Dubai—the city of dreams and the utopia of the Middle East. Unbelievably tall and majestic buildings rise dominantly out of the desert sands and gleam beside the sparkling blue Persian Gulf. From luxury to style to architecture—it boasts of the tallest building in the whole world: the Burj Khalifa. It’s no wonder that tourism in this city is absolutely skyrocketing and is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years. But, because tourism is still new in this city, tourists everywhere are wondering exactly what to do in Dubai. If interested in heading over to this tourism hub in the UAE, then a stay of about 5 days is the best amount of time to squeeze all of the tourism juices out of this illustrious city. There is a range of things to do from fine dining to dune bashing, skydiving to skiing, and kayaking to clubbing. It has something for everyone.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Day 1: The Burj Khalifa
Morning: It would be best to arrive at Dubai International Airport (DXB) in the evening to get the most out of your Dubai vacation. Hotels are one of Dubai’s great talents. A stay in any one of the hotels would be not only comfortable but also luxurious. Any of the hotels owned by the Jumeirah Group would be excellent options. Enjoy breakfast at your hotel before you head off for your first Dubai adventure!
Afternoon: Start off with the most obvious sights in the city. One of Dubai’s shining attractions is its stunning and seemingly inconceivable architecture. And one of the first things tourists need to do when they head to this impressive city is to check out its two iconic structures that stand like beacons in the desert: the Burj Khalifa and Burj al Arab. Lucky for tourists, one of the main Dubai tourist attractions are these two buildings, and there are plenty of guided tours that help give the tourists what they want. One Day 1, take the At the Top tour on Burj Khalifa Observation Deck in order to get a jaw-dropping view from the tallest building in the world which is a hotel, a residence, a mall, a spa, and a restaurant/bar. There are also combination tickets that include a tour of the aquarium in the Dubai Mall (more on that later). It’s good to get a daytime view of the city dwarfed by it’s king tower.
The skyscraping beauties of Dubai: Burj Khalifa and Burj al Arab
Evening: Head to the Burj al Arab, a dhow boat-shaped building alongside the coastline. It will be about a 20 minute drive from downtown and Burj Khalifa. Not only is it an amazing structure, but the Burj al Arab is also a 7 star hotel. Go for dinner in this amazing hotel with a selection of Arab and international food of the highest quality and enjoy great views of the sea. Book a dinner and perhaps, since you’re on holiday, even an overnight stay or a spa day!
Book Your Burj al Arab Dinner
You can’t leave Dubai without checking out these two incredible mascots of the city, and the first day is a great day to check them off your tourism list.
Day 2: Dubai Mall Day
That’s right. Dubai has the biggest mall in the world—no surprise there. The Dubai Mall has around 1,200 shops ranging from Zara to the Hershey Store, and it also contains excellent restaurants and a massive aquarium, an ice rink, and an indoor skiing resort entitled Ski Dubai. Crazy, right?
This is a great way to spend a day because there is plenty to do and to see. This Dubai shopping experience is like no other.
Morning: Eat breakfast in any of the Dubai Mall restaurants, choosing from a range of cuisine from American to Japanese to Arabian. It would be a good idea to enjoy a meal by the Dubai Mall Fountain, which is a great Dubai tourism spot. The fountain does a light and music show every hour.
Afternoon: In the center of the mall, the Dubai Aquarium is slightly visible from the outside, but one gets access to all levels if they get a ticket. Depending on what kind of tour you want, a ticket will be about $30 US dollars. Ski Dubai is an incredible place for ski lovers. They can still experience the slopes even in the middle of a desert. Buy a pass to get full access to the park as well as winter clothes! If you up your package, it will also include a visit with the Ski Dubai penguins! Penguins and the Middle East? Seems like an oxymoron.
Evening: Grab dinner and drinks in the Souk attached to the Dubai Mall. It’s a swanky version of an Arabian style souk (market) with shops, restaurants, and classy bars.
Day 3: Dubai Top Attractions: The Palm and The Marina
Dubai is a city of extremes. Whose idea was it to BUILD an entire island? From the air, the island looks like a palm tree spreading its fronds with an outside land barrier encircling the “tree”. To locals and residents, it is simply called the Palm. This is an area of luxury with beautiful housing as well as fancy bars and amazing hotels. At the very tip of the Palm is located the Atlantis Hotel, arguably the most beautiful hotel in Dubai.
Morning: If you’ve been lucky enough to arrive at the right time, you would be wise to book an alcohol brunch at Saffron Restaurant on the Palm in the Atlantis Hotel. Tickets are about $150 dollars, and it includes a variety of unlimited cuisines and unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. It’s a great way to enjoy the hotel, the sea views, and have a great time. So, grab some breakfast, put on your best outfit and take a taxi to Atlantis.
Afternoon: The brunch takes place in Saffron restaurant in the afternoons at 12:30. It’s definitely one of the top 10 things to do in Dubai for 21-40 somethings, and also one of the classiest brunches in the city. Or if you’re not a brunching type, book a ticket to the Atlantis Aquaventure Water Park, a popular Dubai attraction,for a full day pass to one of the best waterparks in the world. Also, take a dip in the ocean on the beautiful beaches and bath-like water and maybe even book a kayaking tour between the fronds. And, if you’re more of a thrill-seeker, Skydive Dubai is one of the most popular spots for tourists. This is located in the Marina, a super classy, upscale part of town, but the plane drops the skydivers over the Palm Island! Basic package tickets are about 550 US dollars. But, if that’s too intense, but you like the height, then definitely check out the Dubai helicopter tour with HeliDubai. It’ll give you a bird’s eye view of the city without the risks.
Evening: It’s been a busy day, so head back to your hotel and enjoy the spa facilities to simply relax and prepare for the next two days!
Day 4: Do the Desert Safari
No one comes to Dubai WITHOUT going on a desert safari. This is another one of the top 10 things to do in Dubai. It’s also to help tourists remember that there actually is a desert out there. The shiny buildings, ice rinks, luxurious hotels, and ski slopes can distract from the sandy dunes. But, the beauty of the desert should not be neglected. Watching the sun set over the desert and seeing its peachy glow spread from dune to dune, is one sight not worth missing.
Morning: A desert safari includes “dune-bashing” with a 4×4, camel-riding, henna tattoos, a belly-dancing show, and a dinner (It should preferably be booked before the vacation). A dune-bashing driver will pick you and your group up from any hotel that you wish in the late morning.
Afternoon: It will be about a 45 minute to an hour drive to the desert destination. Dune-bashing is in a protected vehicle with an experienced driver. Once he arrives in the desert, he deflates his wheels, and away you go flying from dune to dune, sliding around, going down hills, and sliding over the sandy surface. It’s a bumpy ride but it’s super exciting and still safe! And, the driver stops in the middle of the desert in order to take group pictures.
Evening: Then, as the sun is setting, he returns you the encampment, where there is camel riding, henna tattoo artists, and then dinner and a show! Enjoy a belly-dancing show among other acrobatic feats along with an Arabian style meal. It’s a great way to enjoy the desert life. Tickets are about 50 dollars.
Enjoy a camel ride on one of Dubai’s desert safaris
(Bottom left photo credit-Dave Brown)
Book Your Dubai Desert Safari
Day 5: Dubai Beach + Nightlife
Morning: Don’t forget that Dubai is a beach city. You can feel it in the salty breeze and the bright sun. The beaches of this Arabian city are absolutely pristine and tourists can gain quality beach access through their hotel or another if they pay a small fee. A great beach choice is in Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) (taxi drivers will know what you mean).
Afternoon: Spend the afternoon soaking up the sun and even enjoying the inflatable “water park” out on the water.
Evening: Dubai tourism is growing because of all of the things there are to do and nightlife is no exception. As a general rule with a few outliers, bars, clubs, and restaurants that serve alcohol are only located in hotels. So, almost every hotel, especially high class hotels, will have either a club or restaurant or bar. One of the best bar spots for outsiders is Baristi Bar in the Marina in the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi hotel. It’s a half indoor/half outdoor tiki-type bar right on the beach. Not only is it a general bar and restaurant, but it is also the location for concerts, party events, and sporting matches. All of the expats head out here on the weekends. Another great spot is the Observatory in the Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel. It’s a swanky bar on the 52nd floor with floor to ceiling windows that reveal incredible views of the sea and the Marina. Lastly, if you’re into dancing, there are plenty of places to go. Brunches are a great place for dancing, but if you’re more of an evening nightclub type, Dubai has lots of options. Movida in Downtown Dubai is an amazing club with a VIP feel and great music. For Movida and for most clubs and bars in Dubai, there is a bit of a dress code, so don’t forget those heels!
The nightlife is so incredibly varied in Dubai that places to go range from hookah bars to swanky nightclubs to Irish pubs. You will not be lost for ideas of places to go in this happenin’ city.
So, there’s Dubai, done and dusted in a total of 5 days using this Dubai itinerary. Allow Tripsle to be your Dubai travel guide to help you to experience this historic, exhilarating, and snazzy city. Forget about Paris and London and Amsterdam–it’s Dubai time.
It’s always hard to say goodbye to Dubai…
Bonus Tips: Getting Around in Dubai
Taxis are a cheap commodity in this city, so you will have no problem getting from place to place. Dubai is used to tourism, so drivers are easy to come by and know where to go. But, beyond taxis, there is also a metro line! It’s extremely easy to follow and unbelievably cheap. Dubai traffic can get a bit hectic at the busy hours, so the metro line is the perfect option for transport during those times. But, if you’re out on the town til late, taxis are the way to go.