The weekends in Dubai has shifted from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday in recent years. Deira on Friday afternoons is busy as are most of the shopping malls, this is because the workers are in town on their only day off of the week and its also time for Jummah Prayers at the mosques.
Advice for those traveling on a modest budget and looking for more exploring-plus-relaxation than pure luxury:
– Stay in Deira at one of the mid-market hotels near the Creek. You will be able to walk to the Gold Souk and Spice Souk, as well as to the dhow station to cross the Creek, where you can walk around Bur Dubai. If you walk beside the Creek there are some lovely cafes where you can grab lunch to break up your day in Bur Dubai.
– Do not worry too much about needing to take a taxi to the beach or the other places further down the coast towards Abu Dhabi – it’s fairly cheap ($10 – $15 depending on where you are in Deira), and it’s better to be near the city center and souks for eating, shopping, etc.
– Get your hands on the map put out by the tour bus company (the double-decker deal), instead of the official Dubai City Map. It’s much better. There is also an excellent map published by Explore (Motivate Publishing) called ‘Dubai Mini Map’. The bus trip/ticket itself may not be worth the money (something like $50 for the day?), because unless you’re going to hit all that Dubai has to do in 24 hrs, you are probably better off taking taxis and walking. The service may be great if you need it, but do not assume it’s necessary. If you’re traveling with a big group or children, or you plan on going to a lot of the sites where you get free admission or a discount with your tickets, then consider it – just check to make sure that it will really be worth it to you, and know that a typical day of hopping around Dubai does not cost $50 in transportation. Note also that due to roadworks the Big Bus routes are subject to change without notice.
– Do not hesitate to go! Dubai is extremely easy to navigate around, almost everyone speaks English and it is a very unique place and totally worth seeing. It is a great destination if you are either a first-time traveler who is a bit nervous about leaving the US./Europe or (on the other end of the spectrum) an expat living in the developing world in Africa/Central Asia/South Asia and you could use and escape to what you will recognize as ‘civilization’…the fact that Dubai caters to both of these is telling – it truly is a unique place where you can feel like you are both at home and on vacation at the same time.
Dubai is a great place to bring children. It is safe and clean in comparison to the vast majority of the world outside of the US/Europe, and there are lots of families around that all seemed to be having a lovely time. Kids get to be sensitized to a culture they may not be exposed to otherwise, with all the comforts of being able to order French fries and a milkshake at almost any restaurant!