The May holidays in 2021 turned out to be the longest in Russia with days off from May 1 to 10 and no conventional working days between the Labour Day and Victory Day. This makes it a truly mini-vacation and an excellent opportunity to have a proper rest.
While most of the tourist destinations are not accessible due to the pandemic and the remaining ones are under the risk of shutdown, Dubai is among the most reliable and appealing options. The weather and water temperature in the region are comfortable and COVID-19 restrictions are not too rigid: cafes, restaurants, attractions, and places of interest are open to the public and guided tours and excursions are provided. The epidemic situation within the Emirates is more stable than in the majority of other countries, which is caused by a well implemented government policy during the peak period of the pandemic. Currently the UAE boasts some of the highest economic indicators in the world in terms of recovery and further development of the country.
The UAE, as well as the entire Muslim community, is currently celebrating the Holy Month of Ramadan, which ends right after the holidays on the 12th of May. During this period, all emirates are festively decorated with illuminations switched on in the evening and the majority of establishments offer dates free of charge. This month is a time of charity and kind deeds, when locals try to show their hospitality as much as possible, however the country is famed for its welcoming attitude to visitors anyway. Shopping malls, boutiques and souks host large-scale sales, with discounts of up to 70%.
Tourists from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus do not require a visa for travelling to the UAE. Upon arriving at Dubai airport, you get a free stamp in your passport, which enables you to spend 90 days within the country. For Ukrainian citizens the length of stay is 30 days, but in case of a biometric passport.
So far only Dubai and Sharjah airports are in operation and, because of the worldwide pandemic, travellers must follow certain rules when entering the UAE in 2021:
You have to wait for the results of the test in a hotel, and the official waiting time is 1–3 days, but generally the results are available in a few hours.
Children under 12 years old are not required to take the test. Should tourists show any symptoms of COVID-19, the airline company is entitled to refuse to take them on board. In this case the traveller has to pay for the treatment and a two-week quarantine and this is what insurance is for.
The first half of May is the perfect time for a holiday in the Emirates. The weather is similar to summer season in Russia: the air is fresh, there is no extreme heat and stuffiness, while the sea is warm. Rains are very unlikely, and even if a couple of drops fall, the clouds will quickly get replaced by sunshine. The end of May is not so comfortable, with high temperatures of up to +40°C.
By summer, due to the exhausting heat, the tourist flow decreases and therefore the beaches and other popular locations are not so crowded. The low-price season comes and the cost of tours reduces. However, consider that only regular flights are available from Moscow to Dubai due to the pandemic, and there are no cheap charters to count on.
You can either buy a package tour, or individually purchase tickets and book a hotel or rent a private apartment, including a serviced one.
The most budget-friendly options can be found on the websites of online tour and flight aggregators that bring together offers from major airlines and operators. You can easily filter prices in ascending order, and the services will suggest the most favourable dates for your trip.
The average cost of a direct round-trip flight from Moscow to Dubai during the May holidays is between AED 4K (USD 1.1K, RUB 100K) and AED 6.1K (USD 1.7K, RUB 150K). If you want to spend 6 nights in the emirate, for example from May 2 to May 7, the economy class ticket with luggage from Vnukovo to DXB by the Flydubai airlines will cost AED 4.5K (USD 1.2K, RUB 110K). The price of an economy ticket with luggage for the flight by the Emirates airlines within the same dates from Domodedovo to DXB is AED 8.1K (USD 2.2K, RUB 198K). By choosing an option with connecting flights you can reduce the cost of the trip by almost half — about AED 2K (USD 557, RUB 50K), but it will take at least twice as long.
Some tourists are confused by the Ramadan fast, which imposes certain restrictions. During this period, Muslims do not eat or drink until sunset, and therefore cafes and restaurants do not operate during the day. In fact, tourists and residents of the UAE, who are not practicing Islam, are not obliged to follow the fast and will be able to enjoy a fulfilling holiday.
This year, Dubai has introduced favourable conditions for non-fasters during Ramadan, reflecting the local authorities' efforts to support the tourism industry, which was severely affected by the 2020 lockdown. In previous years, during the fasting period, food and beverage establishments were closed until the evening and served only takeaways, while tourists could have breakfast and lunch only in hotels. However, in 2021 these restrictions have been cancelled, but you can have a meal only inside a restaurant and dine on a terrace once it gets dark. It is also prohibited to have a snack on the go during daytime and music and dancing in restaurants are forbidden.
Because of the Ramadan period, the most exciting activities in the emirate start after dark. You can spend a relaxing day on a beach or by a pool, and take a walk to the city centre in the evening. Once the sun sets, colourful festive illuminations are switched on, bars and restaurants with outdoor terraces are open to public, and many of them offer a hookah menu.
Apart from beach activities, you can take a sightseeing tour during the day or visit Dubai's attractions independently, as all of them are open to the public despite the pandemic.
During the May holidays amusement parks, such as Legoland Dubai will be open daily from 11 am to 6–8 pm, and the timetable for each day is available on the park's website. Yacht cruises are permitted as well, although during the fasting period they are not accompanied by music.
Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest skyscraper with a height of 828 m and is one the must-see attractions in the UAE. There are three viewing decks: an outdoor and an indoor one at 452 m, and an outdoor terrace at the level of 555 m, offering a unique panorama of the entire Dubai. The most spectacular scenery is observed at sunset, but the cost of tickets during these hours is higher. Due to the pandemic, you should buy tickets online to visit the tower, with prices starting from AED 149 (USD 40, RUB 3.6K). Children under 4 years old are admitted for free.
Another iconic landmark of the UAE, the largest dancing fountains, can be found next to the skyscraper. The show runs every day and is free of charge, but during Ramadan the fountains only start in the evening.
Within walking distance of the fountains and Burj Khalifa is the world's biggest shopping and entertainment centre, called Dubai Mall, which is open daily from 10 am to midnight. The mall occupies a huge area of 1.2 sq. km and features fashion boutiques and dozens of entertainment venues, including virtual reality, a vast oceanarium displaying 140 marine species, a spacious ice rink offering skating lessons, electric carting, and much more.
Those visiting Dubai for the first time can take a sightseeing tour, which prices can start from AED 92 (USD25, RUB 2.2K). Other popular excursions include a desert safari, which costs from AED 184 (USD 50, RUB 4.5K), a trip to Abu Dhabi and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi priced at AED 440 (USD 120, RUB 10.7K), and a tour around the six emirates that be purchaised from AED 294 (USD 80, RUB 7.2K).
There is an opportunity to enjoy a helicopter or hot air balloon ride over the UAE. And if you get tired of the heat, you can visit Ski Dubai, which is an indoor snow park offering alpine skiing, snowboarding, and tubing.
If you prefer a beach resort, the best areas to spend your vacation are Dubai Marina, Jumeirah, and Palm Jumeirah. Those wishing to relax by the sea, whilst being able to see as much of the country`s attractions as possible, may find Business Bay to be a convenient option.
Dubai Marina is a vibrant neighbourhood located along a man-made canal and luxurious marina. This elite resort area offers an array of public and private beaches with gentle access into the waters and soft snow white sand. The neighbourhood boasts an extensive public transport infrastructure, large shopping centres, such as Dubai Marina Mall, and Dubai Marina Walk lined with dozens of boutiques, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Dubai Marina is a residential area, where tourists can book a hotel room or rent a private property, which can range from a budget studio to luxury penthouse. Most of the residences offer spectacular waterfront views from their windows and balconies.
It is more cost-effective to rent a private apartment in Dubai rather than a hotel room, since the minimum rental price for a studio or one-bedroom apartment in the exclusive Dubai Marina district is only AED 250 (USD 70, RUB 6K) per day. At the same time, all possible risks, including the chance to get into fraudsters, are minimized due to the strict government control of all rental agreements, which should registered in the EJARI system. The best way is to get assistance from a reliable real estate agency. A specialist will help you find a favourable property option and will take care of all aspects of the deal, including compiling a tenancy agreement in accordance with UAE laws.
The Jumeirah district, which stretches for 25 km along the coast and is known for its luxurious resorts, enjoys a special popularity among tourists. Dubai's best beaches are located here, including public ones, such as Jumeirah Open Beach, Sunset Beach, and Kite Beach. Nearly all of them are equipped with changing booths, sports grounds, Wi-Fi, cafes, and leisure facilities.
Another sought-after destination for premium beach vacations is Palm Jumeirah, which is part of the Jumeirah district. This man-made island is shaped in the form of a palm tree and is home to elite restaurants, and entertainment venues. Here you can rent apartments, villas, and townhouses. Rental prices for private one-bedroom apartments start from AED 420 (USD 115, RUB 10.3K) per day, and one-bedroom villas can be rented from AED 850 (USD 230, RUB 20.6K).
Business Bay is considered to be an equivalent of New York's Manhattan and is one of the best areas to reside during vacation. The Dubai Water Canal runs through the district and its waterfront promenade features green park areas, restaurants, and leisure facilities. There is a popular aqua-theatre, La Perle by Dragone, which hosts acrobatic performances. The area boasts close proximity to both the Arabian Gulf and Dubai’s iconic attractions. Travel time to the best beaches in Jumeirah is only 10 minutes’ by car, and it takes the same amount of time to drive to Burj Khalifa, dancing fountains, and Dubai Mall.
In Business Bay you can rent a property at an affordable price. Daily rent for studios start from AED 200 (USD 55, RUB 4.9K), while one-bedroom apartments can be rented for AED 300 (USD 82, RUB 7.3K).
1. The extended May holidays offer an opportunity to enjoy a luxurious resort vacation in Dubai and visit world-class attractions despite the pandemic.
2. There is no need to obtain a UAE visa in advance as it will be issued free of charge at the airport upon arrival.
3. When travelling to Dubai, tourists should have the results of a coronavirus test done no more than 72 hours before the arrival. A second test will be taken at the airport for free.
4. The first half of May boasts the most comfortable weather in Dubai, while the majority of shopping malls offer great discounts during Ramadan.
5. When you plan your journey to the UAE independently, you can get a better price for renting a private property rather than a hotel room.