What to do in One Day in Dubai

HOW TO SPEND 1 DAY IN DUBAI + TRAVEL TIPS

Whether you plan to spend one day in Dubai as a stopover or as a day trip from Abu Dhabi – this post will help you plan your Dubai trip for a day.

As a regular Dubai visitor, I know how much the city has to offer. I never tire of it and often revisit old places, but I also discover something new each time I visit the city.

And when people ask me about what to do in Dubai in 1 day, I struggle because I could name tons of places. However, I narrowed it down, so that will ease your headache of planning.

Yes, it is a busy 1 day in Dubai, but I want to make sure you get to see different places and don’t miss out on too much.

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DUBAI TRAVEL TIPS FOR A DAY

Let´s start with some quick travel tips first for your one day in Dubai.

How to Get to Dubai For One Day

DUBAI AIRPORT

  • Dubai has two airports. Most likely, you will fly into Dubai International Airport (DXB International).
  • From there, it takes about a 10-20 minutes taxi ride to get to the old town of Dubai and it takes about 20-30 minutes to get to Burj Khalifa.
  • Warning: Due to a lot of traffic it might take longer.

ABU DHABI

  • Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is the second biggest airport in the United Arab Emirates.
  • It takes about an hour’s drive to get to Dubai.
  • Taxi fare will be about 50-60€ ($60-70). 
  • If you are on an Abu Dhabi trip, and just want to visit Dubai for a day, you can also book guided tours or get to Dubai via bus. Public transportation from the airport to Dubai is not really great.

How to Get Around in One Day in Dubai

I highly suggest not renting a car. Instead, use public transportation and taxis/Ubers when needed.

Public transportation in Dubai:

  • Overall public transportation in Dubai is okay.
  • The metro is fast, clean, and reliable but stops are a bit too spread out, in my opinion. However, you can use the metro for longer distances.
  • For shorter distances, you can use buses. In Dubai Marina, you can also use the tram.
  • Buy your metro card at the metro/tram station or on the bus and top it off whenever needed.

Uber/taxis:

  • Though I prefer public transportation over taxis, taxis are often the better choice for getting around in Dubai.
  • The prices are okay. One kilometer is about $0.50 plus a starting fee and a little standing/waiting fee.
  • Ubers are slightly more expensive than taxis but offer a flat rate. So you will not get charged for waiting if you are stuck in traffic (which is a very likely scenario).

Is Dubai Safe? 

There is no transparency in Dubai, or the UAE, in general. First of all – we will only hear about crime if the government wants us to know. So, we do not really know about crimes and I can only talk about my experience.

  • However, I – as a solo female traveler – have been to Dubai many times, and I felt safe!
  • I have never worried about being robbed, being attacked, or anything else.
  • I am not overly cautious, but I exercise common sense whenever and wherever I travel, and I can say that Dubai is one of the safest places I have been to.
  • Deira is the only place in Dubai – and the only place on this 1-day itinerary – where I would not want to stroll alone at night.
  • But in general, I say that you can stroll Dubai (at night) alone or with others without having to worry. Just exercise common sense.

Where to Stay In Dubai For 1 Day

Accommodation in Dubai is pricey. If you stay in Dubai for one night only, I suggest staying in Dubai Downtown, so you are close to the main attractions mentioned here – though it comes with a price tag.

  • Armani Hotel: It is no surprise that this 5-star hotel in Downtown Dubai, just next to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, is synonymous with luxury and pure elegance. Check out rates for Armani Hotel.
  • Carlton Downtown: This 4-star property is also located close to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall – The Financial Centre Metro Station is within walking distance and ideal for those who like to use public transportation. The pool area offers a nice view of Burj Khalifa, and from the 357 guest rooms, you can choose between deluxe rooms all the way up to penthouse suites. Check out rates for Carlton Downtown.
  • Rove Downtown Dubai: This 3-star hotel is located a few kilometers from Burj Khalifa (not far from the international airport). While the hotel is very simple and offers basic amenities, you might be lucky enough to get a room with a view – a view of Burj Khalifa! Find the best for Rove Downtown.
  • You can check out my full Dubai accommodation guide to find the perfect place for your stay here.

PLACES TO VISIT IN DUBAI IN ONE DAY

Okay, with only one day in Dubai, there is not much time to relax. So let’s start straight away!

Old Dubai – Around 9:30 am

If you are in Dubai early in the morning, then start in Old Dubai. If you are up and out at 9 or 10 am, you are actually doing quite well because most people in Dubai start the day rather late, and you can seize your one day in Dubai to the fullest.

The Gold and Spice Souks are fun places to visit. 

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Enjoy the calm (which you will not often experience in Dubai). Most shops might not be open before 10 am. But at least it is not overly busy in the morning.

If you want to wait for all the shops to open, stroll Dubai Creek. I love getting here early and watching the people getting ready for the day before checking out the shops myself.

This is the place to buy souvenirs, affordable clothes, or spices. They are much cheaper here. Haggling with the shop owners can be fun, and it feels more authentic than shopping in the malls and one of my favorite places to visit. 

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And if you want to buy gold, then buy it here. Oh, and even if you don’t want to buy gold, it is worth seeing what people could buy. 

While most shop owners are foreigners (Afghan, Indian, and Pakistanis), it is still authentic. Just a quick warning – visiting the souks can feel intense. Shop owners approach you a lot, and it is not really a relaxing time.

If you are a female traveler, especially traveling solo, you might want to dress slightly more moderately, as stares can be intense. 

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To get from the Gold Souk to the Spice Souk, jump on one of the abras. The water taxis cost only about 0.25€ and are fun plus you can cross the creek.

HOW TO GET TO THE GOLD/SPICE SOUK:

  • By metro: Get to Al Ras Metro station, and from there, you just have to walk for a few minutes.
  • You can also take a taxi/Uber or use the hop-on and hop-off sightseeing buses, which drop you off at the souks.

OPENING HOURS / TICKETS:

  • It is free to visit the souks and you could visit at any time.
  • However, most shops are open from around 9:30 am or 10 am to 9:30 pm.
  • On Fridays, shops open after 4 pm and are open until around 9:30 pm.

La Mer – Around 11 am

Then, it is time to get to La Mer. It is quite close to Old Dubai. You might not find it on many Dubai itineraries as it is quite new. I think it is one of the best places to visit in Dubai.  

La Mer Beach Dubai - best places to visit in Dubai
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There is a beach, cafes, and restaurants, as well as water activities you can enjoy. And you’ll get the first good glance of Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world.

Beaches in Dubai are, in general, spotless and safe! This beach is also free and open to the public. There are even free showers (which are quite stylish). After some time at the beach (and in the water?), it is time for lunch at La Mer.

Restaurants at La Mer Dubai
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HOW TO GET TO LA MER:  

  • If you are at the Gold/Spice Souk, you have to get to the other side of Dubai Creek by an abra or metro.
  • Then, at At Al Ghubaiba Bus Station, you can catch a bus that drops you off at La Mer. 
  • If you get here by car, you will find a parking garage with free parking. 

OPENING HOURS/PRICES:

  • La Mer is open every day and there is no entrance fee.
  • The shops are normally open between 10 am to 10, 11 or midnight.

Click here to read more about this part of Dubai.

Madinat Jumeirah – Around 2 pm

This stop is optional as it depends on how fast/slow you travel.

You can spend some more time at La Mer. Or you can add another area to your 1-day Dubai itinerary – Madinat Jumeirah makes a good short stop.  

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Madinat Jumeirah is so pretty and picturesque – it has its own souk and many restaurants and cafes with a view of Burj al Arab.

 You could also do an abra ride (small wooden water taxis) here. The rides here are way more expensive than in Dubai Deira, the Gold and Spice Souk area, but you can ride them for free if you stay in a Jumeirah hotel.

If you have seen Instagrammers on an abra with Burj al Arab in the background, those pictures were taken here. 

Again, if you do not want your 1-day itinerary to be too busy, you can skip Madinat Jumeirah and enjoy some more time at La Mer instead. Madinat Jumeirah is just an extra for the very fast traveler.

HOW TO GET TO MADINAT JUMEIRAH:

  • From La Mer, walk to Century Plaza 1 station and take a bus all the way to Madinat Jumeirah. There is a little bit of walking included (around 10 minutes).
  • Alternatively, you can take a taxi.

OPENING HOURS / TICKETS:

  • It is free to visit the Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
  • Shops are open from 10:00 am to 11 pm, and restaurants are open from 08:00 am to 02:00 am.

Burj Khalifa – Around 4 pm

Even if you are in Dubai for only one day, make sure to add Burj Khalifa to your Dubai itinerary. After all, it is the tallest building in the world. 

Before you go to the “top of Burj Khalifa”, take a few pictures of the iconic building in the daytime. 

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It saves you time to book your tickets in advance – with one day in Dubai you don’t want to waste too much time in lines. 

If you want to avoid all lines, buy tickets for level 148 (with access to levels 124 and 125). 

Ticket prices vary depending on the level of access (levels 124 and 125 only are cheaper than access to level 148) and also the time of your visit.

If you want to watch the sunset from Burj Khalifa, it is slightly more expensive. And it is not guaranteed that there is a nice sunset to watch. However, you can try to arrange your Burj Khalifa visit in the late afternoon and watch Dubai from above. 

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It gets busy, and it is not really a relaxed atmosphere, but I still love going up and have done so four times so far. Check out my Burj Khalifa guide.

Don´t underestimate the time it takes to find Burj Khalifa’s entrance – it is located in Dubai Mall and it can take a while to find the entrance inside this giant mall. Also, you can book other packages and combine them with a dinner at Burj Club (I loved it).

Get the best rates for your Burj Khalifa tickets here:

HOW TO GET TO BURJ KHALIFA: 

  • You have to go to Dubai Mall. There you will see signs that leave you to “At the top of Burj Khalifa.”
  • The ticket center/entrance is located in the Lower Ground Level of Dubai Mall.

OPENING HOURS/  TICKETS:

  • “At the Top of Burj Khalifa” opens around 10 am, and the last admission is at 9 or 10 pm (depending on the day).

Dubai Mall – Around 6 pm

Then, it is time to take the lift down and explore Dubai Mall. It is just gigantic – and busy! Especially on a Friday (which is the Sunday of the Islamic world), it gets insane. 

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If you are into shopping, you could spend days here. I love to stroll the mall because it houses several attractions like Dubai Aquarium.

TIP: Don’t buy a ticket for the aquarium. You get to see some parts of it just by being in the mall and you´ll see the underwater animals. The aquarium itself is not worth the money, in my opinion.

Inside Dubai Mall, you will also find a real dinosaur skeleton on display. 

Shopping in Dubai is more expensive than in Germany or the US – whether it is luxury items or the clothes in one of my favorite shops (Oasis). The time had definitely passed when Dubai was known as a shopping paradise. So, unless you are looking for something specific, I would not necessarily recommend shopping a lot.

Dinner: It is probably time for dinner. Inside Dubai Mall, you will find many restaurants. At the food hall, there are some very affordable places with food from all over the world. 

Then there are also other – quite high-class – restaurants inside Dubai Mall. I suggest, however, having dinner at Burj Club (and buy your combined ticket with an entrance ticket to Burj Khalifa) or choose a restaurant outside with a view of Dubai Fountain.

HOW TO GET TO DUBAI MALL: 

  • If you visit Burj Khalifa first, you are already inside of Dubai Mall.
  • But how to get to Dubai Mall? You can get there by metro/bus, and it is also a popular drop-off point for sightseeing buses.
  • If you get off at “Dubai Mall Metro Station,” you can either take another bus that drops you off at the mall or you have to walk about one more kilometer from Dubai Mall Metro Station to get into Dubai Mall.

OPENING HOURS DUBAI MALL / PRICES:

  • Dubai Mall is open from 10 am to 1 am. Restaurants and the food court are even open to 2 am.
  • There is no entrance fee for the mall itself.

Dubai Fountain / Burj Khalifa LED show – Around 8 pm

After 6 pm, the famous dancing water show goes on. I can tell you, it gets crazy there. I mean, really crazy just because it is so crowded.

Water Fountain Show in front of Dubai Mall @shutterstock
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Whenever the fountain show or Burj Khalifa LED shows occur, this place will be one of Dubai’s busiest. To get a good view, secure yourself a good spot before the show starts.

You can also book an abra ride and enjoy the water show without all the crowds.

Dubai Downtown is a beautiful place to end your day in Dubai – this is where you have all the bling-bling you can imagine.

Sometimes, the LED show takes place – which is honestly even more stunning than the water show. However, I have never really figured out when the LED show takes place. Check out the show time the day of your arrival to find out when to see it.

For dining with a view, visit one of the numerous restaurants outdoors that are close by. There are some nice restaurants with a view of the fountain, like the Mediterraneo of Armani Hotel, but make sure you reserve a table beforehand.

WATER FOUNTAIN SHOW SCHEDULE / PRICES:

  • Shows take place from 6:00 PM – 11:00 PM every 30 minutes.
  • The Dubai water fountain show is free. However, you can also book an abra ride and see the fountain show from a different perspective (and without the crowds). Check out prices for the ride here.

HOW TO GET TO DUBAI FOUNTAIN: 

  • You could reach the fountain even without entering Dubai Mall (e.g., coming from Dubai Opera). If you are at Dubai Mall, you will see signs that lead you to the fountain as well.

OR: ALTERNATIVELY

Alternatively: Dubai Desert Safari – Around 3 pm

Alternatively, you can do a desert safari in the afternoon/evening. I love desert safaris. However, if you have only 1 day in Dubai, I am unsure if it is the best activity. 

Exploring the desert in Dubai
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A desert safari takes some time (around 5-10 hours), and you will have to schedule all your other activities around it. You have to decide for yourself whether you want to skip on some other activities instead.

There are different desert safaris – most include dune bashing, stargazing, a belly-dance show and some also include a nice BBQ (for me as a vegetarian/vegan, there were plenty of options available).

Though I have done a couple of desert safaris and been back in my hotel on time, keep in mind that delays can always happen. If you have to catch a plane that evening/night, only do a desert safari if you know you will definitely be back on time.

Find the best desert safari tour for your trip.

Final Thoughts on Visiting Dubai For One Day

With one day in Dubai, you can get an idea of what the city is about. However, I suggest staying at least 3 days but knowing it is not always possible, I hope you get the most out of your time.

Whether you follow this Dubai itinerary rigorously or not – the city is surely like no other, and though surely not perfect, it is a lot of fun. Keep in mind that Dubai is a conservative city (even after all), and there are a few things to keep in mind when visiting the city.

Enjoy your 1 day in Dubai!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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