Evgenya Vitcova and Sergey Vitcov went to Dubai in January 2021 for a romantic getaway that they planned for their 10th wedding anniversary. Evgenya shared the highlights of their unforgettable trip, gave insight into what to expect from UAE, and shared some helpful tips on how to spend less and see more.
By Evgenya Vitcov
It is hard to believe, but the United Arabic Emirates used to be a desert that was turned into a developed country with infrastructure only a few decades ago and it is impressive how much effort it took to turn it into one of the richest and most influential countries in the Middle East region attracting an enormous number of tourists and investors from around the world.
The best time to visit Dubai is the period from November to February because the temperatures during the season are consistently pleasant and not too hot.
“The best time to visit Dubai is the period from November to February because the temperatures during the season are consistently pleasant and not too hot.”
INTERESTING AND UNUSUAL FACTS
Walking around Dubai feels surreal as if almost every building, skyscraper or tourist attraction belongs in the World Guinness Book of Records. As of present, Dubai has seven World Guinness records under its belt:
- Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world with 160 habitable levels.
- The Dubai Mall is the biggest shopping mall in the world a total area of 1,124,000 sq meters.
- Palm Fountain at the Pointe in Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest dancing fountain with over 3,000 LED lights and 7,500 nozzles.
- Dubai Frame is the largest frame in the world (the building has a height of 150.24 meters and a width of 95.53 meters).
- Dubai has the largest vertical maze in the world: a 57-story skyscraper "Maze Tower" is located on Sheikh Zayed Road.
- Dubai also has the fastest police car in the world: Bugatti Veyron can go from 0 to 60mph in just 2.46 seconds!
- The city also has the tallest chocolate sculpture in the world, which is 13.52 meters tall and shaped like Burj Khalifa.
“Walking around Dubai feels surreal as if almost every building, skyscraper or tourist attraction belongs in the World Guinness Book of Records. As of present, Dubai has seven World Guinness records under its belt.”
UAE has the largest expatriate population in the world — 80 percent — so it is difficult to meet locals. For instance, we did not have a chance to come across any locals at all during our 10-day trip. A large number of immigrants come to Dubai to work in the service industry, which is the largest in Dubai’s economy.
It is always a good idea to hire a guide who speaks your language: for our trip, we hired a Russian-speaking guide who told us a lot about life in Dubai, took us to Dubai Frame and Museum of the Future, and to the local market in Dubai Old Town where you can buy silk, souvenirs, and perfume oils. We also hired a Russian-speaking photographer who helped us document the most beautiful moments of our journey.
UAE has some specific laws. We accidentally found out that it is illegal to take photographs or videos at local airports. I realized it after I tried to take a photo of a Rolex watch on the wall in the waiting hall. You are also not allowed to take photos of the locals unless they gave you their permission. In some emirates, it is illegal to express your affection in public — kissing, hugging and holding hands might lead to arrest, especially in Abu-Dabi, which is considered to be more conservative than Dubai.
Another interesting fact is that it is almost impossible to get UAE citizenship, even those who were born to immigrant parents are not entitled to birthright citizenship.
In terms of the service industry, the most striking and unusual thing was that unlike in the US, tipping in local cafes and restaurants was voluntary.
WHAT TO SEE
Another thing that impressed us in UAE was Dubai Expo 2020, which was a large-scale exhibition with 192 countries of the world presenting their achievements in the world of science, art and technology, and also sharing and demonstrating their vision of the future. It is physically impossible to get around all the pavilions in one day due to queues and long distances, but we visited the most popular ones which were Australia, the Netherlands, Japan, Russia, Uzbekistan, the United Arab Emirates, Kazakhstan and the UK. I was very impressed with the anti-gravity waterfall in which the water "falls" up, a huge projection dome where world-famous artists perform, the world's largest interactive floor in the Saudi Arabia pavilion, and robotic acrobats in the pavilion of Kazakhstan. Seeing the 4k drone show at China Pavilion was the icing on the cake, this was a must-see experience.
- If I were to give advice to someone who is going to the UAE for the first time, I would recommend bringing more money, because it is such an expensive country! When buying doing shopping at local malls you can easily get a 5% tax refund for your purchases at the airport. In terms of saving money on accommodation, book hotels at least 3-4 months in advance. The best option would be to pick a hotel with breakfast included, or half board — usually it is a good combination between a fixed price and wide assortment of food.
- We would also recommend not being stuck in one place for the whole stay and exploring Dubai — for instance, we stayed in three different locations during our trip and that was amazing! We stayed in Downtown Dubai for three days, then moved to Palms Jumeirah — one of the man-made islands in Atlantis — and spent the rest of the trip in Dubai Marina.
- Middle eastern cuisine is quite similar to Mediterranean cuisine and everything is absolutely delicious: fish, lamb, pickles, kebab, local desserts, and especially local coffee with saffron and cardamom, which is to die for!
- Be active and try to see as much as you can! As truly seasoned travelers, we made a detailed plan and listed all the things we wanted to see during our 10-day trip. We ended up having a very active trip packing at least 2-3 activities into each day. My personal bucket list of things to do and see in UAE included visiting the breathtaking Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, seeing the dancing fountain show in front of Dubai Mall, and staying at one of the Palm Islands in Jumeirah. Sergey, my husband, really wanted to do a jeep safari in the desert, do a helicopter tour of the city and visit Dubai Expo 2020. It sounds like a lot but, nevertheless, we made it happen! We saw even more things than we were planning to.
I can attest that the UAE is worth visiting because it was undoubtedly the best vacation of our lives! Dubai is so grand and glitzy and has so much to offer. It was our first visit to Dubai and we instantly fell in love with the city because of how luxurious, diverse and multilayered it is. We have already decided that we are coming back!