Given its towering skyscrapers, luxury-dripped shopping malls, and plethora of five to seven star hotels, one may be shocked to learn that Dubai had humble beginnings as a fishing village. Despite the rapid development and urbanization, you will find that the metropolis still holds on to its traditions and history. In between world-class shopping or skiing down Ski Dubai's indoor slopes, be sure to check out the Al Fahidi Historical District and try out the local cuisine. The itinerary above is meant for people who are exploring Dubai and Abu Dhabi at a leisurely pace. It is possible to visit all of the main attractions in 1-2 days.

4-DAY ITINERARY

DAY 1 - DOWNTOWN DUBAI

  • Start the day off with brunch at The Hamptons Cafe
  • Get lost in the Dubai Mall - be sure to stop by the aquarium and the Dubai Fountain for a show
  • Go to the top of the Burj Khalifa - try to buy tickets to the top one hour before sunset for some great day and nighttime views
  • Some great dinner options in the area include Khan Murjan, Al Hallab Bab El Bahr, and Trèsind
  • Head to Treehouse to get a taste of nightlife in the area

DAY 2 - OLD DUBAI

  • In the morning, head to the Al Fahidi Historical District
  • Visit the Gold & Spice Souks
  • Spend the afternoon and evening on a desert safari where you can go dune bashing, attempt to sandboard, ride camels, and enjoy a barbecue meal accompanied by a few different types of traditional dance performances. We chose to go with Oscar Knight Tours which was roughly 7 hours long and cost 150 AED per person. Personally, I thought it was a very average experience, mostly because it felt very commercialized. There are several agencies conducting similar tours at the same time. I would recommend it primarily to people who have never had this type of experience before.

DAY 3 - ABU DHABI DAY TRIP

  • Drive to Abu Dhabi in the morning
  • Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - be sure to dress modestly; abayas (cloaks) are available for free at the entrance
  • Head to the Emirates Palace and indulge in a 24-carat gold-flaked cappuccino, a gold-encrusted ice cream, or a gold facial
  • Learn about the formation and governance of the UAE at Qasr Al Watan (Royal Palace)
  • Spend an hour or two in the afternoon at the Louvre Abu Dhabi exploring its galleries and admiring its architecture
  • Once you are back in Dubai, head to Global Village - a multicultural amusement park where you can try foods, shop, and learn about cultures around the world. It is usually open until midnight.

DAY 4 - DUBAI MARINA & PALM JUMEIRAH

  • Enjoy a leisurely breakfast or tea at the top of the Burj al Arab
  • Soak in the sun at Jumeirah Beach
  • Head to The Penthouse for drinks and enjoy sweeping views of Palm Jumeirah and the Dubai skyline
  • Charter a boat from the Dubai Marina in the late afternoon for a sunset cruise
  • Afterwards, head to Barasti Beach to continue the party and enjoy another facet of Dubai’s nightlife

LOGISTICS

VISA REQUIREMENTS

Emirates has a helpful webpage that provides information on visa requirements into the UAE for nationals of various countries. Please also refer to your country's official resources for information on visa requirements.

US citizens with US passports valid at least 6 months do not need to obtain a visa prior to entry to the United Arab Emirates for stays up to one month. Citizens of India holding a passport valid for a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date, and a visit visa or green card issued by the USA which is valid for a minimum of six months, or holding a UK or EU residence, can obtain a visa on arrival for a maximum stay of 14 days for a charge of AED 120. They can apply to extend their stay for an additional 14 days for AED 250.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

The best time to visit the UAE is from November through April as the weather is more tolerable than in the summer months. In July and August, the temperatures can be unbearable.

LANGUAGE & CURRENCY

The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but English and Hindi are widely spoken in both cities and tourist hubs. The currency of UAE is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED). As of August 2020, $1 USD is equal to 3.67 AED.

GETTING AROUND

You can fly into Dubai International Airport (DXB) or Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH). A third option is Sharjah International Airport which is a smaller airport located just outside of Dubai, in Sharjah.

We found Uber and Careem to be very easy and affordable to use to get around Dubai, and used the two apps interchangeably throughout our stay. For the day trip to Abu Dhabi, we opted to go with a private driver arranged by our hotel. There are also options to visit Abu Dhabi with tour groups on Viator. Another way to get around the most popular neighborhoods is via the Dubai Metro which is divided into four cars that include ladies-only and “gold class."

HIGHLIGHTS

DUBAI MARINA BOATING

One of my favorite activities during this trip was chartering a boat in Dubai Marina. We took a 3 hour tour in the afternoon so that we could see sunset while enjoying Dubai's skyline from a different angle. We chartered our boat through Champion Yachts as it was recommended by a friend who is a local - I too would recommend using them. We brought our own alcohol, and they provide non-alcoholic beverages and a couple of light snacks.

GLOBAL VILLAGE

Dubai’s Global Village is a multicultural amusement park that showcases the cultures of ninety countries around the world in one location. It is typically open from October to April. As of December 2019, tickets cost 15 AED per person and discounts were available for children and seniors over the age of 65.

There are several dining, shopping, and entertainment options throughout the park. Head into each “country”  to try out delicacies from the many food carts and restaurants. We particularly enjoyed drinking masala chai in India, eating Ćevapi in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and sampling various types of honey in Yemen. Each country or region is design to reflect the architecture styles found in that region. Each country also has several kiosks where visitors can shop for souvenirs such as clothing, spices, and decor. The park also has a small carnival area with rides as well as a large stage for concert performances.

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