The Top Things You Can Do in Dubai Airport on a Layover

The Top Things You Can Do in Dubai Airport on a Layover

There’s a good reason millions of travelers choose Dubai as their layover city when transiting to other parts of the world.

Being one of the best airports any traveler can stay in, you’re guaranteed to be happy, full and entertained while waiting for your next flight.

Here, we rounded up some of the best spots to visit, places to dine in and areas to relax in while you’re inside the Dubai International Airport.

What You Need to Know About the Dubai International Airport

What You Need to Know About the Dubai International Airport
Image source: CNN

The Dubai International Airport or DXB is Dubai’s primary flying hub and the named as the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic.

Located in the Al Garhoud District, this massive airport covers 2,900 hectares of land and it has been in operation for more than 63 years now.

From being a small airport in the 60s that can only handle small aircrafts, DXB is now a transit airport for more than 100 airlines and has flights to more than 260 destinations.

Because of its massive scale the size of 297 football fields, DXB has been primarily divided into three terminals.

If you’re doing a layover in Dubai, it’s very important to be familiar with these terminals and the different sections within them:

  • Terminal 1 

All international flights in Dubai go through Terminal 1 and it’s the first terminal when the airport opened back in the 60s.

The Dubai Airports Company even added an extension called Concourse D to cater to more airlines.

Today, this part of Terminal 1 can cater to more than 60 international carriers to make sure that the airport is sufficient enough to accommodate all the traffic.

Terminal 1 even has its own train to make it easier for passengers to move to and from gates. It also has its own food court and some shops for some retail therapy.

  • Terminal 2

To help free up some space at Terminal 1, Terminal 2 was added to DXB in 1998 to cater to international flights, special interest flights, scheduled flights and chartered flights.

Today, more than 50 airlines operate in Terminal 2 including flydubai, the city’s first budget airline.

  • Terminal 3

The newest addition to DXB is Terminal 3 dedicated exclusively to the country’s flag carrier, Emirates.

This terminal is divided into three parts: Concourse A, which only caters to the Emirates A380 airplanes, Concourse B and Concourse C.

Because of its massive scale, Terminal 3 is considered the world’s largest airport terminal and the world’s second largest building by floor space.

The Top Things to Do in Dubai Airport on a Layover

The Top Things to Do in Dubai Airport on a Layover
Image source: Business Traveler

If you have a quick layover in Dubai, you don’t need to worry about getting bored since there are plenty of things to do inside the Dubai airport

Enjoy Some Retail Therapy at Duty-Free Shops

Address: Terminal 1 – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 216 2453
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Dubai is truly a shopper’s haven. But you don’t need to worry if you can’t leave Dubai airport during your short layover because the Dubai Duty Free has you covered.

This Duty Free is the world’s largest travel retail operator and has been racking up millions of dollars in sales since it opened in 1983. 

In fact, in its first year of opening alone, Dubai Duty Free already reached $20 million in sales.

Today, there are several Duty Free shops scattered around DXB aside from its flagship in Terminal 1.

If you want to shop for designer brands like Hermes, Chanel, Gucci, Dior, Tom Ford and Givenchy, head to Terminal 3 where the newer stores are.

Terminal 1, on the other hand, has an assortment of products including fine jewelry and silverware carried by Tiffany and Co.

If you want to buy some snacks for your next flight or chocolates for souvenirs, you can check out Carrefour and Spinney’s at Terminal 1.

If you’re a wine enthusiast, don’t forget to drop by the Macallan Boutique to see the most expensive bottle in the world and other fine wine selections.

Pro tip:

Since you’ll be doing some shopping, go hands free and leave your luggage in storage areas at Terminals 1 and 3 for only AED 35 to AED 40 depending on the size of your luggage. They can keep your luggage for up to 12 hours, so you can roam freely.

Go On an Exciting Food Trip Across the Airport

With more than 50 restaurants, cafes and food shops, you’ll have no shortage of options when dining at DXB. 

And these are not just your typical airport eateries because this airport has some world-class restaurants in its roster. Here are our top recommendations:

  • The Noodle House

Address: Terminal 1 Concourse D – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: 04 228 1295
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

If you’re craving for some hot noodles or dimsum after that long flight, feast on world-class Asian cuisine at The Noodle House in Terminal 1.

This restaurant specializes in healthy Southeast Asian cuisine with dishes like Pot Stickers, Chicken Satay, Wasabi Prawns, Singaporean Roast Duck and Sambal Prawns.

You can choose to dine in the restaurant or go for a takeout if you’re ready to catch your flight.

  • Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck

Address: Terminal 1 Concourse D – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: 04 236 7180
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

From one of the most famous chefs in the world comes Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck, one of the best restaurants in the airport.

The casual dining restaurant specializes in the famous chef’s take on global comfort food with his original recipes featuring the best ingredients in Dubai.

Here, you can feast on some of Chef Pucks’ famous creations including his signature Pizza Margherita, NY Strip Steak, WP Burger and Chicken Schnitzel.

You should also try his delicious Rigatoni Alfredo and Scottish Salmon that has the chef’s signature twist.

Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck also has an extensive Drinks Menu that includes Prosecco, Housemade Red Sangria, Pineapple Ginger Mojito and The Jetsetter.

Just keep the drinking to a minimum, so you won’t miss your flight or worse be prohibited to board your flight because you’re drunk. 

  • Pret a Manger

Address: Terminal 1 Concourse D and Terminal 3 – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: 04 236 7180
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Pret a Manger is undoubtedly one of the most popular food shops in Dubai that it has two branches in DXB alone.

What’s unique about this shop is that it’s constantly reinventing its menu with recipes using simple ingredients that you can find in your own pantry.

Pret a Manger is also sourcing as much local ingredients as possible to make sure that you get the best food every time.

You can also guarantee that all its food are created fresh every day in the shop’s kitchens.

Some of Pret a Manger’s most popular offerings include the Egg and Tomato Brioche and Egg and Salmon Brioche for breakfast.

You should also grab its popular Cheddar and Pickle Sandwich, Crackling Egg Sandwich, Chicken Caesar and Bacon Baguette and Italian Beef Baguette for your flight.

Of course, you have the classic Salmon and Avocado Saladm, Edamame Beans and Egg Avocado Pot if you’re going the healthy route. 

For the kids, you can get a Yoghurt Bowl, Chocolate Brownier Bar, Hazelnut Truffle or Popcorn Bar.

  • The Draft House Sports Bar and Canteen

Address: Terminal 1 Concourse D – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 294 0822
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Who said that you can’t enjoy some beer and good bar food while you’re waiting for your next flight?

If you’re a big sports fan, you can watch your favorite team play at The Draft House while enjoying some wine, draught beer or cocktails.

Don’t worry because this sports-themed bar has an alcohol license as long as you don’t drink too much that might cause you to be prohibited from boarding your flight.

And if you’re not a drinker, you can stil enjoy some good food in The Draft House with breakfast classics like Eggs Benedict or their famous burgers.

  • Giraffe World Kitchen

Address: Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 Concourse A – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 256 6848
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Anyone who’s had a layover in DXB will recommend Giraffe as a must-try restaurant. 

In fact, there are two branches in the airport to cater to its growing customer base.

Giraffe is known for its global menu where you’ll find something from almost every country in the world.

So, wherever in the globe you’re coming from, you’ll surely find your comfort food in this restaurant.

Enjoy Giraffe favorites like the All Day Giraffe Brunch, Ham and Slow Cooked Pork Cuban Sandwich, Korean BBQ Chicken and British Steak and Chips.

You can also go for the Japanese Katsu Curry, Thai Duck Stir Friy or one of the classic burgers in the restaurant with vegan options.

  • Cho Gao

Address: Terminal 3 Concourse A – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +9714 505 2000
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Another must-try restaurant in Terminal 3 if you’re looking for good Asian food is Cho Gao.

Located between Gates A6 and A7, this restaurant offers a relaxing ambiance that reminds you of China.

But more than its atmosphere, the restaurant also serves good Pan-Asian food like Kung Pao Chicken, California Maki, Vietnamese Beef Pho and Pad Thai.

  • Jack’s Bar and Grill

Address: Terminal 3 Concourse A – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 2989 481
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

If you’ve ever visited Tennessee or it’s your home state, you’ll surely be transported back home with the ambiance and flavores of Jack’s Bar and Grill.

In fact, this restaurant is inspired by the great Jack Daniel himself and his philosophy of “tradition, integrity and independence.”

So, if you’re craving for good South American food, this is where you can dine after that long flight to Dubai.

Some of the restaurant’s famous dishes include the classic All-In Breakfast Bap or the Big Breakfast depending on your hunger in the morning.

You also have comfort food like Jack’s Classic Sliders, Cowboy Nachoes and Buffalo Wings.

If you’re craving some grilled meat, try the Fillet Steak, Rib Eye Steak or if you have the appetite for it, the ginormous Tomahawk Steak.

  • Bombay Chowpatty

Address: Terminal 2 Concourse B – Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 399 1727
Operating hours: Open 24 hours

Are you craving good Indian food on your layover? Head to Terminal 2 and find Bombay Chowpatty.

This cozy eatery is famous for its authentic Indian food including classics like Dosa, Pakora, Dahi Puri, Kebabs and Briyani.

Of course, you can’t leave without trying one of their dessert options like the Gulab Jamun, Rasmalai or Lassi.

Pro tip:

If you’re planning a food trip during your layover, check out the different restaurants in your terminal if you only have a short layover or explore other terminals if you have more time. If you can, make reservations ahead to secure a spot in these restaurants.

Catch Up On Some Sleep

Address: Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 52 355 1477
Operating hours: Open 24 Hours

Flying can be exhausting, especially if you’re someone who can’t sleep during a flight. So, while waiting for your next journey, you can catch some sleep at DXB.

The Sleep n’ Fly Lounge offers igloo-style sleeping pods and double cabins where you can relax, stretch your back and get some good sleep in a comfortable environment.

If you’re traveling with the kids, they also have pull-out beds for them to feel relaxed to avoid the crankiness on your next flight.

The Sleep n’ Fly Lounge is available in all terminals in DXB with different sleeping options:

Terminal 1 D Gate

(Opposite Gates D6 and D7)

Options: YAWN Lite Single and Double Cabins
Terminal 3 A Gate

(Opposite Gate A1)

Options: Igloo Pods and YAWN Double Cabins
Terminal 3 B Gate

(Between Gates B14 and B18)

Options: Flexisuite Pods, YAWN Double/Bunk/Family Cabins, Lounge Lite and Business Pods
Terminal 3 C Gate

(Next to Gate C14)

Options: FlexiSuite Pods, YAWN Double and Bunk Cabins

If you’re on a longer layover or you want to relax somewhere more private, you can check in at the Dubai International Hotel.

Located at Terminal 3, you can book one of the hotel’s rooms and suites to relax in, take a shower and even dine in at one of its restaurants.

You can also get some workout done, relax at the Jacuzzi or take some laps at the pool to feel revitalized for the next leg on your flight.

Just make sure to book ahead to guarantee a room upon your arrival.

Pro tip:

Rates for these Sleep n’ Fly Lounge will depend on the length of your stay and it’s best to book a slot ahead to make sure that you have somewhere to sleep upon landing.

Relax at One of the Airport’s Premium Lounges

Address: Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 505 7940
Operating hours: 24 hours

If you’re not travelling on business class, you can still enjoy the benefits of staying in a premium lounge at one of the lounges in DXB.

  • Marhaba Dubai International Airport Lounge Terminal 1

If you’re in Terminal 1, you can relax at the Marhaba Lounge where you can enjoy amenities like a lounge bay, shower facilities and food and beverage.

This lounge also has a charging station, a spa and massag area, private resting area and prayer room.

And you don’t need to worry about missing your flight since the lounge has a screens howing all the flight information on Terminal 1.

  • Marhaba Dubai International Airport Lounge Terminal 2

If your flight is on Terminal 2, relax at the Marhaba Lounge where you can enjoy amenities like a charging station, food and beverage, bar, smoking area and free Wi-fi.

Like Terminal 1, you also have flight information showing on screens to make sure you don’t miss the next leg of your journey. 

  • Their Patio by Plaza Premium Group Arrivals Terminal 3

Located beside the DUbai Duty Free in the Arrivals area of Terminal 3, Their Patio is a co-working lounge where travelers can work and relax during a layover.

Here, you can enjoy amenities like a meeting and conference room, a co-working area and some refreshments.

  • Plaza Premium Lounge Terminal 3

Located on Level 4 Concourse A in Terminal 3, the Plaza Premium Lounge covers 1,260 square meters of relaxation and lounge space. 

Here, you can enjoy the ultimate lounge experience with amenities like a bar, playroom for the kids, smoking area, food and beverage, prayer room and charging station.

The lounge also has a Family Suite where the entire brood can realx, a lounge bay and shower facilities.

The premium lounge’s restaurant has a wide array of Arabic, International and Asian dishes for you to enjoy while waiting for your flight.

If you’re travelling business class or first class with Emirates, you can relax at the Emirates Lounge, which is considered one of the best in the world. 

Pro tip:

If you want to stay in a lounge during your layover in Dubai, it’s best to book a reservation ahead to make sure that you secure a spot, especially during peak season.

Treat Yourself to Some Me Time at the Spa

Address: Dubai International Airport – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 505 2835
Operating hours: 24 hours

Did that long flight make you exhausted? While waiting for the next leg of your trip, why not treat yourself to a relaxing few hours at one of the world class spas in DXB?

  • Timeless Spa

Located in Terminal 3 in the Emirates area, Timeless Spa will make you forget that you just had a long flight with its world-class services.

Combining the best products with a team of highly trained therapists, this spa is one of the best spots to relax during your layover.

You can choose from one of the treatments offered at TImeless Spa including massage therapy, body therapy, facial therapy and nail therapy.

Get a much-needed facial, a full organic body scrub, a foot and hand therapy, a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage, a Swedish massage and a de-stressing back massage.

If you have the time, you can even get the full Spa therapy package for the ultimate treat.

The best part is, you can enjoy all of Timeless Spa’s treatments if you’re flying First Class with Emirates or pay a small fee if you’re flying Business Class.

  • Be Relax

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option that still offers world-class treatments, head to Be Relax.

This internationally renowned spa has a branch in Terminal 1 Concourse D Gate 9, Gate A1 Concourse A Terminal 3 and Gate 23 Concourse B Terminal 3.

Be Relax offers a wide range of spa treatmnets including back, feet and whole body massages, classic manicure and pedicure, and even head to toe spa packages.

You can also book a shower at the spa if you just want to freshen up before your flight.

The spa only has a team of trained therapists and specialists and it also picks only the best brands for its products to guarantee the best spa experience to its clients.

Tips for a Quick Layover in Dubai Airport

Tips for a Quick Layover in Dubai Airport
Image source: Photo by Walid A on Unsplash

To make sure that you enjoy your quick layover in DXB, you should keep these tips in mind:

  • Plan your layover. Whether you just want to sleep, check into a sleeping lounge or eat your way through DXB, it’s best to plan your layover ahead to make the most of your time.
  • Shop online before you land. If you’re short on time but you still want to take advantage of the cheaper prices in Dubai, you can order your products online and pick them up at the store once you land.
  • Always bring your travel documents. You’ll never know when you’ll need them for lounges, restaurants and even for discounts in stores. So, make sure that you have your travel documents at all times.
  • Be mindful of your schedule. You don’t want to be running around the airport finding your terminal because you’re about to miss your flight. So, don’t go too far from your assigned gate and check on your flight in the screens around the airport.
  • Take care of your belongings. Dubai may be one of the safest cities in the world, but a lot of passengers still lose things at the airport daily. So, if you don’t want to go through that hassle, take care of your belongings at all times. Leave bigger luggages in storage areas in the airport and ask lounges or spas for lockers where you can leave your bag while relaxing.
  • Apply for a transit visa if you want to leave the airport. If you have enough time to go out of the airport to explore nearby sites, you need to apply for a transit visa before your trip. This allows you to go out of the airport for longer layovers and you won’t need to pay for anything if you’re getting the 48-hour transit visa. 
  • Take your time. DXB is a massive airport with lots of things to offer. So, if you have enough time like a 6-, 8- or 12-hour layover, take your time in exploring the different terminals to see what you can enjoy in terms of dining, shopping and just entertainment. If you just want to relax for a few minutes, visit one of the zen gardens around the airport to take a breather.