Best Dubai Itinerary – What to do in Dubai in 3 or 4 Days
If you plan to visit Dubai, but are uncertain about how long to stay, I suggest a minimum stay of three of four days. While you surely could see the main tourist attractions in only two, three days in Dubai is a good amount of time to see a bit more of the city. And four days in Dubai is actually great to not only see all of the city, but to get a good overview and idea of the culture.
So, if you are wondering about what to do in Dubai in three days, this post will give you the answer – you will find out where to go and what to see in three days. If you are lucky enough to stay a bit longer, say four days, then you will also find out about a great Dubai 4-day itinerary.
The tips are a mix of my own personal favorite places and some places that I think any Dubai visitor has to see at least once in Dubai.
I have four different day-plans for you. You can skip around and change the dates, but I clustered the activities together in a way that will minimize the amount of driving and time spent in the car.
Before you find out about the best 3-day and 4-day itineraries for Dubai, there are also some travel tips for you – important things you should know before visiting Dubai.
So, here are my four different schedules for each day.
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Travel Tips for 3 or 4 Days in Dubai
A few tips before talking about the 3- or 4- day itinerary.
How to Get to Dubai
Dubai is a great layover destination – especially if you head from Europe to Asia or vice versa (or Africa). I use different airlines – my favorite is probably Emirates Airlines though. The Dubai based airline offers great services. It is a bit more expensive than other airlines I have flown with (including Turkish Airlines or KLM) but I just like it better.
Anyhow, Dubai has two airports, but most likely you will fly into Dubai International Airport (DXB International). From there, it takes about 10-15 minutes drive (taxi) to get to the old town of Dubai and about 20 minutes to get to Burj Khalifa. Don’t be surprised to be stuck in traffic even at night – Dubai is always busy.
My most favorite airline ever si Emirates Airlines – a Dubai based airline. Check out their prices here and if you can, book via them (they are amazing!).
Abu Dhabi – Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) is the second biggest airport in the United Arab Emirates and if you fly with Etihad Airways you will most likely fly over Abu Dhabi. It takes about an hour drive to get to Dubai (about 50-60€ taxi fare).
I have never flown with Etihad yet but heard about their great services, too.
How to Get Around
Rent a Car
If you are in Dubai for five days, you could actually rent a car. But you should know that driving there, from my perspective, is a bit crazy. There is traffic almost all the time (even at night, the streets are busy), and the people drive fast, like to honk their horns, and are a bit impatient. You should have nerves of steel if you decide to drive, particularly around Downtown Dubai.
If you stay in Dubai for a 3 or 4 days and like to use public transportation, I recommend getting a NOL card for the public transportation (there is a one-time fee for it, but you can then recharge it; public transpiration fees are cheaper this way than if you buy single tickets each time).
A ticket costs a bit more than 1€ with the NOL card (about 1.60€ without).
However, public transportation is not perfect. You can avoid the crazy traffic by taking the metro, which is great, but a) the metro lacks metro stops, so each stop is rather far from the last, b) the buses are not always well-connected for us travelers, so it is not easy to get from one popular station to another, and c) the metros can be stuffed with people.
While the air conditioning always works perfectly (= which makes a great place to spend some time in the summer month), it is not the best feeling to be with so many people in such a small area, especially at peak time (I am, admittedly, a little claustrophobic, so if you are not, it should be fine).
I mostly take the metro for long distances (especially downtown, where there is a lot of traffic and getting around by cab can mean being stuck in it forever) and then jump into a taxi for the shorter rides, if there is no direct bus connection.
Hop-on and hop-off buses are a great way to get from one popular tourist attraction to another – at least for some places (the ones I tested). They will not stop at each tourist attractions but at most.
There are two main sightseeing companies. They offer similar services and there are just some minor differences.
The pass also includes a few cool attractions, so it saves money in addition to getting you from Point A to Point B.
Check out Prices for Sightseeing Bus Tours in Dubai
Accommodations for 3-4 Nights / Days in Dubai
Accommodations in Dubai are not cheap, but the standard is quite high. If you are wondering where to stay in Dubai for 3 or 4 days, I suggest staying close to Dubai Downtown or Marina – or if you are more a beach person close to JBR – Walk. However, these areas are also one of the most expensive ones. For more budget-friendly options you can check out hotels in Dubai Deira (old town).
You can check out rates for accommodations in Dubai here, and if you are looking for my personal recommendations for all budgets and areas, click here.
Hotels in Dubai
Find some of the most luxurious 5-star hotels in Dubai here – my tip in Dubai Marina is the Grosvenor House and if you are with kids, I suggest the Hilton Hotel at JBR the Walk.
Click here for good mid-range hotels in Dubai –
Find the best budget-friendly hotels in Dubai – the IBIS al Barsha is a good option though it is not in Marina nor Downtown.
More Travel Tips
Most of the time, I travel solo to Dubai. Find out about the travel tips for solo (female) travelers.
One of the questions I get the most is about the dress code in Dubai – you can read about what to wear in Dubai here.
US-Americans and Eu-citizens do not need a visa for a Dubai trip. You will get a free visa on arrival. If you have a different citizenship and visit Dubai in 3 or 4 days you can find out if you need a visa here
What to Do in Dubai in 3 Days or 4 Days – 3-Day Dubai Itinerary
Here are the best places to check out in 3 or 4 days.
Day 1: Downtown Dubai and La Mer
Around 10 am
(Many of the places I mention for this day are actually the main tourist attractions and must-see places for a stay of three or four days.) Let´s start with the 3-day itinerary. When you get here around 10 am you have the place almost all to yourself. Shops open around 10 am but it is still pretty quiet – so you can walk around and talk all the shots you want without many other people in it. So, for the first hour or two, just stroll the area.
Around 12 pm
It doesn’t matter where you are in Dubai – you will always see it. The highest building in the world: Burj Khalifa. If you get here before 10 am it will be quiet – enjoy it!
The very uniquely-shaped building is one of the main tourist magnets of the city. And while you might think it is enough to see it from a distance, I recommend getting very close to it. Actually, I recommend getting to the top of it, so head to the top of Burj Khalifa.
But let‘s focus on the main attractions here. As mentioned, the highest building in the world is a must-see.
You can actually get to the top of it (not top-top, but lot level 124 & 125 and level 148). From there, you have the most unique views. On the one hand, you will see Dubai Fountain and Dubai Mall underneath you. On the other hand, the view will remind you that Dubai is surrounded by desert – actually, a long time ago, Dubai was a desert itself.
While I truly recommend a visit here, I also suggest buying tickets in advance. I went to the top several times and was happy that I had bought my tickets online beforehand.
The lines were crazy. Even with a ticket, you have to stand in line for some time, but nothing compared to how long you have to wait if you just buy tickets that day, which may be sold out during the busy times of the high season.
Get your tickets here (p.s. I normally buy tickets via GYG because of their generous cancellation policy).
Fancying dinner with a view? Then check out rates for level 124 & 125 and a lunch/dinner afterward.
Around 3:30 am
I am not that into shopping, but this mall is really something. You should add it to your 3-day Dubai itinerary. It is crazy, it is unreal, and it is busy.
If you are brave and enjoy crowds, you can visit on a Friday. But don’t worry, it is never really empty here, so you will experience crowds on other days, too.
My favorite area: the Fashion Avenue, the luxury department section of the mall. It is less crowded, very fancy, and the public restrooms are the most luxurious I have ever seen. (I’m not talking about restrooms in luxury hotels, these are public toilets for anyone to use).
Sometimes, there is an artist playing classical music. Ah, this is indeed a pretty place. If you prefer more casual toilets and shops, there are also more affordable shops and stores (and restaurants). The food court has the cheapest food options.
From the mall, you can get to the entrance of Burj Khalifa and other sights, like Dubai Ice Rink or Dubai Aquarium.
And you can get to another main place you should add to your Dubai itinerary: Dubai Fountain.
Around 6 pm
The fountain is located just next to the mall and in front of Burj Khalifa. It looks like a giant pool with water that I´d like to jump into – but laws are strict in Dubai, so it’s better just to look.
There are free dancing water shows daily for you to enjoy. It is one of the most popular things to do for free in Dubai, and especially in the evenings. There are always crowds.
If you can, try to get a good view from the Apple Store in Dubai Mall (which is a popular spot and, thus, many want to enjoy the view from there, but not everyone is allowed on the balcony). Be prepared to wait in line.
The bridge to the souk is another popular spot from which to watch the dancing water show, but you can also just stand next to the mall or see it from one of the numerous cafes and restaurants.
In the evenings, there are often LED shows on Burj Khalifa. THIS is spectacular. However, I haven’t found a reliable schedule for the light shows, but if you are lucky and get to witness one, you will be amazed.
That being said, my main advice is to NOT visit on a Friday. Friday is the Sunday of the Islamic world – except there is not much done in the way of resting and having a peaceful day. People get out and get crazy. Seriously, the mall is crowded and so is everything else. For Fridays, I would suggest a day out.
Stroll Dubai Downtown
But there is also more to do and see, so here are my tips for the afternoon in Downtown Dubai.
Downtown Dubai is a busy district with a lot of (luxury) shops, (luxury) hotels, and weird little things I have never really understood, like the bananas and other statues (however, I will gladly bring my little nephew here).
Best Things to Do in Dubai in 3 Days
Day 2 in Dubai- Souk and Dubai Desert Safari
This day is the perfect day to get a complete picture of Dubai. First, head out to the old part of Dubai. Dubai Deira is the ideal place to explore souks (markets).
Gold and Spice Souk
Around 10 am
You might have heard of the gold souks? You will find them here, and yes, it is true: There is gold…a lot of gold!
But you can buy souvenirs, (traditional) clothes, rugs, and more in this part of Dubai for a much cheaper price than in the malls.
You should also take the opportunity to ride an abra – a typical water taxi that gets you from one side of the creek to the other (for just 0.25€). This is a traditional and local way of exploring the city.
This is a fun, but stressful, day. So, I recommend heading back to your hotel to get ready for another Dubai highlight! A desert safari.
Around 3 pm
A desert safari is an amazing way to discover the desert of Dubai. This part is one of my favorites and I am sure it will be yours, too.
If you book the evening safari tour, you will be picked up around 3 am from your hotel before heading out to the desert.
The tours vary a bit, but most include some wild dune-bashing in the desert, then heading to a recreated, traditional camp. Dining in the desert while watching the stars and a belly dancing show is one of the most unique, and one of the best, experiences in Dubai. If someone told me they stayed in Dubai for three or four days and did not take such a tour, I would assume they were crazy (if you are on a budget and can only spend money on one activity, I would spend it here).
This is probably the best way to spend time away from all the modern parts of Dubai.
Find the best desert safari tour for your trip
What to Do in Dubai in 3 Days
Day 3 in Dubai- Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, and JBR Walk
This day (whether it is your first, second, or third) can be all about the new and modern parts of Dubai.
Here are three really fun and beautiful areas that are just waiting to be explored. If you only have time to see one for whatever reason, I would suggest visiting the Dubai Marina. However, if you can visit all three of them, even better.
Around 10 am
You can start with Madinat Jumeirah. It is a popular and luxurious recreational area in the souks. You cannot compare it with the old town of Dubai and its souks – this one is way fancier, and also less authentic. However, I still love it. If you stroll the souk and then the canal, you will have a view of Burj al-Arab, the most famous luxury hotel in the world.
You will have then seen the souk and the luxury hotel (getting into the hotel is difficult if you aren’t an overnight guest or have a written reservation for one of the restaurants).
Around 12 pm
In between Madinat Jumeirah and Dubai Marina lies JBR The Walk. This is a fun place, especially for beach lovers and families.
The free, public beach is perfect for water activities – so it will be loved by adults and kids alike. Also, there are some activities, like the Flying Cup, and playgrounds. This is actually a great place for the daytime – it is busy, fun, and interesting.
You can bring your own picnic, or enjoy lunch/dinner in one of the numerous restaurants or cafes.
So, personally, all three places are good to visit either in the day or night, so I can‘t make the final decision which one to visit when, but this might be a great solution.
Morning in Madinat Jumeirah. Later that day at JBR Walk. And the evening in Dubai Marina.
Around 6 pm
As mentioned, if you don’t have time to explore all of these areas, don’t skip the Marina. This is a wonderful example of the modern part of Dubai.
The density of skyscrapers is insane. Walk along the promenade and you might have neck pain after a while because you will have to look up all the time. With so many buildings, it is hard not to look up, but if you enjoy fancy yacht trips, this is also the place to be. Though I have never been to Florida, the Marina reminds me of it.
There are a ton of restaurants and bars. For a great view, I recommend having dinner/lunch in one of the restaurants on Pier 7.
What to Do in Dubai in 4 Days – 4-Day Itinerary
Here are more places to see in Dubai in 4 days – for the first 3 days you can visit the suggestions above. With the following ideas, you really have an answer to “what to see in Dubai in 4 days” and the “best things to do in Dubai in 4 days”.
Day 4 in Dubai: Abu Dhabi, Oman, or Theme Park
If you are in Dubai for 4 days, I suggest a day trip to one of the places.
Start around 7:30 – 8 am
For a 4-day Dubai itinerary, I recommend doing a day trip outside of Dubai. I have a few ideas, and the first is to visit the beautiful capital of the United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi.
The city is located about 100km from Dubai and makes a great day trip. You can get there by bus (though it is a bit tricky and complicated to use this mode of transportation), taxi, rent your own car, or take a guided tour.
In Abu Dhabi, there are quite a few places to see. One of the most beautiful places is the Grand Zayed Mosque. This mosque is synonymous with beauty, symmetry, and perfection. I have never seen a man-made structure more beautiful than this.
The mosque is free to visit and it is open to non-Muslims as well (for non-Muslims, though, Fridays are not a good day to visit, and neither are Islamic bank holidays). You have to dress very conservatively (women with a scarf over their heads and bodies fully covered, men with their legs and shoulders covered), but you can rent clothes for free if you forgot yours.
After a visit, you will have time to head to the Emirates Palace or the Corniche, the beautiful promenade in Abu Dhabi with beach access.
For the best views of the city, head to the Emirates Tower and see Abu Dhabi from above. This will be a fun day trip from Dubai and you will have a great third or fourth day in the Emirates.
Start around 7 am
Oman is also a really popular destination from Dubai. While I enjoyed my trip, I want to say in all honesty that getting from Dubai to Oman was really stressful.
You might end up sitting on a bus (of course, you could do an independent tour as well) and you need to be patient (crossing borders is not difficult, but time-consuming). If you are patient, then a day trip to Musandam-Oman is a great way to spend a day.
You will get a good first glimpse of Oman (which might make you hungry for more).
Start around 9 am
Dubai is home to many theme parks. If you are traveling with kids, or you just love theme parks, this might be the perfect alternative to visiting Abu Dhabi or Oman.
As you can see, there are many different things to do and see in Dubai – so, whether you stay 3 or 4 days in Dubai, hopefully, this Dubai itinerary has helped you plan your Dubai trip.