Ask the Experts: Can you help me make the most of Dubai?

If Ask the Experts was a West End show, it would be the hottest production around. Haven’t stopped by before? Well, welcome! Allow me to introduce everyone. I’m Emma, the Master of Ceremonies.

Then, taking centre stage, we have three of STA Travel’s most knowledgable Travel Experts: step forward Claire Whittington from STA Travel in Brighton, Jessica Ambrose from our store up in Leeds Vicar Lane, and Sarah Jones from London’s fabulous Covent Garden store.

The star of the show? You, of course! Each week, we invite one of you to ask our Experts a travel question that’s got you scratching your head and wanting to know more. Want to be a part of it? Just email us with your question, and we’ll put it to the Experts right here on the STA Travel Blog.

So, let’s meet this week’s star. It’s only Tim from London! Go, Tim, go:

My girlfriend and I are stopping over in Dubai for 2 nights on our way to India, and we’re not sure where to stay. We can’t seem to get our heads round the different areas. Can you recommend a good area to stay, and, even better, a hotel that isn’t ridiculously expensive? Tim in London

Come on, Experts, it’s your time to shine. Take the stage and bare your travel knowledge to the world! Dear reader, take your seat and get ready to find out how you could be eating dinner at a Bedouin camp; where to go to ride camels over sand dunes; and discover where you can stay to keep your bank manager happy.

Claire Whittington from STA Travel Brighton says…

Dubai is an awesome place, Tim! So why limited yourself to one area in Dubai when you can see the traditional Creek area, the ultra-modern city and head out to the desert with one of our 2 night Dubai Stopover packages?

After being picked up from the airport and taken to the Sheraton Jumeirah Hotel you can freshen up and then walk through the palm tree lined hotel grounds right to the exclusive Jumeirah Beach or chill out by the pool with a stylish bar on hand for poolside cocktails.

Alternatively, if you have a head for heights, why not head to the top of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, for out-of-this-world views over Dubai. Or do what Dubai is famous for and shop til you drop! The hotel is minutes away from ‘The Walk’, which is home to hundreds of shops.

The next morning you will be picked up for your city tour where you will visit Al Fahidi Fort and the textile, spice and gold souks so brush up on your bartering skills.

Take a break for a spot of lunch and a bit of chill out time before you are picked up late afternoon for a 4WD Desert Safari. Get out of the city and take a journey around the golden sand dunes of the desert – you can even hop on a camel if you want to try a more traditional mode of transport!

Desert Safari

Make the most of your stopover with a desert safari | Image by worldinframes

Your final stop will be at a Bedouin camp for a traditional dinner. Think lying back on luxurious Persian rugs, lit by colourful lanterns and being entertained by belly dancers whilst you wait for your BBQ dinner to be cooked on the open fire. You’ll be taken back to your hotel for one last night before it’s back to the airport and onto India. And just think – all this, and it’s only your stopover!

Jessica Ambrose from STA Travel Leeds Vicar Lane says…

I agree with Claire, Tim, that Jumeriah Beach is amazing – it’s where you’ll find all the luxury hotels and resorts, definitely worth a visit! But if you’re on a budget it’s probably not the best place to look for accommodation. Many hotels in other areas offer shuttles to the beach, so look out for that as an option when you come to book.

Bur Dubai is the Dubai’s old town and is home to many affordable hotels – it’s a great area to stay to be close to the beach and the famous Mall of the Emirates, without the big price tag.

Al Rigga, meanwhile, is the busiest area in Dubai and not too far from the airport, with lots of shopping to be had, while Port Saeed is a small port that houses many of the dhows and small shipping boats.

If you really want to make the most of your stopover, it’s definitely worth checking out the 2 night Dubai stopover package that Claire mentioned, but I recommend staying at the Arabian Park Hotel. It’s £350 for a double or twin room including airport transfers, a half-day city tour around Dubai and the amazing desert safari. That’s just £175 per person, and the hotel is 5 minutes from the city centre with free shuttles to Jumeriah Beach twice a day!

The real gem of the package is the desert safari – if you’re so close to the desert it’d be silly not to escape the city and take a look! You’ll be taken out in a 4×4 to a desert camp (think carpets, glitz and silk cushions) where you’ll get to enjoy some belly dancing and a BBQ while watching the sunset over the amazing desert landscape. I definitely recommend channeling your inner Lawrence of Arabia and taking a camel ride through the sand dunes – amazing.

Riding into the sunset

 A camel ride in the desert is a must | Image by Pete the painter

If you’d prefer just to book a hotel, the Ibis is the most affordable hotel chain in Dubai and they have hotels in 3 locations. The City Centre, Al Rigga and at the Mall of the Emirates, all offering a shuttle bus to Jumeriah Beach. The rooms start from £54 per night including breakfast and you can still add on the city tour for £24 per person or the desert safari for £45 per person.

Sarah Jones from STA Travel Covent Garden says…

Dubai is an exquisite mix of sun, shopping, beach and Middle Eastern charm, Tim, and, as I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not the cheapest place on the planet to visit! Known for its swish hotels, VIP clientele, glitz and glamour and with such an extensive selection of hotels choosing where to stay can be a bit of a task.

I agree with Claire that the Jumeirah Beach area is the spot to stay if relaxation and beach are what you’re after. It’s not the cheapest of areas mind you, with hotels starting from £67pp for a twin/double room. You will however get impeccable sea views, super stylish rooms, private beaches and top class dining experiences, making you feel pretty damn royal!

If it’s more of cultural experience you’re after then I’m with Jess – the Bar Dubai and Diera areas of the city are the places to be. The Ibis Al Rigga, around £30pp for a twin/double, is a modest yet still stylish option right in the heart of the historical quarter. There’s also loads of restaurants nearby so perfect if you’re a food lover.

How good are the Experts? If this was a play, I’d give them a standing ovation for sure. If you’ve been to Dubai, share your own knowledge and advice in the comments thread below! And remember, if you’ve got a question for the Experts, drop us an email and they’ll get cracking with an answer for you.