30 Hour Stopover in Dubai – Our Experience And Some Tips

Kaspars MisinsAsia, Destinations, Travel Tips and Guides, Travels and Adventures, United Arab Emirates Comments

Stopover in Dubai - View of Burj Khalifa

Huh, it’s been a long week. Last Tuesday we left Portugal and started heading to Asia. And now, 7 days and 4 long flights later, we are in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia. As we already said few weeks ago, to make our trip from Portugal to Malaysia more interesting and to see some new places, we decided to make a few short stops along the way. At the same time sticking to our budget – flights from Portugal to Kuala Lumpur cost us 350 EUR per person.

Our stops were – Bucharest, capital of Romania (3 full days), Dubai (24+ hours) and Guanzhou (about 18 hours).

From Portugal to Bucharest and from Bucharest to Dubai we flew with Wizzair. If you are two people and you will have at least 2 flights each it’s worth to pay for joining a WIZZ Discount Club. From Dubai to Guanzhou and from Guanzhou to Kuala Lumpur we had a connecting flight from China Southern Airlines.

We will write about Bucharest and Guanzhou (did you know it’s possible to get 24/72 hour transit visa for free?)  in upcoming weeks, but now let’s start with our a little bit more than 24 hour stopover in Dubai, and what we learned during this time. Because it all started with Dubai. We made our route like this, because we wanted to visit Dubai. We both like skyscrapers. So Dubai always seemed like an interesting destination for us. But not for too long visit, that’s how we thought.

And we were right –  we enjoyed our time spent in Dubai, but we wouldn’t want to live there for more than a week or two. Not now at least.

Dubai skyline - Stopover in Dubai

Dubai skyline

DXB and DWC airports – getting from one to another

There are 2 international airports in Dubai – Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Dubai Word Central (DWC, Al Maktoum International Airport). Wizzair is operating from DWC, but China Southern Airlines, like most of other airlines, are operating from DXB.

So it  meant – we arrived in DWC, but our flight from Dubai to Guanzhou was from DXB airport. Distance between these airports is about 65 kilometers. Using public transport journey from DWC to DXB takes about 2 hours. But it depends at what time you are arriving, because there is only 1 bus from DWC every hour.

We arrived in Dubai late in the evening. And on the same evening we wanted to get to DXB airport. Because very close to it is an office of Department of Tourism (Visit Dubai). And we had an appointment with them. Thank you, guys, for tickets to Burj Khalifa Observation Deck! That was really cool!

To use public transport in Dubai you need to buy a Nol Card. Nol Silver Card is the best choice for a short visit. It costs 25 AED, and you have a credit of 19 AED.

To get from DWC to DXB we first took a bus F55, from DWC to Ibn Battuta Metro Station. It runs every hour during the metro operational hours. And then metro directly to Dubai International Airport (DXB) Terminal 1. If you want to get to somewhere else in Dubai, take the same bus and the same metro, but get out of metro at your station. The same metro is running through the central part of Dubai and it stops also at Burj Khalifa/Mall of Dubai.

Here I must add, that metro in Dubai is very modern, fast and inexpensive. DWC airport to DXB airport (including long bus ride), DXB airport to Burj Khalifa, Burj Khalifa to Dubai Marina and back, Burj Khalifa to DXB for both of us cost only 80 AED (about 20 EUR).

Central part of Dubai - Stopover in Dubai

Central part of Dubai

Stopover in Dubai & sleeping in DXB airport

At the very last moment we made a decision not to book any hotel or hostel in Dubai, and instead to spend a night at DXB airport. Dubai is an expensive destination. And we knew it. Even though the cheapest hotel rooms aren’t too expensive – they start at about 30 EUR per night – by law you as a couple aren’t allowed to stay in one room if you aren’t married and can’t provide a marriage certificate.

But the only hostel in Dubai, judging by reviews, is a hard to find “apartment turned into hostel”. Since we knew, that it could be close to a midnight, when we would arrive to that part of Dubai, we decided not to risk with a chance of staying on the street for a whole night. Airport in this situation seemed like much better choice. Only thing we weren’t sure about is, if we will get in without showing our boarding passes. Online check-in for our next flight wasn’t open yet.

But it’s not a problem. We get to the airport and we get in. Dubai International Airport is world’s busiest airport. It’s open 24/7 and there are flights coming and going all the time. Only problem in our situation is, that in the part of the airport before security control there aren’t any places, where to lay down. However, there are quite a lot of chairs, so it’s not a problem to find a place, where to sit. And there is unlimited internet, which helps us to spend a night. But, again, I can’t find any place, where to charge our phones.

Where to leave your bag in DXB airport? There is a storage room in Terminal 1, Arrivals hall. It costs 20 – 25 AED for every 12 hours. Initially we planned to leave the airport and go to city with a first metro, at about 6 AM. But then, learning that at storage room they charge you for every 12 hours, we decided to leave at about 8 AM. So we could have a chance to see The Dubai Fountain’s daily performance at 6 PM and return before 8 PM.

Heading out to city

If on our way from DWC airport to Dubai city center we saw a lot of shops selling cars, often very expensive cars, and shopping malls, then traveling from DXB airport you see mostly residential houses. At first and for quite a time it looks like any other bigger city, only without too much of greenery, but then it changes. Metro is no more going under the ground. And there are shiny skyscrapers wherever you look. A lot of them! What surprises me though is that I notice only few mosques.

We continue driving on metro for some more time. And then, seeing that we Burj Khalifa isn’t too far away anymore, we decide to get out and walk there. I also simply can’t wait to get out and start taking photos. And we want to have a breakfast somewhere on our way, too. Because of this simplicity of travel I like metro system like in Dubai, where you can get out where you want and just pay for the distance traveled. You don’t need to decide about your destination before getting on the train.

View from Dubai metro station - Stopover in Dubai

View from Dubai metro station

We find a supermarket, and buy something that looks like pizza and also yogurt for our breakfast. Prices in supermarket look really good. But supermarket itself is like supermarket everywhere in the world. Only this one is also very tidy and it looks flawless from the inside.

After breakfast and some hour of just wandering around we are ready to head to the Burj Khalifa, which at the height of 829,8 meters (2,722 ft) is the tallest building in the world. We walk for some time and soon we realize, that, nope, it’s not that easy here. Similar like in Hong Kong, there aren’t that many pedestrian crossings. Instead here to cross the street you need to go through, for example, metro station. As we will see later on the same day, it can make it also a very long walk. So we opt for a metro, which takes us to Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall just in 2 minutes.

Here our plan was to visit the Burj Khalifa Observation Deck and to take a look on Dubai from above. There are 2 options: you can go to Level 124 or to Level 148. Tickets can be purchased in Dubai Mall, LG floor, and online, from the website of the Burj Khalifa. It’s not cheap, tickets start at 125 AED (about 30 EUR), but the views from the top are astonishing. Actually there is one more option – you can dine at At.mosphere restaurant on 123rd floor of the Burj Khalifa, which costs even more. But, hey, how often do you eat in such a places.

Looking down from an observation deck of Burj Khalifa - Stopover in Dubai

Looking down from an observation deck of Burj Khalifa – Stopover in Dubai

More our photos from Dubai you will find here, on our Facebook page!

Next we wanted to see more of Dubai Mall. Before we just walked quickly through in search of Burj Khalifa’s reception desk. The same as we like skyscrapers we both don’t like shopping. So we weren’t sure, what to expect from Dubai Mall, world’s largest shopping mall, which is connected to the Burj Khalifa. This mall is massive! Apart from more than 1200 shops, there is an ice skating rink, skate park, one of the world’s biggest aquariums, cinema, medical center and so much more. Though, if you want to go snowboarding or skiing, you will need to go to the Mall of the Emirates, which also is in Dubai.

Very interesting at first – because everything looks just so perfect, all these designer shops and so on – walking in Dubai Mall soon becomes tiresome. Finding an exit there can be challenging. Finding the right exit – even more challenging. Not surprising, that in the evening, when going to see The Dubai Fountain’s daily performance we will spend more than half an hour walking only to get to the other side of mall and to exit it at the right place. And we will see also others struggling to do the same.

Random fact – nowhere else I have seen this much designer clothing shops for kids.

Dubai Mall - Stopover in Dubai

Dubai Mall

From Dubai Mall we take a metro to Dubai Marina. Not that we want to see something particular there, but there are more impressive skyscrapers and also beach. It’s not a long beach, but the sand and the water look nice, and there are people swimming. And, well, if not because of that one man on a camel, it looks almost like in Europe, not like in a Muslim country. Later, coming back from Dubai Marina, we understand, how tired we are. During the night we almost didn’t sleep at all, and now we start to feel it. Our eyes are closing.

But anyway it’s already late afternoon, and now there is just one more thing we want to do in Dubai – to see The Dubai Fountain’s performance. It’s a daily show. It’s for free. And it happens just in front of Burj Khalifa. During the midday and in the evening, after the sunset. The one during the day we saw partly, because we happened to be at the right place and at the right time. But what we want to see more is evening show with all the lights and illuminated Burj Khalifa.

We miss the first show, because we can’t find the right exit in Dubai Mall. But we are just in time for the next performance. And it’s so cool! Standing there and watching it reminds us once again, why we have chosen to collect moments not things.

After the show we head to metro, the same like thousands of others. But we are lucky enough (and fast as well), because we need to wait just some 5 minutes. First metro train is completely packed. But we get into the second one. And it takes us to the airport.

Dubai metro - Stopover in Dubai

Dubai metro

Waiting for the flight to Guanzhou & last minute realization

Our 30 hour layover in Dubai is coming to an end. And after 6 hours, at 2 AM, we will have a long-haul flight to Guanzhou. But it’s still 6 hours. We are very tired. We want to lay down somewhere. And it’s still 3 hours until the check-in starts. China Southern Airlines lets you check in up to 2 bags for free. And we have decided to use this option.

We have only 2 backpacks between us. But we repack our stuff the way, that Una now has only very small bag with her on the plane. We will stop in Guanzhou. But for that one afternoon there we don’t need all our things. So, why not send most of it directly to Kuala Lumpur, when there is such a choice and it doesn’t cost you a dime. Exactly, why not?

Queue is long, across all the hall (apparently Chinese like to start queuing early), but check-in process goes fast. Security control and passport control are the same as efficient. And soon we are near our gate, waiting for the flight, where we could finally rest for some 8 hours. Our phones and my iPad all have turned off already, but my camera is running low on battery. So we are happy to find electrical sockets just near by the seats.

If you are flying with China Southern Airlines and you have at least 8 hour long layover in Guanzhou, they provide you with free accommodation. We found out it accidentally, but it made us very happy.

However now, waiting for the flight, I have decided to double check it. And here comes last minute realization – wait, what, we still need to book a hotel? Yes, that’s exactly what it says. You should go to the website of China Southern Airlines and book a hotel (choose from what they are offering). And you should do it at latest 24 hours before departure. Sh*t! I don’t want to search for a hotel tomorrow…

I quickly write an email to them – explaining our situation and that we missed this fact – and boarding starts. After less than 9 hours we will be already in Guanzhou.

Taking a photo of Burj Khalifa - Stopover in Dubai

Burj Khalifa – Stopover in Dubai

For more travel tips check out the official website of Dubai Tourism office – Visit Dubai!

If you still have some questions about Dubai, contact us!

Author: Kaspars Misins

Kaspars is a long term traveler and travel blogger from Latvia. He loves going on long walks, reading non fiction books and spending time outdoors. Together with his girlfriend Una they are traveling – volunteering – working abroad since 2013. On WeAreFromLatvia.com they share their experience and things learned along the way.

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