Wednesday, October 18, 2017
I love Dubai and have been doing business there for the past 15 years, up to 3 trips a year.
I have seen it grow from a sleepy town with big aspirations into one of the most vibrant places on the planet to visit.
Every time I travel there I am amazed at the new hotels, roads and shopping malls.
Here are some of my tips when visiting Dubai
Culture – Although Dubai is a Muslim Emirate, about 80% of the people working there are expats. When you visit, you will feel like to are in any other Western Country.
Saying that, always remember that it is a Muslim country and respect their culture and traditions.
I always find Dubai very easy going and can walk around with shorts, sandals and a t-shirt and the ladies don’t have to cover up. Dress is like any Western country.
You will see many locals in the shopping centers, many men together in groups enjoying coffee or with three or four wives. Please respect their privacy and don’t photograph them, they are a quiet, gentle and respectful nation.
You need to also get used to Middle Eastern timings and the way of doing business.
Things hardly ever run on schedule and you must adjust to that.
I recently presented at a large conference and was supposed to present from 2.30 to 4.
At 3.30 I was still in the Green room chatting to the organizers and when everything finally kicked off at 4, there was a lot of local formalities and introductions and I finally took to the stage at 4.30, a half hour after I should have finished.
This has happened so often, but I don’t let it get to me although I am such a stickler for time.
You will also find people taking calls or checking emails during meetings and being a conference speaker, found it really frustrating to see people walking in and out during the presentation.
When I first started working here many years ago and I expressed my frustrations to the organizer. He just said that that was the way it was in the Middle East and I would have to accept it and now I just go with the flow
Business – When I do business there, it reminds me of London and I wear dark suits, white shirts and lace up shoes. Speaking at large conferences in Dubai and doing business in the financial sector, I have always dressed formally and fitted in well.
Remember, most of the time you will be doing business with other expats from around the world, Royal families, governments or locals.
When doing business with locals, do not be surprised if they don’t answer emails immediately (or at all) and then call at the last moment with a decision and you have to run around frantically to make things happen.
Climate - I love the sun, so Dubai’s climate suits me well.
Try to avoid June, July and August when the heat is unbearable.
My favorite months to visit are December and February. The days are hot and the evenings slightly cool. Expect average temperatures of around 35%
Hotels – In all the times I have visited to Dubai, I have never experienced a bad hotel.
Dubai has aspirations to be the vacation capital of the world and the standards of the hotels are better than anywhere else I have traveled.
Staff are clean, friendly, professional and highly trained and whatever position they have in the hotel, this is their career.
In England many hotel staff are working in hotels until something better comes along, not so in Dubai…
My nephew works at the JW Marriott in Dubai and he shared with me that the training and standards are the very high and they are measured on everything.
My favorite hotel group is the Intercontinental and I am a Platinum Ambassador which guarantees room upgrades, welcome drinks and amenities.
On my latest visit, I wasn’t disappointed, given a huge suite with a massive balcony and the staff were great.
My favorite hotel though is the Le Royal Meridien where I normally stay and it is run by Pam Wilby, who I wrote about in my book ‘Walking with Tigers’.
She is a legend in hospitality and her hotel has consistently been voted the best hotel in the Middle East and last year voted the best Spa hotel in the world.
If you can, that is the hotel I personally recommend and if you get a chance meet ‘Roy the Butler’ who I speak about in my seminars on world class service and watch my video interview with him.
Immigration – Again probably the best in the world with more counters than anywhere else and I always feel good when they look at my passport, look into my eyes and say, ‘Welcome back Frank’.
Once again, a reflection on the training and standards.
Travel – Travel used to be easy with the taxis, but traffic is now the same as any other major city, crazy….
Airport – Together with Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Koh Samui, this is one of my favorite airports.
The shopping is the best at any airport and the prices good. I always stock up on my Cuban cigars here and they about half the price of any other duty free.
I normally avoid shopping at any duty free around the world as I have found them to always be more expensive that shopping locally. Not so in Dubai, except at Starbucks who wanted to charge Dhms7 for a bottle of water that was Dhms2 next door at the duty-free shop, what a rip-off….
When I mentioned this to the cashier at Starbucks, he just smiled and said smart people never buy water from them.
Emirates, together with Qatar and Singapore Airlines are my favorite airline (British Airways my worst).
The aircraft are new and most of the time I will be flying on the A380 which is so smooth. The service is great and you will normally find the staff number up to 15 nationalities, so no matter what language you speak there will be someone that can help.
Taxis are clean and inexpensive and they will not try to rip you off as if you report them they will probably be winging their way back to where they came from.
I normally like to stay at the beach or Marina area near Jumeriah or the famous ‘walk’ and taxi fare will cost around Dhms120 (around $35)
I love going to the shopping malls and attractions, but end up spending frustrating time sitting in the taxi in traffic.
On my recent visit I decided to use the tram and Metro and was blown away. The tram does a circular route around the Marina and connects with the Metro which travels all over Dubai. A day ticket cost me Dhms21 (around $6) and gave me unlimited travel anywhere until midnight.
The system is spotless and efficient and even goes to the airport. I would highly recommend this for any travel you do in Dubai.
Drinking – you can only drink at hotels and it is expensive. A while ago a friend and I had a jug of beer at the Jumeriah Beach hotel which cost $100, he hasn’t been back since.
Places to visit – Apart from the great hotels and beaches, there is so much to do in Dubai.
Remember, Dubai has the highest building in the world, the Burj Al Khalifa (which you must visit),
the biggest shopping center (Dubai Mall, ladies, their shoe section is bigger than most standard malls) and the only mall with a Ski slope inside (Mall of the Emirates) which you must visit.
They are building the biggest park (that will dwarf Central park), have the highest hotel (JW Marriott Marquis) and are building the fastest train, from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, a distance of 120 kilometers in 15 Minutes.
They are also currently completing the biggest Ferris wheel in the world.
They also boast the only two ‘Seven star’ hotels in the world and it is worth a visit to the Burj al Arab although they will probably charge toy $30 just to see the hotel.
Dubai has the finest restaurants in the world and attract the rich and famous, many of who have houses there.
When my nephew worked at Nobu Restaurant, he said that on a daily basis you would have famous sports stars visiting and he met the Kardashians and enjoyed some jokes with Samuel Jackson.
If visiting these high rolling places, you will see money being spent like nowhere else on the planet with people paying $500 for a single malt or glass of Krystal.
You have to take a visit to the Gold and spice souks and I love doing a Dhow trip in the evening.
For sports enthusiasts, Dubai has some of the best polo, golf courses and horse racing tracks to be found anywhere.
You have to try the amusements parks, Legoland for the children and the water parks. I remember going down the highest water slide in the world, terrifying…
A visit to the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm (also a great hotel to stay) gives you access to swimming and playing with the dolphins.
One of my favorite things to do is the 4x4 desert excursion. They are fairly scary and you explore the sand dunes, but the drivers are amazing. These finish with a BBQ in the middle of the desert at midnight with entertainment, something you must put on your list.
You can spent fortunes in the best shopping malls in the world or visit Deira where they take you into the back rooms and you can buy any fake imaginable.
Dubai is a city that you either love or hate (I can’t understand that people don’t like it). It is pretentious, expensive, exciting, world class hotels and restaurants and I can’t wait for my next trip.