Logistics: Accommodation through AirBnB near Mall of Emirates, can highly recommend Antoun as the host. Visa: Issued at airport - no fee, passport min 6 months valid. Transportation through SIXT Car rental. Driving is not complicated in Dubai if you set aside enough time to get lost. Still better than taking taxi/metro everywhere, plus is great for a day trip to Abu Dhabi. There is plenty of parking, usually free.
Drive to Dubai Mall. Leave enough time to get lost. Parking is free of charge at Section M of Level 1 inside of the Cinema car parking garage at the lower ground level of the Dubai Mall and you can leave your car there all day.
Burj Al Khalifa (price: $37 per ticket). Best deal we found was through the
official site. We reserved the 9:30am slot, and would highly recommend not getting there later than this. All the research we did, including speaking to those who live there said that there was no need to pay significantly higher price ($100 more per person) to go to the 148th floor. Going up to the 125th floor is really enough and the view is awesome. The trick is to come as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
Spice Souk and Gold Souk and the Boat Ride - We took a taxi from Dubai Mall to the Textile Souk (app. $25 per car). Then we took the little boat (abra) from Dubai Old Souk Marine Transport Station across the Dubai Creek (1 durham, best deal ever). The souk is something everyone should experience, even though you don't have anything on your shopping list.
On your way back across the creek you will see a wonderful restaurant on water- Bait Al Wakeel – we had lunch there and enjoyed excellent food and looking at all the abras that go back and forth.
Afternoon was reserved for a short visit to the Dubai Museum Fahidi Fort (Hours 9:00-16:30; Tickets 3 Dirham). This small museum gives you a glimpse of Dubai's history and how people used to live in these harsh desert conditions- one hour here is enough.
To go back to the Dubai Mall to get our car and watch the sunset and the water show, we rode the Dubai Metro. Nearest metro station to Dubai Museum is the Al Fahidi Metro Station an when there you an ask for directions. We ended our first day with the beautiful sunset in front of Burj Khalifa at the Square Al Bahar and the Water Fountain Show which starts at 6pm. It is not Bellagio in Las Vegas, but it is still nice.
Get up early for the Burj Al Arab Photo Shoot at the Umm Suqeim Public Beach. It was still warm enough to swim at the end of November so we didn't spend our morning just striking poses.
After some beach time, we went to see Madinat Jumeirah. This is a hotel resort open to public which is built in style of old Arabian towns. There is a souk (bazar), restaurants, and wonderful view of the Burj Al Arab. Great place to grab lunch with friends. There is also parking for 10 dirham at the garage. As you enter the garage, there is a ramp on your left that takes you to the lower level, so don't worry if you don't find the spot right away on the upper level.
In the late afternoon we did the inevitable Desert Safari with the Desert Safari Luxury Tour - The tour was app. $22 per person through Groupon and communication about where to meet is best done through WhatsApp. The tour includes Dune Bashing; Camel Ride if time permits (pay extra); time for Sunset Photo Shoot in Desert ; and Dinner & Show. You can also pay extra to smoke Houka (akaNargila or Sheesha)- for app. $14 they will bring it to your table. By the time we made it back to our apartment it was already almost 10pm.
DAY 3 (Abu Dhabi Day)
One of the perks of renting a car is being able to drive where you want, when you want and visit to Abu Dhabi becomes easy to organize. We started our day with a visit to the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (guided tours at 10a,11a, 2p, 5p,7p). Address is Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Street, 5th St, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirate. Plenty Free Parking. They will give you something to cover yourself. It is closed on Friday mornings for tourists so plan accordingly.
We tried to get to the Emirates Palace (West End Corniche, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates +971 2 690 9000), the fancy hotel with ATM where you can buy Gold, but someone in our group (not to be named, but the only guy), was wearing shorts, and they will not let you in the hotel compound if dressed inappropriately, which cargo shorts apparently is.
So, instead, we went straight to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Buy the tickets (app. $20 per person) online to avoid the long queues. This is an amazing museum not to be missed. It gives a great overview of the history of various civilizations, and nicely compares East and West historic and artistic development through history.
Leave early for the Miracle Garden which opens at 9am. The address is Al Barsha South 3, Barsha,Dubailand Area, +971 4 422 8902. Tickets are 40 dirhams ($11), no need to buy onlilne if you come early. Free Parking. The best photo shoot location in the city, so dress romantically.
Afterwards we went to Dubai Marina. Parking was a little tricky, at the end we found affordable parking at JBR Murjan GreenParking for app. $3 per hour. We rode the Ferry Ride to the Atlantis and back. This was least impressive part of our trip. What was nice was grabbing drinks at sunset at the Pier 7 . There is a restaurant/bar on each floor, but for afternoon drinks the only place open that early was the Cargo Restaurant. Wonderfully relaxing.
The last thing we did in Dubai before heading to the airport around 11pm was visit the Mall of Emirates (parking is free) so that we can see the famous skiing in middle of the desert. We got dessert at the TGIF Restaurant (I know, I know, but the view is great), and watched through the window people skiing and snowboarding on the Ski Dubai slopes. Surreal.
All in all, we loved the United Arab Emirates, and would love to go back for some more desert fun and some night life. This time around as we were waking up very early to avoid the crowds, we didn't really experience the famous Dubai party scene. Next time.