Offbeat Dubai Travel Guide: Explore like a local!

The name Dubai itself gives one an impression of tall skyscrapers, shopping malls, uber luxury resorts, high-speed metros and spotless clean roads! Of course, Dubai is all of it, but the city is actually much more than that.

However, when I visited Dubai I had no clue if there was another Dubai, beyond what I had seen so far. But somewhere in my heart I was convinced that the city had to be more than just glitz. So I did what I always do - I connected with locals (through friends, friends of friends, fellow Instagram and twitter followers) and started a quest to discover the hidden and offbeat Dubai, the Dubai where its heart actually beats.

offbeat dubai travel guide
Dubai creek

Offbeat guide to Dubai

So here's my quintessential guide to explore this lively and vibrant city and you will come back with a completely new impression of the city.

1. Get done with the New Dubai first

Here's my most important tip - before you start with offbeat Dubai, make sure you are actually done with all that Dubai is known for, like going to the top of the Burj Khalifa, spending some time in the luxurious shopping malls, visiting the Atlantis, etc.

Check out this video of the time I spent at the Burj Khalifa:

2. Explore Bur (old) Dubai

Located on the western side of Dubai creek, Bur Dubai is the oldest part of the city as well as its historical centre. Much effort has been put to preserve the traditional, old houses and the museum there is a must-visit to understand the history of UAE better. Go to Al Bastakiya and spend some time walking around and talk to the locals, drink some local coffee and enjoy the Dubai warmth (during winters).

offbeat dubai travel guide
Old Dubai

Grab a quick bite at the Arabian Tea House Restaurant and CafĂ©. Don’t forget to try their local breakfast tray - I cannot express how good it is in words!

3. Old Souks, including Gold Souk

Once done with the glitzy modern Dubai, it's time to get into the heart of old Dubai, and there is no better way to start that than shopping! The old markets are known as souks and they are great for shopping, photography as well as simply walking around and observing the life pass-by. I can actually spend days here without getting bored!

offbeat dubai travel guide gold souk
Gold Souk

3. Mornings at Dubai creek

This was the most unexpected discovery of Dubai for me, and surprisingly no guide-books ever spoke about it. Get up before the sun rises and head out to Dubai creek - the area from where Dubai originally started. It's just great to sit there and watch the sun rise and the seagulls fly all over the sky.

I made this quick video there and this will give you a better idea of what this place looks like in the morning.

4. Go fish shopping at Deira

Whether you want to actually buy fish or not, I would actually recommend a visit to the Deira fish market. When it comes to markets, this is where you will find local and the freshest of produce.

The best time to visit for photography is early in the morning. Here's another video showing the place at sunrise.

5. Enjoy an evening stroll at Dubai Water Canal Boardwalk

Here’s another hidden treasure of Dubai, where one can visit for a blissful evening walk watching the sun go down behind the iconic Dubai cityscape, including the Burj Khalifa. With the beauty and awe-inspiring view of the landscape, this place will soon become a tourist attraction in years to come.

offbeat dubai travel guide boardwalk

6. Try out the Camel milk ice-cream and chocolates

This is another of those fun things that only a few locals would know, but it's would be unfair to leave Dubai without trying out the camel milk ice-cream and chocolates. I tried the vanilla flavour as it gives the best flavour of the milk, and guess what it was rather good. I also bought a lot of chocolates for friends and family too, all made with camel milk.

7. Sand-dune bashing

This one’s for the thrill and adventure seekers. How about sitting in a SUV driving up and down through the majestic and vast sand dunes of Dubai on a very high speed enough to give you that adrenaline rush?

Here's a video to show what I mean by this :)

8. Belly Dancing in the desert

Now you can't visit a country in middle-east and not go for a show of belly-dancing, and it doesn't get any better than actually going to one right in the middle of the desert. I almost missed the show, but then someone was looking after my back and my prayers were fulfilled! :)

Check out this video below :)

9. Eat some local food

For me if you haven't explored the local food, you haven't actually explored the city. Well, sometimes it's a bit of a challenge as I am a vegetarian, but being vegetarian is never a problem in the middle-east. There is quite a bit of misconception about the food here and I must make this clear - middle-east is a heaven for vegetarians! Needless to mention if you eat meat, your options will more than double, which is great if you are one!

offbeat dubai travel guide veg food
Some veggie food in Dubai :)

Apart from the camel milk chocolate and ice-cream, you must also try the falafel, hummus and peta breads which are always really good, no matter where you eat.

10. Design District D3

Design District D3 is certainly not on any traveller's radar when they visit Dubai since art may not exactly be on your mind when you come here, so let me add that here. It's a multi-purpose space for people from all spheres of design and art. There are often events and exhibitions which you can attend, otherwise you can simply go there to visit some cool cafes or for exploring some street art.

How to make the most of Dubai!

Now this is the important part - planning a perfect trip to Dubai. There are multiple ways of doing it - you can either do it like me and go with open plans, but if you have limited time to explore you can also work with an expert in the field. Check out these Dubai tour packages to understand the options available if you are travelling from India.

Visa for Dubai

A visit to Dubai requires a visa for Indian nationals, however, getting one is simple. You can either do it yourself or get your Dubai Visa with for a small fee. I got my visa for Singapore with their assistance and the process was simple and seamless.

Flying to Dubai

There are multiple options to fly to Dubai from India and air-travel is extremely affordable. However, if you want to fly business class at almost the rate of economy class, you must look at flydubai.

Read more: flydubai: A delightful business class experience

Stay in Dubai

And finally, it's time to finalise your stay in Dubai. Dubai is one of those cities packed with five-star properties. I have been to Dubai only once and stayed at Melia Dubai, and the experience was fabulous.

Read more: Melia Dubai: Enjoy the exquisite Spanish luxury in Dubai


Disclaimer: This post is written in collaboration with However, all views expressed in here are based on my personal experiences. 


  1. fentastic post, very impressive. this post gave to good feeling about the dubai. very nicely desribe the about the dubai. thank you for the sharing the greate experience with us.I really admire your work and i hope in future i will return for more info. like this one.

  2. Very glad to hear you were open minded enough to try camel milk ice cream and chocolates. Vanilla is indeed the flavor that lets the milk flavor profile express itself in the month. Next time be sure to try date ice cream, probably the most typical of all.
    See you soon back in Dubai Sid!

  3. Great list of what to visit in Dubai! I prefer off-the-beaten-path places and you gave some excellent suggestions! I have to tell you that your photos are very beautiful, the same for your videos. This article inspires to travel Dubai with a different perspective!

    1. Thanks so much's always nice to do off-beat things in a new place :)

  4. This sounds like the perfect Dubai itinerary. We had never heard of camel icecream. Definitely worth a try! Love your photography. Melia Dubai looks like an amazing place to stay. Impressed that despite being a vegetarian, you visited the fish market.

    1. Absolutely guys! You must try it out - it's certainly a unique flavor :)

  5. Great article! I love the videos and those make me want to visit this incredible place!

  6. Hi, Really great effort. Everyone must read this article. Thanks for sharing.

  7. We loved Dubai, and pretty much did most of your points. We did the old and new Dubai tour. We loved the fountain show. Didn't try the camel milk icecream and chocolates. Maybe next time. Thanks for some more ideas for next time.

    1. That's awesome! I am glad you also tried all the off-beat things in Dubai :) Next time do try out the camel-milk ice-cream too :)

  8. Yes this post definitely useful for new traveler who is visiting Dubai for first time.

  9. Nice collections of Pictues and videos...
    Beautiful place to visit Dubai

  10. Hey, thanks for sharing this informative guide. I recently hired the services from Dubai travel agents that really helped in a lot in preparing a cheap and convenient tour package.

  11. nice post man, you always come up with really interesting and informative post.

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