With Expo 2020 Dubai well under way, the only hotel at the world's fair is also thriving. Rove Expo 2020 opened to the public on October 1, the same date that visitors entered Expo 2020 for the first time.
Offering guests complimentary access to the 192 country pavilions for the duration of their stay, plus front-row access to the massive amphitheatre that is Al Wasl Dome, Rove Expo 2020 is a hotel like no other.
The National had the opportunity to find out exactly what it's like to stay at the heart of Expo 2020 Dubai.
One of the main perks of staying at Rove Expo 2020 is that you get a free ticket to visit the expo and it's valid for the duration of the stay. On top of that, guests also enjoy stress-free entry into the "world’s greatest show" with "Rovers" able to park in a dedicated zone in the parking closest to the Expo, enjoy a complimentary golf-buggy escort to the main entrance and whiz through a separate security lane to get inside, meaning there’s very little waiting around even when queues are long.
Once through security, another golf buggy picks you up and whisks you to the hotel. Check in takes place in the bustling, open-plan lobby and is relatively quick and fuss-free. Within a few minutes, we had our wooden room keys in hand and are headed to the lift to our fifth-floor room.
The big draw of Rove Expo 2020 is obviously its location – it’s the only hotel on-site.
This makes it the perfect base for exploring all that expo has to offer from morning to night. Guests are able to pop back to their room to rest, escape the midday heat or freshen up. Being inside the site means when it opens in the morning, you can also be first in line for any pavilions on your must-visit list.
The hotel is located right next to Al Wasl Plaza, the beating heart of the expo. And with many of the rooms having private balconies, guests can take in performances unfolding at the plaza from the comfort of their room. It's also very close to the pavilions by Peru, Senegal and Moldova, while the popular UAE Pavilion is directly across the plaza from the hotel and the Jubilee waterfall feature is also just a short walk away.
The safety measures
Anyone visiting Expo 2020 Dubai must either be fully-vaccinated or have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours, so the same goes for guests checking in to the Rove hotel. Inside the hotel, there are social distancing reminders, sanitised pens for filling out check-in forms and contactless key cards for using the elevators and accessing your room.
Temperatures are checked before entering the restaurants and face masks are compulsory in public areas, other than when swimming, eating or drinking. At certain points of the day the hotel gets quite crowded and social distancing guidelines don’t always seem to be fully adhered to by guests, but staff are quick to remind people to put their masks on properly and follow the rules.
We stayed in a Rover Room room which is the standard class. Those on a budget can book a smaller Cosy Room while people seeking more space, can book a suite – Rove Expo 2020 is the first property from the Dubai hotel group to offer such a room category.
Our room had a grey, white and yellow colour palette with sunshine-coloured walls adorned with Expo 2020-inspired art produced by regional artists. There was a motivational saying on the wall, and Arabian prints on the cushions and curtains. There was a desk, an open wardrobe and a bathroom that was a bit on the small side, but had everything one might need. Families can make use of the pull-out sofa bed for children. There's also a spacious balcony that felt as if it was in touching distance of Al Wasl Plaza. There was a small table and one chair on the balcony, so we dragged a chair from the room outside, so two people could enjoy the view.
Water was provided in eco-friendly cans and there was a minibar, although it was empty due to Covid-19 regulations. A continuous tapping noise from the air conditioning was infuriating in the middle of the night, but faded into oblivion when there was entertainment on at the plaza (more about that later).
From the buggy drivers to the check-in staff or the friendly housekeepers, everyone is very welcoming and ready to help make your stay special. Our request for more water to the room was fulfiled super efficiently, and when we reported that the ice machine on our floor was out of order, we were sent a large cup of ice to our room without requesting it.
Waiting staff at breakfast are also friendly, but a little slow to take orders from diners when they are seated – we overheard the couple at the table behind us say they no longer have time to order as they had a meeting to get to and we also waited at least 10 minutes before anyone approached our table.
As soon as you step into the lobby, it's obvious that this is a social hotel with people milling around in the open-plan dining areas and co-working spaces. Most people checking in are here to explore all that Expo 2020 has to offer, but the Rove also offers a nice refuge when things get a bit too much.
The best view in the house is reserved for the rooftop infinity pool, which is lined with turquoise sunbeds and parasols and overlooks Al Wasl Dome. Sadly, it was closed after dark when we headed up there to try to watch the evening show on the world’s largest 360º projection surface.
Elsewhere, the hotel has a popular chill-out space with beanbags and a gaming station, a 24-hour gym, foosball tables, a laundry and a locker room for storing luggage.
When it comes to dining at Rove Expo 2020, most of the action takes place in The Daily, the hotel's all-day restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Social Hub in the lobby is a place for coffees, teas and juices, and tucked around the corner is The Lounge, a cool bar and co-working space that serves up mixed drinks. The Rove Cafe is ideal for grab and go drinks, snacks and lunchtime bites, and there's also a room service menu.
We were only invited for breakfast at The Daily so didn't get a chance to sample the rest of the dining options, but lunch and dinner also take place in this open-plan, Scandi-cool eatery which has indoor and outdoor seating, open shelving, high ceilings and wooden tables, chairs and barstools.
Breakfast (Dh129 per room) is served in two parts – a buffet table and an a la carte menu, from which guests can choose one dish. The buffet has a good spread with lots of variety including healthy options such as spinach, keto, acai and fresh fruits, as well as plenty of pastries, muffins and cakes. The menu has a variety of egg dishes, full breakfasts and sweet options such as pancakes and a cherry croissant bake. Drinks can be self-served from the coffee machine and juice stations, and staff can take orders for any special requests like non-dairy milk.
Highs and lows
The best thing about the hotel is the fact it's smack-bang in the middle of Expo 2020 Dubai. If your aim is to make the most of expo, you can’t go wrong – from the swift entry procedure, to having the fair on your doorstep, and being able to take in the entertainment at Al Wasl Plaza from your balcony, the hotel really does offer the best way to make the most of your time there.
On the other hand, the hotel's main low is that sleep is a luxury this hotel cannot guarantee – its proximity to the plaza means that when rehearsals and soundchecks take place in the dome after midnight or before the sun comes up, guests staying at the hotel are simply unable to escape the music, lights and bass, even when using the earplugs provided by the hotel for use during "rehearsal times".
The Insider Tip
If you’re going for one night of Expo 2020 action, be prepared for an eventful stay that offers non-stop entertainment from dusk till dawn, and plan a few extra coffees for the morning after. If you’re spending more than a night or two here, ask for a room on the other side of the hotel away from the plaza and you might get a bit more sleep.
Bonus Tip: There is a super handy, reasonably priced medical vending machine inside the Rove Expo 2020's locker room that's stocked with a variety of essentials that could come in handy during your stay, from toothpaste to Panadol.
If you don’t mind possibly having to sacrifice a good night's sleep for an evening of 100 per cent Expo 2020 Dubai immersion then this hotel has you covered. The rooms are comfortable, the staff are friendly and the proximity to all the action is decidedly unrivalled.
The bottom line
Rates start from Dh899 ($244) per night for the smallest Cosy Rover Room, but guests can expect to pay upwards of Dh1,000 per night during public holidays or when big events are on the calendar. This is excluding taxes and fees.
Check in is from 4pm, but you can arrive earlier and leave your luggage while you explore the fair and you get a nice 2pm checkout the following day so you can fit in some more experiences.
Rove Expo 2020, Horizon Avenue, Expo 2020 Dubai; rovehotels.com
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during the time, services may change in the future