As the third busiest airport in the world, chances are you may have a flight at the Dubai International Airport at some point if you’re headed to Asia from the United States or Europe. On my flight from Seattle to India, I had to stop in Dubai twice. On the way back, I picked a flight with an extended layover so I could explore the city a bit. While I plan on going back in the future to explore much more, here’s how to spend a layover in Dubai no matter how long you’re there for.
What to Do at the Airport
Normally I’m eager to leave the airport when I get to a new city, but sometimes you don’t have enough time to do that. If you’re in Dubai for less than six hours on your layover, I recommend the following activities at the airport.
After flying for almost 15 hours straight, there was nothing I wanted to do more than move. For about 75 AED (or $20 USD), you have access to a gym with weights, cardio machines, and mats. It felt so good to stretch out my muscles after being on the plane. You also have access to their sauna and shower, which felt great to get freshened up before my next flight. They’re in the hotels at the airports in Terminals B and C, so just follow the signs for the hotels.
Rent a Sleep Pod
Sometimes you’re so tired after flying halfway across the world that nothing sounds better than sleep. That’s why sleep pods are the best invention I’ve seen. You don’t have to pay for a whole hotel room, but still get to rest. These are located in Terminal 3 and beats trying to sleep around hundreds of other people in the airport.
Get a Massage
Getting a massage after flying for so long always feels good. You’re tight from sitting in the same position for hours and the last thing you want to do is get back on a plane. Treat yourself and get a massage so you’ll feel better once you get to your destination.
Book a Hotel Room
Sometimes you’re so exhausted or at the end of a long trip and just need your own hotel room. You don’t even have to leave the airport, as there’s not one but two hotels here. The Dubai International Hotel is located in Terminals 1 and 3, so you can either book in advance or walk up to get a room for the day or the night.
The Dubai International Airport is a mecca for shopping. They have almost everything you can think of there. You can even buy a completely new wardrobe and an iPhone if you want/need one. It will be more expensive than buying the items at a regular store, but it is really convenient if you realized you forgot something last minute.
What to Do Outside the Airport
If your layover is more than six hours, I highly encourage you to get out of the airport. Dubai is a fascinating city with plenty to see.
Grab an Uber or take the Metro for a short ride to the downtown area of Dubai. Here you can see the famous Burj Khalifa and take a ride up to the observation deck for a view of the city. It’s also fun to walk around and admire all the restaurants and buildings on the water.
Shop at the Dubai Mall
The Dubai Mall is by far the biggest mall I’ve ever been to and one of the largest in the world. In addition to having over 1,200 shops, it has an aquarium, underwater zoo, an Emirates flight simulator, and a SEGA-themed indoor park. There are also unique decorations all over, such as this umbrella ceiling.
Watch the Show at the Dubai Fountain
If you’ve seen the fountain show in Las Vegas at the Bellagio, you’ll love how much more extravagant the show is at the Dubai Fountain. Make sure to go early to get a spot so you can see it, as each show gets packed. Shows are every half hour from 6 PM to 11 PM.
Visit the Gold and Spice Souqs
If you’re in the market to buy gold, this is one of the cheapest places in the world to get it. If that’s not quite in your budget, come here to just stare in awe at more gold than you’ve ever seen before. After that, head over to the Spice Souq to pick up some spices for your trip home. Pick up some saffron while you’re there.
Hang on the Beach by the Burj Al Arab
It’s fun to see the busy city, but I also loved getting away from that and relaxing on the beach. It’ll be hot in Dubai no matter what time of year you go, so spend at least half a day on the beach. The ones by the Burj Al Arab give you a great view, plus there are plenty of restaurants to go to afterward.
How do you spend your layovers?
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