How to Spend 4 Days in Dubai

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So, you only have 4 days in Dubai? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. While four days may not seem like a lot of time in a destination, that’s actually a pretty good amount of time to spend in Dubai. Will you see everything? No. But, Dubai isn’t that big so you can see and do a lot. Here are suggestions for a Dubai itinerary for 4 days.

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Hannah in heart tunnel in Dubai's Miracle Gardens

When to go to Dubai

Dubai is located in the desert in the Middle East so you can bet that it gets really, really hot. The best months to go to Dubai are from September to April. This way you avoid the extreme heat and humidity and can have a more pleasant time exploring. I went at the end of November and it was still quite hot, hovering around 30C every day.

Note: Yes, Dubai is hot but you do need to be respectful of the local culture and dress appropriately. Check out my guide for what to wear in Dubai for some ideas and tips.

Getting to Dubai

Chances are if you are visiting Dubai you are flying in. Most visitors to Dubai will fly directly into Dubai. Emirates flies here as do several other airlines. However, depending on cost and where you are flying from you might arrive from Abu Dhabi which has its own airport (and airline: Eithad). Dubai and Abu Dhabi are only about 1.5 hours’ drive from each other so if it can help cut travel costs, it might be worth looking into. 

Getting Around Dubai

Dubai creek as seen at sunset

Dubai is not very well built when it comes to public transit. Yes, there is a bus and metro system but the connections aren’t great and it can take a very long time to get around. However, it’s also super cheap which is a huge advantage in Dubai.

Most people who visit Dubai get around by using taxis or uber. Personally, with only 4 days in Dubai, I would recommend uber as much as possible to save on time. After all, sitting on a bus isn’t quite the Dubai experience I think most people come for. However, it’s worth mapping things out and doing a bit of research. If two places are really close to each other then a bus ride might not be such a bad deal.

As for walking, unless you are in the downtown core or browsing the souks of Old Dubai, forget it. Dubai, as a whole, is not pedestrian-friendly. After all, with scalding temperatures that creep up over 50C in the summer, it’s pretty impossible to walk outside for half of the year anyway.

Note, for any women travelling in Dubai, there are pink taxis which are for women as well as ladies-only cars on the metro. Now, Dubai is without a doubt one of the safest places I have ever been as a solo female traveller but, if you are more comfortable using those options then please do, that’s what they are there for.

Where to Stay in Dubai

I don’t think there is a bad place to stay in Dubai but there are definitely some that are better than others. I highly recommend staying in Downtown Dubai, especially if you are only in Dubai for 4 days.

Downtown Dubai is where you will find the mall of Dubai, the Burj Khalifa, tons of restaurants and cafes, and some of the nicest hostels. Yes, this part of the city is also a little bit more expensive but I think it’s worth it for a short trip. Downtown Dubai is the shiny, fancy, bright Dubai that everyone wants to see.

Looking for recommendations on where to stay in Dubai? Take a look at the following options:

How to Spend 4 Days in Dubai

So, you have 4 days in Dubai. How do you spend it? Well, I had the same amout of time and definitely made the most of it. I got to see and do quite a lot during my visit so here are my suggestions for a Dubai Itinerary.

Day 1 in Dubai: Miracle Gardens and Old Dubai

Morning: Dubai Miracle Gardens 

Welcome to Dubai! For the first day in Dubai, I’m going to suggest you start off visiting Dubai’s miracle gardens which is one of the most photographic places in the city and a lot of fun for people of all ages. I expect you will want to sleep in on your first day but don’t go too late because it is all outside and the sun can be quite hot. If you are just taking photos and exploring, you probably just need an hour here but I thought it was really fun and unique so I think it’s worth a visit. If I had to describe it, I’d said it would be like a floral Disneyland. Get your skip-the-line tickets here.

Afternoon: Old Dubai

Next up, head to Old Dubai. This area is located by the Dubai Creek which used to be a fishing village. While Old Dubai doesn’t have the same type of souks as you would find in Morocco or Egypt, it’s still fun to explore and see some older and more historical places in Dubai.

You’ll probably want to take a taxi or an Uber here, have them drop you off at the Textile Souk and you can start your exploring from there.

Souks worth visiting include the Gold Souk, the Textile Souk, the Perfume Souk, and the Spice Souk. You don’t have to buy, you can just look, but everyone will want you to come and look in their shop. A polite ‘no thank-you’ and smile is fine if you don’t want to go inside. If you do shop, make sure to haggle! Even at the gold souk!

colourful scarves in the Old Dubai textile Souk

Aside from the souks, there are a couple of museums in Old Dubai such as the Dubai Museum and the Coffee Museum. It can also be fun just to walk around, take photos, and grab a meal. Another must is to take one of the boats across the Dubai creek. These boats cross back and forth regularly and only cost 1 dirham. You can also take a private ride up and down the creek to do a bit of sightseeing. I did this and it only cost me $20CAD for 30 minutes and I had the boat to myself. I suggest timing your visit to the creek around sunset, it’s absolutely beautiful here.

I was fine wandering around Old Dubai on my own, but if you prefer you can take a guided tour with a local. Take a look at this option.

As for dinner, the Old Dubai area has lots of good restaurants so you can eat here or go to Downtown Dubai. 

Day 2 in Dubai: Explore Downtown Dubai and the Mall

Morning: Burj Khalifa & Downtown Photos

For your second day of Dubai, I suggest exploring downtown Dubai. I’ve saved this part of the city because for your second day because I suggest starting your day early with a sunrise visit to the Burj Khalifa. You can visit the Burj throughout the day but I went at sunrise and it wasn’t too crowded yet which meant I was able to move around and get photos easily. Plus, seeing the city from above at sunrise was pretty spectacular! My booking was for 7am in late November, and it was perfect.

Tickets to the Burj Khalifa can be quite pricey if you want the tour and 3 views. But you can also just get entry tickets to 2 viewing decks here for much cheaper.

After your sunrise viewing, wander around downtown Dubai a bit and take photos before it gets too hot. There are lots of great photo spots in the area and since it’s pretty early you won’t need to worry about waiting in long lines for your turn or having dozens of people in your photos. Great photo spots include:

  • The Wings of Mexico statue
  • The entrance to the Palace Hotel (with the big Horse and the Burj in the background)
  • The LOVE ME heart outside the Dubai Mall

Plus, lots of great spots to get photos of the Burj Khalifa around the Burj Khalifa Lake.

Afternoon: Dubai Mall 

After you explore downtown, beat the heat and head into Dubai Mall. Yes, the mall is worth a visit and not just for the air conditioning. The Dubai Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in the world and has several other attractions inside as well. If you are hungry for lunch, it’s also a good place to stop for a bite to eat. The Dubai mall has everything from quick and easy fast food stops to steakhouses, seafood and restaurants. There is a Lauderee café as well as an Eataly. Whatever you crave, whatever your budget, you can easily find a meal here.

While the shops and restaurants are a big draw of the Dubai Mall, as a tourist you will want to check out the main attractions. These include the following:

If you have kids, you might want to check out the VR Park or the Soft Play area as well.

Evening: Downtown Dubai Dinner

After the mall, head back to your hotel to freshen up for the evening and come back to downtown Dubai. As amazing as it is during the day, it’s even more incredible lit up at night. The Dubai Fountain show starts at 6pm and runs to 11pm. Shows run every 30 minutes so make sure to see that. You can watch from the shore or, if you want unimpeded views, take a boat tour on the lake.

For dinner, there are plenty of restaurant options downtown, especially around the Palace Hotel area which is quite central and easy to get to/from the Dubai Fountain area. I do recommend making reservations in advance, especially for weekends. If you prefer something more casual, then check out Time Out Market. It was one of my favourite places to eat in Dubai.

After dinner, you can always head to a bar for a drink or one of Dubai’s many clubs depending on your mood.

Day 3 in Dubai: Day Trip to Abu Dhabi

As I mentioned earlier, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are only about 1.5 hours apart so I definitely recommend making the day trip.

I booked this tour which picked me up and dropped me off at my hotel and showed us the highlights of Abu Dhabi including the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Qasr AlWatan, both of which are probably two of the most beautiful buildings I have ever seen. We also got to drive past the many royal palaces in Abu Dhabi and took in the views overlooking the Corniche and Emirates Palace from the Observation Deck at 300 which is located in the second tower at the Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers (as seen in Fast and Furious 7).

The tour will get you back to Dubai around 6pm or so, in time to freshen up before dinner and maybe even a night out in the city.

Day 4 in Dubai: Beach or Desert Day

Beach huts at La Mer Beach Dubai

For your last day in Dubai I have two options: beach or desert.

Dubai Desert Tours

If you have never been to the desert before then this is the perfect opportunity to do so. There are tons of great desert excursions, both half or full day, that will give you a fun desert experience. Whether you are interested in sandboarding, riding a camel, riding a quad, or even all of the above this is the place to do it.

Take a look at these tours:

Dubai Beach Day

If you have been to the desert before then you might prefer a beach day. For those on a budget, visit on of the free public beaches in Dubai such as Kite Beach, Jumeirah Public Beach, or La Mer. I went to La Mer which is lined with lots of shops and restaurants as well, it’s a fun scene good for all types of travellers including families.

If you want something more glamorous, then try one of Dubai’s many beach clubs. Most require reservations in advance so keep that in mind, especially on weekends. Also, do your research and choose one where the entry fee can be used towards food and drink. Try Nammos, Twiggy, DRIFT, or White Beach. (insider story: I tried to go to Nikki Beach club but was told they highly prefer couples and friends over solo travellers which made me feel incredibly unwelcome and awkward. So based on that treatment, I don’t recommend there).

Finally, you can also visit one of Dubai’s waterparks if you are looking for something a bit more active. Aquaventure Water Park at Atlantis Resort at The Palm is the most popular choice, but there are a couple of other options as well such as Wild Wadi Waterpark and AquaFun Water Park.

Food and Drink in Dubai

Dubai has a huge foodie scene and I barely scratched the surface of it. I loved eating at Time Out (try Folly Workshop, Fulvio’s, or Reif) and as I mentioned the malls have heaps of options too. If you are a real foodie I suggest checking out my friend Liam of Eat Go See. He is in the Dubai food scene and has a bunch of restaurant reviews on his website as well as on Instagram.

As visitors, note that while alcohol is available for purchase as tourists, it’s not easy to find outside of bars and clubs. It’s also quite common to find ‘dry’ restaurants in Dubai as alcohol is not part of the local culture.

Finally, if you are in Dubai on a Friday then Dubai Brunch is a big deal. I did not do this because I went to an American Thanksgiving dinner that night (and had more than enough to eat and drink then!). Brunch in Dubai is meant to be quite the affair and not at all like brunch as we know it in North America. Do your research in advance as there are lots of options for different budgets and be mindful of possible dress codes.

Final Tips for Dubai

Street art in Dubai

I had a lot of fun in Dubai. My four days were busy but enjoyable and I felt like I saw and did everything I wanted. Dubai is quite expensive, so I wouldn’t suggest this city to budget backpacker type travellers. However, you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy everything that Dubai has to offer as well.

Since Dubai is such a popular destination I highly recommend booking everything in advance; hotels, tours, and reservations for any beach clubs or restaurants. If you leave them until the last minute, you might end up missing out.

A Note on Travel Insurance in Dubai

Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.

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