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Review of the Dubai Big Bus Tour

Up till not so long ago the main way for tourists to get around and see Dubai was either to take a taxi or ride on an abra (water bus or ferry). Now there's the Big Bus Tour, with a fleet of British-built open top double decker buses operating two routes.

The City route serves the historic areas south and north of the Creek. The Beach tour goes all the way down the coast via Jumeirah to Dubai Marina and back.

You can join the tour at any point and hop on and hop off at any of the stops. The ticket is valid 24 hours from purchase. Friendly guides from the Philippines, India and other countries welcome you aboard and give interesting facts and figures about the sights along the way.

The City Tour serves many of Dubai's most important tourist attractions: Creek Park, Dubai Museum, Dubai Heritage Village, the Gold Souq, the Spice Market, Deira City Centre shopping mall and more.

The Beach Tour takes you down Sheikh Zayed Road, then to Jumeirah and the Burj Al Arab Hotel, where there's a photo stop. It continues past the Madina Jumeira Hotel, and several others. The bus takes you right into the heart of the Dubai Marina area, which in early 2006, was still under construction.

The return route is along Sheikh Zayed Road, with a stop at the giant Mall of the Emirates for Ski Dubai. The final leg is along Sheikh Zayed Road, back into the city, and across the Al Gharhoud Bridge finishing at Dubai City Centre shopping mall.

From the top deck of the bus you get a spectacular view of Dubai. Until the arrival of the Big Bus Tour it wasn't possible to see Dubai from this angle. It's not difficult to get great photographs as long as you keep your camera at the ready and choose the right moment to press the shutter.

This for me was a major selling point for the Big Bus Tour. From a car it's impossible to see and photograph the city like this. On one trip around the City and Beach tours I took more photos in one go than I'd ever taken on any previous visit to Dubai.

There are some fantastic photo opportunities along the Creek and crossing the Al Gharhoud Bridge, with stunning views of the Golf Club on one side and the Dubai Festival City on the other. On the Beach Tour you get stunning views of the skyscrapers along Sheikh Zayed Road, the Burj Al Arab Hotel, and even a peep through the main gate of Sheikh Mohammed's main palace.

On its figure-of-8 route through the Dubai Marina district you really get to see the skyscrapers, bridges and man-made lagoons from all angles, when riding on the Big Bus Tour.

The price per person is 140 dirhams, that's 22 pounds sterling, or 38 US dollars, which compares very well with similar tours in other cities.

What makes the Dubai Big Bus Tour especially good value is the distance you cover. The City Tour alone is around 12km or 7 miles, but the Beach Tour is an amazing 25 kilometres or 18 miles. You could only cover that distance in a car or taxi. It would be impractical and unthinkable to go that distance in Dubai on foot, and there are currently no alternative forms of transport, as you might find in other cities.

The tour guides give a specially prepared and carefully worded description, not like in New York or London where the guides are quirky locals with insider knowledge. The plus side is the Big Bus Dubai tour guides don't ask for tips.

When taking the tour, it's best to plan your timings carefully. Decide where you want to go first ,and at what time of the day you want to be there. For fair skinned visitors like myself, particularly infants, a strong suntan lotion is absolutely essential in the middle of the day. Even though there's a canopy covering the front half of the upper deck, the reflected rays are very powerful. I saw many red European faces - including my own!

My only criticism of the tour would be that often, it's not possible to hear the tour guides very well, a louder PA system would be required. And although they're very knowledgeable and friendly, some of them could do with a bit of extra coaching in English pronunciation.

It would be nice to have a night tour, as in New York. The Creek and Burj Al Arab hotel look stunning at night and it would cooler too.

The Big Bus Tour is by far the best way for tourists to get around and see Dubai. Unlike in other cities, there is simply no alternative public transport suitable for tourists. It should definitely be on the checklist for any trip to Dubai. And if you book in advance, you get a discount.

Find out more at the Big Bus Tour Dubai website.

See more Big Bus Tour photos on the aidan.co.uk photo portfolio site

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2006-04-23

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