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Can You See Dubai in 1 Day? How to Spend 24 Hours in This Futuristic City

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Most people compare this futuristic city to other popular cities like Paris or New York. With so much to see and do, it can seem overwhelming. But can you see Dubai in 1 day? 

With being so well-connected in both the eastern and western world, Dubai is a great place to break up any trip, and has become more and more popular for having quick stopovers.

Well, on a recent trip to Socotra, we had 24 hours before our next flight out of Abu Dhabi, and decided we'd put it to the test! We rented a car, and crammed in all we could. So let's see everything you can experience in Dubai in 1 day, and all the details you need to know for visiting.

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What Country is Dubai Located in?

Dubai is located in the UAE, formally known as the United Arab Emirates. While many people assume it is the capital of the country, it is just one of the 7 emirates, and the most popular city in the country.

The UAE is located in the Middle East, bordering Oman to the east, and Saudia Arabia to the south.

Where is Dubai

Dubai is located in the UAE, just an hour from Abu Dhabi.

How to Get to Dubai

Now that you know where Dubai is located, let's go over the best way to get there.

Where Do You Fly Into to Go to Dubai?

Dubai has its own airport, which is very well connected to many places around the world! Cities from Europe that fly direct to Dubai include Amsterdam, Belgrade, Birmingham, Brussels, Bucharest, Budapest, Dublin, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Lisbon, London, Manchester, Milan, Minsk, Moscow, Munich, Paris, Prague, Riga, Saint Petersburg, Tbilisi, Vienna, Warsaw, and Zurich.

Cities that fly to Dubai directly from the Americas include Montreal, New York, Toronto, and Washington DC.

Other cities that fly direct to Dubai include Accra, Ahmedabad, Algiers, Almaty, Amritsar, Ashgabat, Astana, Bahrain, Bangkok, Basra, Beijing, Bengaluru, Bishkek, Brisbane, Cairo, Chennai, Colombo, Dakar, Dammam, Delhi, Dhaka, Doha, Giza, Hyderabad, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jaipur, Jeddah, Johannesburg, Karachi, Kazan, Kochi, Kozhikode, Kuwait, Lahore, Lucknow, Lusaka, Makhachkala, Mangalore, Mineralnye Vody, Mombasa, Mumbai, Muscat, Peshawar, Riyadh, Samarkand, Shiraz, Tashkent, Tehran, Thiruvananthapuram, Tokyo, Yekaterinburg, and Zanzibar.

Flight Tip: Using Skyscanner you can put from "your city" to "UAE". This way you can see which is the cheapest airport to fly to. Also, you can check the calendar to see which are the cheapest dates for each!

Search for a flight to Dubai or Abu Dhabi:

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How Far is the City from Dubai Airport?

The city is just 20 km from the airport, and you can easily take the metro straight from the airport into the city center, which takes about 25 minutes.

Another option is to rent a car. This is a good option if you plan on exploring several areas of the city, and want to visit the outskirts as well.

Option #2 for Visiting Dubai: Flying into Abu Dhabi

If you don't find a cheap flight to Dubai, there are also plenty of flights to Abu Dhabi, which is just 1 - 1/2 hours away. This is actually how we decided to explore Dubai in 1 day. We had a little over 24 hours in Abu Dhabi, and since we had already visited Abu Dhabi, we decided to go to Dubai instead.

In order to get from Abu Dhabi to Dubai you can either take a bus, or you can rent a car. With  just 1 day in Dubai though, we decided to rent a car to optimize our time.

Important Note: You need an international driver's license to drive in the UAE! Being from Argentina, Fede was denied our car rental, and I had to rent the car instead (causing us to have to take a new reservation on top of the one that we already paid for). Those from the US do not need a special driving permit, but many other countries need to apply for a special UAE driving permit, which costs around $100.

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Entry Requirements for Dubai

Now that you know how to get to Dubai, let's make sure you are able to enter without any issues, and to go over how long you can stay.

Do You Need a Visa for Dubai?

Almost everyone can enter the United Arab Emirates for up to 30 days without needing a visa. You can check the "Free visa upon arrival" list to make sure that your country is included on it.

The only country that we are aware of that has a bit of a restriction in regards to visiting is India, whose citizens are limited to a 14-day visit without a visa.

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Local Adjustments for Visiting Dubai

Traveling to a small country in the Middle East, a lot changes. Here are some of the main things you need to know to adjust to traveling to the UAE and Dubai in particular.

What Language Do They Speak in Dubai?

The official language in Dubai and the rest of the UAE is Arabic.

Can I Speak English in Dubai?

Although Arabic is the official language, pretty much no one working anywhere is from the UAE. Most people are from the Philippines, India, or Pakistan. Because of this, you will hear much more English than anything else in Dubai.

Currency in Dubai

The currency of the UAE is the United Emirates Dirham. Currently (December 2023) the exchange rate is 3.67 Dirham for every US dollar, 4.17 Dirham for every Euro, and 5 Dirham for every British Pound. Almost everywhere uses credit cards. However, if you flag down a taxi, or make a small purchase, then you will need to have cash.

Can I Use USD in Dubai?

While some people might bring USD, you really should exchange your money to the Dirham. (Just don't do it in the airport as it's more expensive).

Is Dubai Expensive for Tourists?

Dubai is an interesting city because in some places it is outrageously expensive, while other areas are super affordable. The main tourist areas of Dubai are much flashier, and you can expect to pay a lot of money to enjoy yourself. However, if you go to the outskirts and more "local" spots, then restaurants are not too expensive at all.

Plug Sockets in Dubai

The outlets in the UAE are the same as the UK. The plug type is G, which has 3 rectangular pins in a triangle. The United Arab Emirates operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.

Can We Drink Tap Water in Dubai?

The water in the UAE is very clean, and is perfectly fine to drink from the tap. We suggest bringing an insulated water bottle, so that you can keep your beverages cold from the extreme heat.

Do You Need to Tip in Dubai?

Tipping in Dubai is not mandatory, but certainly expected. We suggest leaving 10-15% of the bill in cash, and also tipping hotel staff.

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Things to Do in Dubai in 1 Day

Now you know almost everything you need to know about the basics. Here are all of the options for the best things to do in Dubai in 1 day.

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Things to Do in Dubai #1: Get Up Close to the Burj Khalifa

The number one highlight of Dubai is the Burj Khalifa, so it is definitely a must to get up close to appreciate its grand size.

There are a few great spots to be able to get a good shot of it from, and some of our personal favorites are "The Wings of Mexico", the entrance of the Palace Downtown hotel, and right next to the Dubai Mall.

Wings of Mexico at the Burj Khalifa, things to do in Dubai in 1 day
Burj Khalifa, things to do in Dubai in 1 day
Burj Khalifa, things to do in Dubai in 1 day

Things to Do in Dubai #2: Visit the Atlantis Aquarium

While we're not huge fans of aquariums, or the Atlantis, we have to say that the Atlantis Aquarium definitely is something special to see.

Want to know a fun little secret to get in for free? Go within 5 days of your birthday!

Things to Do in Dubai #3: Check Out the Museum of the Future

This year a brand new museum came to Dubai, and it truly is an impressive one! The Museum of the future shows futuristic and innovative ideas with various exhibitions.

The building itself is completely curved with carved designs into the metal, and there is not a single straight line in any of the architecture!

Museum of the Future, things to do ii Dubai in 1 day

The museum requires tickets to be purchased in advance, and it sells out days or sometimes weeks in advance, so make sure to purchase yours well before your visit.

Things to Do in Dubai #4: Explore the Sky View Observatory

Looking for some of the best views of Dubai? Sky View Observation deck has 360-degree views of the city, and sits 219.5 meters high.

Some of the things they have are a glass capsule sticking out for incredible photos, as well as a glass slide. Also, they have an edge walk where you can be suspended from the outside of the building for an extra thrilling activity.

Sky View Observatory is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm, and tickets should be purchased in advance online.

Things to Do in Dubai #5: Enjoy the View at the Palm

Another great place to enjoy some stunning views in Dubai is the "View at the Palm". This glass-framed observation deck is inside a high-rise overlooking the Palm Islands, and has both city & gulf views.

The View at the Palm is open daily from 9 am to 8:30 pm, and tickets are 100 AED.

Things to Do in Dubai #6: Get a Day Pass at the Coolest Infinity Pool

Right next to The View at the Palm is another really cool spot for a view. But it's not just a place for incredible views, it's actually an infinity pool that juts out over Palm Jumeirah. We're not going to lie- it's really only for those looking to splurge, as entrance tickets go from 200-700 AED for a day pass.

Aura Sky Pool is open on Sundays & Thursdays from 6 am to 7 pm, Mondays & Wednesdays from 10 am to 7 pm,  and Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10 am to 11 pm.


Things to Do in Dubai #7: Dive in the Deepest Pool in the World

Deep Dive Dubai has created the world's biggest swimming pool, which is the size of 6 Olympic-sized pools! With 14 million liters of water, there are a variety of activities offered in this indoor pool, the most popular one being their diving experiences.

Things to Do in Dubai #8: Ride the Ain Dubai

Dubai obviously loves having the biggest and best everything. Just like having the deepest pool in the world, or the largest building in the world, it comes to no surprise that they've also built the world's biggest Ferris wheel.

Ain Dubai is located on Jumeirah Beach, and stands over 243 meters high. It runs from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 am to 9 pm, and tickets cost between 130-300 AED.

Al Ain, things to do in Dubai in 1 day

Things to Do in Dubai #9: Relax at Jumeirah Beach

While most people talk about the incredible buildings of Dubai, it is also a good place to spend a day at the beach.

Jumeirah Beach is the most popular of the beaches in Dubai, and with such incredible desert heat, it's a great way to cool off. The area is full of luxurious hotels and beach clubs, and also has great views of the Ain Dubai.

Things to Do in Dubai #10: Experience Ski Dubai

Dubai is pretty crazy- they try to defy the norm in every way, and despite the incredible heat, they have built a massive ski resort inside of a mall! The resort is 22,500 square meters, and is part of the Emirates mall, which is one of the biggest shopping centers in the world.

Things to Do in Dubai #11: Browse the Dubai Malls

Speaking of malls, the malls in Dubai are an attraction themself in Dubai. They are massive and have an array of restaurants, bars, shops, and activities. If you happen to visit Dubai in summer, then this is where you can expect everyone to spend their days.

Things to Do in Dubai #12: Go Sky Diving

If you are looking to tick off some bucket list things while experiencing Dubai in 1 day, then skydiving is definitely one to push to the top.

Dubai has some of the coolest skydiving experiences in the world, as the view from above is unlike any other!

Things to Do in Dubai #13: Try Skydiving Indoors

If skydiving intimidates you, you can try indoor skydiving! You can get the feeling of the experience, without having to jump out of a plane. The two companies who offer this are Ifly Dubai and Inflight Dubai, which offer flights for all ages.

Things to Do in Dubai #14: Sail on a Yacht

While most things cost a fortune in Dubai, surprisingly sailing on a yacht is not one of them!

There are both private and shared yacht options that take you all around Dubai, ranging from sunset cruises to all day experiences.  Make sure to check out some of the options we found below.

Things to Do in Dubai #15: Watch the Sunset at the Dubai Creek Harbour

If you're looking for a stunning sunset spot, then make sure to head over to Dubai Creek Harbour, where you can get impressive views of the skyline of Dubai. Just make sure to go early, as the sun sets very fast, and sometimes disappears before hitting the horizon.

Dubai skyline at sunset, things to do in Dubai in 1 day

Things to Do in Dubai #16: Drive the Half Desert Road

Have you ever seen those impressive photos of people on a desert road with the skyline of Dubai in the back? Well, we hate to say this- but those are all fake.

The road does exist, but it is a half hour outside of Dubai, and has no backdrop of the skyline. Despite not having the skyline though, the road is still a cool place to check out. We would only recommend seeing this though if you rent a car, as it's not really near any of the other things to do in Dubai.

Half Desert Half road, Things to do in Dubai in 1 day

Things to Do in Dubai #17: Immerse Yourself in the AYA Universe

If you like art exhibits and interactive museums, then you'll love the AYA experience. The entire place is full of different rooms that have colorful lights, star observatories, and gardens from another world. 

AYA Universe is open on weekdays from 10 am to 10 pm, and on weekends from 10 am to midnight.

Things to Do in Dubai #18: Browse the Garment District

If you're into fabrics and fashion, then this area is pure heaven. The fashion district in Dubai is full of incredible fabrics from all over the world, and the prices are incredible. I also loved this area because it's where the locals are, making it completely different from the rest of Dubai.

Restaurants are affordable, there are historical landmarks, and it's overall a super lively area whether you're into fabrics or not.

Things to Do in Dubai #19: Roam Around the Dubai Miracle Gardens

Dubai Miracle Garden is the world's largest flower garden. With 72,000 square meters, it features over 50 million flowers and 250 million plants. There are impressive arrangements of animals, castles, and even a massive airplane, making it a super unique way to enjoy Dubai in 1 day.

Things to Do in Dubai #20: Take a Desert Tour

One of the best ways to enjoy the UAE is by exploring the vast deserts, and if you want to see the desert of Dubai in 1 day, these excursions make the perfect activity to sign up for. Explore the dunes, drive a quad, and ride a camel in the ultimate desert adventure.

Local Food & Drink in Dubai

Now that you know all of the fun things to do in Dubai in 1 day, let's jump into the food and drink scene!

What is the Cuisine Like in Dubai?

Dubai is an interesting place, because the city is pretty much a melting pot of flavors. We didn't find a single thing that was titled as being "local". Instead, there were restaurants from a variety of cuisines, a good amount of them being Lebanese and Indian.

Even in the supermarkets you can find all of the produce and prepared foods are marked by the country which they came from.

Is it Ok to Drink Alcohol in Dubai?

Being that the United Arab Emirates is a muslim country, alcohol is forbidden in many places. You will not find alcohol sold in supermarkets, or in any traditional restaurant.

However, most large hotels and malls have liquor licenses for tourists, making it easier to find alcohol in these places. Just be prepared for some pretty crazy prices, as drinking is not cheap in Dubai!

Cool Restaurants in Dubai

While we were only 1 day in Dubai, we picked out a few cute and "instagrammable" places to eat and get coffee around the city to share with you. Keep in mind they are a bit pricey, but great for a specialty coffee, and to treat yourself.

  • Saya Cafe City Walk: a super cute cafe full of flowers, stuffed animals, and other colorful details

  • Saya Brasserie Cafe Was 51: the same owners at the other Saya Cafe, with pink and purple themed areas and a bunch of teddy bears (There used to be a 3D area, but it's been painted over.)

  • Forever Rose Cafe: a 2D cafe with great baked goods

  • Boho X: a boho-themed restaurant in the heart of the city with great brunch options, and also known for their massive croissant and coffee combo! (You'll need to order this in advance).

  • Atmosphere Burj Khalifa: an upscale fine dining restaurant and bar on floor 122 of the Burj Khalifa

Saya Cafe, things to do in Dubai in 1 day
Saya Cafe, things to do in Dubai in 1 day
Saya Cafe, things to do in Dubai in 1 day
Saya Cafe, things to do in Dubai in 1 day
Saya Cafe, things to do in Dubai in 1 day

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What is the Best Way to Get Around in Dubai?

Dubai is a rather big city, so there are actually a ton of different ways to get around! We decided to rent a car from Abu Dhabi and experience the best of Dubai in 1 day, so found the car to be super helpful. However, cars are not necessarily necessary, so depending on how much time you have, or what you want to see will depend on the best transportation option for you.

What is the Cheapest Way to Travel Around Dubai?

The cheapest way to get around Dubai is by taking public transportation. Dubai has both buses and metros serving the city, which are well-connected with the major tourist hot spots.

Taxis vs Ubers in Dubai

Taxis and Ubers are both very popular ways to get around, and are surprisingly affordable in comparison to hotel and restaurant rates in the city center.

It also came as a surprise to us that taxis are actually cheaper than Uber, or Careem (a local taxi app). The only up-side to using the apps is that you can order them more easily, rather than roaming around in the heat looking for a taxi. Also, in some areas that aren't as touristy or busy, it's quicker and easier to order an Uber or Careem.

Renting a Car in Dubai

We have a love-hate relationship with having a car in Dubai. The good thing is that cars make getting to places outside the city center much easier. Also, we found a free parking garage right near the Wings of Mexico, making it extremely convenient and hassle-free.

The bad thing is that parking is not free everywhere, and some areas can charge a lot! (particularly near Jumeirah Beach). As well, the traffic in the afternoon is crazy, making it a lot more stressful driving.

We would highly recommend renting a car to see Dubai in 1 day, but if you are staying for a longer period of time such as a week, to rely on public transportation instead.

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Where to Stay in Dubai

Dubai is much bigger than we anticipated, and many tourist hot spots were quite spread out. We're going to let you know the best areas to stay in Dubai, as well as some unique hotels you can stay at.

Which Area is Best to Stay in Dubai?

  • Downtown Dubai: This is the area surrounding the Burj Khalifa. Here you'll be well-connected with the other areas of the city, have great views, and also be able to have free parking if you have a car.

  • Jumeriah Beach: The best beach area to stay - this area is a bit more pricey though.

  • Dubai Marina: another great beach area, right next to the Palm Jumeriah, Ain Dubai and Skydiving.

Cool Hotels in Dubai

  • Shangri La: the hotel with one of the best views in all of Dubai, facing the Burj Khalifa

  • The Atlantis: this hotel is definitely not our typical recommendation, but it's great for families, and those that want to experience a glamorous stay

  • Palace Downtown: a 5-star hotel facing the Burj Khalifa

  • The Dubai EDITION: has a beautiful pool facing the heart of Dubai, a fitness center, and free private parking

  •  W Dubai - Mina Seyahi: an adults-only luxury resort located on Jumeriah Beach

  • Address Sky View: the most epic infinity pool facing the Burj Khalifa

Atlantis, things to do in Dubai in 1 day

Is Dubai a Safe Place for Foreigners?

Dubai is actually considered to be one of the safest cities in the world! The UAE in general is also super safe, and has very little crime.

Is it Safe to Walk in Dubai at Night?

Dubai is completely safe to walk around at night.

Can a Woman Walk Alone in Dubai?

As Dubai is such an international city, there are no issues for women like in other areas of the Middle East.

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Other Things to Know About Visiting Dubai in 1 Day

Now you know the best things to do in Dubai in 1 day, how to get around, and where to stay and eat. But don't go yet! Here are a few other things you may want to keep in mind.

Weather in Dubai

Dubai is in the desert, so it is hot year-round. Summers are unbearably hot though, hiking up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (55 degrees Celsius). In the winters the temperatures become much more bearable, especially in the evenings when the sun goes down. The highs are typically in the high 70's, and it might dip down to the fifties late at night.

The sun rises early in Dubai, and it heats up pretty quickly. The sun sets early as well, and it tends to disappear before the actual sunset time.

What is the Best Time to Visit Dubai?

In the summertime Dubai's streets are completely empty, and all of the malls fill up. We would highly recommend visiting in the winter time, when you can truly appreciate the things that Dubai has to offer.

We personally think that anywhere from October to April is a great time to visit Dubai, so that you can comfortably enjoy all that it has to offer both inside and out. New Years Eve in Dubai is also an incredible bucket list experience.

How to Dress in Dubai

While Dubai is a muslim city, tourists are actually free to dress as they please while in public. The only place where you have to cover up completely is in the mosques.

mosque in Dubai, things to do in Dubai in 1 day

Packing For a Trip to Visit Dubai

Here are some of the things you should pack for a trip to Dubai:

  • Sunscreen

  • Hat

  • Bathing suits

  • Nice clothes for the evening

  • Shawl to cover up at the mosques

  • Long dresses or skirts for the mosques

  • Reusable Water Bottle (we use this water bottle from Cafago because it holds the temperature)

  • Flip Flops (we personally always get Havaiana flip flops, as they are comfy and long lasting) 

  • Power Bank (we use Anker power banks, as they are super long lasting and sturdy)

  • Action Camera (we use the Insta 360 X3 because it's small & waterproof)

  • Travel adapter

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Is it Worth Visiting Dubai in 1 Day?

We were able to see a lot of things in Dubai in 1 day, and we definitely think that it's worth checking out, even with a limited amount of time.

Dubai in 1 day

So are you ready to explore all you can in Dubai in 1 day? We definitely think Dubai is a great day trip from Abu Dhabi, and you can also experience a lot, even if you have just a layover.

Want to explore other cool things to do in the area? Make sure to check out our full Abu Dhabi Guide, and stay tuned for more upcoming articles in the Middle East. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive the latest updates, exclusive travel tips, and discounts on our products!

Looking for a custom-made itinerary, well you've come to the right place. We at Scratch Your Mapa specialize in building epic trips to fit your style, and doing it for affordable prices! Just email us to get started on your free consultation today.

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