Itinerary Overview

Dubai is a city that has the ‘biggest’ and ‘greatest’ of just about everything. Since the discovery of oil in the 1960s, it has become one of the world’s richest and most advanced cosmopolitans. The fact that it is safe, easily navigable, and tourism-focused makes it appealing to western travelers. Visitors find Dubai’s Arabic heritage tastefully preserved in its museums, harbors, and souks, while its ultra-lux wrapping is something approaching futuristic science fiction. One thing is for sure – wherever you travel to from Dubai will feel a little smaller and a lot less grandiose.

Day 1

1. The Dubai Mall

2. Dubai Aquarium; Underwater Zoo

3. Burj Khalifa

4. Souk Al Bahar

5. The Dubai Fountain

Time: 9+ hours

Budget: $100+ per person

(all $ figures in USD; includes entrance fees, food, and transport)

Day 2

1. JBR Beach

2. Dubai Marina Walk

3. Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar

Time: 6+ hours

Budget: $90+ per person

(all $ figures in USD; includes entrance fees, food, and transport)

Day 3

1. Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding

2. Al Fahidi

3. The Dubai Museum

4. Textile Souk

5. Bur Dubai Abra Dock

6. Deira Gold Souk

Time: 9+ hours

Budget: $90+ per person

(all $ figures in USD; includes entrance fees, food, and transport)

Fast Facts

BEFORE YOU GO

UTC/GMT +4

Advanced English proficiency

C (European), D, G Sockets (British) / 220V / 50Hz

Tap water is declared safe for drinking, cooking, and brushing, but not recommended

Tourist visas can be obtained ‘on-arrival’ for AUS, EU and US passport holders and are valid for one month.

The CDC recommends Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines for most travelers

When You Arrive

$1.00 (USD) = ~3.7 dirham (AED)

Typical gratuity of 10% at restaurants. Round up for taxis

Taxis are clean, safe, and inexpensive. Uber is available, but scarce and costly.

Drive on right side

Airport to City Center: (DXB) Red Line from Terminal 1 or 3 to downtown (25 minutes; $2). Taxis are available at all terminals and Uber pick up is on the Arrivals level (15 minutes; $20)

Preferred accommodation type is luxury hotel or Airbnb

Best Time To Visit

November to March is the best time to visit Dubai

The Dubai Shopping Festival is held during January and February when the temperatures are mild. April and May begin to get uncomfortably hot, making it almost impossible to go outdoors. During Ramadan, tourists and prices are at annual lows, however, many businesses, restaurants, and attractions are closed or hold abbreviated hours.

Neighborhood Guide

 Downtown DubaiJumeirahDubai MarinaOld Dubai
DescriptionSkyscrapers, shopping, and sightseeingFamily friendly with luxury beachfront resortsLuxury on the waterHistoric cultural sights and traditional souks
Affordability$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Downtown

1) Dubai Mall – The heart of Dubai is among the skyscrapers downtown, which includes the Dubai Mall, the largest shopping center in the world (by area). It’s a great way to acclimate to Dubai and it offers great people-watching.

2-4 hours $0+

2) Aquarium & Underwater Zoo – Dubai Mall’s most impressive feature is its three-story aquarium that contains 33,000+ animals, including 300 sharks and rays. The outside of the giant tank can also be seen (for free) from the mall. For a quick bite nearby, try Al-Hallab. It has views of both the Dubai Mall Waterfall and the Dubai Fountain show.

1-2 hours $25-$75 

3) Burj Khalifa – The world’s tallest building offers observation decks on the 124th, 125th, and 148th floors. The views are breathtaking. Space is limited and popular times cost more so it is best to pre-book online.

1-2 hours $35-$140

4) Souk Al Bahar – The Souk Al Bahar bridge connects to the traditional Souk Al Bahar, or “market of the sailor”. The Souk offers an eclectic mix of jewelry, fashion, and decor.

Up to 1 hour $0+

5) The Dubai Fountain – Nearby restaurants, Bice Mare and Sarafina Dubai, have terraces and offer favorable views of the light, water, and music extravaganza. The Souk Al Bahar Bridge also provides a good vantage point. Fountain shows start every thirty minutes each evening.

Up to 1 hour $0

Day 2: BEACHFRONT AND MARINA

1) JBR Beach – Dubai’s most popular public stretch of sand. Nearby are al-fresco dining options, such as La Postreria and Smoky Beach. On weekends, Dubai’s ‘mega-brunch’  is a must – Westin’s Bubbalicious or Ritz Carlton’s Splendido are spectacular. Alternatively, Jumeirah Beach Park, is less developed and offers views of Burj Al Arab. Consider Cove Beach Club or Madinat Jumeirah for beach club vibes.

 2-6 hours $25+

2) Dubai Marina Walk – Marina Walk is a promenade surrounded by luxury towers and restaurants. Yachts return in the evening and dock at the Dubai Yacht Club. The illuminated and photo-worthy Mohammed Bin Ahmed Amula Mosque also sits along the water.

1-2 hours $0

3) Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar – For a nightcap, take in the cool evening air over shisha or a drink at the multi-tiered Siddharta Lounge at the Grosvenor Hotel.

1-2 hours $25+

Day 3: Old Dubai

1) Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding – A trip to Dubai would not be complete without a trip to Old Dubai. Begin with a traditional Emirati breakfast or lunch at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre while learning about UAE culture. Advance booking is required.

1-2 hours $30+

2) Al Fahidi – Take time to wander through the historic Al Fahidi trading village where streets and alleys are filled with museums, hidden galleries, and Arabic-style shops and cafes, like the Arabian Tea House.

1-2 hours $10+

3) The Dubai Museum – Learn about Dubai’s meteoric rise from a simple trading port to one of the richest cities in the world. A wooden boat stands right outside the museum, making it easy to spot.

1-2 hours $1

4) Textile Souk – An outdoor mall filled with local merchants eager to bargain for antiques, fabrics, and souvenirs. The nearby House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum is the residence of the former ruler of Dubai and has a large collection of artifacts of the royal family.

Up to 1 hour $1+

5) Bur Dubai Abra Dock – Enjoy a short water taxi ride across the Dubai Creek to the Diera Old Souk Abra Station. The Spice Souk is a five minute walk to the west, and Deira Perfume Souk is a ten-minute walk to the north.

Up to 1 hour $1

6) Deira Gold Souk – The Gold Souk features hundreds of jewelry shops and is the reason Dubai is known as the “City of Gold”. Pay with cash and you are likely to get a better deal. Al Bait Al Qadeem Restaurant, a tranquil taste of Old Dubai with an outdoor terrace, and Al-Dawaar Revolving Restaurant, a multi-cuisine restaurant with 360-degree views, are dinner options nearby.

1-2 hours $25+

BOTTOM LINE

This guide will send you home with your appetite for Arabic heritage and Middle Eastern opulence satisfied. If you have extra time in Dubai, consider pampering yourself at Talisman Ottoman Spa, visiting Ski Dubai, taking a Desert Safari Tour, or visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in nearby Abu Dhabi. There are endless activities to enjoy here and new sights are being added at a whirlwind pace.

Previous Guide:

3 Days in Bangkok

Next Guide:

3 Days in Singapore

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