Sounds like naman ah! Ok, first things first. The preparations! While we booked this a long time ago, we didn’t start preparing until about a month before our trip.
FLIGHT AND VISA
We booked our ticket via Cebu Pacific in March 2019 for PHP4,676.89. This was totally unplanned, we still didn’t have a destination for our birthday trip in 2019, then I saw it was on sale, so I told Celine about it. We booked our ticket and voila, we were off to Dubai for November! Again, another missed opportunity to book our baggage along with the flight. The baggage fee set us back to PHP4898.00 for 20kg for both flights. We split it, so we paid PHP2449 each. That is expensive! I did check though that if you book your baggage with your flight, it’s PHP2049 each way, so I guess we would’ve saved PHP400 each if we booked it with the flight. But still so expensive!
Obviously, you need a visa to go there. The key is to have a “sponsor” who lives in UAE. In our case, my friend Celine has a friend who lives in Dubai, and helped us get a visa from a travel agency there. Our sponsor was the travel agency (Dnata World Travel). We had a 30-day visa, which was valid for 60 days upon issue. This cost us AED350 (around PHP 4945.50 when we applied back in Oct. The process really didn’t take long. I think we got our visa in less than two weeks.
Ok, we had tons of changes with our accommodation because we’ve been shuffling our days up to the last minute. We ended up spending 3 nights at Celine’s friend Rhia’s place in Al Nahda, 1 night at Lou’lou’a Beach Resort in Sharjah (booked by Celine’s cousin), and 3 nights at BackPacker Dubai in Barsha Heights. That meant cancelling one night in a hotel in Old Dubai, and modifying our booking in Backpacker Dubai a few times. Thank goodness for refundable bookings. LOL.
Al Nahda is closer to the airport and we really didn’t have a hard time travelling because our hosts were super kind and offered to pick us up and drop us off to wherever is convenient for us. They also drove us around one day during the weekend. So even if it was far from the center, it was convenient because they had a car. During our time in Sharjah, we pretty much stayed at the resort anyway and Celine’s cousin drove us around as well. Our hostel is located in Barsha Heights, which had a really good location. It’s close to all the places we went to during our last few days in Dubai. It is located near a metro station, so that’s pretty convenient – except when it was raining. During our first day there, it rained so we had to take a cab from the metro to the hostel. It would have been easier if we didn’t have our luggage.
I will talk more about Lou’Lou’a Beach Resort in another blog. Meanwhile with Backpacker Dubai, I would totally recommend this place for the location, but if you don’t have a lot of patience to deal with nasty roommates, stay away. LOL.
We didn’t get to book our SIM card on Klook, but luckily, we decided to go directly to the place and it was cheaper!! It was only AED65 (PHP921), and they gave us a second free SIM card so that I can have my own number, too, and I can connect to WiFi networks in subway stations and malls. Mobile data is pretty expensive in UAE so we opted to share the SIM card. This is the place:
ABU DHABI & DUBAI DAY TRIPS
Just like our Fukuoka trip the year prior, we booked pretty much most of the day trips online so that we don’t need to bring a lot of cash.
We booked several activities from Klook. I compared the prices and they are actually cheaper, so we went with these. Also, at the time of our trip, they had like a holiday or I think a yearend sale so we got a huge discount.
I also made a reservation for our Afternoon Tea at Le Café in Emirates Palace. I think this is our most expensive activity, it is definitely super bougee. LOL. Anyway, so the process is you will make a reservation via email (or call them if you can do that) at firstname.lastname@example.org. They replied with more info and the menu, and they informed me that I needed to pay first. They sent me a link where I can enter my card details to pay. Once done, they sent me a confirmation email, their cancellation policy, and some reminders. It was a pretty fast transaction. While researching, I read that some were not happy with the idea of paying first or leaving their credit card details. I was worried, too, but as long as they don’t need to get it over the phone, I’m good with that.
I booked our travel insurance via Malayan Insurance, because it’s the cheapest one I found online. It was PHP675 for 8 days. Celine and I did the group booking. This was a last-minute decision and we purchased it literally the day before our trip. I think Malayan Insurance is the cheapest one out there. I don’t know how good or bad it is, because I don’t wish to actually use this insurance. It’s just there for protection just in case.
I did this just hours before I left and it was super haggard. I had issues with my bank and can no longer withdraw after my first 10k, so I only exchanged 10k for my pocket money. Thankfully, it was more than enough. 😊
On with the trip…
I must say, it was a pretty busy morning for me and a bit stressful flight check in process. On the day of our trip, I had to attend a seminar and got out of the office at 10:30am. Our flight was at 3:20pm, so I was like, ok, no problem. But I was so surprised that 5 hours was not enough, and I was literally rushing to catch my flight! I still had some things to buy at the mall, and I finished that in about an hour. I only had enough time to change into pants and do some last-minute packing. I also had issues with my credit card. The cashier in Market Market’s department store was having issues swiping my card and it triggered BPI’s system and thought it’s being used illegally. I had to call them and fix things before I left in case, I need to use my card while in Dubai. It was a blessing in disguise, because at least I was able to ask them to enable my card for international purchases. At the same time I was on the phone with them, I was booking my GrabCar to take me to the airport. It took me an hour from our house to NAIA 3 and right when I was outside the airport, Celine was already calling me because the people at the check in counter were telling her that the plane is about to leave. WTH?! At that time, it was only 1:40PM! It’s still early! They were telling my friend Celine to leave me. SO MEAN!!! Anyway, so when I got to the gate, I asked the guard if he can let me in without queueing because the people at check in were telling my friend that it’s already the last call. Thankfully, the guard and the people behind me were nice enough to let me pass through. I went straight to the check in counter, checked in and then ran to travel tax to pay. I was running all over. They put a green sticker on our shirt, I think this is for long haul flights.
We went straight to immigration, I was randomly stopped by a woman who just asked for my visa and asked if I had a sponsor. I said yes, then continued. We always prepare so much for talks with the immigration officer but we always don’t need it. I was asked questions about my job, I think like two questions and then it was done. We still had time to buy our food, so we bought rice meals from Tapa King (onboard food is just so expensive! LOL!) and while waiting, we ate the cake I bought for Celine. Our departure date is Celine’s birthday. We finished the cake while waiting for our food – we were that hungry!
We boarded on time, but after all that rush, we stayed on the plane an hour after the planned departure time -_-
What’s good though is that we still arrived in Dubai on time. We were picked up by Rhia and her husband, but felt kinda bad that they had to wait long because our luggage took too long to arrive. We met up at the place where we bought our SIM card.
We stopped by McDonald’s for some late dinner, where we learned that they have AED10 burger meals, and then went home. It was pretty late when we got home, we had a big day the next day.