Jump to content

Tips for the independent traveler to Dubai, Doha, Bahrain & Abu Dhabi


Recommended Posts

In December 2019, I took a Royal Caribbean RT cruise out of Dubai to Doha, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi (as well as Sir Baniyas, the curated-for-cruise-ships island—like Labadee or CocoCay). Here are a few tips and bits of info about what an independent traveler might want to consider in these ports.

 

Dubai 

  • The Marhaba meet and greet service at the airport is fantastic for speeding through immigration/getting your arrival visa. I was at the taxi stand within 10 minutes of arrival—all the other pax on my plane were still standing in a very long line. https://www.marhabaservices.com/ae/english
  • This CC forum’s expert Anne often recommends Sheraton Dubai on the Creek—I took her up on it and found it to be a nice property and well-located (it’s a 10-minute ride from the airport and a 10-minute ride to the cruise terminal.) 
  • The Dubai subway system is super clean, very efficient for getting to the most-visited places, and user-friendly. 
  • Taxis are cheap—make sure the meter’s running, and be ready with cash, as not all take credit cards (but no stress, you can get a credit card taxi for that first ride from the airport before you've hit an ATM). 
  • There’s a lot of scoop here about reservations for the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, so I’ll only add: (1) if the weather doesn’t cooperate with your Burj Khalifa reserved slot, give them a call just to see if there’s any flexibility in date/time; (2) you can do the Dubai Mall (designer stores galore) when you visit Burj Khalifa, and after, easily catch the red line subway to the Mall of the Emirates (more of a “regular” people’s mall, but featuring the ski slope), and (3) the tea at Burj Al Arab is worth every penny—it’s a seven-course affair (yes!), so the pain of the high price is relieved (a little!) by the fact it can cover both lunch and dinner. Really.
  • Love love love this walking tour of “Old Dubai” including the souqs, an Arabian coffee stop, an abra ride on a traditional dhow boat across the creek and an amazing locals’ favorite lunch. Guide Nada grew up in Dubai and is delightful and a wealth of information. http://wanderwithnada.com/
  • If you’d like a desert alternative to dune bashing, this is the premier company for desert visits. I did the falconry and safari combo in a comfortable Range Rover with a sumptuous breakfast spread—it was phenomenal! https://www.platinum-heritage.com/heritage-falconry-wildlife-desert-safari/

Doha, Qatar

Bahrain

  • Another wonderful food tour (I like to eat!) hitting the high spots of the old souq, the guide is a local who has spent time in the US, he’s very knowledgeable about the local culture, also highly recommended on TripAdvisor, see https://www.thisfoodtour.com/eat-drink

Ahu Dhabi

  • If you’re going to the Louvre, buy your tix online in advance. The lines are long!
  • If you’re going to the mosque—which is amazing—I highly recommend the cultural tour (45 minutes) so you can learn all about the architecture and design elements. It’s free. Be sure to arrive 30 minutes in advance—there’s a lot of walking and security to go through before you arrive at the tour meeting point. https://www.szgmc.gov.ae/en/mosque-opening-hours
  • If you’re going to Ferrari World, get an advance ticket with the QUICK PASS option so you can cut your wait for the world’s fastest roller coaster from 60 minutes to 5 minutes! https://www.isango.com/

 

I had a great time exploring this part of the world--hope you do, too!

Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Well done.  Good to see and read about a visitor making the most of their visit independently.  Great tips and choice of activities that clearly made for an enjoyable and fulfilling visit...

 

Anne..

Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Artemis said:

Dubai 

I can second the recommendation for Platinum Heritage.  We did a custom tour (platinum safari + astronomy + overnight in Bedouin village) with them last year and it was absolutely fantastic!  Our guide, an expert on the desert and astrology, was with us the entire time, from picking us up at the hotel to dropping us off at the port the next morning.  Great people, no crowds; an experience truly done right!  I'll be booking with them again when the opportunity presents itself.

 

I can also recommend the tours given by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

Edited by pf778c
Added info.
Link to post
Share on other sites

Independent traveler here.  Thanks for the tips.  I'll be in two of the ports.

For those wanting to see the Burj, they have Groupon options at a significant discount.  I don't think it covers the tea, because someone else handles that, but there are several options.  You can only buy them closer to the date, but worth checking out and marking your calendar for.

I'll read further, but the Marhaba service - does it allow time for a Duty Free run?

Edited by mef_57
Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, mef_57 said:

 

I'll read further, but the Marhaba service - does it allow time for a Duty Free run?


If you tell your ‘greeter’ that you’d like to visit the Arrivals Duty Free store on your way out of baggage claim then they’ll take you there... It is still in the baggage claim hall before you exit through Customs....

 

Anne...

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Jayayeff said:


If you tell your ‘greeter’ that you’d like to visit the Arrivals Duty Free store on your way out of baggage claim then they’ll take you there... It is still in the baggage claim hall before you exit through Customs....

 

Anne...

Thank you, Anne.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
On 1/6/2020 at 10:26 PM, Artemis said:

In December 2019, I took a Royal Caribbean RT cruise out of Dubai to Doha, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi (as well as Sir Baniyas, the curated-for-cruise-ships island—like Labadee or CocoCay). Here are a few tips and bits of info about what an independent traveler might want to consider in these ports.

 

Dubai 

  • The Marhaba meet and greet service at the airport is fantastic for speeding through immigration/getting your arrival visa. I was at the taxi stand within 10 minutes of arrival—all the other pax on my plane were still standing in a very long line. https://www.marhabaservices.com/ae/english
  •  

 

Thanks for your informative post.

 

I just booked this cruise as a substitute for a cancelled NCL cruise from Singapore to Dubai, and now my wife and I are flying directly to Dubai on Thursday, arriving Friday night at 19:20.  Is that a busy time at the airport? I've never flown into DXB before so I have no experience at that airport. I've read conflicting information as to whether it is busy then and whether the Marhaba service is worthwhile at that time of night.  Assuming that you recommend booking their service, which level provides the best value, Bronze, Silver, or Gold?  After a long 14+ hour flight, I'd like to get through the airport and into a taxi to my hotel as quickly as possible.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi, MadMan! Kudos on making lemonade out of your cruise cancellation!

 

I booked the lowest level Marhaba service, as all I really wanted was to avoid the immigration line because a lot of planes arrive in the wee hours when I landed; you might want to check the DXB website to scope out early evening international arrivals--if there's no cluster of incoming flights, you may not experience a long line.

 

You sound like an experienced traveler, so if you opt for Marhaba, I think you'll be fine with the basic service--it's nice to arrive to a sign with your name on it, but I think you'd agree with me that hand-holding through the airport isn't really what you need. DXB is new, well-signed in English, and familiar, e.g., it follows the usual transit patterns. 

 

I realize I dramatized my fast exit--that's because I never check baggage! But all in all, it's an easy airport. 

 

And yes, I did stop in the duty free (it's right there as you exit) to get some alcohol! 

 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, Artemis said:

Hi, MadMan! Kudos on making lemonade out of your cruise cancellation!

 

I booked the lowest level Marhaba service, as all I really wanted was to avoid the immigration line because a lot of planes arrive in the wee hours when I landed; you might want to check the DXB website to scope out early evening international arrivals--if there's no cluster of incoming flights, you may not experience a long line.

 

You sound like an experienced traveler, so if you opt for Marhaba, I think you'll be fine with the basic service--it's nice to arrive to a sign with your name on it, but I think you'd agree with me that hand-holding through the airport isn't really what you need. DXB is new, well-signed in English, and familiar, e.g., it follows the usual transit patterns. 

 

I realize I dramatized my fast exit--that's because I never check baggage! But all in all, it's an easy airport. 

 

And yes, I did stop in the duty free (it's right there as you exit) to get some alcohol! 

 

 

 

Thank you for your tips and advice.  That is very helpful!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm looking for something a bit different than the usual options in Dubai for an upcoming port stop.  We visited Dubai for a week in 2018 and hit all the top tourist spots.  We will back there for a day on a port stop in a few months, and don't want to repeat anything. It's DH and I, well traveled and like to be independent, we are healthy and active. Any ideas out there?

Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, terry&mike said:

I'm looking for something a bit different than the usual options in Dubai for an upcoming port stop.  We visited Dubai for a week in 2018 and hit all the top tourist spots.  We will back there for a day on a port stop in a few months, and don't want to repeat anything. It's DH and I, well traveled and like to be independent, we are healthy and active. Any ideas out there?

Women's Museum (seems to be near the Gold souk), head over to Sharjah. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre offers cultural lunches and tours. Though books do tend to become out of date fast for Dubai, consider getting a book out of the library for a free read.  Lonely Planet or Rough Guide will most likely give numerous options for less touristed activities.  Also, consider AirBnB Experiences for local offerings - by locals.

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, mef_57 said:

Women's Museum (seems to be near the Gold souk), head over to Sharjah. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre offers cultural lunches and tours. Though books do tend to become out of date fast for Dubai, consider getting a book out of the library for a free read.  Lonely Planet or Rough Guide will most likely give numerous options for less touristed activities.  Also, consider AirBnB Experiences for local offerings - by locals.

 

Great, thank you, I'll check the AirBnb experiences, I've had good luck with them in the past.  (I've been to Sharjah)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Forum Assistance
      • Cruise Critic's State of the Industry Report - Trends & Future Outlook
      • Q&A: Cruise Insurance with Steve Dasseos of TripInsuranceStore.com
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...