How to Best Spend 3 Days in Dubai, UAE

September 2, 2023laurenslighthouse

Last updated on September 16th, 2023

Abundant sunshine, endless desert sands, architectural marvels, vibrant heritage, dining choices of all kinds and the coolest leisure activities! There are loads of things that make Dubai a vacationer’s favourite. Whether you are heading to Dubai to spend a relaxed long weekend or just want to take a break from your daily grind, you can be assured of returning home refreshed. So how about spending three days in Dubai? Continue reading for a local’s guide to touring this world-renowned desert oasis!

In this post, Dubai local Neha gives us her best take on what you can do with a three-day itinerary in Dubai to get the most of your trip. From discovering Dubai’s history to marvelling at record-shattering landmarks, learning about Emirati culture with a day trip to Abu Dhabi to experiencing the adrenaline rush along the dunes of UAE’s desserts, you’ll never have a dull moment in Dubai.

After visiting UAE twice now, I can attest to how exhilarating it is to visit! Jason and I have personally done all of the activities that we recommend below ourselves. If we’ve linked it, we’ve loved it! With that said, this post does contain affiliate links, so if you book the experience through here, we’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting our blog!

Where to Stay in Dubai

I’ve enjoyed staying at the Conrad Dubai and the Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites. The Conrad Dubai was perfect for Jason and I on our honeymoon. We stayed there for 5 nights and used Hilton Honors points (click here to purchase additional points to cover your next trip) to also get the 5th night free! It was just a few steps from the World Trade Centre Metro Station so we could get around the city effortlessly from our accommodations.

The Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites is a fantastic option for families. My family and I stayed here and had a gigantic two-bedroom suite all to ourselves with a high up and gorgeous view of Palm Jumeirah from every room and our balcony. This Marriott property also sits right in the heart of Dubai Marina, which is a bustling district that lights up at night and has amazing dining options and activities.

Dubai has no shortage of amazing hotels throughout the entire city. We also managed to find Jason’s parents a great deal on The Address Hotel Dubai Marina which is one of the city’s top hotels. Stunning new apartment rentals are also popping up every day which can give you a homey vibe to your visit to Dubai coupled with a stellar view. Often times you can find one for $100 a night, like YouTuber Lost Leblanc’s Lost Home Dubai in Dubai Hills!

How to Get Around Dubai

Getting Around Dubai is quite easy to figure out even as a first-time visitor. Its efficient and smooth public transportation system makes it a very attractive option. Well run AC, reliable scheduling and modern infrastructure with easy-to-use prepaid transit cards that you can use for all modes of public transportation make it easy to get around Dubai.

The outdoor heat can be unbearable in UAE. Thankfully there are many above-ground enclosed bridges and underground pedestrian tunnels for us to get from point A to point B in a cool environment if need be. The prepaid NOL cards for Dubai’s transit system are super easy to fill up in the machines at the metro stations and they’re a simple “tap to use” at the gates.

If a taxi cab if preferred, there are modern air-conditioned taxis at every attraction waiting in queue. Ride-share apps are available to use, including Uber and Careem, which is the local app option. Generally speaking, they are both cheaper than taxis, except during peak times when surge prices apply, as they provide flat rates instead of a running meter. And typically, Careem is less expensive than Uber for shorter distances and vice versa for longer distances.

We managed to get around with the metro, ride-share services and taxis when we were in Dubai. All were reliable forms of transportation and our use of them solely depended on our circumstances at the time.

Day 1: Discover Dubai’s Traditional and Modern Aspects

Morning Dubai City Tour

To get a good feel of Dubai, the best way to do that is by taking a guided sightseeing tour of the city’s must-sees. Whether it’s completely self-guided or you choose to do a tour that’s already set up, you’ll be able to get a lay of the land and pinpoint iconic landmarks along the way. We enjoyed doing a self-guided tour by utilizing Dubai’s efficient metro system and taking an Uber or taxi if needed from the train stations.

Dubai also has a fantastic hop-on hop-off Big Bus Tour if you wanted to be lead to all the must-see spots and enjoy your time there at your own pace. You could also do a more personalized city tour arranged by an experienced operator with a guide to take you around!

Whichever you opt in for, make sure that it covers all of the city’s prime spots and attractions:

  • Old Dubai, such as Al Bastakiya Quarter and traditional souks across Bur Dubai and Deira. You can also take a dhow cruise along Dubai Creek to do some sightseeing on the water. We met an older family who loved touring Old Town Dubai with the dhow cruise!
  • Iconic sights along Jumeirah and Sheik Zayed Road. Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Mosque are two notable landmarks you’ll want to visit.
  • Palm Jumeirah, including Palm West Beach & Atlantis the Palm.
  • Take a stroll along Dubai Marina after checking out Palm Jumeirah if you have the time. Grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants that line the marina.
camel rides in Dubai

Photo by Fredrik Öhlander on Unsplash

Burj Al Arab Afternoon Tea

If you’re feeling bougie enough for a luxurious splurge, Afternoon Tea at the Burj Al Arab is an iconic choice. It costs a whopping $150 USD per person with an amazing assortment of dainty sandwiches, scones, teacakes and more, but the view from your fancy table makes this experience one of a kind. It was definitely a memorable experience for us having High Tea at the opulent 7-star hotel!

Burj Al Arab beach

Photo by Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels

Downtown Dubai

Dedicate the rest of your first day to explore the Downtown Dubai area. This is hands down the country’s most stylish district where you get to see some of the world-renowned and record-breaking attractions. From the largest mall to the tallest tower in the world, this area is one that has put Dubai on the map.

Burj Khalifa

Ascend the world’s tallest building as you make your way up to the At the Top observation deck on Burj Khalifa’s levels 124 & 125. Or better yet, make it all the way up to level 148! Following a super-swift elevator ride, get ready to treat yourself to the most spellbinding 360-degree views of the city.

This was a really a popular attraction so be prepared for long lines and crowds on the top floors. Sunset time slots are near impossible to get unless you book way ahead of time. But if you can’t get a booking in the evening, keep reading to see our favourite option for a sunset view from up top!

Dubai Mall

Another definite must-see is the Dubai Mall. It’s the biggest of its kind in the world and has over 1200 retail outlets and some 200 dining choices. Not to mention its vast array of amusement and edutainment experiences, from the Dubai Aquarium, Underwater Zoo and VR Park Dubai, to Ekart Dubai, Dubai Ice Rink and KidZania Dubai.

We personally didn’t love the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and felt it to be a little underwhelming. The VR Park and Ekart on the other hand are great choices.

Before you leave the Dubai Mall, grab one of the best spots to watch the remarkably choreographed Dubai Fountain Show wherein water twirls and twists in perfect harmony of light and music. The fountain performances run every thirty minutes from 6pm to 11pm daily so you definitely won’t miss it visiting The Dubai Mall in the evening!

We enjoyed watching the fountain show after nightfall from outside right on the waterfront. It’s so fun witnessing the water jumping and dancing to the music and lights while having a front row seat. But before we watched it, we had to head to one more observation deck.

Sky Views Observatory

At Address’ Sky Views Observatory, you can head up to the 53rd floor and take in the views of the Burj Khalifa from high above! Your Sky Views entry ticket also gives you a fun ride down the smooth Sky Slide – a transparent tube on the tower’s exterior that links level 53 to 52. It was pretty fun as you glide down pretty fast. And you can see downtown Dubai so clearly before and during the slide down with the Burj front and centre!

After making the journey down, we headed to the full glass floor of the 52nd floor observation deck. In comparison to Burj Khalifa’s At the Top, this one was peaceful and quiet at the time we went. The whole space felt so new and well maintained with the glass covering the floors and the exterior walls being immaculately clean.

With our 6:30pm time slot, we got to stay all throughout sunset, catching night views of the Burj and the Dubai Fountain Show from above before heading back down to the plaza.

Combining both Burj Khalifa’s At the Top observation deck and Sky Views Observatory in one day was actually pretty great. Not only do you get to be in and go up the tallest building in the world, but you also get to have a fully unobstructed view of said building from a neighbouring tower. Sky Views was drastically less busy too so it was a breath of fresh air when we got to enjoy day, sunset and night views from here without a crowd surrounding us.

Day 2: Adventuring from Water to Sand

Dubai is an absolute delight for fun and thrill seekers. So for day 2, be prepared to unleash your adventurous side in different ways. With quad biking in the sand dunes to slipping and sliding down water slides, this day will be exhilarating.

Morning Water Adventures

Before the afternoon heat sets in and the floor feels like lava under your bare feet, it is well worth utilizing this time to visit one of Dubai’s astonishing theme parks. There is the largest of its kind IMG Worlds of Adventure and the region’s first of its kind Dubai Parks and Resorts where you can enjoy four parks at one location. You can further choose to get wild at Dubai water parks like Aquaventure Waterpark, Laguna Water Park or the latest AquaFun Dubai.

Most of Dubai’s water parks (Atlantis Dubai, Wild Wadi Dubai, Aquaventure Waterpark Dubai) have the famous trapdoor water slide where a door drops open right beneath your feet and you experience free fall for a moment before hitting the water at high speed. (Anyone reminded of Emperor’s New Groove “Pull the lever, Kronk!”?) My brother and I had a blast sliding down Poseidon’s Revenge at the Atlantis Aquaventure Qaterpark.

If you missed Palm Jumeirah and Atlantis Dubai during your city tour for day 1, this will be a great opportunity to do so. Atlantis the Palm sits at the very tip of this manmade island shaped like an oval surrounding a palm tree. It’s not only a massive five-star resort with an exclusive, wide stretch of white sand beach. It’s also a large mall, has a massive 11-million litre and 10-metre deep aquarium and a thrilling outdoor waterpark. My parents loved snorkeling at the surface of the Lost Chambers Aquarium while my brother and I went down as many slides as we could in the Aquaventure Waterpark. Definitely a must for families!

Evening Desert Safari

When in Dubai, there’s more to experience than the city’s manmade features. Head out of the city for an exciting excursion in United Arab Emirates’ natural landscapes!

Get ready for a mid-afternoon pickup at around 3-4pm from your accommodation. An evening desert safari is the best way to end your day on a high note as you embark on an adrenaline-inducing quad bike ride, dune bashing in your 4×4 vehicle, sand boarding down the desert hills and camel riding before enjoying a BBQ buffet feast with incredible live performances at a desert camp!

This is one of the most affordable experiences for the value you get in all of the things to do in Dubai. After researching every site out there that sells the desert safari tour, we found that Klook was the cheapest out there AND gives you a full hour on the quad bike/ATV in the sand park!

Doing an evening desert safari also gives you a first-hand view as the sun sets over the red sand horizon. Being some distance away from the city also offers the opportunity for some wonderful stargazing after enjoying your time at the camp. Read more on our epic sunset desert safari tour!

Dune sand 4x4 adventure

Photo by Frederik Højfeldt Nielsen on Unsplash

Day 3: Go Beyond Dubai and Enjoy a Dhow Cruise

Abu Dhabi Day Trip

The stunning sights and sounds of Dubai make it irresistible to stay put. With that said, a quick day trip to Abu Dhabi will reveal you a different side of the UAE that is modern, traditional and scenic all at once. Just about a 1.5-hour drive away from Dubai, it is the country’s capital as well as the largest city. And one of the best ways to get an overview of all city sights is to go on an Abu Dhabi city tour. 

If you just want to lay back, relax and not have to worry about figuring out all the places you want to hit up and how to get there, we highly recommend this established day tour of Abu Dhabi that you can take from Dubai. On this tour, you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, which is the region’s largest and one of the world’s most breathtaking mosques
  • wander Heritage Village, a living recreation of desert life, where you can engage with the past and witness artisans and craftsmen showcasing time-honoured skills
  • explore the bustling date market and marvel at the textiles that the carpet makers weave together
  • drive through the Etihad Towers and stop by The Louvre Abu Dhabi for some architectural photo ops
  • catch sight of the Emirates Palace Hotel and Presidential Palace for views of the sheer grandeur and opulence of UAE’s capital

You can also purchase an add-on to either visit Ferrari World or Warner Bros. World for ultimate amusement park entertainment – great for families. Or you could opt in to add a visit to Qasr Al Watan which is a beautiful historical landmark that we highly recommend visiting if it’s not too hot!

If you want to explore the city at your own pace, you can easily get to Abu Dhabi yourself, whether by train, bus or private car transfer. The great thing is that the bus and train are very affordable and leave right on schedule from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Even a private car transfer is reasonably priced. We actually took a pre-booked taxi from Abu Dhabi’s airport (AUH) to downtown Dubai and we were surprised that the 1.5-hour car ride was within a decent budget.

Exploring Abu Dhabi in a day is fun and completely doable. But it goes without saying that staying in the capital is completely worth it. We attribute the best hospitality we’ve ever had to the St Regis Abu Dhabi along the Corniche. Staying in the city for a few days allowed us to visit all the attractions we wanted to visit while taking our time. There was no “quick stop for a photo” or simple drive-by. So if you have the time, spend at least two nights here! With the leisure of time, you could also explore some unrivalled natural beauty with a self-guided kayaking tour of the Eastern Mangroves National Park.

Dubai Dhow Cruise

Once you are back in Dubai, travel straight to your dhow cruise location at the stylish Dubai Marina or the quaint Dubai Creek (famed for its historical sights). You will likely be welcomed with a complimentary drink before boarding the vessel. Settle yourself into its fully enclosed and air-conditioned lower deck, or more ideally move to the partly-open upper deck.

As the dhow sets sail, admire the magical nighttime allure of Dubai from water. This lets you witness Dubai’s spectacular sights from an unperturbed and marvellous standpoint. In fact, there is no better way to conclude your Dubai holiday than with a leisurely, two-hour dhow cruise dinner. Enjoy your buffet experience with traditional live performances such as the Tanura show while you set sail for your final night in this glamorous Arabian city!

So that rounds off our three days in Dubai itinerary! There is never a dull moment in Dubai even if you choose to visit the place during the harsh summer months (thanks to its attractions like Ski Dubai). But whenever you plan to visit the UAE, be sure to do a bit of planning; it will take you a long way while allowing you to maximize savings and make the most of your Dubai visit. By booking the tours we mentioned in advance, you’ll be able to lock in favourable pricing along with free cancellation with 24 hours’ notice!

Leave a Reply

Prev Post

girl working on laptop remotely in wilderness in camp set up in Toyota 4Runner

What Tech Should You Really Take on Your Travels?

September 1, 2023

Next Post

trail of camels during Dubai evening desert safari with moon crescent shining during night fall

Dubai Evening Desert Safari: Best Tour From Dubai

September 16, 2023
%d bloggers like this: