After several accidental naps due to sudden bouts of jet lag, working on our final presentation that was to be presented in two days, and the worst traffic jam either one of us had ever experienced, we had finally made it to Dubai from Ras al Khaimah. Well, we had at least made it to the outskirts of Dubai.
We had been warned by one of our hotel’s front desk attendants that traveling by car to Dubai was a hassle-and-a-half, but nothing prepared us for the standstill traffic we were now caught in. Having only moved maybe a foot in a half an hour, I was extremely grateful that our driver had the AC on full-blast. It was almost 6pm and the temperature was still a sweltering 104 degrees, not uncommon for late September.
“Should we just walk?” my classmate asked breaking me out of my impatient gaze, the type only perfected by a New Yorker.
I pulled out my phone and opened up my Maps app, knowing good and well that I was probably ringing up an unnecessarily hefty international phone bill from just a minute’s use. 10.6 kilometers. That was the distance between us and the Burj Khalifa.
“Yeah, definitely not”.
“The train isn’t too far” our driver suggested, despite the fact that this would leave him stuck mid-traffic jam with no opportunity to pick-up other passengers. I felt a brief pang of guilt that we had ruined a night of work for this man but decided to take his suggestion. But not without leaving a very well deserved tip and the original cost of our ride.
We hopped out of the taxi, taking one last Apple Maps glance, hoping that we’d be able to remember the 20-minute route to the metro station.
It’s funny, walking through an urban area almost 7,000 miles from home, and you still find familiar sights that remind you of your own city. Finally, we made it to the metro station – my being from New York and my classmate from Philadelphia, we felt right in our element.
1. Check out the Dubai Subway system
Dubai is notoriously clean and their subway system is no different, which was a huge surprise to us coming from less-than-pristine cities ourselves. Some later research would inform us that Dubai actually employs approximately 3,000 workers who clean the city around the clock.
If you’ve ever taken a ride through the subway systems of places like New York, London, or Paris then the Dubai metro system won’t be too unfamiliar to you – in fact, the ticketing system is almost identical to that of Paris where traveling through different zones require pricier tickets. But all-in-all, the metro is worth checking out, super easy to navigate, and will save you the time wasted sitting in backed up traffic on your way to see the Burj.
2. The Dubai Mall
Once you exit the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Station give yourself some time to walk around and appreciate the area. Dubai is such a thriving but still evolving city and while it may feel small at first, one glance up towards the towering buildings will show you how much innovation and thought goes into designing the city. We had initially headed to this part of the city to visit the Burj Khalifa which, if you plan on making the excursion to the top, you can only do by entering through the Dubai Mall.
The Dubai Mall doesn’t provide many shopping outlets for those who’s minimum budget isn’t Dior, but its worth a stroll. Dining options include everything from Eataly to Angelina and experiences include an Aquarium, a haunted house, and even more.
I definitely wasn’t doing much shopping at the Dubai Mall, which I should’ve assumed when I was offered tea and a truffle upon entering, but it’s still not to be missed.
3. Head to the Top of the Burj Khalifa
There are two main ticket types that can be purchased for the Burj Khalifa. The first allows you access to the 124th and 125th floors and currently runs at 141 AED (~$39 USD). The second goes for 370 AED (~$100), which allows access to both of those two floors plus a refreshment in the signature SKY Lounge.
Be sure to pay attention to what you’re paying as we were initially automatically charged for the more pricey ticket, which we hadn’t asked for or been offered. Luckily, we were able to coax the agent into an exchange – though maybe next time we’ll spring for the VIP package. But there really isn’t a wrong way to experience the world’s tallest building, even if it’s just viewing it from the streets of Dubai.
4. Catch the Burj Khalifa Light Show
The Burj Khalifa light show, which can differ each time, performs every half an hour between 6-11 PM; as well as two day time shows at 1 PM and 1:30 PM (2 PM on Fridays).
While it’s no Disney World Castle Show projection in terms of storytelling, the production quality is top notch. This was actually the moment my classmate and I thought, “wait a minute, we’re in Dubai!”
5. Stay for the Dubai Fountain Show at Burj Khalifa Lake
Funny story – around the corner from the Burj Khalifa on the main strip is a smaller fountain that will occasionally turn on and dance, similar to the Dubai Fountain Show. We had actually stumbled upon this when we first began roaming the city, assumed it was the fountain show and were significantly underwhelmed. It wasn’t until ordering smoothies to cool down outside of the Dubai Mall that Por ti Volare began to play throughout the air, followed by bursts of water dancing in tune to the music. This was the one everyone had talked about and was anything but underwhelming.
Post-show we had roamed the area a bit longer and ended up catching a second showing, this time with more traditional music, and it was even better than the first.
6. Walk over to the Souk Al Bahar
The Dubai Mall is a pillar of modernity, but one small bridge along Burj Khalifa Lake brings you to the Souk Al Bahar, a smaller and more traditional shopping center. The design itself is more representative of the local culture as well as the stores that fill it. Stunning items can be purchased from colorful glass lamps to silk scarves, as well as golden-plated knick-knacks. It’s such an interesting shift after exploring the Dubai Mall, and very welcomed.
7. Grab dinner and drinks at the Luna Sky Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Dubai DIFC
After roaming the souk, we were definitely in the need of some sustenance and a good drink, which due to drinking laws of the region is only allowed on hotel properties and in specific restaurants or clubs.
We both ended up having one drink each and ordered some chicken wings and dumplings. But the whole experience was even better due to the stunning Dubai skyline, which included the Burj Khalifa standing 2,700 feet in its glory.
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