From deserts to beaches, this cosmopolitan city has it all. With endless things to do, it is no wonder that Dubai was voted the top destination in the world. With 1 day in Dubai, you would have a glimpse of what the city has to offer.
Our guide highlights the must-visits which you can cover if you have a 1 day in Dubai layover which are:
- Burj Khalifa
- Dubai Mall
- Jumeirah Beach
- The Lost Chambers Aquarium
- Meydan Bridge
Marhaban bikum fi dubay! which means welcome to Dubai!
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Where is Dubai?
Within the Arabian Desert, on the Persian Gulf Coast, lies Dubai. The Emirates of Dubai shares borders with Abu Dhabi in the south, Sharjah in the northeast, and the Sultanate of Oman in the southeast. Dubai has a hot desert climate with hot summers.
August is the hottest month where temperatures can peak at 40°C (104°F) while January is the coldest month where the average high is 24°C (75°F). With Burj Khalifa being the tallest building in the world, Dubai is a sun-soaked metropolis that is filled with parks, beaches, and malls.
The earliest known written record of Dubai comes from the works of Al-Idrisi who mapped the coast of the United Arab Emirates in the 10th century. The remnants of a 7,000 BCE mangrove swamp were found during the expansion of the Sheikh Zayed Road.
The Umayyads brought Islam to the peninsular during the 17th century with fishing and pearl diving as its main economic driver. The trade routes vitalized the region. Gasparo Balbi noted in his records that “Dibai” produced exceptional quality pearls during his visit in 1590.
However, the discovery of oil in 1966 was a turning point for Dubai, economically and socially as it led to rapid expansion and growth which enabled Dubai to become an autonomous state within the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is often referred to as the “Hong Kong of the Middle East” as its trade access with Iran is similar to that of Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China. With Dubai’s oil running low over time, the nation would rely solely on trade and tourism to keep it going.
Citizens from the Gulf Cooperation Council do not require a visa. Citizens from these countries are eligible for a 30-day visit visa. Upon disembarkation, all you need to do is proceed to the immigration department where your passport would be stamped with the visa.
Citizens from these countries are eligible for a 90-day visit visa. Upon arrival, proceed to the immigration department where your passport will be stamped with a multiple entry visa that is valid for 6 months from the date of issue.
Alternatively, you can use iVisa to get your UAE e-visa. They can assist with processing your visa by filling out an online application in 7 easy steps.
How do you get around Dubai?
With skyscrapers and fast cars, Dubai was not meant to be a pedestrian city. Its five-lane highways cater to speeds up to 100 km/hr which makes it impossible to cycle in the town.
However, Dubai has an excellent public transportation system which makes it easy to commute from one area to another.
The Dubai Metro is one of the best ways to get around within the city. There are two lines on Dubai Metro. The Red Line has 29 stations from Rashidiya Station to the UAE Xchange Station in Jebel Ali. An extension of this line links it to the Expo 2020 site.
While the Green Line has 20 stations from Etisalat Station to Creek Station, two additional lines are being planned, the Blue Line and the Purple Line. The Dubai Metro is the first driverless and fully automated metro line in the Arabian Peninsula.
A map of its stations and lines is available on the Dubai Metro website. There are various cabins with specific cabins for women and children. There is a dedicated Dubai Metro Police and over 3,000 CCTVs monitor the trains, so safety is assured.
Dubai has an extensive bus network with the Public Transport Authority providing bus service with a fleet of more than 1,500 buses within a network of 119 lines with 35 lines linked to the metro stations and 12 intercity lines.
The Dubai Bus Network covers about 82% of the urban areas in Dubai and operates from 4 am to 1 am the next day. The main bus stations are at the Gold Souk and Al Bhubaiba.
The second best way to get around Dubai is by using a taxi. Dubai’s taxis are popular as they operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most importantly, they are efficient, fitted with controlled meters, and manned by courteous and hospitable drivers.
The range of taxis available includes Special Needs Taxi, a Ladies and Children Taxi manned by women drivers, and a Taxi Rental Service which needs booking.
The Dubai Tram is a recent addition to Dubai’s public transportation system. The tram runs from the Dubai Marina to Palm Jumeirah and Al Sufouh. Dubai Tram also connects to the Pal Jumeirah Monorail at the entrance of the Palm from Sufouh Road.
The rates are fixed at AED 3 ($1) per trip regardless of the distance traveled and operate from 6.30 am to 1 am the next day.
Careem & Uber
The third best way to get around Dubai is using an e-hailing ride. These two are Careem and Uber. These rides are slightly more comfortable as some cars come with a complimentary water bottle and phone charging service.
For personalized and easy transfer in Dubai, pre-book Your Dubai Airport Transfer and be greeted by English-speaking drivers who monitor your flight for any delays. You will be personally met and greeted by your driver who will escort you to your car, help you with your luggage, and enjoy your comfortable ride in an air-conditioned car.
This contactless smart card can be used on all modes of public transportation in Dubai. To use the card, users need to “tag in” and “tag out” at the electronic gates or terminals when entering or leaving the public transportation system.
As these cards are purchased with minimum credit, users would need to “top-up” the cards using either debit or credit cards, or cash. Several types of cards are available, each for a distinct user group.
How can I spend 24 hours in Dubai?
While 24 hours is not enough to see and experience Dubai at its fullest, 24 hours is sufficient to visit the most popular tourist and instagrammable locations in Dubai. Let’s check out what you can do with 1 day in Dubai.
The first of our 1 day in Dubai is the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building in the world. You can expect some amazing views of Dubai from the 125th floor. Better still, opt for either lunch or dinner at The Rooftop and feel on top of the world.
The three main features of Burj Khalifa are its fountains, the observation deck, and the 27-acre park that was designed based on a desert flower, the Hymenocallis.
What is the Burj Khalifa famous for?
Burj Khalifa is famous for being the world’s tallest structure and skyscraper. The other records held include the building with the most floors, highest elevator, highest nightclub, and restaurant.
Can babies go up Burj Khalifa?
Yes, babies can go up Burj Khalifa. However, prams, strollers, and buggies are not allowed At The Top restaurant. You have to leave these at the “Will Call” counters on the Lower Ground Floor of the Dubai Mall.
How many steps are there in Burj Khalifa?
There are 2,909 steps at the Burj Khalifa which would take you to Level 160 of the building.
The second of our 1 day in Dubai is the Dubai Fountain which is at the center of Downtown Dubai. This choreographed musical fountain system was based on the fountains at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
The fountains are on Burj Lake and comprise five circles of varying sizes. Why not experience the Dubai Fountain Show with a lake ride on a traditional boat? You can marvel at the 30-minute illuminations as 6,000 lights and 22,000 gallons of water create a magical display, one you would not forget.
Do you need tickets for the Dubai Fountain?
No, you do not need tickets for the Dubai Fountain. You would need tickets if you want to experience a boat ride within the fountain.
How high do the Dubai Fountains go?
The Dubai Fountains reach a maximum height of 500 feet accompanied by classical and contemporary Arabic and world music.
The third of our 1 day in Dubai is the Dubai Mall. This mall is next to the iconic Burj Khalifa and is the second-largest shopping complex in the world. The mall is equivalent to more than 50 football fields, you need more than a day to visit the mall.
The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, the VR Park, Reel Cinemas, Dubai Dino, and the Dubai Creek Tower Replica are some of the things you can see and do there. For fans of haunted houses, head to Hysteria.
The mall is open from 10 am to 12 am from Saturdays to Mondays and from 10 am to 11 pm from Tuesdays to Fridays.
What can you buy at Dubai Mall?
With more than 1,200 shops, you can buy luxury bags, clothes, and eyewear from Valentino, Prada, Hermes, Dior, Cartier, and Channel. Or, for children’s fashion, head to Abercombie Kids, Armani Junior, and Gucci Kids.
Is it free to visit Dubai Mall?
Yes, the entrance to Dubai Mall is free. There are separate entrance fees for the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo.
The fourth of our 1 day in Dubai is Jumeirah Beach which is a white sandy beach located along the Persian Gulf. The beach is home to popular hotels and features the Burj Al-Arab. The Wild Wadi Water Park and Madinat Jumeirah are within this area.
While the beach is free, you can opt for a guided jet ski tour, a self-drive boat trip, or a jet ski adventure that takes in the views of Dubai’s impressive skyline with stops in front of Burj Al-Arab and Palm Jumeirah.
Atlantis The Palm: Lost Chamber Aquarium
The fifth of our 1 day in Dubai is the Lost Chamber Aquarium at Atlantis The Palm. These aquariums are the largest in Dubai and house more than 65,000 marine species. From the tiniest seahorses to beautiful stingrays, be mesmerized by the beauty of the underwater kingdom.
Get your entry ticket or choose the ultimate diving experience as you discover the incredible array of aquatic life. For non-divers, you can choose to snorkel at the Ambassador Lagoon as you float above the surface of the aquarium.
The sixth of our 1 day in Dubai is the Dubai Marina, an artificial canal city that was built along the Persian Gulf. Here, you can either admire the skyline up close or shop and dine at The Walk, The Beach, or head to Pier 7 to enjoy alfresco dining.
Take a 2-hour mini yacht ride, a speedboat tour of the Marina, Palm, Atlantis, and Burj Al-Arab, or enjoy a breakfast or dinner sunset cruise as you sail along Dubai’s iconic buildings.
The seventh of our 1 day in Dubai is the Meydan Bridge. This architectural marvel links Meydan Hotel to the main road. Its striking wave worm complete with its blue illumination makes this bridge a favorite instagrammable place in Dubai.
Interestingly, you will not find any traffic on this bridge as this bridge is specifically for Dubai’s Royal Family and VIPs to use during Dubai World Cup at the Meydan Race Course. The Royal Bridge also has similar lighting.
What part of Dubai is the best to stay in?
Downtown Dubai is the best place to stay in Dubai, hands down. The area is home to several landmarks which include Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Fashion Avenue, Dubai Fountain, and the Dubai Opera.
From swanky five-star accommodation to luxurious retail therapy combined with a pedestrian-friendly design, staying here would be a perfect choice, even if it is just for 1 day in Dubai.
We have curated our top choices to stay in Downtown Dubai. These hotels beautifully blend tradition with luxury while maintaining breathtaking views of the city.
Our first choice for a 1 day in Dubai is the Armani Hotel. This 160-room hotel was the first hotel designed by Giorgio Armani. The feature that sets this hotel apart is that each guest is assigned a Personal Lifestyle Manager who sees that the needs of guests are taken care of.
All rooms come with either lake or city views, custom-made furnishings, large windows, and spacious rooms. The stone floors and wood panels add a touch of luxury. For the ultimate luxury, choose the Armani Dubai Suite which has a full pantry, gym, and study area.
Some reviews of this hotel include superb breakfast, breathtaking views, and friendly and helpful staff. Guests also loved the pool and the direct access to Dubai Mall. Customer service was exceptional as the staff strives to go above and beyond to ensure guests are comfortable at all times.
Tip: The best rooms are those facing the Dubai Fountains.
Our second choice for a 1 day in Dubai is the St Regis Downtown. This 298-room hotel overlooks the Burj Khalifa and the canals of Dubai. With floor-to-ceiling windows, marble bathrooms, plush beddings, and the in-house Butler Service would make your stay here memorable.
Guests loved the friendly and helpful staff, the excellent location, clean and spacious rooms as well as the delicious breakfast. The prompt service from the in-house butler, complimentary ironing and pressing was added plus points for guests staying here.
Tip: Choose the Royal Suite for the quintessential luxury.
Our third choice for a 1 day in Dubai is the JW Marriott Marquis. This 1,608-room consists of two towers with 12 award-winning restaurants and bars. All rooms come with premium bedding, marble bathrooms, free WiFi, and 24-hour room service.
Guests loved that the staff was friendly, helpful, and efficient. Other reviews mention comfortable beds, clean bathrooms, and the free shuttle service between Dubai Mall and the hotel. Guests also loved the breakfast buffets and stunning views of the canals.
Tip: For unsurpassable luxury, choose the Penthouse Suite.
Our fourth choice for a 1 day in Dubai is Habtoor Palace. This 234-room hotel sits on the banks of the Dubai Water Canal. There are two outdoor swimming pools where guests can unwind after a day of sightseeing.
Guests loved the spacious rooms and comfortable beds and the helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable staff. Guests also loved the express check-in and the delicious breakfast as well as the attention to detail given by the staff.
Tip: For style and luxury, choose either the Bentley Suite, Royal Suite, or the Sir Winston Churchill Suite. Sir Winston Churchill Suite is a 3-bedroom residence on the higher floors that comes with a large living room and a 12-seater dining table.
Our fifth and last choice for a 1 day in Dubai is the Address Sky View. This 169-room hotel is in the heart of Downtown Dubai. An easy 10-minute walk takes you to the base of the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall.
The rooms were designed with floor-to-ceiling windows, each having sensational views of the Burj. All rooms are spacious with marble bathrooms, extra-wide beds, and two-tone leather chairs that add to their elegance.
It is the infinity pool on the 54th floor that gives you a stunning view of the Burj Khalifa. The pool reminds you of Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. While the infinity pool here has not reached an instagrammable status as that of Singapore, it is worth taking a dip in.
Some positive reviews mention the kind and helpful staff, excellent food choices for breakfast, and the amazing Club Lounge. Guests also loved the infinity pool and the impeccable cleanliness of the hotel.
Tip: If you have money to splurge, the best rooms are those which have access to the Club Lounge. These rooms are the Executive Sky View Suite, Panoramic Suite, and the Presidential Suite.
Frequently Asked Questions on Dubai
Learn all you need to know and browse some of the common questions which you may have before planning your trip to Dubai.
Is 1000 AED enough in Dubai?
Yes and no. It is a yes because the average daily cost per person per day amounts to 729 AED ($198). And, it is a no because the cost per couple for a week is AED 10,202 ($2,777) while the cost per person for one week is AED 5,101 ($1,388).
Can I wear flip flops in Dubai?
Yes, you can wear flip flops in Dubai. However, some hotels and upmarket restaurants may have a dress code that requires formal shoes. You are required to remove your flip-flops when entering mosques.
What is the best currency to take to Dubai?
The best currency to take to Dubai is the Emirati Dirham (AED). You can also take your home currency and exchange them there. Most places accept debit and credit cards although you may need Dirhams for taxis and smaller expenses.
What is the cheapest month to go to Dubai?
The cheapest month to go to Dubai is in September. During this month, the weather is pleasant and you can enjoy the sights without worrying about the heat. Hotel and flight prices plummet which leaves you with many options on where to stay, suited to your budget.
Is everything closed in Dubai on Friday?
No, not everything closes in Dubai on Friday. Previously, the United Arab Emirates of Dubai observed Friday and Saturday as the weekend. This has changed as the government adopts a Saturday-Sunday weekend.
Shopping malls remain open as usual, although they may close from 12 pm to 2 pm to observe the Islamic Friday prayers. As this is the start of the weekend, you can expect large crowds everywhere you go.
Is Dubai easy to walk around?
While Dubai is not an easy place to walk around, there are pockets of places where you can stroll and take in the surroundings. Join a walking tour with souks, museums, and street food, or walk around the Al-Fahidi Historical Area.
You can explore the Old Town of Dubai and take an “abra” to the spice and gold souks. Try your hand at bargaining and sample the local tea, coffee, and fruit juices along the walk.
What are the people from Dubai called?
The people from Dubai are called Emiratis, the native Arabs who have lived on the Arabian Peninsula since the 7th century. The Bani Yas tribes and their sub-clans form the majority of the people in Dubai.
What language is spoken in Dubai?
Emirati Arabic is an Arabic dialect spoken in Dubai. When dealing with government agencies, Standard Arabic is used. The second language that is popular in Dubai is Egyptian Arabic or Masri which has enhanced the city’s diversity and melting pot.
Is Dubai worth visiting?
Yes! With sunshine all year round, Dubai has consistently been voted as the world’s leading tourism destination. Here’s why you must visit Dubai, at least once, if you haven’t already.
- Shopping. From Dubai Mall to the Gold Souk, it is no wonder that Dubai is the “shopping capital of the Middle East”. The Dubai Shopping Festival (yes, there is a shopping festival!) is held in January, make sure your pockets are full so that you can shop till you drop.
- Entertainment and Adventure. Start your day with a visit to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and then head to Ski Dubai where you can snowboard, ski, and watch penguins. All this in a shopping complex in the middle of the desert!
- The Desert. Dubai is smack in the Arabian Desert. Go for an evening dune buggy and desert adventure, a desert quad bike safari, or combine a desert safari with a visit to the Al Marmoom Oasis. The choice is yours.
- Rich Arabic history. Take the Al-Fahidi Heritage Tour and time travel back in time when Dubai was once a fishing village. And, to make your stay memorable, soak in the Emirati Cultural Experience as the hosts explain the local culture, customs, and stories over a typical Emirati lunch.
- The epitome of Luxury. Need we say more? Everywhere you go in Dubai, there is luxury, class, and elegance at every corner. From Dior to Prada to Salvatore Ferragamo, you can find them all here.
While Dubai is a huge city, there is more to Dubai than skyscrapers. It is a city of diversity and multiculturalism as you can find. You will not get bored here, whether you are staying for 1 day in Dubai or over several days.