Sleeping in Airports

Dubai Airport Layover Sightseeing

Dubai Airport Layover Sightseeing
Photo Credit: Luciano Mortula – LGM / Shutterstock

Dubai International Airport (DXB) has become the world’s fastest-growing and busiest airport. While the airport itself is a sight to behold, those with a layover in Dubai of over 5 hours should likely consider checking their baggage and exploring the mind-bending city center. With guided tours organized by Emirates – and plenty of sights to be explored independently – a lengthy Dubai layover will disappear quickly as you marvel at the ultra-modern world city. Public and private transit options make it easy to reach the city center in little time, and most of the major attractions are located within the same region. Suggestions on what to do and how to do it follow in the guide below.

Airport Overview

The ever-expanding Dubai International Airport is consistently ranked a favourite among SleepingInAirports travellers. If you find yourself with a layover of less than five hours, you are probably best off exploring the restaurant, shops and amenities located throughout the terminals. For some, this may mean checking into the G-Force Health Club, while others may simply opt for a shower and use of the free Wi-Fi. For more information on the airport itself, check out our Dubai Airport Guide.

Sightseeing Options

Below are a few essential sights.

Transit Tours

Emirates conveniently offers a number of tour packages targeted at those with layovers in Dubai. Discounts are available for those who book hotels or tours through the airline. One of the best parts about these airline-organized tours is that they make for an easy way to go beyond the city center and into the desert on a full day adventure. For more information visit: Emirates Stopover Information

Burj Khalifa

If you want to see the absolute best view of the city, you will need to get to the top of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building (828 meters). Observation decks are located on the 124th, 125th and 148th floors of this modern masterpiece and the world’s highest lounge can be found on floors 152 – 154! The ride up is a thrill in and of itself, as you travel 10 meters per second on the high speed elevator. The view from the top spans from the desert through the city to the ocean, and is arguably most magical at night. Modified telescopes provide a glimpse into the city’s past and future, as they depict the development of Dubai. Wander the perimeter and step out onto the open air viewing terrace if you dare, before descending down the elevator into The Dubai Mall. Note that if you make advanced online bookings, you will save nearly USD 75 on your ticket price!

Time Required: A tour up Burj Khalifa takes roughly an hour, though guests are permitted to stay longer if desired. This does not include transport time to and from the airport.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

Dubai Fountain

Dubai Fountain
Photo Credit: Sergey Aryaev / Shutterstock

Within the shadow of the world’s tallest building are the world’s largest choreographed fountains. These fountains – perhaps better described as the spectacle – shoot water up to 125 meters in the air, with a light and music show accompanying the movement of the water throughout the day and night. Unsurprisingly, the fountains are visible from any point along the boardwalk that lines the perimeter of the manmade Burj Khalifa Lake, making this a perfect place for an in-transit stroll. With 6,600 lights, 83,000 liters of water and 25 colour projectors, these fountains were also among the most expensive ones built in the world.

Time Required: The actual water, light and sound show plays in five-minute intervals during particular periods of the day, meaning a visit to the fountains can last from five minutes onwards – depending on your timeframe and preferences. It can easily be coupled with a visit to the top of the Burj Khalifa. This does not include transport time to and from the airport.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.

The Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall
Photo Credit: Philip Lange / Shutterstock

In following with the trend of mind-bending sights and activities, the third must-see sight in Dubai is the Dubai Mall. Jammed with shops, restaurants, ice-rinks, movie theaters, underwater zoos, indoor theme parks and massive kid zones, a spin through the mall is sure to impress and amaze every preference and taste. Given that the mall is located on the edge of the Dubai Fountain and at the base of the Burj Khalifa, a visit here can be easily combined with the other primary attractions in the city depending on the time you have available before returning to the airport.

Time Required: Exploring the mall in its entirety would take multiple visits. Spend as much or as little time as you desire poking around the countless shops and entertainment options – it all depends on your shopping and browsing preferences! A minimum of an hour is recommended, and this does not include the time required to get to and from the airport.

How to Get There: Check out this Google Map for details on public and private transit options, and the associated time required.


DXB is located only 3 miles outside of the city center, and is easily connected through a number of different transit options.

Public transit options include:

  • Buses (stations located opposite T1 and T2): Buses connect travellers to popular streets in Dubai, passing by most major sights and hotels.
  • Metro (stations at T1 and T3): A metro line departs roughly every 10 minutes from the airport and travels into the city center. For schedules and rates: Dubai Metro.

Private transit options include:

  • Taxis: Available at all arrivals halls, and are the most common method of transport for tourists.

Before You Go: Layover Tips

Now that you are motivated and excited for your mini layover vacation, just make sure to check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.

  • Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
  • When is your next flight’s check-in time? Make sure you double check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
  • What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for long security wait-times, so be sure to do a bit of research in advance and factor that into your overall time-budget.
  • What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, be sure to confirm whether your luggage is checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Visit our Dubai Airport Guide for information about luggage storage.

Other Useful Resources

Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly: