19 Hours in Dubai – Your One Day Dubai Layover

19 hours in dubai - your one day dubai layover

Being in Dubai for just a day was a whirl wind! I mean seriously, it really was an interesting place to visit because it is so extravagant and has lots to offer. If you have the chance for a layover, you definitely should do it! Even as the kind of person who couldn't spend a whole week vacationing here - the fancy life style is just not me (or my budget) I had a great time on my layover in Dubai!

My flight got in at 6 am from Zambia which meant I had an over night flight before my 19 hour layover which sounded find in theory. Sleep on the plane, spend all day traveling, sleep on the plane again. In reality, I was so tired the whole day. I pretty much wore my sunglasses in all my pics so you couldn't see the circles under my eyes plus I fell asleep multiple times on my tour in the morning. OOPS. I felt a little bad for my tour guide, he was probably pretty annoyed talking to me as I was falling asleep... Also, Dubai is not cheap! Everything was opulent and expensive so it was probably good I was only there for a day because I spent more than usual on a single day of vacation and would probably spend way too much if I was there for longer. But really, I didn't spend more on a single event than I do on a normal vacation, it was just a lot to fit into one day.

So, here is how I spent my layover in Dubai. I recommend pretty much everything I did except for the overnight flight part - that was pretty miserable.

1. Burj Khalifa 1-2 hours $40

I did a ton of research around visiting the Burj Khalifa and I do have to say, it's a MUST when visiting Dubai. The building itself is so unique and has interesting architecture, but the view from the top is pretty much what takes the cake. It's the highest observatory in the world and you can see all of Dubai. It's wonderful!

I found a Groupon for the Burj that included a skip the line pass plus a drink and snack at the cafe. This ended up being perfect. Hopefully the Groupon is still around and you can take advantage of this offer. I also read about peak hours for the Burj - after 1 before 5 and after 8 until closing. I decided not to go during these times for two reasons, one because the Groupon couldn't be used at that time but also because I wanted to do it quick! Going right at 8:30 when it opened was the right choice.

Pro-tip: Go to the Burj at off peak times for your visit! I didn't wait in line at all (basically didn't need the skip the line pass) and got some great photos because basically no one was there.


2. City tour 3 hours $45

I was lucky enough to find a tour that ended up being private for just $40 (it wasn't supposed to be private but basically no body visits Dubai in the summer and I understand why - the heat is no joke!). The tour was fine and I definitely saw all the sites and had the chance to see different parts of Dubai, but like I said in the beginning, I am not huge on opulence and so I was unimpressed with some of the things I saw. If I could do it again, I'd spend the morning going to the Dubai Museum and then see the butterfly garden and flower gardens which look really cool instead of seeing all the hotels and beaches. They were too hot to really enjoy anyway!


Dubai has some of the most expensive and fancy hotels in the world. The architecture is definitely unique and interesting too.


Pro-tip: There are very nice beaches in Dubai that are open to tourists. We saw people wearing all different things at the beach including bikinis and full coverings. Summer is way too hot to really enjoy the beach though.


The Dubai Musuem had all information in English and was only s few US dollars. Highly recommend it if you want to understand the culture and history of this part of the world!


Souks are markets and there are a ton in Dubai. Dubai is known for it's gold and spices. I obviously did not go for shopping for gold, but I did buy a few spices! It was really cool to see all the different kinds there.

3. Dubai Mall 1 - 2 hours free

The Dubai Mall was crazy! Every store you could think of was there and there are lots of fancy things including an aquarium, giant fountains, and great city views. By this time in my trip, I had gone without western style food for a few weeks and jumped on the idea of having a burger and fries. I spent $22 on a burger and fries at Five Guys - told you Dubai is pricey! You can find tons of American chain restaurants there.

4. Desert Safari 6-7 hours $55

This was by far my favorite part of the whole day. We did dune bashing, sand boarding, camel rides, a great traditional dinner, drinks, smoked hookah, got henna tattoos, and watched a show. The guide was great and everything in the itinerary was just as expected. He even took me to the airport at the end of the tour (as I slept in the front seat). I definitely recommend doing a desert tour and experiencing the Arabian Desert while in Dubai.

The price felt like it was definitely worth it. They picked me up from the Dubai Mall right at 3:30 (although I had a really horrible time trying to find them and almost died from the heat). My guide dropped me off at the airport at 10 pm.

The only thing I was iffy about on this tour was the treatment of the camels. Some of them seemed way too skinny and unhappy. I did not personally ride one for this reason, but did feed them and pet them.

Pro-tip: When choosing an outfit for a layover like this, find something you can wear no matter where you go. I had hoped to enter a mosque (it ended up being closed), knew I was trying sand boarding, but also knew it'd be really hot. I found an outfit that suited all these activities!


So, this is how I spent my layover in Dubai -  a little history, a little culture, architecture, and adventure. Have you been to Dubai? What did you do on your layover? Happy to hear your ideas too!

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  • Michelle Chumbley

    Great ideas – sounds like you packed a lot in!

  • Hi Liz! I was able to do a desert safari while I was on my layover. It’s definitely a lot to pack in, but can be done. I was fell asleep in the car on the way to the airport after the desert safari! haha have fun on your trip!