Named the world’s busiest in 2023 for international passengers, Dubai International Airport (DXB) is a beautiful mega-hub uniting all corners of the world. And that probably means you’re going to have a 4 hour or longer layover here at some point.
But fret not. You won’t get bored at DXB Airport. Not on my watch.
Dubai International Airport is a lovely place to transit, and just like in the city, you’ll find everything you need for a wonderful layover. From excellent lounges (even if flying in economy class) to in-transit hotels to world-class dining, there’s something for everyone – whether you want to eat, sleep, work, or simply relax.
Compared to many of my other favorite layovers, Dubai is simply the best. Here’s why.
What is there to do inside Dubai International Airport on a layover?
- Find a spectacular airport lounge to unwind, dine, relax, and enjoy
- Shop until you drop – everything from duty-free to high end cosmetics
- Eat some of Dubai’s finest international cuisine
- Go for a long walk – my personal favorite (and healthiest layover activity)
- Get your game on – with top-of-the-line gaming systems inside the airport!
- Catch up on much needed sleep – from pods to hotels, all in the transit area!
- Work out, or even go for a swim at the best airport gym in the world – the G-Force Health Club
- Rinse off your long flight grime with a refreshing, free shower
- Unwind completely with top-of-the-line spa services, including reflexology and aromatherapies
- Breathe in some fresh air at DXB’s incredible Zen Gardens
Dubai International Airport: The 10 Ultimate Ways to Enjoy Your Layover Here
From world class lounges to the finest international fare you can find in an airport, a layover inside Dubai International Airport won’t just be great – it’s enthralling.
So if you’re transiting Dubai and you don’t want to leave the airport, there’s more than enough to do on a layover, even if you have 4 hours or more here.
1. Find the best airport lounge Dubai has to offer
Most airports these days have lounges, some more than others, but none have so many good ones. At DXB Airport, the problem isn’t finding a lounge; it’s choosing one.
Some offer pay-for-entry regardless of membership status or fare class, others are complimentary for PriorityPass members (as low as $99/year) then there’s the extravagant business and First Class Emirates lounges – an experience worth the extra ticket cost alone.
PriorityPass Lounges – totally worth it at DXB Airport
One of my favorite travel hacks as an Airline Pilot traveling the world is having Priority Pass membership, which includes complimentary lounge access at almost every international airport around the world. at DXB, it even includes free use of sleep pods. I use my membership practically every month.
At Dubai Airport, the PriorityPass Lounges are absolutely stupendous, and available in all of the terminals. So if you’re looking forward to a long layover at DXB, you should definitely consider signing up.
In fact, you can read about my Emirates lounge experience flying business class and how I actually preferred the PriorityPass lounge and regretted the Emirates one!
Right now, PriorityPass if offering up to 25% off yearly memberships. In just two lounge visits, you are already ahead vs. paying for one-time access. Just one if you bring a guest!
Here are the lounges you get complimentary access to with PriorityPass at Dubai:
Marhaba Lounges (Terminals 1, 2, and 3)
With locations in Terminal 1 (D), Terminal 2, Terminal 3 Gates (3 locations: A2/A3, B21, and C21/C23), the Marhaba Lounge is the centerpiece of Dubai Airport lounges. Large, offering decent amenities, and buffet-style food plus coffee, the Marhaba Lounge is often the most convenient one you can visit while transiting DXB Airport.
Pay-for-entry is also available, around $48USD.
Ahlan Business Lounges (Terminals 1 and 3)
Second to the Marhaba Lounges only in number, the Ahlan Lounges are oftentimes less crowded and more welcoming. You can find one in Terminal 1 (D) and Terminal 3 (2 locations: A1 & B26).
Pay-for-entry is also available, around $55USD.
The Galley (T3, near B9)
The Galley at DXB Airport is more of a restaurant offering buffet-style food and seating than a lounge, but I’d be remiss not to include it. The food here is excellent. There’s only one The Galley, and it’s in Terminal 3 near B9.
Pay-for-entry is also available, around $55USD.
SkyTeam Lounge (T1 D)
Last but not least, the SkyTeam Lounge is the nicest PriorityPass complimentary lounge in Terminal 1. A grand buffet, excellent wine options, showers, make this my favorite lounge in Terminal 1.
Other Lounges at Dubai Airport You Can Pay to Enter
You don’t have to be a PriorityPass or LoungeKey member to enjoy Dubai’s most spectacular airport lounges. Whether you’re a a frequent flier, flying in a higher fare class, or ready to pay for entry, these excellent lounges offer an excellent way to enjoy your next layover at DXB Airport.
- Lufthansa Senator Lounge (business class passengers only)
- British Airways Galleries Lounge and Concorde Bar (reserved for business class or Executive Club Silver or Gold status)
- The Ahlan First Class Lounge (Book your visit here.)
- Gulf Air Lounge (Prepaid lounge access must be purchased at least 25 hours prior the departure time.)
- flydubai Business Class Lounge T2 (reserved for FlyDubai business class passengers)
- Emirates First Class Lounges (reserved for Emirates first class passengers)
- Emirates Business Class Lounges (reserved for Emirates business class passengers)
- Plaza Premium Lounge (A Gates, Pay for entry: $54)
- Lounge @ B (Near B26, Pay for entry: $55)
2. Enjoy Incredible Airport Shopping At Dubai International (DXB)
From duty-free to perfumes and high-end cosmetics, any shopping aficionado will find more than enough to fill up even a 7 hour layover at Dubai with shopping. Heck, if you want, you can even pick up some last-minute groceries on your way home or pharmaceuticals. Whatever you need, Dubai international Airport has it.
And the best part – you can buy so many excellent products tax free!
From high-end fragrances to smart watches, there’s a lot of tax-free shopping to take advantage of on a layover in Dubai. You can even pick up a new phone or a high-end camera.
Brands range from Bulgari and Chanel to Carolina Herrera and H&M. It’s like a mall!
You can even pick up souvenirs like toy camels, ornaments, Aladdin lamps, and low pots.
On you way home? Why not get ahead of schedule by heading to the Dubai Airport Spinney’s? It’s at T1 in Arrivals, outside security.
Feeling like a baller? Look no further than Dubai Airport. You can find Bvlgari, Cartier, Tiffany & Co, and even Rolex here. If that’s not enough, 16 and 24 carat gold bars are available for purchase in either Terminal 1 or 3.
By the way, if you are buying an extra gold bar, I am willing to accept donations. Thank you. 😉
3. Feast on Dubai’s Famous International Cuisine
There’s so much to delight your palette inside Dubai International Airport, your problem may be deciding what to eat.
With endless choices of cuisine from all around the world, there’s a little something for any craving. But just in case you’re undecided, here’s a good summary to help you out:
The Two Best Overall Restaurants at DXB Airport
If you’re undecided on what you want to get and would like a sit-down restaurant experience, these two top restaurants in DXB airport will make you forget that you’re only transiting.
- The Daily DXB Urban Street Food (T3 B) – try the Biryani, you won’t regret it
- Jack’s Bar & Grill (T3 A) – awesome breakfast, amazing burgers, excellent American-style food
Best Breakfast Options
These cafes and restaurants offer excellent breakfast, coffee, pastries, sandwiches, and more right inside the airport.
- Tanzeet DXB (T3) – have a milkshake
- Paul (T3 C) – excellent bakery and good coffee
- GET YOUR FIX (T3) – great pastries and coffee
Yummiest Coffee at DXB Airport
If you’re like me, delicious coffee just makes things more enjoyable – even long layovers stuck inside an airport. These are my go-to options for coffee at DXB airport.
- S34 (T3 C) – wraps, sandwiches, and amazing coffee
- Costa (several locations) – good chain coffee
Craving some tasty pizza at DXB? Head to Flour + Stone in Terminal 3 A gates.
By the way, they also offer good coffee!
Most Elegant Wine Bar
If you’re thinking you can’t have excellent wine and beer in the Middle East, you’d be mistaken. Bottega Prosecco Bar & Craft beer in Terminal 3, A-gates of DXB airport is the ultimate place to sip some bubbly and have a good time on a DXB layover.
Health Food & Juices
My absolute go-to for fresh fruit smoothies, bowls, and other health foods at DXB is Treehouse Juicery, with two convenient locations (T3 A & C).
The only downside is that the prices are quite high. But you get what you pay for.
A Nutella Cafe at an airport? How crazy is that? For the best desserts at DXB, head to one of these:
- Nutella Cafe (T3 Arrivals – outside security)
- M&M confectionery store (T3) – awesome for kids!
Most Delicious Pasta
Though you can’t go wrong with any options at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck (Terminal 1), the pasta is particularly delicious here.
Awesome Won Ton & Noodles
Craving delicious Chinese food? Make your way to Gao Gao, inside the Dubai International Transit Hotel (Terminal 3).
4. Stretch your legs by going on a fun walk across the terminal
Walking is one of my top ways to stay healthy and fit while traveling full-time.
With more than 1,713,000 square feet of space, Dubai’s Terminal 3 is the second largest building in the world. That’s a lot of room to stretch your legs and go for a walk.
Try out the different sections. Between A and B, you need to take a connection train, but from B to C is walkable.
Just make sure not to get lost!
5. Discover GameSpace – the Dubai Airport Gaming Lounge that’s included with Priority Pass
I love the motto of Game Space. They say “turn Wait time into Game time.” I think that’s a great way to sum it up.
Known as the “focal point for pleasure seekers of all ages and gaming experience”, Game Space offers 40 high-end Gaming Stations equipped with low-latency, high bandwidth internet, monitors, and premium headphones.
The best part? You can get 1 hour of gaming free with PriorityPass. That’s right!
6. Catch up on much-needed sleep with convenient pods and rooms at Dubai International Airport
One of my favorite things about Dubai is its convenience. I can hardly say there’s a place in the world where anything you desire is so easily accessible.
Likewise, Dubai International Airport is super convenient for sleeping. Whatever your budget, you can find it. I’d consider DXB Airport as having 3 tiers of sleeping arrangements available:
1. Recliner style chairs (OK if you’re a heavy sleeper)
You can easily find all around the airport in Rest Zones. During quiet hours and at night, these are great, but during the day and busy times, they may not be available and noisiness and light can be an issue.
Brings excellent earplugs and a strong eye mask (these are my favorite as a pilot traveling the world), plus a sweater for the air conditioned cold air.
2. Sleep pods (Very good)
Sleep pods are such a gem for catching solid sleep. At DXB, they are available in Terminals 1 and 3, and I consider these a great option – especially if you only have a couple hours to sleep. Plus, you can get an hour free using PriorityPass. Starting to see the value yet?
Sleep n’ Fly Lounge (T1 & T3): Minimum 2 hours, rates vary and are discounted for PriorityPass members
SnoozeCube (T1): Minimum 2 hours, about 75AED/hr/cube, only 13 cubes so it sells out quick!
3. Transit Hotels (Best)
Located in Terminals 1 and 3, the International Transit Hotel will provide you the best and most ample sleep opportunity, at the highest cost. But if you have a long overnight layover, I’d consider it.
Dubai International Hotel in T3, transit area, is available for 6, 12, or 18 hour blocks.
If you have layover over 10 hours in DXB and want to stay in a hotel at a discount (compared to the Transit Hotel), these hotels offer both day rooms and cheap overnight rooms in the vicinity of the airport:
7. Grab an awesome layover workout and sauna at the G-Force Health Club
Did you that Dubai International Airport offers a swimming pool, jacuzzi, steam room, and gym? Located at G-Force, Airside, behind the Dubai International Hotel, the Health Club offers hourly packages to have a mini-vacation as you transit DXB. Pretty awesome deal.
You can access the Health Club via Terminal 1, Gate 115 and Terminal 3, Concourse 2 (above the Emirates Business & First Class lounges). Services include:
- Nautilus Gym – AED 45
- Shower – AED45
- Gym & Shower Package – AED 70
- Steam Room, Sauna, Jacuzzi, Relaxation Pool – AED 55 each
- Relaxation Pool + Jacuzzi – AED 85
- Gym, Shower, Jacuzzi – AED 90
(Prices may not be updated)
8. Refresh yourself with a free shower
I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel grimy and stinky most times after a long international flight. A shower is often what I most look forward to after arrival.
Lucky for you, DXB offers free shower facilities at the following locations:
- Terminal 3, between Gates B13 and B19
- Terminal 3, between Gates C18 and C22.
You can also access paid showers at the Health Club and BeRelaxSpa.
9. Unwind with a fantastic massage and other spa services
Traveling is stressful – let’s not pretend it isn’t. But there’s nothing like a wonderful massage, some aromatherapy, or even cryogenics to undo the toll of travel.
You have many excellent options at DXB for massages and other spa services, including:
- Timeless Spa (T3) – 20% off for PriorityPass members
- G-Force Health Club (T1 & T3)
- Be Relax Spa (T1 & T3)
- O2 Spa & Salon (T3)
- XpresSpa (T3)
10. Breathe in the freshest airport air in existence at the DXB Zen Gardens
Between B7 and B27, the Zen Gardens is a little secret haven with a fish pond, lush vegetation, and benches
It’s a great place to relax, read a book, or even fall asleep to the relaxing sound of water flowing.
The Best Day Room Hotels Around Dubai International Airport
If you’re in that in-between amount of time on your layover (say 3-6 hours) where you want to go out, but you don’t want to go too far, consider booking one a day room at one of these top hotels.
The hotels around Dubai International Airport are much cheaper than the transit International Hotel, and there’s actually quite a lot to do in the area if you do decide to venture out.
The Absolute Best Dubai Airport Day Room Deal: The Grand Mercure
With Rooms starting as low as $68 for the day, the Grand Mercure’s 5-star luxury amenities at superbly discounted prices makes this hotel a gem. And its location right next to the airport sweetens the deal even further.
A great taste of Dubai close to the airport: The Pullman Dubai Creek City Centre
The Pullman is a great and affordable 5-star hotel perfect if you want to get a nap, shower, and still hit the road on your Dubai layover. The Creek is known as Dubai’s “historic” center, and is a beautiful area to explore in a hurry.
The most affordable Day Room in Dubai: The ibis Deira Centre
As day rooms start in the low $30s USD for a totally adequate room, the ibis Deira Centre hotel has often been my go to if I only have a couple hours to nap and shower. There’s a complimentary airport shuttle, and it’s also located next to a Metro station with access all over the city.
Awesome: Exploring Dubai and the Surrounding Area on Your Next DXB Airport Layover
In the last few decades, Dubai has emerged from a small fishing village to a world-class megapolis. And while the city has an incredible amount to offer – far more than you could cover in just one layover – there is a surprising amount of nature here too.
And if you’re worried about fitting a visit to this city of dreams on a layover without missing your next flight, fret not. There are tailor-made tours available to make sure you make it back on time.
But even if you don’t feel like joining an organized tour, super efficient public transportation, ample taxis and ride shares, and a staggering roadway complex make getting around easy. Heck, you can even get from the airport to the far side of Dubai in just over 30 minutes most of the time.
So here’s the ultimate guide to exploring Dubai and its surroundings on your next 5-7+ hour DXB layover.
Luggage Storage & Lockers
If you’re keen on heading out (I definitely would be!), you might be wondering just where at Dubai International Airport you can hold your luggage. Luckily, short term baggage storage is available in two terminals:
- Terminal 1 (Arrivals – near RTA Taxi Area)
- Terminal 3 (Arrivals – near Baby Changing area/washrooms).
Rates start from AED 40 – 50 ($11-13, depending on the baggage size) for 12 hours.
Immigrations, Customs, and Security: How long does it take?
Want to leave the airport on your next Dubai layover? I almost always do.
You might be wondering how much time you need to allot to exit and return.
Dubai Airport is one of the most efficient in the world. From arriving at the gate to exiting the airport typically takes 25-40 minutes at most, including getting off the airplane, taking a people mover (train) to the immigrations area, passing immigrations and customs, and retrieving your baggage. It’s incredible.
Likewise, even at peak times, it usually only takes 15 minutes to get through security on your way out. It can take much longer if you need to check in a bag, however. But as you are transiting, you shouldn’t need to. Just make sure to have your next boarding pass available (either digitally or printed) so you can head straight to security and outbounds immigrations on your way to your connecting flight.
I recommend returning to the airport an hour and a half prior to your next flight, assuming you aren’t checking in bags. Note that this also assumes you don’t need a visa to enter the UAE.
Where to go
1. Dubai City Walk
Stretch your legs, get some sun, and enjoy the best Downtown Dubai has to offer at City Walk. From chic shops to gorgeous hotels and fantastic restaurants, there’s something for everyone.
The most impressive part – in my opinion – is just how clean it is. There’s a recent TikTok trend of people walking around in just socks. After a hike around the City Walk, the socks still look fresh!
By metro, take the Red line to the Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall stop.
2. Burj Khalifa
While you’re in Downtown Dubai, why not visit the tallest building in the world?
There are several packages to choose from, and you can easily go over 160 floors high – with sweeping views over Dubai – especially incredible at sunset.
Make sure to reserve your tickets ahead of time to make sure you don’t miss it!
3. Dubai Mall
Even if you’re not into shopping, visiting the Dubai Mall is worth it if only to fathom its unbelievable size. As the largest Mall in the world, the Dubai Mall is packed with luxury shopping, movie theaters, an aquarium, and even a zoo!
One thing is for certain – you won’t run out of things to do here.
4. The Dubai Creek
Known as the ‘Old Town’ of Dubai, the Creek is a lovely canal side commercial hub offering traditional boat rides. It’s as close to Venice as Dubai gets.
Best part is that the Dubai Creek is super close to the airport! Perfect for a shorter layover – especially if you book a day room at the Pullman 5-Star City Creek Hotel.
You can also enjoy some golfing, lovely views, and absolutely delicious breakfast at the Dubai Golf Club – one of my secret favorites (I don’t even play golf!)
5. JBR Beach & Dubai Marina (also skydiving)
My favorite place to walk in Dubai is easily the Dubai Marina and JBR Beach. There are miles of walkways lining the marina, beach, and man-made islands. I’ve been to Dubai 6 times and I still haven’t walked the entire perimeter.
Here you’ll also find many of the best restaurants and cafes in all of Dubai, the most charming nightlife, and an exceptional Promenade perfect for sunsets.
6. Go shopping at the Gold Souk
If you’re looking for the highest quality gold, look no further. Dubai’s Gold Souk will knock your socks off. And whatever gold you buy – the extra weight you wear will be offset by the lost weight of your wallet.
7. Burj Al Arab
As Dubai’s most iconic hotel and the “only seven-star hotel” in the world (just a myth), Burj Al Arab dominates the Dubai skyline.
Even if you don’t plan to spend the $1000+ per night it takes to stay here, you can book a tour and explore the highlights.
Pro Tip: book the sunset tour for amazing pictures over the Palm!
8. Dubai Frame
Not only a beautiful display of Dubai both new and old, the Dubai Frame is an architectural piece of art and a fun place to get a great glimpse over Dubai – including the Burj Khalifa. And it’s not very far from Dubai airport.
You can book a tour that includes private transport to and from the airport.
The Top 6 Best Dubai Tours from DXB International Airport
From dune bashing to exhilarating jet ski tours, you’d be surprised just what you can accomplish in one layover at Dubai. With organized tours and flexible pickup, you can easily squeeze in an unforgettable Dubai experience even if you only have a couple of hours to spare.
Here are the top 5 tours you should experience on your next 7+ hour layovers at Dubai International Airport.
1. Ride ATV Quads across the Red Dunes, Go Sandsurfing, and Enjoy the Stars
The Ultimate Dubai Tour: dune bashing in a luxury 4×4, an epic quad bike ride, sandboarding, and learning how to ride on a camel. All followed by a gorgeous desert sunset.
This tour is the #1 tour in Dubai, and should be reserved only for a longer (7+ hour) layover. You can select either a 4 or 7 hour tour, plus 45 minutes driving time each way.
It’s totally worth it. Check out the 4.9/5 star reviews here!
2. Go on a jet ski tour of Dubai: the Marina, Burj al Arab, the Palm, and the Burj Khalifa
If you’re looking for both adrenaline and discovery, look no further. This incredible jet ski tour lets you explore Dubai’s highlights, while having a ton of fun.
It’s recommended by 98% of travelers who’ve done it, so you’ll definitely have a blast!
3. See the skyline – including the Burj Khalifa – from a helicopter ride
I’ve been a fan of helicopter rides since I went on a helicopter tour of the NYC skyline on a layover 3 years ago.
But there’s one big difference between the NYC Heli tours and the ones in Dubai – the price. Starting at only $189, Dubai Helicopter tours are an absolute the steal – and a fantastic way to see the city in all its glamour in record time.
From the air, you’ll see the Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeirah, Cruise Terminal, and Old Souk!
4. Cruise on a super yacht with live music and drinks
Cruising in style on beautiful blue Dubai waters is the epitome of the lifestyle here.
A best seller, and starting at just shy of $50 per person, this super yacht cruise is an awesome way to spend a layover in Dubai.
It lasts 2-3 hours and begins at the Dubai Marina, about a 30 minute drive from DXB airport.
5. Float off on a hot air balloon tour
Personally, I find this the coolest and most unique experience you could have in Dubai. Who else gets to say they went on a Hot Air Balloon ride in freaking Dubai?!
The tour lines up perfectly with arrivals in the early morning, as it begins with a 430AM pickup and lasts about 5 hours.
6. Experience the Most Epic Skydive Experience of your Life
How to get around Dubai on a layover
Dubai happens to be one of the most well-connected cities in the world. With a metro station directly at the airport to Uber-efficient rideshares and excellent tour packages, you can easily explore downtown Dubai from the airport with a 4 hour or longer layover.
1. Rent a Car
For the best flexibility and especially on a longer layover where you’re trying to do the most, I recommend renting a car.
Hertz is super convenient, particularly if you’re a Gold or President’s Club member. There’s nothing like walking directly to your car without having waited in any line, and leaving straight away.
But if you’re feeling a little frisky and desire something a little luxurious to keep up with the Jonesses, Dubai is the place for that. Whether you want to rent a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, VIP Rentals has you covered, though there are many rental companies offering amazing cars for the day.
Take the Metro
With a metro station located right at the airport and convenient stops all over town, the metro is a very cost-effective way to get around Dubai, but it’s much slower than driving.
The Dubai metro is very newly built, offers Wifi, and usually isn’t very crowded. You can find more info here.
I usually use Google Maps to find the best routes and schedules.
2. Grab a Careem, Uber, Taxi (cheapest short distance)
My go-to in Dubai for getting around is generally Uber or Careem (the local app for anything you need in town).
Whether it’s for short or long distances, prices are reasonable as the roads in Dubai are extremely efficient. Pickup from DXB airport is easy to find, though sometimes there is a bit of a wait time.
If there’s a long wait for a rideshare app, consider taking a taxi – they offer similar pricing but often have no wait time at all. The only downside is they tend to be slightly less comfortable.
3. Ride the Bus
I can’t say in my many times in Dubai that I ever took the bus, but they exist. I would use Google Maps for recommendations on routes.
Long distance buses (such as to Abu Dhabi) are very comfortable, safe, and affordable.
Other layovers coming up? Check out these comprehensive transit guides and see how you can make your next layover as epic as you could ever imagine:
My other Ultimate Airport Layover Guides: ATL | AMS | JFK | SEA | SFO | LAS | ATH | CDG | LHR | and more!
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