If you have decided to visit Dubai, the most populated city in the third richest country on earth, I hope you are ready for it, because Dubai couldn’t be more ready for you!
Just 50 years ago, Dubai was a seaside village, but after oil was discovered in its area, the ruler of the city invested the earnings from selling oil in infrastructure such as airports and skyscrapers and created a tax-free zone that made it an ideal place for tourists and businesses, all of which formed the city that we know today!
Here is a map to see where is Dubai located exactly:
But if you thought this city has only desert, skyscrapers and malls, you are wrong! Let go of that cliché and keep reading to find out what to do in Dubai and the best Dubai sightseeing activities out there.
This itinerary is essentially for 5 days plus day trips, but it can just as easily be used for a 2-, 3- or 4-day plan. Whatever number of days you have there, I assure you – you won’t run out of things to do! And if you want to take a day off, you can pick and choose what to miss because now you will be super informed!
In this itinerary I tried to include activities that are geographically located close to each other, but feel free to move it around and maybe add some time in between if you want a more relaxed visit. This post also has a lot of practical info so by going through it, it will help you get an idea of how to build your own perfect itinerary!
Day 1 – New Dubai
The first day is all about exploring the new area of Dubai and soaking in the moderness of it all! Below you can find my best recommendations for things to do in a whole day in the most contemporary city in the world:
1.1 Relax on Kite Beach or Jumeirah Beach
And the prize for the favorite Dubai beach among tourists and locals alike goes to… Kite Beach!
Dubai beaches are the perfect place to unwind after a couple of days of sightseeing or just to spend those hot summer, spring, autumn and even winter days! Kite Beach is a public beach and you are most welcome to bring your own umbrella and towel, but if you forget, you can always rent them on the spot for around AED 100 (US $27) for an umbrella and two chairs.
Mare sure to bring your camera as well! Not just for the beach photos, it’s also the perfect Dubai tourist spot to watch kitesurfers and admire the Burj Al Arab, the seventh tallest hotel in the world!
You can also head to Jumeirah Beach, a super popular beach which is free and public. It’s the type of beach that is wide and long and perfect for just chilling on the sand or even enjoying some aquatic sports. By the way, there’s also a great view of Burj Al Arab from there, so don’t forget to bring your camera for the perfect photo!
PRICE: AED 100 (US $27) for an umbrella and two chairs, free if you bring your own
1.2. Visit the Dubai Mall
One of the most famous Dubai attractions is the Dubai Mall, located in downtown Dubai.
Dubai Mall is the biggest mall in the world and it has more than 80 million visitors per year!
This is because the Dubai Mall is not just any mall! Because of its humongous size, there are plenty of activities and events going on there all year round!
For instance, you can walk for free through the whole mall and check out the Fashion Avenue where you can find the most iconic designer brands in the world. Or you could visit the world’s largest virtual reality venue or VR PARK, skate at the Olympic size ice rink or check out the weird human waterfall and the DubaiDino!
By the way, you can check out my post on Things to do in Dubai with kids where I have a whole section on what to do with them at the mall. Spoiler – so many cool things!
- VR Park – For children and adults alike, go on and challenge your senses and experience this Virtual Reality Park located at the Dubai Mall
- Ice Rink – You can go to one of the hottest cities on Earth and also learn how to ice skate! It’s a great break from the outside temperature and your kids can learn how to ice skate all year round in an Olympic sized ice rink!
PRICE: US $13 for a discounted ticket
- Aquarium and Underwater Zoo – Dubai Mall also hosts a 10 million liter aquarium! It’s located on the ground floor and you can see over 140 species of fish there, including sharks (they have 300 sharks!), rays and more! Pssst, they also have a submarine simulator and glass-bottom boats!
PRICE: The prices on the official website are US $47 (weekdays) and US $61 (weekends) for the Explorer experience, but I found discounted tickets for $US 40 here!
- Dubai Mall sculptures – The Dubai Mall has several sculptures inside that are definitely worth a look! From the Human Waterfall to the skeleton of a 155 million year old dinosaur called the DubaiDino, walking through the Dubai Mall is an experience on its own!
1.3. Explore Burj Khalifa
There is no way that you go to Dubai city and not visit the Burj Khalifa!
Not only is it the tallest building in the world, it’s got 5 more world records such as having the elevator that travels the longest distance as well as having the highest observation deck in the world, which by the way, you can visit! Dubai and its opulence strikes again!
I have written a whole article about getting tickets for the Burj Khalifa as the price varies depending on what type of experience you will be having and I want to help you make the right choice so you don’t miss out on anything!
I have found these tickets to the observation deck for a really low price, it is a steal! I advise you to leave your vertigo at home and enjoy this outstanding piece of architecture!
EXTRA: Stop by Dubai Frame for a great picture opportunity
You will basically be in a city known for its world records and instagrammable places, so there is no better place for the biggest picture frame in the world!
This humongous statue stands at 150 m high and 90 m wide and was the result of an architectural contest where the architect Fernando Donis aimed to “frame” this city full of emblematic places and landmarks! Located in Zabeel Park, you can always enter the park and take a picture from afar for free, but most people want to check out the views by getting tickets to enter the Dubai Frame precinct and even climb it!
1.4. Marvel at the Fountain show
Right in front of Dubai Mall you can find the Dubai Fountain, which is very similar to the Fountain at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur or the one at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. So if you are wondering what to see in Dubai at night, know that this fountain offers a free light show as well! Evening shows start at 6 pm and are every half hour until 11 pm. However, to find what time would be more suitable for you, you can check the schedule here.
Alternatively, if you’d like to be driven around Dubai Fountain on a traditional boat, you can book a 30-minute cruise; make sure you head there in time to collect your tickets from the ticket counter because Dubai Mall is massive!
PRO TIP: If you’d like to enjoy the show without being crushed by the crowds and while you’re sipping a cocktail, you can book a table at one of the restaurants nearby – Serrafina or Abd El Wahab Restaurant are some great choices! Make sure that you mention a table with a view when you make your booking and book in advance! We just arrived 15-20 minutes before the show and took a spot with a view, but it got completely full 5 minutes before the show started.
Alternatively, you can also enjoy this “Cocktails under the stars” experience on the Lounge of Burj Khalifa on Level 152!
PRICE: Watching the show is free
1.5. Check out souk Al Bahar in the evening
Before or after watching the night fountain show, you can head to souk Al Bahar, which is right in front of it!
It is a beautiful venue full of shops and cute restaurants and bars and pretty much the perfect spot to chill after a day of sightseeing. Whether you need to do some souvenir shopping or you need to grab something to eat, this is THE place to go!
Day 2 – Old Dubai
As there is no “new” without “old”, I recommend checking out the most traditional side of Dubai on day 2 of this itinerary. During this day you will be exploring the Al Fahidi neighborhood and you will finish the day with the most Emirati activities of them all: a desert safari!
2.1. Get lost at the Al Fahidi Historic Neighborhood and Deira
There is nothing that I love more than walking around the city’s old town! In this case, that would be the Al Fahidi historic neighborhood – one of the best places to visit in Dubai if you ask me!
Formerly known as Bastikiya, it used to be a site for trading textiles and pearls, and that is why one of its main attractions is the textile souk or textile market located there. The Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Museum are also found there, so apart from exploring, rest assured you will be able to do lots of other activities!
On the other side of the Dubai Creek, right in front of the Al Fahidi neighborhood, you can find the commercial neighborhood of Deira and its souks (traditional Arabic markets). It’s one of the most interesting things to see in Dubai and you can get there with an Abra boat ride for just AED 1 (US $0.30)!
Right before the big malls were built, the souks where the center of commerce in Dubai and there were all types of different souks there. Now, the most popular are the Dubai gold souk and the Dubai spice souk, just a few blocks away from each other. Make sure you don’t miss this unique activity during your Dubai trip!
FUN FACT: If you add up the weights of all the gold from the gold souk, you will end up with more than 10,000kg of gold. Sounds crazy, right?
If you want to visit these with an organized tour, I recommend taking this 4-hour walking tour that will have you exploring this ancient neighborhood and its souks for a low price!
PRICE: Walking through these neighborhoods is free
2.2. Navigate the Dubai Creek
The Dubai Creek is a saltwater creek that used to be called the Zara River by the Greeks and traveled on with a dhow. A dhow is a typical ship from the Arabian region used by locals for years in order to cross the creek and navigate Dubai.
You can always walk along the shore of the Dubai Creek to explore the city from land but if you’d like to see it from the water, you can also get a public Abra ride here for AED 1 (US $0.30) to take you across the creek so you can experience the local way of life plus avoid the traffic!
FUN FACT: The Dubai Creek Tower is currently under construction. It will be finished in 2020 and it will be the tallest building in the world, at a height of 828 meters!
2.3. Hop on a boat cruise (dhow cruise)
One of the most popular activities in Dubai is to take a dhow cruise along the Dubai creek. Exploring the city’s best landmarks during the evening when all the skyscrapers are all lit up and the skyline is just unbelievable; such a beautiful atmosphere!
For instance, you can book a Dhow Cruise such as this 1 hour sightseeing cruise through the Dubai Marina where you’ll get to admire places such as Atlantis or The Palm, all with a couple of drinks in hand!
Alternatively, you can have dinner while exploring the magical waters of Dubai on this 2h luxurious dinner cruise, this time through the Dubai Creek. Enjoy an international cuisine buffet while you marvel at the most traditional landmarks and neighborhoods in Dubai!
2.4. Enjoy a desert safari tour
How can you even think about going to Dubai without visiting the romantic and magical desert of the Emirates? It’s definitely one of the best Dubai excursions out there!
The Arabian Desert, which is an extension of the Sahara over the Arabian Peninsula, has been a set for so many Hollywood movies, from Star Wars to Sex & the city, the list is quite long!
For an authentic Arabian vibe, you can book an evening Desert Safari in Dubai (from 3pm to 9pm) where you’ll get to be driven around the dunes and have a great barbecue while watching traditional performances – this one’s definitely on my list of top 10 things to do in Dubai!
Alternatively, you can choose this Premium Desert Tour (from 2pm to 9pm) where you will have the chance to choose if you want to do some dune bashing on extremely high or normal dunes, enjoy a belly dance show and get a henna tattoo as well!
PRO TIP: Yes, it is also possible to go on your own! The only thing is that you would need a whole day to do so. In order to do it, you can rent a 4Wheel Drive and stock up on water, food and supplies and maybe some shisha and picnic mats! There are several spots where you can enjoy a great view and an awesome drive over the dunes such as Liwa or Al Qudra!
PRO TIP 2: If you go on your own, I recommend doing it if your trip falls between November and March, otherwise it will be too hot and you don’t want to get stranded in the desert under those temperatures, believe me!
Day 3 – Palm Dubai
The third day of this itinerary is all about exploring the famous Palm Dubai! The Palm Jumeirah is a man-made archipelago in the shape of a 5-kilometer long palm tree, home to many upscale hotels and attractions in the city and it makes for one of the best places to visit in Dubai!
The chances are high that you will be staying in this artificial archipelago, but if you are not, make sure that you pay a visit there and enjoy and relax at the wonderful Dubai beaches such is Jumeirah Open Beach or the chill Palace Beach, both of them free and public!
If you would like to enjoy Palm Jumeirah from the water, you can book this jet ski or speedboat tour! You can choose from either one of them and you can also decide how long you want the tour to last (30 minutes to 2 hours).
3.1. Chill at the Atlantis – Imperial Beach Club
The Atlantis is a stunning and gigantic hotel by the Dubai beach that looks like it’s just come out of the Aladdin movie, size 100!
This hotel has an amazing beach club called the Imperial Beach Club where you can enjoy some drinks while admiring the waves of the Persian Gulf.
PRO TIP: If you are a sport-lover, why not check out the running track along the beach and grab a bite to eat at one of the food stalls along it?
3.2 Get wet at Aquaventure Waterpark
You will never run out of things to do around Palm Dubai! If you are looking for a place to get away from the heat, Aquaventure Waterpark is IT!
With more than 30 slides and attractions, the only con is that you might need more than a day to enjoy them all! First world problems eh?
3.3 Learn about sea life at The Lost Chambers Aquarium
If you are interested in sea life then you might want to consider a visit to Lost Chambers Aquarium in Atlantis.
Even though we would all prefer to see sea animals in the wild, sometimes aquariums fill educational purposes for the little ones of the family. The Lost Chambers Aquarium hosts more than 21 exhibits and 65,000 marine animals in a reenactment of what the lost city of Atlantis would be like, so if you decide to visit it, I encourage you to view it as an educational visit and learn as much as you can about our precious, diverse sea life.
NOTE: There’s a chance for you to swim with sea lions and dolphins in Atlantis the Palm. However, I don’t recommend doing so as it is unethical and even dangerous. First, these animals are exposed to certain levels of stress due to their life in captivity (and they are given medication for this) and they have been known to react unpredictably when interacting with humans. Second, dolphins in particular are able to transmit diseases to humans and vice versa. And last but not least, these animals have been taken away from the freedom of the sea and from their families just to serve as a means of entertainment!
EXTRA: See Dubai from up high
If you’d like to see Dubai from a WHOLE other perspective, why not face your fears and book this skydiving experience over the Palm?
60 seconds of freefall from over 13,000 feet will likely make Dubai a once in a lifetime trip!
Alternatively, for those of you who want the same view but without feeling like you’re having a near-death experience, I have found an amazing helicopter tour over the Palm!
Day 4 – Spectacular Dubai
What would Dubai be without its artificial structures that have turned a fishing village into one of the richest and most interesting cities to visit in the world? On day 4 I suggest you explore the Dubai Marina and the Miracle Garden, among other sites, and finish with an Arabic show with a contemporary twist!
4.1 Wander around Dubai Miracle Garden
If you thought that wonderland was just a fairytale, it’s because you haven’t heard of the Dubai Miracle Garden until now; it’s one of Dubai’s best places!
The Dubai Miracle Garden is a flower garden that occupies more than 72,000 square meters. It is the world’s largest flower garden with more than 50 million types of flowers!
The garden is divided by sections such as The Lake or a Disney Avenue with a floral castle and even a Giant Mickey Mouse! Make sure to bring your camera with you because you will find plenty of unmissable photo opportunities there!
Because you can easily get lost in this wonderland, I recommend taking this flora and fauna tour that will take you straight to the most famous sights!
PRICE: Single entry is 50 AED (US $14)
4.2 Take a walk through the Dubai Marina
Last but not least, the Dubai Marina is a place that, in case you haven’t seen it yet, is a must visit during your Dubai holidays!
When a country is mostly desert, you only have one choice: artificially-made structures and developments! One of them is the Dubai Marina, which is an artificial 3 km canal built along the gulf shoreline. It is home to more than 50,000 people and has some of the highest buildings in the world!
Although walking along the Marina is great fun and a must on the to-do list, there are lots of activities that you can enjoy around it. My first recommendation is taking a Dhow Cruise during which you can enjoy the view from a traditional boat or this luxury dinner cruise where you’ll have an exotic dinner with some live music (probably the most romantic out of the best things to do in Dubai at night!) or even a 1.5h zipline experience across the marina for the thrill seekers!
4.3 Try Skiing in Dubai
On a whole different note, a favorite of locals out of the places in Dubai to see is the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East: Ski Dubai!
Whether you are a pro skier, snowboarder or you just like to have fun bobsledding, this ski resort is for every type of sports enthusiast! With an 85 m high mountain and 5 slopes of 400 m length, you are definitely going to enjoy this unique activity in the city!
If you have never skied before, don’t worry, you can book a discovery lesson package for AED 340 (US $92).
PRICE: AED 190 (US $52) for a single pass. The entry includes access to all the amenities in the ski resort such as sleds, bumper cars and even an ice cave. What’s more important, it includes outfit rental as well!
4.4 Watch the authentic La Perle Show
The first Dubai permanent dance and acrobatic show is La Perle by Dragone. An artistic performance influenced by Arabic culture, it’s Dubai’s very own “Cirque du Soleil”!
These shows are a great way to immerse yourself in the Emirati culture from another point of view! With more than 65 international performers you will see things like motorbikes defying gravity by riding inside a sphere; it’s honestly a one-of-a-kind-show! These shows are usually held in the evening and you can find the schedule on their official website.
Day 5 – Fun Dubai
If you don’t know already, here you go: Dubai could be one of the most fun cities in the world! Maybe because of its high temperatures, or the wealth of its population or even because of its crazy number of tourists, but this city offers some serious entertainment to whoever is ready to enjoy it!
The fifth day of this itinerary is all about amusement parks and I recommend you spend the whole day there, it’s definitely worth it! Most of the following attractions are located in the Dubai Parks & Resort Precinct which means that you can technically visit all of them in a day (if you wake up early enough), as they are literally just a walk away from each other!
Check out the amusement parks below that will easily take up the whole day of your itinerary:
If you are a bit tired of sightseeing and tours, why not head to Dubai’s largest indoor park? Whether you are travelling by yourself, with family or with a group of friends, I assure you, you’ll be able to enjoy all the Marvel or Cartoon Network themed rides at the IMG Worlds of Adventure! If you’d like to explore the different rides to see if this attraction park is for you, check out their rides section here.
5.2 MotionGate Dubai
Motiongate (also known as Dubai’s very own Hollywood) is probably one of the most fun kids activities in Dubai!
This attraction park features rides based on the best children’s movies ever made, like Madagascar, Shrek and the Smurfs! And even though it is geared toward families and children, if you do enjoy these movies, make sure you visit it!
5.3 Legoland Amusement Park & Waterpark
If you want to see something awesome, you have to head to Legoland in Dubai. In my opinion, it is definitely one of the top things to do in Dubai!
I think that you already know what Legoland is, but in case you don’t – Legoland is an amusement park and waterpark focussed on real life Lego constructions! Dubai Legoland has six themed lands which are: Factory, Imagination, Adventure, Kingdoms, Lego City and Miniland!
You can also enjoy the Legoland Waterpark. With their Build-A-Raft lazy river and different Lego themed slides, it is a perfect way to beat the heat of the day while having a lot of fun.
Finally, for those a bit concerned about safety, don’t worry! The rides are completely safe and (thankfully!) not actually made from little lego pieces!
5.4. Bollywood Park
Did you know that there’s a big influence of Indian culture in Dubai? Now you do!
Proof of this is that Dubai has its very own Bollywood Park, an amusement park dedicated to this traditional Indian dance and its whole universe!
While you’re there you can watch live Bollywood shows, enjoy 4D rides and enjoy all types of thrilling rides with the theme of a Bollywood Movie!
BUT WHICH ONE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?
My favorite park (if you are not travelling with kids) would have to be IMG Worlds of Adventure. It’s quite affordable and a great choice for those looking for a bit of thrill while escaping the heat of the day!
PRO TIP: If you want to stretch the day and you wake up early enough, you can even go to two attraction parks on the same day (there is just a 10 min walk between parks so it’s completely doable) – check out these 2 parks in 1 day passes! As you can see from the price, it is just a little more expensive than buying a one park pass so it is a great option for those families that can’t reach an agreement on which two parks to visit!
PRICE: US $83 for a 2 parks 1 day pass
Finally, if you don’t have much time, you can stay at the on-site Polynesian-style hotel Lapita in order to not waste any fun time while in Dubai!
Day 6 – Last day / Departure day
It is sadly the day of your departure and your adventure in this magical land is over… or is it?
If your flight is a bit later in the evening and you are still keen on some adventure, why not take advantage of the day by booking this 5-hour hot air balloon ride? This is a very early morning adventure – you’ll get picked up at 4am and dropped off at 9am, so I’d say you can definitely fit this into your schedule.
In this unique experience you can admire the views of the desert and the city, perfect for a romantic date or if you’re looking for a whole different activity. The pick-up is early in the morning so you can enjoy the most incredible morning desert view from the sky and afterwards have a delicious breakfast; it is really a magical experience! By the way, you can read more about the hot air balloon tour in my Best Dubai tours article.
PRICE: US $240
BONUS 1: Extra things to do in Dubai
If you are staying for longer (lucky you!), then have a read of my list down below! By the way, I have also created an article on the Best Tours to take in Dubai, just in case you are hungry for more!
1. Fly away on a Helicopter tour
As a great gift or even just a treat for yourself, you can book an unbelievable helicopter ride! Depending on your preference, you can choose the length of your helicopter tour – the longer you choose it to be, the more landmarks you will see! This is quite a popular tour, it will make your Dubai trip unforgettable!
PRICE: US $146
2. Explore Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab, a self-proclaimed first 7-star hotel, is one of the most famous landmarks of Dubai and a must visit!
Located in its own “little island” in the Gulf, there’s no way you can miss its sail shape. After all, it is only the seventh tallest hotel in the world!
If you want to know more about it, or how to book it, check out my Best Hotels in Dubai post!
PRICE: An average of US $2,000 for a deluxe suite per night
PRO TIP: If you want to visit the hotel and see how it looks inside but you don’t want to stay overnight, there are ways to do it! To enter the venue, you need a reservation in either the hotel or the restaurants or bars. Check out how to do it in my Best Tours in Dubai post.
3. Learn about Emirati History at the Dubai Museum
If you are curious about the epic and mysterious history of Dubai, you should visit the Dubai Museum located in the Al Fahidi Fort that was built 200 years ago. At the Dubai Museum you will be able to learn how Dubai became the global city that it is today from starting as just a nomadic fishing village, all in a span of 50 years!
PRICE: Entry fee is AED 3 (US $ 0.80)
4. Eat at an Underwater restaurant
Did you know that in Dubai it is possible to have an underwater restaurant experience? Check out the Ossiano Restaurant in Atlantis for a great mediterranean fine-dining experience while admiring the sea life around you!
PRICE: From AED 865 (US $235) for the 7-course menu to AED 1195 (US $325) for the 11- course menu
5. Get on a Hop-on/hop-off bus
Get on the famous bus taking tourists from one landmark to the other in Dubai! Hop off wherever you want and hop on the next bus over to somewhere else! With 8 different routes, it is quite handy if you want to go to the main sightseeing spots in Dubai!
I recommend booking the 24 hour pass, where you can enjoy unlimited Hop On and Hop Off rides for a full day period. There are 8 routes that you can choose from; without stops, a route should take around 2 hours to complete. The pass also includes entrance to the Dubai Museum and a cultural Dhow Cruise at Al Asef!
PRICE: US $72 for a 24-hour pass
6. Admire the Jumeirah Mosque
Islam is the religion of approximately 75% of the Emirates population and that’s why your visit to Dubai is a great chance to learn about this religion if you are not familiar with it. Jumeirah Mosque is a great place to check out!
PRO TIP: The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding organizes 1-hour tours around the mosque where you get to learn about Islam and is influence on the Emirate culture. These tours are available every day at 10am and 2pm, except for Fridays.
PRICE: Entrance is free of charge
7. Have a taste at the Coffee Museum
If you’d like to learn more about Arabic coffee, or simply about coffee from every corner of the planet, I recommend you visit the new Coffee Museum in Dubai! You will learn about this golden beverage that is thought to have been discovered by Ethiopian tribes in 1000 AD, and has spread around the world like a plague!
PRICE: Free entry
BONUS 2: Extra Activities for the family
If you are running out of things to do with your kids and you are scared of what boredom can do to them, you can have a look at the activities that I have gathered below, where they will have the time of their lives!
By the way, I have also compiled a complete guide of Things to do in Dubai with kids, you can check it out as well!
1. Challenge your senses at Hub Zero
If your children are into video games, they will love Hub Zero! It is a venue filled with virtual reality games to entertain the whole family and a great place to escape the heat of Dubai, while having fun in a parallel universe!
PRICE: Free entry. AED 100 (US $28) for accessing all rides.
2. Learn about Biodiversity at Green Planet
With a biodome containing more than 3,000 species, Green Planet is a botanical rainforest museum and a great place to enjoy a very tropical and non-emirati selection of plants and birdlife!
3. Enjoy yourself at Wild Wadi Waterpark
Is there a better way to spend a hot summer day in the city than at a water park? And when the Dubai park is the famous Wild Wadi Waterpark, even better! Themed around Arabian folklore, this waterpark offers more than 30 rides for you to enjoy!
If you’re still thirsty for more things to do with your family, don’t worry! This list is far from finished so read my post on things to do with kids in dubai here!
BONUS 3: Day trips from Dubai
If you ever run of things to do in this big cosmopolitan city, there are several day trips that you can take where you will be able to unwind away from city life!
Most of them can either be done on your own or on a tour, depending on your budget and what you feel like doing! Below, I will explain for you the best ways to do these day trips from Dubai independently and I will also select the best tours out there for your convenience!
1. Abu Dhabi
And once in Dubai, why not head to the capital and second most populous city of the Emirates, Abu Dhabi! This beautiful city surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Gulf, makes for a great day trip and an amazing addition to your Dubai trip. From shopping venues, to mosques and watersports, there are countless activities and things to see in Abu Dhabi!
Abu Dhabi is the largest of all the Emirates and did you know that the city is actually on an island in the gulf?!
HOW TO GET THERE BY YOURSELF: To do this trip on your own, you just need to get on bus E100 or bus E101 from either Al Ghubaiba Bus Station or Ibn Battuta Metro Station. The buses depart Dubai every 20 min and the one-way ride costs AED 25 (US $7). You can double check the updated prices here. (Please read my post on Things you should know before renting a car in Dubai).
Otherwise, if you want to forget about planning and organizing, you can book this super affordable 1-day Abu Dhabi tour from Dubai where you’ll get picked up from your hotel and taken to the most famous attractions in Abu Dhabi!
If you want to explore a true Middle Eastern gem, you should not miss the chance to go to Oman! A truly undiscovered place, its border is located just 200km away from Dubai, which makes it an amazing day trip!
The most popular and naturally beautiful area in Oman is the Musandam Peninsula, known as the Norway of Arabia. It is filled with fjords and wildlife and it is truly a delight for your eyes!
HOW TO GET THERE BY YOURSELF: If you want to do it on your own, it’s better if you rent a car as public transport is scarce and you will have the freedom to travel through the area at your own pace as there are so many beautiful spots to see (and photo opportunities as well!)
If you want to explore the coast of the Musandam Peninsula without any hassle, I recommend you take this 1-day cruise from Dubai where you’ll be cruising around the loveliest caves and islands. Plus, you’ll be able to admire the jaw-dropping Oman scenery and sea life while sampling a delicious buffet lunch!
3. Dibba and the East Coast
If you haven’t heard of Dibba, don’t worry, you are not the only one! That’s why I think this day trip is such a gem since it’s not crowded with tourists and you get to see a side of Middle Eastern culture that is not possible to see in the chaos of the city.
Dibba is a coastal area by the Gulf of Oman and it belongs partly to the Emirates and partly to Oman. It’s a stunning area full of natural beauty and merchant history that is now a diving paradise!
HOW TO GET THERE BY YOURSELF: Again, to head there on your own, the best thing for you to do is to rent a car from Dubai and explore the area at your leisure, as buses are not direct from Dubai!
Alternatively, check out this full day tour of Dibba that will take you around the historical sites of the area and give you the best natural views while you discover little desert-y towns and villages!
Dubai tourism – Practical information about the city
It is fundamental to know the basics when travelling to Dubai. In such an expensive city, you have to be travel savvy in order not to make a massive mistake and have it come out of your pocket! That is why I have created this section where you will learn all the basics of traveling around Dubai and how you can make the most of your trip!
Where to stay in Dubai
Dubai is a somewhat affluent mecca so there are a wide variety of luxurious accommodations available. But what about accommodations for other types of budgets? I have produced a list below with my favorite hotels in Dubai divided by price range, and of course with the best ratings out there!
Luxury (US $160 and up)
If you want to see what luxury really is, head to the Four Seasons Resort at Jumeirah, probably the most opulent hotel in Dubai. Admire the sophisticated Arabian décor and enjoy the views from the tower, the world-class food and the private beach front! Alternatively, head to the Grosvenor House Hotel and Apartments, the closest thing to the “Petronas Towers” that you will see outside of Kuala Lumpur! Its beautiful marina views and outstanding service are just some of the things that make this hotel the perfect luxury choice!
Middle-priced (from US $54 to $160)
Stay at the Al Bandar Rotana Hotel if you want to enjoy luxury at a middle range price! Enjoy its stylish and modern décor, 5 in-house restaurants and infinity pool with views of the city! Another great choice would be Zabeel House, with its quirky and hipster rooms making it perfect for young couples looking for a taste of the new Dubai!
Budget (up to US $54)
Staying in Dubai on a budget is possible thanks to places such as Le Wana Hotel. Even though it’s a bit further away from the center, it makes up for that with great service, spotlessly clean rooms and stunning views. Alternatively, you can choose the Grand Excelsior Hotel. Featuring classic and elegant rooms and an amazing swimming pool, their staff is unbelievably helpful, so it’s highly recommended!
IMPORTANT: The accommodation prices showcased online usually don’t include taxes and local fees; keep in mind that these might add up to 20% more to be paid at the hotel!
How to get from the airport to Dubai City
Dubai International Airport (DXB) is the world’s busiest airport based on the number of international passengers! Many flights between Europe and Asia or Australia stop here, which makes it an extremely important traveller’s hub!
It is not unusual that many of these travellers end up having a couple of days in Dubai and that’s why knowing how to get from the city to the airport and vice-versa is so important. And let me say it’s quite easy, too! Below, I explain the best ways to get between Dubai Airport and Dubai City.
Depending on where you are heading, you will have to choose one or another bus route that you can check here.
All buses run every 7 minutes during the daytime and every 20 minutes at night. They are available 24/7 and take around 1 hour and 30 minutes to get to the city center. From the airport to the city center you can get either #401 or #402 for AED 3 (US $0.80).
Yes, Dubai has a metro and it’s a great way to get between the city and the airport! Personally, metros are always my favorite choice – fast, reliable, no delays, tick, tick, tick!
To get to the city center, you just need to get to the metro through Terminal 1 or 3, hop on the red line and choose the stop that you are interested in.
PRO TIP: Make sure you enter your destination and origin on this website and it will calculate the journey for you!
It should cost you AED 7.5 (US $20) and it will take around 30 minutes to get to the city center. Bear in mind that the metro running hours are 5:30 am until 12:00 am.
If you’d like a more comfortable ride, whether you are travelling with your family, children or friends, usually getting a taxi or an Uber is a great choice. You get to split the cost and there’s no need to wait extra time or share the space with strangers!
IMPORTANT: Ubers in Dubai many times end up being more expensive than taxis! Yes! However, if there are traffic jams or you are going a long distance, it’s worth it to check the app, because the flat rate might be cheaper than a taxi stuck in traffic.
You can grab a taxi at the exit of the airport. It should cost around AED 62 (US $17) to any hotel in the city center. But watch out – if it’s peak hour and there are traffic jams, this price might increase.
By private shuttle
Like most cities, you can always get a private shuttle when transferring between the airport and the hotel, with the only con being that they tend to be quite expensive.
That’s the case with Dubai, where private shuttles are even more expensive than a taxi. However, if you can afford it, go for it, as they pick you up at arrivals with a cute little sign displaying your name and take you to your accommodation in a car of your choice, so it’s definitely the most comfortable option.
For instance, you can book your shuttle here. Starting at US $26 you can choose the car you prefer – perfect for those that care about road safety and comfort!
Alternatively, you can get in touch with your hotel as soon as you make your reservation and they will happily help you out!
Dubai City Passes
Being a city with so many different attractions, there are several city passes in Dubai that will allow you to benefit from some promos and quick entrance to some of them!
Below you can find some of the best Dubai passes and the most popular as well. To know which one is more suitable to your needs and taste, keep reading:
- GoDubai Pass – This pass gives you access to more than 35 of the main Dubai attractions that you can check here. You can buy passes from 2 to 7 days. It also offers discounts at several restaurants in Atlantis The Palm!
PRICE: US $299 for an all-inclusive 2 day pass.
- IVenture Dubai Pass – Another popular pass that gives you access to more than 30 main landmarks and attractions in Dubai, and for a more affordable price! You can purchase passes for 3, 5 or 7 days or even purchase the Select Pass, that lets you enter 3 different attractions during a 7-day span. You can check the attractions included in the general pass here.
- Dubai Mall Attraction Pass – With this pass, you can enjoy three attractions of your choice of a list for a very attractive price. It works as a voucher, and you can use it for up to 30 days! Check out the attractions and purchase your pass here.
PRICE: US $47 for a Bronze 3-attraction pass.
How to get in Burj Al Arab without staying there overnight?
Burj Al Arab, the most famous hotel in Dubai, is located on its own little island connected by a bridge to the mainland and is a dream come true! It features 9 restaurants, a water park, two pools, bars, a fitness center, an ipad in each room, and the list could go on forever. This is the ultimate in luxury!
But if you can’t afford to spend a night there (I don’t blame you!), there are other ways you can get into this amazing man-made paradise such as having an afternoon tea, high tea or breakfast at Sahn Eddar (for around US $80 you would get tea and cake for two people), getting some drinks at Skyview Bar (around US $80 for a couple of cocktails), or enjoying a spa treatment at Talise Spa for approximately US $250 for a massage.
PRO TIP: With such amazing facilities, it’s no surprise that you cannot just walk into the hotel! So make sure that beforehand you have made a reservation for whatever experience you want to enjoy! To get in, you need an access code or proof of reservation. Don’t worry, after you have made your reservation you’ll get an email giving you instructions. And by the way, don’t come more than 30 minutes in advance, as security won’t let you in!
Transportation inside Dubai
Dubai has a population of 3 million people and a surface area of 4,000 km2. Plus, there are 8 million travellers that arrive every year to see the best Dubai tourist places. That’s why Dubai’s transport system has to be well organized in order to work smoothly and easily!
The most important thing to know is that for all types of public transport in Dubai, you have to purchase a Nol Card at any station or from any authorised agents (such as Carrefour). This will work for buses, metro, tram and taxi. Fares range between AED 3 (US $0.80) to AED 15 (US $4) depending on the zones you want to travel through. You can check it out in more detail here.
An amazing and reliable budget option to find your way around Dubai is the public bus system. There are more than 1,500 buses in the whole city and most of them drive past all the Dubai famous places.
Rides go from AED 3 to AED 8.5 (US $0.82 to $2.30) depending on the zone that you are travelling through. You can calculate your journey here.
The metro is a great fully automated railway system, delays are rare and some rides are above ground where you can spot awesome Dubai sights.
The tram runs just one line that goes from Al Sufouh to Jumeirah Beach Residences in a total of 45 minutes and running through places such as Palm Jumeiah or Dubai Marina.
Rides cost from AED 7 to AED 18 (US $2.20 to $4.90) depending on the zone that you are travelling through. You can calculate your journey here.
Taxis are quite common in Dubai and quite safe and reliable. You can just flag one down on the street or get your hotel to get you one. They cost around US $0.50 per km plus US $3.30 initial charge. They are usually cheaper than Ubers, except for long journeys or journeys where you will be getting caught up in traffic.
Uber works on a flat rate. You download the app, select your destination and you will be shown how much it will cost you! Basically, like anywhere else in the world! I personally love it!
Must-try food in Dubai
And we have reached my favorite part of the article! Here is where I explain to you my favorite local dishes and I get extremely jealous of you, soon-to-be Dubai visitor!
Dubai cuisine is the perfect mix between Arabic, Lebanese and Iranian food, and what could have come out of a combination of these unbelievably tasty cuisines? Keep reading to know!
Below, are the best typical meals from Emirati cuisine that you just NEED to try during your Dubai stay!
- Hummus – It is highly debated where hummus comes from, however, what is certainly true is that it’s a big thing in Dubai. You can’t leave without trying this yummy blend of chickpeas and tahini!
- Manousheh – One of the top street foods in Dubai! Flatbread filled with lamb, Akkawi cheese and Middle Eastern herbs are a favorite amongst travellers and locals alike!
- Tabbouleh – A salad made of cucumber, tomatoes, onions, lemon juice and herbs! Famous all over the world and a super healthy and refreshing choice for those hot Dubai days!
- Al Harees – Super traditional meal made of wheat and meat and eaten during most important events like weddings and Ramadan.
- Falafel – When falafel is good, it’s so good! That’s why you need to try it in Dubai, and not that supermarket dried falafel that we get back home!
- Al Machboos – Rice and chicken with a touch of Middle Eastern spices, the flavor is really good and unexpected, a must-try!
- Knafeh – The best middle eastern dessert, Knafeh is like a cake made of sweet cheese and chopped pistachios. I’ll be trying to make this at home for sure!
- Manakish – A dough topped with herbs, cheese and meat that can be eaten for lunch or breakfast, very similar to a pizza!
All these are just some of my favorite dishes and the ones that I recommend. If you tried an amazing dish during your trip, make sure you let me know in the comments below, I am dying to know!
If you’d like a knowledgeable local guide to take you to the best spots to try out traditional Emirati and Dubai dishes, you can check out this 4-hour food walking tour. You could end up spending the same on a meal anyways but this way you get to try traditional coffee, Arabian tea and many more delicacies from the Middle East!
Great restaurants and cafés in Dubai
If there is something that you should be doing while in Dubai, it is trying out all the amazing restaurants this city has!
Dubai’s international restaurants attract the most renowned chefs in the world, which just accentuates the quality of the country’s cuisine and broadens its horizons! Check out my list below of the best restaurants in Dubai!
- Pierchic – a bit on the expensive side, this restaurant is built above the water where you can enjoy the greatest seafood while looking at the sea and the stunning Burj Al Arab!
- At.Mosphere at Burj Khalifa– if you really want to splurge and have a once in a lifetime experience in Dubai, check out the At.Mosphere Restaurant on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa! You can check out their international menu on their website with breakfast, lunch and dinner options available. Make sure you book your window seat in advance!
- TOMO– in this high-class Japanese restaurant you will be able to enjoy a delicious Japanese meal on some traditional tatamis while admiring the best views of the Burj Khalifa from the terrace. Make sure you head there when it’s getting dark; you’ll be amazed at the change of colors in the sky!
- Al Bait Al Qadeem– one of the best traditional and affordable Dubai restaurants! Located right in the city center and serving the most traditional dishes with a traditional Arabian ambience!
- Al Fanar Restaurant & Café– located at the Dubai Mall, this traditional middle eastern restaurant is a perfect place to try all the delicious flavors that are awaiting you in Dubai!
- Boxpark Dubai, if you have been in London you might be familiar with Boxpark Brixton! It’s exactly the same concept, stores, cafés and restaurants in shipping boxes, one stacked on top of the other! The businesses keep changing as they are all just pop-ups, so make sure to check the website to see what’s on while you’re there!
As you can see, there are plenty of eating options available in Dubai for all types of budgets. And the great thing is that the most traditional Middle Eastern cuisine is found in middle range restaurants that all types of tourists are able to afford, so no one is left out!
Visa for UAE
You might be wondering… do I need a visa to travel to Dubai? Actually, visas for the United Arab Emirates are way easier to get than you might think!
For most European citizens, the UAE provides a free on arrival 90-day visa, non-renewable. However, for some other European countries, Australia and the US, the UAE provides a free 30-day visa on arrival, extendable for another 30 days.
To sum it up, for most of you there is no need to apply for a visa in advance! However, I do strongly advise you to check the UAE government website to check on your particular case or just to see if any of this information has changed.
PRO TIP: A non-official website that I love visiting when I am going travelling is VisaHQ, it’s super well explained and it tells you all you need to know about the visa requirements for any country you are visiting!
Sim cards in Dubai
We all know how handy having internet connection when arriving to a new country can be! It can help you out with things such as booking a taxi, finding your way around or getting out of a tricky situation.
If you like to have things under control, getting a sim card is usually a very good idea. However, if you have more of a thrifty spirit you can always get around by logging on free WI-FIs or downloading the Google map of Dubai on your phone.
There are two main phone providers in the Emirates and out of those two, I believe that Etisalat is the one that provides more value! Currently, for AED 75 (US $20) per week you can get 3.5GB of data and 175 minutes.
NOTE: Since June 2019, tourists are given a SIM card for free on their arrival at the airport (if you are over 18 years old) with 3min and 20MB of data for free! You can check it out here.
Money and Prices in Dubai
Dubai’s fame has always been as a place to splurge, to sin and to give in to excess! And this fame is justified because with DUbai’s many malls and world-class shopping it is pretty much consumerism heaven. However, as with all places, there are different options for every budget, it all depends on what you are looking for!
A high budget means that you’ll be able to spend money in malls, high-class restaurants and super fun activities. However, with a low budget you will have to stick to museums, souks and beaches, which sounds amazing to me as well!
Here are some sample prices, so you can get an idea about how expensive Dubai is:
- A meal in an inexpensive restaurant for 1 person – US $15
- Dinner for 2 in a restaurant – US $80
- A night in a hotel (very approximate) – US $120
- Taxi – US $0.50 USD per km + US $3.30 initial charge
- A bottle of water – US $0.50
- Domestic beer 0,5L – US $2.30
- Metro ticket – US $2
- Average price for a museum – US $1
- 1 l of gas (1/4 gallon) – US $0.60
As you can see, Dubai is not necessarily the most expensive place, it just has very expensive and luxurious options for those that can and want to enjoy them!
TIPPING CULTURE: Tipping is quite normal in Dubai. Even though most of the restaurants include a service charge, most people end up tipping on top of that. Usually, the tip amounts to 10% of the bill, depending on how you enjoyed the service.
BARGAINING: Bargaining does not happen at malls but is mostly typical at souks and markets. So, if you’re heading to the spice or clothes souk, bear in mind that you WILL BE bargaining or your Dubai trip cost will be higher than expected.
Best time to visit Dubai
I am usually the one that recommends you travel during low season, however, Dubai is a whole different thing!
Dubai gets really, REALLY, hot! SO hot that you might not even be able to get out of the hotel, mall or waterpark! And while a waterpark does sound fun, you can enjoy it throughout the whole year in Dubai!
While summer can be unbearable, most decent hotels have swimming pools to spend the hottest parts of the day at. However, my advice is that you visit Dubai between November to March, during their winter; why not enjoy some Christmas holidays in this wonderful city?
How many days to spend in Dubai?
This really depends on you! You have seen by now that Dubai has an endless amount of things to do and places to see and explore, and if not, you can always head out of the city and explore the wonderful nature around it!
If your question is how long it takes to see all the sights IN Dubai, I would probably say around 3-4 days, however this can certainly be extended if your time and budget allows it. I would also consider a desert visit a must when heading to the Emirates and this can definitely add up to another day on your itinerary. Apart from this, you would miss out if you didn’t book at least 1 day for activities such as waterparks or adventure parks. Therefore I would say that in order to take in Dubai to the fullest you need 5-6 days in this city of dreams!