How to spend one, two or three days in Dubai

Top Tips for Your Dubai Stopover: What to Do & Where to Stay

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Are you traveling via Dubai and have a few hours to spare at the airport and are considering Dubai layover? Or are you thinking of a somewhat longer stopover in Dubai, but are not sure if it’s worth it and what to see and do on Dubai stopover? This article should answer all your questions!

In this post, you can learn more about what to see and do on a short stopover in Dubai – from just 6 hours to 1 or 2 days. We also include some practical tips that will help you make the most of your Dubai stopover or a short layover. Find out!

From just a couple of hours to one or two days in Dubai- this guide will help you make the most of your Dubai stopover, so that you can see the very best of this bustling metropole.

TIP: Don’t spend your long Dubai layover sitting at the airport. Even if you only have half a day, you can see some of the city. If you still have to book your flights through Dubai, see if you can squeeze at least one night in Dubai in your itinerary. It will be worth it!

Stopover in Dubai - complete guide
 

Dubai stopover suggestions – overview

Short layover in Dubai – see the best in just a few hours

If you have at least 6 hours to spare for a stopover in Dubai and want to get the most of your time, I have two suggestions, based on our experience and the places we found to be most worthy to see in Dubai.

Just keep in mind that immigration can sometimes take a long time in Dubai!

1st option – Visit Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa

One of the best options for those with limited time to explore Dubai would be to head to Dubai Mall. You can take a taxi or a metro from the airport – here you can find more information about Dubai public transport. Alternatively, you can save time and money by booking a private airport transfer in advance.

Neither option is very expensive, but the metro might be faster especially during rush hours. On the other hand, metro stations in Dubai (especially the one at the Dubai Mall) are often very far from the actual place, so you have to do lots of walking. Booking a private transfer might be the least stressful option.

Here’s what you can see and do at the Dubai Mall on a short stopover in Dubai:

Dubai Fountains

Try to catch a (free) Dubai fountains music and light show. Show Schedule: 1 PM and 1:30 PM daily (except Fridays). 1:30 PM and 2 PM (Fridays only). Evening shows daily every half an hour between 6 PM and 11 PM.

The show itself is free of charge, but you can also opt for a traditional boat ride on Burj Lake. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Dubai, so you have to get your tickets in advance. You can book the Burj Lake Ride by Traditional Boat tickets here.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world – is equally impressive from below as from the top. If you have time, I suggest you go to the top for the amazing views over Dubai.

Burj Khalifa At the Top experience is very popular and often sold-out, so if you want to do it, better book your Burj Khalifa tickets in advance.

Dubai Fountain Show at night as seen from the top of Burj Khalifa
Dubai Fountain Show as seen from the top of Burj Khalifa
 

Dubai Aquarium

Dubai Aquarium is located inside the Dubai Mall. You can see the big aquarium from the mall itself (no need to purchase a ticket). If you decide to pay a visit to the aquarium itself, count at least an hour for the visit.

The same as with most other attractions in Dubai, it’s best to book your tickets in advance – the ticket queue at Dubai Aquarium can get extremely long at certain times. On top of that, it’s cheaper if booked in advance. You can book your Dubai Aquarium tickets here.

TIP: If you are planning to visit several attractions, it’s often cheaper to get combi tickets. Here you can book a combi ticket for Burj Khalifa and Dubai Aquarium.

5 free things to do in Dubai that you absolutely shouldn't miss
Dubai Aquarium
 

Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall is one of the biggest shopping malls in the world. You could easily spend a week there and still not see everything…

Depending on how long your Dubai stopover is and you still have some time left after you saw the fountains, the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Aquarium, you can do some shopping or explore further.

Don’t miss the impressive waterfall inside the mall. There is also an ice rink, dino museum, cinema’s, kids playground KidZania, games and attractions of SEGA Republic, The Emirates A380 Experience and much more.

Dubai Mall Waterfall Close-up
Dubai Mall Waterfall
 

2nd option – Join an organized Dubai layover sightseeing tour

If you have a 5-9 hours layover in Dubai, probably the best you can do is book this highly-rated private Dubai layover sightseeing tour.

That way you don’t have to worry about any practical details – your guide will pick you up at the airport and show you the very best of the Emirate in a limited time. Since this is a private tour, the route can be customized to suit your interests. Just one thing – the tour ends in the Dubai Mall, for the Burj Khalifa experience, so you’ll have to get back to the airport on your own again.

This private tour with airport transfers brings you to the most famous places in Dubai, such as Burj Khalifa and Burj Al-Arab. It also already includes the Burj Khalifa ticket.

If your Dubai layover is shorter, then you may want to opt for this 3-hr private Dubai transit tour instead. This tour will pick you up and drop you off at the airport and show you some of the most iconic places in Dubai. Needless to say, you won’t have much time to visit any of the attractions, but it’s a good way to see what Dubai is about and a good alternative to sitting at the airport half a day…

Burj Al Arab hotel as seen from Jumeirah Beach
Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach
 

One full day stopover in Dubai

If you have at least one night or one full day on your Dubai stopover, you can combine the visit to the Dubai Mall with a short tour of the city.

I already mentioned all the best things to do in and around the Dubai Mall. Half a day is enough for the main highlights. So in addition to that, I advise joining one of the short tours that show you a bit more of Dubai in a short time. Below you can find a selection of some of the best options to consider. Take a look!

Best half-day tours for your Dubai stopover

Here are some of the best short tours that you could do on your Dubai stopover:

  • Old Dubai. Dubai City Half-Day Sightseeing Tour brings you to Dubai’s top landmarks including the famous Jumeirah Mosque, old Dubai, water-taxi over Dubai Creek, and at the famous traditional markets – Spice Souq and Deira Gold Souq.
  • Dubai Marina. There are many companies offering Marina dinner cruises with traditional Tanouri dance performance and they are all pretty much the same. We took the Alexandra Dhow Cruise as it was the best price-quality tour, certainly for families with children, and we were not disappointed. Even if you don’t take the cruise, Dubai Marina is not to be missed. It’s especially lively in the evening.
  • Dubai Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour allows you to see Dubai’s top attractions at your own pace. This is a great option if you have one full day for your Dubai stopover. This is the best-rated hop-on hop-off tour in Dubai.
  • Morning desert tour. The Sunrise Camel Trek with Breakfast tour is a great option if you have a morning in Dubai and want to experience the desert.
Dubai Marina Dhow dinner cruise
Dinner cruise views of Dubai Marina
 

Two-day Dubai stopover

If you have two days on your Dubai stopover, you should spend one day visiting the best of Dubai attractions mentioned above.

For your second day, I recommend choosing one of the activities mentioned below – that will make your short visit to Dubai even more memorable. Take a look!

Spend a day at the water park in Dubai

There are two major water parks in Dubai: Atlantis Aquaventure Water Park and Wild Wadi Water Park. I cannot compare the two since we only visited Aquaventure at Atlantis, but it was just great.

TIP: Entrance tickets for the Dubai water parks are much (20-40%) cheaper if booked in advance.

Take a day tour to Abu Dhabi

If you rather go sightseeing than dune bashing or swimming and want to get the very most out of your short Dubai stopover, you could consider this full-day tour to Abu Dhabi.

Go on a Dubai desert safari

There are many companies that organize Dubai desert tours. Here are two of the best options I found. We did the first one in combination with the city tour described before.

1. 4×4 Dubai Desert Safari. This 4-7-hour tour is a short introduction into all things Emirati : Dune Bashing, Sandboarding, Camel Riding (5 minutes max) and BBQ Dinner.

2. Sunset Camel Trek with Shows & BBQ. This tour is a bit longer and is a bit more luxurious. It also includes a longer (30-45min) camel ride in the desert.

Best tours excursions and day trips in Dubai
4WD desert safari
 

Where to stay on your Dubai stopover

Now that you know that Dubai stopover is well worth it and you won’t get bored in the city, you need a place to stay for 1 or 2 nights. Below is a small selection of Dubai hotels that are well located for a short stopover in Dubai.

TIP: I really recommend you stay in Dubai at least one night instead of just doing a quick Dubai layover. Immigration can be hectic and it will be very stressful if you only have a couple of hours between the flights.

If you are visiting Dubai for a longer time, I’d recommend staying in the area called the Jumeirah Beach Residence. But for just a night or two, you are probably better off either staying close to the airport or close to the Dubai Mall as this is one part of the city you really don’t want to miss on a short stopover in Dubai.

TIP: Staying close to the airport is cheaper than staying in the center, but staying close to the Dubai Mall gives you more flexibility and more time to explore.

Good price-quality hotels at Dubai Airport:

Good price-quality hotels close to Dubai Mall:

Mid-range hotels close to Dubai Mall:

Luxury hotels close to Dubai Mall:

So, this is our guide for a short stopover in Dubai. I hope you found some ideas for the best things to do for Dubai stopover or a short layover. There is just so much to see and do in the city that it’s difficult to suggest one stopover itinerary that fits everyone. But I’m confident that any of the options listed above will be a great choice for your Dubai stopover. Enjoy your trip!

***Read also our guide on what to wear in Dubai***

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What to do on a short layover or stopover in Dubai
 
Dubai stopover - what to see and do and where to stay

Comments

  1. We are flying to Australia next week and our travel agent convinced us to do a stopover in Dubai. We have less than 24 hours (1 night) in the city and were wondering what to see, so this is very helpful. I now regret we didn’t book 2 nights.

    1. Author

      Don’t worry about it, just make the best of the time you have in Dubai, Dierdre. The city really comes to life in the evening so it’s nice to spend a night there. Lots to see and do and everything stays open very late as well.

  2. I’ve spent long hours in layovers at Dubai airport – I didn’t know that you could do so much in such a short space of time. Do you not need a visa though?

  3. I live in Dubai and have done for over a year now! There is so so much to do here i love it. People certainly should get out of the airport if they have chance to, i think sometimes people worry about Dubai and there really is no need to, it’s a beautiful place!

    1. Author

      Indeed, there’s so much to do in Dubai that everyone can definitely find something for them! The difficulty is to choose where to go if you only have very little time. 🙂

  4. This is exactly what I needed! Thank you so much. Truly informative and relevant information that I will definitely use. A lot of the flights I’ve been looking at do stop over in Dubai – and I’m all about making the most of a trip! So thanks again!

    1. Author

      Glad you found this post useful, Suzannah. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment – appreciate it!

  5. Valuable suggestions and a comprehensive list of sights! Specially interesting are the desert trip and the old town.

    1. Author

      Indeed, Punita – the Old Town of Dubai is worth a visit and we truly enjoyed the desert trip as well. But I also think that no visit to Dubai would be complete without seeing Burj Khalifa, wouldn’t you agree?

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