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Sometimes, you find an amazing flight for a very cheap price, however there’s something off about it. This happened when I was heading to Borneo last year. After realizing that we had a 10 hour layover at the Dubai International Airport while flying Emirates economy, I ended up looking into nights tours in Dubai as it was my first time in the U.A.E. This post is about my experience doing an overnight layover in Dubai and what to expect in terms of the airport/leaving the airport!
Something important to know about layovers in Dubai with Emirates
You have more options if you’re flying with Emirates. Emirates offers something called Dubai Connect, which includes accommodation, meals, and ground transportation if you qualify and it might be worthwhile to ensure that your connection does. Contact Emirates to ask in advance!
If you’re flying first class or business class with Emirates with a bad connection in Dubai where you must wait more than six hours, but less than twenty four hours, you can ask about Dubai Connect at least a few days ahead. For economy passengers, it is a transit time of more than eight hours and less than twenty four hours to qualify for Dubai Connect, if you do.
I called, however I did not qualify because I bought the cheapest flight option. The next non-cheapest flight option would have qualified and probably saved us money. You should definitely consider leaving the airport even if you don’t qualify for Dubai Connect.
If you’re more interested in sleeping…
We initially were a bit uncertain about staying up all night during our layover, however hotel prices near the Dubai Airport were more expensive than I had anticipated, especially given that we waited a while to look into the layover. If you prefer to sleep during the layover, book your hotel in advance.
Our layover tour
My plan was never to take an overnight tour of Dubai. I realize that I’m a travel blogger, but travel bloggers mess up too. After finding a cheap flight to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam via Dubai, I was so very excited and booked it not reading the layover times properly… I thought our layover was between 1pm and 11:30pm. That said, I was very wrong and I did my best to see Dubai given that my mistake made it harder to find available tours in Dubai who worked overnight.
We arrived around 1am Dubai time and our flight left at 11:30am. As a result, we wanted to use our time to see a little of Dubai. I ended up deciding to book a private five hour tour after double checking if they’d pick us up from the airport and if it was okay if it started at two in the morning. We gave our flight details to the tour who told us that they’d meet us at a specific point in the airport. I strongly recommend taking out some extra money to tip your drivers!
As our bags were to be transported to our final destination, we just had two backpacks that we brought on board with us. As this was a long flight with a decent sized layover, I’d recommend bringing a change of clothes and some toiletries to stay refreshed. Passport control was a cakewalk and moved very quickly. After this, we found our tour guide.
Our night tour experience
It was really cool having a private tour. Our guides were from other countries and it was interesting to learn about their experiences working in Dubai. Both were incredibly well versed in Dubai history as well as the latest developments in Dubai.
As someone who was apprehensive about visiting Dubai, it was a bit grounding to have the chance to discuss their experiences living in the U.A.E. I had not realized that becoming an Emirati citizen was so difficult for those from other countries.
Dubai is a fascinating place and it’s truly the future of metropolises. I was blown away by the experiments involving transportation as well as architectural features. I’m admittedly not much of one for big flashy cities, but a short layover of three hours in Dubai was just the right amount of time to soak in a little of Dubai’s hypermodern progress.
For those who aren’t aware, Dubai was a smaller city that thrived off fishing and pearls. With the collapse of the pearl market, their Sheikh invited traders to live in Dubai tax-free, which started Dubai’s economy up. Only in 1966, oil was discovered–and everything changed. Now, Dubai is one of the most modern cities in the world, but you can still get a glimpse of its old city if you can ignore the giant skyscrapers that surround it.
Our tour included driving around in an air-conditioned car and stopping at a great photo point for the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. From the top, you can get a panoramic view of Dubai from 828 meters up!
If you have a longer layover or arrive a bit earlier, you might be able to visit the Burj Khalifa for the sunset or night views as it closes quite late.We were told that it’s worth upgrading to the skip the line ticket if you intend to visit as the line can be long around sunset.
Afterwards, we drove along the city center prior to viewing Burj Al-Arab, one of the major landmarks of Dubai. Most impressive of all was Palm Jumeirah, a series of artificial islands built in a palm shape, which is the world’s largest artificial island. Learning about the construction of this impressive island was the reason why I wanted to visit Dubai.
Lastly, we stopped off at the Dubai Marina where we got a coffee and a snack while our guides waited. Others around us were busy enjoying hookah, but it was nice to have a moment just to soak in the atmosphere.
After we got back to the airport, in good time, we breezed through security and passport control prior to enjoying the lavish facilities of the Dubai Airport. Our terminal had numerous options for healthy food, drinks, and souvenirs. Although we didn’t sleep, we slept well once we got on the plain to Kuala Lumpur prior to flying onwards onto Borneo.