One day in Dubai | The perfect itinerary for the City of Gold

Dubai is one of the world’s cities which absolutely lives up to all the hype. Its mix of iconic architectural landmarks, charming historic neighborhoods, and endless shopping plus leisure options entices you to come back and fall in love with this Middle East city over and over again. In fact, there is so much to see and experience in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates that a holiday here probably takes quite a bit of time! But, you’ve only got one day in Dubai? Don’t worry; it’s still possible to make the most of the city!

Image of Dubai skyline

We asked Dubai local and travel blogger extraordinaire, Neha from Dubai Wikia, to give us her ultimate one day itinerary for Dubai. Read on to find out how to spend 24 hours in the City of Gold.

One Day itinerary for Dubai – A Summary

Before I get into it, here’s a quick summary of the itinerary for the day:

  • Morning: Desert Safari, Hot Air Balloon ride and buffet breakfast
  • Mid-morning: Al Fahidi neighbourhood, Dubai Museum and Abra Ride, the Arabian markets or souks
  • Afternoon: Palm Jumeirah, Atlantic the Palm and the Monorail Ride
  • Evening: Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountain Show and shopping at Dubai Mall

Dubai important travel tips

I’ve also listed out some very important travel tips to ensure a great day out:

  • Wear suitable light clothing along with a comfortable pair of shoes. Although Dubai’s climate is at its best during winter months, it’s advisable to dress in layers as it can get colder in the early mornings and evenings. However, the summer months are extremely hot with temperatures going up to 50 degree Celsius!
  • Regardless of when you visit, carry a wide-brim hat and also use sunscreen to protect your skin from intense sunlight. This is particularly a must during your desert safari in Dubai!
  • Dubai is highly lauded for its public transport system, especially Dubai Metro which is a must-experience attraction in its own right. So buy a *NOL card to conveniently hop from one metro station to another aboard Dubai Metro which is completely automated and of course, driverless. And the best part is that it offers both standard and VIP ticket and is super economical too.
  • It’s recommended to book your desert safari and Burj Khalifa experience well in advance, so that you’ll be able to enjoy the best of Dubai without wasting any time.
  • Dubai is a global city whose traditional values and customs are deeply ingrained in Islamic culture. Respect local customs, avoid any kind of PDAs, and be careful while clicking images (as taking pictures of Emirati women, local government offices etc are not allowed).

*NOL Card is a smart card which allows for easy and convenient payment of diverse Dubai public transport including Dubai Metro.

Where to stay in Dubai

We’ll be honest – Dubai is chockfull of luxury hotels and not much below the premium mark. That said, here are our picks for the best hotels in your budget:

Budget: BackPacker 16 is a great option particularly for solo travellers. This great building has a gym, sauna and even a swimming pool. It’s also wonderful for digital nomads with super-fast free Wifi.

Mid-range: Rove Downtown is your best bet. The Rove chain has a number of hotels across the city but this particular one is probably on the lower end of the budget scale. It’s in a great location and even has a movie house inside it!

Luxury: There are a plethora of luxury properties in Dubai but the Park Hyatt is one of the better ones. It’s quieter than some of the others, has beautiful rooms opening out onto the Dubai creek and has a world-class spa too.

Now, let’s get into the good stuff and take a look at the itinerary!

One day in Dubai itinerary

Early Morning: Desert Safari, Hot Air Balloon ride and buffet breakfast

Get a head start on your perfect one day Dubai exploration with breathtaking desert sunrise views. Here I’d recommend pre-booking a Dubai desert safari where your tour guide will pick you up before dawn so that you arrive in the desert just in time for incredible sunrise views.

This usually includes a repertoire of activities like a heart-racing ride over the desert dunes in a top-performance 4X4 vehicle, adding a thrill to your desert safari. You could also take a camel ride or hit the untouched dunes aboard a quad bike or a sandboard.

Image of a car in a desert safari in Dubai

Now if you’ve already been to the desert and want to take your desert safari to a whole new level, opt for a hot air balloon ride which gives you the rare opportunity to fly over the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and experience the desert landscape as well as its extraordinary ecosystem and incomparable serenity from a vantage point like no other. Besides a lavish buffet breakfast, you’ll also get to take in a vintage Land Rover ride across the reserve as part of your hot air balloon experience.

Book your Hot Air Balloon experience here.

Mid-Morning: Al Fahidi neighbourhood, Dubai Museum and the Arabian markets or souks

It’s time to discover Dubai’s charming culture and historic past by heading straight to Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood or Bastakiya Quarter!

Picture of the Al Fahidi neighborhood in Dubai

For most people, Dubai is a super modern metropolis with everything one could imagine and beyond. While it’s true, it still preserves its old world charm, and a visit to this heritage site along the historic Dubai Creek lets you experience it in all its majesty. Stroll across this quarter at a leisurely pace, which was once a trading hub during the 19th century. See ancient structures graced with natural air-conditioners or wind towers and drop into some of its attractions (if time permits), mainly Dubai Museum and Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

Once you’ve taken in all ancient splendors across Bastakiya, it’s time to check out the traditional Arabian markets or souks. You can start your souk expedition at Old Textile Souk in Bur Dubai and then continue to Deira’s iconic Gold Souk via crossing the Dubai Creek with an exciting abra ride which costs only AED 1 (0.30 USD / 0.20 GBP). At Gold Souk, you’ll be in absolute amazement as you check out tons of gold ornaments, precious stones etc which cram the hundreds of shops here. You can further pick up some rare and unique souvenir items from the spice or perfume souks.

Lunch Break

You’re now in the city’s older part means you’ll have access to an extensive array of cafes and restaurants in the vicinity. And don’t overlook the region’s grab-and-go spots which lets you sample some cheaper yet super scrumptious street foods like shawarma, falafel etc. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a relaxed, lavish sit-down meal, you can stop by one of the region’s top-notch dining venues like Ashiana (Indian cuisine), Glasshouse Brasserie (European and Mediterranean cuisines), the Boardwalk (for dine with a view), Manila Grill (Filipino food), and Cucina (Italian food).

Afternoon: Explore Palm Jumeirah & Surrounding Attractions

Continue your Dubai exploration by visiting some of the city’s most recognized landmarks along Palm Jumeirah. Strikingly designed to resemble a palm tree with a crescent on its top, Palm Jumeirah is a man-made archipelago, packed to the brim with five star resorts, shopping malls and entertainment options.

One of its main highlights is Atlantis, The Palm (Resort) where you can stop to take pictures against its palatial style façade and even choose to spend time within its attractions like Aquaventure Water Park, or the Lost Chamber Aquarium. If you don’t have time, consider taking a monorail ride which includes almost all the sights of Palm Jumeirah or at least take a leisurely stroll along the Boardwalk which stretches over 10 kilometers, giving you unparalleled views over both the sea and city skyline.

You can further combine your Palm Jumeirah exploration with a drive around some of the Dubai’s treasured architectural gems including Burj Al Arab, acknowledged as the world’s only seven-star hotel. What’s more; you could even reserve a table for an extravagant afternoon tea session within the luxurious ever Burj Al Arab.

Evening: Downtown Dubai with Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall

The final leg of your one-day Dubai travel program leads you to downtown Dubai, the city’s most modern and eclectic neighborhood. Its focal point is undoubtedly the Burj Khalifa which is the world’s tallest building. Although it’s absolutely up to you whether or not to enter this massive structure, it’s good to know that a trip up to its ‘At the Top’ observation deck on 124th or 148th is absolutely worth every penny you spend on it.

Image of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai

At a height of over 425 meters or 555 meters (depending on your chosen observation deck), it will welcome you with the most stunning views over the region’s desert, ocean and cityscape. Moreover, time your Burj Khalifa visit to ensure that you reach here early enough to catch up with the stunning sunset views!

Once back on the ground, go to Dubai Mall which is the world’s biggest mall with over 1200 shops. Beyond shopping, you’ll get to explore its many attractions including Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo with over 33,000 marine creatures, VR Park and the Dubai Ice Rink. Just outside of the Dubai Mall, on Burj Lake, is the Dubai Fountain which presents the tallest of its kind fountain show. Starting from 6 PM and played every 15 to 20 minutes, the greatest thing about this spellbindingly choreographed water and music show is that you can watch it entirely for free! There are also other popular attractions you can check out here, such as the traditional style Souk Al Bahar.

Image of the Dubai fountain show

By the time you finish your evening with a sumptuous dinner (at the food court inside Dubai Mall or within one of the region’s best restaurants overlooking Burj Khalifa / Dubai Fountain), you may be extremely tired but one thing is sure that you’ve experienced quite a bit of Dubai’s main sights and experiences!

Bonus: More things to do in one day in Dubai

If don’t find any of the abovementioned Dubai attractions or experiences exciting, go ahead and substitute them with the ones that interest you the most! After all, Dubai offers endless options to tailor a travel program centered on your likes, budget and travel preferences.

Want to spend your time navigating the city streets? Get yourself an opulent Aston Martin or treat yourself to the purring hum of a Porsche. You can rent a luxury supercar from leading local provider, Renty.ae. They also offer SUVs perfect for a desert jaunt, or high-end vehicles fit for groups.

Want to forego the Palm Jumeirah or Bastakiya Quarter trip and do some cool indoor activities in Dubai instead? You can head over to try authentic snow activities at Ski Dubai (inside Mall of the Emirates). Or if you want more outdoor ideas, then why not enjoy some fun-filled, water activities along the Arabian Gulf Coastline, such as parasailing or a banana boat ride.

Don’t want to explore the city on your own? There are many reputable services providers such as Rayna Tours which offer value-packed city tours encompassing all of Dubai’s treasures plus transfers, or the usual providers like Get Your Guide.

Already been to Burj Khalifa? Then why not watch the breathtaking La Perle by Dragone Show instead or swap it with a visit to one of Dubai’s newest landmarks, Dubai Frame; its sky deck lets you admire the stunning views of both old and new Dubai from a single frame.

Looking to spend a quiet evening than being in the bustling downtown Dubai? Book a romantic dinner cruise in a traditional dhow which sails you down Dubai Creek or Dubai Marina, allowing you to delight in both great food and extraordinary views onboard.

Want more in the UAE? You could always head over to neighbouring cities – there are many things to do in Abu Dhabi, which is only 140 km away!

So that’s it for our travel program, using your one day layover or trip as an opportunity to explore Dubai! With a detailed itinerary plus a fair amount of suggestions, we hope that all these would help you to create a solid itinerary for 1 day in Dubai.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dubai

When should I go to Dubai?

Because of the scorching temperatures, its probably best to go to Dubai in the cooler months, which range from November to April.

How do I get from the airport into the city?

You could get into the city (or your hotel) via metro, bus or taxi. Taxi is of course the most convenient and quickest, but most expensive. The underground or metro is quite convenient (the red line goes to most of the key destinations) but does take about 25 minutes to get into town. While the airport bus is the slowest but cheapest option, taking up to an hour.

Is one day in Dubai enough?

Yes and no. As I’ve outlined above, you can see all of the key sights with a one day Dubai itinerary but it will be quite a tiring day! It’s recommended to spend at least 2-3 days exploring the city.

What budget do I need for one day in Dubai?

Of course this all depends on what you do! Some of the tours or restaurants listed in this itinerary are on the expensive side but there are of course free things to do in the city. To really see Dubai, I’d recommend a budget of about AED 1000 per day (270 USD / 220 GBP)

What do I do in Dubai in 3 days?

The one day itinerary here is quite an aggressive one and you could easily split it over 3 days! For more options, here over to Dubai Wikia for longer travels.

Is Dubai safe to travel?

Yes! Dubai is a very safe city to travel and actually the United Arab Emirates is known as one of the safest countries in the world.

What currency can I use in Dubai?

Dubai operates using the dirham and it’s best to take dirhams with you on your trip. However, US dollars are accepted in many places.

Is it easy to get to Abu Dhabi from Dubai?

It’s relatively easy although there are no direct flights or trains between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. You could take the Intercity bus (between 1.5 and 2 hours), a taxi or private driver or hire a car to do a self-drive of the 160km between the two cities.

We are an unmarried couple. Can we stay together in Dubai?

It’s against the law for unmarried couples to stay in the same room in the UAE. However, hotels don’t enforce this rule for tourists.

This fantastic itinerary was put together by Neha Singh from Dubai destination website, Dubaiwikia. Neha is an avid trekker and explorer who loves meeting new people and exploring as many places as she can in her life. Check out the website or Twitter account.


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