If you're planning a holiday or business trip to Dubai or the Emirates, here's our guide to hotels in the region
4 December 2014| Last updated on 14 January 2020
It's always good to have inside expert advice before making your choice on where to stay and we know Dubai so well!
Dubai is not a big place geographically but it can get busy traffic wise so it's really important to make sure you are picking the right area to stay in- especially if you are on a business trip or quick break.
Here we take a look at all those things you need to know before you book and travel.
Dubai City/ Old Dubai
This area is the heart of old Dubai and comprises of areas that are quite close to the Dubai International Airport, Terminals 1,2 and 3. The areas referred to as this are mainly Garhoud, Deira and Bur Dubai. Bur Dubai and Deira are separated by the Creek, which still has wooden dhows travelling on it today. There are no beach hotels in this area- this is very much a city break, city hotel kind of place but there are also some bargains to be had. If you are not looking for the ultimate in luxury or are on a budget there are some bargains to be had here. There’s tons to do in this area from visiting the famous Deira City Centre Mall to the old Bastakiya and souk areas. You will get more of a flavour of the “real” or “old” Dubai staying here.
Find out more about Old Dubai here>>
This area, as the name implies is where all the new construction happened around the Dubai Marina project. It’s made up of areas called JBR and The Dubai Marina, as well as Palm Jumeirah Island. There are lots of luxury hotels here, many are beach front properties or based around the lagoons and canals of the amazing Marina. There are lots of high rise hotels in this area with amazing views. The hotels in this area tend to be more luxurious and also cost more but there are also a few budget concious hotels in this area or in nearby Barsha, Tecom and Media City.
Find out more about Dubai’s beaches here >>
Food in Hotels
Most hotels that are 4 star and above have one of more restaurants and bars, which are used by hotel residents and local residents alike. The standard of food is generally very high with a la carte on offer as well as very popular themed buffets. On a Friday the western concept of brunch has been taken to new heights- most hotels will have a Friday Brunch offer- an all-inclusive food and drink package, often including champagne and an spectacular array of food. The desserts you will see are amazing! So join in with the local western expat population on a Friday on this staple of the Dubai expat week.
Some hotels don’t serve alcohol and are catered towards a more Muslim traveler- so if this is an important factor to you- make sure you check whether a hotel is “dry” or not to avoid being disappointed on arrival. Pork is also not served in many establishments and you may be having chicken sausages or beef bacon for breakfast- always great to try something new.
See the latest Dubai restaurants deals and offers here >>
Search for restaurants on our ExpatWomanFood.com site >>
Hotel Taxes & Charges
Hotels in Dubai all charge a 10% municipality tax on all hotel bookings- so check whether this is already included in the rates you have been charged or if it will be added on afterwards. Also newly introduced ahead of Expo 2020 is the “Tourism Dirham” which can be between 7 Dhs (£1.17) and 20 Dhs (£3.33) a night added on to your room, depending on the star rating of the hotel. It’s not a massive amount of money so doesn’t make that much difference to an average stay.
Tipping is quite common but there is no fixed fee- so it's totally up to you whether you tip or not. Most people tend to do 10% but there is no pressure at all to do so.
Most hotels have the regular Dubai cream coloured taxis that will be available for pick up or have hotel taxis available. Hotel taxi rates are higher than the normal taxis but the cars tend to be more luxurious- so the choice is yours. There are also private hire car firms you can use like Uber and Careem. You can flag down the normal taxis on the streets of Dubai and also will find taxi ranks at most major tourist destinations and malls.
Some hotels will have shuttle buses running to various popular destinations that are handy as well. You can also use the Metro or Tram depending on where you are located… make sure you get a Nol Card to access these. The metro and tram are very cheap compared to most international cities. There’s also public transport buses and open top tourist trip buses that you can also use. Depending on where you are staying it’s also possible to walk- but in the more built up or city areas you may not find payments and there’s not that many pedestrian bridges to cross the 6- 12 lane highways- so just be careful!
Find out more about public transport in Dubai >>
With the sun, sea and sand and relaxed attitude it’s easy for some to forget that Dubai is a Muslim country. We are actually really lucky that there is so much tolerance here and all we have to do in return is show some respect and decency. Swimwear should never be worn in the lobby of hotels- so make sure you’re covered up on the way down to the pool and on the way back. Hotels are really accessible in Dubai and lobbies are popular meeting points for all nationalities of people. PDAs are not allowed in Dubai in public so keep that in mind whilst in public parts of your hotel too. Topless bathing is a no no anywhere in Dubai so don’t be tempted to bare all!
Find out more about the Dubai Dress Code >>
The water in Dubai is desalinated and therefore has a different mineral content than you may be used to so it is not advisable to drink the tap water… it’s ok for brushing teeth though! You will be provided with bottled water and can always get more if you run out.
Dubai does have variations in weather and temperature throughout the year. The coolest months are from October to March when the temps can get as low as single figures at night but usually highs of 18- 28 during the day. It can also rain during this time- December and March seem to have the most rain. It usually doesn’t rain for that long and it dries up quickly. We get some amazing electrical storms every now and again and fog can be quite common in the early mornings when the weather is at its coolest.
Summer can get really hot- that’s also when some of the best deals are due to the heat. Highs of 40 upwards are not unusual and it does not cool down significantly at night. It’s still a lovely place to be but you need to limit your sun exposure, wear factor 50 at all times and make sure you keep hydrated.
It goes dark early in Dubai compared to western countries. Sunset in the winter is around 5.30pm and around 6.45pm in the summer. Sunrise is around 5.30am in the summer and 6.45am in the winter months. The “golden hour” one hour before sunset is the best time to take photos if you are a keen photographer- the light is an amazing colour at that time.
Find out more about the weather in Dubai here >>
EW’s Top Insider Tips
- If you run out of the hotel complimentary water- just ask them for more and they should deliver for free
- If your hotel is charging excessive amounts for water- just pop to a local shop- it shouldn’t be more than 3-5 Dhs for a large bottle
- Check out local deal sites to see if there any offers on for the F&B at your hotel or a particular place you want to go.
- Plan ahead- Dubai has some amazing international style events and concerts- keep an eye out for what will be in town when you are so you don’t miss out.
We hope you have a great stay in whichever hotel in Dubai you choose. To find out more about holidaying in Dubai you can check out our Dubai Forum for top tips from residents and also visit our Dubai FAQs section which is packed with essential Dubai information.