Dubai - how to maximise your visit

by Tsai Wharton

Despite the huge change in infrastructure over the last 10 years, Dubai continues to offer a high standard of service and decadence to rival any world class city

Only a six hour hop from London, minimal time difference and wall to wall sunshine makes Dubai a perfect getaway all year round. Although even the hardcore sun worshippers should be careful in the height of summer when expats flock home and temperatures are in the 40s, sometimes 50s!

Dubai is a place where nothing is impossible - even boasting a snowdome - but why should you visit? If you just want to chill out the hotel beaches offer the height of luxury, however if you are a bit more adventurous I would recommend the seaplane experience which takes you over the Palm Jumeirah and The World Islands. For more information check out www.seawings.ae.

The desert experience is something really quite different for those coming from cooler climes; driving through the sand, boarding down the dunes, riding camels into the sunset and finishing the night off in true arabic style with a feast under the stars. www.arabian-adventures.com offer a variety of desert experiences.

Eating out

Dubai has a host of amazing restaurants to choose from and a lot of names synonomous with high class dining such as Nobu, Zuma and Rivington Grill. For ambience, service and exquisite food I still think Pier Chic (+971 43 668 888) is hard to beat. Located at the end of the pier on Al Qasr beach, Madinat Jumeirah not only boasts one of the most beautiful and scenic locations in the world but has been voted Dubai's most romantic restaurant as well as best seafood restaurant time and time again. Nina's (+971 43 999 999) is another favourite of mine, nestled in the Arabian Courtyard side of the One and Only Royal Mirage Resort. The cuisine is Indo-European, an interesting and tasty mix. Either before dinner or after, have a drink at the rooftop bar. With lots of comfy seating in nooks and crannies it makes for a very romantic setting.

Open air drinking

One thing good old British weather doesn't allow for is having an open air bar so definitely make the most of it in Dubai. Bar 360 (+971 44 068 769) is one of Dubai's iconic and must-see nightlife venues. This stylish rooftop lounge is located in the Arabian waters and is part of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Be prepared for high drink prices but it is worth it for the setting - the Burj Al Arab is in the background!  For the more fun loving and casual of you head to Barasti (+971 43 993 333), a beach side bar, that is part of Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, on Al Sofouh Road. It's an ideal place for those who want to kick off their shoes and dance the night away in the sand, to great tunes or relax on beanbags and drink reasonably priced drinks. Thursdays and Fridays are the busiest nights. 

Where to stay

Madinat Jumeirah - a resort consisting of three hotels of varying prices; Mina S'alam, Al Qasr and Dar Al Masyaf lays claim to Dubai's longest private beach. There are over 40 restaurants, bars and lounges to choose from, one of the Middle East's biggest and most luxurious spas, a souk that sells everything and a theatre! Every guest automatically gets free entry to the adjacent Wild Wadi Waterpark (+971 4 348 4449) which usually costs £40pp and is well worth a visit for those water babies in you. With flowriders, tube rides, lazy rivers and 2 new rides opening in the coming months, not to mention the location with the backdrop of the Burj Al Arab visible from anywhere in the park - what's not to love! 

For the budget conscious renting a self catered apartment in Dubai Marina is really good value and easily the best location. If you are a pool and beach fan the apartments usually come with an outdoor pool and the Dubai Marina public beach is within walking distance.

Top tips

Best time of year - depending on how hot you like it the end of October - March is the most comfortable for all, with June-September temperatures reaching the 40s. The rain can be torrential for a day or two in January and February on occasion and night time temperatures can get as low as 7C in January even if its in the twenties in the day.

Alcohol - can only be purchased through venues that are licensed which tends to be hotels, as such more of the nightlife centers around 4 and 5 star hotels and resorts and can end up being pricey.  You will find lots of great cafes and restaurants in Dubai Marina, Bur Dubai, Downtown Jumeirah and other areas that are not licenced to sell alcohol but definitely worth a visit.

Dress code - as with all Arab countries women need to take this into consideration and dress appropriately. While in the hotels it is more relaxed than in public places such as shopping centres or walking on the street and it is advised not to wear short skirts/shorts/dresses or have bare shoulders.

Ramadan - this is the fasting month of Muslims. There is a daily fasting time which begins daily at dawn and is broken after the first prayer at dusk. No one including tourists can eat, drink or even smoke in public places during this time (with the exception of pregnant women, young children and people who are ill) and live or loud music can also not be played in bars or restaurants. The holy month of Ramadan changes throughout the year so it's best to check when it will be before booking your holiday. In 2011 it will fall between July and August.