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On my way to India I'm planning to stay one day in Dubai. I would arrive at 6am in the morning and leave at 3am the next day.

My naive plan is to lock my backpack at the airport and then walk into the city and around to see some of the architecture and then return to the airport in the evening.

So, two questions? Are there lockers or left luggage facilities at the airport? Is it possible to walk to/from the airport and in Dubai itself.

Is it worth spending more than a day, if I just want to look around a bit?

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Have you looked into the visa requirements? Staying in the airport you won't need a visa, but if you want to leave you will –  Gagravarr Feb 16 '12 at 14:26
    
@Gagravarr - Not as a German, you get a free stamp on arrival, good for 30 days. –  Peter Hahndorf Feb 16 '12 at 14:37
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Beware with the hotness! Two years ago I stayed one day at Dubai (like you, while waiting for the next flight) and it was the worst travel day in my life: more than 50ºC when we arrived at 9pm. It was in August, but I suppose this happens also in july. Take care! –  Ivan Feb 16 '12 at 16:13
    
@Gagravarr: "Staying in the airport you won't need a visa", reference please? I cannot find this info anywhere –  Adrien Be Dec 6 '13 at 22:19

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Um. You might want to start by investing in a guidebook or at least flicking through Wikivoyage Dubai.

The airport and the "city" (such as it is, Dubai is hugely sprawling) are most definitely not within walking distance; however, they are connected by the Dubai Metro, which will whisk you there in a few minutes. The only bit of the city that is really walkable is the souq in the "old" Dubai, next to Al Ras metro station, and you can always take an abra (ferry) across or down the creek. That said, Dubai is brutally hot for most of the year, so walking around is not feasible if you're there in summer or anywhere near it.

Yes, there is a left luggage facility at the airport, in each of the terminals in fact. The airport is ridiculously huge and you can while away hours there quite easily, especially if you're even slightly into shopping.

And as for if it's worth spending more than a day, the answer is "it depends". Do you like shopping in insanely huge shopping malls, resort hotels, and artificial attractions like the world's tallest building, theme parks, aquariums, and indoor ski slopes? Then the answer is "Yes". But otherwise, probably not, especially if you don't know anybody who can take you around and if you're on a backpacker budget.

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Thanks, the terminal to Al Ras is about 11km, so very walk-able in terms of distance. I will be there next week, so maybe it is not super hot yet. I will not do any shopping so I feel a day is enough. –  Peter Hahndorf Feb 16 '12 at 12:30
    
@PeterHahndorf: I found weather information here. It looks like the weather this time of year is reasonable: highs around 25-30 C, and comfortable humidity (dew points around 15 C). I might find it still a little warm for walking 11 km. You also might investigate if there are reasonable sidewalks; if nobody in Dubai walks anywhere there might not be, and you don't want to be walking along a high-speed expressway! –  Nate Eldredge Feb 16 '12 at 18:50
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@PeterHahndorf: "about 11km, so very walk-able in terms of distance". Since you would also want to get back to the airport that is about 4 hours non-stop walking. Since you'd also have to walk around the city, that could be quite exhausting. Not to mention that those 4 hours could be better spent actually seeing stuff than just getting there... –  thkala Feb 16 '12 at 20:31
    
@thkala - agreed, I will not walk both ways, maybe not even once. I did not know about the overground public transport. I will spend more time walking in the city. –  Peter Hahndorf Feb 16 '12 at 20:35

As jpatokal said, Dubai is a bit of a sprawling mess, and not much of a walkable city. Depending on your budget, you'd be best served taking cabs from place to place, especially if you're only there for a day.

Having spent a day or two there myself in 2010, I'd say the following were highlights:

  • Visit the souk, especially the gold portion to see all the shiny jewelry on display.
  • Take a ride on the public transit system. the stations are shiny and new with a futuristic feel to them, taking riders right past some of the most fantastic modern architecture going up in the city. you will see new construction of skyscrapers EVERYWHERE, with the Burj Khalifa obviously being the most impressive.
  • If you want to see the city at its most decadent, take the train to the Dubai Mall or the Mall of the Emirates, where you can go skiing or snowboarding indoors among other things.
  • Check out the "sailboat hotel" (Burj Al Arab) on the beach. I've heard it has one of the most lavish interiors of any building in the world - they have a restaurant/cafe, but I didn't go in because the prices were commensurate with the decor.
  • Go to the beach. Have a swim near the Burj Al Arab, and spot women on the beach there covered head-to-toe in burkas. (Edit: I recommend the Jumeirah Beach Park, which isn't so much "near" Burj Al Arab as "within sight of". It's a public beach, and much plainer than the ritzier, more developed beaches closer and south of Burj Al Arab. It's not as nice as other beaches, but you'll see more local people about and get a better feel for day-to-day life in Dubai. If it's the posh side you're looking for, look for beaches closer to and south of Burj Al Arab.)
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In general the tip to take the metro from the airport into town is a good idea, except when it is Friday. Being a Muslim country, Friday is a special day in the UAE and the metro only starts running at 1pm on Fridays.

Of course I got to Dubai on a Friday, but there should be buses right? Yes there are a bunch of them stopping in front of Terminal One. The problem is that you can't pay the driver but have to buy a ticket from the machine. With the metro station closed there is only one ticket machine at the whole huge airport. The ticket I wanted was the day pass and it was 16 dirham. Not only did the machine not give any change, it did not accept 'too' much money so I couldn't pay with two tens. I got some change, a tenner, a fiver plus a one coin. Well the coin slot did not work, so I couldn't get a ticket whatever I tried.

My original idea to walk into town did not seem like a good idea, it wasn't that hot but it was quite far and there were mostly freeways around the airport.

In the end I met a friendly fellow who gave me a spare re-loadable ticket and help me charge it with 15 dirham. 14 is actually enough for unlimited rides during one day. It deducts fares for the first few rides and then stops at 1 dirham, all further rides are free.

To answer my other two questions: I could check my luggage all the way through to India with Emirates because I spent less than 24 hours in Dubai. But, yes there are left luggage facilities in Terminal 3.

I could have spent more time than just one day in Dubai, there are enough things to see and the climate is actually nice in February with a nice breeze.

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It will be hot during the middle of the day.

Here is what I would do:-

  • Catch an early sight-seeing bus around the city (airconditioned and with commentary). You can get off at stops around the city if you see something especially interesting.
  • Then go to Wild Wadi. You can put your backpack in a locker there, and have a shower after the rides before returning to the airport.

So long as you take some protection from the sun, it will be cool and a good way to break-up a couple of flights.

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