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. Part of its appeal as a travel destination is that it is safe, western-friendly, and easily navigable for even the most novice traveler. Visitors find Dubai’s Arabic heritage tastefully preserved in its museums, harbors, and souks (markets), while the city’s ultra-lux skyscrapers, resorts, and shopping centers set a new benchmark for what ‘wealth’ looks and feels like. One thing is for sure – wherever you go from here will feel a little smaller and a lot less grandiose.

Three days in Dubai provides just enough time to appreciate what makes the city truly unique. Day One of this itinerary includes all of the city’s “must see” sites in downtown, Day Two visits Dubai’s world-famous beachfront and marina, and Day Three is spent exploring historic Old Dubai.

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. During April and May Dubai starts to get uncomfortably hot, making it almost impossible to explore the outdoors. During the month of Ramadan (early May to early June in 2019), 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
Beach
Dining
Landmarks
Nightlife

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Downtown

1) Dubai Mall – The heart of Dubai is among the skyscrapers in downtown. Downtown is also the home to the Dubai Mall, a collection of over 1,200 retail stores and the largest shopping center in the world (by area). We know what you’re thinking, “you’re sending us to…a shopping mall?” Trust us, it’s a great way to acclimate to Dubai and it offers some of the best people-watching in the city.

2-4 hours $0+

2) Aquarium & Underwater Zoo – The Mall’s most impressive feature is its three story high, 10 million liter Aquarium that contains more than 33,000 aquatic animals, including over 300 sharks and rays. The outside of the giant tank can be seen for free from the Mall. Tip: For a quick bite to eat nearby, try Al-Hallab on the second floor of the mall. 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 three observation decks, the 124th, 125th, and 148th floors. The views of Dubai from up here are breathtaking. Ticket kiosks and entrance are located on the ground floor of the mall. Space is limited and access at popular times costs more so it is highly encouraged to pre-book online.

1-2 hours $35-$140

4) Souk Al Bahar – Exit on the ground level of the mall and walk to the southwest where the Souk Al Bahar bridge connects to the traditional Souk Al Bahar, or “market of the sailor”. The Souk offers an eclectic mix of authentic handicrafts, jewelry, fashion wear, perfumes, carpets, and furnishings.

Up to 1 hour $0+

5) The Dubai Fountain – Relax and reflect on the day at one of many nearby restaurants. Bice Mare and Sarafina Dubai both have terraces and offer favorable views of the light, water, and music extravaganza that is the Dubai Fountain. It is recommended, however, to book your table ahead of time. The Souk Al Bahar Bridge is also a great location to take in the show. Fountain shows start every thirty minutes each evening from 6:00 pm (18:00) to 11:00 pm (23:00).

Up to 1 hour $0

Day 2: BEACHFRONT AND MARINA

1) JBR Beach – On your second day in Dubai, take in one of the city’s magnificent beaches. JBR Beach is Dubai’s most popular public stretch of sand, offering parasailing, wake boarding, and camel rides. Nearby are a plethora of al-fresco dining and shisha options, such as La Postreria and Smoky Beach. If you are visiting on a weekend, Dubai’s mega-brunch scene is a must. The Westin’s Bubbalicious or Ritz Carlton’s Splendido are spectacular options nearby. Alternatively, head to Jumeirah Beach Park, which is less developed but offers breathtaking views of Burj Al Arab. If you would prefer a more catered experience at a private beach, consider lounging at Cove Beach Club or enjoying a shisha at Madinat Jumeirah.

 2-6 hours $25+

2) Dubai Marina Walk – As day turns to evening, head east from JBR Beach to the Dubai Marina Walk, a promenade surrounded by luxury towers and restaurants. Watch as the marina’s yachts return for the evening and dock at the Dubai Yacht Club or take photos of the illuminated Mohammed Bin Ahmed Amula Mosque along the water.

1-2 hours $0

3) Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar – For a nightcap, cross back over to the west side of the marina and 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 – Your trip to Dubai would not be complete without a visit to Old Dubai. Begin with a traditional Emirati breakfast (Monday & Wednesday at 10:00 am; Saturday brunch at 10:30 am) or lunch (Sunday – Thursday at 1:00 pm (13:00)) at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre while chatting with an Emirati host about UAE culture, customs, and religion. The Centre is located just off the Dubai Creek in the Al Fahidi Historic District. 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 is a short walk to the west and located in the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai. The museum will enchant you with the story of 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 – Head west from the Dubai Museum and you will come across the Textile Souk, an outdoor mall filled with local merchants eager to bargain for antiques, fabrics, and souvenirs. Continue west to the House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, the residence of the former ruler of Dubai, which has a large collection of artifacts and photographs of the royal family.

Up to 1 hour $1+

5) Bur Dubai Abra Dock – Pay just 1 AED directly to the abra driver and enjoy a short water taxi ride across the Dubai Creek to the Diera Old Souk Abra Station. On arrival, you may consider stopping at the Spice Souk, a five minute walk to the west, or Deira Perfume Souk, a ten minute walk to the north.

Up to 1 hour $1

6) Deira Gold Souk – A fifteen minute walk northeast of the Diera Old Souk Abra Station is the Deira Gold Souk. The Gold Souk contains over 350 shops selling gold jewelry and is the basis for Dubai’s nickname as the “City of Gold”. Pay with cash and you are likely to get a better deal. For a proper dinner nearby, try Al Bait Al Qadeem Restaurant, a tranquil taste of Old Dubai with an outdoor terrace, or Al-Dawaar Revolving Restaurant, a multi-cuisine restaurant with 360 degree views of the Gulf, Creek, and city.

1-2 hours $25+

BOTTOM LINE

Follow this guide and you will go home with your appetite for Arabic heritage and Middle Eastern opulence satisfied. If you have some extra time in Dubai, consider pampering yourself at Talisman Ottoman Spa, visiting Ski Dubai in Mall of Emirates, heading out on a Desert Safari Tour, or even leaving town to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in 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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