The Perfect 3 Day Dubai Itinerary

Updated April 2024, The Perfect 3 Day Dubai Itinerary was originally published in May 2021

Until recently, I’d only visited Dubai on a series of 12 hour layovers while traveling to and from other destinations in the Middle East and Central Asia over the past decade. On my most recent trip, I finally decided to plan a 3 day Dubai stopover, finally making the time to take in some of the best Dubai has to offer.

This 3 day Dubai itinerary is based on some of my favorite things to do in and around the city.

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Pool views from the Al Bandar Rotana Dubai Creek

Where to Stay in Dubai

  • Budget: For budget travelers, the Bollywood Beach Hostel comes highly recommended.
  • Midrange: I opted to stay at the Al Bandar Rotana Dubai Creek, which was the perfect choice in my opinion. The room prices were in the right range and the hotel is located near the Deira and Bur Dubai highlights.
  • Splurge: A favorite among those looking to splurge on a room with an epic view, the Shangri-La Hotel is where to book.

How to get around in Dubai

Metro: The Dubai Metro can get you around to a majority of the tourist sites around the city. Tickets are priced based on how many zones you will be traveling through, costing 4-8 AED per journey. If you will be using the Dubai Metro a lot each day I’d recommend buying a day pass for 22 AED per day.

Abra: Abras (also called dhows) are small traditional boats used to cross Dubai Creek. So if you need to pass from one side to another, head to one of the several abra docks, a trip across will cost you 1 AED.

Bus: Dubai has a pretty extensive public bus system that connects just about any destination in the city. Bus tickets are connected with metro tickets, meaning that if you buy a day pass, it will work on both modes of transport.

Taxi: Good news, taxis are regulated in Dubai. Fares are metered and you can even pay by credit card for your ride. I found taxis to be quite a bit cheaper than Uber while staying in Dubai, sometimes 1/2 the cost!

Uber/Careem: Both Uber and Careem are popular in Dubai. Slightly more expensive than taxis, but gives you the ability to schedule trips. 

Deira Grand Souk

The best time to visit Dubai

The best time to visit Dubai is between November to March when temperatures are more bearable. In April temperatures begin to climb, seeing above 40° by May. June, July, and August are extremely hot and humid making most outdoor activities next to impossible.

In September and October temps begin to cool down, being pleasant again by November.

What to wear in Dubai

Dubai and the UAE are quite liberal-minded regionally speaking, so the dress isn’t as strict as other countries in Arabian Peninsula, however, opting to cover knees and shoulders is a good rule of thumb.

3 Day Dubai Itinerary: Day 1

At.mosphere Restaurant, Dubai, Burj Khalifa, Burj Khalifa breakfast, At.mosphere breakfast, Dubai breakfast
The first round of breakfast at At.mosphere

Sunrise breakfast at At.mosphere

Wake up with Dubai from 122 stories above the city. The sunrise breakfast at At.mosphere Restaurant in the Burj Khalifa is a true highlight and in my opinion well worth the splurge. I’d always wanted to do this, but never had been able to make it there on a layover, so knowing I had 3 solid days in the city this was at the top of my Dubai bucketlist.

Reservations are required, you can make reservations directly through At.mosphere here. I would recommend you try to do this at least two days in advance to make sure it isn’t fully booked. Note that you will need to spend a minimum of 200 AED per person.

Despite being more of a backpacker-style traveler, the breakfast at At.mosphere is a bit of splurge, but if you can swing it I highly recommend it (I love a great and unique dining experience!). If you want the full experience, opt for the Decadence Breakfast that allows you to try a little of everything, though this option comes in at 375 AED per person.

Breakfast begins at 7 am and continues until 10 am. From my experience, I recommend aiming for the 7 am time slot for the best lighting over the city.

Not to worry if you don’t want to splurge on an expensive breakfast but still want grand views from the top of the Burj Khalifa. You can always grab one of these deals on Burj Khalifa tickets to the 124th & 125th floors.

  • Cost: Minimum 200 AED per person for the breakfast at At.mosphere, 150 AED for Burj Khalifa at the top ticket.
  • Metro Stop: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall
Dubai Aquarium
The tunnel at Dubai Aquarium

Dubai Aquarium

Once you’ve finished up your breakfast at At.mosphere Restaurant head back down to Earth and pay a visit to the impressive Dubai Aquarium

At the Dubai Aquarium, you’ll get the chance to walk through the underwater tunnel watching all kinds of sharks and fish swim on by before you enter the Underwater Zoo to learn more about an array of sea life.

The Red Dunes in the Dubai Desert

Sunset Dunes Tour

Finish off your first day in Dubai with an excursion outside the glitz of the city with an afternoon sunset dune tour and Arabian BBQ. Several operators offer variations of these trips, but from my personal experience, I highly recommend OceanAir Travels’ Premium Red Dunes & Camel Safari with BBQ at Al Khayma Camp.

These tours usually depart between 2 and 3 pm with a duration of 5-8 hours. They include dune bashing, camel ride, buffet bbq dinner at a tent camp, a chance to interact with falcons, and countless photo opportunities.

  • Cost: 251 AED per person

Read more about my Dubai Desert tour experience

3 Day Dubai Itinerary: Day 2

Get High on Dubai on a hot air balloon

Full disclosure, this is the one thing on this itinerary that I’ve not done (but intend to eventually on a return trip!) but came recommended by many friends that have taken a trip to Dubai. These Dubai Desert hot air balloon rides require an insanely early start with a pickup of 3:30-4:00 am, leaving the city in the dark of night to bring you to the desert to give you the experience of sunrise over the desert.

  • Cost: 1,350 AED+ per person

Go Snowboarding at the Mall of the Emirates

The hot air balloon experience typically ends mid-morning as the temperature begins to climb. To escape the heat head over to the Mall of the Emirates. Now those of you that follow my blog probably think I’ve lost my mind recommending that you take time out of your day to visit a shopping mall but hear me out…  

The Mall of the Emirates offers a few unique opportunities (for a shopping mall), including an indoor ski hill. If you’re like me and you grew up in Alaska or some other destination with an array of mountains and near-endless winter the ski hill won’t be the most exciting thing you’ve skied or ridden, but it is pretty wild to snowboard down a hill inside a giant refrigerator located inside a massive mall in the Middle East.

Not to worry if you don’t ski or snowboard either, there are huge windows from which you can observe riders… plus the Mall of the Emirates offers up countless other experiences. You can also go zip lining or have an encounter with penguins at Ski Dubai, try your skills at rock climbing at Go Sports Megastore, have a Nerf gun battle at Magic Planet, or even hop around at a trampoline park. 

  • Cost of Ski Dubai: 220 AED+ per person
  • Metro Stop: Mall of the Emirates

Dubai fountain show

If you still have some energy left, head back down to Burj Park to watch the impressive Dubai Fountain show. These shows run on a schedule from 6 pm to 11 pm.

  • Cost: Free
  • Metro Stop: Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall

3 Day Dubai Itinerary: Day 3

Old Dubai, viewed from an abra on the Dubai Creek

Explore Old Dubai

Dubai hasn’t always been the massive and sprawling metropolis it’s known as today. It has more humble beginnings, being a small village, in the beginning, settled by Bedouins.

The general area is known as Deira, which is the historic commercial center of Dubai. A must-see is the Al Fahidi Historical District (also called the Al Bastakiya District). Al Fahidi is home to several renovated traditional Emirati homes, as well as many galleries and delightful cafes.

Not to miss are the Gold Souk and Spice Souk of Deira, a true highlight.

  • Metro Stop: Al Ras or Gold Souk on the Deira side of Dubai Creek, Sharaf DG or Al Ghubaiba for the Al Fahidi side
Visiting a Khayma on the Heritage House tour

Take a Heritage House Tour

While you’re visiting Old Dubai, don’t miss the chance to learn about the historical part of the city, its traditional architecture, and even try some Emirati cuisine. After my visit, I recommend hopping on OceanAir Travels’ quick 1 hour Emirati Heritage House Tour for more insight into the wild history of Dubai from village to metropolis.

  • Cost: 59 AED per person
  • Metro stop: Sharaf DG or Al Ghubaiba

Check out my post about the Dubai Heritage tour

The beautiful blue water at Jumeirah Beach

Laze around at Jumeirah Public Beach 

Soak up the sun for your last afternoon in Dubai from Jumeirah Public Beach. Also, don’t forget to stick around until sunset to catch the sky changing colors with the Burj al Arab in the distance.

  • Metro stop: Financial Center or Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall, then take a taxi the remainder of the way.

Have any questions about this 3 Day Dubai Itinerary?

Ask in the comments section below.

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