Tourism in Dubai

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Tourism in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, is an important part of the Dubai government's strategy to maintain the flow of foreign cash into the emirate. Dubai's lure for tourists is based mainly on shopping, but also on its possession of other ancient and modern attractions. However, many tourists are unaware of the city's stringent Islamic laws. In 2011, 9 million tourists visited the city of Dubai.


Dubai is the most popular emirate of the seven emirates of United Arab Emirates. It is distinct from other members of the UAE in that revenues from petroleum and natural gas account for only 6% of its gross domestic product. A majority of the emirate's revenues are from the Jebel Ali Free Zone (JAFZ) [1] and increasingly from tourism.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) was established in January 1997, replacing the Dubai Commerce and Tourism Promotion Board (DCTPB) that was set up in 1989. DTCM’s broad objectives are to increase the awareness of Dubai to global audiences, and to attract tourists and inward investment into the emirate. It is empowered with the responsibility of organising the marketing of tourism and commerce for Dubai. As of 2013, DTCM is the principal authority for the planning, supervision and development of the tourism sector in Dubai, and is charged with the responsibility of licensing and classifying hotels, hotel apartments, tour operators, travel agents and all other tourism services. DTCM’s supervisory role covers archaeological and heritage sites, as well as ensuring sustainable and responsible tourism for Dubai.

During May 2009, DTCM launched the Official Tourism Portal of the City of Dubai to cater to tourists, business travelers and residents. DTCM's vision is to become a one-stop information centre for visitors and residents.[2]


Tourist accommodation in Dubai is ubiquitous and relatively expensive, and all of the world's major chains are present in the city. In early August 2013, plans for Dubai's first underwater hotel the Water Discus Hotel were publicly revealed. Developed by Polish company Deep Ocean Technology, the Water Discus will be the world's largest hotel of its kind and will be in addition to two underwater suites in existence at Dubai's The Palm: Atlantis accommodation venue.[3]

Transportation connections[edit]

Most capitals and other major cities have direct flights to Dubai. More than 120 airlines operate to and from Dubai International Airport to more than 260 destinations, making it one of the world's busiest. Dubai is also the home base of Emirates Airline, international airline of the UAE, which operates scheduled services to more than 100 destinations.

In June 2009 Emirates airline designated a special handling area at departures and arrivals for passengers with special needs. As a result, wheelchair passengers will receive a more personalized service.[4]

DTCM has been promoting the Cruise Business for over a decade. The establishment of the first cruise terminal in Dubai in 2001 and the opening of the enhanced New Dubai Cruise Terminal in February 2010 with higher handling capacity has drawn the attention of cruise line operators around the world. Cruises to Dubai sail from: Singapore, Sydney, Athens, Dover, Venice, Cape Town, Civitavecchia, Piraeus, Alexandria, Istanbul, New York, Southampton, Barcelona, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Monte Carlo, Mombasa, Victoria, and Cairns among others.[5]

The United Arab Emirates boasts an impressive network of first-class roads that connect major towns and villages, including a multi-lane highway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. You can drive from the neighbouring GCC countries to Dubai. Highways and main roads in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates are designated by an Emirate Route Number. Driving in the UAE is on the right-hand side. Speed limits are clearly displayed on road signs and are usually 60-80kph (37-50 mph) around town and 100-120kph (62-74 mph) elsewhere.[6]

Dubai ranked third in the best taxi services behind Tokyo and Singapore.[7]

Tourist attractions[edit]

Entry regulations[edit]

Most travelers need to obtain a Visit Visa prior to entering Dubai. However, citizens (and some residents) of Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Persian Gulf (GCC) and citizens of a number of states in Europe and elsewhere (including Canada, Australia and New Zealand) can get a free entry permit stamped in their passport upon arrival, good for up to 90 days. Visitors from other nationalities require the sponsorship of any UAE resident or any company or hotel licensed to operate within the UAE and are limited to a 30-day stay. Citizens of the UK, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Finland, Malta, Spain, Monaco, Vatican, USA, Canada, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong may stay for up to 30 days without a visa.[8] Citizens of Ireland may stay for 60 days with a 30-day stamped entry permit, with the option to extend to 90 days for a fixed charge.[9]

As of 2 January 2011, Canadian citizens must acquire a visa prior to travelling to the United Arab Emirates. But this was later changed and Canadians may now acquire a visa on entry.[10]

Since 2010 there has been another change to visa rules in Dubai. The countries that have to apply for visa in advance they will have to apply the normal ways they do. The only thing that has changed for business travellers & Tourist if you leave the UAE – you must stay out of the country for 30 days then apply for new visa again.

For citizens of visa-on-arrival countries, the first visa is free but if you want a second visa for another 30 days you have to pay a fee of 600 AED (around US$170–190) at the local immigration department in Dubai. The other option is to exit to an other country by going to Oman by road ( 4 hours going and coming back). In this case, the renewal will be only of 50 AED. This visa is valid for 40 days. This option is available for the countries which you can obtain the visa on arrival.

Cultural ethics[edit]

Dubai enforces many behavioral rules that occasionally get western visitors not familiar with the local customs or culture into trouble. Homosexuality is illegal, and kissing in public is also inappropriate. Additionally, visitors are also required to obey Muslim religious restrictions even if they are not Muslim themselves;[11] such as eating or drinking in public places in the daytime during Ramadan fasting or consuming alcohol anywhere besides some licensed venues. In 2008 a Russian woman was put on trial for drinking juice in public during the month of Ramadan.[12]

Wearing a bikini, swimming suit or swimming trunks are only permitted on beaches, and it is illegal to go topless or wear a thong. Wearing swimsuits away from the beach may get you arrested under public decency laws.

Legal dangers and drug traffic[edit]

Travellers entering Dubai can be jailed for 4 years or more if found in possession (including in the bloodstream and the bottom of the shoes[13]) of illegal drugs (even in quantities as small as 0.001g), including medicines such as codeine, in part due to the use of security scanners at the Dubai airport which are able to detect drug residue in the blood.[14][15] Some travellers have indeed been sentenced to long jail terms for "possession" of trace amounts of which they were almost certainly unaware.[citation needed]

A senior Dubai judge was quoted on February 11, 2008, by the Dubai City News saying, "These laws help discourage anyone from carrying or using drugs. Even if the amount of illegal drugs found on someone is 0.05 grams, they will be found guilty. The penalty is a minimum four years. The message is clear — drugs will not be tolerated."[14]

A number of travellers have been held pending charge while Dubai authorities test their possessions, blood and urine for any trace of contraband.[16]

A young Norwegian woman has been sentenced to 16 months in jail for "illicit sex outside marriage" after she reported being raped in Dubai.[17]


No special immunizations are required but tourists are encouraged to purchase appropriate medical insurance before travelling. Government immunization programs has led to recognition by a travel magazine.[4] As a latest addition to the established modern health care system, Dubai is offering online health care contacts of virtually all medical doctors in Dubai.[18]

Shopping tourism[edit]

Dubai has been called the "shopping capital of the Middle East."[19][20] The city draws large numbers of shopping tourists from countries within the region and from as far as Eastern Europe, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. Dubai is known for its souk districts. Souk is the Arabic word for market or place where any kind of goods are brought or exchanged. Traditionally, dhows from the Far East, China, Sri Lanka, and India would discharge their cargos and the goods would be bargained over in the souks adjacent to the docks.[21] Dubai's most atmospheric shopping is to be found in the souks, located on either side of the creek, where bargaining is part of the buzz.

Modern shopping malls and boutiques are also found in the city. Dubai Duty Free at Dubai International Airport offers merchandise catering to the multinational passengers using Dubai International Airport.

While boutiques, some electronics shops, department stores and supermarkets may operate on a fixed-price basis, most other outlets consider friendly negotiation as a way of life.

Dubai's numerous shopping centres cater for every consumer’s need. Cars, clothing, jewellery, electronics, furnishing, sporting equipment and any other goods will all be likely to be under the same roof.[22]

The Dubai Shopping Festival is a month-long festival held during month of January each year. During the festival the entire emirate becomes one massive shopping mall. Additionally, the festival brings together music shows, art exhibitions, and folk dances.[23]

Cultural tourism[edit]

Sightseeing usually comes second for most visitors, who visit the city for shopping and entertainment.

Aspects of Dubai's old culture, while occasionally overshadowed by the boom in economic development, can be found by visiting places around the creek, which splits Dubai into two halves, Bur Dubai and Deira. The buildings lining the Bur Dubai side of the Creek provides the main flavor of the old city. Heritage Village offers a simulacrum of old Dubai. The adjoining Diving Village offers exhibits on pearl diving and fishing. The Diving Village forms part of an ambitious plan to turn the entire "Shindagha" area into a cultural city, recreating life in Dubai as it was in days gone by.

Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai

Other attractions include the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House; the Dubai Museum in the restored Al Fahidi Fort, which was erected around 1799; and the Heritage Village of Hatta, situated 115 kilometers southeast of Dubai City in the heart of the rocky Hatta Mountains. The history of the village can be traced back 2000 – 3000 years. It consists of 30 buildings, each differing in size, interior layout and building materials used. Great care was taken to use the same materials as those used when originally built during the renovation such as mud, hay, sandalwood and palm fronds. The Sharia Mosque is an old mosque built around 200 years ago using the same building materials and consists of a large prayer hall, a court and courtyard, minaret and other utility rooms.[24] Other museums include the Al Ahmadiya School.

Business tourism[edit]

In 2002 DTCM formed the Dubai Convention Bureau (DCB) to conduct all international bids on behalf of the emirate for attracting major events to Dubai.The DCB also carries out comprehensive promotional activities that relate to Dubai as a meetings and conventions destination and organizes and participates in trade shows, workshops and road shows and prepares all collateral to promote Dubai as a leading business tourism destination.

Sports tourism[edit]

Dubai hosts the following international championships:

  • Dubai World Cup – the richest horse race in the world
  • Dubai Classic - the golf championship
  • Barclays Dubai Tennis for both men and women
  • UIM World Powerboat racing
  • Rugby Sevens
  • Dubai International Rally
  • Dubai Snooker Classic
  • The UAE Desert Challenge
  • The Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon


Dubai attracted 9 millions visitors, majority of which come from neighboring Arab countries. Visitors from all parts of the world are also common.

  • GCC 1,583,955
  • Arabs 685,819
  • Asia 28,123,234
  • Africa 520,716
  • Europe 2,329,078
  • Americas 622,902

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dubai Trade
  2. ^ "DTCM launches new tourism website". Gulf News. May 6, 2009. 
  3. ^ Financialist Staff (7 August 2013). "Hotter Under the Water: A Look at the World’s Most Interesting Underwater Hotels". The Financialist. Credit Suisse. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Dubai Travel Tips". 
  5. ^ "Cruise Hub of the Region". Dubai Tourism. 
  6. ^ "Routes to Dubai". Definitely Dubai. 
  7. ^ "Tourists rate Dubai taxis, shopping to top list". Khaleej Times. 20 December 2012. 
  8. ^ "The Embassy: Consulate Services". Embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington DC USA. 
  9. ^ "UAE Embassy Dublin - Visa Section". 
  10. ^ "Dubai Visa Requirements". 
  11. ^ "Things to Know Before You Go to Dubai". Retrieved 28 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Russian woman put on jail in Dubai for drinking juice in public", Pravda, 2008-09-23 
  13. ^ Daily Mail: Briton jailed for four years in Dubai after customs find cannabis weighing less than a grain of sugar under his shoe
  14. ^ a b Paul McLennan and Ali Al-Shouk (2008-02-11). "Tourists get drug warning". Dubai City News. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  15. ^ "Tourists face jail". Dubai City Magazine. 2008-02-08. Retrieved 2008-02-12. 
  16. ^ "Charity issues urgent warning to all travellers to UAE after Briton is imprisoned for 4 years". Fair Trials International. 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2012-04-15. 
  17. ^ Malm, Sara (18 July 2013). "Norwegian woman who reported being raped in Dubai is jailed for 16 months". Daily Nail. 
  18. ^ Gulf News
  19. ^ Shopping in dubai
  20. ^ "Shopping Guide in Dubai". Shopping Galore in Dubai. 17 October 2013. Retrieved 17 October 2013. 
  21. ^ Souq - DataDubai
  22. ^ Dubai shopping centres
  23. ^ MyDSF
  24. ^ Destinations Dubai

External links[edit]