Top five ways to make the most of your layover in Dubai

If you’re flying internationally extensively, you’re bound to wind up with a layover in Dubai sooner or later… with over 83 million passengers a year passing through a year, a layover at Dubai International Airport is not a question of if, but when.


We know you’re not thrilled at the idea of a layover anywhere, but before you roll your eyes, take a second to check out what makes a layover in Dubai different.


One of the biggest headaches of long layovers is finding accommodations for the night in a city that you hadn’t intended on visiting.  In Dubai, it’s not a problem. As part of a program to get more travelers to spend some quality time in Dubai, Emirates Airlines is offering free hotel rooms for passengers with layovers longer than eight hours (and under twenty-four). On top of that, Emirates covers the cost of transportation to the hotel, as well as the price of dinner. So now that that headache is out of the way, let’s talk about the top five things to do and see during your Dubai layover….

The Burj Khalifa

Your first stop should be the Burj Khalifa, a 2,722 foot skyscraper that towers over the city skyline and holds a number of world records (including “highest nightclub”, if the thought of a long layover puts you in a mood to party). It’s a must-see. While you’re there, check out the observation deck–but only if you aren’t afraid of heights!

The Dubai Mall

Then, head down to the Dubai Mall, which is located very near the Burj Khalifa. Even if you don’t feel like shopping, the Dubai Mall is not to be missed. Along with its shopping wing (which features over 1,200 retailers), the Dubai Mall is home to an aquarium, an underwater zoo, and an ice skating rink.


Arabian Souks & Heritage Village

If you want to soak in a little culture, stroll through a traditional Arabian souk, where you can pick up souvenirs such as leather slippers and silk scarves. Or, make your way over to Heritage Village, where you can get a taste of traditional Arabic cuisine, music, dance, and lifestyle.


Ski Dubai

Feel like hitting the slopes? Dubai is home to the largest indoor ski resort (because of course it is), where you can book lift tickets and enjoy five different slopes, including the world’s first indoor black diamond run. When you’ve had enough of skiing, consider sticking around for a bit longer–the ski resort is also home to several penguins, which you can you can book encounters with (talk about a great instagram opportunity!)


Gold Souks

If you want to pick up a truly unique souvenir before heading back to the airport, be sure to make a stop at the Deira Gold Souk. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it’s worth visiting just to experience the dazzling shop fronts. On the other hand, if you do want to pick up some gold, be prepared to haggle–it’s expected, and shop owners often mark their prices up to compensate for it.    

So that’s it for your top five things to do during an extended layover in Dubai. Just make sure not to miss your flight!


If you only have a few hours:


While you should definitely take the chance to visit Dubai’s many tourist attractions, if your layover is under eight hours, it’s not recommended you try to catch any of the famous landmarks around Dubai, unless you want to risk missing the next leg of your trip.


Fear not. The Dubai International Airport is not some monotonous hub where you’ll be lucky to get a Starbucks and maybe a quick nap. Instead, take a few hours to yourself to relax and rejuvenate by booking a massage at the Timeless Spas, three of which are located in Terminal 3. If you only want to grab some quick rest and freshen up a bit, head over to Terminal 1, where you can rent a Snooze Cube ($21 per hour, minimum 2 hours) and take a shower in one of the free shower cubicles. On the other hand, if you’re looking to stay active, grab a gym day pass and get in a quick workout at the G-Force Health Club.


Hungry? Dubai International Airport has more than 80 places to grab a bite, from fast food to gourmet eats. Want to grab a quick drink? Head over to the Moët & Chandon Champagne Bar Le Lounge for a glass of bubbly, or try the special edition Jack Daniels on tap at Jack’s Bar and Grill.


And of course, no layover is complete without a browse through the duty-free shops, which at Dubai International, include luxury brands like Chanel and Hermès, a large selection of liquor and wine shops, designer cosmetics, and chocolate imported from Belgium and Switzerland.


It’s not Burj Khalifa, but if you have a layover anyway, you might as well make the best of it.