Dubai is seen by many as a ‘disneyland for adults’ sorta place, and while that definitely is an accurate description of many aspects of this dazzling city, there are definitely a few things to be aware of before visiting… Especially in this new Era of COVID Travel.
- Inbound Travel Regulations & Restrictions
While Dubai has pretty much been the most open city in the world, it is still not restriction free. Before travel, ensure you have consulted the official IATA world map on travel restrictions as well as your flight carrier.
My personal experience as an Australian travelling from Sydney airport was relatively chilled. I had to take an expensive RT-PCR test at Sydney Airport ($150) and had to download an app where I entered in all my details including the location of my intended hotel. As soon as I set foot in DXB however, I had no hassles. The border guard just scanned my passport and didn’t even bother to check my COVID test (make sure to still do it though! You could get caught out).
The main thing to consider in this section is that a lot of the countries the UAE & Dubai deem high risk have a higher burden when entering the city. Passengers from places like India, Pakistan & South Africa for example must do another test on arrival. Once again, it’s best to consult the IATA map linked above.
2. Restrictions on the Ground
Although coming to Dubai from Australia was like a dream, there are still certain Government regulations surrounding COVID. While you won’t experience having to show medical passports, having to check in to every single shop you visit or lockdowns, you will experience a rather strict mask mandate & nightlife restrictions.
Dubai’s mask mandate stipulates you must be wearing a mask both indoors and outdoors pretty much at all times. But what is said in the official Government documents often doesn’t translate into the reality of day to day life, and you will find many people ‘semi-complying’ by having the mask on their chins or sometimes not at all! While there isn’t a large police presence in Dubai, it should be known that if you are caught not wearing it, you do face a pretty hefty fine. Not a fan of masks? Well fear not! At places like the beach, the gym and in the many bars the city has to offer, the mandate is not enforced, and outside of staff, no one really wears them.
On the topic of bars and nightlife though, Dubai definitely isn’t the place if you’re a short term traveller looking to meet other travellers. The current restrictions on nightlife mean that venues can only really sit you down in your own social groups, and there’s none of that sweaty up close and personal dancing & partying you’ll find in places like Mexico. It’s not all bad though, there definitely are some places a bit more liberal with these rules, and I suggest you ask around and find the places that best suit your interests.
3. If You’re Australian and not into Cricket, don’t tell any of your drivers you are Australian
Dubai has a very large Indian and Pakistani community and a lot of them drive for work. While they are extremely lovely people and obviously very passionate about their sport, if you admit to your Australian heritage during a uber or taxi ride, you will automatically be assumed to be an expert on cricket. If you actually are, then great! If not, it might be a rather awkward conversation.
4. Walkability & Transport
Dubai is NOT a walkable city. Despite how close everything looks on Apple and Google maps, I was shocked at how far things actually were from each other. In my naivety, I booked a room in Deira (the Old Town of Dubai), thinking that with a short walk I’d be able to get to a lot of the places I wanted to go relatively quickly and without much hassle. This was not the case, and even with the aid of the Metro system, I found getting around on your own to be slow and frustrating. It’s for this reason that many visitors end just hiring taxis or ubers everywhere they go. These services are pretty cheap and definitely worth the cost if you’re not visiting for long.
Being an Islamic country, the weekends on Dubai are Friday & Saturday. Sunday is the start of the work week. So if you were planning to go hard on a Saturday night, I would definitely recommend you tweak it to Thursday night for a better experience.
6. Malls… Malls Everywhere
Dubai is the ULTIMATE destination to stock up during long travels and do any shopping you want to do before returning home. No matter where you’re staying, there will be a mall in your proximity with everything you need in it and more. The most grandiose one is of course the Dubai Mall, and I highly recommend visitors to check it out.
Do keep in mind though, if you’re looking for decent advice on products such as electronics or even clothes, you won’t get it in most malls. Make sure you know what you want and know what you like because the shop attendants are simply there to help facilitate the purchase of the product, nothing more. They can’t really help you customer service wise on a technical level in the way shop attendants can/do in the west.
To Finish off…
Dubai is an awesome place with tonnes to do. It continues to be the most open city in the world and accepts people from pretty much anywhere during these COVID times. However in order to make your journey as smooth as possible, make sure to follow all the screening guidelines for whatever country you’re coming from, and also be sure to take note of some of the other advice offered to you in this article… ESPECIALLY THE CRICKET ONE.