Dubai always seemed like a place you’ve either been to many times or (in my case) longed to go when you can spend like a bougie traveller. Originally booked to visit in March following what would’ve been a culturally rich visit to Oman, it was rescheduled to the beginning of December 2020 in the hope that things would’ve resolved (laughs in hindsight).
However the stars aligned in our favour with the announcement of Dubai being placed onto the UK travel corridor list a couple of weeks before our 2nd national lockdown was due to end so we decided to go ahead with a winter sun break escape!
We flew with Emirates who differed from easyJet back in September where there was some order with boarding and getting off the plane..! However the hygiene kits and empty middle seats on the way home made up for it somewhat.
We stayed in Wyndham Dubai Marina, a lovely 4* hotel with spa, pool, gym, cafe, restaurant and stunning views across the marina. Overall I enjoyed our stay but being in the marina meant we were unexpectedly caught up in rush hour traffic between 4-8pm when going out! So something to be mindful if you stay around here, you’re best walking up to the end of the road to call your taxis out.
The weather in December felt warmer than I had been told it typically is..most evenings, you didn’t need any to cover up and the days were made for sunbathing.
Dubai: See and Do
Marina – is where we stayed so we explored locally first. It’s a beautiful area where you can do a 7km marina walk (which is funny because Dubai for the most part isn’t walking friendly). Also check out the beach, shopping or cool down in the gardens.
JBR beach – local to us in the marina
Old Dubai (Bur Dubai) – the historical districts where you can experience old Emirati life. I was not expecting to find a place like this here! The main things we visited were the Souks (which have different elements, spice, gold, cutlery and more) and then we took a 1 AED boat ride across the creek to the other old neighbourhoods. From here we visited art galleries within Al Fahidi district.
Dubai museum was closed during this time but was somewhere which was also recommended to me.
Dubai Miracle Gardens – the largest flower gardens in the world. It’s a fascinating place with designs created of all sorts of Disney characters, animals, real life models and buildings. The emirates plane was the real centrepiece for me! It costs 55AED per adult.
Atlantis The Palm – is one of the iconic hotels in Dubai. Non residents can wonder around and shop inside, see the aquarium for free or pay a visit to the water parks. I recommend being here around sunset and walking along the boardwalk next to it for a lovely view over the sea.
Ladies day at the beach – this happens everyday in most beach clubs. Entry for women is reduced and tickets include at least some drinks and entertainment. We went to Paradise Beach in Rixos The Palm on a Wednesday for 150AED each. This included 5 hours of unlimited cocktails, a food platter, sun lounger on the beach, DJ and good vibes.
Desert Tour – I highly recommend doing one whilst here! it was actually my first time in a proper open desert which was so nice! We travelled with Al Muhareb Tourism LLC and our half day tour included quad biking, spending time in the dunes during sunset, option for camel riding and live evening entertainment with food.
Dubai Mall – one of the centrepieces of the city. I’ve never been to a mall as extravagant as this..rows of designer shops, all the food outlets you could wish for and the well known fountain show which happens every evening between 6 and 11pm…stunning!
City Walk – an outdoor/indoor complex of food places, shops, open all day into the evening..it was crazy how we walked through La Ville Hotel into a different world! A lot of places we went to were like this, the Narnia effect!
Food and Drink
You are really spoilt for choice based on your tastes and budgets! Here’s a summary of the places we dined at which I enjoyed.
Friend’s Cafe for brunch with a marina view!
Sayya Cafe – there are 3 locations of this pink aesthetically pleasing brunch spot! We went to the one inside Nikhil Mall.
Le fourmil Bakery – for freshly squeezed orange juices and pastries – across the road from our hotel.
Arabian Tea House – for all meals. We had afternoon tea here during our Old Dubai tour.
Fish Bay Taverna – for seafood on the beach, heavily Greek influenced. You have to walk through Le Méridien Mina to get to it which was confusing not knowing beforehand!
Bachata – meat eaters heaven, found within City Walk.
Opa – Greek plate smashing restaurant which was so much fun!
Buddha Lounge – Thai food with beautiful aesthetics and live jazz!
Club Vista Mare – after dinner drinks and shisha. We spent time in Breeze Bar
Level 43 lounge – amazing rooftop views of Dubai on top of Four points by Sheraton
Soho Lounge – for outdoor garden club vibes.
Five (V) – very popular, especially amongst Brits. It has different bars outside including a beach one, each with various spending requirements…main thing is to not take your drink across the areas as they’ll come for you!
Dubai overall during Covid
At the time of travelling there (4th December 2020), people flying in from the UK could either present a negative PCR test done within 96 hours or had the option to take a test on arrival (I would not recommend this!).
Masks were mandatory everywhere we went, in Ubers (who restricted the number of riders) and even in some outdoor spaces (e.g. during the Dubai Fountain show). Restaurants and bars are table service with no dancing away from your table! You also had to reserve all your dinner options (clubs and bars I recommended too as walking in was sometimes hard). However it felt great to be in a place where socially distancing was respected but you could still have fun!
The next time I visit Dubai, I hope to be able to tag on other trips such as Oman and Abu Dhabi (where the main attractions were unfortunately closed and COVID testing made travel there more complex).
However I’m super grateful to have made a third international trip this year (plus some staycations) and see firsthand how travel changed during this time…I predict more travel challenges next year but I’m ready to embrace what comes!
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!