Updated: Sep 10
Dubai. The city of amazing architecture that seems to appear out of nowhere in the desert. There is something about the interesting architecture and the mysterious way these buildings seemed to be built overnight. I had been dreaming of visiting Dubai for many years and had been creating my own "vision" board via Pinterest in the hopes that I would visit some day.
Well, as luck would have it, my layover on the way to the Maldives was Dubai! Unfortunately, we were only in Dubai for 9 hours. Landing at 7pm and flying out of Dubai at 4:20 AM doesn't leave a whole lot of time or a whole lot of options. Realistically - if you have similar flight times and layover times, here is what you can do with a few hours in Dubai:
This was an obvious choice as it is still the reigning tallest building in the world. I highly recommend booking tickets ahead of time and also booking the tickets to the 148th floor. This will include skip the line tickets which you will want. The lines can be hit or miss depending on the time of day you visit. The Burj Khalifa boasts the fastest elevators in the world. You travel 125 floors in just 77 seconds and then the remaining 23 floors in just 15 seconds. The first elevator ride experience is amazing. As you climb into the sky, all the other tall buildings all over the world flash on the walls of the elevator and disappear as we climb far above them. It was really cool to be able to see that comparison.
When you get to the 125th floor, you cross over and continue to the 148. When you exit, you are greeted with a nice, cold drink and a small snack. You have a 360 degree space you can walk around with views for miles (depending on weather). There is an outdoor, full glass window space you can stand at and feel the warm Dubai air.
You get great views of the Dubai fountain from many different areas outside of the Dubai Mall. If you want an up close, unobstructed view, check Groupon Dubai for a deal. We got 2 tickets for the Dubai Fountain boardwalk for about $8 total. Keep in mind, you are paying for a 5 minute song so take as many photos as you can in those 5 minutes.
We got to sit down on what felt like a ton of exercise balls and watch the show. I recommend getting there 10-15 minutes early so you can head a good ways down the boardwalk and spread yourself out from other people.
The Dubai Mall is just like any other mall. It has a mix of high end and more affordable shops. It has all the food options you can think of. But the Dubai Mall is ten times fancier than any other mall I have been in. There are gold details, chandeliers, crystals, a huge aquarium feature and even two top to bottom wall waterfall features with status seemingly diving off the side. If I had more time, I would have spent it wandering the Dubai mall discovering more of these cool features that make it more than just a mall.
With just 9 hours in Dubai, you have to be smart about where you spend your time. Since all of our activities were centered around the Dubai Mall and Burj, we chose to grab something quick to eat in the mall. Pret-a-manger is one of my favorite healthy on the go places to eat and conveniently, there was one right near the Dubai Fountain exit. If you are craving a different meal, there are a ton of options around the mall area.
Is your layover an overnight layover like ours was? By the time we got back to the airport it was around 11:30 PM. We had to get up and be at our gate by 3. There is a hotel in terminal 3 called Dubai International Hotel. They must deal a lot with shorter layovers because we got to pay by the hour to use the room for…3 hours. Though it is a bit pricey at $150 USD, it was the convenience and even the shower that was worth it for us. By that time we had been travelling for 19 hours. We were sweaty from being in Dubai and just needed to get a good 3 hours of sleep.
We opted to get around Dubai via Uber. I encourage using an app based driving service wherever you go. You are backed by a company and rates are set so it takes the guessing and even potential danger of being robbed for more money. There is a designated Uber pick up spot right outside the arrivals doors and the ride to the Dubai Mall is a quick 15 minute ride. Be aware when you are ready to go back to the airport, there are only a few pick up spots and both are a few minutes walk from where you were dropped off at the mall.
Have you travelled to Dubai with only a short layover? Did you choose to do something different? I would love to hear all about it.