Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, consummate conglomerate, tourism hotspot and seat of global business – it’s a city that captures everyone’s imagination. But suppose you don’t have a great deal of time to spend in Dubai to enjoy this mega-glamourous city. Suppose you have one day in Dubai, and at that, one day in transit. How do you enjoy the city, its skyscrapers such as the Burj Khalifa and its many sights and attractions? Well, you need some help there and that’s where we come in. Let us guide you on how to make your one day in Dubai count and count hard.
Here’s how to spend one day in Dubai
The Metro Tour
One of the least expensive ways to check out Dubai is via the city’s Red Line Metro, which sits conveniently just outside the airport. You can purchase the normal or VIP ticket, with the VIP ticket giving you access to the first carriage with glass ceilings. Spend part of your one day in Dubai enjoying the sights of Dubai all the way to the end of Sheikh Zayed Road and back. Sheikh Zayed Road is lined with most of Dubai’s famous landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa. What better way to spend part of your one day in Dubai?
Tip: Apply for automatic passport scanning at the UAE Smart Gates and avoid queueing up at immigration to save time.
Alternatively, the Big Bus Tour
If you want a more detailed tour and you’re willing to invest 5-6 hours exploring the city, then sign up for the Big Bus Hop-on-Hop-Off tour. You can grab the bus from multiple points including at the airport. You can spend several hours exploring the city, hopping off to shop at Dubai Mall or the Mall of the Emirates and even get to enjoy the Burj Khalifa At The Top experience. Don’t forget to check out the Dubai Aquarium where you can walk underwater and get up close to sharks, manta rays, sting rays and a horde of other exotic marine life. There’s a big bus every 15 minutes and there are many stops all over Dubai. When you’re done exploring a particular attraction, just hop on the next bus with your ticket and move on to the next attraction. You can take as much or as little time to explore Dubai using the big bus option – it’s up to you.
Tip: The big bus tour takes you to old Dubai as well, so you can see the whole of Dubai and explore select attractions for an entire day on the big bus tour.
Grab a Taxi Instead
A taxi is the most expensive of Dubai’s transport options, but it’s worth in the sense that you can go where you want to go instead of following a fixed route. Hire a taxi at the airport, tuck away your luggage and browse the city’s highlights. Check out Ski Dubai at the enormous Mall of Emirates. Shop at the Dubai Mall’s famous souks for jewelry and fashion. Enjoy a meal at the Dubai Mall’s food court. Visit the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Walk. Cross the bridge to the Palm Islands and drive around. Check out old Dubai – visit the souks and markets of Bur Dubai and Deira and bargain for spices, perfumes, carpets and pashmina shawls.
Tip: Keep the meter on and decide on the exact fare estimate beforehand to avoid confusion with the taxi driver.
Things to Do and See
With just one day in Dubai here are the attractions that are simply must-visit and things that are simply must-do.
The Dubai Creek
Cross the Dubai Creek in the abra, the traditional water boat, by paying a mere 1 AED. Visit the small and beautiful Sheikh Mohammed Mosque.
Dubai’s Traditional Souks
Browse the narrow alleyways of Dubai’s souks and get the feel of a city that hasn’t changed a bit in a century. You’ll hear loud haggling, and smell the incredible smell of coffee beans being roasted and the smell of perfumes and spices will hit you long before you step close to a stall. Visit the spice, gold and perfume souks of Deira and Bur Dubai for an authentic Middle Eastern experience. Check out window after window of stalls filled with the most extravagant and expensive 22 and 24-carat gold. Each spice stall has mounds of spices stacked up outside it and the air is filled with the delectable aroma of nutmeg, turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom.
It’s very hard to grow greenery in the Middle East, given its dry climate. That’s what makes the Dubai Miracle Garden so very impressive. This garden is filled with about 100 million blooming and colourful flowers that are designed into fabulous sculptures of art.
Touted as the second largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall has over 1000 retail outlets in 4 fabulously rich looking levels. The largest mall in the world is apparently the Edmonton Mall in Canada. The food court has 800+ eateries, apart from a multiplex called Reel Cinemas with more theatres than you can believe. The Dubai Mall is also home to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, a definite draw for kids and adults alike.
The incredibly beautiful Dubai Frame is recently completed and open to visitors. The Frame is supposed to represent the present, from which one can look into the past and the future. Located in Zabeel Park, the Dubai Frame is 152 meters tall and has a glass-bottomed bridge connecting the two vertical columns which make for a fun and slightly scary observatory.
The world’s largest choreographed fountain system, the Dubai Fountains shoots of jets of water as high as 140 metres, which is about the height of a 45 story building. You’ll see a fabulously choreographed performance every 30 minutes with a different piece of music each time.
You’ll have to book your tickets in advance to get to the observatory deck on the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa, but it’s so very worth it. The building is simply spectacular – it spirals up, piercing the clouds with its spire that’s hard to see from below. Standing proudly at 829 meters, the Khalifa should be on your list of ‘absolutely not-to-miss’ attractions while in Dubai for a day.
If you manage to enjoy the above attractions on your day’s outing in Dubai, you’re doing a great job! You’ll love exploring Dubai so much on your stopover or your day’s break that you’ll soon want to spend a longer sojourn in this glam city.
A postgraduate in Mass Communications, Neha loves everything about life. Travelling is extremely close to her heart and writing came to her naturally. An avid trekker & explorer, who often takes off some time from her busy life for mountaineering, she loves meeting new people & gets attached to their culture very easily. Her ambition is to explore as many places as she can in her life. She strongly believes in Gandhian principle – “simple living high thinking”.
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