Dubai is one of the major transport hubs in the world and if you are flying from one side of the planet to the other, chances are your stopover will be there. So, why not spend one day in Dubai on your way through?
You might be asking if one day in Dubai is enough and I can assure you, it is, plus you may as well see it since you are already there. But how should you spend your 24 hours in Dubai? That is where I come in.
Join me as I run through everything you need to know about having the best one day in Dubai from the top Dubai attractions, to how to navigate around the city, where to stay, and more.
There are so many reasons for visiting Dubai as it is pretty much guaranteed that your first visit will blow your mind.
Dubai is a futuristic city that has something for everyone. Between the incredible skyscrapers featuring one-of-a-kind architecture, stunning beaches, desert sand dunes, amazing restaurants, incredible shopping, and access to extreme experiences, this is a hard city to beat.
You can do almost anything in Dubai from skiing on snow in the desert to hot air balloon rides, surfing in a wave pool, and lots more. But it isn’t just about the experiences on offer, there is a cultural side too.
Dubai is an incredibly international city and home to people from all over the planet while also retaining its Middle Eastern culture too.
Since you only have one day in Dubai, it is important not to waste any time getting from one place to the next. Getting around Dubai is actually quite easy but it is not a very walkable city and you will have to rely on the public transport system.
I have built the Dubai itinerary below so that it is as walkable as possible but there will be quite a few times you need to use the metro or bus. Here are your options for getting about Dubai.
The Dubai Metro is made up of just two lines, the green and red lines, which makes it very easy to navigate. Both lines go to Dubai International Airport and run through the center of the city.
The metro is a very comfortable and efficient way to navigate your way around Dubai plus you will be riding in the largest driverless metro system in the world.
The trains are fully air-conditioned, the seats are comfortable, and it is very affordable. Be sure to grab a Nol Card at the airport and top it up so you can touch in and out of all your journeys with ease.
Trams are another good option for getting around the city, as they connect you to sights from metro stations that don’t quite get you there. You can use your Nol Card for these too and they are both comfortable and efficient.
Your Nol Card also gives you access to the bus network which runs through all the major parts of the city. The buses run 24/7, come past their stops every 30 minutes, and are the most affordable option.
The buses are not the most efficient way to see the city though, so check the metro before using the bus to see if it makes more sense time-wise.
Uber is a great option if you are looking for a taxi as it is more affordable than other taxi options. But, traffic in Dubai can be terrible so be sure to check your route as using the metro might be the more convenient and efficient option.
The best way to navigate from one stop of your Dubai itinerary to the next is by using Google Maps. It will show you the fastest way to get from one place to the next so you can save as much time as possible.
When using Google Maps, switch between the walking, car, and public transport options and pick the fastest mode of transport.
The best time to be in Dubai is between the months of October and May. Dubai is in the desert and it gets unbearably hot from the beginning of June through to the end of September.
Think over 40 degrees celsius with a lot of humidity all day and night long, it is not very pleasant and even 5-minutes outside will have you drenched in sweat.
That being said, if your Dubai stopover is during these months, everywhere is air-conditioned to keep you cool but it will be more of an indoor experience.
If you do visit between October and May, the weather will be between 20 and 30 degrees Celsius, less humid, and much more manageable.
Strolling down the beach, seeing the desert, and walking around outside will be a lot more comfortable, so plan your Dubai stopover for this time of year.
I highly recommend avoiding the month of Ramadan for your Dubai stopover as most of the restaurants will be closed and it will not be the city you intended to see. A lot of Dubai slows down during Ramadan as most people are celebrating the festival and it runs from the 23rd of March to the 23rd of April in 2023.
The one-day in Dubai itinerary below is designed in the most logical way possible to make travel times as small as possible. Be sure to use Google Maps as you move from one place to the next so you don’t lose time to inefficient travel.
The first port of call on your one-day in Dubai itinerary is a desert safari and it is optional as it might take a while.
Desert Safaris are a pretty incredible experience and if you book a morning safari, you’ll be picked up from your hotel at 8:30 am and be back at 12 pm. You will be whisked off in a 4×4 to do some dune bashing, explore the desert, enjoy a camel ride, and do some sand boarding too.
There are lots of companies offering safaris of this nature so you can shop around for the best price. I would recommend going with Desert Safari Dubai as they offer a great tour and specifically a morning one too.
Be sure to have breakfast before being picked up as food is not included in the morning safari. If you do go on a safari, then you might have to pick and choose from the itinerary below as you will be pushed for time.
From your hotel, make your way to Dubai Mall using Google Maps and the fastest mode of transport suggested.
Dubai Mall is a great place to start your day and it is more than just a shopping mall, there is a lot more to see inside.
Dubai Mall was the largest and most technological mall in the world and while it isn’t anymore, it is still an amazing place to explore. The Dubai Mall is huge and is home to 4 different falls that feature 1000 different shops, some amazing restaurants, and cafes, plus a huge movie theater complex.
Enjoy a bit of shopping if you like and stop for a coffee and a snack. You can then move onto the ice rink for a skate, take a ride in the indoor theme park, and even check out the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. It really is fun for the whole family!
There is a lot to do in the Dubai Mall but perhaps the best bit is just outside and your next stop, the Dubai Fountain.
Just outside the Dubai Mall and only a 3-minute walk away, is the Dubai Fountain which is located in the stunning Burj Lake.
The Dubai Fountain is the largest choreographed series of fountains on the planet and it is quite something to see. Watch as jets of water fire up to 140 meters in the air all perfectly timed to light and musical performances, it is quite the show!
The best place to watch the fountains from is the Souk Al Bahar bridge and performances happen every half an hour so you won’t have to wait long for it to start.
While you are there, be sure to hop on the Dubai Fountain lake ride as it is a load of fun.
From the Dubai Fountain and the Dubai Mall, it is just a 4-minute walk to your next stop, Burj Khalifa.
The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building on the planet at 828 meters tall and is probably the most iconic landmark in Dubai, so heading to it is a must on your one-day in Dubai itinerary.
Gaze at the tower’s magnitude from the outside and then grab a ticket for AED 300 and hop in the elevator to the 148th floor. On the elevator ride, you will learn about how it was built and feel like you are flying over the desert thanks to the video installations.
Once you come on, you will find the observation deck and the best view of Dubai city possible. The views from Burj Khalifa are astounding and you will want your camera with you. It is the best place to appreciate Dubai’s architecture, layout, and location with the desert to one side and the sea to the other.
From Burj Khalifa head to Dubai Creek via a quick taxi ride or using the metro. Again, follow the shortest route on Google Maps.
The Dubai Creek is an ancient creek that connects to the ocean. On arrival, you will see all the souks which you will go to next. But first, hop on an old long boat, called an Abra, and cross the creek.
The boat ride is a lovely way to see the area and the city skyline with Burj Khalifa sitting tallest. On the other side called Bur Dubai, you will find lots of shops and it is worth seeing the Sheikh Mohammed Mosque as it is stunning.
Once you are done, grab a boat back across Dubai Creeks and head to the souks which will be right in front of you.
On the shores of Dubai Creek, you will find the Gold and Spice Souks of Dubai which are a real pleasure for the senses and a great cultural experience.
You will find everything on show from mountains of gold to spices, herbs, silk, and more. I would recommend focusing on the gold and spice souks as they are the most impressive, plus grab a souvenir.
The Gold Souk is simply mind-blowing as you can see some of the most expensive and extravagant gold on the planet. It is there in its raw form and handmade into incredible jewelry.
Once you are done with gold, head on the Spice Souk through the little alleys. You will find giant piles of spices like nutmeg, cinnamon, and lots more. Breathe in the amazing smells and take in the amazing colors.
From the souks, grab a taxi or the metro to Burj Al Arab which is on the beach of Dubai. I would recommend getting a taxi as it is the fastest way of getting there. But, check Google Maps just to be sure.
Burj Al Arab is a similar experience to visiting Burj Khalifa but it is a little different but just as good. Burj Al Arab is one of the tallest hotels in the world and is designed in the shape of a sail. The architecture is incredible and it is not surprising it has won a load of design awards.
While staying in this hotel costs a small fortune, it is still worth seeing and you can enjoy a swim on the beach next door to it.
Next up is the Dubai Miracle Garden which is a quick 20-minute taxi ride from Burj Al Arab.
This magical garden is only open seasonally as it is too hot to maintain it during the summer. If you are there between October to May, it will be open, if not, hop onto the next stop.
The Dubai Miracle Garden is a bit of a miracle and it merges an amazing botanical garden fused with construction. You will find everything from houses to ostriches made from the earth and covered in live flowers.
The most incredible thing is the life-sized Emirates Airlines A-380 which is also covered in flowers. It is quite amazing to see.
It is now time to end your one in Dubai in style by hopping in a 20-minute taxi to the Dubai Marina for a dinner cruise.
Hop aboard a stunning boat, take your seat, and enjoy a cruise around the shores of Dubai while having a delicious dinner. You will Burj Al Arab, the Palm Atlantis, and the Palm Jumeirah islands while cruising around the ocean.
Hotels in Dubai are pretty expensive and they are more expensive if you are centrally located.
My advice is to splash out on a hotel that is in downtown Dubai as this will be closer to all the main attractions making your 24 hours as easy as possible. Plus, it is only for one night so why not splash out!
One of the most affordable options in downtown Dubai is a 3-star hotel called Rove. It has clean but basic rooms and some have a great view too.
If budget isn’t a concern, there are a lot of luxury hotels in Dubai and some of the best luxurious hotels in downtown Dubai are the Carlton and the 5-star hotel Amani.
I would recommend using Booking.com as this site always offers the best deals and you can view your options on a map to ensure your hotel is in the right place.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!