Burj Al Arab, the Palm Jumeirah, and the Burj Khalifa are some of the iconic landmarks of this bustling city. This is Dubai. Dubai combines its Arabian heritage and eclectic mix of modern buildings in a perfect mix. This brings the question, is 2 days in Dubai enough?
Our guide takes you through the Old Quarters on our first day. These heritage quarters are akin to time traveling back in time to a time when Dubai was a bustling port. On our second day, we explore what Dubai is today.
Our highlights of this trip were:
- Gold Souk
- Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
- Grand Bur Dubai Masjid
- Burj Khalifa
- Burj Al Arab
- Souk Madinat Jumeirah
- Dubai Mall
For clarity, these are the questions that will be answered in this guide.
- Where is Dubai?
- Are 2 days enough in Dubai?
- What language is spoken in Dubai?
- Are US Dollars accepted in Dubai?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Dubai
Hop on! As we journey through time in our 2 days in Dubai, daeuna nabda mughamaratana! That means, let’s start our adventure!
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Where is Dubai?
The Emirate of Dubai is located in the Persian Gulf and shares borders with Abu Dhabi on its south, Sharjah in the northeast, and the Sultanate of Oman in the southeast. Dubai is within the Arabian Desert with the Western Hajar Mountains bordering Oman at Hatta.
With a hot desert climate, the summers in Dubai are extremely hot and prolonged with the occasional winds. August has the sunniest days while January is the coolest month.
Although alcohol sales and consumption are legal, alcohol is tightly regulated. Non-muslim adults are allowed to consume alcohol at licensed venues such as hotels, or homes, so long as they have an alcohol license.
Dubai was ranked fourth in the Top Most Visited Cities In the World in 2018 with its main tourist attraction being the Burj Khalifa. Dubai is also the “Shopping Capital of the Middle East” with at least 70 shopping centers, with the Dubai Mall being the largest in the region.
While Dubai has a traditional Arabic culture, its high standard of living had led to a culture of opulence, lavishness, and luxury. Arabic cuisine is a must-eat here. Make sure to try shawarma, briyani, kanafeh, and baklava.
The earliest known written record of Dubai comes from the works of Al-Idrisi who mapped the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the 10th century. The remnants of a 7,000 BCE mangrove swamp were found during the expansion of the Sheikh Zayed Road.
It was the Umayyads who brought Islam to this region during the 17th century. With fishing and pearl diving, the trade routes vitalized the region. Gasparo Balbi noted in his records that “Dibai” produced exceptional quality pearls during his visit in 1590.
However, the discovery of oil in 1966 was a turning point for Dubai, economically and socially as it led to rapid expansion and growth which enabled Dubai to become an autonomous state within the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is often referred to as the “Hong Kong of the Middle East” as its trade access with Iran is similar to that of Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China.
As Dubai’s oil is expected to run out over time, the nation would rely solely on trade and tourism to keep it going.
Citizens from the Gulf Cooperation Council which consists of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the State of Kuwait, the State of Qatar, the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the Sultanate of Oman do not require a visa.
Citizens from these countries are eligible for a 30-day visit visa-free of charge. Upon disembarkation, all you need to do is proceed to the immigration department where your passport would be stamped with the visa.
Citizens from these countries are eligible for a 90-day visit visa-free of charge. Upon arrival, proceed to the immigration department where your passport would be stamped with a multiple entry visa that is valid for 6 months from the date of issue.
Alternatively, you can use iVisa to get your UAE e-visa. They can assist with processing your visa by filling out an online application in 7 easy steps.
What is the best way to get around Dubai?
With skyscrapers and fast cars, Dubai was not meant to be a pedestrian city. Its five-lane highways cater to speeds up to 100 km/hr which makes it impossible to cycle within the city.
However, Dubai has an excellent public transportation system which makes it easy to commute from one area to another.
Using the Dubai Metro is one of the best ways to get around within the city. There are two lines on Dubai Metro. The Red Line has 29 stations from Rashidiya Station to the UAE Xchange Station in Jebel Ali. An extension of this line links it to the Expo 2020 site.
The Green Line has 20 stations from Etisalat Station to Creek Station. Two additional lines are being planned, the Blue Line and the Purple Line. The Dubai Metro is the first driverless and fully automated metro line in the Arabian Peninsula.
A map of its stations and lines is available on the Dubai Metro website. There are various cabins with specific cabins for women and children. There is a dedicated Dubai Metro Police and over 3,000 CCTVs are monitoring the trains, so safety is assured.
Dubai has an extensive bus network with the Public Transport Authority providing bus service with a fleet of more than 1,500 buses within a network of 119 lines. 35 lines link to the metro station and 12 intercity lines.
The Dubai Bus Network covers about 82% of the urban areas in Dubai and operates from 4 am to 1 am the next day. The main bus stations are at the Gold Souk and Al Bhubaiba.
The second best way to get around Dubai is by using a taxi. Dubai’s taxis are popular as they operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most importantly, they are efficient, fitted with controlled meters, and manned by courteous and hospitable drivers.
The range of taxis available includes Special Needs Taxi, a Ladies and Children Taxi manned by women drivers, and a Taxi Rental Service which needs booking.
The Dubai Tram is a recent addition to Dubai’s public transportation system. The tram runs from the Dubai Marina to Palm Jumeirah and Al Sufouh. Dubai Tram also connects to the Pal Jumeirah Monorail at the entrance of the Palm from Sufouh Road.
The rates are fixed at AED 3 ($1) per trip regardless of the distance traveled and operate from 6.30 am to 1 am the next day.
Careem & Uber
The third best way to get around Dubai is using an e-hailing ride. These two are Careem and Uber. These rides are slightly more comfortable as some cars come with a complimentary water bottle and phone charging service.
This contactless smartcard can be used on all modes of public transportation in Dubai. To use the card, users need to “tag in” and “tag out” at the electronic gates or terminals when entering or leaving the public transportation system.
As these cards are purchased with minimum credit, users would need to “top-up” the cards using either debit or credit cards, or cash. There are several types of cards available, each for a distinct user group.
The NOL Red Ticket targets tourists and can only be used on metro, buses, and trams. These cards are valid for 90 days from the date of purchase and can be used for up to 10 journeys. The ticket is priced at AED 2 ($0.54) and can be bought from any vending machine.
The NOL Card website gives you all the information you need about this card, its benefits, and the services attached to this card. Nol is an Arabic word that means “fare”
Are 2 days enough in Dubai?
While 2 days in Dubai may not seem enough, two days is sufficient to touch the surface of what Dubai has to offer. From the old quarter markets to the modern Dubai Mall, our guide helps you explore the city, as a local would.
Day 1: Old Quarter
On Day 1 of our 2 days in Dubai, we explored the old markets of Dubai before heading to the historical district of Al Fahidi. We ended our day at the Dubai Creek, watching the abra’s go by.
The first of our 2 days in Dubai is a visit to Gold Souk. This market in Deira is the most unique gold market in the world. Other than gold, you can find silver, diamonds, and other precious metals here.
Even if you have no intention of buying, just browsing through the alleys is a sight to be seen. The Dubai Municipal Council regulates this market to ensure authenticity and the quality of gold.
What can you buy in Dubai Gold Souk?
At the Dubai Gold Souk, you can buy bangles, diamond-encrusted necklace pendants, chandelier earrings, and gold bullion bars. The 22-carat gold is common here with 18-carat coming in second.
As the gold price fluctuates daily, always confirm the gold price, whether it is per carat or kilogram before purchasing.
How many shops are there in Dubai Gold Souk?
There are at least 380 retailers at the Dubai Gold Souk.
The second of our 2 days in Dubai is the Spice Souk. This souk is an easy 3-minute walk from the Gold Souk which are both in Deira. This souk is one of the oldest and most popular markets in Dubai.
Walk along the narrow passageway with the aroma of spices, incense, and dried fruits in the air. We guarantee you will buy some spices to take home. The freshness of the spices is undeniable as the stock arrives daily from India, Pakistan, and Iran.
What can I buy in Spice Souk Dubai?
Among the spices, you can buy in the Spice Souk are saffron, cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, lavender tea, rosebud, and dried lemons. The opening hours are from 7.30 am to 9.30 pm.
Can you bring spices back from Dubai?
Yes, you can bring spices back to the United States from Dubai. It is best to place it in the checked luggage. You can opt to carry it in your hand luggage if the amount is minimal.
Be prepared for aggressive vendors here who can’t seem to take “no” for an answer. There are a few dishonest vendors as well, so always haggle for the best price. Once the price is confirmed, always ask for a receipt before paying the final and agreed amount.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
The third of our 2 days in Dubai is the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood or Al Bastakiya is a residential district that dates back to the 1890s when rich merchants from Persia were drawn to Dubai. The name comes from a southern Iranian town named Bastak.
This district is a 30-minute walk from the Spice Souk where you would need to take a ferry to cross Dubai Creek. Driving there takes about 15-minutes and is about a 9-mile trip from the Spice Souk.
Although the neighborhood was supposed to be demolished to make way for future developments, it was Rayner Otter, a British expatriate who wrote to Prince Charles requesting the neighborhood be preserved.
It was on Prince Charles’s suggestion that the neighborhood be preserved and the demolition work was canceled.
Some area to visit in this district is the Arabian Tea House Cafe, the Mawaheb from Beautiful People is an art gallery that caters to young people with disabilities, the Coffee Museum, and the Sheikh Muhammad Centre for Cultural Understanding.
What is the main purpose of Al Fahidi Fort?
The main purpose of the Al Fahidi Fort was that it was once a palace and office of the Ruler of Dubai. It also served as a prison and storage for ammunition. Its current purpose is as a museum.
The fourth of our 2 days in Dubai is the Dubai Museum. The museum is located within the Al Fahidi Fort which is about a 6-minute walk from the Al-Fahidi Historical Neighborhood. The museum aims to show visitors the traditional way of life of the Emiratis.
There are several wings within the museum with each showcasing the rich culture and history of the region. In the Monument Wing, visitors can find displays of antique pottery, weapons, and the buildings and urban communities that lived at that time.
The other wings include the Traditional Home and Masjid Wing, the Oasis Wing, the Astronomy and Natural Phenomena Wing, and the Traditional Market Wing. The center courtyard has a life-sized local boat together with bamboo houses.
How much is the entrance fee at Dubai Museum?
The entrance fee at the Dubai Museum is AED 3 ($1) per person for adults and AED 1 ($0.30) for children below the age of 6 years.
Grand Bur Dubai Masjid
The fifth of our 2 days in Dubai is the Grand Bur Dubai Masjid or the Grand Mosque is an easy 2-minute walk from the Dubai Museum. The mosque is home to the tallest minaret in Dubai and was originally constructed as a “kuttab” where children were taught the Quran.
After extensive rebuilding, the mosque can now accommodate 1,200 worshippers with non-muslims being allowed entry from 9 am to 11 am, from Sunday to Thursday. Although there are no entry fees, it is best to dress conservatively with your head and knees covered.
Women have to wear long sleeve tops and long pants as well as cover their heads when entering the premises.
The sixth of our 2 days in Dubai is Dubai Creek or Khor Dubai. This natural saltwater creek is about 9-miles or a 20-minute drive from the Grand Bur Dubai Masjid. The creek has traditionally been a port of transport and trade.
The Ancient Greeks called it the River Zara as it extended inland as far as Al-Ain. Deira and Bur Dubai are historically separated by the creek with the Bani Yas Tribe first settling in the area during the 19th century.
Is Dubai Creek worth visiting?
Yes! The Dubai Creek experience gives you a glimpse of what Dubai was like in the past. Some landmarks to look out for are the Old Dubai Creek Tower, the National Bank of Dubai, and the Dubai Creek Park which is the largest park in Dubai.
Is Dubai Creek man-made?
The original route of the creek is a natural seawater inlet that ends at the Ras Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. The man-made extensions are about 8 miles and pass-through Business Bay, Dubai Canal, and through Jumeirah into the Persian Gulf.
Day 2: Modern Dubai
On Day 2 of our 2 days in Dubai, we spent the day exploring modern Dubai. From skyscrapers to shopping alleys and a beautiful end to the day at the Dubai Mall for shopping. Because you can’t come to Dubai and not shop!
The seventh of our 2 days in Dubai is Burj Khalifa which currently holds the number 1 title. It is ranked as the first tallest building in the world, the first tallest building in the Middle East, the first tallest in UAE, and the first tallest building in Dubai.
Who is the owner of Burj Khalifa?
Burj Khalifa is owned by Emaar Properties. However, during the construction of the building, the owners ran into financial difficulties. It was Sheikh Khalifa, the ruler of the UAE that granted monetary funding and aid to complete the building.
With the additional funding, Burj Dubai was renamed Burj Khalifa as a token of appreciation to Sheikh Khalifa for additional funding.
What is the Burj Khalifa used for?
Burj Khalifa is a mixed-use development that consists of about 30,000 homes, 9 hotels, 19 residential skyscrapers, and 3 hectares of parklands. The 900 private residential apartments were sold out within 8 hours on the day of its launch.
The eighth of our 2 days in Dubai is the Dubai Fountain. These fountains are a 3-minute walk from Burj Khalifa and are located on the Burj Khalifa Lake, an artificial lake at the center of Downtown Dubai.
The fountain is illuminated by 6,600 lights, 50 colored projectors, and can shoot water to about 500 feet. This makes it one of the world’s tallest performing fountains.
Do we need tickets for the Dubai Fountain?
No, you do not need tickets for the Dubai Fountain. However, there are various tickets for the Dubai Fountain Water Experiences. The price for the Swan Boat & Family Boat Paddle is AED 50 ($14) while the Water Bikes cost AED 50 ($14) for those above 15 years.
You can opt for the Kayaking Adventure which costs AED 75 ($20) for those above 15 years old. This activity is suitable for all levels of kayakers.
For kids and toddlers, they would love the Flamingo Boats which are priced at AED 40 ($11) or, they might just love the Yellow Rubber Duck Boats which are priced at AED 45 ($13) for toddlers above 3 years old.
Can you swim in Dubai Fountain?
No, you can’t swim in Dubai Fountain as the lake is used for watersport activities.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah
The ninth of our 2 days in Dubai is Souk Madinat Jumeirah. This is a market with interconnected canals and lush gardens is a perfect blend of old and new. This market is about 10 miles or a 20-minute drive from the Dubai Fountains.
Here, you can take an abra ride through the waterways, dine al-fresco along the canals, or visit the Theatre of Digital Art which combines culture, art, and science to create multi-sensory exhibitions using virtual reality.
The tenth of our 2 days in Dubai is Burj Al-Arab. This hotel is about 700 meters from Souk Madinat Jumeirah which is a pleasant 15-minute walk or a 4-minute drive. The hotel was built on reclaimed land of the former Chicago Beach Hotel.
This iconic landmark hotel has a fleet of Rolls Royce, Mercedes V-Class, or a BMW as your preferred pick-up vehicle from the airport. The hotel also has a private beach and a helicopter.
Roger Federer and Andre Agassi played a round of tennis on the hotel’s helipad, without any fencing or safety boundaries as a marketing stunt for the Dubai Tennis Championships in 2005.
Is the Burj Al-Arab a 7-star hotel?
No, the Burj Al-Arab is a 5-star hotel, which is the highest official ranking for a hotel. It is often marketed as a 7-star hotel due to its high level of service, the luxury and prestige of its rooms, finest fittings and materials, and top-class restaurants within its premises.
Who built Burj Al-Arab?
Burj Al-Arab was designed by Tom Wright while the construction was managed by Rick Gregory. The building was designed to mimic the billowing spinnaker sail of a J-class yacht.
At its grand opening, it was the world’s tallest single structure hotel with the world’s tallest atrium at 182 meters.
Is there any entry fee for Burj Al-Arab?
While there is no entry fee for Burj Al-Arab, the hotel is NOT open to non-paying guests. Alternatively, you may enter if you have a reservation at any of its restaurants. The security is tight here. Be prepared to be turned away, if you do not have any reservations.
Photo by Mohd Almazrouei on Unsplash
The eleventh of our 2 days in Dubai is visiting Dubai Marina. This marina is about 7 miles or an easy 15-minute drive from Burj Al-Arab. This artificial city is built along a stretch of the Persian Gulf. Dubai Marina is also one of the few places where you can get a picture-perfect photo of Dubai’s skyline.
Is Dubai Marina worth visiting?
Yes, it is worth the visit as there are many things to see and do here. You can take a walk at The Walk which showcases street paintings, recycled art displays, sand sculptures, and booths selling trinkets.
Alternatively, you can spend time at the Marina Promenade which is the most scenic part of the bay and is located opposite the Dubai Yacht Club. Or, you can get wet at the Wild Wadi Water Park.
The twelfth and last of our 2 days in Dubai is a visit to Dubai Mall. This mall is about 14 miles or a 20-minute drive from Dubai Marina. Or, you can take the Dubai MRT by crossing a footbridge from the Dubai Marina (Blue Line) to the DAMAC Properties Station (Red Line) and exit at the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Station.
So, what makes the Dubai Mall special?
Dubai Mall is an epitome of a mall for leisure, entertainment, shopping, dining, and luxury. The mall has over 1,200 shops and is the most visited shopping complex in the world with 54 million visitors in 2011.
Is there anything else to do other than shopping?
Yes, there is! You can explore the Dubai Underwater Zoo and Aquarium, marvel at the human waterfall which spans three floors, skate at the Olympic-sized skating rink, or try to land an aircraft with an Emirates A380 Simulator.
Are US Dollars accepted in Dubai?
Before a 2 days in Dubai trip, it is essential to know what currency to take to Dubai. Although the official currency of Dubai is the Dirham, US Dollars are accepted in Dubai.
This is because the Dirham is pegged to US Dollars at a fixed rate of AED 3.6725 to US$1 and you can exchange these dollars at banks, malls, and currency exchange bureaus.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Dubai
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) in Dubai. These are answers to some questions which you may have. Learn and know everything before you go.
Is it OK to wear shorts in Dubai?
Yes, it is OK to wear shorts in Dubai as there are varying levels of tolerance as to what you wear. The rule is to dress decently and conservatively. Women do not need to cover their heads unless they are visiting a mosque where they need to cover their heads and body completely.
For men, shorts are OK as long as they do not reveal the contours of the body. However, cycling shorts when cycling is fine, although wearing them any other time could get you a warning. Men are required to dress in trousers when visiting mosques.
What are women’s rights in Dubai?
Some women’s rights in Dubai include the right to drive, vote, work, and inherit property. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, the UAE is ranked second-best in terms of gender equality.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi is the first woman to hold on to a ministerial post in the country. She is the Minister of State for Tolerance where her first role was to lead a diplomatic trip to visit Pope Francis.
What are the best months to visit Dubai?
The winter months of November to March are the best months to visit Dubai. During these months, the temperature fluctuates between 17°C to 30°C and humidity continues to stay low.
Winter is also a busy time for Dubai with Dubai Design Week and celebration as the city marks its independence from Britain. The other events during these months are the Dubai Rugby Season, the grand Dubai Shopping Festival, and Dubai Marathon.
Summer comes to Dubai from April to October with temperatures rising between 33°C and 42°C which means outdoor activities and festivals are restricted. However, the city remains vibrant, although you are encouraged to keep yourself hydrated at all times.
What is the hottest month in Dubai?
The hottest month in Dubai is August has an average high temperature exceeding 43°C (109°F) as it is covered in desert. Overall, Dubai has a warm climate with two distinct seasons, summer and winter.
What is the coldest month in Dubai?
The coldest month in Dubai is January which has highs of 24°C (75°F) and lows of about 16°C (61°F) with an average rainfall of 10mm, with rain just falling on two days during the month.
How much money should I take to Dubai?
The amount of money to take to Dubai would depend on how long you plan to stay there. You can expect to spend at least AED 729 ($198) per person per day. The cost for one week for one person is AED 5,101 ($1,389).
The costs for a couple for 2 weeks could amount to AED 20,404 ($5,555) while a typical double-occupancy room is AED 999 ($272) while a taxi ride can cost AED 44 ($12) and the average cost of food is AED 165 ($44) for one day.
The typical price for entertainment which includes entrance tickets and shows is AED 55 ($15) while the average daily cost for alcohol is AED 66 ($18) per person.
What language is spoken in Dubai?
The national and official language of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates is Arabic. However, there are variations to the Arabic spoken there with the most common being the Standard Arabic.
Some useful words to know when in Dubai is Marhaba or As-salam Alaykum which means “Hello”. To ask “how are you?” is Kayfa Halluk if it is to a man and Kayfa Halluki if it is to a woman. For “how much does it cost?” is Kam yukalif.
How common is English in UAE?
With an expatriate population of almost 85%, English is a common second language in the UAE. Other languages you may find in Dubai are Hindi, Tamil, Punjabi, Tagalog, and Chinese.