Long story short, I messed up my India visa and had to exit the country a few days earlier than planned — and the easiest flight option was to fly round trip to/from Dubai to make up the 2 nights. Here’s an overview of my experience:
I arrived and spent a couple of hours figuring out the walking directions from the airport to my hostel The Domme. It was a good place. Cheap (under $30USD per night), clean and conveniently near the airport and metro. I’d stay again if solo (or share a hotel room with friends).
Public transportation in Dubai is great! Google maps is right on with the time tables and for $5 USD you can purchase an all day train/bus pass granting unlimited access to clean, comfortable rides.
Public wifi is available in the malls (check out the Dubai Mall where you’ll see the tallest tower in the world beside a fountain show in the evenings after 6pm) and around the city at hotspots (even along the beach).
Touristing hard: a Burj Khalifa selfie
A friend from my yoga teacher training in India had previously lived in Dubai and gave me a few tips. She is a professional chef so naturally I inquired about where to eat. Her recommendations: From mall walk to market across the fountain, go up to the second floor to the restaurant overlooking the fountain for good Arabic food and a great view (I didn’t get to it but regret that and will try it next time for sure). In The Dubai Mall, eat at Paul (french) bakery and grab macaroons for dessert from Ladureé. Jones the Grocer was recommended for breakfast/lunch (I also didn’t get there this time).
Another friend, Abe, recommended Barasti Bar & a cool beach called Kite Beach which was an area dominated by expats and I was surprised to find bikinis welcome despite pretty strict dress codes elsewhere in the city. Speaking of…lots of rules in Dubai! You’ll see them clearly posted in the bus/metro or along the beach with fines next to the various guidelines. I also was warned of the serious nature of punishment for infraction immediately by the hostel staff—so it’s just not the place to be a rule breaker.
Running/walking path along Kite Beach
I have to admit, I came to Dubai expecting to feel oppressed as a woman. I left this morning with quite an unexpected perspective… while women’s and men’s sections exist on buses, trains, etc. the feeling is less “oppressive” than I’d expected. Women are allowed to go to the men’s areas but men are strictly prohibited. Women sit in the front of the bus and are quickly brought to the front of lines. I only had a short time in the city but I felt safer walking alone through the neighborhood around my hostel at 10pm in the dark than I do doing so in most places in the United States. I leave viewing the separation of genders much differently than anticipated. I haven’t quite put my finger on it yet…but will let it settle and will hopefully return to Dubai again in the future to re-evaluate.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by Dubai! I was a comfortable, safe consumerist center. I felt the Arab cultural influence but also saw that it is a cosmopolitan city. I’d describe the mall area as “a cleaner, classier Las Vegas”—no one is drinking so it’s a lot less…messy!