Stay in wealthy Emirates for just £22 a night in Hampton by Hilton Hotel and take in some sun, sea and sightseeing
“UNDERSTATED” is not a word I expected to use to describe my trip to Dubai.
But after a long day admiring the towering Burj Khalifa and shopping till I dropped at one of the world’s largest malls, I was glad to return to my hotel for some much-needed normality.
The new Hampton by Hilton hotel at Dubai Airport offers the same, compact style as the brand’s 2,300 other locations around the globe — and despite Dubai’s repuation for decadence, lacks the gold-plated bells and diamond whistles of many hotels there.
But it has its own special touches to make it a welcoming home from home.
How better to start your day than with made-to-order waffles and whipped cream, as the morning sun floods in through the floor-to-ceiling windows?
If you can get out of bed, that is. Staff take pride in the hotel’s super-comfy quilts. And you can stream movies in the homely rooms over the speedy wifi.
If you do fancy a lie-in, you can ensure you are away from the bustle of the buffet breakfast and early-bird tourists by choosing your room online before you arrive.
The lounging area and outdoor pool are rarities, given the hotel’s more industrial location.
They make for the perfect morning sun trap to kick-start your holiday, while also taking a refreshing dip.
And the gym on the 13th floor is a great place to soak up the views, looking out toward downtown Dubai, the desert and beyond — all while pounding the treadmill.
But it would be a shame not to venture out from the hotel. Buses run three times a day from outside reception to some of the hottest destinations in town, only 20 minutes away — and it’s all included in the price of your hotel stay.
One of these destinations, La Mer, on the Dubai coastline, is an all-in-one day out that encompasses the beach, great restaurants and a luxury shopping experience.
If, like me, you have taste-buds that love experimenting, it’s worth popping into the Al Mashowa restaurant to try the local Emirati cuisine — rather than waste your time in a London staple such as Five Guys.
If you’re a kid at heart — or visiting with children — check out the waterpark with its five giant waterslides, surf machine, inflatable assault course and play area.
Don’t miss out on Dubai Mall, the second largest shopping plaza in the world with 1,200 stores, an underwater zoo, aquarium and indoor virtual reality theme park.
The mall sits below the Burj Khalifa — at more than 2,716ft, the world’s tallest building, where visitors can take multiple elevators up to a viewing platform that overlooks Dubai in its entirety.
Taking little more than a minute, and guaranteed to make your ears pop, the ascent to the 124th floor costs around £30 and includes canapes and exotic fruit juice.
Step out on to the boardwalk, an open-air space enclosed by thick glass, and you’re free to take photos of the fantastic view and feel the wind as it blows in from the sea and towards the desert stretching out to the horizon.
While I can say it’s nerve-racking, especially if you take a downward glance, the sight of the bustling Dubai districts from above is not to be missed — and thanks to some good timing I even got to see the famous fountains from up high.
But the Las Vegas-style water jets are even better when viewed from the surrounding marina, as the booming music makes the show more dramatic — and I’d recommend the restaurants that overlook them for an entertaining dinner.
For a five-star experience, dining on Palm Island is something you will never forget. Home to apartments for the rich and famous, as well as the Palm Jumeirah hotel — one of the best in the world — a trip here will make you feel like a star.
It’s around a half-hour Uber ride from the hotel, and if you’re looking to spend the day on the sand, the island also has an open beach which the public can use for free, or you can pay for access to some of the exclusive beach clubs.
If there’s one thing Dubai has in buckets and spades, it’s sand, so I couldn’t leave without a trip to the desert.
At a camp an hour away in Al Awir, I indulged in an evening of traditional food and music under the stars.
Hidden between dunes, the desert camp has fire-breathing and dancing, evening entertainment, free dune-buggy hire and, if you’re brave enough, camel rides.
The desert is a great way to experience what Dubai would have been like before its glamorous rise less than half a century ago — but with sandstorms a common occurrence, I was picking the tiny grains from my hair for weeks.
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If you find yourself a little overwhelmed by the glitz Dubai has to offer, it’s best to recover at the Hampton hotel’s cocktail bar.
Inspired by the tastes of seven countries, including the UAE, India and China, the atmospheric bar serves drinks and food well into the evening so you can wind down in comfort after your long day.
With designer shopping done, skyscrapers scaled and sunbeds lounged on, there’s nothing better than returning to a hotel that feels like home.
GETTING THERE: Flights from Heathrow to Dubai are from £326pp return. See ba.com.
STAYING THERE: One night’s B&B at the Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport is from £22.68pp based on two sharing. See hamptoninn3.hilton.com.
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