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Wondering where to stay in Dubai for your first-time visit? Dubai is a real city of extremes, the hub of everything luxury and excess but also featuring some tucked away historical areas that take you right back to mid-nineteenth century Arabia. The world’s only seven-star hotel could only have been opened in Dubai and some of the main activities here include the finest of fine dining (bottomless brunch is a popular pastime in the UAE and worth trying at least once), relaxing on one of many private beaches, living it up on some of the most exciting party islands in the world, and shopping in the world’s largest mall. People looking for authentic local culture may struggle here but some more cultural activities include some local markets, the must-try desert safari, and several museums. There are plenty of day trips to be had in the UAE, like the nearby capital city Abu Dhabi or mountainous region of Al Ain. Dubai is truly a one-of-a-kind base to be in.
Where to stay in Dubai [2020 Guide For First Time Visitors] - Contents
Where to stay in Dubai
Dubai isn’t the most budget-friendly vacation spot and there are a lot more mid-range to luxury spots than budget but that’s not to say you can’t find something to suit you. Dubai ranges from the hyper-rich areas to the more cultural areas which tend to be a little cheaper. You can also make use of the happy hours that happen in most bars and the various lady’s nights that are standard for most bars in Dubai. Dubai does have an overground metro system, an excellent coach system for travelling to other cities in the UAE, and taxis are affordable compared to other major cities so wherever you stay you won’t be too far from the action.
Al Fahidi - Historical Neighbourhood
Why stay in Al Fahidi
This area is one of the most authentic neighbourhoods you can stay in if you’re looking to see some of old Dubai. Representing the mid-nineteenth century, Al Fahidi is a restore heritage area that was once known as the Bastakiya Quarter. You can wander through the narrow alleys of sand coloured buildings which contain museums, local craft shops, art galleries, and some hotels. There are some very quaint cafes in the area also. This is a charming place to stay with plenty of photo opportunities in Dubai if you don’t want to be in the glitzier parts of the city.
Why avoid Al Fahidi
While it’s a pleasure to wander around this neighbourhood, once you have there’s not a lot going on and you will have to travel a fair way to see most of the sights of Dubai. There’s also not a huge range of accommodation and it does book up fast. The area is very traditional so it’s not the place to be if you’re looking for that luxury Dubai experience.
Where to stay in Al Fahidi
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Deira - Affordable with Lots to Offer
Why stay in Deira
Deira is one of the more budget-friendly areas of Dubai and is situated on the northern side of Dubai Creek. This is where you’ll find most of the city’s gold, spice, and seafood souqs (local markets) all filled with vendors and traditional items. You can also visit The Heritage House Museum and walk along the promenade that winds down to Maktoum Bridge and the Dubai Creek Golf Course so there’s plenty to do right on your doorstep. You can also take a water taxi to visit Bur Dubai which is a more historical area of the city and very different in atmosphere to Deira. There’s plenty of accommodation that’ll suit a wide range of budgets and it’s easy to get to the main areas of Dubai.
Why avoid Deira
There are very few downsides to Deira as it’s one of those great all-rounders but that does mean that it doesn’t offer the luxury experience you might get in some of the downtown areas. It’s also very busy due to the sheer amount there is to do there and how popular it is with visitors to Dubai. Therefore, it’s not the most peaceful of areas to stay in and is somewhat geared towards tourism.
Where to stay in Deira
Bur Dubai - Traditional neighbourhood
Why stay in Bur Dubai
Bur Dubai is on the southern side of the Dubai Creek and highly contrasts Deira. Similar to the nearby Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood you’ll find traditional sand coloured architecture and wind towers. This is perfect for people who want to live a traditional lifestyle while in Dubai but still be relatively close to the action. There’s also a lot more accommodation here than the historical neighbourhood while still being budget-friendly. There are plenty of nearby attractions like The Dubai Museum, the Heritage Village, and the Iranian mosque so it provides an excellent base for exploring all the cultural attractions of Dubai. There are lots to enjoy in terms of local food and handmade crafts and provides a perfect spot for people watching and seeing traditional life and architecture in the city.
Why avoid Bur Dubai
It’s not as upmarket as other areas in Dubai and offers very little to no luxury accommodation or dining in the area. You’re also not as well connected to public transport as you are in Deira so you may end up spending more money on taxis or time on the water taxi to Deira.
Where to stay in Bur Dubai
Jumeirah Beach - Luxury getaway
Why stay on Jumeirah Beach
One for people who are looking for a luxurious getaway on one of the world’s most famous man-made islands. If you love sunbathing on pristine, private beaches with plenty of nightlife to distract you then Jumeirah Beach is what you’re looking for. Jumeirah boasts a wide selection of local and international restaurants, beach clubs, and bars so there’s really no need to leave the island if you didn’t want to. This is also ideal visitors who love water sports as there’s no end to the activities you can enjoy including windsurfing, water-skiing, and a giant water park. You can also book a helicopter or seaplane ride to see the island's palm shape from above or skydive over it. With the world’s most admired hotels to stay in, this is definitely an area that you can enjoy to the max in a way you probably couldn’t in most cities.
Why avoid Jumeirah Beach
This is a very commercialised area geared entirely towards tourism and resort style holidaying so this may not be for you if you prefer a more realistic view of Dubai. It’s also not ideal for exploring some of the other tourist destinations in Dubai as it’s quite self-contained and could be a hassle if you’re looking to do more than a day trip. As you might expect, this area is aimed at those wanting to spend some money in Dubai so not the place for anyone on a budget.
Where to stay in Jumeirah Beach
Sheikh Zayed Road
Why stay close to Sheikh Zayed Road
You’ll definitely have a lot of accommodation choice staying close to this multi-lane highway as it’s the main road that runs all the way through Dubai to the Abu Dhabi border. Most addresses for cafes and restaurants you come across in Dubai are on this stretch so you’ll have plenty to do and you’ll never be waiting long for a taxi or a bus. The road is split in the northern half (nearest to downtown Dubai) and the southern half (the half closest to Abu Dhabi).
Although it’s very convenient for staying close to the main highway through the city and there are some excellent deals to be had, it can be noisy with cars. Also, there’s not a lot to do within walking distance depending on what part of the road you’re on. If booking somewhere on the road, check whether your accommodation is in the north or south and what’s nearby before you book.
Where to stay close to Sheikh Zayed Road
Dubai Garden Glow
Why stay in
Visit the rest of the world right where you stay, this recreational park is ideal if you’re travelling with children. The park means to educate people about their carbon footprint and recycling and takes you on a journey across the globe. Think the ‘it’s a small world’ ride in Disneyland but on a much larger scale. You’ll be treated to live performances from international artists including singers, dancers, musicals, and acrobats. It’s also a great way to see UAE art culture in action. Not too far from Bur Dubai, you’ll be able to see some of the traditional authentic cultures to on your doorstep.
If you don’t like theme park type stays, then this not for you. It’s very much aimed at tourists and although it’s not in a bad location for exploring the rest of Dubai, the accommodation tends to be quite expensive simply because of the convenient access to the park.
Where to stay close to Dubai Garden Glow
Why Stay in Downtown Dubai
Nearly everything you picture about Dubai in terms of modern attractions is in the downtown area. This is where the most impressive architecture, including the world’s tallest skyscraper the Burj Khalifa can be found and also Dubai Mall, the world’ biggest shopping centre complete with ski slopes, the world’s tallest fountain, an aquarium, and every shop and restaurant you’ve ever heard of. If you’ve got a family with you then this is going to keep everyone happy. Nearby are nightclubs, more restaurants, large souks, and ongoing events throughout the year. It’s impossible to be bored and if you are then the transport links around the country are excellent as everything stops in front of the mall. You’ll also find some of the best hotels with incredible views right here.
Why avoid Downtown Dubai
Once again, this is an area that’s geared more towards the higher end of spending and there’s little budget accommodation in the area. It’s also a very commercial area so not ideal if you’re looking for a more culture centred stay and is not conveniently located to any beaches so if you’re looking to sunbathe every day you may find yourself in a taxi more than you’d like.
Where to stay in Downtown Dubai
The Dubai Mall (downtown)
Why stay in The Dubai Mall
Yes, you can stay inside the actual Dubai Mall, in six hotels that have a Dubai Mall postcode and are highly sought after. The advantages of staying here are the same as staying in Downtown Dubai as it’s the same area but you also get to stay in the height of luxury within the world famous mall. If you’re looking for the best possible experience in terms of views, location, and luxury then this is ideal for you.
Why avoid The Dubai Mall
This is more of a ‘say you’ve done it’ kind of stay, there aren’t many advantages over staying in the downtown area in general apart from staying in some of the most exclusive hotels in the world (which is quite an experience).
Where to stay in The Dubai Mall
Why stay in Meena Bazaar
An area within the Bur Dubai district, this is a haven for shoppers. The Meena Bazaar itself is brimming with thousands of stalls that sell local crafts, clothes, pottery, and food. Staying in the Meena Bazaar is an ideal way to spend your holiday if you’re like to be transported to the past and have one of the world’s biggest bazaars on your doorstep. The Bur Dubai district is well-suited to budget travellers and is one of the most authentic areas to stay in Dubai.
Why avoid Meena Bazaar
Meena Bazaar is a very busy area as it’s one of the most popular shopping areas in Dubai and stays open late so it’s always buzzing. If you’re looking for a peaceful holiday then this might be a bit bustling for you.
Where to stay in Meena Bazaar
Dubai Marina - Dubai Nightlife
Why stay in
This man-made marina is a wonderful place to walk around and enjoy the upscale atmosphere of Dubai with some of the best restaurants and bars at your fingertips. Enjoy your dinner on a luxury cruise around the marina or enjoy the ‘marina walk’ which is an ideal walking route around the area to enjoy all of the cafes, restaurants, and shops on offer. There are plenty of open spaces and festival areas where music and dance performance are commonly held. Experience incredible views of the Dubai skyline here while enjoying an ambience that is peaceful than other areas of Dubai despite how popular it is. If you like being by the water, like a youthful, vibrant ambience, and a touch of luxury then this is ideal for you.
While there’s a wide range of mid-range to luxury accommodation here, it does tend to book up fast so make sure you book early if you’d like to stay here. It can get quite noisy at night due to the nightlife scene here but that’s easily avoided by staying off the main strip. It’s also quite far from the more authentic areas of Dubai so if you’d like to spend lots of time exploring those areas.
Where to stay in the Dubai Marina
Why stay in Festival City
Like a city within the city, this self-contained space in Dubai is made up of the newest malls, residential apartments and hotels, shopping, leisure facilities even schools. Everything you could possibly need is in this one area in a pristine compound where residents of Dubai live. If you’re looking for a hyper-modern home away from home or you’re working online and would like access to co-working spaces and homely facilities, then this is perfect. There are a variety of accommodation options to suit most budgets.
Why avoid Festival City
It’s ideal if you’re staying long term in Dubai but isn’t particularly geared towards tourism as it’s a residential area and not ideally located for the various attractions in Dubai.