Dubai Airports - Departure gates

All about Dubai Airports for Hassle-Free Travel Experience

Your ultimate guide to navigate Dubai International Airport and Al Maktoum International Airport without stress

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Dubai Airports are among the busiest and most efficient in the world, offering the ultimate travel experience to passengers staying in the UAE or continuing their journey. From the moment you arrive, you are transported to a world of luxury and convenience. In this article, I will take you through various aspects of Dubai Airports, including Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC), their facilities, arrival and departure procedures, VIP services, hotels, lounges, duty-free shopping, car rental and transportation to the city, among other things. So fasten your seat belts and get ready to fly high!

What are the main airports in Dubai

Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC), also called Dubai World Central, are the main air traffic hubs in the city. They are both operated by Dubai Airports Company. DXB has been recently crowned as the busiest airport in the world, serving almost 90 million passengers annually, while DWC is a newer airport that primarily serves low-cost carriers. Dubai Airports are known for their state-of-the-art facilities, exceptional customer service and strategic location, which makes it a popular transit point for travellers flying between Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.

Dubai International Airport (DXB)

Dubai International Airport (DXB), opened in 1960 in the northern Al Garhoud district, is the flagship airport in the city. It has multiple passenger and cargo terminals and is also a primary hub for Emirates, one of the world’s leading airlines, and FlyDubai. Connecting to almost 250 destinations, the airport is designed to cater to the needs of all types of travellers, from budget-conscious backpackers to high-end executives.

Dubai Airports - Emirates A380 aircraft at DXB airport

Dubai International Airport (DXB) Terminals

All in all, Dubai Intl. Airport (DXB) has 3 main passenger terminals, a cargo terminal and a dedicated terminal for VIP travellers. If you are soon flying to one of them, you can find more helpful information below.

Dubai International Airport Terminal 1

It is the oldest terminal at DXB, serving mostly international airlines. Dubai International Airport Terminal 1 has a capacity of 45 million passengers per year and is equipped with all the modern amenities, such as free Wi-Fi, duty-free shops, lounges, restaurants and prayer rooms.

Dubai International Airport Terminal 2

It is smaller but equally functional, serving mostly low-cost carriers and regional airlines from the Middle East and India. It has a capacity of 10 million passengers per year and is located on the opposite side of the airfield from Terminals 1 and 3. DXB Terminal 2 is also often called the FlyDubai Terminal, as the airline operates from it.

Dubai International Airport Terminal 3

Terminal 3 is the largest terminal at DXB and serves primarily Emirates Airlines, therefore it is often referred to as the Emirates Terminal. Qantas flights and some of FlyDubai flights also operate from here. It has a capacity of almost 70 million passengers per year and is the world’s largest airport terminal in terms of floor area. Terminal 3 is known for its luxurious facilities, including a duty-free shopping area, lounges and a spa.

Al Majlis VIP Terminal and Lounge at DXB

Dubai Airport is known for its luxurious amenities that cater to passengers’ needs. One of them is the Al Majlis VIP Terminal and Lounge, an exclusive haven for those seeking privacy, comfort and luxury. The Al Majlis VIP Pavilion is located in the annex at Terminal 3 next to Exit 4 at departure level.

You can expect the following services:

  • Individual check-in, immigration and luggage assistance
  • Personalised breakfast, lunch and dinner menu with premium beverages, including champagne and fine wines
  • Transportation between the Al Majlis Terminal and the departure gates or planes by modern executive-class cars
  • Separate Duty-Free shopping and assistant services
  • VIP parking and separate prayer rooms for men and women

The service costs AED 2500 per adult and AED 500 for kids aged 3 to 12. To reserve the DXB Al Majlis VIP service, make a request at least 24 hours before the flight by calling +971 4 504 5196 or sending an email to almajlis.reservations@dubaiairports.ae

Dubai Airports - Dubai International Airport Terminal 3

Arrival experience at Dubai International Airport

The arrival experience at DXB is seamless and efficient, thanks to the airport’s state-of-the-art facilities and well-trained staff. Upon arrival, passengers are directed to the passport control area, where they undergo security screening and immigration clearance. If Dubai is your final destination, follow the “Arrivals – Baggage Reclaim” signs, and if you have a connecting flight, proceed to the area for transit passengers. Do you have a long layover in Dubai? I have helpful tips below about things to do at Dubai International Airport for transit passengers.

The DXB immigration area has separate lanes for UAE nationals/residents and non-residents, which makes the process faster and more convenient. By the way, there are helpful displays that give you time estimates on the queue’s length. Depending on your situation, you can go through traditional passport control by one of the immigration officers or through Smart Gates.

What is Smart Gates at Dubai International Airport?

DXB Smart Gates is a passport control self-service available to the following passenger groups:

  • UAE Nationals and GCC Nationals
  • UAE Residents
  • Visa-on-Arrival guests with biometric passports

This service requires registration, and in case you recently flew in or out of DXB, you probably have been registered. Please consult the on-site staff. Passengers under 15, disabled people and families with children or strollers cannot use this service and should go to the border-control counters.

Have Fun Dubai’s Tip: After passport control, all hand luggage is scanned, so make sure to check before travelling the list of duty-free allowances and items forbidden to bring to the UAE. For example, you may bring not more than 4 litres of alcohol or 400 sticks of cigarettes.

Once you clear customs, you can collect your luggage from the baggage claim area and proceed to the arrivals hall, where you can rent cars, find transportation to your final destination and buy SIM cards.

Dubai Airports - Immigration area

Dubai International Airport VIP services on arrival

Do you want to avoid queues after a long flight and quickly go through all the formalities at Dubai International Airport (DXB)? In that case, I recommend using the convenient Marhaba Meet and Greet service. You will be welcomed by one of the staff members and quickly escorted to the immigration fast track. Depending on the package you select, it may include porter, trolley and buggy transportation services, so make sure to pay attention to what is included before booking.

In my opinion, this is also a very useful service if you are flying to Dubai with children, have mobility restrictions, or if you are unfamiliar with airports in general. Needless to say, the Dubai International Airport Meet and Greet service is a great option for those who prefer to avoid stress and save time.

Book the Marhaba Meet and Greet service at Dubai International Airport here

Dubai Airports - Passport control

Dubai International Airport (DXB) facilities

DXB is known for its world-class facilities, which include a wide range of dining options, duty-free shops, lounges, prayer rooms and children’s play areas to keep kids entertained. The airport has over 150 food and beverage outlets, ranging from fast food to fine dining. There are also hundreds of retail outlets offering everything from luxury brands to souvenirs.

Here is a list of some of the main Dubai International Airport facilities:

  • Free unlimited Wi-Fi: Select “DXB Free Wi-Fi” and then connect to the network through your browser.
  • Luggage storage: You can store your baggage at DXB Terminals 1 and 3. The 12-hour storage service costs AED 35-40.
  • Showers: To refresh at Dubai International Airport after a long flight, use free shower rooms at Terminal 3 between gates B13 and B19.
  • Smoking lounges: dedicated smoking lounges are available at Terminal 1 (next to Gate D12 on the upper level), Terminal 2 (next to the departure area) and Terminal 3 (next to Gates A2, A23, B7, B27, C9 and C23).
  • Duty-Free shops
  • Supermarkets (Spinneys at T1 and Carrefour at T3)
  • VAT refund points
  • Currency exchange
  • Baby care rooms
  • Business meeting facilities
  • Prayer rooms
  • Car rental
  • Parking facilities
  • Medical assistance
  • Assistance for passengers with special needs
  • Information counters
  • Mobile operators’ shops to buy tourist SIM cards
  • Baggage wrapping

Dubai Airports - Passengers in DXB terminal

What to do at Dubai International Airport during a layover

Dubai International Airport is an ideal place to spend a layover, thanks to its numerous facilities and entertainment options. Some of the things you can do at DXB during a layover include dining at one of the many restaurants, shopping at the duty-free stores or relaxing at one of the lounges.

One of the highlights of Dubai International Airport is its duty-free shopping area. The airport has hundreds of retail outlets, offering everything from designer clothes to cosmetics and electronics. The duty-free shops at DXB are known for their competitive prices and high-quality products, so you can shop till you drop. You will find such brands as Gucci, Chanel, Tiffany & Co, Hermes, Long Champ and Burberry, among others.

To unwind during your layover at DXB, head to the Relax Spa at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 or XpresSpa and Timeless Spa, located within Terminal 3. You can also use free shower rooms at Terminal 3 between gates B13 and B19. Then visit Zen Gardens between gates B7 and B27 at T3 to enjoy the lush scenery with ponds, shrubs and palm trees.

If you have a long transit at Dubai Airport, metro and taxis are nearby, so go explore the city. You can also book tours and experiences for transit passengers with transportation or visit multiple Dubai attractions, including Burj Khalifa, observation decks, water parks, amusement parks, desert safari and much more.

Dubai Airports - DXB Duty-Free Shops

Dubai International Airport hotels

Looking for Dubai Airport hotels? For passengers with long layovers or early morning flights, several hotels are located inside Dubai International Airport (DXB) or in close proximity. Here are a few options that I recommend.

1. Dubai International Hotel

The Dubai International Hotel, situated inside DXB Terminal 3, is my absolute favourite. It’s open 24/7, offers its guests the Meet & Greet service, spacious clean rooms with free Wi-Fi and a business centre. I love this hotel because it provides multiple facilities to refresh and unwind after the flight, including an indoor pool, fitness centre, spa, sauna and hot tub. You can even reserve a relaxing massage. You won’t be left hungry, as there are many dining options at the Dubai International Hotel, and some room packages even include full board.

Book a room at the Dubai International Hotel here

2. Premier Inn Dubai International Airport Hotel

The Premier Inn Dubai International Airport Hotel is just 800 metres away from Dubai Airport and provides a frequent free shuttle service to Terminals 1 and 3. This 3-star hotel offers comfortable and affordable accommodation, with a range of amenities, such as free Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service, breakfast, gym and laundry.

Book a room at the Premier Inn Dubai International Airport Hotel here

3. Le Meridien Dubai Hotel, Royal Club & Conference Centre

The Le Meridien Dubai Hotel, Royal Club & Conference Centre, located just across the road from Dubai International Airport within a large lush garden, is another great option. An extra benefit is that all rooms include a complimentary transfer to Burj Khalifa and the airport terminals. Apart from 18 restaurants, business and wellness facilities, swimming pool and free Wi-Fi, it offers easy metro station access and a free room cancellation option.

Book a room at the Le Meridien Dubai Hotel, Royal Club & Conference Centre here

4. Sleep ’n fly Sleep Lounge – Dubai Airport

If you are looking for basic accommodation inside Dubai International Airport, you can also book sleep pods at the Sleep ’n fly Sleep Lounge for a short period, for example, 6, 8 or 10 hours. These small cabins are available at Terminal 3 near Gates A, B and C. You will get a single or double bed with sockets and reading lamps. It’s a good option if you want a place to nap without leaving the airport, but please keep in mind that there are not many other facilities, public restrooms are located outside, and sound isolation is not ideal.

Book a pod at the Sleep ’n fly Sleep Lounge – Dubai Airport from the list here

Dubai Airports - Inside the DXB terminal

Dubai International Airport lounges

DXB has several lounges that are accessible to passengers, depending on their airline, class of travel and loyalty program status. The lounges at Dubai Airport are known for their luxurious facilities, such as comfortable seating, free Wi-Fi, complimentary food and beverages, and shower facilities. Some of the most popular lounges at DXB include the Emirates Lounge and the Marhaba Lounge.

Not an airline loyalty program member? If you have a long layover at Dubai International Airport (DXB) or want to come early before your flight home, I recommend you visit the Plaza Premium Lounge. This is a great way to relax and rejuvenate, take a shower, use Wi-Fi to work or contact family and friends, and have a bite and drink. In addition, there is a play area, which is very convenient if you are flying with children (children under 2 enter the lounge for free). Select your access to the Plaza Premium Lounge at Dubai International Airport (DXB) for 3 or 6 hours. It is located on Level 4 between Gates A2 and A3 in Terminal 3.

Book access to Plaza Premium Lounge at DXB here

Dubai Airports - Dubai International Airport Emirates lounge

How to rent a car at Dubai International Airport (DXB)

Renting a car at Dubai International Airport is easy and convenient, thanks to the airport’s many car rental companies. The car rental area is in Terminals 1, 2 and 3 right outside the baggage claim hall. Passengers can choose from a range of suppliers, including Avis, Budget, Europcar and Hertz.

The car rental process at Dubai International Airport is straightforward:

  • Go to the rental company counter and present your rental confirmation, or choose available cars.
  • Finish the formalities, providing your passport, driving licence and credit card.
  • Proceed to the car rental company parking and show the forms
  • Carefully check the vehicle for any scratches or other abnormalities and report them to the staff member
  • Get the keys, and you are ready to drive

I highly suggest that you rent a car in Dubai in advance. Car rental services in Dubai are extremely popular, and if you wait longer prices may go up and your preferable models will be sold out.

Check out Dubai car rental prices and hire a car here

Dubai Airports - DXB car rental counters

How to get from Dubai International Airport to the city

Getting from DXB to the city is easy and convenient, thanks to the airport’s many transportation options.

  • Taxi: The most popular way to get to the city is by taxi, available from the taxi stand outside each terminal. The journey to Dubai central areas takes about 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic, and costs AED 50-70.

Read here about the exact prices and best Dubai Taxi services

  • Metro: The Dubai Metro has stations at Dubai International Airport Terminals 1 and 3, connecting to the city’s major attractions. The Dubai Metro is fast, reliable and affordable. You can get to Burj Khalifa in approximately 30 minutes, to the Mall of the Emirates in 40 minutes and to Dubai Marina in 50 minutes. Metro prices from Dubai Airport start from AED 3.

Read more about the Dubai Metro here

  • Private airport transfer: From my experience, this is one of the most convenient ways to get to Dubai from Dubai International Airport to avoid stress. You won’t need to queue for a taxi or look for the metro station. Easily book it online by selecting the car class and capacity. You will receive all the necessary information by email, and the driver will meet you with a name sign at the exit of the baggage claim area at the airport. The price indicated at the time of booking is fixed. You will know the exact amount and avoid unpleasant surprises.

Book a cheap transfer from Dubai Airport here

  • Bus: Bus stops are located outside the entrance of Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Please remember that you cannot buy a ticket from the driver and should buy a NOL card before boarding. This smart transportation card is required to use Dubai’s public transport system.

Click here to learn more about the Dubai Bus

Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC)

Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) is a newer airport primarily serving low-cost airlines like Fly Dubai. Dubai World Central Airport (its second name) is located about 37 kilometres to the south of the city and is still under construction, even though part of it is already operational. DWC has one terminal, which is designed to cater to the needs of budget-conscious travellers. Once finished, the airport will be able to welcome more than 160 million passengers annually.

Dubai World Central Airport is less busy than Dubai International Airport, so the departure and arrival experience is faster. Among facilities, Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) has cafes and restaurants, currency exchange, ATMs, shops, including duty-free stores, luggage wrapping, medical assistance points and car rental counters. In addition, there are quite a few amenities and services for passengers with children, for instance, a playroom and special prams.

Dubai Airports - Al Maktoum International Airport

How to get from Al Maktoum International Airport to the city

To get from DWC airport to Dubai, use one of the available transportation options below.

  • Taxi: The journey from Al Maktoum International Airport to the city takes 30-60 minutes, depending on the area. A taxi journey to the Dubai Marina Mall costs AED 90-100, while the taxi fare to Burj Khalifa is about AED 130.

Read here about the exact prices and best Dubai Taxi services

  • Bus: Take bus F55 running from World Central Airport To Expo 2020 metro station (red line) every 30-60 minutes. Buses operate from early morning till evening, and the trip lasts approximately 30 minutes. N55 route is a night bus service running once per hour via Ibn Battuta Bus Station, JBR and Jumeirah to Al Ghubaiba Bus station in Old Dubai. You cannot buy a ticket from the driver and should buy a NOL card before boarding. This smart transportation card is required to use Dubai’s public transport system.

Click here to learn more about the Dubai Bus and NOL card types

  • Private airport transfer: One of the most convenient ways to get to Dubai from Dubai Al Maktoum Airport. Easily book online in advance the car you like, and the driver will pick you up at the exit of the baggage claim area at the airport. The price indicated when booking is fixed, so you will avoid unpleasant surprises.

Book a cheap transfer from Dubai World Central Airport here

Prepare for your Dubai trip

Dubai Trip Essentials

All essentials for a hassle-free journey to Dubai. Book here to save money.

Hotels

Attractions

Flights

NOL Card

Car rentals

Insurance

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