Oman- UAE travel info
13 days, Jan 09
Kind of travel: me and my
girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel
Dec08- 7th Jan 09
Do I need a
visa?: no for EU citizen, and we didn't even pay any entry/
How I moved:
not big choise. Or you take the expensive taxis or the
frequent buses/ minibuses. Anyway moving around is easy but dramatically
slow due to the traffic
baking?: it was chillier than we thought. The temp was
16- 24C, but in particular in Abu Dhabi the chilly wind didn't let to
stay even on the beach with the jacket. Forget bathing in the sea!
Where I slept:
at the youth hostel for 30€ (double with bathroom and breakfast).
In centre near the souk there are other cheap (and dodgy) hotels, otherwise
nothing for less than 70€ for a double.
What I liked:
I found the palm shaped artificial island, called Jumeria, amazing in
all the senses (even negative), but it's a must to be seen.
What I disliked:
the traffic sucks terribly
How much daily:
we managed to spend 46€/day per each (with 15€ x hostel), always
moving by bus and keeping far from any 'fancy top end' restaurant. I doubt
you could spend less...
to have: a pair of
Leaving from Milan,
passing through an uncommon stop-over in Azerbaijan, in the hearth of
the night we landed in the famous Dubai. After few hours of an unfruitful
snooze in the shittiest area of the supercool airport, we wandered in
the outskirt of the city, looking for the 'Oman Transport Company' bus
heading to Oman. It's around 5h to reach the Omani capital and for most
of the trip to the border, we were amazingly plunged in a thick fog; when
finally the sun came out, we were already close to the land of the Quabus
Sultan. Hence, given our 'I-just-wanna-sleep' mood and the foggy weather,
our first glance of the Emirates turned out a quite fuzzy.
[The Travel in Oman]
Entering United Arab Emirates from Oman through Buraimi, we passed the
high barbered wire fence dividing the two countries. Al Ain, 10min from
the crossing point, it's a nice oasis in the middle of the desert. Nothing
can really draw a visitor here, despite being the first sip of Emirates
(or the last one, according to your direction) and the wide well kept
zoo. Here, beside the animals, you can admire the typical Arab couples:
white dressed guys driving the pushchairs, while the black dressed wives
parading with their new purses.
The same day we reached Dubai in an easy 2h trip by one of the frequent
minibuses shuttling between the towns.
The accommodation in Dubai at the Youth Hostel turned out a good pick.
In fact for 30€ we got: a double room with private bathroom, breakfast
and swimming pool. The drawback are the 6kms from the centre, that, given
the traffic, will make you regret of the saving quite quickly.
A day can be spent for the gold and the perfume souk, together with the
creek, however from my point of view the real highlights are 'The Mall
of Emirates, where the famous ski resort is placed, and overall the jaw
dropping Palm Jumeira.
The first one, reachable by bus, is a huge mall with its ski resort that
means a bunch of slopes (even a black one!!), a lifter, a bob course and
a snowboarding area. You can see it for free from some windows or investing
40€, you can enjoy it for few hours renting all the necessary outfit
in the place. It makes a kind of impression if you think that most of
the Arabs have their only chance to see the snow in a Mall.
Less easy to be reached, but more impressive I found the Palm Jumeirah:
The biggest artificial island in the world is in the shape of a palm tree.
It consists of a trunk, a crown with 17 fronds, and a surrounding crescent
island that forms an 11 km long breakwater. The island is 5 km by 5 km
and its total area is larger than 800 football pitches residential areas
built on a palm-shaped artificial island.
Till the monorail won't be completed (2009), the only way to get there
is by taxi from the business area called Dubai Marina in the mainland.
Then you have to reach the northmost tip of the island where the magnificent
brand new Atlantis Hotel is placed. Here have a walk in the mall built
underneath the hotel to have a look to the HUGE acquarium, or have some
fun at the water park just next to the Atlantis.
On the way to the Palm Jumeirah the bus'll stop in front of the
Burj-Al-Arab, the super-advertised hotel designed to resemble a billowing
You can't enter it for free, but the view from the eastern beach worth
the effort, in particular at the twilight.
The last day, tired of the chaos in Dubai, we visited the capital Abu
Dhabi, with an easy 2h travel by the frequent buses shuttling between
Here we had a look to the biggest mall of the Emirates, where, just to
give you an idea of the dimensions, in the kid area there's a real rollercoaster.
Then we had a stroll along the nice few km long seafront, where, due to
the chilly wind, we couldn't appreciate the well kept beach and its park
built alongside. I guess from March it should be a pleasure poking around
there and bathing.
One thing I really liked of Abu Dhabi was that urban buses are for free,
but girl must seats separately, so don't take into consideration buses
as a good opportunity to flirt! :-)
IMPRESSIONS ABOUT UAE
Arab Emirates, and in particular Dubai, disappointed me.
I guess this can be due both to 'too-high-expectations', given the worldwide
Dubai fame, and the backpacking approach we had with the country, that
maybe keeps hidden most of his gems. For sure we didn't want a 200$/day
trip in the Emirates that's why we didn't regret having spent with our
Generally speaking the main issue we found, was the traffic: moving around
a city as Dubai without any form of underground or light train is a hell.
Only to reach our hostel placed 6km from the centre it took more than
1h. Said this, once the underground under construction will open (2009),
things will change a lot, I hope.
Then I didn't get enthusiastic for Dubai itself; the highlights that are
worth the visit (skiing Dubai, Palm island, Burj Al Arab hotel) are outside
the city, while the centre is far from being super-modern, and at the
same time not even a typical middle east town built around the souk: hence
it results a mix of skyscrapers and stalls.
On the other hand I appreciated Abu Dhabi, since it fitted more with my
expectation of modern, clean, organised city of the Emirates.
Said this, of course visiting the Emirates is an interesting experience
I recommend. My suggestion, to avoid to get quickly fed up, is to associate
such trip with another destination that could be the desert of the Emirates,
the Oman (in particular the Musandam Penisula) or the Saudi Arabia (tell
me how you'll get the visa!).
EU citizens will get a visa at any international airport
without any visa fee. We exited UAE to Oman at Wajaja land border point,
reentering at Buraimi one, in both the cases without paying anything.
The currency is the UAE Dirham (Dh) (1€= 4,74 Dh).
US$ seems still to be the most convenient currency to be changed, but
also euros are well known.
I had the usual vaccinations: ephatite A, B, typhus and
tetanus. Hygienic conditions seemed quite good but tap water is still
I used Lonely Planet (in Iitalian 3rd ed, translated from
2nd ed, Sept 2007), as usual it's a good support, although too superficial
on the transport details and a surprising total lack of info about highlights
as the Palm Jumeira or the construction of the high skyscraper in the
world (see tips below)
ON THE URBAN BUSES
- Pay attention when staying in the urban buses with your
girlfriend. Women are not allowed to seat with men and they have a reserved
area in the front of the bus. The amazing thing is that any woman on
the bus must sat, at cost of being even three per seat. In case their
area is full, the driver won't allow any other girl to get on.
In case the men are squeezed like hell in the back and the women area
is free, the driver won't allow any man to come in the front.
- The Youth Hostel we were (Dubai Youth Hostel) was 30€
for a double with private bathroom and breakfast included. It's clean
and high standard compared to the Hostel in Europe. If you wish some
refresh, there's even a swimming pool with a nice view on the city.
Full booking seems an issue at the Youth Hostel of Dubai and
there's a long debate on the LP
forum about this. My suggestion is to give a call few days in advance
to book, since they accept phone -reservation. Don't write email, since
many people reported neither they answer to the email, nor they took
into account the booking even having confirmed by mail.
Honestly take into consideration staying in one of the dodgey but cheap
hotels around the souk, since the 6km distance of the Youth Hostel from
the centre will quickly be a pain.