The Dubai Airport is the busiest airport in the world with thousands of travelers passing through Dubai as their layover of choice for trips in other parts of the globe.
But unlike most airports, having a layover in Dubai is far from boring.
In fact, it could be the best part of your trip because you’re not only stopping by a world class airport, but you also have the option to explore parts of Dubai near it.
Things to Know If You Want to Leave Dubai Airport During a Layover
Before you get giddy about exploring Dubai on your layover, you need to apply for a transit visa to be allowed to go out of Dubai Airport.
A transit visa is issued to all travelers who will be staying in the UAE for more than 8 hours as part of their layover.
There are two types of transit visas: a 48-hour visa that’s free of charge and a 96-hour visa for AED 50.
Both these visas are not renewable or extendable. So, if you applied for a 48-hour visa and you want to stay longer, you can’t extend that to 96 hours.
If you wish to apply for a transit visa, you need to do it through a UAE-based airline that will be your sponsor. Make sure toa apply for the visa before your trip through:
- Different online platforms that are approved by the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Afairs (GDRFA).
- The UAE’s eChannels portal.
- The UAEICP app that you can download for both Android and iOs.
To apply for a Dubai transit visa, you need the following requirements:
- Passport with a validity of at least three months
- A photo against a white background
- Your confirmed ticket booking to your destination after the layover
If you have an overnight layover in Dubai, you can also check with your airlines if they offer free hotel stay in the city.
If not, it’s best to book one ahead to avoid inconveniences once you land.
The Best Things to Do Near Dubai Airport on a Layover
Depending on the length of your layover, here are some of the best things that you can do around the city without going too far from Dubai Airport:
See the Tallest Building in the World
Address: 1 Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd. – Downtown Dubai – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 888 8 8888
Operating hours: 24 Hours
If you can visit one landmark in Dubai, make it the tallest building in the world. Burj Khalifa dominates the city’s skyline at 828 meters high, three times the height of the Eiffel Tower.
This magnificent building sits in the middle of the Downtown Dubai development where you can also see the Dubai Fountain Show and shop at the Dubai Mall.
A taxi ride to this area is also about 14 – 35 minutes depending on traffic, so it’s one of the best spots in the city to visit, especially if you only have an eight-hour layover.
If you want to do more than just look at Burj Khalifa, you can book a skip-the-line ticket that gives you access to the highest outdoor observation deck in the world at 452 meters high.
You can get an audio guide for AED 25 at the Burj Khalifa’s entrance counter if you want to learn more about this massive structure.
Get Some Retail Therapy at the Dubai Mall
Address: Downtown Dubai – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 800 382 246255
Operating hours: 10:00 AM to 11:00 PM – Daily
While you’re in the Downtown Dubai area, make sure to stop by the biggest mall in the country.
The Dubai Mall has 502,000 square meters of pure shopping heaven featuring more than 1,200 shops from local and international brands.
A lot of shopping enthusiasts even do a layover in Dubai just to shop at this mall since prices are lower, especially for designer brands as compared to other cities in the world.
You can also check out one of the many restaurants in the Dubai Mall if you want to grab a bite before heading back to the airport.
Of course, you can’t forget to buy some souvenirs like camel chocolate and Arabian fragrances to remind you of your layover.
The massive space of The Dubai Mall can get overwhelming. To make sure that you don’t waste time, check out the list of stores on the mall’s website and plan your trip accordingly, so you know exactly where to go and what to buy.
Be Mesmerized by the Dubai Fountain Show
Address: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard – Downtown Dubai – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 567 2030
Operating hours: 6:00 PM to 11:00 PM – Daily
If you’re lucky enough to have an overnight layover, make sure to see one of the most spectacular water fountain shows in the world.
The Dubai Fountain Show has more than 6,600 lights and 50 colored projector that play to the beat of Arabian and international tunes while shooting up water as high as 275 meters.
After shopping at the Dubai Mall, find a spot on the observation deck or at one of the restaurants with al fresco dining to enjoy the show for free.
If you want to get the best experience while watching the Dubai Fountain Show, you can pay to ride on a traditional Arabic boat that sails on the lake as the show runs.
Take a Photo at the the Dubai Frame
Address: Zabeel Park Jogging Track – Za’abeel – Al Kifaf – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 800 900
Operating hours: 9:00 PM to 9:00 PM – Daily
- Adults – AED 50
- Children 3-12 years old – AED 20
- Infant, People of Determinatoin and Two Companions – Free
One of the nearest tourist attractions to the Dubai Airport is the largest frame in the world.
A 10-minute ride from the airport will take you to Zabeel Park where you can see this magnificent structre standing tall at 150 metsr above the ground.
Designed by Mexican Architect Fernando Doris, the Dubai Frame is positioned in a way that it frames the modern Dubai on one side and the Old Dubai on the other.
This is the government’s tribute to the city’s past and present and you can learn all about the city’s story and its plans for the future at the museum on the building.
Since you only have a limited time to explore the Dubai Frame, it’s best to book your tickets ahead of time to skip the queue.
Shop for Jewelry at the Gold Souk
Address: Deira – Al Ras – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: 04 226 5461
Operating hours: 9:00 PM to 9:00 PM – Daily
If you have at least a 12-hour layover in Dubai, make sure to visit Old Dubai to shop at one of the oldest traditional markets in the country.
The Gold Souk is a literal treasure trove of fine gold, diamond and gemstone jewelry pieces that are crafted by some of Dubai’s best artisans.
A 35-minute ride from the airport will take you to this bustling marketplace where you can find every piece of jewelry that you can think of – from simple earrings to elaborate necklaces.
The best part is, these products are a lot cheaper at the Gold Souk than in other parts of the city.
Don’t rush into buying gold jewelry. Try to browse through the different stores first to compare the quality of the pieces and their prices. From there, you can decide which pieces will fit your budget best.
Shop for Spices at the Spice Souk
Address: 26 34 Street – Deira – Al Ras – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 221 5555
Operating hours: 9:00 PM to 9:00 PM – Daily
The Middle East is known for its unique spices and Dubai’s Spice Souk is one of the best places in the region to shop for them.
So, if you love cooking or you just want to collect different spices, make sure to head to the Spice Souk in Deira where you’ll find an extensive list of authentic Arabian spices.
Here, you can shop for common spices or have one of the sellers create a unique spice concoction for you.
You can also shop for other delicacies like dates and dried fruits that are unique to Dubai.
Take your time shopping for spices at the Dubai Spice Souk, so you can see your options before making the final purchase. And don’t forget to haggle since the sellers can give you discounts, especially when buying in bulk.
Go on a Sightseeing Tour of Dubai
Address: The Dubai Mall – Downtown Dubai – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 800 273 8224
If you want to maximize your layover to see as much of Dubai as possible, you have the option to go on a sightseeing tour of the city.
One of the most popular options for tourists is the Dubai Hop-on Hop-off bus that will take you to the different parts of Dubai while riding an open top bus.
City Sightseeing is one of the leading open bus travel operators in the world and it’s also a favorite among tourists on a layover in Dubai.
The agency offers two types of sightseeing tours. The Iconic option has 19 stops in three routes around the city where you get to learn about important landmarks and buildings.
The Essential package has the same stops but includes an admission to the At The Top experience in Burj Khalifa.
The Best Places to Eat Near Dubai Airport on a Layover
Dubai is not only known for its magnificent landmarks but also its remarkable food. In fact, it’s home to some of the top restaurants in the world.
So, if you’d rather eat your way around Dubai while on a layover, here are the best places to check out.
Address: Le Meridien Fairway – 51st Street – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 702 2560
Operating hours: 12:00 PM to 3:00 AM – Daily
Price: AED 350 for two people
If you’re looking for a unique dining experience, this is the place to be. Warehous in Le Meridien Fairway is famous for its “Drunch ” or drinks and brunch combo in a cozy dining setup.
Open for brunch until the early hours of the morning, this restaurant has a nightclub atmosphere with its low lighting that’s perfect for relaxing after that long flight.
But it also serves good food including its famous sushi that a lot of locals come back for.
If you have an overnight layover, you can enjoy drinks during happy hour at Warehouse from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM.
If you can, book a table ahead since this place can easily get packed, especially if your layover falls on the weekend.
Address: Lobby Level – Le Meridien Dubai Hotel and Conference Center – Airport Road – Garhoud – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 702 2455
Operating hours: 12:00 PM to 5:00 Pm and 7:30 PM to 11:30 PM – Daily
Price: AED 400 for two people excluding drinks
Are you craving seafood after eating plane food? Seafood Market is a haven for anyone who loves good quality seafood in a relaxing environment.
The restaurant is a favorite among many travelers on a layover in Dubai where they keep coming back for dishes like the deep fried soft shell crab.
At Seafood Market, you can guarantee that only the best ingredients and seafood from around the world are used to make the most delicious dishes that can cure any jet lag.
If you want to get the best seats in the house, make sure to book a table at Seafood Market ahead of time, especially if you’re dining as a group or if your layover falls on the weekend.
Address: Ground Level – Al Bustan Rotana – Casablanca Road – Garhoud – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 428 3089
Operating hours: 7:00 PM to 11:30 PM – Daily
Price: AED 400 for two people
Benihana is known around the world for its Japanese Teppanyaki style dining. In Dubai, you can enjoy the same theater dining experience with some of its famous chefs.
The restaurant takes pride in using only the best ingredients that are prepared right in front of you if you’re lucky to score a table on the Teppanyaki grill.
You should also try the restaurant’s sushi and other dishes for the full Japanese dining experience.
Benihana serves buffet style food every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday night. But make sure that you book a table in advance since the place can be packed during these days.
Address: 40th Floor – The H Dubai – Sheikh Zayed Road – Trade Center Area – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Contact details: +971 4 428 3089
Operating hours: 6:00 PM to 3:00 AM- Daily
Price: AED 300 for two people
Do you want the utlimate dining experience with sweeping views of Bur Dubai? 40 Kong at the H Dubai is a rooftop open air restaurant that serves good food with the best ambiance.
Just a few minutes away from the Dubai Airport, ther restaurant is known for its international inspired dishes and an impressive list of signature cocktails.
Here, you can enjoy dinner while admiring the views of Old Dubai and enjoy some drinks to relax while you wait for your flight on the next day.
Make reservations ahead of time to get the best seats in the house and make sure that you enjoy everything that this restaurant can offer.