Last week we had the opportunity to go for an underwater scuba diving adventure, courtesy of our friend who runs a local dive center here in Dubai. He had the day off and offered to take us on a 2 tank dive with a small group of friends. The dive shop was closed for the day and it was a nice chance to catch up! The sun was blazing hot and beamed down on our white dive boat as it sliced it’s way across the turquoise waves. Everyone was grinning in anticipation of the dives to come. We both recently got PADI certified for our 23rd anniversary and take any opportunity that arises to descend the the ocean depths. Lucky for us, the diving conditions in Dubai are spectacular.
It is very interesting diving on the man made reefs surrounding the Isla Palm, the iconic palm tree shaped island that is just off the coast of the city. It is an iconic sight to behold from the air, and an even better one from the ocean deep! Large schools of fish swirl around the shallows, darting about and playing in the shafts of sunlight that filer down past the surface. Our small group rolled backwards overboard and began our dive through the reef. David, our friend and divemaster certainly knows the local dive sites very well and we followed him as we did a roundabout tour of the outer palm leaves. With such a small group it was not hard to stick together, one of the important rules of scuba diving (along with never hold your breath).
We spotted some large eagle rays gliding effortlessly through the shallow water, enjoying the sun as much as us. It was a beautiful sight and one we hope to see more often, as the man made reefs around Dubai continue to flourish. This is leading to a steadily growing scuba diving industry, which we happily embrace of course! David was kind enough to lend us some brand new Scuba gear free of charge, and we will soon be investing in a set of scuba equipment of our own, there are plenty of scuba gear packages to chose from. It can be an expensive hobby, but anyone who has spent time in the ocean will quickly fall in love with it. On our second dive we encountered several large groupers feasting on a shoal of smaller fish. These giants appeared sluggish but when snapping some food they could move with a very quick snap.
So after 2 dives of 45 minutes each, we all surfaced with smiles on our faces! And as the dive boat jetted us back to the mainland we enjoyed an after dive cocktail as the Arabian sun slowly sank down past the horizon. It is always a beautiful way to end the day, and this was certainly a nice way to end a day of Dubai Scuba Diving
we are often asked by intrepid backpacking travelers if Dubai is a feasible travel destination for those on a budget. The answer is yes….if you are smart about it. Obviously the largest expense when it comes to traveling to the Middle East is airfare, getting here from North America can be time consuming and flights tend to be expensive. Traveling from within europe can save a big chunk of change so always look into cheap flights to mainland Europe and then look for a connecting flight to Dubai from there. It might take more time, but it can save you hundreds of dollars by using this method.
So once you manage to find a way to arrive in Dubai that suits your budget, how do you keep costs low and manage to find cheap accommodations? The best and cheapest (AKA Free) option would be CouchSurfing. With couch surfing you are able to sleep on a local’s couch for free and it is a great way to mingle with the local population, make new friends, and keep your accommodation expenses to a bare minimum. People are always asking us if it is safe to stay at a strangers house and the short answer is yes. As long as you take a look at reviews from other travelers you should not have any problem finding someone with a good reputation and a safe place to stay. Many locals will happily act as a guide and show you about the city, taking pride in their neighborhoods and are a great way to find all the best local restaurants. Most people don’t mind you using their kitchen if you wish to prepare a meal, and this is a great way of showing your appreciation and sharing some of your own culture. Many times a local host will love to teach you some of the local language in exchange for a few English lessons, which can also be very fun.
When it comes to budget hostels, you will find some open to backpackers, travel bloggers, and students on a budget. They tend to be away from the luxury focused center of the city however so be prepared for a taxi ride or to catch the local bus. This may add some travel time, but will save you lots of money vs staying in one of the higher priced hotels. Hostels tend to serve the more hardcore travel crowd and can be another great place to make some new travel buddy friends and swap some interesting stories. Getting out of the expensive downtown core is also a nice change of pace and many of the surrounding businesses are happy to help you with any adventure tour bookings or other services an aspiring backpacker may be in need of.
Finally there is camping in the desert! yes, you can hire local guides to take you on a several day expedition and sleep in a tent under the stars. This is a bit more expensive, but the price for several days camping can be equal or less than a single night at some of the more prestigious hotels in Dubai. Plus, how often do you get the chance to camp out in a genuine desert oasis, complete with local food and music. This is a fantastic experience any backpacker should not miss out on! Trekking through the dunes with a camel and experiencing the city of Dubai from afar is certainly a awe inspiring sight, like a jewel in a golden sea.
we hope this list gives you some ideas of cheaper ways to experience Dubai aside from the high rise luxury hotels. Sometimes living modestly can not only save you a ton of cash, but also be a very rewarding experience in itself! Welcome to Dubai, Backpacker style!
Everyone always asks us of the top things they must do while visiting Dubai. This question is extremely hard to answer, because there is simply so much to see! It really depends on what experience you wish to have while traveling. Do you seek adventure? Or perhaps an exotic culinary experience?! We find that everyone traveling to Dubai has their own special holiday or travel objective, from aspiring travel bloggers to scuba divers looking to experience the Middle East for the first time. It’s up to you to define what you find exciting and then execute your plan to make the most of your trip!
Here are our 5 suggestions on some popular activities you can do while traveling to Dubai.
Visit the worlds tallest building!
There is something both terrifying and exciting about visiting the Burj Khalifa, an incredible spire and feat of human engineering. This iconic building rests in the heart of Dubai and can be seen from miles around. Visiting this amazing landmark is simply a must for anyone traveling to Dubai for the first time. You wouldn’t go to paris and not stop to see the Eiffel tower would you? Make sure to get there early as lines sometimes happen and you don’t want to be stuck outside in the hot sun!
Go Sky Diving over the coast!
There is nothing quite like watching the azure blue waters of the Dubai coast stretch out for miles below you as adrenaline surges through your veins. With some amazing luxury sky diving companies operating the the area, booking a day of this exciting activity is not hard. The hard part is summoning the courage to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft! But the rewards for the daring are incredible as you plummet to earth above the vast cityscape, enjoying the views Dubai has to offer. While this might not appeal to everyone, it is a great rush for those adventure junkies looking for a cool place to enjoy the sport of sky diving.
Scuba Dive in the amazing ocean waters
If skydiving isn’t your thing, then perhaps scuba diving might be! Far more laid back and relaxing of an experience, there is some fantastic underwater rewards awaiting avid scuba divers who see adventure under the sea. The sea around the coastline of Dubai is stunningly blue and while the diving conditions are great, this is still an underutilized slice of paradise. You will find diving in smaller groups is easy and that is always amazing.
Go Explore the Dessert
Images of large flowing dunes surrounding an oasis is pretty much the iconic shot of Dubai in every hollywood movie. You should take advantage of this unique climate to experience one of the harshest environments people survive in on a daily basis. Hire a local guide to take you in a 4×4 out to the dune sea, or perhaps rent a camel and take a sunset trek atop the sand dunes. This is a very fun activity to do once you get used to Camel as an actual mode of human transport! Break out of your comfort zone and experience a new culture and open yourself up to the incredible vistas the dessert has to offer. How often do you get a chance to ride a Camel back home?!