My partner had the day off of work on Friday for India's Independence Day so we took advantage of the long weekend by taking a last minute trip to Dubai. A bunch of my friends said there was a 3-hour direct flight there from Pune but after hours of scouring the internet in search of this pink unicorn of a ticket, I admitted defeat and called one of them to find out that it's only available on the Air India Express website (not to be confused with the Air India site). So, if you want to fly from Pune, I hope I just saved you some time and money with that little tip. Our tickets were only about USD $750 total.
We stayed at the JW Marriott Marquis in the downtown/Business Bay section of the city, which I can't recommend enough. It's in a perfect location of the city, has attentive staff, great restaurants, killer rooms, a shuttle service that runs every 20 minutes, a large pool with a view of the skyline and the Burj Khalifa, and a spa/gym. It also has the best hotel breakfast buffet I've ever seen in my life.
It was so incredibly hot and humid when we were there that a three minute walk in the late morning 107ºF heat put me on the verge of losing my breakfast. I have a new appreciation for anyone ever who's walked across the desert. Seriously, that was brutal. We immediately decided to scrap all of our outdoor plans, which meant no souks, no abra ride, no Bastakia Quarter, and no leisurely stroll along the creek. Maybe next time.
Since it was a short trip I made online reservations for the Burj Khalifa observation deck, a dinner cruise on a dhow along the marina, and an Arabian Adventures desert safari tour before we went and then plugged a bunch of other activities around those things in an itinerary that we carried around with us. It really helped us stay on track and budget our time.
Here's what we were able to do in three days:
-- At the Top, Burj Khalifa
-- Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
-- Dubai Fountain show
-- Shopping at Dubai Mall
-- Desert Safari
-- Dhow dinner cruise
-- Swim at Jumeirah Beach at sunrise
If we had 4 days next time and cooler weather I think we could have covered the souks, abra ride, Bastakia Quarter, and a stroll along the creek, but probably not more than that.
We used the hotel shuttle and taxis almost exclusively to get around and found the taxis to be affordable, polite, and convenient. Would definitely suggest them to anyone traveling there. I always felt safe and I would easily take a solo trip back. I had a chance to stock up on some food items at Waitrose, including the elusive All Purpose Flour that I've been hunting for here in Pune and my new favorite condiment, Branston Pickle. I also spent a fair amount of time shopping for dresses, as clothing seems to always be tricky for me to find here. The proportions are never quite right. (And a girl can never go wrong with a pretty dress!)
The whole trip was a highlight to me. Dubai is a modern marvel, there's no doubt about it. Everything glitters: the people, the stores, the architecture, the cars, the attractions. It really is like a giant playground in the desert. Speaking of which, here are some pictures from our desert safari. Riding over the dunes was so much fun!
Takeaways/tips from this trip for next time:
-- direct flight on Air India Express saved us time and money
-- an itinerary was super helpful
-- get out of Dubai and explore the surrounding area
-- Dubai mall has free Wifi
-- try going back during cooler weather
-- remember to take a sweater or pashmina everywhere (A/C can be as brutal as the heat!)
-- if in the market for a luxury item, check the price in other places we'll visit; may be less/more expensive
-- memorize the exchange rate in tens (i.e. 37 AED = approx. 10 USD = approx. 6 GBP)
-- everything is touristy - embrace it, enjoy it - the excursions are still fun even if millions of people do them :-)
-- tip service staff, just ask to make sure they can accept tips (we usually did 10%)
-- leave more room for poolside lounging and using hotel facilities