This is a guest post from Neha Singh from Dubai Wikia. She runs a Dubai specific travel website and is an expert on this glitzy gulf coast city. In this article, she shares her insights and invaluable local insider tips on being a digital nomad in Dubai. Having never been to Dubai myself (yet!), her tips are super helpful for myself and other digital nomads who may pass through Dubai on future layovers, or are considering working remotely from here in the future.
Digital Nomad in Dubai
There is no denying that Dubai is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. But is it worth being a digital nomad in Dubai? Along with its striking architecture and globally recognized landmarks, Dubai is also a business and financial hub, where most investment powerhouses have an office or even their headquarters. It also hosts one of the world’s busiest international airports. Add to this amazing accommodations, cool shopping, plus dining and leisure choices. There are plenty of reasons why this Arabian metropolis is a favorite among digital nomads. This post is exclusively geared towards those who are looking to work remotely while taking in Dubai’s energetic vibe and extraordinary sights.
Positives Of Visiting Dubai As A Digital Nomad
Located on the Persian Gulf Coast on the eastern Arabian Peninsula, Dubai enjoys a prime location. After all, it’s located at the meeting point of the Middle East, Western Africa, Asia, as well as Central and Eastern Europe. This makes Dubai a gateway of unrivaled business opportunities. Furthermore, Dubai’s air transport network is well connected and vast, meaning you can easily fly to anywhere in the world from Dubai.
London is just approximately seven hours away, while most prominent cities across Africa are less than eight hours away. Some of the most popular Asian destinations such as Pakistan or India are literally a hop away, at less than four hours away by air.
Exciting Things to See and Do
Honestly, there are very few places in the world that have the ability to capture anything imaginable, and turn them into a reality. Fortunately, Dubai is one of those rare destinations that cater to any and every interest. From unmatched architectural landmarks, world-class theme parks, untouched desert scenery, quaint cultural sights and breathtaking live shows (such as La Perle by Dragone), Dubai is hands down a place for all.
Dubai is often considered an expensive city, powered by high-end fundamental facilities and cutting-edge technology. However, this can be seen as a positive. For one, this ensures a high quality standard of living with uninterrupted power supply, strong Wi-Fi signal, and well-integrated transport system, among many others.
Best of Both Worlds
Truly, this is one of the rarest places where you can get the best of both worlds. That includes whether you’re seeking a super adventurous or a laid-back holiday or anything in between. Therefore, Dubai is a perfect retreat with the right mix of adventure, nature, culture and relaxation.
Best Co-Working Spaces
You’ll find tons of cafes with excellent W-Fi signals in Dubai where you can peacefully work, dine and relax. But if you’re looking for a dedicated desk space, Dubai has exceptional options which you can rent for a day or even a certain period until you leave Dubai. Some of our top recommendations in this category are Nook (at One JLT), Our Space (Sheikh Zayed Road) and Nasab by KOA.
Essential Dubai Travel Requirements
A visa is mostly required by all for travel to Dubai. Luckily, many foreign nationals are entitled to a visa on arrival or visa free Dubai visit. However, for all others, it’s mandatory to have a visa to enter Dubai or UAE. Depending on the purpose of visit and number of days you plan to stay here, you can apply for a single entry visit visa or multiple-entry Dubai visa. Moreover, you can get the application procedures done online or ideally via a reputable travel service provider who will take care of everything from guiding you in choosing the right visa type to the compilation and submission of your documents to ensuring its on-time approval.
OTB (Ok to Board)
This is an airline requisite however needed only if you’re traveling from countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh etc. This procedure is undertaken to ensure that all your travel documents such as visas are bonafide. If you don’t have an OTB, your airline service provider has the complete right to stop you from boarding the flight.
Adhere to COVID-19 Guidelines
As Dubai is open to tourists and visitors again, make sure that you comply with all COVID-19 rules and regulations as follows:
- Bring a negative PCR test report that has been taken within 48 hours to 72 hours (varies depending on the region you’re traveling from) of your Dubai travel. Be sure to get your results printed in Arabic or English.
- You’ll have to undergo a PCR test again once you land at Dubai International Airport. Kids under 12 years and travelers with any severe or moderate disability don’t have to undergo this test.
- Carry an international insurance that offers coverage for your COVID-19 treatment (if required) in Dubai.
Recommended Time To Travel
If you’re more inclined to indoor attractions or activities, you can literally travel to Dubai anytime including the searing summer months (June to September). But if you’re an outdoor enthusiasts or want to be part of Dubai’s exuberant festivities, then visit here in peak winter months (November to April) when the city is at its best with events and seasonal highlights like DSF (Dubai Shopping Festival), Global Village, and Dubai Miracle Garden to name a few.
Cost Of Living
Dubai is definitely not your ordinary digital nomad destination. It’s an awe-inspiring Middle Eastern spot that is classy, classic, cool and crime-free all at the same time. So don’t expect attractions and experiences here to be cheaper! That said; with the right planning of every aspect of your trip, it’s easier than you think to strike a perfect balance between your work and holidaying budget here.
The rate of extravagant accommodations in Dubai can go up to AED 1500 per day, but surprisingly you can keep it as low as AED 50 to AED 100 per day by booking a decent accommodation much in advance.
As with accommodation, dining can be as lavish or inexpensive as possible. It won’t cost you more than AED 5 to AED 6 to enjoy filling local delicacies such as Shawarma and falafels. Moreover, you can keep your food budget within mid-range by choosing to dine at a café or restaurant in Bur Dubai, Deira or Karama regions. Dubai’s malls also come with a variety of culinary options that cater to every taste and pocket. That said,you can expect to shell out quite a fortune if you fancy a meal with a view in an extraordinary setting like Burj Al Arab or Atlantis, The Palm.
Dubai boasts of one of the world’s most advanced and well-integrated public transport networks means it’s never a difficult task for digital nomads to get around in the city. Just purchase the right NOL card which allows you to access all of the transport operated by Dubai Government’s RTA (Road and Transport Authority.) Of all, the world-renowned Dubai Metro is undoubtedly the swiftest and most affordable in Dubai.
Activities and Attractions
It’s certainly pricey to visit some of Dubai’s main landmarks such as Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab etc. Activities like skydiving and water sports also set you back quite a good amount. But it won’t cost you more than AED 2 to AED 5 to visit the city’s museums as well as beach parks. Interestingly, you can enjoy some of Dubai’s most fantastic and iconic attractions absolutely for free, mainly Dubai Fountain Show, Palm Fountain, The Dubai Mall etc.
Top Attractions And Experiences
1. Burj Khalifa
This colossal structure in Dubai doesn’t need any preface. It’s the world’s tallest building and its steely exterior takes after the desert flower, Hymenocallis. Want to check its interiors out? Book a dining session at one of its top-notch restaurants or more ideally ascend to its observation decks at 124th or 148th level (which is also the highest of its kind in the world.)
2. The Dubai Mall
You’ll find this structure right next to Burj Khalifa, in Downtown Dubai. It’s not only a shopper’s haven (with over 1200 outlets), but also a hub of leisure and edutainment experiences with attractions such as Dubai Aquariumand Underwater Zoo, Dubai Ice Rink, VR Park Dubai, KidZania Dubai, and Hysteria Dubai Mall. And don’t miss the breathtaking Dubai Fountain show before you leave Downtown Dubai.
3. Palm Fountain:
Opened only in 2020, it has already become a record-breaking attraction, being the world’s largest fountain show and the region’s only water show. It’s set in the Pointe at the fabulous Palm Jumeirah.
4. The View at The Palm Jumeirah
A visit to this newly opened observation deck on the 52nd level of Palm Tower is probably the most affordable and safest way to see the unequaled splendor of the palm-tree-shaped man-made island of Palm Jumeirah.
5. Al Bastakiya Quarter
This 19th century quarter, also known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, is unmissable for our digital nomads who want to soak up the region’s inspiring past and Emirati culture.
6. Desert Safari
A Dubai desert safari can be best described as a sum up of surreal desert scenery, exhilarating ever 4X4 dune bash, and cultural activities such as camel ride, henna tattooing, Shisha smoking, and falconry. You can pick from morning or evening / overnight desert safari with BBQ dining and traditional shows like Belly Dance and Tanura show.
7. Bluewaters Island
This relatively new waterfront neighborhood is rife with brand-new attractions including the world’s largest Ferris wheel – Ain Dubai and the Middle East’s first Madame Tussauds Museum.
8. Dhow Cruise
This is more than just a sightseeing cruise in Dubai. Complete with buffet dinner and live traditional entertainment, the two hours sail aboard a traditional wooden dhow promises you an unrivaled viewpoint of Dubai’s city skyline from water.
9. Ski Dubai
It’s impossible to have snow in a scorching desert city like Dubai. But you’ll find tons and tons of snow at any given time here; thanks to Ski Dubai where you can enjoy all your favorite snow or winter sports (like skiing, snowboarding etc) in an authentic snow setting.
10. Dubai Parks and Resorts
Recently, Dubai has gained quite a bit of attention for its extraordinary theme parks. One of the most popular among these is Dubai Parks and Resorts. This is the region’s first integrated resort with several onsite accommodations, world class shopping and dining sections. But most impressive of all, it includes four of its own parks. These are: Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai, LEGOLAND Dubai, and LEGOLAND Water Park.
Digital Nomad in Dubai: The Negatives
Unfortunately, a visit to Dubai can turn out to be expensive, especially if you travel without any prior planning. So be sure to pre-book every element of your Dubai travel, such as accommodation, airline tickets, sightseeing tours etc, at least three to four months before.
With ample, intense sunshine almost all through the year, Dubai may not please those who can’t part with outdoor adventure and fun. With that said, the weather in Dubai is pleasantly cool during winter months. This time of year can even be comfortable and ideal for outdoorsy activities.
Dubai may not be the first choice for digital nomads seeking a cost-effective getaway. However, after spending a few days introduces you to a lively city with an exceptional standard of living. One with unbeatable sights and experiences, no less. So visit Dubai, and give a distinctly exciting spin on your nomadic life.
Neha is a travel blogger who enjoys traveling, meeting new people, and learning about the local culture and food. She is always looking forward to visiting new places and likes to play tennis in her spare time.