Are you making a stopover in Dubai? From a few hours to a few days? In this article I explain what you can do while you are here! 🙂 It is becoming increasingly common for flights to Bangkok and other places in Thailand and South Asia to stop over in Dubai. In this emirate, there is so much to see within easy reach of the airport, it would be a shame not to take advantage of this stop to explore the city a bit.
Here's some practical information and ideas for places to visit, if you want to keep yourself busy and see some highlights during your stopover in Dubai.
THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW FOR YOUR STOPOVER IN DUBAI
The main reason why stopovers in Dubai are such a good opportunity to discover the city is that upon arrival, you will get a free visa valid for 30 days. There is no need to fill in any prior application form, and nothing to stop you from leaving the airport to go anywhere you want. You will simply need a passport valid for the next 6 months, and of course you will need to have enough time to leave the airport during your stopover.
If your break in Dubai is less than 4 or 5 hours, you won't have time to get to the city and enjoy your stopover, but as we'll see later, that doesn't mean you won't be able to find a way to enjoy that break in the emirate.
For your transfer between the airport and the city centre, you will have three alternatives to choose from:
- Metro : The Dubai Metro Red Line takes you directly to the city centre from Terminals 1 and 3 of Dubai International Airport. This is the cheapest way to get to the city, but also often the most convenient - especially during a stopover, as you won't be burdened with luggage.
The metro runs about every 10 minutes from 5am to midnight every day (and until 1am on Thursday and Friday). It will take you about 50 minutes to reach the heart of Dubai. The journey will cost you just over one euro, but it isn’t possible to pay in cash: you will need a NOL card, que vous pourrez acheter dans un distributeur.
- Bus : The RTA bus network will take you into the city from all airport terminals. Again, you will need a NOL Card. Depending on your destination, taking the bus may be cheaper, but I would advise you to use the metro whenever possible, and only use the bus to finish your journey if your destination is too far from a metro station
- Taxis and private cars : From Dubai Airport, you'll probably have no trouble finding taxis to take you into the city. You can even book them in advance with some companies if you want to save time. Although more expensive (at least 26$), these vehicles are the most comfortable way to reach the city. The fastest way to get to the city is often by car (but don't go renting a car in Dubai either! You won’t be able to really enjoy it).
In any case, be careful: during your stopover, you can't afford to waste time in traffic. For me, the metro is clearly the best option during rush hour, between 7am - 10am, and 5pm - 8pm.
PLACES TO DISCOVER DURING YOUR STOPOVER IN DUBAI
Dubai is both a very modern and a very traditional city. If your stopover in Dubai is long enough to allow you to explore the city, there are a number of places waiting for you.
This 828-metre-high tower is by far the tallest tower in the world, right now, and is a perfect symbol of Dubai's excessiveness. From the tower's observation deck, located on the 125th floor at an altitude of 400m, you can enjoy an unforgettable view of the city, the Dubai Marina, the artificial islands of Palm Jumeirah and The World. With a special ticket, you can even access the 148th floor of the SKY platform, to discover the city at 550m in a much more peaceful atmosphere.
This mosque is the most important in Dubai, but also one of the most photographed in the world. It is also the only mosque in the city that is accessible to non-Muslims. This spectacular religious building is one of Dubai's landmarks. You can admire its architecture and visit its beautiful garden freely, but the interior of the Jumeirah Mosque can only be visited on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 10am.
This gigantic shopping mall with nearly 1,200 stores is truly the major shopping destination in Dubai. The Dubai Mall covers more than a million square metres, and you can find department stores such as Bloomingdale's and Galeries Lafayette, as well as a large number of luxury boutiques such as Chanel, Dior and Louboutin.
More than just a shopping mall, the Dubai Mall is also home to an Olympic ice rink, as well as the Dubai Aquarium and the Underwater Zoo, where you can see a wide range of aquatic species.
Deira and Bur Dubai
If you want to experience the more traditional side of Dubai, you can head to the old city in the historic districts of Deira and Bur Dubai. In Deira, you'll find the Gold Souk and the Spice Souk. Bur Dubai is famous for its textile souk, as well as for its old buildings and historical monuments. For example, you can visit the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in the emirate. It now houses the Dubai Museum, which is dedicated to the history of the city.
These two areas are separated by Khor Dubai, the Dubai River, and you can travel from one to the other by abra, a traditional boat. In these atmospheric neighbourhoods, if you pass through the souks and wish to buy something, don't forget to bargain! The prices given to you by the shopkeepers at the start will always be higher than the real prices of the products.
WHAT TO DO DURING A SHORT STOPOVER IN DUBAI?
If your stopover in Dubai is expected to last a few hours at most, getting out of the airport and into the city should be avoided. However, as you will soon discover, Dubai International Airport has no shortage of places to pass the time.
SHOPPING IN DUBAI AIRPORT
If you want a taste of what shopping in Dubai, you don't need to leave the airport. The Dubai Duty Free Mall is one of the world's most spacious duty-free shopping areas. It has hundreds of shops in an area of 35,000 square metres. Terminal 3 is the place to go to find a large number of shops, open every day of the week.
If you want to bring back a souvenir from your stopover in Dubai, you will be able to choose from a large number of local products, and you will also find many Duty Free products:
- Cosmetics and perfumes
- Tobacco, cigarettes and cigars
- Jewellery and gold
- Fashion accessories, glasses, luxury watches…
- Smartphones, video game consoles and other electronic products
However, you should keep in mind the import limits as well as any customs fees you may incur. Depending on the content of the products, you will be allowed to bring back with you between 1 litre and 16 litres of alcohol. For tobacco, you will be limited to one carton (200 cigarettes) or 250 grams of tobacco.
RELAXING DURING YOUR STOPOVER IN DUBAI
Long-haul flights are often more tiring than they seem. Your stopover in Dubai can be the perfect opportunity to relax and pamper yourself. The airport hotel, which is located in Terminal 1, has a spa, swimming pool and gym, so you can relax and unwind during your stopover.
In the same terminal, if you fancy a quiet nap, there are SnoozeCubes. These small, narrow, dark, air-conditioned cabins can be hired for around $17 per hour. They are perfect for a few hours of sleep.
In several places around the airport you can find places to buy a coffee and a pastry or taste a local speciality. There are also world-famous eateries such as the Hard Rock Café and Paul's Bakery.
If you just want to stretch your legs in a very quiet atmosphere, you can go to the Zen Garden in Terminal 3. This small green area, which consists of tropical plants and a small water feature, also has a playground for children. It's the perfect place to take a stroll between flights without even having to leave the airport.