Girls’ trip: Dubai
It’s got upscale shopping, decadent hotels with world class spas, amazing restaurants offering discounted ‘ladies’ nights’, legendary Friday ‘brunches’ that roll into late-night beach parties, not to mention sunshine when it’s damp and drizzly in the UK, all of which makes Dubai tailor-made for a girl’s winter weekend. Here are my insider tips for making the most of it:
Arrive in style
Dubai is all about glamour so you want to look your best when you step off the plane, right? That means flying business class but if you don’t want to shell out a fortune on the flight I recommend booking an economy seat with Emirates then check in online 48 hours before departure, which is when the airline is most likely to be offering cheap upgrades to business class. Last November, I was offered an upgrade for £380 one way.
If that’s stretching it, don’t worry, because Emirates’ economy is still pretty comfortable, the seats are spacious (especially on the A380 double-decker) the in-flight entertainment’s great and the food’s not bad either.
It’s all in the planning..
Some of the best restaurants in Dubai are in the five-star hotels and both the food and the booze can be pretty pricey, but many of them have special Ladies’ Nights with discounted dining and a selection of free drinks. Some also offer discounts for mixed groups.
With a bit of careful planning you could eat at a discount every night of your trip. Check out the What’s On guide to find out which night is Ladies Night at all the top venues. Make sure you check what’s included and whether the discounts are subject to a minimum spend.
..and the timing
You’ll want to make sure you’re in Dubai on a Friday to indulge in the legendary all-day brunch. A favourite with the large ex-pat community (but open to everyone), the brunches include all-you-can-drink cocktails, wines and beers for a fixed price. They can get messy, but you can choose a venue that offers a party atmosphere or a more sophisticated, laid-back vibe.
We tried the Asian-style Garden Brunch at Downtown Toko in the Vida Hotel, which cost AED 325 (about £65) per person for the ‘sparkling package’ including Prosecco, wine, beer and cocktails, or AED 190 excluding alcohol. Don’t forget that all hotel restaurants charge 20% tax on top of quoted prices.
After brunch, the party often continues, usually ending up at one of the hotel’s beach-front bars, some of which have DJs playing until the early hours.
Grab a Groupon coupon
Deals website Groupon has plenty of cut-price offers in Dubai, from half-price desert safaris to 75% off a day by the pool at a luxury hotel to yummy spa treatments. We spent a day lounging by the pool at the Rixos the Palm for AED 99 (about £20), which included a delicious buffet lunch. To find the latest deals, you need to register with Groupon’s UAE site, www.groupon.ae
See the souks
Don’t get lost in Dubai’s glitzy shopping malls. They’re amazing, true, but prices tend to be higher than in the UK and you probably won’t see many shops you can’t find in big cities back home. For the best bargains, head to the Gold and Textile souks, which you’ll find at opposite sides of the Dubai Creek.
Be prepared to haggle – you’re first offer should be no more than half the asking price. To make sure you’re not ripped off, check prices of similar pieces online before you buy.
Take particular care when buying textiles, such as cashmere scarves. They can be great value and good quality, but make sure you take the item out of its packaging and check for snags and unfinished edges before leaving the shop.
Also remember that when paying by credit card, ask to pay in sterling, not dirhams, to get the best exchange rate.
Enjoy the Sport of Sheikhs
They’re not much publicized, but Dubai’s camel races are a sight to behold and a real chance to mix with the locals and see something unique. You’ll need to get up early and take a taxi to the Al Marmoum Racetrack, which is just outside the city, and head to the grandstand. Races start at around 7am and they’re free to watch, there’s no need to book. Don’t expect huge crowds, you might be the only spectators about from the camel’s owners, who tend to follow the races in their 4x4s!
If you like, you can wander right up to the starting gate to see the camels lined up, and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to blag a ride in one of the TV trucks that film the camels as they race.
Have you got some great tips for visiting Dubai? Sharing is caring!