How to spend 48 unforgettable hours in Dubai on your way to the Indian Ocean? Read our top tips to make the most of an amazing Dubai stopover holiday!
Dubai is strategically located half-way between the UK and the Indian Ocean making it the ideal stopover destination that will add and enrich your holiday experience in more than one way. Here we give you a detailed itinerary of how to enjoy yourself on a mini Dubai holiday as the perfect prelude to a relaxing Indian Ocean escape.
Dubai, city fun for everyone in just 48 hours
Dubai presents the perfect opportunity to combine a fun city break with beach holiday bliss, and not only because you can pair a short Dubai getaway with a dreamy Indian Ocean beachfront escape, but because Dubai offers an excellent opportunity to mix an energising city break with beachside beauty and glamour as the city also packs Insta-worthy sandy beaches. But where to begin?
Day 1 – Your first 24 hours in Dubai
We suggest starting your day with a good overview of Dubai’s main highlights and here we present them all; of course, we don’t include everything there is to do in Dubai in Day 1; but these are some of the must-see attractions in your first 24 hours in Dubai.
If you’ve never been to Dubai before, one the first places to check out is Dubai Downtown, where you’ll find attractions including the Dubai Mall (home to several other draws such as the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, KidZania, an Olympic-size ice rink, A380 simulator, Hysteria – for scary thrills, and a Virtual Reality simulator as well as a cinema with 22 screens). There’s also the Dubai Fountains, downtown’s picture-perfect centrepiece (ideal for all those Instagram selfies!) with an evening music and lights show, and which you can also sail on a beautiful traditional dhow – highly recommended at sunset, and, the piece de resistance – the Burj Khalifa tower, the world’s tallest, which you can climb for the most jaw-dropping views! Alternatively, just a selfie with the Burj Khalifa in the background will make your Facebook and Instagram friends green with envy. You can easily spend a full day walking around downtown and enjoying its many, many attractions. In fact, you will have to pick and choose as you will not be able to do everything on offer in a day!
If you want to venture elsewhere, here are a few other suggestions of where to be and what to do on your first 24 hours in Dubai.
Dubai Gold Souk
If you like glittery, shiny, and sparkly things the Dubai Gold Souk will be your wonderwall. If you don’t, maybe you can skip this place but we have to mention it as it is one of the most unique places in the world with probably more gold than you have ever seen in one single place. The window displays will make you gasp but if you step inside your mind will be truly blown. There is also the fact that the gold here is tax-free so any bling that you may wish to buy can turn out a bargain! You will still have to haggle to grab a good deal though, and haggling is expected so do engage in some healthy negotiating.
If you like to experience the flavours of the world, both literally and metaphorically, Global Village is a must! You could easily spend most of your 24 hours in Dubai as this huge esplanade has around 75 different countries represented here, with replicas of famous buildings and monuments as well as cultural and culinary highlights. In a matter of minutes, or hours, you could go from watching Bollywood-style Indian dancing to tasting buttery, melt-in-the-mouth croissants by the Eiffel tower, learning about Romanian traditions with a Dracula undertone, sitting under Japanese cherry blossoms trees or taking in the fragrances of Saudi Arabia. It is a great opportunity to travel the world in a day without having to get on a plane, plus it also features an entertainment park and a river that you can cross on a boat. Great for solo travellers, curious, globe-thirsty couples, and families.
The Dubai Frame
It is just a frame you might say… what is so spectacular about it? Well, the views at the top are pretty awesome. It is not the Burj Khalifa, don’t get us wrong, but because of its massive size (around 150 metres tall and 50 stories high) you’ll get glorious birds’ eye views for a fraction of the price of climbing the Burj Khalifa tower. It’s not one for those with vertigo as the long hall across the top of the Dubai Frame has large see-through glass panels (they’re actually grey and turn transparent as you step on them which can be quite a shock or a thrill… depending on how you feel about having the ground disappear under your feet, like pulling a magic Arabian carpet off in mid-air!
Day 2 – What to do in your last day in Dubai
On your second set of 24 hours of Dubai you can take it easy by the beach or ramp up the adventure and excitement with a desert adventure or dune bashing. Depending on the length of the Dubai desert adventure that you go for you could do just that for an entire day or mix it up with other sightseeing options.
Old Dubai or a desert adventure? Or both?
To start off the day we give you two options. Visiting Old Dubai is best done in the morning to escape the hottest hours and will put you in touch with the city’s origins as you learn about its history and traditions at the Dubai Museum, whilst also getting to see Dubai’s most humble side if you walk around the old town on your own. You can do a tour around the old town on your own for half a day and then choose an alternative afternoon attraction for the rest of the day.
If you opt for a Dubai desert adventure, bear in mind that these sometimes are offered as full-day affairs or as half-day afternoon/evening affairs, but they are one of the most exhilarating things to do in Dubai! You are taken for some dune bashing on big 4×4 jeeps that make some thrilling turns with plummeting drops until finally reaching your destination – a beautiful oasis. The jeeps drop visitors off at some distance from the tents so that you make the rest of the way on the back of a camel. Then, as the sun goes down, it’s time to tuck into a mouth-watering barbeque dinner, smoke shisha or get a henna tattoo before the belly dancers put on a magnificent show against a starry sky – quite the experience!
JBR strip – The Beach and The Walk
If you fancy a lovely and relaxing walk by the sea, strolling around the JBR strip could put the golden finishing touch to your Dubai journey. The Beach, as it’s called is free to enter and swim in (although our suggestion is more of an afternoon or evening stroll rather than getting wet – you’ll have plenty of time for that on your next Indian Ocean destination). There are deck chairs and umbrellas to hire if you fancy enjoying a cocktail whilst dipping your feet in the sands or you can go camel riding on the beach at sunset. The Beach is also ideally positioned adjacent to The Walk, an outdoor shopping district with street art and frequent seasonal street art instalments perfectly accompanied by a plethora of chic cafes, ice cream stands and enticing outdoor dining options. It is the perfect place in Dubai in which to enjoy a relaxing evening or afternoon.
Sunset cocktail at Burj Al Arab
Before you leave, there is one more must-see thing in Dubai that you simply have to do and that is enjoying the sunset on the free beach next to Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the world’s first six-star hotel and one of Dubai’s most easily recognizable landmarks thanks to its unmistakable dhow shape. This is the place to photograph some of the most stunning sunsets and spectacular selfies. You will regret it if you do not do it!
Where to stay in Dubai for two unforgettable nights?
If you have 48 hours to spend in Dubai, the sheer amount of hotel options might dumbfound you and after looking at just a few you might soon feel overwhelmed and completely lost on where you should stay. Depending on your budget and personal taste, here we give you our pick of the best hotels to stay in Dubai for 48 hours.
For utter luxury and glamour
If you want nothing but utmost luxury and splendour with no expense spared during your brief stint in Dubai, our suggestion of top two hotels will more than fit bill.
Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai
With a privileged beachfront setting on Dubai’s newest, sophisticated island of Bluewaters, the new Caesars Palace Buewaters Dubai offers legendary luxury with magnificent interiors and bespoke touches. Bringing a touch of ancient Rome to spacious areas, this is where imperial sumptuousness meets modern glamour, and where you should definitely stay if money is not an object.
One&Only Royal Mirage the Palace
Another jewel in Dubai’s crown and yet another palatial beauty, this is the place to bask in exclusive luxury with signature touches from the One&Only brand. The One&Only Royal Mirage the Palace is one of the most romantic places to stay in Dubai, despite its size this hotel feels intimate and sophisticated, ideal for a couple’s getaway with a panoramic beachfront setting, amazing room views and next to fragrant gardens. The epitome of luxury in a dreamy setting.
Great all-around package
For Dubai-style chic and luxury that won’t break the bank, the following are a selection of mid-range (by Dubai standards – they’re all five-star beauties) hotels that pack in amazing value for money without compromising on comfort, service and pampering. Oh, and they both offer all-inclusive packages!
JA Ocean View Hotel
With a fabulous location right on The Walk, the JA Ocean View Hotel will put you in close proximity to all that JBR The Beach and The Walk have to offer. Modern five-style luxury meets urban chic with rooms in soothing seaside colours and splendid seaside views. It features a gorgeous pool, a myriad of restaurants and amazing facilities for families, including a kids’ club and kids’ pool and plenty of interconnecting rooms.
Grand Hyatt Dubai
With no less than 14 eateries, free Wi-Fi (not a given in most Dubai hotels), an enormous freeform pool and elegant rooms offering fantastic views over lush gardens and Dubai’s skyline, you can’t go wrong with a stay at the Grand Hyatt Dubai. Impeccable service, a good location close to old town attractions like Dubai Creek and five-star luxury amenities make this a failproof choice.
Palm exclusivity and beachfront perfection
What do the hotels in this section have in common? They are both situated in one of Dubai’s most epic and famous locations – The Palm islands.
JA Palm Tree Court
This tranquil oasis of peace and calm offers beachfront perfection with stunning features like waterfalls, cosy gazebos, and landscaped garden. Boasting the proud title of UAE’s "Leading Hideaway Resort" at the World Travel Awards, the JA Palm Tree Court resort has its own diving centre and a PGA golf course. There are eight restaurants to choose from (including a floating one!) and six lounges and bars, some of which include live entertainment, what more could you ask for?
Sofitel Dubai The Palm
Infinity pools, amazing views over the Arabian Gulf, Polynesian décor and elegant interiors make this beautiful resort one to remember long after your holiday’s over. Sofitel Dubai The Palm boast personalised service, luminous rooms and a wealth of tantalising dining and wining options make a stay here perfect in every way.
Dubai and beyond, the ideal stopover to paradise
And that is your first 48 hours in Dubai covered! If you feel 48 hours are not enough to tick off everything mentioned in this blog post, there’s always the chance to take yet another Dubai holiday and pair it with another exciting destination in the Indian Ocean or beyond. You certainly do not have to limit your options as Dubai can be paired with many other corners of the globe.
Even when on this post we have focused on Dubai’s as a stopover destination on your way to the Indian Ocean, you could also pair a Dubai city break with other exciting far-flung destinations like South Africa, India or Southeast Asia. The sky is not actually the limit, as there are great flight connections making Dubai an ideal half-way point to add to and enrich your holiday in all the ways we have mentioned plus many more!
We hope we have inspired you to consider Dubai as a stopover on your next holiday escape, wherever it may be and that our top tips and 48-hour itinerary have excited you enough to start planning your next Dubai + Indian Ocean break!