You can’t go wrong taking a long layover in Dubai. The best things to do can all be done in a few days and you’ll have a blast.
Flying Emirates Air for the first time to Egypt, we had the opportunity to take a free long layover in the UAE for a couple of days. As we have evolved in the way we travel, one thing we like to do is take advantage of long layovers for a few reasons. You get to go someplace new, which is always good, and if you are traveling far, you get a break in between your tiring flights. We’ve had good luck on layovers. We’ve also done one in Doha, Qatar.
We found many ways to use our time in Dubai. We loved the dune-bashing desert tour, the beautiful Hajjar mountains, the shops and souks, and more than anything else, we loved the camels!
In this article, you’ll learn the following:
- How to Plan for a Long Layover in Dubai
- The Emirates Dubai Stopover Plan
- The Best Things to Do on Your Layover
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What is a Long Layover?
Many airlines offer free stopovers or long layovers in their own country of origin. A free stopover or long layover can last from a few hours up to a few days. A long layover allows you to book a flight, usually directly with the airline, where you can stay in the country for a few extra days and see the sights.
How to Plan for a Long Layover in Dubai
First of all, when searching for flights, pay attention to the stops. For us, we were flying to Egypt from Korea. Emirates had the best prices, but of course we had to stop and deplane in Dubai. So, I looked on their site to see if we could take a layover and found out we could.
We booked directly with them and our flight cost did not go up. So for the price of one ticket, we visited our original destination of Egypt as well as spending a bonus two full days in Dubai. What a deal!
Dubai is the perfect long layover. It provides a glimpse into the Arab world, a taste of the Middle East. With all of its oil money, the city is modern, clean, and beautiful. We ate well, did some shopping, and took an educational tour of Jumeirah Mosque; but the best thing about Dubai is its proximity to the desert where we were planning on a spectacular desert tour.
Emirates Dubai Stopover
If you have flown Emirates, more than likely you have stopped over and spent time in their amazing airport. However, better than that, depending on how much time you have, you can also leave the airport.
If you go to the Emirates Stopover page, it describes how to book it, where you can stay, and what you can do while you are there, including booking tours with them.
All we did was book the tickets, then we took care of our own hotels and tours after that. It is super easy, and once you’ve done it, you’ll want to find more ways to do it again.
Here are a few other airlines that we know have stopover and long layover deals:
- Air China
- Korea Air
- Turkish Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- Ethiopian Airlines
There are many more, and the rules and offerings are changing all the time. The best thing to do is just check before you buy your tickets.
The Best Things to do in Dubai on a Long Layover
After booking your flights, the next thing is to decide what you will do. Dubai for kids of all ages will find exciting activities to keep them busy. It is an amazing city full of great adventure, shopping, dining, and even romance. You can’t go wrong. Here are some things you can do on your layover:
- Visit the Burj al Arab or the Burj Khalifa
- Go Shopping for great souvenirs
- Walk along Dubai Creek or Take an Abra ride
- Go Swimming, Skiing, Etc.
- Visit a Mosque or Museum
- Take a Desert Tour
Visit the Burj al Arab or the Burj Khalifa
Dubai is well-known for its architecture, and making beautiful water islands. Take the elevator to the top of the Burj Khalifa or have a cocktail in the Burj al Arab, and experience the luxury of UAE.
There are so many ways to spend money and get some retail therapy in Dubai. From haute couture to local foods, spices, and souvenirs, there’s plenty to buy.
Dubai is known for its malls and some of the bigger ones also have activities for the family to enjoy in them as well. It’s a good way to get out of the heat and have fun. Some of the malls you can visit are: Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, the Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai Outlet Mall, and the Nakheel Mall.
Another way to shop, though, is to visit some of the souks and markets around the city. From gold to spices, you can really delve into Arab culture as you peruse the local goods. Some souks and markets to consider are: the Gold Souk, the Spice Souk, the Textile Souk, the Farmer’s Market, the Dubai Flea Market, Al Seef, and the Ripe Market.
Walk along Dubai Creek or Take an Abra Ride
Dubai Creek, or Khor Dubai, is a place to really soak in the culture of the city. Both locals and tourists enjoy walking, shopping, eating, playing with the kids, taking in a museum, or taking an abra ride. There’s so much to do, it’s a great way to wind down from a day of adventuring.
An Abra is a traditional boat that crosses the waters of Dubai Creek to take you to the other side. You will want to try this at least once, or twice to get back to your starting point. It’s local, cheap (at only 1 dirham per ride) and unique. One of the best rides is a sunset dinner cruise on a yacht!
Go Swimming, Skiing, Etc.
There are so many beaches, water parks, theme parks, butterfly parks, you name it, that you just can’t go wrong. One of the more popular things to do is going skiing year-round in the Mall of the Emirates.
Visit a Mosque or a Museum
Balancing out all the fun with a bit of learning, there are plenty of places to go. We loved learning about Islam and mosques when we visited the Jumeirah Mosque. There’s also a plethora of museums to check out, depending on your likes. Some museums that you might enjoy include: the Sharjah Heritage Museum, the Ethihad, the Camel Museum, the Coin Museum, and the Coffee Museum, but there are so many more.
Take a Desert Tour
We had always heard of the dune-bashing tours with the touristy tent party at the end, and here was our chance to try it. Yes, it was touristy. The “Bedouin” camp was definitely set up just for tourists. That’s okay, it was fun!
No matter what you do in the city, we highly recommend the famous desert tour. It was number one on our list of things to do while there, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. There are so many desert tours to choose from, but we took the full day tour where we did it all from henna to camel riding.
Our dune-bashing tour took us to a couple of wadis, through a portion of Oman, eating a feast of a lunch full of mezes and kebabs somewhere on the road, and of course sand-boarding and four-wheeling through the desert. By the time we reached the tourist camp, we were ready to relax and enjoy the show. At the camp, you can try local foods and sweets, do henna, shisha, and even hold a falcon.
We were on a full day tour, and for some reason arrived at the Bedouin Camp before anyone else. No one else showed up for almost an hour. The owner of the tour company used the four of us to try everything out, get our photo taken, eat all the foods, hold the falcon, even a quick camel ride, basically do it all before anyone else came. Serendipitous and a blast, my daughters had just had the best tour of their lives. They loved it!
If you are booking flights, look into taking a stopover or long layover and add an extra city to your itinerary. We really enjoyed doing this and spending time in a city with so many things to do. For more ideas, check out this Dubai Travel Guide, and you’ll have as much fun as we did exploring the mountains, learning about Islam, dune-bashing, and enjoying the Bedouin Camp that we can’t wait to go back.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.