Whether you have a layover or want to spend 1 day in Dubai, the wealthy city of the United Arab Emirates has a lot to offer, even if you only stay 24 hours.
Although luxury, opulence, and technology are the words that best describe the modern metropolis, you can have one day in Dubai on a budget if you plan well. There are so many cheap things to do in Dubai in one day.
Dubai has a well-developed infrastructure, so it is easy to get from one part of the city quickly to another and fill your time with as many attractions as possible. You can make your Dubai trip itinerary or go on a city tour of the most important attractions.
How to get to Dubai
The only reason you might consider getting to Dubai by car will be if you live in the Arabian Gulf countries. Even so, the distances are pretty long, and the best option is still the plane, especially when you only want to spend 1 day in Dubai. There are many flights to Dubai since the city is a global intersection of aircraft.
Dubai International Airport is the busiest airport in the world, but the good part is that it is not too far from the city. The distance from the airport to the city center is only 15 minutes by car. You can get from the airport to different parts of Dubai by subway, but only if you land in terminals 1 and 3.
What I use every time I travel:
- To book hotels: Booking.com
- To book tours: GetYourGuide.com
1 day in Dubai can mean 24 hours, but it can also mean 9 hours. I consider that the minimum duration you should have between flights, so it is worth leaving the airport to visit some places in Dubai, is at least 9 hours.
But if you have up to 24 hours in Dubai, you will need a night at the hotel. However, given the short time, I suggest booking a room in a hotel near the airport, to save more time for the things to do in Dubai in one day.
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Where to stay in Dubai
Dubai International airport is located in the Al Garhoud district, so it is best to look there for accommodation in Dubai or nearby areas, such as Burjuman or Downtown Dubai, or maybe in Deira. Here are my suggestions:
- budget: Premier Inn Dubai International Airport
- mid-range: Millennium Airport Hotel Dubai
- luxury: Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre
1 day in Dubai – What to do in Dubai in 24 hours
Take a walk on JBR beach
Start your day in Dubai with a nice walk on the beach. Dubai stretches along the Arabian Gulf, so it has an opening to the sea and many beaches, some public, some private, some crowded, and some more secluded. The ideal beach for a one day stay in Dubai is JBR or Jumeirah Beach Dubai.
JBR is 2 km long and so complex that you could spend your day in Dubai just here. There are plenty of cafes, restaurants, lounges, swimming pools, beach parties, and luxury hotels or residences, all hosted by over 40 tower buildings.
If you don’t feel like sitting on the beach but want to enjoy a beautiful view and the holiday atmosphere of JBR, I recommend you to have a coffee at Starbucks, from where you have the perfect view of the newest attraction of Dubai, Ain Dubai. And if you’re hungry, Awani’s Arabic restaurant is excellent.
How to get to JBR beach by subway
You will have to go on the red line and get off at Jumeirah Lake Towers station, which is connected to the train station with the same name. The train gets very close to JBR; you only have to walk a few tens of meters.
Another option would be a taxi or an Uber. If you want to come here by car, you can park it at the Dubai Marina Mall or The Walk underground car park. Of course, renting a car will increase your budget for visiting Dubai in a day.
READ ALSO: Top day tours in Dubai
Have lunch at Dubai Marina
Right next to JBR Beach is Dubai Marina, one of the most luxurious, modern, and cosmopolitan areas in Dubai, but also the largest built marina in the world. It looks like a mini Manhattan, crossed by a 3 km long water channel, surrounded by skyscrapers that seem to touch the sky. The tallest building in Dubai Marina is Marina 101, at 425 meters.
If you have more time and not just 1 day in Dubai, you must go on a cruise to Dubai Marina. Dubai Marina is an entirely artificial complex. Hundreds of boats and luxury yachts cross this water canal daily.
READ ALSO: Top 10 best activities in Dubai
A major attraction for shopping lovers is the Dubai Marina Mall, one of the most luxurious and large malls in the Emirate city, with over 150 stores. There are many international cuisine restaurants and lounges where you can share a hookah with friends. Dubai Marina is the place to have lunch on your short day trip to Dubai.
READ ALSO: Views of Dubai – 7 places to admire Dubai skyline for free
Ride Ain Dubai, the largest observation wheel in the world | 1 day in Dubai
Add to your Dubai trip itinerary a visit to one of the coolest attractions in the city. I witnessed this tourist attraction’s construction in Dubai during my visits here. I saw the process and couldn’t wait to ride it to see Dubai from a different angle, different from the one offered by Burh Khalifa.
The wheel officially opened last year in 2021, after 8 years of work, so I had the chance to try it then. With a height of 210 meters, Ain Dubai is almost double the wheel in London. It’s located on Blue Waters Island and has 48 cabins that can support up to 1500 people.
Make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes before the time of booking. A complete rotation takes 38 minutes, so you have enough time to take pictures from all desired angles. But it would be best if you remembered that it’s one of the newest attractions in Dubai, and the queues are still very long.
A ticket for Ain Dubai starts at 130 AED and can go up to 380, depending on the type of cabin and the time of day. Sunsets are the most expensive, as expected. If you wish, you can also visit Madame Tussauds Museum, the first to open in the Middle East, located on the same island.
Go to Palm Jumeirah for a fabulous view of Dubai Marina
One of my favorite views of Dubai, which I’ve also included in the list of Instagrammable places in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, is where you can fully admire the Dubai Marina skyline. All you have to do is reach Palm Island, in front of the Sea View Hotel. If you don’t have time to add it to your list of things to do in Dubai in one day, make sure you get here next time. Is well worth it!
Visit the spice bazaar
Like any Arab country, in the Emirates, you will find a lot of bazaars full of color, scents, and textures. One of the most sought-after in Dubai is the spice bazaar, located in the old part of town. You can reach it by crossing Dubai Creek with an abra, a journey for which you only have to pay a dirham.
Even though the price for such an experience may have risen, it remains one of the most authentic things to try in Dubai. The spice market will let you understand precisely what Arabic cuisine means. If you are a fan of these dishes, then the bazaar is the ideal place to stock up for your home.
Visit the old part of Dubai | 1 day in Dubai
Continue your one day stay in Dubai with a visit to old Dubai, made of clay and palm leaves. This is the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, where you can see the oldest building in Dubai. The Dubai Museum was completed in 1787 and is the perfect example of 18th-century emirate architecture.
You can get here the fastest by getting off at Al Fahidi Subway Station, and you can visit the streets of old Dubai for free, except for the museums, where you’ll have to pay for a ticket.
Admire the Dubai fountain show near Burj Khalifa
Even if you spend only 1 day in Dubai, it’s impossible to miss the famous Dubai fountain show near the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. And if you had to spend only a few hours in the emirate metropolis, this would be the place not to be missed.
The fountains are designed by the same company that created the beautiful Bellagio fountains in Las Vegas. However, they are much larger, the jet reaching up to 154 meters in height. They are situated right between Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa and are surrounded by a promenade area that gets super crowded during the shows.
The playlist includes both Arabic songs and international hits. Although the fountains also dance during the day, I recommend you get here after dark. The program starts at 6 pm, ends at 11 pm, and takes place every 30 minutes in the evening. The best place to admire the show is from the terrace of a cafe in Dubai Mall. If you have time and want this, you can visit Burj Khalifa on the 124th and 125th floors.
What you need to know before a Dubai layover
- How to get around Dubai
As I already mentioned, the fastest and cheapest way to get around Dubai is by subway. It has two lines, red and green, and crosses the entire city, even reaching the Dubai Expo. If your flight lands in terminals 1 or 3, you can take the subway from the airport to anywhere in the city. Otherwise, you can combine them, taxi + subway.
- What currency to use in Dubai
Exchange a small amount at the airport because the foreign exchange is not the most advantageous here. Although the dollar is accepted almost anywhere in Dubai, having dirhams is best. Later you will find many more places to exchange money in malls.
- How much money do you need to spend for one day in Dubai?
The amount you need for your one day stay in Dubai depends a lot on the activities you plan to do, the places where you eat and whether you will have accommodation. The budget can start at 200 dirhams and easily exceed 1000 per person, depending on everything listed.
It’s important to remember that Dubai can be a cheap city to visit in one day, but also very expensive. Your options make the difference.