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In 2009, I set off on a five-day trip to discover the unique United Arab Emirates with 10 other like-minded New Zealand travel consultants. We flew Emirates and I can absolutely recommend them for their in-flight entertainment, food and service. Business class had the added bonus of a handy bar at the rear of the plane.

My first impression of Dubai was “WOW!” The sheer size of the airport, the openness and the scrupulously clean concourse was impressive. We cleared Customs and Immigration super quickly and I can report that the duty free shopping is fantastic, and the ATMs are stocked with Dirham currency.

We stayed at the Movenpick Hotel in Bur Durbai, a lovely four star hotel with a restaurant, bar and swimming pool, with the option of apartments available too. With temperatures of about 35 degrees, booking a hotel with a pool is vital!

Dubai has taken the term “bigger is better” to a new level and there are new developments and construction cranes everywhere.

The Spice and Gold Markets are a bustling and aromatic must-see. When it comes to bartering, the general rule of thumb is that its okay if you’re at the markets or souks, but anywhere else it’s not appreciated.

Another must-do is the Dune Safari Arabian Nights Adventure via 4WD, which includes great commentary on the way to the desert. Once there, you travel by dune safari, which is like a desert roller coaster ride, arriving at a Bedouin Camp for a buffet dinner and belly dancing.

Dubai is like no other city and I recommend a stopover of at least three nights because there is so much to see.

My Dubai travel advice

Food is very expensive in Dubai. A bottle of Corona is NZD$20, large basic pizza NZD$30, fish and chips NZD$75, and a basic breakfast is NZD$50! Restaurant and bar prices are also prohibitive, however food is remarkably cheap at supermarkets. Consider a hotel rate inclusive of breakfast to save money.

Commonsense prevails in terms of dress, men should not walk around in singlets or barefoot (unless on a beach) and females should ensure their shoulders and knees are covered.

(Published in Best’s Spring 2009 newsletter)

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