for me…
- Firstly, it had to be good value for money Finding a decent flight + hotel in a safe district near all the hotspots is pretty imperative for a solo female traveller with only a few days to work with!
- Secondly, my location had to either be slam-bam next to my favourite places to visit or, have decent public transport services on my doorstep. Because time is of the essence! So, I wanted to squeeze in as many amazing things as possible.
- And finally, the trip needed to be organised at the right time of year.
Since Dubai is located next to the sun (that’s a joke, by the way…) going during its scorchingly hot seasons is just a no-no. Also, avoiding times like Ramadan is pretty sensible too, because practically every restaurant would be closed and not eating is just boring when you’re on holiday. More to the point though, organising the trip at the right time of year involves having knowledge on when and where the city’s coolest events are on. This neo-futuristic mirrored metropolis is insane, so visiting when its skyscrapers shine their biggest and brightest is a complete MUST for any sightseer! When is that though? And, how long would you need? Well, I went whilst all the New Year celebrations were still in full swing, the sun was pelting 26°C (79°F) rays, the flight and hotel prices were low, and the city wasn’t overrun with tourists. Honestly, I was having such a good time that the occurrence of Blue Monday totally evaded me!
Sorry, winter blues. This girl just figured out how to beat you…
Anyway! Without further ado, allow me to introduce some of the most awesome things to do in Dubai, in January, that can be squeezed in less than a week! Raise your hands and say, “Siha!” (الصيحه = Hooray, in Arabic. There’s your first awesome thing learned – a new word! You’re welcome)
- Burj Khalifa – The main attraction of any trip to Dubai has got to be seeing the tallest building in the world! Nothing quite compares to seeing this mirrored giant up close and personal, so I highly recommend you put this diamond right at the top of your must-visit list. There are two options when it comes to booking. Either go for the el cheapo option (124th and 125th-floor for around 141AED/£30.66, time-dependent) or brave the super-high deck on the 160th floor – aptly named “At the Top – SKY” – for double the price. Being a notorious landmark makes it incredibly popular to visit, no matter what time of year. So, booking it at least a day in advance is necessary. If you’re going for the top floor experience then you should be okay, but the 124th and 125th-floor tickets do sell out fast. Therefore, if you have a pretty tight schedule, I highly recommend you look at the available times in advance. Also, it’s worth mentioning that this stunning monument looks absolutely glorious in the eve of the winter months. And throughout the course of January, you’ll see that from 7pm onwards the building illuminates the damask night sky with a spectacular light show. Of course, its show times vary depending on the day of the week, but on your tunnelled walk from the metro stop ‘Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa’, you’ll see signs advertising this. So, all you need to do is have your ticket ready, head to the lower ground of the Dubai Mall (following signs towards the fountain) and be ready to see this insane building in all its glory! Trust me, it’ll blow your mind.
- Dubai Fountain – Located just outside the Dubai mall and adjacent to the towering Burj Khalifa, here you can watch the world’s tallest performing fountain shoot up streams as high as 140m in the air! To put that number into perspective, that’s as high as a 50-storey building…crazy, right? Anyway, these musically choreographed shows are free to view and are on between 1pm and 2pm during the daytime (times vary depending on the day) and then every half-hour in the evening from 6pm until 11pm. If you want to make this viewing a little more special, then you can head to the kiosk by the waterside and purchase tickets for the boardwalk (which gets you a close-up view of this incredible water performance) or take a traditional boat ride which takes you around the Burj lake in complete serenity. Either way, it’s a beautiful sight which is worth bagging a spot early to catch. Tourists come in flocks to see it, so if you want a good viewing space then you’d best get in there fast!
- Dubai Mall – Of course, none of these locations so far would be reachable without a little venture through the world’s largest shopping mall (Dubai likes to be the biggest at everything!) So, it’s definitely worth saving some dirham for a venture around these parts. With 4 levels of shops to explore, varying from luxe designer brands to high-street shops, fine-dining to on-the-go eats, and cultural clothes in The Souk to a prehistoric viewing of a Diplodocus, this place does not get old! Spare yourself a few hours though, because this place is pretty overwhelming! However, the mall is open from 10am-midnight, therefore you should have enough time to squeeze it all in. Also, the best part of visiting this world-famous mall in January is the one and only shopping festival! Ongoing until February, bag yourself a unique bargain from this fantastic supersized shopping centre of joy. You won’t regret it.
- The Human Waterfall – It goes without saying that a shopping mall as big as the Dubai one would solely sell clothes, but I bet the last thing you’d expect to see there would be a 24m-high waterfall feature with fibreglass constructed divers that can be seen from all levels! Up or down, the sight of the waterfall really is amazing. And, you can either watch it from your table at the neighbouring TWG store whilst sipping your afternoon tea on the lower level, or you can look down upon it whilst eating some of the rarest cereal on the planet up above. Whatever you choose, I guarantee you’ll be awestruck.
- The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo – Meeting ocean residents is definitely another hotspot within the mall to check out! And again, it comes as no surprise to learn that this is another one of the world’s largest indoor aquariums. From as little as 90AED/£20, you can wander through the tunnel of deep-sea critters and lose yourself in the shimmering cobalt surroundings. Spend a little more and you can go cage snorkelling, experience a shark encounter and even meet the 750kg King Croc! Or, you can simply admire it for free from the outside and watch the divers swim about the ginormous tank. Whether you’re a spritely youngster or a curious adult, a trip here is certainly a memorable venture. Booking this unforgettable experience can either be done inside the mall or online.
- Mall of the Emirates – Yet another giant shopping centre filled with endless designer brands, an arcade section known as “Magic Planet” for eager gamers and fun-seekers, a Tesla car showroom and even an indoor ski resort – this place is full of surprises! And, although this mall isn’t as mad as the Dubai Mall, it’ll still do a fine job at upping the ante for you. So, pop on the metro and mosey on down for even more shopping paradise!
- Miracle garden – See the world’s most bonkers collection of towering evergreen animals, a giant flower-covered Emirates aeroplane, the original characters of Walt Disney and so, so much more! About 10 minutes from the Mall of the Emirates, the 105 bus outside takes you directly to the doorstep of this mesmerising floral garden. And, for just 50AED/£10 entry to enter the kooky world of heart-shaped flower tunnels and chrysanthemum castles, it’s totally worth it! Not only is everything insanely huge, but it also makes quite a sweet change to see some greenery and hear the birds happily tweeting away on the necks of hanging plant pots. Remember, Dubai is essentially a man-made metropolis on a desert, so seeing nature at its most colourful really is a special sight. So, if you need to take a break from the buzz of the city and take in a breath of fresh air instead, hop on the bus and enjoy flora fauna at its most zany.
- Global village – On your return journey from the Mall of the Emirates, why not switch to the 106 bus and spend the rest of your evening browsing a plethora of handicrafts and cuisines from a mix of Arabic and Asian countries, hitting a carnival ride and then – once you’re done exploring the 25 pavilions and enjoying stage shows – watching the psychedelic 9pm firework display? Daft question, right? Of course, you want to go! This seasonal attraction costs as little as 15AED/£3 to get in and is so easy to squeeze into your itinerary alongside the Miracle Garden, so don’t forget to get on that bus and take a trip there!
- Zabeel park – Just a stone’s throw away from Al Jafiliya metro station, a chilled afternoon is best spent in Zabeel Park. I’d like to mention in advance that, as well as some cool miniature world landmarks (like Japan’s Nagoya Castle) there are also quite a few cats roaming around inside! They’re all super friendly and irresistibly cute, too. So, if you do fancy a walk around the park, go for the urbanised views, but stay for the cats! It’s only 5AED/£1 to enter, which is an absolute bargain, and you can even pay with your Nol card. Plus, it’s right next to another very special monument…
- Dubai Frame – Located inside Zabeel park and accessible from a second entrance, this 150m-high frame (see above) allows you to see both views of old Dubai on one side and new Dubai on the other, witnessing famous sights such as Burj Khalifa and Jumeirah Mosque all safely from your glass-walled perch inside. It’s totally worth the 50 AED/£10 entry fee. Talking of glass, for those of you who dare brave it, walking along the Frame’s glass floor is definitely something of a vision. The ground beneath showcases Zabeel Park’s planetarium section and an array of cool designs that’ll have you in awe. So grab your camera fast, because it definitely makes a pretty picture.
- Dubai Garden Glow and Dinosaur Park – An experience Chris Pratt would commend you for and your inner-child will go ga-ga over, let your imagination run away with you at the Dinosaur Park and Dubai Garden Glow. Hosting reptiles from the Triassic period watching over the city to the left of the grounds and neon animals from the present lighting it up on the right, this nighttime only art park really is something to see. Despite opening from 4pm, I feel it’s best to attend after 6pm (sunset o’clock) That way, you’ll get a full view of the crazy spectacles that are giant glowing objects of mosques, teacups, animals and more! One thing’s for sure though, Dubai does love its big shiny things!
- Jumeirah Mosque – Seeable from the top of the Dubai Frame is a cultural, historical and architectural vision. The Jumeirah Mosque is a timeless salute to all that denotes Arabia and is not to be missed off any Dubai plan! Opening at 9.45am for the only 75-minute tour of the day, cost of entry is as little as 25AED/£5 and enables you to explore the inside of the mosque and discover all about its religious customs. It’s located walkably close from Zabeel Park, but if you want to get there for the tour, then catching a bus to “Iranian Hospital 2” or taking a taxi directly there would be your best bet, as there are no metro stops nearby. Or, if you simply just want to capture an Instagram-worthy picture, you can go during the evening and ogle it lit up in all its ivory glory.
Leftover time? Take a trip to the Burj Al Arab Hotel! Famous for its sail-shaped form, the Al Arab is the world’s only 7* hotel – which is a talking point in itself – and boasts stunning scenery from the ultimate palm tree-shaped peninsula, The Palm Jumeirah (which, on another cool note, can also be seen from space!) Perfect for beach-lovers and those with a lot of dirham they wish to burn. Trust me, I checked out prices for an afternoon tea at this hotel. My bank balance nearly fell over in shock…
Saying that. It still makes a darn good picture.