What to See in a Day in UAE

United Arab Emirates is a small middle eastern country on the south eastern edge of Saudi Arabia. Many people fly through Dubai if they are traveling because it is the hub for Emirates airlines. If you have a layover in Dubai long enough to see the sites, 48 hour tourist visas on-site are free to Americans and it is incredibly easy to see Dubai or even head to Abu Dhabi. SO what is there to do exactly?

Dubai:

Dubai is a very new city, it honestly reminds me of a middle eastern Vegas. Buildings are shiny, architecture is modern, and everything LOOKS rich and fancy. Thats just it…. to me, it really seemed like a ficade. The whole town seemed fake. Dubai honestly was not interesting to me, I drove right past it to get to where I really wanted to go. But irregardless, there are some minor attractions that still attract people.

Burj Kalifa

The tallest building in the world stands at 2,717′. You can go to the top, but you must buy tickets in advance. The best time to go is around sunset. Lines can be long to get up as well so make sure you go early. A friend of mine was able to get tickets for 5:30, see the town in daylight and wait up top for sunset, and watch the fountain show from up above and loved it.

Dubai Mall

The second largest mall in the world, includes the only indoor ski resort in the world. Shops include some of the most popular and expensive brand names around, so if you want to actually do some shopping, be prepared to spend money.

The Palm

The Atlantis resort is on the Palm Islands of Dubai. The rooms may be pricey but it would be a blast to stay at overnight and take advantage of the water park if you have an overnight layover!

Abu Dhabi:

Abu Dhabi is The capital of UAE about an hour and a half drive from Dubai but is seriously worth it if you have the time to spare. You can find more cultural sites in this town which is what was more personally interesting to me than Dubai when I visited.

Sheikh Zayed Mosque

THIS. This is what you NEED to see! The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the country and is absolutely gorgeous. It was my favorite site in UAE and one I 110% recommend. They provide tours pretty much all day. It is a Muslim mosque and women need to make sure they are completely covered, from head to wrists, to ankles. They do provide free Abayas to cover up if you do not have anything but you have to leave collateral and can lengthen the amount of time it takes to visit the Mosque. It is incredibly hot (especially May-Sept) so if you can, go as early as possible to avoid the heat and bring an umbrella for shade. Take your time if you can. Always walk the mosque clockwise and be quiet and respectful in the prayer room. Pictures are allowed on most of the grounds but be respectful and only take photos in the designated areas. There are signs everywhere that say where it is ok and not ok to take pictures. Don’t walk on the grass as it is not allowed, even if you see others do the same. Set an example of respect.

Important things to know if traveling to UAE:

  • Whatever you plan to do in UAE, plan accordingly and give yourself a minimum of 2 1/2 hours back at the airport before your flight.
  • Women really should not wear shorts and tanks unless at the beach or swimming, it is still a predominantly muslim country despite how liberal Dubai may seem. Keep shoulders covered and wear capri legnth or longer. Don’t wear leggings unless your top is long enough to cover your butt unless you want to get looked at or cat called by Hindi and Persian men.
  • FEMALE ONLY TAXIS! This is a great option if you are a woman traveling alone. Dubai is actually considered a safe city but these are an option and are great. The Dubai taxis have pink roofs and drivers wear pink scarves.

It is definitely worth it to take advantage of your layover in UAE not matter what sites interest you. It is a small country and Dubai is a small town, you honestly won’t need more than a day to see the major tourist sites; but it is definitely one to see at least once if you are traveling through!

7 Things to Remember When Planning an International Trip

Wanderlust is in the air!

It is all over the internet: Reddit, Instagram, Facebook, you name it! People are seeing beautiful photos from around the world and we are all trying to find ways to budget and save to live the traveler life.

Here are some things you need to know to begin planning your international trip!

What is your budget?

It took me significantly longer than I wanted to finally make it to Nepal. Most of that had to do with the lack of funds. There are a variety of different trips and expeditions out there but I needed to find one that I could afford on our tight budget. First thing you need to do is math out your budget and decide how much you can afford to take out every month and give a timeline of when you want to go on your trip. Your next step is going to be researching flights, places to stay, guides, things to do, sites, everything you want to do! You are looking at prices, expenses to math out exactly how much your trip is going to cost. From there you can adjust your trip accordingly to fit your budget! Last but not least: spending money. You NEED to give yourself a good amount to just play with because you will want it and use it. You are on vacation after all!

Flying Internationally:

It is important to check airline prices frequently, and on various days of the week to look for patterns in price changes. Below is an easy graphic of how many days in advance typically have the best price on international flights. Google flights is an easy resource for getting general ideas but Hopper and SkyScanner tend to have the best prices and deals and there are many other platforms out there as well. MOST IMPORTANTLY: The key is to compare prices on various platforms before choosing your flight is to be sure to look for consistency!!! If you find one flight exists on one platform, but doesn’t on the others, it is very possible that flight doesn’t actually exist anymore. Airlines cancel and change flights all the time, and unless you book straight through the airline, you may not be able to get a refund if a flight changes. Many platforms connect you to a travel agency and it is nearly impossible to get a hold of the correct people if something goes wrong. (take it from someone who dealt with this first hand and learned this the hard way).

Passports/Visas:

You NEED a passport to go anywhere in the world internationally and in most countries you also need a tourist visa. Here in the US, you can fill out a passport application at select Post Offices, and City Halls. Just look up where you can obtain a visa in your area. you will need to do this at least 3 months before your departure to ensure it arrives on time.

Every country has different requirements and depending on what country you are from can also change the requirements you need. You are going to want to research tourist visa requirements for a citizen of your country of origin to country of travel. If you are traveling to multiple countries, be sure to look up each individual countries requirements. Sometimes you need to fill out visas well in advance, so make sure this is one of the very first things you do in planning your trip!

Plan, Plan Plan!

This will be your key to keeping to your budget, and not wasting a day while you are out seeing the world! Even if you plan to do nothing on certain days (like spend time at a beach or something) they key is to have a plan for the big ticket items. Specific sites you want to see, specific things you want to do. Guided tours, and activities require advanced appointments. You want to be sure those are in your schedule before you plan your relaxation time.

Packing:

Know where you are going and what you NEED to bring and pack the bare minimum. Tropics typically have the lightest packing since you will live in a swimsuit most of the trip, trekking and climbing trips have a lot more since you are packing gear and layers of clothing. Every flight has weight limits, you will be paying extra if your bags are over the weight limit. Typically when you fly international, you are allowed one checked bag for free unlike flying stateside. This is because the airlines know you are traveling farther and typically for longer and need more luggage. Be sure to double check with your airline on baggage limits. It is good to pack up and weigh in a couple of weeks before you leave if you are worried about going over the weight limit.

Emergency Cash:

Things happen, it sucks when they do but it is important to always be prepared so you aren’t stranded in a foreign country somewhere. When I went to Nepal, we were stuck in Lukla for 3 days trying to get out and back to Kathmandu but the weather kept us socked in. We finally decided to call in a helicopter and I had to pay an extra $350 for that flight but it was completely worth it. I don’t regret that decision at all. I had to pay for it in CASH and I am glad I had it. I also had my credit card with me for bigger emergencies and luckily did not need to use it but it is good to have every back up available.

Dot all the i’s and cross the t’s:

As you get close to departure date, double check EVERYTHING! Make a list. Is your flight booked and still on schedule? Your passport and visa ready? Everything you planned booked and reserved? Work scheduled you off? Packed? Be sure to ask yourself every question that applies to your trip! The more you can do to prepare before you leave, the less terrifying it will be to be in a foreign country, and you will hopefully have a stress free vacation!

Happy Travels!