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15 Hour Layover in Dubai

On our way to Bangalore from Dallas, we decided to make the most of the long trip and add an extra long layover in Dubai, so that we could see a new city. Plus, the plane ticket was cheaper that way!

Here is our itinerary to help future travelers:

11:45am  

On the ground in Dubai!

12:30pm 

Just finished going through customs. We were able to get visas on arrival with our US passports. We also discovered we could go through the “smart gate” line even though we hadn’t registered beforehand. This was nice because it was a much shorter line!

1:00pm 

We spent money to have our carry on bags stored at the airport. Our checked bags were sent straight to Bangalore, luckily. The lockers are past security. There are little electronic maps in the airport to guide you to the lockers. Oddly enough they had a sign above the doors to the storage area that read “Left Luggage,” which confused us a bit. 

It costs more to store bags with any sort of electronics in them, but it was cheap overall and very worth it to me because me and Martha (my pet name for my backpack) start to fight after I have to hold her for long periods of time.


(We stick to just this one backpack each when traveling overseas!)

We also bought a day pass metro ticket at a little kiosk in the airport. Day passes are 22 AED, or about $6. The airport is located in a zone kind of far from the city so the zone passes weren’t really helpful for our trip from the airport.

1:30pm 

Arrived at the Dubai mall! We reserved tickets for the Burj Khalifa the day before we got here, while we were waiting to board our flight in Dallas.

We reserved our tickets for the 2:30pm time slot ($30 each to go to the 124/125th floors). We were about to get the tickets for a sunset view which are more expensive, but I’m glad we did not because it was very hazy outside and we wouldn’t have been able to see much of a sunset anyways. 

Until 2:30pm we wandered the mall a bit. Somehow we still hadn’t stepped outdoors at this point, which I thought was crazy. There was an indoor walkway from the metro stop to the mall that was over a kilometer long.

I’m talking like a 10-15 minute walk along this above ground tunnel system that looked like the inside of the airport still. I felt like I was in a Jetsons cartoon. And I realize it gets extremely hot in Dubai so it’s practical to make these indoor connections to places. Crazy though!

Anyway, in the mall there were cool sites to see like the waterfall:


Or the giant aquarium:


Or just window shopping (or actual shopping) itself!

2:30pm 

Burj Khalifa! The entrance to this is in the bottom floor of the mall. There are kiosks all over that let you select a destination and show you animated maps to get there, so it was easy to find.

The Burj Khalifa is amazing and so worth the cost, which was a bit of a splurge for our budget. But it is a must see!


We spent about 2 hours for the whole experience – lines, wandering the tower, and reading cool facts.

4:30pm 

We were starving at this point and the food court is right when you exit the Burj Khalifa off the elevator, so we got ourselves lunch/dinner.

5:30pm 

Left the mall to venture out and visit the Spice Market and Gold Market. We also wanted a chance to ride these cute little wooden boats called abras. It’s around a 5 minute boat ride to get to the other side of the river and a very neat experience.

We went from the Burj Khalifa train station (remember you don’t need to go outside!) to the Bur Dubai Abra Station. (Start on the red line and switch to green at the only opportunity and go for 2 stops.)

From here we walked to the little boats – if you are heading to the big St. George hotel you are good to go!

The little boats only cost 1 AED per ticket and you pay once you get on the boat.

6:00pm

After we got off the boat, we crossed the Main Street (Old Baladiya Rd) to arrive at the Spice Market! The market is not all spices despite the name, and there were cool souvenir shops and clothes and trinkets as well.

We just wandered the streets and happened upon the Gold Market! It was fascinating to see all the metal twinkle under the lights! This market was heavily guarded as you can imagine.

7:30pm 

We started the trek back to the Dubai Mall to watch the fountain show out front that started at 8:30pm. Although short, it was a beautiful show that rivals the Magic Fountain show in Barcelona. It was also really cool to see the animated light show on the Burj Khalifa. 

9:00pm 

Quick dinner in the mall and headed back to the airport to gather our things and get through security. 

Another important tip I left out at the beginning – the trains do have women and children only cars. Even when traveling with Zachary (who could ride one car over) I found this very helpful because it can get quite jam packed in the metro, but the women’s car was more spacious. One of the perks of being a woman! Though women can stand in the men’s section without a fine, it was a nice thing that I enjoyed!

We loved our short stay in Dubai! The only thing we wish we could have changed was eating in a place outside the mall. Dubai is an international hub with many different cuisines, but timing wise we didn’t get an opportunity as the mall is the hub for the touristy things we wanted to see. Next time!