Most people choose Dubai as their holiday destination because of the beaches, the shopping, and the extreme luxury, which is the image of the city communicated by the tour operators. If this is the version of Dubai you wish to experience, here are my suggestions on where to stay:
Dubai Marina / JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence)
Dubai Marina is located in the southern part of Dubai. It is a beautiful area with a resort atmosphere and an abundancy of entertainment and dining options. JBR is on the beach-facing side of the marina. JBR Beach is the most visited public beach in Dubai, and there are shower facilities and changing rooms available for a fee. The area around Dubai Marina and JBR is one of the most tourist-friendly places in Dubai. You can buy pork in the supermarkets and alcohol is served inside the hotel bars. Dubai Marina/JBR is also a popular place to live among Dubai’s many expats, and this area has been my home in Dubai ever since we moved down here, almost 5 years ago. I don’t think I would want to live anywhere else in Dubai. This part of Dubai is one of the only areas, where you can get around easily on foot. The outside mall The Beach JBR, is one big walking street with plenty of restaurants and shops. There’s also a cinema, and on weekends, there’s a night market.
The tram connects all parts of Dubai Marina and JBR. It also connects with the metro, making it easy to get around, no matter where in the area you’re staying. Hotels in Dubai Marina and JBR including the adjacent shore line are among the most expensive in Dubai, and even off-season, a room in one of the most exclusive beach resorts will be around $300-400/night. The hotels without direct access to the beach are less expensive.
Metro station: Damac Properties and Jumeirah Lake Towers
Jumeirah Lake Towers:
JLT is located on the other side of Sheikh Zayed Road, just opposite Dubai Marina. Hotels in JLT are generally less expensive than in the Marina area, and it’s a very nice area with a good selection of affordable restaurants. There are two walkways connecting JLT with the metro station and Dubai Marina, but taking a taxi within the area isn’t expensive either.
Metro Station: Jumeirah Lake Towers and Damac Properties
If you don’t want to spend too much money on a hotel room, but you still want to stay close to the beach and Dubai Marina, I can recommend checking out the hotels in up-and-coming TECOM TECOM is only a short metro ride from the public beach at JBR and the dining and nightlife in Dubai Marina, but the neighborhood itself also has a decent selection of bars and restaurant.
Metro station: Internet city.
Another option is to stay in Al Barsha, which has a good selection of budget accommodation as well as world class shopping in the nearby Mall of the Emirates. Make sure to stay close to a metro station, and you will only be a short ride from JBR beach.
Metro Station: Mall of the Emirates
Downtown Dubai and Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR)
SZR is the big highway that runs through Dubai. The areas I’ve mentioned above are all along the southern stretch of SZR close to JBR and Dubai Marina, but the Downtown area around Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall is also a very popular place to stay. Even along SZR, you’ll find several 5-star hotels. I know it sounds silly, placing a 5-star hotel right next to a big highway, but this is nevertheless the case.
The hotels along SZR are generally a lot cheaper than the beach resorts, and especially off-season, some real bargains are available. Before you book a hotel along SZR, it’s advisable to take a good look at the actual location and make sure to find a hotel close to a metro station. Except for the area around Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, this part of Dubai isn’t made for pedestrians and even though taxis are cheap, you can easily end up spending a lot of time and money on taxi rides if your hotel turns out to be a bit off the beaten track.
The Airport Area / Al Garhoud
The area around the airport in Dubai is surprisingly vibrant and very affordable. The large hotels often have several restaurants and nightclubs and both Irish Village and Festival City is only a short taxi ride away. The downside is that you are very far away from the beach and many of Dubai’s other famous attractions.
Deira and Bur Dubai
Deira and Bur Dubai is located around Dubai Creek. The areas are also known as old Dubai, and this is the place to stay, if you want a more authentic experience of the city away from all the beach resorts. Most people in Bur Dubai and Deira are from Northern Africa, the Middle East and South Asian countries, and you will not find a lot of western tourists there.
Hotels are generally very cheap in Deira and Bur Dubai, but the standard is also lower than in most other part of the city, and many of the hotels are rather old. Traffic is heavy, and it can be a bit tricky to get around. The area isn’t suited for pedestrians either, except for the part right by the creek. You are very far from other tourist attractions not to mention the beaches. It a very interesting area, and definitely worth a visit, but I’m not sure I would recommend staying there.