It may have taken me a few months, but The Honeymoon Series is finally here! On our month-long trip, we managed to squeeze in 10 different countries, over 1,000 photos and a whole lot of memories – so where better to share them than on the blog! And our first stop was the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai has always intrigued me. I mean, it’s got the tallest, biggest, highest and most expensive…everything, whilst also being in the middle of the desert. According to Instagram, it also seems to be the place expats live incredibly glamourous lives. Did somebody say ‘tax free’? So when we were planning our honeymoon and booked flights with Emirates, we decided to turn our airport stopover in Dubai into a three night/four day visit to see what all of the fuss is really about.
I’m going to be blatantly honest here and say it now – I didn’t like it at all. When it comes to travelling, we’re definitely not the most experienced couple and, having already booked a TopDeck tour around Europe, thought the best way to see Dubai would also be by going on a guided tour. We booked the 3 Day Dubai Stopover through Topdeck (I’d better include a disclaimer here to say TopDeck didn’t actually runt he tour, as all tours in Dubai must be run by locally based operators). I think that was our first mistake, and my expectations were too high or we just didn’t visit the right places. I left feeling really disappointed and whilst it wasn’t all terrible, would I visit it again? Probably not. Here some of the highlights and low lights of our stay.
Location, location, location
Three nights accommodation at either a three-star or four-star hotel was included in our tour and considering it was our honeymoon, we opted for the four-star beach location. We couldn’t actually find out the name of the hotel until after we’d booked it and In hindsight, we probably should have just organised it ourselves. We were a little confused when we couldn’t see the beach on arrival and soon discovered it was actually behind a HUGE billboard stretching for hundreds of metres between the highway in front of us, and the coastline behind. The hotel was nice, but let’s just say it wasn’t quite like the photos…
If the price is right…or not
We ended up spending the majority of our free time in the shopping centres in Dubai. As a shopaholic, I was really excited to check out some of the world’s biggest shopping centres, like the Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates but again, they didn’t really live up to my expectations. So many people had told me shopping in Dubai is cheaper than in Australia, but I must have been looking in the wrong places because everything seemed pretty on par with prices at home.
The shopping centres, however, were a great way to escape the heat, find something to eat and watch people skiing inside.
We also looked into some of the token activities you do in Dubai’s malls, like indoor skiing or taking a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa, but decided not to spend the money. It was over $100 each to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa alone, and considering we still had a month of travel ahead of us, we just couldn’t justify it.
See the city (through a bus window)
After a good night’s sleep (thank god for air con), we boarded a 50-seater bus for our city tour – with our six fellow tourists – and took off. It was interesting, but we didn’t stop in many places. It was more ‘Look to your left’ before we kept on driving. We stopped in a few locations, but it was obvious that most of the places we visited were intended to sell us things. The first was a spice shop in ‘Old Dubai’ where Wes and I bought the most expensive bag of mixed lollies I’ve ever seen, and another was an art gallery where they started trying to sell us expensive woven artworks the moment we walked through the door. Again, my expectations probably let me down here – I imagined a walking tour of the city, seeing the sights, wandering through markets and perhaps a bus trip here or there – not half a day on a bus with very little exploring to be done. We did, however, stop at the Dubai Museum at Al Fahidi Fort and despite looking a little bare to begin with, it will filled with a ton of historic treasures to be discovered inside. A big thumbs up for the museum!
Dune bashing and belly dancing
The second part of our tour was a desert safari, with 4WD in the desert followed by dinner. I would say the driving tour through the desert was the highlight of our stay. It was a roller coaster ride and our driver was pretty wild! If you’re not much of an adrenaline seeker, I wouldn’t recommend it, but we loved every second of it. The desert was stunning and it was nice to stop and watch the sun set over the red sand, but if you take this tour, be prepared to be surrounded by hundreds of people (and sand absolutely littered with rubbish). This wasn’t an intimate trip out into the desert; in fact the place is packed with Landcruisers and camp sites where a few hundred tourists gather to eat dinner, watch belly dancing and fire twirling, and pay through the nose for a henna tattoo.
Top of the taxi ranks
It’s not all negative! If there’s one thing that impressed me about Dubai, it’s their taxis. As it was a little too hot to walk everywhere (and a little dangerous – cars do NOT like to stop at pedestrian crossings!) we caught a lot of taxis to and from our hotel and they were always clean, affordable and efficient, and the drivers were always lovely and happy to have a chat. Plus, the taxi ranks at the shopping centres were great! I guess it’s how a lot of people get around, but you didn’t have to stand and wait long, with a long line of taxis waiting and ready in a dedicated taxi rank.
Now I know there will be plenty of people out there who don’t agree with my view of Dubai, and I’d love to hear your experiences! Let me know what we missed out on or why we should give it another go in the comments below – or if you had a similar experience to us, please feel free to share!
Next stop – Paris!