I can’t remember the exact moment that I decided I wanted to visit Dubai, but it’s definitely a place that was on my “radar” for a number of years. I think being assigned a project for school on the U.A.E. probably sealed the deal because while doing the research I discovered just how “over the top” this place really is. I can however tell you that it was while watching Fast and Furious 7, that the deal was sealed for Baby Bug, (and for those familiar with the movie – no. we did not see any ferrari jumping from skyscraper to skyscraper!)
Well the opportunity for a visit came while I was trying to figure out a gift for Baby Bug’s grade 8 graduation. Coincidentally, Baby Bug was graduating the same time that Mama Bug was graduating from college so this was definitely worth a celebration – I mean, how often does that happen?
We ended up booking a independent package – meaning it basically consisted of our flights, hotel and our transfers. This was the perfect scenario for us for a couple of reasons, 1. when pricing out the individual parts of the tour to book on our own, just the flight prices were more than what the whole package was being offered for 2. we like to do our own thing, so this type of package allowed us to, and 3. we booked fairly last minute so availability was limited. There was however one small glitch, one of the major reasons we wanted to book a package was to try out Emirates Airlines because we had heard such great things about them and with such a long flight (approx. 13 hours), we wanted to be comfortable. So the problem was, the flights included in the package left out of New York, so flying from Detroit added several hundreds of dollars to the price. Not to worry, we booked the package out of New York and Mama Bug did some “digging.” Everything ended up a “win-win” situation, we found early morning flights to New York for $39, so not only did we save lots of money but we ended up with a whole day to enjoy New York City before our late night flight on Emirates left for Dubai.
Read here to see what to do with one day in New York.
Baby Bug loved our little toiletries case, packed with travel socks, a sleep mask, tic tacs and a mini toothbrush and toothpaste. Not sure if there was more room than normal, if the seats were more comfortable, or if we were just extremely tired (probably a combination of all 3), but the flight literally “flew by.” Great service, good food, and an excellent entertainment system – we loved Emirates Airline.
Even in the airport we got a sense of how modern Dubai is. The people all seemed very nice but we just got a “mind your own business” kind of feel, which is fine by us. The Lucky Bugs believe that when you’re visiting another country, you should respect their culture and rules. Baby Bug did have some concerns regarding the country’s policy on swearing/foul language, since Mama Bug has been known to occasionally have some “colourful” language, and was unsure of the procedure for bailing me out.
Our package included a stay at the JW Marriott Marquis, which was absolutely beautiful, and luxurious. It was located in more of a business district, but that was one thing that we noticed – everything seemed really spread out so there wasn’t much to explore on foot. The hotel did offer a free shuttle to the Dubai Mall, which we did take advantage of several times.
We ended up here frequently for a few different reasons. This mall was located in the heart of the city so here we were able to catch the hop on/hop off bus that took us around the city (and also provided us with commentary). These malls are not your ordinary shopping malls, this one is actually the biggest mall in the world – it even has an ice skating rink and every store you could possibly imagine. It was also a nice air conditioned relief from the almost unbearable heat.
This mall is also where you will find a fantastic aquarium, an awesome outdoor fountain show (designed by the same company that designed the Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas, only bigger and better), and last but not least, the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building.
O.k. so going all the way to Dubai, we felt like a visit to the Burj Khalifa was a must. And while nothing in Dubai comes cheap, we were a little surprised at the admission prices, yikes!!! First you must figure out when you want to go, there are “prime hours” and “non-prime hours” pricing, and then there are two types of tickets: “At the Top” (where you visit level 124 and 125), and “At the Top Sky” (where you visit level 124, 125 and 148). We decided that since we didn’t know if we would ever be back, to go all the way up. While we definitely enjoyed the view and some refreshments, if I were to do it over again I would save the money and just do the “At the Top” experience. I don’t think that there was enough difference in the two packages to justify the cost. I also later found out that you can really save money by pre booking your tickets or using a Groupon.
We timed our visit for late afternoon so that while we were up there we would have a daylight view and a nighttime view – and it worked perfectly
Next stop, the Burj Al Arab (one of the world’s most luxurious and expensive hotels). Mama Bug really wanted to go inside but you’re not allowed in unless your a guest. There is a way around this however, – you can get in with a reservation for very pricy tea time or drinks at the Skyview restaurant/bar (with an incredible view), however due to Baby Bug’s age we would not be allowed access to the bar that is located near the top, which kind of defeated the purpose, so we chose not to do it.
The beaches were gorgeous, but wow was it hot! We travelled the first week of May and by 10:00 a.m it was over 100 degrees. Best way to describe the heat – stifling! (cannot imagine what it would be like any later in the summer)
Another great thing about the hop on/hop off bus is that not only can you ride it throughout the day but there are night tours too. Just wanted to again mention that this city is very spread out so unless you are renting a car – this is probably the best way to see everything.
Our tour also took us by Atlantis The Palm and it looked spectacular, this is the place that has the “underwater aquarium room” where you can sleep surrounded by fish, and also where The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills stayed on their visit.
We wanted to get a feel for the “souks” – and yes the hop on/hop off bus also brought us there. There are several different ones all in close proximity (textile, spice and gold are probably the most popular). And though we felt Dubai to be a very safe city, this is the only area where we felt a little uncomfortable. It probably didn’t help that Mama Bug is not good at negotiating prices – though that didn’t stop us from purchasing a pretty necklace and bracelet set here (and I think it was a good deal?)
And in case you were not yet “shopped out” – our final bus stop was the Mall of Emirates. And though we realized quite quickly that most of Dubai was out of our price range, our main reason for checking out this one was for Ski Dubai – the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort and snow park.
I would have to say that a desert safari was the highlight of our trip. I had heard about them and upon doing my research for the trip, came across a company called Arabian Nights with great reviews. They picked us up at our hotel, and we were off. I must admit, Mama Bug had many concerns leading up to our pick up, like how in the heck am I going to manage being in the desert for 6 hours when I can barely stand the 5 minute wait outside for the shuttle bus? and also because of my heat sensitivity I know the importance of hydrating, which lead me to wonder how I could drink 2 or 3 bottles of water and hold it till we got there 2 hours later? Definitely a case of mind over matter, but definitely worth it (and thankfully no, I didn’t pass out or have an “accident.”)
One of the many reasons the Lucky Bugs love to travel is for those moments when your expectations are totally blown away, it’s almost like having an out of body experience, where you think – “am I really here?, am I really doing this?” This was one of those moments. I had always thought, “oh cool – the desert…” so I was totally unprepared for the breathtaking beauty we encountered, it was almost magical!
After arriving at the desert, we were taken “duning” in our 4 wheel drive vehicle. Again. my expectations were exceeded. I must admit at first, the “mom” in me kept visualizing and calculating how the rescue crews would get to us in the middle of the desert and how long it would take – yes, it really was that nerve racking, but so much fun!!! These drivers are very skilled and quickly put my mind at ease. It still makes me smile reliving it, as well as Baby Bug’s deep bellied laugh from start to finish.
We soon arrived at the site, all in one piece (bladder full but accident free!!!) And now it was time for a camel ride. Our camel had a definite attitude and Baby Bug and I couldn’t stop laughing – every time he got up or down he gave the loudest sigh, like “not again!”
Baby Bug is all about the glam, and her highlight was the henna tattoo – though this caused some showering controversy. Thankfully (for the other passengers on the long flight home), Mama Bug was right and the tattoo lasted till we got home to show her friends, despite it getting wet.
I must admit that I didn’t have high expectations for the food, but it was really good. There was a buffet of barbeque skewers and shawarma type wraps. We sat on pillows on the sand and enjoyed the entertainment under the stars (including a belly dancer), before heading back to the hotel. And believe it or not, you do get a little used to the heat – either that, or my internal organs and brain were so “cooked” – that maybe I was a little numb? Whatever the reason, we had an amazing time and would highly recommend!
All in all, we had a great trip. Dubai was one of the most unique (and expensive) places that we have ever visited. I think one of the things we missed was the interaction of the locals, usually when travelling we chat and mingle a bit with the locals, and as I said earlier, we just felt that the locals kept to themselves, nobody was rude – we just didn’t get that “warm, welcoming” feeling. This was not necessarily a bad thing, and as two female bugs we always felt safe. The architecture and the desert were amazing, and again, the flight home “flew by.” Another great memory for the Bugs.
Some Burj Khalifa Facts
- at more than 160 stories high, it is the tallest building in the world as well as the tallest free standing structure in the world
- it has the highest occupied floor in the world
- has the highest outdoor observation deck in the world
- elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
- the inside of the Burj Khalifa is made up of the Armani Hotel, private condos/residences and office space. There is also a restaurant on the 122nd floor