One Day in Dubai: The Perfect Low-Budget Layover

DubaiI was supposed to fly from Amsterdam to Hong Kong with a 30 minute layover in Munich, Germany. But that didn’t particularly happen. I was unexpectedly put on a plane to Dubai to spend a full day there! And it was PERFECT!

While stranded in Munich due to a fire in the control tower, I started researching things to do in Dubai for during my unexpected layover. Honestly, I didn’t even know exactly where Dubai was, but it just happened to be the fastest way to Hong Kong at that moment. (Real pity..) As I was looking for a one day, low budget, itinerary this turned out to be a challenge. Dubai is, generally spoken, super expensive and not backpacker-friendly. Main touristic activities include expensive stuff like desert safari’s/dune bashing in 4×4 jeeps, hot air balloon flights, a Ferrari attraction park, indoor skydiving, and don’t forget scuba diving in an aquarium. Yes, that’s right, you can get your PADI scuba license in an aquarium, in a shopping mall.


Although very cool, none of these activities were within my budget, so these are the cheap but fun things I did instead:

1. Jumeirah Mosque

I don’t consider myself religious, but I’m always up for a visit to a church/synagogue/mosque/temple. They usually look beautiful, represent important cultural aspects and just quite fascinate me. Visiting the Jumeirah Mosque was therefore the first thing I did. The Jumeirah Mosque is beautiful and right away makes you realize you’re in the Middle East. Surrounded by palm trees, I enjoyed walking around it for a bit. Unfortunately I arrived too early to be able to enjoy a visit inside, as organized by the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Centre for Cultural Understanding. I would totally go for this next time. It is a high ranked ‘activity’ on TripAdvisor and it just sounds amazing to me. They state that you will learn about Emirati culture, and religion, in a relaxed, casual and open atmosphere. Tours are open to non-muslims and offered 6 days a week, Sat-Thur, at 10am (get there at 9:45am). They take about 75 minutes. More information can be found on their website.

  jumeirah mosque

2. Jumeirah Beach

The Jumeirah Beach is located next to the famous Jumeirah Mosque, and so I decided to take a stroll here next. First of all it is important to note that, especially during the summer months, you should bring water! Being outside in Dubai during the summer is actually not recommendable at all, as it’s just too hot. Other than that, the beach is great! It’s a white sandy beach, with some palm trees and you can take a dip in the Persian Gulf. Pretty cool. Ordinary swimming attire, like bikini’s, are perfectly fine. Do however keep in mind to show some respect to the culture and put on more clothing when leaving the beach. Also, be aware that it is strictly forbidden to take pictures at the beach. If you want to see the famous Burj Al Arab which is located on the beach, you can take bus 8, 88 or X28 from Jumeirah Beach down. It will get you there in 25 minutes.

jumeirah beach

jumeirah beach

3. Dubai Mall

Okay, for shop-a-holics this may not be wise to add to your low-budget itinerary, but after the beach, I took a taxi to the Dubai Mall. This is the world’s largest shopping mall (more than 50 football pitches), including 1.200 shops. But even if you are not really into shopping (like me), this is an amazing place to go. Because it’s the biggest mall in the world, (and because it’s in Dubai), there are lots of luxurious and fun things to see and do. For example, the 10-million liters Dubai Aquarium with over 33.000 marine animals (including 300 sharks)! You can buy tickets for special activities such as the underwater tunnel or scuba diving, but you can watch the aquarium itself for free. Furthermore, there is an ice rink and the Falling Man Fountain which are worth checking out. Pay attention to the fact that you are being asked to dress respectfully when visiting the mall: covered shoulders and covered knees.

dubai mall2dubai mall aquarium

4. Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest man made structure, is located right next to the Dubai Mall and can be entered from the mall. The view from 452m (1483 ft) is amazing. When you get there and want to buy tickets to go up directly, they cost some €81/$109. Which is a lot. You can easily bring this down by reserving a ticket in advance. ‘In advance’ in this case means that you can make a reservation at the counter, to go up some 20 minutes later. That’s what I did. This brings the price down to only €25.50/$34! Open spots can however not be guaranteed, so if you can make a reservation well ahead of time, this is obviously recommended. Advance tickets can be bought up to 30 days in advance at the ticket counter and online.

burj khalifa on burj khalifa

5. Dubai Creek and Old Souks

I tried to squeeze one more thing into my one day Dubai experience, which was the Dubai Creek and Old Souks. To be honest, it was quite a disappointment at the end of an amazing day. Again, it was too hot to be outside, and next to that, the Souks just wasn’t fun. I didn’t feel entirely safe walking around there on my own and the vendors where trying to sell me all kinds of random stuff and became angry when I didn’t buy it. It very much felt like the Souks in Turkey and Tunisia + extreme heat + rude people. Personally, I wouldn’t really go for this one again. At least not on my own. I must however point out, that this was the only time I felt uncomfortable on my own in Dubai and all other men (and women) I encountered during the day where incredibly helpful, kind and respectful. More than I’ve ever experienced anywhere else actually. I will write more about this later!

Old Souks Dubai

Old Souks Dubai

Have you been to Dubai? I would love to hear about your experiences! Feel free to comment below! If you liked this article, please share. Thanks!

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15 Responses to One Day in Dubai: The Perfect Low-Budget Layover

  1. Amy says:

    Looks so good! It’s on the top of my list for 2015!

    • Flying Dutchgirl says:

      It’s really good! You should definitely go!

    • Torie says:

      hallowie sieht es mit den neuen abgas normen aus??hat bruno turbo 30 kw zusnsluag nach neüster norm da ändert sich doch ende 2012 anfang 13 was??mfg

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    • fatgirlphd 30 September, 2012  10:33 am Thanks Hazel – and you’re right that the Sun readers were all pretty lovely! The Daily Mail was the scary one to be honest, hehe :) It’s so weird once you put yourself up there – people are very keen to point out what you should’ve done differently, or where your flaws are, so you’re very brave doing the TV show – although I’m sure it’ll be awesome, and I’ll definitely be waving the flag for you over here!

  2. AJAY NAIR says:

    Great!Nice to know you had fun in Dubai, next time you here lets connect.We manage the travel/Airline business out of UAE (Dubai is one of the states in UAE)-best-Ajay

    • Flying Dutchgirl says:

      Sounds great! Would love to visit again! Will be there in December, but only for a quick layover. Will let you know when I make a proper trip!

  3. Abdul says:

    Its a very good description for a person like me. I have visited Dubai, when I had a layover on my trip to India. You have very beautifully articulated everything here. I missed the Jumeirah beach and Dubai creek, I plan on visiting it during my next visit. Once again, thanks for this helpful article.

    • Flying Dutchgirl says:

      Very welcome! Glad you enjoyed the article and Dubai! And have fun at Jumeirah beach and the creek next time – great places!

  4. How did you get around to all of these places? Did you take taxis or public transportation?

    I’m looking into a layover in Dubai for my round the world trip with my husband but want to do as much as we can on the cheap if possible.

  5. Tim says:

    I’ll be in Amman for a week in November. I was thinking of a quick day to Dubai, since I have never been there. Would you say that your itinerary was “too much” for a day? Doesn’t sound too bad, to be honest.
    Great article, thanks for the information!

  6. Mario says:

    Hey, thanks for the tips. May I just quickly inquire how much did all of that set you back(approximately)? Thanks!