8 Hacks & Tips For Indians Visiting Dubai For The First Time

I’ve been to over 10 countries and I recently travelled to Dubai for the first time ever (shocking, no?). Dubai to Indians is what Goa is to Mumbaikars. Almost everyone has been there. Anyhoo, for the uninitiated like me, here are some tricks & tips for those Indians visiting Dubai for the first time ever. My name is Natasha Monteiro and I travelled to Dubai this November and I have to say, it was an experience to remember. I went for 4 days and here’s what everything you need to know:

1. You Can Dress However You Want

Before I left for Dubai, I kept wondering what to pack. I’d heard stories about how the Emiratis dress up, how it’s a super-rich country and everyone is always dressed to the nines. When I reached Dubai, I heaved a sigh of relief! The city is like a global melting pot, filled with Indians, Pakistanis, Africans, Europeans, Asians & of course, the local Emiratis. Everyone dresses in what they are most comfortable in. So you’ll find Indians in salwar kameez, Europeans in jeans, tank tops, and no makeup, Asians in shorts, Emiratis in their traditional wear, the Lebanese dressed to the hilt in stylish clothes and makeup. There is no right way to dress up in Dubai. And there is definitely no wrong way to dress up.

 

2. Way More Indians & Pakistanis Than You Expect

The cab driver who picked us up from the airport told us that over 60% of the population in Dubai is Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi. It’s almost like entering a city in India, except its way cleaner, people don’t spit on the roads, and they actually obey traffic laws. So when you visit Dubai,you’ll probably be speaking a lot of Hindi. Almost all the hotel managers are Indian while almost all the cab drivers are Pakistani. Stand up comedian, Russell Peters had once said that considering India is the second-most populous country in the world, you’re bound to find Indians everywhere. This couldn’t be truer of Dubai.

3. There Is NO Free Drinking Water, So Carry Your Water

Never ever take free drinking water for granted! There is no free drinking water in Dubai, not even in homes! Dubai’s tap water is unsafe for people to drink and you have to buy water. The best hack is to buy drinking water from a local supermarket and carry it with you. Most restaurants will let you drink from your own bottle and that will save you money. You can also order drinking water (which comes in bottles BTW) at restaurants, but you will be at the mercy of the restaurant pricing.

4. Dubai Food Is Amazing – There’s Plenty Of Veg & Non-Veg Options

Travelling abroad and worried about your food? If you’re non-experimental and prefer a shuddh desi meal, then there are plenty of options in Dubai. From veg biryani to dosas to dal, butter chicken and even thaalis – there’s something for everyone. For the non-vegetarians, boy – you’re going to love Dubai! The quality of meat in Dubai is SUPERIOR. You must try the Madhbee and the Madfoon or eat kababs at an Afghani place. My personal favourites were Al Hallab for Turkish fine dine, Afghan Korsan for Afghani Kebabs & Afghani pulao and Zam Zam for the Mutton Madhbee. Another fun fact about Dubai meals is that they all serve complimentary soup, vegetable salad and sometimes even hummus.

  • The Hummus in Dubai is phenomenal and is a must-try, whether you’re a vegetarian or non-vegetarian
  • You must try the Luquaimat (a dessert) and Turkish tea
  • Dessert lovers must try Kunafa
  • Have the cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory
  • Vegetarians should try the Falalfel
  • The food quantity is MASSIVE so be warned when you order. One dish is easily enough for 2 adults with regular appetites

5. Get Ready To Walk In Dubai – A LOT

No, I don’t mean saving money by walking around. You just end up walking a lot while exploring places in Dubai. On day 1, I went to Burj Khalifa. The entrance is through the Dubai Mall. From the entrance of the mall to the final spot of at the viewing gallery, at the top of the Burj, I had already walked 4Kms! 4 kms just to get to the sight. After that, I went to the aquarium and had a meal at the Food court in Dubai Mall. By the end of the day, I had walked a grand total of 11kms – all of this inside a mall! So my point is screw style and wear comfortable shoes because you will have to walk quite a bit!

6. Ubers Are Expensive In Dubai. It’s Better To Self Drive

If you have a valid international driving license, then it’s preferable to self-drive. A lot of websites have great offers on cars and if you plan to explore a lot of Dubai, then definitely opt for a self-drive. Most malls & parking lots have free parking. The only downside to this is that you need to be a fabulous driver because Dubai driving laws are really strict. It’s also a left-hand drive, so that could take a while getting used to. If you do get caught, then the fine could range from 500 Dirhams to over a 1000 Dirhams. PS: There is also a minimum speed limit of 100km.

Ubers are available in plenty but can get really expensive. Our total Uber bill for 3 days came to more than Rs 11,000. Also, you cannot borrow a friend’s car and drive around in Dubai. If you have to self-drive, you can only do it from a rental service.

7. Dubai Is Full Of Man-Made Wonders. Choose Your Attractions Wisely

Dubai really is a city of the biggest, widest, tallest & absolutely craziest and to think all of it is built on a desert! Wow. There are a ridiculously crazy number of sights to see around Dubai and some are worth the hype. Some can be skipped. You must do the Burj Khalifa, the Desert Safari and Atlantis. You can skip The Frame. The Dubai Miracle Garden is pretty cool too. If you go when the Global Village is on, I’d strongly recommend you visit.

Pro Tip: Book all your activities on the Klook app. It’s way cheaper than booking on the spot and they have great offers.

8. Affordable Shopping Places In Dubai For Indians

Guys, you know how everyone talks about shopping in Dubai! It’s really not as cheap as they make it up to be. Both the Mall of Emirates and Dubai Mall are pretty expensive. If you’re Indian, looking for some great finds, head to Burjuman Mall. It’s relatively more affordable and is filled with great brands. If you’re buying chips and dates and other fun stuff, head to Carrefour. It’s a departmental store and almost always has offers running.

That’s about all from me from the beautiful land of Dubai. If you do have questions, feel free to reach out to me on my personal Instagram, and I will help out as much as I can. Leaving you with this super fun video of Dubai!

Natasha Monteiro
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