Since most Emirates South-East Asian flights stop in Dubai en route, a stopover in the city seems to be a great addition to your vacation. In fact, for many travellers this is often where the holiday begins (or ends).
Dubai Layover Visa Requirements
Note that although most nationalities are allowed to pass through Dubai in transit, some nationalities (Russians for example) require a visa to leave the airport and visit Dubai. However, this can easily be arranged online by purchasing a UAE visa online.
The cost for this service when we applied was $63 per person, although this may have changed in the meantime.
If you fly with Emirates and your flight necessitates a Dubai stopover in excess of 6 or 8 hours, then like Turkish Airlines, Emirates will provide free transfers and hotel accommodation for 1 night.
However, there really has to be no other flight options available to you for this offer to be valid. In our case, we paid a small supplement to break our journey in Dubai, and searched for our own accommodation.
Winchester Hotel Apartments, Bur Dubai
We used Hotels Combined to find and book our accommodation in Dubai. We chose an apartment hotel in Bur Dubai, close to the center, and paid €78 for a 2-person apartment for 2 nights. We also arranged an airport pick-up (Dhs 60) and drop-off (Dhs 40) from the same hotel.
The place we chose was The Winchester Hotel Apartments.
They provided us with a spacious, clean and well-equipped apartment. We had a comfortable living room with TV, and a separate bedroom and kitchen. The apartments are cleaned every day, and the towels changed unless you request otherwise.
The hotel has a large reception area on the ground floor that is staffed 24/7, and is always available for help. Not far from the hotel there is a metro stop for easy access to the city. Beyond the metro stop there is a wide boulevard with plenty of shops, supermarkets and even a few restaurants.
Although we didn’t have the time to try them, the Winchester offers complimentary use of a gym, sauna and swimming pool. They also offer a free shuttle service to and from the Dubai Mall, running 2 or 3 times a day.
What to do with just a 3-day Dubai stopover
There’s plenty to do in Dubai, so we had to be selective on how we would use our limited time.
Take a Desert Safari
The activity that was a “must-do” for us was the evening Desert Safari. Since we had 2 nights in Dubai, we booked this for the 2nd evening.
There are a number of different companies that offer this activity, all with variable TripAdvisor reviews. After a lot of research, we chose Desert Safari Dubai. Having read the bad reviews as well as the good we decided to just take it as it comes, and do our best to enjoy whatever they had to offer.
As it turned out, we had absolutely nothing to worry about (see Dubai Desert Safari).
We booked our Desert Safari online several weeks in advance to ensure we’d have a place. There was no payment upfront, simply an exchange of details by email. Payment is made by cash or credit card when your Guide picks you up from your hotel.
You can book this from their website www.desertsafaridubai.com
Shop till you drop at the Dubai mall
Of course, we were understandably keen to check out the biggest and best shopping experience on the planet. The Dubai Mall is the world’s largest shopping mall based on total floor area.
The mall also includes a Gi-normous fish tank: The 10-million liter Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the ground level of the Dubai mall, is the largest suspended aquarium in the world.
It houses thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. More than 300 sharks and rays live in this tank, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger sharks in the world. There are numerous ways you can experience the main Aquarium tank, which measures 51 meters in length and 11 meters in depth. One of these is to hire some scuba gear and take a swim with the fish.
Burj Khalifa Lake & Tower
We also had to check out the daily aquatic fountain & light show. Set on the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake, the fountain shoots water jets as high as 500 ft (150 meters), equivalent to that of a 50-storey building. The fountain is 900 ft (275 meters) long and has five circles of varying sizes and two central arcs.
The beam of light shining upward from the fountain can be seen from over 20 miles away, and is visible from space making it the brightest spot in the Middle East, and quite possibly in the entire world.
Speaking of the largest things in the world, Dubai also boasts the highest man-made structure. Standing at 829.8 m is the iconic Burj Khalifa. The tip of the spire can be seen from 95 kilometers away.
So we also arranged an appointment to travel up to the top of the world (well, the top of the tallest man-made structure in the world). For more details on this, check out Burj Khalifa.
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