| Part 1: Introduction
20-21.12: Munich -> Dubai
24.12: Dubai -> Sharjah -> Khasab
25.12: Musandam fjords -> Khasab
26.12: Khasab -> Ras Al Khaimah
27.12: Ras Al Khaimah -> Dibba -> Fujairah
28.12: Fujairah -> Al Ain
29.12: Al Ain
30.12: Al Ain
31.12: Al Ain -> Liwa oasis
1.1: Liwa oasis -> Abu Dhabi
2.1: Abu Dhabi
3.1: Abu Dhabi
4.1: Abu Dhabi
5.1: Abu Dhabi -> Istanbul -> Munich
now we have been using Dubai as a hub when travelling to Malaysia,
spending at most a day or two in Dubai when stopping between flights.
With this trip the plan was to get a more comprehensive look at the
United Arab Emirates, by spending two weeks in the country and visiting
a number of places.
The idea was to visit the region in a suitable
season (summer is far too hot), spending some time in
the desert, on the beaches and exploring the cultural and historic
heritage of the country.
The impression we got after this trip is
that the tourist infrastructure in the UAE is still
underdeveloped. The most tourist-friendly place and also the one with
the most tourist attractions is currently Dubai.
emirates there is a dearth of things to see and do. It also appears
that - except perhaps for Dubai - the UAE have
not been able to properly preserve their cultural heritage, preferring
to build skyscrapers and modern infrastructure instead of restoring old
buildings. In Sharjah for
instance the historic district is full of skyscrapers, which are
adjacent to the old
buildings. In most cities it's very hard to identify the old historic
cores, because not much is left of these old areas.
Most cities in
the UAE we visited were heavily westernised modern places, except for
Al Ain which retains an Arabian look and the village in the Liwa oasis.
buy everywhere western branded products, but it was quite difficult to
find anything local or regional. For instance Baskin Robbins ice cream
parlours were everywhere, but we only saw one place selling Turkish
icecream. Almost all products on sale in shopping malls were imported,
mostly western branded goods.
There are several beautiful beaches
in the UAE. However it was a bit too fresh to swim in the sea, because
at the time of visiting (end of December) a cold wind was blowing. On
the other hand in the summer it's too hot to swim in the sea. Probably
there is a small time window of a few months each year
(October-November and spring) in which a beach holiday is suitable.
highlight of the trip was the boat trip to the fjords of Musandam,
which are in Oman, not in the UAE. Oman is more
interesting than the UAE because of the sceneries and the richer
cultural heritage. It's also a less expensive place where to travel.
there are efforts to develop the UAE as a holiday destination, but I'm
skeptical whether these efforts will bear significant results, mainly
due to the
widespread lack of historic, cultural and natural sights. If a tourist
is planning to visit the region, he/she is better served spending the
time in neighbouring Iran or Oman.
My advice would therefore be to
limit holiday trips to the UAE to a few days (for instance as a
stopover between flights) and spend those days in a few
selected areas (see below). Beach holidays should be done in the
intermediate seasons (fall and spring).
cost level in the UAE is high, more or less in line with that of a
country (where travelling isn't cheap either). It is possible to find
inexpensive restaurants, but it is also easy to spend a lot of
money. On the other hand, petrol for cars is very cheap
of time constraints and the fact that we were frequently on the road we
had to rely on what was available at the moment, so ended up eating in
fast food restaurants (KFC, Pizza Hut or similar) more often than we
were planning to. In major cities we frequently ate in food courts or
restaurants in shopping malls, where meals are relatively inexpensive.
A positive surprise was the Lulu supermarket in Khasab (Oman) which
sells delicious freshly cooked take-away food. We didn't try out the
local Arabian cuisine and frequently ate Indian food, which is easily
available in the region, due to the large Indian expat community. On a
couple of occasions we tried out the food of hotel restaurants, and
this was very good.
stayed in mid-range hotels, spending between 400 and 600 AED/night. For
this price we had good rooms with all amenities. It is possible to
spend less if you travel in the off-season (for instance the summer) or
if you stay in places out of town.
Exchange rate (Dec 2013-Jan 2014)
1 Euro = 5.02 AED (average rate at the time of travelling)
1 Euro = 1.36 USD
For current exchange rates check the Universal
ATMs are everywhere, so that you can easily get cash with a
Cirrus/Maestro ATM card.
phones and prepaid cards
I bought SIM cards from Etisalat (Wasel) upon arrival at the airport in
Dubai. These cost 40 AED with 5 AED of airtime on them. Phone calls
were inexpensive (fractions of a dirham/minute). I bought a 5GB data
package for 249 AED and used that for accessing the Internet and
The package was just for one phone, but we were able to share the
connection among several devices by means of WLAN tethering (mobile
phone acting as a WLAN hotspot). We used 4.9 GB in these two weeks
(lots of youtube videos watched). In all places we had good coverage,
most of the time this was ultrafast 4G.
I used the WLAN network in the hotel and the smartphone to access the
Internet. In many hotels the WLAN was either not free or very slow, so
I used the smartphone to access the Internet.
Mostly sunny with a blue sky, with very few clouds. Daytime
temperatures in the 23-26°C range. Fresh wind most of time on the
beaches, making swimming in the sea uncomfortable (the sea water was
not cold, but the wind was). Only some rain on one day in Dubai, no
rain the other days.
I didn't refresh any
immunisations for this trip. Good, flexible and affordable dentist in
A free visa on arrival was granted when we landed in Dubai. When
entering Oman for some reason the free combined Dubai/Oman visa was not
available and we had to pay 114 AED to leave the UAE and 200 AED to
enter Oman (total cost for the four of us).
The UAE and Oman are a very safe place.
highlight of this trip was the boat trip to the Musandam fjords, where
we saw nice scenery and many dolphins.
- The Tal Mireb sand dune site in the Liwa oasis
is a very cool place where to be. Nice atmosphere and fun driving on
- The modern architecture in Dubai
- The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi
- Several places in the UAE are quite
Dhabi is just a collection of modern buildings and skyscrapers with no
historic core worth mentioning; only the grand mosque is interesting.
- The historic area in Sharjah leaves quite a
bit to be desired.
- The cities of Ras al Khaimah, Dibba and
Fujairah have no tourist attractions worth mentioning.
a beach holiday it is necessary to catch the right season, either
spring or autumn. In summer it is too hot, in winter too cold for
rented a car (Hyundai Sonata) and used that to drive around. The car
was pleasant to use and driving was easy, except for Dubai where there
was just too much traffic. Petrol is cheap (1.72 AED/litre).
We used a
navigation system (Sygic on an Android smartphone) to get around. This
worked well, except in cities, because the maps were outdated. As a
consequence we sometimes relied on Google Maps navigation to find
Overall we drove a lot (2073km in two weeks). Max. speed of
100-120km on motorways. Most roads are toll-free, except a few ones
where there are 5 AED "salik" fees.
For Oman we bought an additional car insurance from the rentor (Budget).