Dubai is the fastest-growing transit hub in the world, and has one of the nicest airports. The Dubai International Airport is located roughly 3 miles outside Dubai, which makes the city an accessible destination for those stuck on long layovers. If you’re trying to determine whether you can leave the airport during your layover in Dubai, click here for useful tips.
The Dubai airport is lined with palm trees and offers upscale shopping and restaurants. For the tired traveler, inside the hotel is the five-star, Dubai International Airport Hotel. You can pay by the hour (starting at $40) or the entire night (from $200) and offers a health club, business center, 24 hour laundry and room service. For additional Dubai hotels of varying price points, click here.
The Dubai International Airport also has many services including a Women’s Lounge & Children’s Play Area located between gates 12 and 14, internet kiosks near Gate 9 and Gate 23, a medical center on the ground level of the Concourse, post office near Gate 18 (open 24 hours), four prayer rooms in Arrivals and the main Concourse, and banking and currency exchange located near Gates 8, 18 and 22.
There are also many lounges to keep you occupied during your Dubai layover. There’s an International First Class Lounge between Gates 114 and 112, a Business Class Lounge beside Gate 108, and lounges for the following airlines: Air France, Gulf Air, Emirates, British Airways, KLM and Star Alliance between Gates 21 and 26. In addition there are two Quiet Lounges in the Sheikh Rashid Terminal near Gates 9 and 23 free of charge.
If you’re planning on seeing some sights during your Dubai layover, keep in mind that Dubai has some strict laws. The slightest amount of any illegal substance can land you in jail for many years, even life. In addition, don’t walk in front of somebody when they are praying, don’t drink alcohol in the street or in any public place (alcohol is only allowed in hotels or private clubs), avoid passionate displays of affection in public, and women should not dress suggestively to avoid any hassle.
Also, immigration can be long, as well as taxi lines. Give yourself plenty of time for delays. Depending on what city you’re coming from, you may also need to get a visa, and pay permissions to enter the country. (You can check out Visa Requirements in the widget on the right hand column of this page.)
Layover Guide’s Suggestions Of Things To Do On A Dubai Layover:
Big Bus Tours
Tickets for Big Bus Tours are valid for 24 hours and you can hop on and off whenever you’d like. One ticket covers both routes, which includes the Red Route (Dubai Creek, Al Fahidi Fort & Dubai Museum, the Souks (bazaars) and a few shopping malls) and The Blue Route (5-star hotels & the fanciest shopping malls.) Both tours offer live commentary or a choice of eight digitally recorded languages. See website for more info.
Although many people head straight to the modern mall, check out the Old Souqs along the creek in the older part of town that is what made Dubai the trading capital it is. On the Deira side of the Creek, don’t miss the Gold Souq which has over 300 outlets including all the gold jewelry you can imagine seeing as well as drain covers with diamonds on them. Also on this side is the Spice Souq which has spices from all over the Middle East. On the other side, check out the Bur Dubai Souq with textile and souvenir shops.
Shopping & Skiing
The Mall of the Emirates is a shoppers’ paradise, and for those who prefer to hit the slopes, the mall features the first indoor ski slope in the Middle East. For $40 per person you can get a lift ticket good for 2 hours, ski rentals, ski pants and jackets and even socks (gloves and hats are not provided). You can ski, snowboard and toboggan here, down the over 1300 foot slope. The mall is open 7 days a week from 10am to 10pm.
Burj Al Arab
The Burj Al Arab looks like a giant sail and claims to be “The Best Hotel in the World” with a rating of 7 stars. It is the world’s tallest dedicated hotel, with all the rooms hosting incredible views. The inside of the hotel has a dancing fountain, two massive fish-tank walls, and a soaring atrium. To visit the Burj Al Arab, you need to be staying there, or have advance reservations to eat at one of the restaurants or to have a drink at one of the bars (tip – the most budget friendly option is to book afternoon tea). Photos are only allowed in the lobby area.
Desert Safari & Camel Racing
If you have a very lengthy layover in Dubai, you might want to check out the camel racing and desert safaris offered outside Abu Dhabi city. Camel races are usually held early on Fridays or on national holidays. Safaris are half a day, and offer overnight options to stay in a Bedouin tent. Wadi-Driving explores the wadis or dry beds of streams that flow from the Hajar mountains. Dune driving allows you to try your hand at sand driving, with four-wheel-drive vehicles provided, and an expert guide. Or, try Sand-Skiing down the dunes of the Dubai desert. You can also sign on for a Desert Feasts which follow the safari with evening with an Arab barbecue under the stars.
Have a suggestion for a Dubai Layover? Leave a comment below!