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Insiders Guide to Dubai for UK Expats

Insiders Guide to Dubai

Insiders Guide to Dubai for Brits

Read our Insiders Guide to Dubai about the dazzling gem of the Middle East, is a city of extraordinary contrasts and endless possibilities. As an expert on all things Dubai, I am thrilled to take you on a journey beyond the surface and introduce you to the city’s hidden gems, insider tips, and unforgettable local experiences. 

Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this expert guide will provide you with invaluable insights to make your Dubai adventure truly extraordinary.

Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, and its culinary scene is a reflection of its diverse population. While the city boasts a plethora of international dining options, don’t miss the opportunity to savor the local Emirati cuisine. 

Indulge in flavorful dishes such as Machboos (spiced rice with meat), Harees (slow-cooked wheat and meat), and Luqaimat (sweet dumplings). 

Explore traditional Arabic restaurants and local food markets like Ripe Market and Dubai Spice Souk to experience the authentic flavors of Dubai. Don’t forget to take notes from our Insiders Guide to Dubai before you try the famous Arabic coffee and indulge in the sweet delights of baklava and kunafa.


UK to Dubai Visa and Travel Documents:

Before your trip, ensure you have noted down our Insiders Guide to Dubai for the necessary travel documents, including a valid passport and visa. 

Visit the official UAE government website or consult your local embassy to check visa requirements based on your nationality and the purpose of your visit. Plan ahead and allow sufficient time for visa processing.

Traveling from the UK to Dubai requires certain visa and travel documents. Here’s an overview of the requirements:

Visa: UK citizens traveling to Dubai as tourists can obtain a visa on arrival at Dubai International Airport or other entry points. 

This visa is valid for 30 days and allows for tourism and leisure activities. 

However, it’s important to check the latest visa requirements and regulations before traveling, as they can change.

For longer stays or other purposes such as employment, study, or residency in Dubai, UK citizens need to apply for the appropriate visa in advance. This typically involves submitting an application to the relevant UAE embassy or consulate in the UK. 

Visa types include work visas, student visas, and residence visas, each with specific requirements and application processes. 

It is advisable to consult the official website of the UAE embassy or consulate for detailed information and to ensure compliance with the latest visa regulations by keeping up to date with our Insiders Guide to Dubai.

Passport: UK citizens traveling to Dubai must hold a valid passport. The passport should have a minimum validity of six months beyond the intended departure date from Dubai. It’s essential to ensure that the passport is in good condition, without any damage or tampering, as this could affect entry into the country.

Travel Documents: In addition to a valid passport and visa (if required), travelers should have the following travel documents when traveling from the UK to Dubai:

  1. Return Ticket: It is generally advisable to have a confirmed return ticket or proof of onward travel, indicating the intention to leave Dubai within the permitted duration of the visa.
  2. Travel Insurance: Although not mandatory, it is recommended to have travel insurance that provides coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellation or interruption, and other unforeseen circumstances.
  3. Proof of Accommodation: It’s advisable to carry documentation showing the address and details of accommodation in Dubai, such as hotel reservations or a letter of invitation from a sponsor.
  4. Proof of Sufficient Funds: Travelers may be asked to provide proof of sufficient funds to cover their expenses during their stay in Dubai. This can include bank statements or credit card statements.

It’s important to study our Insiders Guide to Dubai and keep note that travel requirements may change, and it is advisable to check the latest information and guidelines provided by the UAE authorities and the UK government before traveling from the UK to Dubai. 

Consulting official sources such as embassy websites or travel advisories can provide the most up-to-date and accurate information regarding visa and travel requirements.

Checklist for UK to Dubai Visa and Travel Documents

PassportMust be valid for at least 6 months
VisaCheck visa requirements in advance
Processing TimeVaries based on visa type
Official WebsiteOfficial UAE Government Website

What is the Best Time to Visit Dubai for UK Expats?

The best time to visit Dubai for UK expats largely depends on personal preferences and the desired weather conditions. Here are the factors to consider when planning a trip to Dubai:

  1. Weather: Dubai has a desert climate, which means it experiences hot and dry conditions for most of the year. The summer months, from June to September, are extremely hot, with temperatures often exceeding 40°C (104°F). If you’re not comfortable with intense heat, it’s best to avoid visiting during this period.
  2. Mild Winters: Dubai’s winter months, from November to March, offer more pleasant weather for UK expats accustomed to milder temperatures. During this time, temperatures range from around 14°C to 24°C (57°F to 75°F), providing a respite from the scorching summer heat. It’s a great time to enjoy outdoor activities and explore the city without feeling too uncomfortable.
  3. Festive Season: Dubai is known for its extravagant celebrations, especially during the festive season, which includes Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Many expats and tourists visit Dubai during this time to enjoy the festive atmosphere, fireworks, and special events.
  4. Shoulder Seasons: The shoulder seasons, which fall between the peak summer and winter periods, can be a good time to visit Dubai. These are the months of April, May, October, and November when the weather is transitioning from hot to mild or vice versa. Prices for accommodations and flights may be more affordable during these periods, and the city is generally less crowded.
  5. Special Events: Dubai hosts various events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Dubai Shopping Festival (January-February), Dubai Food Festival (February-March), and Dubai Summer Surprises (June-August). If you have specific interests or would like to participate in these events, it’s worth planning your visit accordingly.

It’s important to note that Dubai’s attractions, shopping malls, and indoor facilities are equipped with air conditioning, allowing for comfortable experiences even during the hotter months. However, outdoor activities may be limited due to the extreme temperatures.

Considering these Insiders Guide to Dubai factors, the best time for UK expats to visit Dubai is generally during the winter months when the weather is mild and pleasant. 

This allows for more enjoyable outdoor exploration and makes it easier to adapt to the climate compared to the scorching summer months. However, individual preferences, budget considerations, and specific events or festivals may influence the optimal time to visit.

Checklist for Best Time to Visit Dubai

SeasonTemperature RangePopular Events
Winter (Nov-Mar)20-25°C (68-77°F)Dubai Shopping Festival
Spring (Apr-May)25-35°C (77-95°F)Dubai Food Festival
Summer (Jun-Sep)35-45°C (95-113°F)Dubai Summer Surprises
Autumn (Oct)30-35°C (86-95°F)Dubai International Film Festival
Official WebsiteDubai Calendar 

Travelling Within Dubai Guide:

Travelling around Dubai for UK expats is relatively easy and convenient, thanks to the city’s well-developed transportation infrastructure. Here are some Insiders Guide to Dubai tips and modes of transportation to consider:

  1. Metro: Dubai has a modern and efficient metro system, which is one of the most popular ways to get around the city. The Dubai Metro consists of two lines, the Red Line and the Green Line, covering major areas of the city, including business districts, shopping malls, and tourist attractions. The metro operates from early morning until midnight, with extended hours on weekends.
  2. Buses: Dubai has an extensive bus network that covers various parts of the city, including residential areas, commercial centers, and tourist destinations. The buses are air-conditioned and offer an affordable mode of transportation. The routes and schedules are well-planned, making it easy to navigate and reach different parts of the city.
  3. Taxis: Taxis are readily available in Dubai and are a convenient option for getting around. The city has a regulated taxi system with different types of taxis, including regular taxis, luxury taxis, and airport taxis. Taxis can be hailed on the street or booked through smartphone apps. They are metered, and the fares are generally reasonable. It’s advisable to use official taxis with a visible RTA (Roads and Transport Authority) logo.
  4. Tram: Dubai also has a tram system, which primarily serves the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence areas. The tram connects with the Dubai Metro, making it easy to transfer between the two systems. The tram operates from early morning until midnight, with extended hours on weekends.
  5. Ride-Hailing Apps: Popular ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Careem operate in Dubai, providing additional transportation options. These apps allow you to book private cars for your journeys, offering convenience and flexibility.
  6. Rental Cars: If you prefer to have your own vehicle, rental cars are widely available in Dubai. Many well-known car rental companies have offices throughout the city. However, it’s important to familiarize yourself with Dubai’s traffic rules and regulations before driving, as the city has specific road laws and some areas require paid parking.

Dubai is well-known for its modern infrastructure, and all modes of transportation are generally safe and reliable. It’s recommended to plan your journeys in advance, considering the distance, traffic conditions, and the most suitable mode of transportation for your needs. Additionally.

Dubai’s transportation options are continuously improving, with new projects and expansions, so it’s beneficial to stay updated on any changes or enhancements to the transport network.

Checklist for Getting Around Dubai

TransportationKey Details
Dubai MetroTwo lines (Red and Green) with extensive coverage
BusesExtensive bus network connecting major areas
TaxisWidely available and metered
Ride-HailingUber, Careem, and local apps for convenient travel
Nol CardRechargeable smart card for public transport
Official WebsiteRTA Dubai

Dress Code Guide:

When visiting Dubai as a UK tourist its best to learn about our Insiders Guide to Dubai, it’s important to be aware of the local dress code and cultural etiquette to show respect for the customs and traditions of the Emirati culture. Here are some guidelines to follow:

  1. Modest Dress: Dubai has a conservative dress code influenced by Islamic traditions. It’s recommended to dress modestly, particularly in public places and when visiting religious sites. Women should avoid wearing clothing that is revealing or tight-fitting, and it’s advisable to cover the shoulders, knees, and cleavage. Men should also avoid wearing shorts above the knee and sleeveless tops in public areas.
  2. Beaches and Resorts: While swimwear is acceptable at private beaches and hotel pools, it’s important to respect the cultural norms when outside these designated areas. Wearing revealing swimwear or walking around shirtless in public places is considered inappropriate and may cause offense.
  3. Traditional Attire: Emirati locals commonly wear traditional clothing, such as the dishdasha (long white robe) for men and the abaya (loose-fitting black cloak) for women. While not expected of tourists, it’s respectful to appreciate and acknowledge traditional attire without imitating or appropriating it.
  4. Public Displays of Affection: Dubai has a conservative approach towards public displays of affection. It’s advisable to refrain from excessive displays of affection, such as kissing or hugging, in public places, as these actions may be considered offensive or inappropriate.
  5. Respect for Religious Sites: When visiting mosques or other religious sites, dress modestly and remove your shoes before entering. Women may be required to cover their hair with a scarf (provided at the mosque) and avoid tight-fitting or revealing clothing.
  6. Cultural Sensitivity: Dubai is a multicultural city with residents and visitors from around the world. It’s important to respect and appreciate the diversity of cultures and religions represented in the city. Be mindful of your behavior and language, avoiding any disrespectful or offensive actions or comments.
  7. Photography: Before taking photos of people, especially locals, it’s polite to seek their permission. Some areas, such as government buildings and military installations, may have restrictions on photography, so it’s important to observe any signage or instructions.

By following these guidelines, you can demonstrate cultural sensitivity and ensure a positive and respectful experience during your visit to Dubai. 

It’s also advisable to research and familiarize yourself with any specific cultural customs or local regulations before your trip, as cultural norms may vary across the region.

Checklist for Dress Code and Cultural Etiquette

Modest ClothingAvoid revealing clothing and dress conservatively
Religious SitesCover knees and shoulders when visiting mosques
Beaches and ResortsSwimwear is acceptable in designated areas
Cultural SensitivityRespect Islamic customs and local traditions
Official Guidelines and TipsDubai Tourism Guidelines

Local Cuisine and Dining Guide:

Dubai’s local cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavors from the Middle East, Asia, and beyond. While it differs from traditional British cuisine, there are still opportunities to experience familiar UK-style dining in Dubai. Here’s an overview our Insiders Guide to Dubai and dining options with a UK influence:

  1. British-Inspired Pubs: Dubai is home to several British-style pubs that offer a taste of UK pub culture. These establishments often serve classic pub dishes such as fish and chips, bangers and mash, and shepherd’s pie. You can enjoy a pint of beer or cider while savoring these comforting British favorites.
  2. International Cuisine: Dubai is renowned for its diverse culinary scene, with a wide range of international restaurants representing various cuisines from around the world. Many restaurants in Dubai feature British-influenced dishes on their menus, including gourmet burgers, English breakfasts, and afternoon tea experiences.
  3. High-End Dining: Dubai boasts numerous high-end restaurants that offer a luxurious dining experience. Some of these establishments are helmed by renowned UK chefs, bringing their expertise and culinary flair to Dubai. These upscale venues showcase innovative interpretations of British cuisine alongside international and fusion dishes.
  4. Afternoon Tea Experiences: Dubai’s luxury hotels often offer afternoon tea experiences, providing a chance to enjoy the classic British tradition in an elegant setting. These experiences include an array of finger sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of fine teas.
  5. International Chains: Many popular UK restaurant chains have made their way to Dubai, offering UK expats a taste of home. These include well-known names such as Nando’s, Wagamama, and Carluccio’s, which serve a variety of British-inspired dishes and international favorites.
  6. Brunch Culture: Brunch is a popular dining tradition in Dubai, and it often takes on a grand scale. While not specifically UK-style, the brunches in Dubai offer a vast array of international cuisines, including British influences. You can find live cooking stations, seafood spreads, roast meats, and delectable desserts at these lavish brunch affairs.

It’s worth mentioning that Dubai also has a rich local culinary heritage with traditional Emirati cuisine and a wide range of Middle Eastern and Arabic dishes. 

Exploring local Emirati restaurants and trying regional specialties like shawarma, mezze, and camel meat dishes is highly recommended to immerse yourself in the local gastronomic culture.

While Dubai’s dining scene offers an array of international flavors and influences, including those with a UK touch, it’s also an opportunity to explore and appreciate the unique culinary traditions of the region.

Checklist for Local Food

Emirati DishesShawarma, falafel, hummus, camel meat, Arabic sweets
Local Markets (Souks)Explore spice markets and indulge in street food
International CuisineFine dining options with diverse international flavors
Restaurants and CafesTry popular Emirati restaurants and local cafes
Recommended Dining ExperiencesDubai Food Tours

Shopping for UK Expats Guide:

Insiders Guide to Dubai is renowned as a shopper’s paradise checklist, offering a wide array of shopping options for UK expats looking for retail therapy. From high-end luxury brands to traditional markets, here’s an overview of the shopping experiences available in Dubai:

  1. Malls: Dubai is famous for its extravagant malls that cater to every shopping need. The city is home to some of the largest and most luxurious malls in the world, such as The Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, and Ibn Battuta Mall. These malls feature a vast range of international brands, designer boutiques, department stores, and specialty shops, offering a wide variety of fashion, accessories, electronics, cosmetics, and more.
  2. Souks: For a more traditional shopping experience, visiting the souks (traditional markets) in Dubai is a must. The most famous is the Gold Souk, where you can find an impressive selection of gold and jewelry at competitive prices. The Spice Souk is another popular destination, offering a delightful array of aromatic spices, herbs, and traditional remedies. You can also explore the Perfume Souk, Textile Souk, and the bustling Deira Fish Market.
  3. Outlet Malls: Dubai is home to several outlet malls, offering discounted prices on branded goods. Places like Dubai Outlet Mall and Outlet Village house numerous international brands at discounted prices, making them popular destinations for bargain hunters.
  4. Duty-Free Shopping: Dubai International Airport boasts a vast duty-free shopping area, providing an excellent opportunity for UK expats to enjoy tax-free shopping before returning home. The duty-free shops offer a wide range of products, including electronics, cosmetics, perfumes, alcohol, and tobacco.
  5. Local Markets and Boutiques: Beyond the malls and souks, Dubai has a thriving local market scene and boutique shops. Areas like Alserkal Avenue and Boxpark are known for their trendy boutiques, art galleries, and concept stores, offering unique and independent fashion, art, and design items.
  6. Online Shopping: Online shopping is popular and convenient in Dubai, with various e-commerce platforms and local retailers offering a wide range of products. This allows UK expats to shop from the comfort of their homes and have items delivered directly to their doorstep.

It’s important to note that Dubai hosts annual shopping festivals, such as the Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Summer Surprises, offering incredible discounts, promotions, and entertainment events. 

These festivals attract shoppers from around the world, making them an ideal time to enjoy the shopping experience in Dubai.

Whether you’re looking for luxury brands, unique finds, or traditional treasures, Dubai provides an abundance of options for UK expats seeking retail therapy. Just be sure to check the customs regulations and any import restrictions on certain goods when bringing purchases back to the UK.

Checklist for Shopping and Retail Therapy

Shopping DestinationsDetails
Traditional SouksGold Souk, Spice Souk, Textile Souk, Perfume Souk
Luxury MallsThe Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Marina Mall
Local HandicraftsCamel souvenirs, Arabic carpets, pottery, and more
Electronic GadgetsExplore the latest gadgets and electronics
Shopping TipsDubai Shopping Guide

Entertainment and Leisure Guide:

Read this Insiders Guide to Dubai for UK holiday makers visiting the Middle East, there is a wide range of entertainment and leisure activities to enjoy, offering a unique cultural experience. Here are some highlights of Middle Eastern entertainment and leisure:

  1. Desert Safari: Embark on a thrilling desert safari adventure, where you can ride a 4×4 vehicle over sand dunes, experience camel rides, try sandboarding, and witness a mesmerizing desert sunset. Traditional Arabian music, belly dancing performances, and a sumptuous Bedouin-style dinner under the stars make this a memorable experience.
  2. Dhow Cruise: Enjoy a traditional dhow (wooden boat) cruise along the picturesque coastlines of cities like Dubai or Abu Dhabi. You can relax on deck while taking in stunning views of the city’s skyline, enjoy a delicious buffet dinner, and be entertained by live music and traditional dance performances.
  3. Traditional Music and Dance: Immerse yourself in Middle Eastern culture by attending a traditional music and dance performance. Enjoy the enchanting sounds of the oud (string instrument) and the mesmerizing rhythms of traditional drums. Experience captivating performances of folkloric dances such as the belly dance, dabke, or tanoura dance.
  4. Shopping in Traditional Souks: Explore the vibrant souks (markets) that are prevalent in Middle Eastern cities. Wander through the narrow alleyways of the gold souks, spice souks, and textile souks, where you can haggle for unique treasures, aromatic spices, intricate textiles, and handcrafted items.
  5. Shisha Lounges: Experience the relaxed atmosphere of a traditional shisha lounge, where you can enjoy the flavorful smoke of a hookah while sipping on Arabic tea or coffee. These lounges often have a cozy ambiance, making them perfect for socializing or simply unwinding.
  6. Traditional Hammam Experience: Indulge in the rejuvenating and cleansing ritual of a traditional hammam (Turkish bath). These baths offer a range of treatments, including exfoliation, steam rooms, and massages, providing a serene and luxurious experience.
  7. Cultural Festivals: Keep an eye out for cultural festivals that take place throughout the year in the Middle East. These festivals celebrate the region’s rich heritage and showcase traditional music, dance, art, and culinary delights. The Dubai Shopping Festival, Abu Dhabi Festival, and Qatar National Day are just a few examples of the vibrant festivals that offer a blend of entertainment and cultural experiences.
  8. Arabian Nights Dinner Shows: Enjoy an evening of entertainment and Arabian hospitality at an Arabian Nights-themed dinner show. These shows often feature live performances, including traditional dances, music, and storytelling, accompanied by a delicious feast of Middle Eastern cuisine.

Middle Eastern entertainment and leisure activities offer UK holidaymakers a chance to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of the region. 

From thrilling desert adventures to traditional music and dance performances, these experiences provide a unique blend of entertainment and cultural exploration.

Checklist for Entertainment and Leisure

Attractions and LandmarksDetails
Iconic LandmarksBurj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Fountain, Dubai Frame
Theme ParksIMG Worlds of Adventure, Dubai Parks and Resorts
Cultural AttractionsDubai Opera, Dubai Museum, Al Fahidi Historic District
Events and FestivalsDubai Shopping Festival, Dubai International Film Festival
Outdoor ActivitiesDesert safaris, water sports, golfing, and more

Health and Wellness Guide in Dubai:

When staying in Dubai, UK visitors can prioritize their health and wellness by taking advantage of our Insiders Guide to Dubai of the various facilities and activities available. Here are some tips for maintaining health and wellness during your stay:

  1. Fitness Centers and Gyms: Dubai offers a wide range of fitness centers and gyms that cater to different needs and preferences. Many hotels have their own fitness facilities, and there are also numerous standalone gyms across the city. These facilities provide state-of-the-art equipment, group fitness classes, personal trainers, and wellness programs to help you stay active and maintain your fitness routine.
  2. Outdoor Activities: Dubai’s pleasant climate during the winter months makes it ideal for outdoor activities. Take advantage of the city’s beautiful parks, jogging tracks, and cycling paths for a refreshing workout amidst green surroundings. You can also explore outdoor sports such as tennis, golf, or beach volleyball.
  3. Spa and Wellness Centers: Dubai is known for its luxurious spas and wellness centers, offering a wide range of treatments and therapies to relax and rejuvenate. Pamper yourself with a massage, indulge in a spa day, or try traditional therapies like Ayurveda or Hammam to promote overall well-being.
  4. Healthy Eating: Dubai has a thriving health and wellness scene, with an increasing number of restaurants and cafes offering healthy and nutritious options. Look for eateries that prioritize fresh ingredients, vegetarian and vegan choices, and options for those with dietary restrictions. Additionally, many supermarkets in Dubai carry a wide selection of organic, gluten-free, and health-conscious products.
  5. Beach Activities: Dubai is renowned for its stunning beaches along the Persian Gulf. Engage in water sports like swimming, paddleboarding, or kayaking, which provide excellent cardiovascular exercise. The beach also offers a tranquil environment for yoga or meditation sessions.
  6. Health Insurance: Ensure that you have comprehensive health insurance coverage during your stay in Dubai. Familiarize yourself with the terms of your policy and know the details of medical facilities, clinics, and hospitals in the city.
  7. Sun Protection: Dubai experiences high temperatures and strong sunlight, so it’s crucial to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Use sunscreen with a high SPF, wear protective clothing, and seek shade during the hottest hours of the day.
  8. Stay Hydrated: It’s essential to stay hydrated, especially in Dubai’s arid climate. Carry a water bottle with you at all times and drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before engaging in any new fitness or wellness activities, particularly if you have pre-existing health conditions.

By prioritizing health and wellness during your stay in Dubai, you can maintain a balanced lifestyle and make the most of your time in this vibrant city.

Checklist for Health and Wellness

Fitness FacilitiesDetails
Outdoor ActivitiesParks, beaches, cycling tracks, and jogging paths
Spa and Wellness CentersRejuvenating treatments, hammams, and holistic therapies
Yoga and Meditation ClassesJoin classes or retreats for a peaceful and mindful experience
Healthcare ServicesHigh-quality medical facilities and internationally-acclaimed hospitals
Wellness TipsDubai Health Authority


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