Taking into account the ever-increasing restrictions and delays involved in long-haul travel, there inevitably comes a time when you’re obliged to consider the pros and cons of an extended layover.
Long-haul (10-hour flights or more) usually involve a minimum of one stop before reaching your destination, and often more. With the bigger airlines such as Qatar, Emirates, Turkish or Cathay Pacific, this involves a stop at their national hub (e.g. Dubai for Emirates or Istanbul for Turkish Airlines).
Of course, you’ll want to get through your long-haul journey as quickly and comfortably as possible. But what do you do when for scheduling or cost reasons you’re faced with a 6-hour-plus wait between connecting flights?
We’ve been in this situation multiple times, but here is a description of how we handled it on our last trip through Dubai.
What’s the best way to deal with an extended layover in Dubai?
It all depends on the number of hours between your flights. If this number exceeds 8 hours you automatically qualify for the Dubai Connect program (provided there were no shorter flight connection options available when you booked your flight).
Dubai Connect entitles you to free transfers to and from a good (designated) hotel where you are offered a complimentary room and meals for the duration of your layover. This is a really good option – if you qualify. But if your layover is less than 8 hours you’ll need to look further.
Take your chances in the public areas
If you don’t mind roughing it a little, you can try to find a decent seat in one of the public areas of the Terminal. The trouble is there isn’t a lot of public seating, and even if you do find a seat free, trying to sleep in public with all your gear and constant distractions will be a challenge.
If you’re prepared to fork out some cash there are a few more comfortable options.
Dubai International Hotel
One of these is the Dubai International Hotel in Terminal 3. The cost isn’t cheap, starting at around $170 (USD) per double room per night. Even so, demand is high so you should definitely book your room in advance if you’re going for this option.
Another alternative is to spend some or all of your layover time in the popular Marhaba Lounge. Prices here are around AED 240 (per person) for a 4-hour stay – that’s approximately $65 (USD).
In return for this you have around-the-clock access to a comfortable and spacious set of lounge areas. Food and drinks (including alcoholic drinks) are included in the price and are available 24/7. For a small extra charge you can also have a shower.
How about your own Lounger Cubicle?
There is plenty of seating in the Marhaba Lounge, but if you want to stretch out for a sleep you’ll need to get one of the limited lounger cubicles. These also usually come at an extra charge (… if one is available) and as it can get a little chilly you’ll need a blanket (AED 20).
Each cubicle provides a little individual privacy. The recliners are comfortable and you have your own table and charging ports. with free WIFI.
So as you can see, for a 4 to 8-hour layover this can all become quite expensive – for 2 people, typically $142 for 4 hours or $272 for 8 hours.
Also, since this is an open-plan area it can get a little noisy – loud music coming up from the shopping areas and unruly kids running around, etc.
Marhaba Lounge Dubai – Is it worth it?
It all depends what price you put on your comfort.
In our case, we were traveling during the Covid-19 crisis so the lounge was not busy. Probably because of this we were given recliner cubicles free of extra charges. Food options were also more limited but adequate (no open buffet as usual).
Since our layover in Dubai was almost 12 hours, we booked 8 hours in the Marhaba lounge, and were offered an extra 2 hours free of charge.
So, in conclusion…
Under normal circumstances we wouldn’t recommend any of the above options, apart from the Dubai Connect program (…and only if we qualified).
We usually travel on a strict budget and – apart from dossing on an airport bench – the above options would blow our budget out of the water.
The best option is to shop around the different airlines which fly to your intended destination, and book the one which is quickest and most direct. It may cost a little more to book the flight, but it can save in the incidental costs (…and stress!) involved in waiting hours for a connection.
If you enjoyed Marhaba Lounge Dubai, check out our other Transfer and Layover experiences. You may also like: