Where to stay in Dubai? The answer to that question depends largely on what your plans are for your visit. Shopping? Sun bathing? Partying all night long? Rest assured there is a neighborhood for all preferences and budgets.
Most hotels in Dubai have a pool, but if you are planning on spending most of the time on the beach, it might be worth considering booking one of the beachfront resorts. They are more expensive than hotels further away from the beach, but they come with facilities such as sun beds, beach towels, and shower facilities, which you would have to pay extra for, if you are visiting a beach club or a public beach.
Some hotels offer free shuttle buses to the beach, so if you are on a budget and don’t want to miss out on Dubai’s beaches, a hotel at a cheaper location but with a free beach shuttle might be a good option.
Another way to save on transportation costs is to stay at a hotel close to a metro station. The metro is an affordable and convenient way to get around, and there are metro stops close to many of the city’s major attractions.
Here is a list of some of the most popular areas to stay in Dubai:
JBR & Dubai Marina
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. The JBR Beach is the largest public beach in Dubai, and there are sun beds, shower facilities, water sports and changing rooms available for a fee. The area around Dubai Marina and JBR is one of the most tourist-friendly places in Dubai. There are plenty of restaurants and bars in the area, ranging from casual spots to more upscale venues, but there are only a few, smaller nightclubs, so if you are looking for some serious clubbing, the Downtown area is probably a better choice.
This part of Dubai is one of the few areas in the city, where you don’t need a car to get around. In the heart of Dubai Marina, you find Dubai Marina Mall, which is a cozy mall with a limited, but nice selection of shops, and a handful of popular cafes facing the promenade. On JBR, the outdoor mall The Beach JBR, features plenty of restaurants, cafes and shops. There is also a movie theatre, and on weekends, there is 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 are staying. The beach resorts in the Marina/JBR area are among the most expensive in Dubai, but the hotels without direct access to the beach are more affordable.
Keywords: Close to the beach, Relaxed atmosphere, touristy, pricey.
JLT is located on the other side of SZR (Sheikh Zayed Road), just opposite Dubai Marina. Hotels in JLT are generally less expensive than in the Marina area, and it is a very nice area with a good selection of affordable, independent restaurants and cafes. There are also a few bars in JLT, but compared to the Marina JLT is a lot more quiet at night. There are two walkways connecting JLT with the metro station and Dubai Marina, but while JLT is popular among expats in Dubai, you rarely run into tourists on that side of SZR.
Keywords: Budget friendly, good for foodies, relatively close to the beach.
If sun and sand in luxury settings are what you are looking for, Palm Jumeirah is the place to stay. Most resorts have several restaurants, bars and private beach, eliminating the need to venture beyond the resort gates during your stay. The Palm is rather far from most attractions, and transportation (including the tram that runs up and down the trunk of the Palm) is rather expensive. There are some pedestrian areas on The Palm, such as Al Ittihad Park, which provides a quiet oasis below the tram line on the upper part of the trunk of the Palm, and The Pointe, which is the new waterfront complex with restaurants, shops, and fountain shows, but getting from one part of the Palm to another would in most cases require a taxi/car ride.
Keywords: Luxury resort life, private beach, peace & quiet
The area around Mall of the Emirates has several budget friendly hotels and restaurants, but bars and nightlife options are very limited. The shopping is excellent (MoE is the second largest mall in Dubai), and there is also a good selection of cheap beauty salons in the area. If you are staying close to a metro station, you are only a short metro ride from JBR Beach.
Keywords: Budget friendly, good shopping (Mall of the Emirates)
Downtown/Business Bay/ DIFC
The three neighborhoods have almost melted into one big area, and this is where you find some of the city’s fanciest restaurants and most upscale nightclubs. This is where to stay if you want to be in the center of it all, close to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, and get your full dose of dynamic Dubai vibe. DIFC Gate Village consists of 10 towers joined by a walkway, and this is one of the main upscale dining and nightlife hubs in Dubai these days. Business Bay is very popular among expats, and somewhat more quiet and less expensive than Downtown and DIFC. All areas are quite far from the beach, but many hotels offer beach shuttles several times a day.
Keywords: Glitz & glamour, big city vibe, fancy bars and restaurants.
Old Dubai – Deira & 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 glitz and glamour. Many people in Bur Dubai and Deira are expats and guest workers from Northern Africa, the Middle East and South Asian countries, which is reflected in the cuisine at the restaurants and small eateries, making this part of the city a goldmine for adventurous foodies.
Overall, hotels are generally very cheap in Deira and Bur Dubai, but the standard is oftentimes lower than in other parts 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 is not suited for pedestrians either, except for the part right by the creek including the bustling souks on each side of the water. The area is definitely worth a visit, but if the aforementioned glitz & glamour is what you came for, there are better areas for you.
The area close to the airport is a good place to stay for those on a short visit to Dubai. Though if you want to splash in a nice pool, you might want to stay somewhere else, as only a few of the more upscale resorts and hotels have nice pool areas, and an Uber/Careem to the beach is expensive. There is a good selection of restaurants at the hotels in the area and also several casual bars including the bar/restaurant streets in Irish Village and Century Village. Good deals on hotels are often available, but you are far from the beach and most attractions, so if you are staying for more than a couple of days, you might want to consider staying in another area.