Let’s get real. Many of us are travelling with limited time and are budget-conscious. Dubai is a major stopover destination for many airlines that connects passengers to various global destinations. So, if this happens to be you and you’re an adventure-craving, sightseeing addict who wants to cram, see and do as much as possible, then this is definitely an article you must read.
Find out how you can best use 24 hours in Dubai.
All in one day
Dubai is the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a stunning city created from a sandy expanse of desert into an architecturally and boundary pushing city. It is a mixture of all cultures and surprisingly only around 17% of the population are of Emirati origin. It is here where man-made islands are created in the rolling Persian Gulf and anything is a possibility. So, how about seeing it all in a single day?
Exploring Dubai in one single day? It has been done. The added bonus being complimentary sightseeing! You can see it all for pretty much free – minus the cost of travel.
Getting around Dubai in a breeze
If you are on a tight budget, you can negotiate a price for the ride to the main sights and attractions with your taxi driver before you begin your journey. Alternatively, you can rent a car for the day. Getting around Dubai is relatively easy with all signs in English and Arabic languages, as long as you know what you’re looking out for. GPS is a must-have and do be wary of local drivers who can veer into your lane without any warning.
Your best bet is to start from the southern side of Dubai, toward the city of Abu Dhabi. It’d be a good idea to rise early and start off about 9am local time. Just note that most shops don’t open till 10am. Nevertheless, they make up for this by staying open late, usually till 10 to 11pm.
Palm Jebel Ali will be your first stop. This is an excellent example of how advanced and modernized Dubai has become. The Palm Jebel Ali is one of many man-made islands around the city. The magnificent architecture of this world-renowned artificial island will give you an idea of the incredible lengths that Dubai has taken to improve its infrastructure. Once you’ve seen the world famous man-made Palm Island, you can continue north back towards Dubai city. Your second stop is along the E11 highway to Ibn Battuta Mall - Sheikh Zayed Road, which should take you around 20 minutes by car.
Ibn Battuta mall is a fantastic travel inspired shopping mall. Pose for a picture in front of the giant sunglasses, grab some lunch and explore. You could spend all day here but don’t! An hour or 2 should suffice, there is plenty more to see and do.
Located further north, the Palm Jumeriah is another man-made island that warrants a quick visit. Drive along the main road or the trunk and you will get an idea of how the houses are shaped as the palm fronds. It is quite incredible to drive through and look at your location on the Google map. At the end of the main road sits the huge Atlantis hotel, which you shall see as you drive down the road. You will also be able to get a glimpse of the water park, which offers incredible rides and the world famous ‘leap of faith’ water slide. You can stop and take photos of the Persian Golf and the Atlantis hotel. As you head north to the city of Dubai, you will see the Burj Al Arab, the famous sail shaped hotel. You can stop and have a quick look or continue driving past and snap a few quick shots.
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
Address: Jumeirah Beach Road
Shuttle service (additional charge) Use of cleaning chemicals that are effective against Coronavirus Beachfront Sun terrace Lockers Smoke alarms Physical distancing rules followed Packed lunches
See how the city has progressed
If you head back inland for approximately 25 minutes, you will get a brief history lesson in the rise and fall of Dubai wealth and the abundance of ideas that make this city unique. Check out Dubailand, an entertainment complex that is located about 40 minutes to the west on Dubai-Al Ain Rd/E66. On the way, you will pass by the Dubai sports world, motor city, the golf club as well as the local residential places in Dubai. It is an interesting sight to behold; derelict buildings, a Ferris wheel frame looking forlorn, as it rises out of the sandy desert. Dubai is an ever-changing landscape and it is interesting to see how the city has progressed. You can be guaranteed that it will look completely different the next time you return. You can spend around 5 to 10 minutes snapping photos and having a quick exploration over the place.
Just across the road from Dubailand is the Dubai outlet mall, a fantastic shopping area with incredible interior decor. Stop here and grab some morning tea or a quick drink and continue into Dubai city. Your next stop is to downtown Dubai or Dubai Mall. Here you can tick off 4 major attractions. You can wander around the largest mall in the world with a staggering 1,200 shops that cover 5,400,000 sq ft (wear good shoes). Then you can visit the world’s largest sweet store, ‘Candylicious’. The mall also boosts one of the world’s largest panels of acrylic glass. Behind it, the massive aquarium contains 33,000 species of sea life. There is even an ice skating rink in the mall, which is actually quite common around the UAE. Next, you can sit outside one of the many cafés and restaurants and gaze up at the wondrous site of the Burj Khalifia. The fountains go off every few minutes with a coordinated display to harmonious music. Inside the mall, there is a huge cascading fountain and a gold souk (market), which is worth a look. There is so much to do here, so you may want to allocate several hours for this place.
Prior to sunset, you will have time for a quick dip back into Emirati history with a look at the Al Fahidi fort, which is north of the city and about 15 minutes by car from the Dubai Mall.
For those with a limited stay in Dubai
As the sun sets, you can head to your final destination either by driving or taking a short boat ride down the creek to one of the many souks in an area called Deira. Here, you can wander through a maze of open front shops and find anything from spices, fresh coconut drinks to pashmina scarves. As with most souks in the UAE, the shopkeepers are open to bartering. You can enjoy a meal here for your dinner before you head back to wherever you are staying.
There is a lot of cramming and super quick sightseeing but it is totally worth it, especially if you have a limited stay in Dubai. So let’s get going!
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