Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Aircraft above Dubai

26 Best Things to Do During a Stopover in Dubai

Transform your Dubai stopover into an epic adventure with these 26 amazing activities

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If you are soon travelling to your destination via Dubai Airport, do not miss a chance to explore this amazing city and try the best things to do during a stopover in Dubai. It welcomes millions of transit travellers from around the world and leaves them in awe with its glitzy skyline, luxurious shopping malls and world-known attractions. If you have a layover or a stopover at Dubai Airport, make the most of your time by exploring this fascinating city.

In this guide, I will explain the difference between a layover and a stopover, how to book a stopover in Dubai, visa requirements and the optimal time you need to enjoy your Dubai stopover without a rush. Moreover, I will share with you my list of 26 best things to do during a stopover in Dubai and recommended itineraries for a 4, 8, 12 and 24-hour stopover in Dubai.

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What is the difference between a layover and a stopover

A layover refers to a short break during a flight, usually lasting a few hours, when passengers are required to remain at the airport until their next flight. On the other hand, a stopover is a more extended break, typically lasting 24 hours or more, during which passengers can leave the airport, explore the city and even stay overnight before catching their next flight.

Is Dubai worth a stopover

Absolutely! Dubai is an ideal stopover destination due to its strategic location between Europe, Asia and Africa. With a wealth of attractions, shopping experiences and cultural activities, there’s always something to see and do in Dubai, no matter how long your stopover may be. Keep reading to learn how to spend time during a Dubai stopover and what the must-do activities are.

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Dubai Airport

How to book a flight with a stopover in Dubai

Can I book a stopover or layover in Dubai? Certainly! Many airlines, such as Emirates, offer stopover packages that include flights, accommodation and even tours. Naturally, you can also book your flights yourself and plan the stopover program separately according to your liking.

To book a stopover in Dubai you can do the following:

  • Use a standard search for a flight via Dubai: After you enter your dates, departure and arrival cities you will get the search results. You can filter them by airline and stopover/layover airport. In most cases, you will need to select Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Emirates Airlines or FlyDubai. You will then see flight options with connections at Dubai Airport ranging from 2 to 24 hours.
  • Use a multi-city or advanced search: If you want a longer Dubai stopover, try this option that allows you to fill in your stopover dates. For example, If you fly between London and Singapore, you can select “From London to Dubai”, “From Dubai to Singapore” and “From Singapore to London” respectively. You can then choose your Dubai arrival and departure dates.
  • Book separate tickets: Finally, if you prefer Dubai as your stopover destination, there is an opportunity to simply book two separate tickets. If you use the route mentioned above, you can buy a one-way London – Dubai ticket and then a Dubai – Singapore – London open-jaw ticket. Furthermore, a return ticket London – Dubai and a return ticket Dubai – Singapore is also an option.

Have Fun Dubai’s Tip: Keep in mind that buying separate tickets is often less convenient and more expensive. There might be exceptions. For instance, if you book separate tickets with budget airlines. When you book a Dubai stopover flight I also highly recommend inquiring if your luggage should be claimed at Dubai Airport or if it will be checked through to your final destination. During a short layover, it will be automatically transferred to another aircraft, but when booking separate tickets you will need to claim your luggage.

Book a Dubai stopover flight here

Can I leave Dubai Airport on a stopover

Yes, you can leave Dubai Airport during your stopover, provided you have the appropriate visa (if required) and enough time to explore the city before your next flight.

Do I need a visa for a stopover in Dubai

Visa requirements for a stopover in Dubai vary depending on your nationality. Citizens of several countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and most European countries, can obtain a visa on arrival for stays ranging from 30 to 90 days. Other nationalities may need to apply for a transit visa (48 to 96 hours) or a prearranged tourist visa in advance.

It’s essential to check the visa requirements for your specific nationality before planning your stopover in Dubai.

How to get to Dubai from Dubai International Airport

To go to the city, you can use different means of public transport.

  • Taxis are cheap and will bring you to any part of the city. Please be aware that traffic is heavy during rush hours in Dubai, so return to the airport on time. The journey to Dubai’s central areas takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic, and costs AED 50-70.
  • Dubai Metro connects the airport with several tourist areas, including the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Marina, Gold Souk, Spice Souk and more. To use public transport in Dubai, you will need a NOL card. You can reach Burj Khalifa in about 20-30 minutes, the Mall of the Emirates in 40 minutes and Dubai Marina in 50-60 minutes. Metro prices from Dubai Airport start at AED 3.
  • Private transfer is a very convenient way to avoid any hassle. The driver will greet you when you exit the baggage claim area and will bring you to your destination quickly and safely. Private transfers are more expensive than taxis, but they offer additional services, such as a child seat, mineral water etc. Book your Dubai Airport private transfer here

26 best things to do during a stopover in Dubai

What is a long enough stopover in Dubai? If you have a layover of under 6 hours, I do not recommend leaving Dubai Airport, otherwise, things will be rushed. There are activities you can enjoy inside the airport and I put them on top of the list. To get a taste of Dubai, plan 8 to 24 hours for must-do things during transit in Dubai.

Now, let’s dive into the 26 best things to do during a stopover in Dubai!

1. Visit the Dubai Airport Plaza Premium Lounge

What to do during a short layover in Dubai? If your cabin class or loyalty member card does not include access to an airport lounge, you can still visit one of them for a fee during your layover in Dubai. I highly recommend the Plaza Premium Lounge at Dubai International Airport. It is located on Level 4 between Gates A2 and A3 in Terminal 3. The lounge offers many useful facilities and services that will help you to refresh before you continue your journey. They include free Wi-Fi, shower rooms, food and beverages, a children’s playroom and many more.

Book access to Plaza Premium Lounge at DXB here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Premium Lounge

2. Take a shower at Dubai Airport to refresh

If visiting the DXB airport lounge is not on top of your wish list but you are still looking to refresh, take a relaxing shower. Free shower rooms are located in Terminal 3 between gates B13 and B19.

3. Use the DXB airport free Wi-Fi

You can use free Wi-Fi at Dubai International Airport to catch up with friends and family or your business after a long flight. Select “DXB Free Wi-Fi” from the network menu on your phone and then connect to it using your browser.

4. Feel reborn after massage

Talking about the best things to do at Dubai Airport, I should mention one more. To unwind during your layover at Dubai International Airport, visit the Be Relax Spa at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 or XpresSpa and Timeless Spa, located within Terminal 3. The service is fantastic, and you will feel 100% refreshed for your onward journey.

It is now time to explore must-do Dubai stopover activities outside the airport.

5. Visit Burj Khalifa

Visiting Burj Khalifa should be on top of your list of best things to do during a stopover in Dubai. The tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa offers breathtaking views of Dubai’s skyline from the observation deck located on the 124th/125th and 148th floor (two separate tickets).

  • Distance to Burj Khalifa from Dubai International Airport: 15 km
  • Travel time: 20 minutes by taxi, 25 minutes by metro

Book your Burj Khalifa ticket here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Burj Khalifa

6. Go on a shopping spree at the Dubai Mall

One of the largest malls in the world, the Dubai Mall offers over 1,200 shopping, dining and entertainment options for all ages. Take an opportunity to stock up on popular brands, see an amazing waterfall or even skate on the Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink. One thing to note, shopping at the Dubai Mall is not cheap.

  • Distance to the Dubai Mall from Dubai International Airport: 15 km
  • Travel time: 20 minutes by taxi, 25 minutes by metro

7. Watch the mesmerising Dubai Fountain show

The stunning Dubai Fountain show takes place on the Burj Khalifa Lake and features music, lights and 150-metre water jets. It’s a must-do if you have an evening stopover in Dubai, with free shows running from 18:00 to 23:00 every 30 minutes. To get a closer Dubai Fountain view, take a wonderful 30-minute lake boat ride.

  • Distance to the Dubai Fountain from Dubai International Airport: 15 km
  • Travel time: 20 minutes by taxi, 25 minutes by metro

Book your Dubai Fountain lake boat ride tickets here

8. Visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo

Located inside the Dubai Mall, this aquarium features over 140 species of aquatic animals and offers a unique underwater zoo experience.

  • Distance to the Dubai Aquarium from Dubai International Airport: 15 km
  • Travel time: 20 minutes by taxi, 25 minutes by metro

Book your Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo tickets here

Have Fun Dubai’s Tip: Do you want to visit Burj Khalifa and Dubai Aquarium on the same day and save? Then I recommend buying a combo ticket with a great discount, you will pay less than buying separate tickets to these two Dubai attractions. Book your Burj Khalifa and Dubai Aquarium combo ticket here

9. Take a Dubai guided tour from Dubai Airport with transfers

Taking a guided tour from Dubai International Airport is a great way to spend your time during a Dubai stopover in a hassle-free way. Everything will be taken care of, so you can simply enjoy it! This 4-hour transit Dubai tour includes a pick-up from any terminal and a convenient drop-off afterwards. You will see many exciting Dubai landmarks, and the price includes a Burj Khalifa observation deck ticket.

Book your Dubai stopover guided tour here

10. Rent a car at Dubai International Airport

If you have a long stopover in Dubai, rent a car at Dubai Airport to make the most of your stay without depending on taxis or public transport. Renting a car at Dubai Airport is easy and affordable. Furthermore, Dubai offers great infrastructure, petrol prices are low and parking near most of the top Dubai landmarks is free. You can explore the city at your own pace and effortlessly visit many attractions using a GPS. Car rental points at DXB are conveniently located in Terminals 1, 2 and 3 just outside the baggage claim hall.

Check the prices and rent your car at Dubai Airport here

11. Take a tour of the Burj Al Arab Hotel

The iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel is a must-see attraction on your Dubai stopover. Representing opulence and luxury, this building with a striking sail-shaped design can be seen from many points. It adorns the sandy coastline of the Arabian Gulf and is a favourite of many photographers.

You cannot simply walk in to see the interior, but the hotel offers an exciting guided tour, which I absolutely recommend joining. Besides, you can stay after the tour to book a table at one of the restaurants or enjoy a private beach for a fee.

  • Distance to Burj Al Arab from Dubai International Airport: 27 km
  • Travel time: 30 minutes by taxi

Book your Inside Burj Al Arab guided tour here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Burj Al Arab

12. Visit the Dubai Creek

This historic area close to Dubai International Airport offers a glimpse into Dubai’s past with traditional markets, museums and old buildings. Take a traditional abra boat for only AED 1 to cross the Dubai Creek to immerse into local life, explore Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood or the Al Seef area lined with quaint shops and dining venues. If you have time, join one of the fascinating walking tours.

  • Distance to Dubai Creek from Dubai International Airport: 8 km
  • Travel time: 20 minutes by taxi, 30 minutes by metro

Book your Dubai Creek guided tour here

13. Explore the Dubai Gold Souk and Dubai Spice Souk

The Dubai Gold Souk is a traditional market offering a range of gold and jewellery products at unbeatable prices. Before you ask, all gold in Dubai is genuine, as the industry is controlled by the government. Come to see with your own eyes the world’s largest golden ring.

The Dubai Spice Souk nearby features many shops selling aromatic spices, herbs, teas, nuts, dried fruits and souvenirs. Moreover, you can join a tour to get in-depth knowledge from the local guide.

  • Distance to Dubai Gold Souk and Dubai Spice Souk from Dubai International Airport: 8 km
  • Travel time: 20 minutes by taxi, 30 minutes by metro

Book your Dubai Gold Souk and Dubai Spice Souk guided tour here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Dubai Gold Souk

14. Watch modern and old Dubai from the Dubai Frame

Dubai Frame should certainly be on your list of best things to do during a Dubai stopover. This stunning 150-metre architectural landmark offering stunning views of Dubai’s skyline is the world’s largest picture frame. It is gold-plated and features fantastic views of both modern and old Dubai from the observation sky bridge.

  • Distance to Dubai Frame from Dubai International Airport: 9 km
  • Travel time: 15 minutes by taxi

Book your Dubai Frame tickets here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Dubai Frame

15. Explore Palm Jumeirah

This famous man-made island is shaped like a palm tree and offers luxurious hotels, restaurants and many entertainment options, such as Atlantis The Palm, Atlantis The Royal, Aquaventure Waterpark and Lost Chambers Aquarium.

To see all of the island from above, climb the View at the Palm, one of my favourite observation decks with the best Dubai views. Afterwards, you can also chill in the AURA Skypool Dubai located in the same building.

  • Distance to the View at the Palm from Dubai International Airport: 35 km
  • Travel time: 30 minutes by taxi

Book your View at the Palm observation deck tickets here

16. Splash at the Aquaventure Waterpark

If you are staying in Dubai for a few days, spend a day at the famous Aquaventure Waterpark in Palm Jumeirah featuring over 100 water slides. It officially has the title of the waterpark with the biggest number of waterslides in the world. Visiting it is a great idea for your Dubai stopover if you are travelling with kids.

  • Distance to the Aquaventure Waterpark from Dubai International Airport: 37 km
  • Travel time: 35 minutes by taxi

Book your Atlantis Aquaventure ticket here

17. Take a desert safari

Experience the thrill of dune bashing, camel riding and traditional Arabic entertainment in the desert. The Dubai safari is a must-do for any visitor, but I would suggest it only if you have at least a day, otherwise, it is gonna be stressful. There are morning and evening safaris on offer. Check out one of my personal favourites below.

Book your Dubai safari here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Desert safari

18. Enjoy a day at the beach in Dubai

Dubai offers many stunning beaches in Jumeirah, Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina with crystal clear waters and white sand. Some of the popular ones include JBR Beach (Jumeirah Beach Residences), Jumeirah Public Beach, Al Mamzar and Kite Beach. I personally love the JBR beach, as it offers many dining, shopping and water sports opportunities.

This is a wonderful option for the best things to do during a stopover in Dubai with kids.

  • Distance to JBR Beach from Dubai International Airport: 35 km
  • Travel time: 40 minutes by taxi, 65 minutes by metro

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Beaches

19. Take a Dubai Marina cruise

Jumeirah Beach Residences and Dubai Marina are also great places to stay in Dubai for a longer stopover. A great advantage is that you can join one of the multiple boat tours departing from Dubai Marina. Savour the stunning views of Dubai’s skyline from the water while enjoying a delicious dinner. Furthermore, the boats pass by Ain Dubai, the world’s largest observation wheel.

  • Distance to Dubai Marina from Dubai International Airport: 33 km
  • Travel time: 30 minutes by taxi, 60 minutes by metro

Book your Dubai Marina boat tour here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Boat cruise in Dubai Marina

20. Visit the Dubai Miracle Garden

This stunning garden features over 150 million flowers in various designs and patterns. The aromas and fragrances are overwhelming from the minute you step into the park. Due to the climate, Dubai Miracle Garden is open only seasonally from October to May, so check if it is available before your visit.

  • Distance to Dubai Miracle Garden from Dubai International Airport: 30 km
  • Travel time: 25 minutes by taxi

Book your Dubai Miracle Garden tickets here

21. Enjoy Skydive Dubai

Skydiving over Dubai is an experience that you won’t forget anytime soon. Skydive Dubai offers a unique way to see the city from above, with unparalleled views of the iconic Palm Jumeirah and the vast Arabian Gulf. With experienced instructors and state-of-the-art equipment, you can feel safe and secure as you jump out of a plane and freefall.

Whether you’re a seasoned skydiver or a first-timer, the thrill of this adventure is sure to leave you with unforgettable memories and a newfound appreciation for the beauty of Dubai’s skyline.

  • Distance to Skydive Dubai from Dubai International Airport: 33 km
  • Travel time: 35 minutes by taxi

Book your Skydive Dubai experience here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Skydive Dubai

22. Take a hot air balloon ride in the Dubai desert

A hot air balloon ride in Dubai is an unforgettable experience during a longer stopover that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding desert landscapes. With experienced pilots and state-of-the-art equipment, tourists can float effortlessly over the golden sand dunes and witness the stunning sunrise over the horizon.

As the balloon drifts over the Dubai desert, visitors can catch glimpses of camels, gazelles and other wildlife from above. The peaceful and serene atmosphere of the hot air balloon ride is sure to leave visitors with unforgettable memories and a newfound appreciation for the natural beauty of Dubai’s desert landscapes.

Book your Dubai hot air balloon ride here

23. Go skiing at Ski Dubai

Do you want to change the scenery during your Dubai stopover? Ski Dubai is a unique attraction located in the heart of the desert city of Dubai inside the Mall of the Emirates. As the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East, it offers visitors an unforgettable experience of snow and skiing, no matter what the weather is like outside.

Along with skiing and snowboarding, you can also enjoy tobogganing, bobsledding, and even interact with penguins at the snow park. Your kids will just love it!

  • Distance to Ski Dubai from Dubai International Airport: 26 km
  • Travel time: 25 minutes by taxi, 40 minutes by metro

Book your Ski Dubai and Snow Park ticket here

Best things to do during a stopover in Dubai - Ski Dubai

24. Take a Dubai hop-on hop-off bus

Hop-on hop-off is one of the best ways for tourists to explore the city on a stopover in Dubai. You will need at least 1 day to get the most out of it. With this flexible tour, you can hop on and off the bus at your leisure, taking in the sights and sounds of the city at your own pace.

The tour covers all the major attractions, including Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina and Old Dubai, giving visitors an opportunity to see the best of what the city has to offer. The tour also includes an audio guide, offering visitors a wealth of information about the city’s history and culture. Tickets are available for 24 to 72 hours. There are two major hop-on hop-off operators in Dubai: Big Bus and City Sightseeing.

Book your Dubai hop-on hop-off bus tour here

25. Take a helicopter tour of Dubai

Dubai is a city that is truly breathtaking from all angles, and one of the best ways to see it is from a helicopter. A helicopter flight in Dubai is an unforgettable experience that offers stunning views of the city’s iconic landmarks and skyline. Flight times range from 12 to almost 30 minutes.

From Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, to Ain Dubai, Burj Al Arab and Palm Jumeirah, the man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, a helicopter tour provides a unique perspective of the city’s beauty. With experienced pilots and state-of-the-art helicopters, you will soar above the city and capture stunning photos and memories that will last a lifetime. Your Dubai stopover will be truly epic!

Book your Dubai helicopter tour here

26. Catch your favourite artist’s performance at the Dubai Opera

This stunning venue right next to Burj Khalifa offers a range of performances including pop concerts, opera, ballet and theatre performances. The Dubai Opera’s program is very diverse. The dhow-like design of the building is also breathtaking, and you can join a guided tour of the Dubai Opera House.

  • Distance to the Dubai Opera from Dubai International Airport: 15 km
  • Travel time: 20 minutes by taxi, 40 minutes by metro + walking

Book your Dubai Opera guided tour here

What to do on a 4-hour layover in Dubai

For layovers less than 6 hours I suggest that you stay at the airport to avoid hassle and stress. It can take up to 1 hour to leave the airport after landing, and then you need to be back 2 hours before the onward flight. If you only have a few hours to spare, there are plenty of things to do at Dubai Airport during a layover.

  • Visit the Duty-Free shops
  • Visit one of the lounges
  • Use free unlimited airport Wi-Fi
  • Take a free shower in Terminal 3 between gates B13 and B19
  • Relax during a massage at the Relax Spa in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 or XpresSpa and Timeless Spa in Terminal 3
  • Visit the G-Force Health Club at the Dubai International Hotel with a jacuzzi, sauna and swimming pool.
  • Unwind in the Zen Gardens between gates B7 and B27 of Terminal 3 and enjoy the lush scenery with ponds, shrubs and palm trees
  • Have fun at the Game Space DXB video gaming lounge in Terminal 3

What to do on an 8-hour stopover in Dubai

With a bit more time to spare, you can delve deeper into the city and experience some of the unique things to do in Dubai during a layover or stopover. If you claimed your luggage, the storage room is available in Terminals 1 and 3 for your convenience.

For an 8-hour Dubai stopover, I recommend to visit one of the following two areas:

  • Downtown Dubai: Featuring Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on the planet, the Dubai Mall, the Dubai Fountain, the Dubai Aquarium and other attractions, this is undoubtedly a must-see area. You will get a pretty good first impression of Dubai.
  • Dubai Creek: The Dubai Creek is a waterway that forms the historic heart of the city. If you are a history buff or prefer more authentic attractions, visit this area close to the airport instead. Take a refreshing abra boat ride across the Creek for just AED 1, visit the Spice Souk and the Gold Souk, Al Seef and Al Fahidi neighbourhoods.

Another great way to get a glimpse of Dubai is to take a guided tour with an airport pick-up and drop-off. You can check the link above.

What to do on a 12-hour stopover in Dubai

With a longer stopover in Dubai, you can venture further afield and explore some of the city’s other attractions.

  • Visit Downtown Dubai
  • Visit the Dubai Creek area
  • Visit Palm Jumeirah, a man-made island with such landmarks as Atlantis the Palm and the View at the Palm observation deck
  • Take a helicopter flight

What to do on a 24-hour stopover in Dubai

With a full day in Dubai, you can truly immerse yourself in the city’s sights and experiences. You can book all of the activities using the links above. Here are some itinerary suggestions and ideas for a 24-hour Dubai stopover:

  • 24-hour hop-on hop-off bus tour passing by all major landmarks
  • Aquaventure Waterpark Dubai helicopter flight Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall / Dubai Fountain evening show
  • Relax by the beach Burj Khalifa Evening desert safari
  • Relax by the beach Burj Khalifa Dubai Marina evening cruise
  • Dubai Creek Dubai Frame Burj Al Arab Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall / Dubai Fountain evening show
  • Morning hot air balloon desert flight Relax by the beach Skydive Dubai Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall / Dubai Fountain evening show

No matter the length of your stopover in Dubai, there’s always something to see and do. From world-famous landmarks to hidden gems, this dynamic city has something for everyone. So, make the most of your time in Dubai and create unforgettable memories during your stopover. Have fun in Dubai!

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