When we first visited Dubai I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It turned out to be a beautiful trip with plenty of variation to keep the whole family happy and entertained for 10 days. Dubai has so much to offer for all types of tourists that it might be overwhelming to know what to see and do first, and especially if you are short on time. So in this post I want to highlight the very best Dubai tours and guided day trips to help you get the most out of your stay in Dubai.
No matter if you are visiting for a week or just making a short stopover in Dubai, consider booking at least a few of these tours in order to see multiple facets of this extremely diverse city.
This is just a small hand-picked selection of the most popular Dubai tours and activities based on our personal experience, customer reviews, and price/quality ratio. Out of thousands of available tours we chose the very best ones. This should help you to save time and research and get the most out of your time in Dubai.
Best tours in Dubai:
*Most of the tours I link to here are bookable through GetYourGuide and at no extra cost to you we get a small commission if you book a tour using these links. I recommend GetYourGuide because it is our personal favourite website for researching and booking tours when we travel. On top of that, they have the best customer service and free 24 hr cancelation (something you usually don’t have if booking through other websites or directly).
If you visit just one place in Dubai, make it Burj Khalifa. This huge tower rising high in the middle of the desert symbolises all that Dubai has become in such a short time. There are several options for Burj Khalifa tickets, but it’s a very popular attraction so make sure to book in advance.
- Burj Khalifa Tickets: Level 124 & 125 This is the most popular option when it comes to visiting Burj Khalifa – the entrance tickets to the 124th and 125th floors. Prices vary depending on the time of the day you visit (the hour around sunset is the most expensive as it allows you to see Dubai from above in daylight as well as in the dark). We opted for the later tour and night views and loved this experience!
- Burj Khalifa Tickets and Tour: Level 124, 125 and 148. What makes this tour different from the first one is that you get to skip the lines, avoid the crowds and visit the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa that includes access to the outdoor terrace of the world’s highest observation deck.
And then you also have all kind of combination tickets that can save you some money and time. Here are some of the best-rated Burj Khalifa combo tours:
- Dubai Aquarium and Burj Khalifa Combo
- Dubai City Tour with Burj Khalifa Experience
- Burj Khalifa Ticket & 3-Course Meal at the Armani Hotel (this hotel is located in the Burj Khalifa building)
- Dubai Burj Khalifa and High Tea on 123rd Floor
- Burj Khalifa Ticket with 1-Way Transfer from Your Hotel. I’d only consider this ticket with 1-way transfer indeed, because it gives you more flexibility to stay and explore the Dubai Mall area longer (you can easily spend the whole day here). Afterwards you can easily take a metro or a taxi to get back – here you can read more about Dubai public transport.
TIP: Just next to Burj Khalifa are the famous dancing fountains of Dubai. A popular way to see the music and light fountain show is from the water, by taking a traditional boat tour on the lake.
Best Dubai desert tours
No visit to Dubai would be complete without a visit to the desert. Dune bashing in a 4WD is one of the most fun experiences you can have in Dubai, but there are so many ways to experience the desert… From luxury private experiences to more touristy trips including camel rides, BBQ dinner under the stars, or a traditional dance performance… desert tours are a good way to experience a different side of Dubai.
Here are some of the most popular and best-rated Dubai desert tours, including the best Dubai desert safari deals:
- Dubai Red Dunes Safari: BBQ, Camel, Sandboarding & Falcon This is by far the most popular of Dubai safari tours. We found it to be a bit too much catered for mass tourism, on the other hand we all loved the thrilling 4WD drive and the kids truly enjoyed the short camel ride, sandboarding, bbq dinner, traditional tanura and belly dance shows, and all the other activities that came with this tour. There are many companies organising a very similar trip; the tour I link to here has the very best customer reviews on all the major websites.
- Dubai Morning Safari: Red Dunes, Sandboarding & Camel Ride. This is a shorter version of the above tour (and organised by the same highly rated tour company). It gives you the best experience of the desert (driving in the dunes) without all the other more tourist-oriented activities that you get in the evening. So if your main interest is to experience the Dubai desert, this might be a good option.
- Dubai Sunrise Balloon Flight with Breakfast & Falconry. This tour offers a more luxurious and a truly unique way to experience Dubai desert. If your budget allows it, I wouldn’t hesitate!
- Open Desert Adventure Sports: Half-Day From Dubai. This adventure sports package includes all kind of fun outdoor activities in the desert: a camel ride, dune bashing, quad biking, but also sandboarding and even skiing (apparently the new rage in the U.A.E.).
Camel ride tours
The above desert tours only include a very short ride on the camel. If you are looking for a longer camel ride in Dubai desert, consider one of these highly rated options:
Dubai water parks
Dubai has two major water parks – the Aquaventure at Atlantis The Palm and Wild Wadi near Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. The price of the two parks is about the same and I really cannot say which one is better. We visited Aquaventure and loved it. If our kids had been taller, we would have definitely tried both parks (many water slides have 120cm (a bit less than 4ft) height limit, but there are still really nice water play areas for the younger kids too).
Whatever you decide, make sure to book your tickets in advance as they might cost twice the price at the entrance of the park…
- Dubai Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark Admission Tickets
- Dubai: Wild Wadi Waterpark Full-Day Entry Ticket
TIP: It’s worth noting that the entrance to Aquaventure is included for all hotel guests of Atlantis The Palm. If your family really likes waterparks it might be worthwhile looking into booking this hotel. In a less busy season and for families with up to 2 kids this might be the very best option in Dubai. Here you can find the best deals for Atlantis The Palm accommodation.
TIP: Consider checking the prices for a family stay at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel as well. Guests of this hotel enjoy complimentary access to Wild Wadi waterpark. The same is true for the guests of Burj Al Arab hotel, however this hotel is for the even more luxury travellers and in a bit different price category…
Dubai city tours
While you can see most of the city individually, taking a city tour is a nice way to see all the main sights in a short time. There are several options, ranging from hop-on hop-off busses, guided city tours, and private tours… Some tours focus on the modern city, while some others bring you to the old town, or offer a combination of both. Old Dubai is so very different than the modern parts most of the tourists visit. If you want to get a taste of more traditional Dubai, the way it was just a few decennia ago, don’t miss it!
Here are some of the best Dubai city tours:
- Old Dubai Culture, History and Souks Walking Tour
- Dubai: Half-Day City Tour. This tour offers the quickest way to see some of the highlights you’d probably miss otherwise.
- Magical Dubai 8-Hour Tour with Burj Khalifa Experience. Similar tour to the previous one, but it also includes tickets to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Aquarium.
- Dubai: Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour (1 to 7 Days). Probably the best way to see Dubai at your own pace.
- Private Full-Day Sightseeing Tour with Driver. This private tour offers you the most flexibility as it can be completely adjusted to your interests.
Dubai Marina dinner cruise
Dubai Marina area is one of our favourites in the city. There are several ways to explore it: on foot, bicycle, by water bus, or by boat. The most popular option is Dubai Marina cruise with dinner. There are many companies running these tours and yes, they are oriented towards tourists, but it’s a really nice experience. And if you choose well, it may not cost that much more than just a regular dinner at the restaurant (check this post for more information about how much everything costs in Dubai).
Here are some of the best-rated Dubai Marina tours:
- Dubai Marina Sunset Cruise with International Buffet & Live Music
- Luxury Dubai Marina Dinner Cruise with Live Saxophonist
- Alexandra Dhow Cruise in Dubai Marina is one of the best options I found when looking for a more local experience. The boat is a traditional Arabic wooden dhow and you get to see a live traditional Tanura dance performance as well. Once again, it’s tailored for tourists, but so is everything in Dubai. We took this dinner cruise and really enjoyed it. There are many companies offering dhow dinner cruises, but most have really poor ratings. We chose this dinner cruise because of good reviews and excellent price/quality ratio. It’s also one of the best options for families – kids under 6 travel free, and kids under 12 get a discount.
You can find similar dinner cruises on Dubai Creek as well. But we found that the Dubai Marina area is a much nicer and more spectacular place to be in the evening.
Dubai sightseeing boat tours
Many sights of Dubai are best admired from the water. The best way to see the iconic sights as the Burj Al Arab, Atlantis Hotel and the Palm Jumeirah, is by taking a boat.
Here are some of the best sightseeing boat tours in Dubai:
- Dubai: 75- or 90-Minute Guided Sightseeing Boat Tour. This speedboat tour has hundreds of amazing reviews and seems to be one of the must-do activities in Dubai. One for when we go back.
- Dubai Marina: 90-Minute Private Boat Tour. Depending on the number of people in your group, this luxury option may not be much more expensive than a regular boat tour. It has great reviews too.
- Dubai Private Sightseeing Tour by Luxury Boat. Another highly-rated private luxury boat option that at the moment of writing also has some great promotional discounts. Worth taking a look.
- Dubai: 90-Minute Palm Jumeirah & Burj Al Arab by Rib Boat
- Dubai Marina & Palm Lagoon 60-Minute Evening Boat Tour
Abu-Dhabi day trip from Dubai
With a driving distance of just an hour and a half, Abu-Dhabi is a very popular day trip from Dubai. Here are the best-rated and the most popular options:
- Abu Dhabi Full-Day Sightseeing Tour from Dubai
- Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Mosque Half-Day Tour from Dubai
- Louvre Museum Abu Dhabi & Grand Mosque Day Trip from Dubai
- Ferrari World Bronze Tickets with Transfers from Dubai
Hatta Mountains day trip from Dubai
If you want to experience more of the United Arab Emirates beyond the busy cities and most popular attractions, consider taking a day trip to the Hatta Mountains. Here are the best options:
- From Dubai: Hatta Mountains 4WD Safari
- Emirates Mountains – Private Full Day Hatta and Kalba. This is a great option if you are traveling with a family or a bigger group.
Other great activities to consider in Dubai
Dubai is a truly unique place with so much going on in the city. The tours I listed above are very popular and really worth doing in order to see the best of Dubai. But if you have more time (and money) and are looking for something more extraordinary and unique, then take a look at some of these great activities in Dubai.
- Dubai Helicopter Flight
- Dubai: Dinner in the Sky Experience. At the moment this is bookable till mid May 2018. I think it’s one of those attractions that are temporary and travel all over the world, so if you are visiting Dubai now, it’s a wonderful opportunity to try this unique experience.
- Dubai Seaplane Flyover – Burj al Arab, Burj Khalifa, & More (45 min) or Seaplane Snapshot Experience (20 min)
- 7-Hour Platinum Desert Safari from Dubai
- Burj Al Arab: Sahn Eddar High Tea
- Cocktails at Burj Al Arab with Private Transfer
So, these are the 10 most popular type of tours and excursions that you can do in Dubai. It’s really difficult to say which activity was our favourite as they are all so different. As a minimum I recommend visiting the Burj Khalifa, taking a city tour that brings you to the Old Dubai, visit the Dubai desert and at least one water park.
Have you been to Dubai? What were your favourite tours?
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