Dubai International Airport (DBX) is one of the largest and busiest in the world, so it’s no surprise that Dubai is one of the best stopover cities to visit!
Whether you want to stop in Dubai for a few days, or you just have a few hours to spend waiting for the next flight to your destination, here you will find the useful tips you need to make the most of your Dubai stopover!
What you will find in this guide:
- How to Plan your Dubai Stopover or Layover
- Do I Need a Visa for a Stopover in Dubai?
- Dubai Layover Tours
- Things to Do and See in a Long Layover in Dubai
- Itinerary for a 7-8 hour Dubai Stopover
- Itinerary for a 12-hour (and longer) Dubai Stopover
- Things to Do in Dubai Airport
- Emirates Dubai Stopover
- Dubai Airport Hotels for Long Layover
How to Plan your Dubai Stopover or Layover
Dubai is a great stopover destination, as most travelers do not need a visa (you get a free visa on arrival), the city is worth seeing even if you don’t have enough time to visit in depth, and there are great and affordable Dubai city tours from airport that make it so much easier!
This is why many travelers choose to plan a few-day stopover in Dubai, in order to enjoy the city to the full. But even those who stop just for 6 or 7 hours, what is usually called a layover, can take the chance to take a tour of the city and see its main landmarks.
If your layover is really short (less than 6 hours) it would be better not to go to see the city, because you risk missing the next flight. Dubai airport is huge, and the city too. Just to get an idea: from Dubai Airport (DBX) to Palm Jumeirah is about 30km and the roads can be busy during the day. It would really be a race against time!
If your layover lasts at least 6 hours, then you definitely shouldn’t miss a nice tour of Dubai!
If you want to leave your luggage (usually not necessary, as you can collect it directly at your destination) there are lockers in the Dubai Airport Luggage Storage, located in Terminals 1 and 3. The service costs AED 25 per bag, for 12 hours.
Do I Need a Visa for a Stopover in Dubai?
Most travelers, such as those arriving from European countries, USA, Canada, Russia, China, Japan or Australia, can benefit from the free Visa on Arrival, issued directly at the airport.
Those who are not entitled to a visa on arrival can obtain a transit visa by requesting it in advance from the airline.
You can find all the details on the UAE Visa here, including the complete list of all nationalities eligible for Visa on Arrival.
To enter the UAE, you must have a passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry, and a confirmed flight ticket for your next destination.
Dubai Layover Tours
Dubai city tours depart daily from any airport terminal, and allow you to comfortably see all of the city’s major landmarks.
These are private tours, only for you and for those traveling with you, and this is very important because it guarantees maximum flexibility, to be able to see the city in total calm and according to the exact times of your flights.
3-Hour Dubai Layover Tour
The 3-hour city tour is undoubtedly the most affordable solution. A professional driver will show you all the highlights of the city, such as the Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah (the famous palm-shaped island), the incredible Dubai Marina district and much more.
The tour is packed with photo opportunities, and the drivers are usually very flexible in showing you what you want to see. At the end of the tour you will be dropped off at the airport, perfectly on time for your flight.
You can book your tour online, choosing the best time for you, whether it’s day or night.
1 -Day Dubai Layover Tour
This is the most comprehensive tour, allowing you to fully enjoy the highlights of Dubai in just one day. This is actually a private tour, so it can be customized to suit your flight schedules.
A professional guide (who speaks your preferred language) will pick you up at the airport, and take you around the city, showing you all the main landmarks and telling you interesting facts about the local history and culture.
Finally you will be able to see the most famous skyscraper in the world, the Burj Khalifa. The skip-the-line ticket is included in the price, so you can enjoy the breathtaking view from the top of the world’s tallest skyscraper. Those who take the tour in the afternoon will also enjoy the incredible show of the Dubai Fountain.
You can book the tour online, choosing the best time for you (from 8.00 AM to 8.00 PM).
If you have planned a multi-day Dubai Stopover, then you can take your time to explore the city, while also enjoying some unforgettable experiences, such as a desert safari or a dinner in one of the best restaurants of the Burj Al Arab.
Things to Do and See in a Long Layover in Dubai
Whether you’re on a long layover (12 hours and more) or a 2-3 day stopover, this essential list of all the attractions you just can’t miss on your Dubai stopover will definitely come in handy.
The Burj Khalifa is the tallest skyscraper in the world, and Dubai’s most famous attraction. At the top there are several observation decks from which you can enjoy a breathtaking view over the whole city, the desert and the Arabian Gulf. It is absolutely a must!
You should book your tickets online ahead of time, as it can get busy and the queues for tickets can be long.
Famous for being the world’s first 7-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab is one of the most iconic buildings in Dubai, overlooking the stunning Jumeirah Beach. You can see it and take some photos from the nearby beach, but if you have enough time you could enjoy a traditional high tea or a memorable dinner at one of its excellent restaurants.
If you have enough time then you should definitely take the chance to go on an adventurous desert safari. This is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Dubai: you can see the largest sandy desert in the world, do the thrilling experience of dune bashing, enjoy a memorable camel ride and maybe a tasty dinner under the starry sky.
This incredible neighborhood is the heart of Dubai’s nightlife, and one of the most vibrant places in the city: here you can see the incredible yachts of billionaires, the best trendy clubs and restaurants, some of the most exclusive skyscrapers and one of the most beautiful beaches in Dubai. Don’t miss the chance to take a guided speedboat tour or, if you’re really brave, try the incredible zipline.
Palm Jumeirah is the famous palm-shaped island, one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. Here you can see some of the most exclusive resorts and villas in the city, including the world famous Atlantis The Palm hotel. You could enjoy a relaxing break at Atlantis Aquaventure, one of the most beautiful water parks in Dubai.
It is much more than a huge shopping center: in fact it is the heart of the city, where locals hang out with friends, and where families love to stroll for shopping. There are also good eateries for every budget. It is located right next to the Burj Khalifa. Go there in the evening to see the famous Dubai Fountain show.
This huge aquarium is one of the most popular attractions in Dubai and is located in the Dubai Mall. You have the chance to see thousands of species of aquatic animals, you can walk in a glass tunnel inside the largest tank and experience different exciting activities.
Take a stroll through the narrow streets of Deira, one of the oldest districts in Dubai. Even today you can see the old souks, such as the Spice Souk and the famous Gold Souk, which attracts merchants and buyers from all over the world.
Cross Dubai Creek aboard one of the traditional boats called abra, and reach the picturesque neighborhood of Al Bastakiya. This is the oldest neighborhood in the city, and there are many interesting museums to visit to discover the local history and culture.
Dubai Creek is one of the most authentic places in Dubai: here you can still see merchants and sailors working on traditional boats called dhows. From the calm waters of the creek you can also enjoy a beautiful view of the city. In the evening you can board some of the traditional dhows to enjoy a romantic dinner cruise.
Itinerary for a 7-8 hour Dubai Stopover
Well, you have 7-8 hours to spare before your next flight and would like to check out the city! It’s not a long time, but it’s enough if you know your way around.
You can take a taxi, or the efficient Dubai Metro: you can take it directly at the airport, from terminals 1 and 3, there is a train approximately every 10 minutes.
Alternatively you can book a private tour, which is certainly a more comfortable solution and that allows you to see much more, because you save time and you can also see places that are normally more difficult to reach by public transport (such as the Burj Al Arab and Palm Jumeirah).
If you want to visit the city on your own, this could be a good itinerary:
From the airport you could go to Deira, where you can take a quick look at the souks and Dubai Creek. From here you can take the metro and get off at Dubai Marina.
After taking a look at the beautiful Dubai Marina district, with its skyscrapers and famous beach, you could take the metro and head to the Dubai Mall. Enjoy the impressive view of the Burj Khalifa and if you’ve booked your tickets online, climb to the top of the observation deck and enjoy the breathtaking view over the city.
It should be time to go back to the airport, you can take the Dubai Metro or a taxi and in less than 30 minutes you will be at the airport.
Itinerary for a 12-hour (and longer) Dubai Stopover
If your Dubai Stopover is at least 12 hours, then you can explore the city more in depth.
Depending on your time, you can choose to visit the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Aquarium, enjoy an exciting desert safari, or go see the Burj Al Arab.
A good and inexpensive solution to visit the city are the double-decker hop-on hop-off buses, which allow you to see all the main attractions of Dubai, including Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Burj Al Arab, the famous Jumeirah Beach and the Old Town of Dubai.
Things to Do in Dubai Airport
Dubai International Airport is huge and full of shops. You can spend your time shopping in the many duty free shops and fashion boutiques or in the sweets and local products shops.
You can enjoy free and unlimited WiFi, you can find dozens of eateries and cafes, where you can try local specialties or order some dishes of international cuisine: there are Italian, Mexican, American, Asian restaurants and so on. You can also find the usual various international fast foods, of course.
If you want to relax, there are several lounges (free for those with business class tickets or similar), a spa where you can enjoy relaxing massages, and a wellness center with a swimming pool, jacuzzi and gym.
There are also children’s playgrounds, and charging stations for your mobile phone (USB and three pin plugs). The airport is open and busy 24 hours a day and there are also showers and smoking areas.
Emirates Dubai Stopover
Some tour operators sell Dubai stopover packages that allow you to spend a few days in the city. Emirates airline also sells similar packages that include an overnight stay in a few luxury hotels and a range of optional additional activities.
If you are traveling on Emirates and your flight itinerary includes a long stopover (10 to 24 hours) then you may be entitled to a free hotel night, transfers and breakfast.
This excellent service is called Dubai Connect and is offered by Emirates to eligible travelers, including those traveling in economy class. If so, you should check with the airline if you qualify and book the service at least 24 hours before your flight.
Dubai Airport Hotels for Long Layover
If you are looking for a comfortable place to rest during your stopover, there are 2 good hotels inside Dubai International Airport (right near the gates, inside the safe zone):
Dubai International Terminal Hotel
This great hotel in Dubai Airport is located right in the transit area, just a few steps from the gates. It offers elegant, comfortable, clean and spacious rooms. It also has a good spa, indoor pool, gym, and areas dedicated to business travelers.
Sleep ‘n Fly Sleep Lounge Dubai Airport
Perfect for resting during a stopover, this cute hotel offers basic but very comfortable single, double or family cabins, which can be booked for specific time slots, even for just 4 or 8 hours. It could be a decent solution for those who just want to rest a little.
If you want to enjoy a nice visit to the city and stay overnight near the airport, you can choose between several excellent hotels:
Premier Inn Dubai International Airport
Located opposite Terminal 3, this nice and modern hotel offers good, spacious and clean rooms with private bathroom. There is a nice pub where you can eat or drink something, a restaurant with international cuisine and a cafe open 24 hours a day. It offers a free shuttle service to and from the airport and Dubai Mall.
Holiday Inn Express Dubai Airport
Located right next to the Premier Inn Dubai International Airport, this hotel offers good accommodation at budget prices, the rooms have private bathrooms, are large and clean. There is a restaurant with international cuisine, a bar and a free shuttle service to the airport.
Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Center
Le Méridien Dubai Airport Hotel is located just minutes from the airport, easily accessible with the free shuttle service. It is surrounded by greenery, and offers 18 restaurants serving the best of international cuisine. The rooms are elegant and modern, spacious and bright, equipped with all comforts. Guests can also enjoy a good spa, 4 swimming pools and a fitness center.
Here are some things that might come in handy: