Must-sees in the UAE

The UAE may have few ‘natural’ must-sees but that hasn’t stopped it from being any less beautiful. In Dubai it’s all about the Burj Khalifa, which dominates the city’s skyline. Ascend its 148-floor observation deck, or admire it from nearby Sufouh Beach if heights aren’t your thing. If the thought of shopping induces an eye roll, trust us that it will do the opposite at the Mall of the Emirates. Home to hundreds of shops and so much more, you can have breakfast with penguins in the morning at Ski Dubai, ski down its indoor snow slopes after lunch and catch the latest film at its IMAX cinema.

In Abu Dhabi you can expect jaw-dropping modern architecture, historic mosques and over-the-top shopping experiences. Stroll down the five-mile waterfront walk, the Corniche, marvel at the impressive Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - withand its 82 marble domes, 1,096 exterior columns and 24-carat gold Swarovski chandeliers - and even get back to nature at Mangrove National Park. Home to 60 bird species, scenic waterways and 15-foot mangroves, it’s a naturalist’s dream in the middle of a concrete jungle.

Local laws and customs

The UAE are hot on local laws and are quick to doll out fines to tourists not following them, so it is recommended to read up on them before you go. The UAE has a strict zero-tolerance drug policy, which can extend to a number of prescription drugs. It is worthwhile registering prescription drugs via the government website before travelling. The same goes for drunkenness is public places. Despite being known as a party paradise, drinking should be saved for pubs, clubs and bars only. Once you leave the club, it is best to get a taxi straight back to your hotel.

When it comes to public displays of affection too, it is best left to hotel rooms. And if you’re planning on travelling with a partner you haven’t yet waltzed down the aisle with yet, be aware that unmarried cohabiting is illegal. In reality it is not strictly enforced and you are unlikely to be challenged on it, but it is worth noting before jetting off.

Lastly, LGBTQ+ travellers should take caution if visiting the UAE. Homosexuality is illegal and punishable. All PDAs should be avoided. That being said, the UAE’s cities are home to large numbers of liberal expat communities who are more tolerant.  

Getting around

Dubai and Abu Dhabi are a car’s world. Multi-lane highways crisscross around futuristic high rises and over turquoise seas, residential areas come fringed with glossy Land Rovers and shopping malls house souped-up super cars. So it makes sense to join in on the fun with a car rental. Zip between spice souqs and beaches in the city, or head north to the vast Al Dhafra region on a road trip across rippling dunes and shifting sands.

If you’d prefer to leave driving to the professionals, hop on the city’s public transport. Get a NOL card in Dubai (very similar to a London Oyster card) for its two-line metro and a Hafilat Smart Card in Abu Dhabi for its buses. In Abu Dhabi there is even a free shuttle bus that stops at the city’s tourist hot spots like Yas Island and the Grand Canal area.

The UAE is well set up for travellers with accessibility needs too. As a federation of ultra-modern skyscrapers and high-spec structures, most buildings are built with accessibility in mind. Even beaches like Jumeirah 2 and 3 and Umm Suqeim Beach are disability friendly. There are dedicated spaces for wheelchair users on Dubai’s metro as well as audio-visual options on its ticket machines.

Useful information

Contact one of our United Arab Emirates specialists