The once-obscure city of Dubai, has now become one of the world’s most beautiful metropolis and its skyline is one of the most futuristic. In 2016, almost 15 million tourists travelled to the city, whether it was to shop for some of the world’s best brands, to escape the winter blues or for business. Home to one of the world’s best airlines, Dubai airport is a giant hub and many travellers crisscrossing the world have their connections here.

If you have quite a few hours, you may be wondering what to do in Dubai during a layover. So just follow me, as I show you some things to see in Dubai in your stopover, based on my own experience stopping in the city for different numbers of hours.

Can you visit Dubai during a layover?

What To Do In Dubai During A Layover

When it comes to layovers, there’s no one-itinerary-fits-all solution. What you should do in 5 hours, is very different from what you can see in 12 hours in Dubai, for example. Also, if you have already been there once or twice, you would most likely follow a different itinerary than first-timers. Just for the record, here I’m considering that you have a daytime layover and that you’ve never been to the city before.

Can You Visit Dubai During a 4-Hour Layover?

This is something I was asked in the past and the answer is no, you can’t. Dubai International Airport (DXB) is a huge place and it will take you long to get out of the plane, go through immigration and leave the airport. Also, returning to the airport, clearing immigration again and getting to your departure gate, will take quite some time.

I recommend leaving the airport only if you have a minimum of 6 hours and, even so, it would be quite tight.

6 Hours Dubai Layover

If you have a full 6-hour layover in Dubai, it’s important to remember that, in fact, you only have about 3 hours to spare.

I recommend taking a taxi. Dubai Metro system is very good and modern, but since it’s very long, it can take time to get from A to B.

What To Do In Dubai During a Layover

Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world

The main place you should visit on your stopover is Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Take a taxi straight there, and buy your ticket online and skip the lines. The views from up there are absolutely amazing. But if you don’t want to go all the way up there, you can just admire this futuristic construction from the ground, explore the malls and photograph the fountains.

From here, take a taxi to Jumeirah beach, where you can pose for pictures with the Burj al Arab hotel in the background. It is the world’s tallest hotel and considered the only seven-star. Unfortunately, you can only go inside if you are a hotel guest or if you have a booking in one of the restaurants. Nearby you can also visit the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, also iconic with its wave-like design.

What To Do In Dubai During a Layover

Jumeirah beach with the Burj Al Arab, Dubai’s most famous landmark

8 Hours Stopover In Dubai

In addition to the Burj Khalifa and Jumeirah beach, you can stop at the souks (bazaars) in Deira district on the way back to the airport. The most popular part is the Gold Souk, a covered part of the bazaar with shops selling gold jewellery at a reasonable price, if compared with other places.

Can you visit Dubai during a layover?

A shop in the Gold Souk

Another interesting area is Al Sabkha Souk, where you can buy exotic spices, including saffron, from the many shops and stalls. Here the colours and smells will take you back to Old Arabia.

10-Hour Layover In Dubai

In 10 hours during the day, you can see quite a lot of the main attractions in Dubai. Now you can start visiting the Gold Souk and Al Sabkha Souk, followed by a visit to Burj Khalifa.

Next, take a taxi or the metro to Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall by area, with over 1,200 shops. Even if you’re not that much into shopping, Dubai Mall is an interesting attraction, since there is an ice rink and a giant aquarium, apart from several cinema rooms.

What To Do In Dubai During a Layover

The aquarium at Dubai Mall

Spend the last part of your day at Jumeirah beach for the sunset with Burj al Arab hotel in the background, before returning to the airport.

To be on the safe side, whether you’re taking Bangalore to Dubai flights connecting to the USA, or flying from London to Australia via Dubai, it’s always good to speak the airline staff about your connection before leaving the airport.

Related Posts:
Fighting Gravity at iFly Dubai
My Hotel, My Home: Jumeirah Emirates Hotel, Dubai
Public Transport from Muscat to Dubai
Oman, A Real Present
What To See in Abu Dhabi
Lunch at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai
How To Explore The Dubai Nightlife

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23 Responses

  1. Fiona Maclean

    Good tips. I have a strange feeling I might head straight for Jumeirah beach! But, you’ve given some great options to actually get a feel for Dubai

  2. Tamara

    I love when you can visit a new place on a layover- but you’re right, it’s hard to do if you have less than 6 hours when you account for transit times and getting through customs. Dubai deserves more than a day anyway 🙂

  3. Melanie

    I was in Dubai for 2 days and I must say I didn’t enjoy the city. I also went to the mall and it was too overwhelming for me. The fake city, the beach, so many shops. A world that I cannot really relate too. Although I enjoyed the beach and drinks at the hotel, I think I’d prefer another city to stay. Although if I had a layover for a really long time, I think it helps a lot to read your article in advance.

    • Pedro

      Hi Melanie, so I didn’t like Dubai at all, I went there for the first time as an extension of my trip to Oman. The thing is, in the end I really liked the city for what it is. It’s fake, definitely, but I liked how they created something so impressive out of the sand.

  4. Hannah Lukaszewicz

    We’ve actually one been to Dubai on a layover, ours was 16 hours last time. So we didn’t have enough time to get out in explore. We really need to get back and I think 24 hours would be good, want to check out the mall!

  5. Skye Class

    I was in Dubai for three days last year and it still was barely enough time to scratch the surface. Just the Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates take a couple days to explore. But if there’s something you really want to see, like the tallest building in the world, using your 6-hour layover to snap a picture is totally worth it. Everytime I saw the building, it seemed like I had stepped into some fictional, sci-fi universe.

  6. Nisha

    I love the way you have categorized based on the number of hours available. 🙂 Of course 1 day is not enough at all. I am also not sure if I would be allowed to get to the city too , considering visa on arrival…

    • Pedro

      Hi Nisha, that’s a good point. It’s only recommended if you don’t need a visa. Otherwise, these few hours are not worth the cost.

  7. Ryan Biddulph

    Loving this post Pedro; fabulous pictures. I really fell in love with souks when visiting Doha in Qatar earlier this year. You feel like you have stepped back a few centuries at these Middle Eastern markets. Different feel from the rest of the modernized, advanced parts of these areas in wealthy Middle Eastern lands. Good to know too; one has a small window to see Dubai during a layover. We always wind up doing some online work or napping during our layovers, unless it is long enough for a night’s rest at a local hotel.


  8. Anneklien Meanne

    Visiting the souk would be a great place to buy souvenirs. Dubai isnt on my list but have read so much about it might consider to visit one day. Architectural photography stroll would be cool.

    • Pedro

      Hey! Yes, it wasn’t on my list either, until I decided to go there just to have enough arguments to criticise it. The thing is, I loved it and ever since I returned several times and also enjoyed a few long layovers there. 🙂

  9. Suruchi

    That is quite an informative post and I like the way how you have detailed it on the hour basis. Dubai as such has never interested us but I will surely love to check these places out during a layover.

  10. Siddhartha Joshi

    This is an excellent post and I wish I had read this earlier – have had many layovers in Dubai, but always spent all the time at the airport (which is also not a bad idea). I would also add a boat-ride if there is more time to spare 🙂

  11. Anita Hendrieka

    This is such a useful post. I have had quite a few layovers in Dubai but I always somehow manage to stay in the airport and work instead of exploring the city. Next time I will get out and explore what it has to offer!

    • Pedro

      Hi Anita, I totally understand. Dubai airport is so huge and with great wifi, but the city is also so easy to navigate that it’s worth getting out if you have the time.

  12. Katie

    I did my 3 nights layover in Dubai in 2015 and it was a good idea, I think 3 days was quite ok to see the most important stuff, even though one more extra day would come useful as well. Less can do too, but it would be a pitty.


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