Follow this Dubai and Abu Dhabi itinerary to spend an amazing week in the UAE. Climb to the top of Burj Khalifa, spend a day in Dubai Mall one of the largest shopping centres in the world, experience the Arabian desert and more. Find all the details you will need to plan your trip to the UAE, including information about many of the top things to do in Dubai and Abu Dhabi below.
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It’s early 2020 and my travel plans for the new year are in full swing! I have already completed a trip to Slovenia which consisted of a road trip in the Julian Alps and a short solo wandering in Ljubljana, and I’m getting ready for my next big trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with my mum and my brother. Fortunately, our trip wasn’t affected by coronavirus as it was still only an epidemic when we started our trip (but declared a pandemic half-way through) and the number of cases in the UAE was very low compared to other countries.
Dubai – Abu Dhabi Itinerary Overview
Click on a day to visit the respective section.
- DAY 1: OLD AND NEW DUBAI
- Dubai Museum, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Souks
- Dubai Frame
- WAFI City
- DAY 2: MODERN DUBAI
- Dubai Mall
- Burj Khalifa
- Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
- Dubai Fountain
- Dubai Mall
- DAY 3: LUXURIOUS DUBAI
- Madinat Jumeirah
- Mall of the Emirates
- Atlantics, the Palm
- DAY 4: OUTDOORS DUBAI
- Desert Tour
- Dubai Miracle Garden
- Dubai Glow Garden
- DAY 5: YAS ISLANDS THEME PARKS (PART I)
- Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
- DAY 6: ABU DHABI SIGHTSEEING
- Sheikh Zayed Grand
- Louvre Abu Dhabi
- Observation Deck at 300
- DAY 7: YAS ISLANDS THEME PARK (PART II)
- Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi
Dubai – Abu Dhabi Itinerary Highlights
If you follow this itinerary to Dubai and Abu Dhabi you will visit:
- 3 Observatories (Burj Khalifa, Dubai Frame, Observation at 300)
- 2 Theme Parks (Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Warness Bros. World Abu Dhabi)
- 1 Aquarium (Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo)
- 4 Shopping Centres (Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates, WAFI Mall, Yas Mall)
- 2 Museums (Dubai Museum, The Louvre Abu Dhabi)
- 1 Historical District (Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood)
- 3 Traditional Souks (Bur Dubai Souk, Gold Souk, Spice Souk)
- 2 Luxury Resorts (Madinat Jumeirah, Palm Jumeirah)
- 1 Mosque (Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque)
- 2 Gardens (Dubai Miracle Garden, Dubai Garden Glow)
- 1 Desert (Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve)
Planning your trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi
How to get to Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
Dubai has one of the largest international airports (airport code: DXB) in the world, connecting the UAE with the rest of the world. Hence, it is very easy to find flights to Dubai. Emirates is the official air carrier of Dubai and offers the most flights out of the city.
Similarly, Abu Dhabi also has an international airport (airport code: AUH) with many connections around the world. Etihad Airways is the official air carrier of Abu Dhabi, providing the most flights.
Choose the airport that has the most convenient flights for you, or even better arrive at one airport and leave from the other. The itinerary below assumes that the arrival and departure airport is the one in Dubai (DXB).
Visa requirements for entering the UAE
Citizens of many countries are not required to have a visa to enter Dubai for tourism. A 30/90-day tourist visa will be issued for free upon arrival to the country depending on where you are from. For example, Canadian and US citizens get the 30-day visa, while UK and EU citizens get a 90-day visa. The only thing required for those citizens is to have a valid passport for at least 6 months from the day entering the UEA.
How to get to Dubai city centre from the airport?
To leave the airport you can take the metro (Green line) from Dubai Airport Free Zone station. If your flight arrives late at night or in the early hours of the morning, when the metro is closed, you may prefer to get a taxi from the taxi rank area. Alternatively, you can check with your accommodation if they offer an airport shuttle.
How to get to Abu Dhabi city centre from the airport?
The easiest way to get to your final destination in Abu Dhabi is to take a taxi. A few buses also service the airport and provide connections for different locations around the city.
How to get from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and vice versa?
There are a few ways you can move between the two cities. The cheapest one is to take the bus from Al Ghubaiba bus station in Dubai to Abu Dhabi Central bus station. The journey lasts about 2 hours, but you should also take into account the time to get to and from the bus stations.
The quickest way is to take a taxi or book a private transfer (might be more expensive) from one city to another. You can take a regular street taxi from either city and request a drop off address in the other city. There is no difference in the fare, but I would suggest mentioning to the driver before departing that you want to go outside the city. Also, keep directions of your final destination in the other city, as the driver may not be familiar with the roads there.
The taxi ride fare from Dubai to Abu Dhabi or vice versa can vary from AED250 to AED300, depending on your exact departure and arrival points. The journey should last about 1 hour and 30 minutes.
How to move around?
Dubai has an extensive public transport system with two metro lines, a tram route, a few water-bus routes, a monorail and many buses.
The most convenient mean of public transport is the metro which is fairly inexpensive and an efficient way of covering long distances.
Anything not covered by the metro may be easier (and sometimes cheaper) to reach by taxi or an Uber. Usually, there is a taxi rank outside popular metro stations, landmarks and malls, but you can just flag down available taxis or call one. Taxis in Dubai can take you anywhere in the UAE, although do not expect them to be familiar with addresses outside Dubai.
To pay for public transport you need to get a nol card. A nol card is a top-up card that you can use to pay for your trips. Note that you need to note the zone you want to cover as well as how many journeys you need to purchase. At the time of visiting, many stations had both machines and human staff to purchase and top up your card from.
The RTA (Road and Transport Authority) website has a lot of information about public transport in Dubai and nol cards as well as taxis and other means of transport.
Public transport in Abu Dhabi consists mostly of buses. However, moving around in Abu Dhabi using public transport isn’t as straightforward as Dubai. One simple reason is that the bus timetables and routes are not on Google Maps. Of course, you can argue that you can find this information on other websites, but after a quick search online, the results show that buses are not catered for tourists but for locals.
Indeed, most visitors to Abu Dhabi use taxis to move around, as they are quick and cheap (even cheaper than Dubai). You can find a taxi rank in all the main landmarks, and if this is not the case you can use an Uber. This is what we did as well, as you can see in the Abu Dhabi section below.
If you want to give public transport in Abu Dhabi a try, you can find more information on the website of the Integrated Transport Centre.
When to visit?
The best time to visit the UAE is during winter, early spring and late autumn as this itinerary includes some daytime outdoor activities which can be unbearable during the summer heat. Keep in mind that if you choose to visit during the summer months, then you may be able to enjoy some of the low-season promotions available. If you are keen on shopping, then you may want to visit during the shopping festival in January.
We followed this itinerary in early March and we had lovely weather for most days. A few times we experienced hazy mornings, but other than that the weather was fine, without any rain. Just remember to put some suncream when being outside.
What to wear in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
People living in the UAE follow a modest dress code when getting out in public. Men usually are fine with normal clothes, but women should be a little more considerate. Short skirts, tank tops and other similar items are not the best choices of clothes in the UEA.
When going to the beach, usual beach clothing is fine, but remember to cover up when leaving and visiting shops and restaurants.
If you are having dinner or drinks at one of the high-end resorts, then you may need to dress up more formally. Note that all the places mentioned in the itinerary below accept casual clothing.
On the other hand, if you are visiting a mosque, the rules are completely different and you will have to be covered from head to toe. Remember to pack a scarf to put around your head, before entering a religious place.
Additionally, I suggest you have a light cardigan with you for cold evenings and cold (from the air-conditioning) closed spaces.
Overall, you may notice that Dubai is more tolerative in terms of western standard clothing compared to the other emirates. Despite that, it is better to respect the culture of a place and try to fit in.
Where to stay?
In Dubai, we stayed in two hotels, one during our Dubai leg of the trip and one during our last night after returning from Abu Dhabi. Our main requirements for choosing a hotel were price, location (close to a metro station and not too far from the places we would visit) and overall hotel rating. In the case of our last night’s stay, we were looking for something close to the airport that also provided a shuttle.
Novotel Bur Dubai [AD] was a nice hotel in Dubai Healthcare City, a few minutes walk to a metro station and WAFI city. The rooms were clean and modern and the staff very friendly. The hotel had a restaurant and a rooftop bar and pool.
Hampton by Hilton Dubai Airport [AD] was a cheap hotel and relatively close to the airport. Our room was decent, as it was its restaurant. The biggest advantage of the hotel was the free shuttle to the airport, but if the timetable is not convenient for you, then a taxi ride shouldn’t cost much.
In Abu Dhabi, we originally wanted to stay in Yas Island which is closer to the activities we planned for most days. However, after a short research, we found out that hotels in the centre of Abu Dhabi were cheaper than those in Yas Island. So we decided to choose a more luxurious hotel, with an ok price tag and commute to there.
Marriot Hotel Downtown Abu Dhabi [AD] was one of the best hotels we ever stayed. We had a huge room (including an extremely large bathroom), and floor to ceiling windows. The hotel had a rooftop pool and restaurant with great food! Opposite the hotel, you can find the Al Wadha Mall with many shops and restaurants (although not as glamourous as the malls in Dubai). Overall, the hotel was of great value with excellent service. There was even a small taxi rank outside the hotel so we never had to wait for a cab to start our day.
Other important information
The currency in the UAE is the United Arab Emirates Dirham (AED, DH or Dhs). 1 dirham is made up of 100 fills. 5, 10, 50, 100 and 500 dirhams are the most frequently used banknotes but banknotes for 20, 200 and 1000 dirhams can also be used. In terms of coins, expect to frequently find ones for 25 and 50 fills and for 1 dirham. 5 and 10 fills are also available but not as frequently used.
Use the currency converter below to check the latest exchange rates.
The official language of the UAE is Arabic, but English is widely understood and spoken, especially in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
The UAE follows the Gulf Standard Time which is 4 hours ahead of GMT/UTC (UTC+04:00). There, the clocks don’t change for daylight saving time.
I recommend you get worldwide travel insurance to cover for your UAE trip. Things can happen, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you book your flight with certain credit cards, your trip may be already covered so check with your bank for that. Otherwise, check out Staysure’ travel insurance plans here [AD].
Phone calls and mobile data
Roaming from the UAE can be quite expensive. For example, the roaming charges from my UK mobile phone provider were: £1.99/min to make calls, £1.49/min to receive calls, 49p to send a message and £14.99/MB for data. So, it is better if you purchase a local SIM card and use that one instead.
There are a few mobile phone providers that offer tourist SIM cards that also have stands in airport arrivals. In Dubai Airport Terminal 3, there were three providers: du, Etisalat and Virgin Mobile. We decided to go with Virgin as it offered the best value for money plans when considering mobile data. We paid AED 190 and the plan included 50 local minutes, 50 international minutes, some local texts and 10GB mobile data.
How we used our local SIM card?
We purchased only one SIM card for the three of us. We also brought with us an extra phone to insert the SIM card. This allowed us to use it as a Wi-Fi hotspot using the mobile data, in order not to drain the battery of our primary phones. We primarily used the mobile data when walking to get last-minute directions on Google Maps and be able to order an Uber.
In addition, as VOIP calls are blocked in the UEA and we couldn’t get our VPN to work, we used the SIM to make a few calls back home. We even made a few phone calls to local numbers to book our desert safari tour and we could use it to make restaurant reservations as well.
Note that many hotels, mall and attractions provide free Wi-Fi to their guests/visitors.
What to book in advance?
- Flights to Dubai
- Accommodation in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
- Burj Khalifa tickets
- Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo tickets
- Desert Safari tour
- Dubai Frame tickets
- Ferrari World and Warner Bros World combo tickets
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque access pass
- Big Bus tour tickets (optional)
Buy your Lonely Planet Dubai & Abu Dhabi guidebook here [AD].
Day 0 – Arriving in Dubai
Take a full day to arrive in Dubai and settle into your accommodation. This will usually be required if you are flying from western Europe and take into account the time difference. Alternatively, choose a flight that arrives early in the morning of day 1, so you still have the day to go sightseeing.
Note: In the UAE, Friday is the day off for many people (just like Sundays in western countries). This means that some museums and mosques may have reduced opening hours or are not open at all to the public. At the same time, it means that tourist attractions may be busier than other days. So feel free to move the days around to fit with the exact dates of your visit. To help you plan your trip, our Day 0 was on a Friday.
Day 1 – Old and New Dubai
Day 1 is all about exploring the older part of Dubai, before delving into its more luxurious elements.
10:00 Dubai Museum
The Dubai Museum is situated in the Al Fahidi Fort which was built in 1787. Through the years the fort had different uses from defence to artillery to prison. In 1971, the Dubai Museum was established on the site to house the heritage and history of Dubai. Now, visitors to the museum will be greeted with a variety of exhibits showcasing the different types of activity in Dubai. There is a gradual transition from the past to the present form of Dubai as an ultra-modern city.
Note: The Dubai Museum is currently closed for refurbishment.
Find out more about the Dubai museum here.
How to get there?
Take the metro to Al Fahidi metro station (Green line). After that it’s a twelve-minute walk onto Al Mussallah Rd/Al Satwa Rd and Al Fahidi Street to reach the museum.
12:00 Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
The Al Fahid Historical Neighbourhood is a traditional neighbourhood of the 19th and early 20th century Dubai. The buildings are built with traditional materials and are linked by alleys and public squares. Their strategic position alongside Dubai Creek gave them a high commercial value. What’s worth noticing is that the structures lack front windows and if they have, they are narrow and positioned higher up to value one’s privacy. Now, the buildings house different cultural projects such as art exhibits and specialised museums.
Find out more Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood here.
How to get there (from Dubai Museum)?
Follow the walking directions at the end of Day 1 activities.
There are a lot of places to have lunch around Al Fahidi. We passed from many tea houses and cafes, many of which serve food as well, during our walk and we decided to try XVA Gallery Cafe. It has some light dishes, such as the halloumi wrap that my brother tried and refreshing drinks.
14:00 Textile and Bur Dubai Souks
Continue your walk to the Textile and Bur Dubai Souks, often referred to as the Old Dubai Souks. Get a first glimpse of how souks are, before crossing the Creek to an even larger set of souks.
14:30 Cross Dubai Creek
To cross Dubai Creek, you should take an Abra ride. Abras are traditional boats used for commuting between the two sides of the creek. Find the Abra Station that connects Bur Dubai with Deira (stop CR1 and CR5) and pay AED1 per person to cross. Note that you may need to walk through the Textile Souk to get to the correct station.
The Abra ride, although being super short was one of the highlights of our day, so remember to enjoy it!
15:00 Deira Old Souks
The Old Souk in Deira is a combination of alleys and small streets full of vendors. There are three main souks in the area: the Spice Souk, the Gold Souk and the Perfume Souk.
The Spice Souk is one of Dubai’s most colourful and aromatic places with a huge variety of herbs and spices. Unfortunately, due to the increase of supermarkets the spice souk is more of a tourist attraction rather than a place where locals regularly shop.
The gold souk is one of the biggest and oldest in Dubai and has one of the biggest selections of gold jewellery in a variety of carats. All of the items sold are authentic and bargains are possible. Before leaving don’t forget to pass by the largest ring in the world (certified by the Guinness World Records), weighting 64kg. It took 45 days to create this 21-carat ring and 55 workers were involved. Although it only cost $547 000 to make it back in 2000, now its price is estimated to be more than $3 million. It is made of about 5kg of diamonds and 615 Swarovski crystals among other precious stones.
The Perfume Souk is full of aromas representing Arabian life. Fragrances are sold at the souk in many forms (as a stick, powder, etc,). Certain places can even create a personalised aroma for you, matching your skin type and personality. Note that there is not a single building housing the different merchants. Instead, the Perfume Souk is a collection of street shops along Al Soor and Souk Deira Streets.
17:30 Dubai Frame
The Dubai Frame is a new structure connecting the old with the new Dubai. Inside there are three galleries: the future, present and past. The Dubai Frame is 150m high and 93m wide. Its design is inspired by the golden ratio of 1.618. The Sky Deck is located on the 48th floor and offers panoramic views over the city. The elevator takes only 75 seconds to get you there. At the Bridge, there is a glass walkway and beneath it, you can see the dancing musical fountain.
Find out more about Dubai Frame here.
How to get there (from Deira)?
Take the green line metro from Baniyas Square or Al Ras to Union station (Green line). There, change to metro line red and continue until ADCB metro station. Once there, I recommend you take a taxi or an Uber to Dubai frame instead of walking, as it is quite far.
19:00 WAFI Mall
WAFI Mall is the main complex of WAFI city which is styled like Ancient Egypt with pyramids and structures of pharaohs. At the mall, there are many shops, a few restaurants and entertainment activities. As it was our first evening, we decided to have something familiar for dinner and headed to Paul.
Find out more about WAFI City here.
How to get there (from Dubai Frame)?
Take a taxi from the Dubai Frame to the WAFI Mall. Even though you can also get there by metro (use Healthcare City station), it will take longer and the price difference will be very small.
Walking Directions for Day 1
Note that the directions around the souks are not very accurate as Google Maps assumes only a single point for them, whereas they may span in multiple streets.
Day 2 – Modern Dubai
This day is dedicated to Dubai Mall. All of the attractions below are accessed through the mall, so firstly you need to make your way there (for direction see below). After that, use the screens in the mall to navigate around the building.
09:00 Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa is, at the moment, the tallest building in the world standing at 828m and having 160 storeys. Apart from this record, it is also the tallest free-standing structure in the world, has the highest number of storeys, has the highest occupied floor and the highest outdoor observation deck in the world. Other records involve its elevators heights and distance servicing.
The construction of the tower started in January 2004 and it was officially unveiled in January 2010. The interior is inspired by the Arabian and Middle Eastern art.
There are three observation decks (levels 124, 125 and 148), a couple of restaurants, a hotel and more. To visit the observation decks you need to purchase a ticket in advance, as only a few are available on the day. The most popular and affordable ticket is the “At the Top” which includes levels 124 and 125. If you also want to visit floor 148, you need to purchase the SKY ticket. This ticket is much more expensive, but also includes some refreshments and a personalised tour. Moreover, there are combination tickets with other activities around the mall.
Find out more about Burj Khalifa here.
How to get there?
Take the metro to Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall metro station (Red line). Then walk the seven moving sidewalks to enter Dubai Mall and from there follow the signs to Burj Khalifa. The entrance to the observatory is located at the lower ground floor of Dubai Mall. Allow 30 minutes to walk from the metro station to the entrance of Burj Khalifa.
11:00 Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo
Next attraction of the day is the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, one of the largest aquariums in the world. There is a 10 million-litre tank that houses 33 000 aquatic animals and forms a 48-meter long tunnel. The tunnel is one of the most popular parts of the aquarium and part of it is visible from the public areas of the mall.
The aquarium offers many activities across different ticket types. The Explorer Experience Ticket is one of the most basic packages and includes the tunnel, the underwater zoo and a glass boat tour. Other ticket types include animal encounters and other activities.
Note that the entrance of the aquarium is on the ground floor of the Dubai Mall (by the tunnel), while to get to the underwater zoo, you need to get to the 2nd floor. The path is clearly labelled.
Find out more about the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo here.
13:00 Dubai Mall
Spend the rest of your day wandering around Dubai Mall, the biggest mall in the UAE with over 1200 shops. The mall covers an area of more than 1 million m2, which is equivalent to 200 football pitches.
Popular parts of the mall that you should visit are Fashion Avenue (ground floor), where all the luxury brands reside, the Dubai Dino Display (ground floor), and the Human Waterfall (ground floor).
For lunch, you can head to Le Gourmet (2nd floor) in Galleries Lafayette, which serves food from 11 international kitchens or try one of the many restaurants and cafes scattered around the mall. There is a large selection of them in the lower ground floor, where you can also find luxury desert boutiques such as Bateel that sells delicious gourmet dates. For some casual fast food options, check out the food section on the 2nd floor.
The complex also houses a number of entertainment venues, such as the Dubai Ice-Rink (ground floor), Hysteria (2nd floor), and a VR Park (2nd floor).
Find out more about the Dubai Mall here.
18:00 Dubai Fountain
The Dubai Fountain is the tallest performing fountain in the world (you probably guessed it, right?) accompanied by music and light. To create the show, 22 000 gallons of water are jet from the fountain to a height of up 140m.
There are shows every half an hour starting at 6 pm until 11 pm. There are also two daytime performances at 1 pm and 1:30 pm. Each show lasts approximately five minutes.
There are different ways to enjoy the fountain show. You can dine at one of the restaurants overlooking the fountain (although it may be difficult to get a good seat); take an abra ride along the Burj Lake (payment required), walk along the Fountain boardwalk (payment required); get a standing spot in the courtyard or watch it from the balcony of the Apple Store (1st floor). The last two options are free, but you should get there early to grab a good spot. My advice is to get there as long as one show finishes and wait for the next one.
Day 3 – Luxurious Dubai
Day 3 includes visits to at least two luxury resorts in Dubai. Although the public cannot visit many areas of the resort, you can still get a glimpse of the glamor they offer.
10:00 Madinat Jumeirah
Madinat Jumeirah is a luxury hotel complex close to the seaside of Dubai. The public places of the complex include a replica of a traditional souk, a few cafes and restaurants and a short boardwalk. To see most of the resort you can take a ride in one of the traditional abra boats. There are both private and group rides.
Madinat Jumeirah is also popular for its view of Burj Al Arab, one of the most luxurious hotels in the world. You can spot it from some of the public places of the resort and from the abra ride.
Find out more about the Madinat Jumeirah Souk here, and the abra ride here.
How to get there?
Take the metro to the Mall of the Emirates station (Red line), and from there take a taxi to Madinat Jumeirah.
13:00 Mall of the Emirates
Afterwards head to the Mall of the Emirates, another huge mall in Dubai. The most impressive section of the mall is the interior of the Fashion Dome which reminds of European railway stations.
Apart from many shops and restaurants, there you can find the largest indoor ski resort in the UEA, Ski Dubai. The ski resort has a slope, a snow park, a zip line and other activities while maintaining a constant temperature of -4oC. There are different ticket types, depending on the activities you want to do and the duration of your visit. What about winter clothing and gear? Don’t worry they have a rental service for that.
For lunch, you can try one of the many restaurants next to the cinema. We tried Dean and Deluca and then we went for dessert at the Nutella Cafe. (Or we might first have been for dessert and then for lunch…). Despite the name, I found the cafe to be rather disappointing and the Magnum bar right across looked me promising!
Find out more about the Mall of the Emirates here and about Ski Dubai here.
How to get there (from Madinat Jumeirah)?
Take a taxi from Madinat Jumeirah to the Mall of the Emirates. There is a taxi rank at the entrance of the Madinat Jumeirah Souk.
16:00 Palm Jumeirah
The Palm Jumeirah is one of the largest man-made islands in the world and is located next to the Dubai Marina. The island features many luxury hotels and restaurants.
One of the most popular resorts is Atlantis, The Palm which even has a water park and an aquarium. The resort has also some public areas with shops and restaurants, although they are rather touristy. Try to book dinner in one of the hotel’s restaurants to enter the other areas in the hotel.
Other activities on the island, include the Palm Jumeirah Boardwalk which circulates the island and Skydive Dubai. Alternatively, you can visit one of the other “leaves” of the Palm Island, such as the Pointe Hotel. From there you can watch the evening Palm Fountain show. The show starts daily at 6 pm, lasts about 3 minutes and repeats every half an hour.
How to get there (from the Mall of the Emirates)?
The island is connected using a driverless monorail which (at the moment) has four stops starting from the foot of the island up to the Atlantis, the Palm. Take it during daytime (to get to the island) to have a panoramic view of the leaves of the palm.
Take a taxi to the Monorail entry station, and then the monorail to the stop you want to get off. If you want to save money then you should take a taxi all the way to Palm Island (or take the metro red line to Dubai Internet City and then a taxi from there), as the monorail is quite expensive (AED20 one-way/AED30 return per person).
Day 4 – Outdoors Dubai
As you can guess from the title, most of the activities of this day are outdoors and allow you to enjoy Dubai’s (manmade) nature. Expect a sandy morning, a floral afternoon and an illuminated evening.
08:00 Morning Desert Tour
Complete your trip to Dubai with a morning desert tour. (Remember to confirm the starting time of your tour.) There are many companies that offer tours of the desert, each providing different activities. Some examples of activities you can encounter in desert tours are dune bashing, camel riding, sandboarding, and a break in a desert camp.
Each company has its own designated area in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. The reserve is dedicated to protecting the natural life and biodiversity of the Arabian Desert. Hence, while there you may spot mammals such as oryxes and gazelles that live there.
When we visited, we booked the morning safari tour with Arabian Adventurers. They use airconditioned 4×4 vehicles to get you in the desert. Each car fits up to 8 people, but if you want to have a more private experience you can choose a private car (although you can still mingle with other people at the stops of the tour).
How to get there?
Usually, there will be a pick up from your hotel (or a nearby location) and then drop off at the same place at the end of the tour.
14:00 Dubai Miracle Garden
The Dubai Miracle Garden is one of the largest natural flower gardens in the world. The park measures 72 000m2 full of flower-made structures. Some of the most famous ones include an Emirates A380, a Micky Mouse, a Floral Castle, a Floral Clock and much more.
You can have lunch before visiting the gardens, or you can get something quick from there.
If you have time, you can then visit the Dubai Butterfly Garden, which is right next door. The Dubai Butterfly Garden has one of the world’s largest collections of butterflies. In total, there are 15 000 butterflies from 26 species.
Find out more about Dubai Miracle Garden here.
Alternative: Visit IMG Worlds of Adventure, the largest indoor theme park in the world, with rides for all ages. If you choose this option, you will most probably not have time to visit the last attraction of the day.
Find out more about IMG Worlds of Adventure here.
How to get there?
The most straightforward way to get there is to take a taxi/Uber from your accommodation. There is the option to get there by public transport (metro to Mall of the Emirates and then bus No. 105) but it will take much longer.
Follow similar public transport directions for the IMG Worlds of Adventure, with the difference that after the Mall of the Emirates you should take a taxi as there is no bus that connects the two.
17:00 Dubai Garden Glow
The Dubai Garden Glow is a seasonal light festival with many illuminated exhibits. There are five different sections: Glow Park, Dino Park, Ice Park, Magic Park and Art Park. In Glow Park, all the light exhibits are handcrafted. The Dino Park showcases 120 animatronic Dinosaurs, where the Ice Park features wild animals sculptured with ice. The Magic Park is full of optical illusions utilising the visual arts and the Art Park is an eco-friendly part of the exhibition that expresses different ideas.
Find out more about Dubai Garden Glow here.
Alternative: If the Garden Glow festival is not open when you visit, you can go to the Dubai Festival City. There you find a mall, with many shops and restaurants (including a Hard Rock Cafe), a waterfront promenade with great sunset views of the Dubai Skyline and a lovely outdoor area. Besides, there is a remarkable fountain show with lights and music daily starting at 7:30 pm and every half an hour until late.
Find out more about Dubai Festival City here.
How to get there (from Dubai Miracle Garden)?
The easiest way to go to Dubai Glow Park is to take a taxi/Uber from the Miracle Garden. With public transport, you need to take bus 105 back to the Mall of the Emirates metro station, and then take the metro to
Al Jafiliya Station (Red line). The park is 30 minus on foot from there, so it’s better to take a taxi to do the final leg. Again, it can take more than 1 hour to do this route with public transport, while it is less than half an hour driving.
For Festival City, the directions (and route duration) are about the same. The difference here is that if you choose public transport, you need to get off at Deira City Centre metro station (Red line) and then take bus 53.
Day 5 – Yas Islands Theme Parks (Part I)
The last few days of the trip focus on enjoying all the thrill rides of the world-class theme parks in Yas Island.
In general, Yas Island is the top destination of leisure activities in Abu Dhabi, with two theme parks, a waterpark, a vertical wind tunnel, a beach, a formula track, a golf course, hotels, restaurants and more.
Find out more about Yas Island here.
10:00 Abu Dhabi
Check out from your hotel in Dubai and make your way to Abu Dhabi. Leave your luggage at your accommodation and then continue to Yas Island.
How to get there?
See detailed instructions for moving between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the planning your trip section, but in simple terms take a taxi from your hotel in Dubai to your hotel in Abu Dhabi.
11:00 Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
The Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is an indoor theme park in Yas Island. It is the first Ferrari-branded theme park that briefly transports you to Italy. Overall, the park is divided into four zones: Family Zone, F1 Zone, Italian Zone and Adventure Zone.
In total, the park has 37 rides. Some of the most popular ones (and my personal favourites) include the Flying Acre, which has the largest roller coaster loop in the world at 63m, the Formula Rossa which reaches a speed of 250km/h in 4.9 seconds and the Turbo Track that crosses through the middle of the park towards the sky.
Of course, there is a Ferrari Simulator, many merchandise options and an opportunity to test drive a real Ferrari car (extra payment required). Finally, two brand new experiences you can try (they were under construction when I visited) are Roof Walking and Zip Lining (extra payment required).
Find out more about Ferrari World Abu Dhabi here.
How to get there?
If you are staying in one of the Yas Islands hotels, then you may want to check for a shuttle bus option with your hotel. Otherwise, I suggest taking a taxi to Ferrari World. A few hotels in Abu Dhabi are part of a The Yas Express route to Yas Island, so keep that in mind when selecting hotels.
19:00 Yas Mall
For dinner head to Yas Mall next door. Apart from numerous local and international food chains, you can find many shops as well.
Find out more information about Yas Mall here.
Day 6 – Abu Dhabi Sightseeing
Spend a day sightseeing in Abu Dhabi. You will probably need a couple of days to see all the main sights of the city, but below there is a selection of three of the main sights that you can easily explore in one day.
As the attractions below are all located in different parts of the city it will be easier to move around using a taxi. This will also allow you to spend more time at the places of interest rather than commuting.
10:00 Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the largest mosques in the world, welcoming visitors from around the globe. The Grand Mosque is renowned for its architecture which showcases different architectural styles from various Muslim civilisations. Overall, it can welcome up to 40 000 people daily, so a prior reservation to avoid long queues is necessary.
There are no signs around the mosque so if you want to learn more about it, you may need to take one of the daily free cultural tours in English that require no reservation and should last approximately 45 minutes. There is one almost every hour. Besides the tours, there are audio guides in 11 languages.
To visit the mosque visitors must adhere to a strict dress code: both men and women need to wear long, loose-fitting, ankle-length trousers or skirts. In addition, women must wear a headscarf. People who abide by the above will be given a robe to put on top of their clothes. Shoes must not be worn inside the mosque. Photography and videography inside the mosque are only allowed for personal use.
Find out more about Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque here.
13:00 Louvre Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the first museum of its kind in the country. It spans along 9200m2 and its galleries feature loans from important French Museums, such as the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Centre Pompidou.
The architecture of the museum is inspired by many parts of Arabian life. An example is the lace dome which was designed to resemble the palm leaves and the light patterns that emerge from them.
In total, at the museum, there are 12 galleries with exhibits from the pre-historic era to the 20th century. Additionally, there is a wealth of activities, such as museum tours and workshops, as well as kayaking at the museum (extra charge). If you need an audio guide of the museum, it is available as a mobile application.
Find out more about the Louvre Abu Dhabi here.
16:00 Observation Deck at 300
The Observation Deck at 300 is located at Tower 2, one of the five Etihad Towers n the city. It is located on level 74 and it is the highest viewing platform in Abu Dhabi. The Observation Deck at 300 (metres) has a café and part of the entry ticket can be redeemed there. One of the most famous activities is to have afternoon tea while enjoying the views. Reservations are recommended.
Find out more about Observation Deck at 300 here.
Alternative: If you prefer a cheaper activity, visit the Abu Dhabi Marina. There you can find the Marina Eye (a large ferry wheel) and the Marina Mall. A short walk from there, you can find one of the tallest free-standing flag poles in the world with the Abu Dhabi flag hanging from there. Right next to the flag pole, there is a point that offers amazing skyline views of Abu Dhabi. Note that en route to the viewpoint you will pass by Heritage Village, a tourist attraction about the culture of UAE. Unfortunately, on most days it closes at 4 pm, so it will most probably be closed by the time you get there.
Abu Dhabi Sightseeing Tour Bus
An alternative way to move around Abu Dhabi is to use one of the hop-on-hop-off buses. As you only have a day in Abu Dhabi, it is a great way to see many of the main sights of the city in a short amount of time.
Big Bus Tours Abu Dhabi [AD] offer sightseeing tours around the city. There are two routes, the City Tour (Red Route) and the Island Tour (Green Route). The full tour of each route lasts about 1 hour and 30 minutes and passes from all the main sights. Both routes start from the Abu Dhabi Mall at 9 am.
To cover all three places of interest mentioned above, you should rearrange the order of visiting them a bit. Firstly, you should take the Red Line route at 9 am and get off at the Emirates Palace. From there, visit the Emirates Palace as the Observation Deck at 300 opens later in the day. Other stops you can get off are the Heritage Village, the Marina Mall and the Presidential Palace. Then, you should return to the starting point and change for the Green Line tour. On that route, get off at The Louvre, and then once you finish, continue to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. As you will most probably have taken one of the last buses of the day to get there, you may have to return to your hotel using a taxi.
Remember, that if you choose this option, you should be a bit more focused on the time, as there is only one bus every 30 minutes. Lastly, note that this option might be more expensive than using taxis to move around, as an online tour bus daily ticket costs around AED250.
Day 7 – Yas Islands Theme Parks (Part II)
This is the last full day in the UAE and it is dedicated to Warner Bros World theme park. After that, pack your bags and get ready for the return journey.
10:00 Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi
Warner Bros Abu Dhabi is an indoor theme park on Yas Island. It is one of the largest theme indoor theme parks in the world and the first Warner Bros theme park. The park is divided into 5 lands: Bedrock, Dynamite Gulch, Cartoon Junction, Gotham City and Metropolis.
In total, the park has 29 rides and shows. Some of my favourite rides were: Riddler Revolution, a spinning thrill ride, Fast and Furry-ous, a quick and fun ride, Green Lantern: Galactic Odyssey, a 4D flying theatre experience, and Superman 360: Battle for Metropolis, a 360o and 3D show ride.
Don’t forget to look around the park for photo opportunities such as with Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Scoopy-Doo, Batman and Superman.
Find out more about Warner Bros World here.
How to get there?
Follow the same directions as for Ferrari World on Day 5.
Collect your luggage from your hotel in Abu Dhabi and return to Dubai for your return flight. Depending on the time of your flight, you may want to spend a night at a hotel close to the airport, before leaving the city.
How to get there?
The easiest way is to take a taxi to Dubai. For more options and advice check out the planning your trip section.
أتمنى لك رحلة جميلة!
(‘atamanaa lak rihlat jmil!)
All photos were taken using the camera Sony ILCE-5100 [AD] and the 16-50mm [AD] or 55-210mm [AD] lense unless otherwise specified.
P.S. The above means “Have a nice trip!” in Arabic!
P.S.II I followed the trend of the longest, largest, biggest, etc. too, as this is my longest post I have ever written, with more than 7000 words! This is longer than a university essay! So, thank you for reading this all the way to the end, and if you have a moment, share it with your friends or leave a comment with your thoughts!!
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This Post Has 29 Comments
I only got a chance to stop by Dubai during my transit once last year. I managed to stop by some important spots in the city although I got there at midnight so even the souks were already close when I got there. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite destination, but I certainly didn’t regret my decision to leave the airport and see what’s in there! 🙂
Yeah, there’s so much to see in Dubai!
The place is really good, also you looks good in the picture. Dubai is one of the best place to stay, to travel, to work and to live. Also it is very safe to be here. Thanks for sharing this information, subscribed your blog.
Such a great itinerary! Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi our on my bucket list!
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are not especially on top of my bucket list but I can see that there are many things to do there! And many photogenic places! So good to know if I have a layover there 🙂
Yes, a long layover is a great excuse to explore Dubai!
This is an amazing itinerary. I still have yet to go to that part of the world, but it is definitely on my bucket list at some point in the future. 🙂
Thank you! I hope you manage to visit too 😀
Lovely post Elina filled with all i would need to know to plan a solid itinerary! My last visit to Dubai was in 2009, and so much has changed since then! I really wish to return this year so i am saving this!
Thank you! I’m glad that you found this helpful!
What a great an detailed itinerary Elina! 🙂 I haven’t been to the UAE yet so this will be very helpful for the future!
Thank you Lina! I hope you get to visit the UAE soon!
What a detailed guide! Will definitely keep this handy for a future trip to Dubai. It has been on my list for so long!
Thank you! I’m glad you found this guide helpful!
Great post! Thank you for giving so much detail, this will be so helpful when I’m planning my trip. Dubai and the UAE is really high on my list to travel to post Covid so this will be so helpful. Thank you!
Thank you! Let’s hope the post-Covid era is not too far away!
WOW! such a detailed and beautiful guide. Thank you for sharing and showing all the amazing things we can do, and illustrate it all with beautiful pictures. I haven’t been yet, but I will make sure when I get to visit, I have at least a full week to explore.
Thank you and I’m glad that you liked it! I hope you get to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi soon!
You packed so much in only 7 days! And you were so lucky to already be there when the pandemic started. I’m glad to see 2020 didn’t ruin absolutely everything xD It looks like it was an amazing trip, full of amazing sights 🙂
Indeed it was, and I am glad that we didn’t end up cancelling it as other people told us
I love how detailed this is!! I haven’t been to Dubai yet, but I can’t wait to go! I didn’t realize how much there is to see and do there!
Yes, there are quite a lot of things to do! I hope you get to visit Dubai soon!
Dubai seems like a really cool city. I am absolutely in love with the architecture there, and the Grand Mosque is nothing short of stunning. I really had no idea there was so much to do in Dubai & UAE, and I’d really love to visit one day… hopefully soon.
Yes, there are so many things to do there that it’s difficult to choose. I hope you get to visit the UAE soon!
Love this. What a detailed itinerary with so many great tips. Thanks for sharing and saving this for later.
I’m glad that you liked it!
Great post Elina!! We finally made it possible to visit Dubai, a quite different destination from others we have already visited, Even if we had been in the pandemic situation. You planned a good itinerary that enabled us to visit the most interesting sights in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Your post is well written and very helpful to anyone who wants to travel to the UAE. Keep up the good work?
Thank you, Mary! I’m glad you enjoyed our trip to Dubai!