“ Address: P.O. Box 9168 / Dubai / UAE / Tel: +971 4355 5553 „
When we decided to spend Christmas in Dubai, I spent a few evenings online looking at possible places to stay. It worked out cheaper to book flights and accommodation separately, and thus we had a completely free choice of any of the vast number of hotels in the city. We decided that an apartment or suite of some kind might be useful, allowing us the freedom to prepare some meals ourselves rather than eating out 3 times a day, and the Golden Sands complex ended up being our choice.
There are 10 buildings in the Golden Sands group, so you really need to know which one you're staying in, though the majority of short-term guests are put up, as we were, in Golden Sands 3. While the other buildings are all close by, you don't want to be trekking the streets when you arrive at what is usually the middle of the night thanks to European airline schedules, so if you're unsure you can email them directly and they will confirm which reception you need to report to. I booked through Expedia which just sells it as "Golden Sands Apartments" while some other websites specify the number. You can also book with the complex directly, but their website is a bit naff and I felt more secure booking with an established agency. Package tours are available, mainly to Dutch / German holiday makers, but also through Kuoni in the UK. This made me feel a bit better - I've never stayed anywhere Kuoni covers before, but I know them by reputation and figured that for it to be on their books Golden Sands must therefore be halfway decent, despite what people on Trip Advisor were telling me.
We arrived late thanks to cancelled flights, a change of airline, closed runways and all sorts of other winter travel catastrophes. We should have arrived at midnight, but it was gone 5am when the taxi dropped us off. However, the place was far from dead, with two members of staff on reception and others milling around near the concierge area. I had emailed them in advance to let them know we would be a late arrival anyway, though they still seemed a little confused that we were arriving the next day (though by no means a whole day late). However, they had our reservation which was all that really mattered, and after doing the usual photocopy-the-passports thing, and asking for a credit card security deposit of 300 DHS (about £50) we were on our way. A porter appeared and took our bags but then let one fall over with a bang - we only had two, both wheelie suitcases with obvious handles, so this was perturbing. When the lift arrived we took our bags back off him and wheeled them in ourselves, thus reducing the need to make small talk and/or dig out a tip.
We had booked a studio apartment and were assigned one on the top (7th) floor with a view of the pool. My first impressions were that it was much better than I'd expected for the money - just under £50 per night. We had twin beds as requested, neatly tucked away in one corner. We also had two extremely comfortable, plump sofas in the "living" area, facing a large television with good reception on 40+ channels. Though some were in Arabic, we had a good selection of English language news channels and others showing sitcoms and films. The place was spotlessly cleaned and well maintained, and we had maid service and towel changes every day.
The kitchen area was compact but well equipped: we had 2 electric hob plates, a kettle, and a big fridge/freezer. The sink was large, though no washing up stuff was provided - having been warned of this in advance on Trip Advisor, I had come equipped with washing up liquid, a sponge and a tea towel. However, on the rare occasion when we left stuff in the sink, this was washed for us by housekeeping when they made up the room. We didn't abuse this - I think the most we ever left was a teaspoon and a glass - but it was a nice touch. The only strange thing about the kitchen was the provision of crockery and cutlery - we had 3 of everything, 3 large plates, 3 side plates, 3 soup bowls, 3 knives, 3 forks and so on. This was no doubt due to the occupancy restrictions on the room, but meant that if we did want bigger meals, we had to be creative with how we doled them out or wash up mid way through. The kitchen contained a washer/dryer which we had intended making use of towards the end of our stay, but it was perhaps the most complicated machine I've ever seen so we decided not to risk breaking it and/or ruining our clothes. It would have been helpful if they had put instructions on its use in the in-room hotel information file, but they hadn't.
We had a couple of tables, one we used as a dressing table and the other as a dining one. These provided 3 (of course) chairs between them, and the dressing table also had a large mirror, handy for 2 girls sharing as it meant one of us could be getting ready in the bathroom while the other tarted up out in the living area. There was also a healthy number of plug sockets (all UK style) allowing us to plug in straighteners, mobiles and laptops anywhere we fancied, including by the beds, next to the sofas and in the kitchenette (which stretched to the balcony when needed)..
The bathroom included a decent sized shower cubicle and though it wasn't much to look at, the water that came out was powerful and very hot. There was a sink, a WC and a bidet too - clearly what hotels in the UAE offer you, in the way all public toilets there have rather interesting, ahem, bum hoses. We received a shower cap, a couple of bars of soap and some shampoo - pretty standard hotel stuff. The bathroom had no window, just an obscured glass panel letting light in, but the extractor fan kept it reasonably steam-free. The only real negative with regards to the bathroom was the towels - just one medium sized one each, plus either one or two hand towels between us depending, I guess, on who had serviced our room that day. I do wish hotels would be a bit more generous with these, as one is really not enough when you're trying to wash long hair and stick it in a turban to dry.
The studio was air conditioned, though we didn't really need this in December - rather wastefully, the housekeepers tended to switch this on when they entered, and leave it running for the whole day until we returned. We had a balcony with a net door too, so this let in some fresh air while keeping out the midges. The balcony was an ok size but had no furniture, so we tended to take cushions off the sofas out with us when we wanted to sit on it. Though it got lovely warm sun at certain times, our main reason for going onto the balcony was for internet. Wifi is available free in the coffee shop, but we discovered we could also get a signal out on the balcony, which was handy, though inside the apartment we had less joy. The blackout curtains by the balcony doors were extremely good at blocking our the sun, and the studio had well placed lighting, over head, over bed, and free standing, so you could customise exactly how bright you wanted it to be.
Beyond the apartment itself, the block had a few facilities we made use of. There was a free business centre on the ground floor though it only had a couple of PCs and they were rather slow, so only got used by us when we both absolutely had to be online at the same time... Up on the first floor was a restaurant / coffee shop which offered an (expensive) buffet breakfast and 24 hour a la carte dining - room service was also available. There was a swimming pool here, but located in a courtyard bordered by four 7 floor buildings rather limited its hours of direct sun. Happily, we also had access to the pool on the roof top of Golden Sands 5 next door, which had sunshine for much longer: one day we spent 8 hours up there and didn't fall into shade once. Both pools had some free sun loungers (though no umbrellas) and a few tables and chairs, and were acclimatised (i.e. heated in the "cold" 30 C winter months). They were well maintained and proved quite popular with the other guests. A small gym and male and female saunas were also available by one of the pools, though I decided I didn't need to try out either. A 3rd pool was housed in Golden Sands 10 but this was another low-floor set-up and more of a walk away from our building, so we looked in on it once and then decided not to bother.
The hotel offered a tour bookings desk but this wasn't really of interest to us, though we did steal a few leaflets from them to nosy at what was on offer. There was also a taxi service, though this was hideously over priced: we asked how much it would be to the airport and the price they quoted was more than an airport taxi had cost on arrival (and that one had had a 25 DHS starting value, compared to the normal 3 DHS for non-airport taxis). In the end, we got a taxi off the street to return us to the airport at 5.30am, and this cost half what the hotel had quoted. Many people say you can't walk anywhere in Dubai and taxis are your only option. I would disagree with this - we walked many kilometres every day - but if you do prefer to taxi, you really should go for the ones off the street which are as secure and comfortable as the hotel ones, for a fraction of the price. The hotel is about 20 minutes from the airport, at least at that time of night, and for between £5 and £8 per taxi (depending on whether you're coming or going) it is still the easiest way to do the trip, though the Metro would also be an option, albeit a trickier one when transporting luggage.
We discovered that we had a very good location in Dubai. Though nowhere near the beach as you might think from the name, Golden Sands is in the Bur Dubai district, and from here we were able to walk down to the Creek, to the souks and Dubai museum, and to Creekside Park. A large, well equipped supermarket, Spinneys, was less than 10 minutes walk away, or for lazy types there was a smaller convenience store round the corner, opposite Golden Sands 5. Though the area was mainly residential, there were a few cafes and restaurants within a stone's throw of the building, and we enjoyed breakfast at a branch of French Connection on our first morning. The Spinney's complex also housed a nice café called 3nity ("Trinity"), a pizza place and a McDonalds, plus a bookshop, pharmacy and so on, and the large Bur Juman shopping mall was just another couple of blocks up the street from there, complete with restaurants, food court and many, many shops. Across from here was one of the new Metro stations already open which was a handy way to get to places like the Mall of the Emirates.
The hotel offers a courtesy bus to the beach, though you need to book in advance. This runs daily, leaving at 9.40am and returning about 4.30pm, and drops off at both the free, public beach and the Jumeirah beach club (5 DHS entrance) about 4 km from the hotel. We took advantage of this on Christmas Day and were pleased to find it left promptly and was a comfortable ride. If you're driving, limited free parking is available on site - this didn't seem to be full when we were there. Additional parking is available on the streets nearby, but at a fee.
Service throughout the apartments was ok without being outstanding. The reception staff spoke good English and German, but were not always the most cheerful of souls. All the housekeeping staff we saw were male, which was a bit unusual. They were friendly and would quickly move their carts out of the way if we were walking down the corridor, but were also earlier starters than you might think - one morning our doorbell rang at 8.30am as we were heading out, and from then on we stuck the Do Not Disturb sign on the door over night just in case we ended up sleeping late. We had trouble one day when our key card stopped working. A member of staff was in the room next door but said that for security reasons he was unable to let me into our room, so I had to go down to the lobby where they reset the card without so much as a glance at me, and certainly no confirmation of my identity. We were only given one key card, too, which was a bit limiting since you needed it to access the lifts (albeit only from the ground floor), meaning we had to juggle a bit if one of us wanted to go up to the room while the other stayed in the business centre.
Overall, I was extremely impressed by how much we got for relatively little money in a city such as Dubai. The studio was spacious, well equipped and reasonably quiet - we could hear some movement in the corridors but only when other guests were being overly noisy, and not every night. Facing onto the inner courtyard also helped - other apartments with a street view might have been a bit different. We had the services of a hotel, and the convenience of an apartment, and the location could not have been better. While some people might not see the point in staying anywhere other than a 5* or 7* beach hotel, these were a tad out of our price range. Instead, including flights we paid only £550 each for 8 days in town over Christmas, leaving more money to spend in the mega malls and on the fancy ice creams. If you think like we do, then I would strongly recommend you consider Golden Sands if you're heading over to Dubai, and if I ever return I will happily stay there again.
Two room studios and two bedroom apartments are also available. For more information and location details, visit the website: