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How to Travel Like a Local in Dubai

How to Travel Like a Local in Dubai


From the wealthiest to the backpackers, Dubai is on the list of every traveler. The city has a reputation for being the playground of the rich and famous but it welcomes even the budget traveler with the open arms. We don’t say it, the millions of tourists who visit the Dubai every year vouch for the city’s warmth and hospitality.

Dubai has everything a tourist looks for in a destination, but it’s up to us how we enjoy the city. While many tourists use their Dubai Visa to see the city on a superficial level, the best way to explore the emirate is like how a local would do.

Don’t think that’s possible in the short trip you’ve planned? Well, here’s how you do it.

Revisit the history

The museums and the historical places are of immense significance for a city as they help in understanding the roots of the place. To connect with the history of Dubai and appreciate its exponential rise to the top, it is imperative to visit the famous Dubai museum housed in the oldest fort of the city- the Al Fahidi fort. The Dubai museum is one of the best museums of the Middle East and is built in a way that it almost transports you to the Bedouin era when Dubai was no more than a small fishing village.

Bastakiya quarter

In addition, visit the Bastakiya quarters- Dubai’s oldest neighborhood, beautifully preserved for the tourists to get an insight into the past of Dubai. Also visit the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s house- once an official residence of the ruler of Dubai, today one of the best museums of the city housing rare documents, pictures and artifacts that speak volumes about the rise of Dubai.

Understand the culture

The best way to appreciate a place is to understand its culture and traditions. While you can get the best insight about Dubai if you have a local friend, another great option for tourist is the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. You’ve to book the appointment in advance, but the place is every minute worth of your time. The ambiance of a wind tower house, the surroundings of the oldest neighborhood of Dubai- The Bastakiya quarters, and a sumptuous cultural meal while enjoying an insightful conversation about the Islamic culture, Arabic customs and the history of Dubai; what better way of understanding the culture can you ask for?

Travel in Public transport

To know the essence of a city, it is imperative to understand the regular life of the people, and what better way than the public transport. While commuting through public transport can be quite a pain in many cities, the transport system in Dubai is one of the best in the world. The Dubai metro that runs throughout the city is a record-breaking feat in itself. These driverless metro trains use the most advanced technology and were built in a record span of just 18 months. The bus and cab transport are also very well streamlined and frequent. Cost wise, private cabs cost more starting with a minimum of 10Dirhams. Take a pass for Dubai metro and you can literally travel across the length and breadth of the city in the least time and expenditure, that too in the comfort of the fully air conditioned metro train.

Dubai Metro

Shop at the right places

A city that has 3 of the biggest malls ever made across the globe along with a plethora of other great malls, a city that holds one of the world’s biggest shopping festivals every year, and a city that literally breathes shopping in every street; it is very hard to suggest where to shop from.

The Textile Souk in Dubai

But for the tourists who believe that the essence of a city lies in its local markets, we suggest shopping at the souks of Dubai (souk is the Arabic translation for the word market) is the best option. Dubai is full of the world-famous souks that are going on since centuries and still continuing in the same manner. Popular souks like the gold souk, spice souk, textile souk, perfume souk and many more local places that not only spoil you for choice but also allow you to bargain to your heart’s content. The vibrancy, energy and the messy environment of these congested markets give you the feel of real Dubai shopping. These souks are an excellent place to carry out your people watching hobby too.

Relish the cultural meals

While Dubai is a city that offers you the best of world cuisine across all price ranges, it is also extremely rich with its cultural Arabic cuisine. While in Dubai, take a break from the easily available Thai, Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Japanese, Lebanese, European, Chinese and a plethora of other types of cuisine available, and taste the Emirati cuisine.

Baba Ganoush

It is not only rich, flavorful and extremely different; it also uses some of the rarest ingredients, hardly used anywhere else in the world. Stuffed Camel, for example, is a fine delicacy of the Emirati cuisine and it is hardly available anywhere else in the world, even if it is, the taste is unmatched. Some of the other must try dishes are Al Harees, Shawarma, Al Machboos, and hummus.

Insider Tips:

  • While in Dubai, one thing that you must shop for are the locally grown dates and saffron from the spice market. They are simply the best.
  • For tourists looking for staying longer and considering volunteering opportunities, Dubai has a lot of them in areas of animal rescue, helping laborers and working with disabled children.
  • Dubai observes Fridays and Saturdays as weekend so Thursday and Friday nights are the most sought after here.
  • There are many advanced ways of traveling from bur Dubai to Deira, but the best way to experience the travel is via the traditional ‘Abra ride’. They are the most ancient ways to cross the Dubai creek and cost just Dhs1.
  • Dubai boasts of many free sights and attractions and there are many cost effective and social ways to visit them including the Big Bus Tour.
  • Learning some local words such as Shukhran (thank you), Marhaba (hello), Assalam Alaikum (may peace be upon you) can help you break the ice and get friendly with the locals sooner than you think. Don’t forget to add your gracious smile to it.


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About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Her travels allow her the opportunity to pursue her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.


  1. Paige Strand
    September 16, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for writing, I have always been curious about Dubai – mainly for the food, but also for the unique sides of culture.

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 17, 2016 at 9:41 pm

      The culture in Dubai can be very interesting. You aren’t allowed to make any gestures in public (no holding hands). If you take a picture of someone you need to ask their permission first.

  2. Portia @ Migrant Muse
    September 16, 2016 at 11:44 pm

    Thanks for shedding some light on Dubai! I’d love to visit one day. I’m saving this for future reference as there are some awesome tips here 🙂
    Portia @ Migrant Muse recently posted…A Roundup (Normal) Guide to PortlandMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 17, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      I hope you get the opportunity to travel to Dubai one day soon. It’s quite a unique city.

  3. Abbi
    September 17, 2016 at 12:42 am

    What a great post – I always think it’s best to travel like a local but sometimes I’m not sure how to! Thanks for the great tips, they will come in handy for my future visit!

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 17, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      Sometimes the best way to see a country is by living like the locals do and emerging into their culture a little.

  4. Sheena
    September 17, 2016 at 3:46 am

    Awesome tips, I’ve never read a post about Dubai from the local perspective so this is right up my budget alley! Pinning this for later Dubai is high on my bucket list 🙂

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 18, 2016 at 9:21 am

      I glad to hear that my tips will be useful. 🙂 I’m heading to Dubai in a month so I’ll share a few more tips from my trip.

  5. Gareth
    September 17, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Unusual to see a travel article on Dubai that focuses of remaining in budget so thanks for that. And having some friends from that part of the world, I can attest to what you say about the food. Consistently superb

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 18, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Dubai is considered to be a very upscale city, and it is. You can still visit the city on a reasonable budget, and have a great time doing it.

  6. Meg Jerrard
    September 17, 2016 at 9:43 am

    Fantastic tips Carmen – I especially agree with understanding the culture. That’s obviously a point for anywhere, but I believe it’s especially important in Dubai, because they’re a lot stricter on many things than in other parts of the world. I visited during Ramadan and had no clue that I wasn’t going to be able to readily get food etc!
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…A Guide to the Picturesque Towns of Georgia, USAMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 18, 2016 at 9:08 pm

      I’m heading over to Dubai with one of my friends next month, and I can’t wait. That most of been very difficult to visit during Ramadan, especially since most places are close.

  7. Rebecca
    September 17, 2016 at 8:30 pm

    I’ve always been very interested in Dubai. It sounds like a great place to visit. So much history. I agree about public transportation. It’s one of the best ways to get around and learn about any destination. Would love to shop at the markets.

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 18, 2016 at 9:09 pm

      I’m really looking forward to my upcoming trip to Dubai, and going shopping in the souks markets.

  8. Lisa
    September 17, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    Thanks for the great tips. Me, like others I talk to, are intrigued by Dubai. I would definitely try local foods. Hppefully will get to to visit one day.

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 18, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      It can be a little challenging for some of us with food allergies to try local foods. In my case, I’m allergic to peppers and they seem to put peppers in everything.

  9. mark wyld
    September 18, 2016 at 12:55 am

    Dubai looks so modern it’s amazing. i would love to explore the museum and the markets, that would be fun. The metro system looks bright shiny and efficient. The middle east is a must for us one day soon.

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 18, 2016 at 9:12 pm

      The metro is the way to go when you go to Dubai. You can also use taxi services but they can run a little expensive. Hopefully, you get the chance to go one day soon.

  10. Salini
    September 18, 2016 at 4:24 am

    Thanks for this wonderful article about Dubai. It is so useful to know about the museums and the cultural center in Dubai. Also regarding the transportation, great to know about the metro facility. I thought Dubai was a super expensive city, but your article has given me insight about how to explore it economically. Thanks again for the tips.
    Salini recently posted…Aihole – The birthplace of South Indian temple architectureMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 18, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      Dubai can be an expensive city to visit if you don’t do your homework. I’m happy that you found my tips helpful.

  11. curiositystrike
    September 18, 2016 at 5:43 am

    Culture is my thing. We’re planning a trip to Dubai for next year, definitely going to check out the Center for Cultural Understanding there!
    curiositystrike recently posted…Money saving tips. Travel for even lessMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 18, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      I’m heading to Dubai next month. I’ll post a few more articles on what to do and see in the city.

  12. Tara
    September 18, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    The food sounds amazing in Dubai. So many choices. I’d love to bring home some saffron, as it’s so very expensive where I live. I’m not sure if I’ll get the chance to visit, but your post has certainly enticed my to look into it further!

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      What’s great about Dubai is that you have many choices in terms of food selection. I’m looking forward to returning soon and trying some new dishes.

  13. Juliette @ Snorkels To Snow
    September 18, 2016 at 8:33 pm

    Stuffed camel? Did you try it? I’m not sure if I would be game enough to try it! But would love to visit Dubai. We tried to find work there but then a new opportunity game up in Fiji, so we went there instead!
    Juliette @ Snorkels To Snow recently posted…How We Reached 4K Page Views In Our First Month of Blogging!My Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:16 pm

      No, but my friend did and she said it taste like chicken. Something about riding on a camel one minute and eating its meat didn’t settle well with me.

  14. Fit Two Travel
    September 19, 2016 at 2:26 am

    Dubai sounds so incredible! Hopefully we can visit soon! Thanks for the tips!
    Fit Two Travel recently posted…4 Fitness Retreats You Don’t Want To MissMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:17 pm

      I highly recommend it! It’s a different culture than what we are used too for sure.

  15. Ferna
    September 19, 2016 at 8:49 am

    This is the kind of travel that I am doing and what I love to do. To travel like a local. 🙂 Absolutely a good post for sharing how we can travel like a local.

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm

      I think it’s important to immerse in the local culture when you travel to a new country.

  16. Nathan
    September 19, 2016 at 9:51 am

    I’ve never been to Dubai but this looks incredible. I’m getting ready to visit Qatar at the end of this month for the first time. That hummus you found looks delicious!
    Nathan recently posted…Turkish Oil Wrestling-My Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:20 pm

      I’ll be in Doha at the end of October for the first time. We’ll have to compare our travel stories.

  17. Carol Colborn
    September 19, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Great tips, especially the Sheik Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. And all those last words! Thanks.

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:21 pm

      When you travel to a new country, it’s important to learn a few basic words. The locals love it when they see you at least tried.

  18. Elisa
    September 19, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    Beautiful pictures Carmen! I was lucky to find a last minute cheap accommodation in Dubai so in the end was not that expensive for me. I should have compensated it with dates + saffron 😉

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 19, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      You were lucky that you found a cheap accommodation in Dubai. I found that most of the hotels were quite expensive even for a luxury blogger like myself.

  19. Helena
    September 20, 2016 at 6:33 pm

    I have always been very curious with Dubai as I wasn’t sure how much more it was than a stopover for the rich. It is good to know that there is more and I like the idea of getting some amazing spices. I also didn’t know they had a train that was driverless?! Amazing!
    Helena recently posted…American Football in AustraliaMy Profile

    • Carmen Edelson
      September 21, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      The transportation service in Dubai is wonderful. It’s becoming more and more affordable these days for travelers.

  20. Desert Safari
    February 25, 2017 at 3:53 am

    Detailed & Very Attractive, Your efforts for lighting the ways to up comers is appreciated.
    Hope we will seek more ideas from you.

    • Carmen Edelson
      February 27, 2017 at 1:01 pm

      Thank you very much! There’s so much to enjoy in Dubai.

  21. khourshem
    May 2, 2017 at 8:48 am

    My dubai trip was awesome , first i booked online desrt sarafi with 4*4 jeep , after next i was at Burj Khalifa top, in dubai there are lots of fun and tours packages.

    • Carmen Edelson
      May 2, 2017 at 9:11 am

      There are certainly so many fun tours to choose from in Dubai!

  22. Khasab
    May 22, 2017 at 1:38 am

    Nice article! Dubai is such a nice place to visit and famous for its wonderful sightseeing’s attractions. The best place to stay is downtown Dubai. This is nearby landmark Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building). You can find plenty of shops and restaurants. The best tour to avails Dubai sightseeing’s and desert safari.

    • Carmen Edelson
      May 23, 2017 at 5:43 am

      You’re right! I had such a great time visiting Burj Khalifa.

  23. Desert Safari
    March 15, 2020 at 2:12 pm

    This is really been an amazing article for travelers! Thanks for this post and please keep sharing this stuff!

    • Carmen Edelson
      March 16, 2020 at 6:03 pm

      So glad to hear that, thanks for reading!

  24. UAE Carpets
    May 3, 2021 at 1:28 pm

    Was there for 10 days. Did go to the Burj khalifa, 3 malls, hotel, everyday food, and drinks, went on Safari, boat tour, Palm tour, Ferrari Park in Abu Dhabi. All for €1700. I would never think that Dubai was that kind of ‘cheap’. Those were the 10 most beautiful days in my life so far.

    • Carmen Edelson
      May 4, 2021 at 2:06 pm

      That sounds amazing!

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