1 Day in Dubai Itinerary

Do you only have 1 day in Dubai? This itinerary will give you a bit of everything.

Dubai is one of those places that is a convenient travel hub, especially for those of us travelling from Australia to Europe.

That means it’s a great place for a stopover, whether to break up the long trip, help combat the time zone changes or just because you want to take the opportunity to experience another country as you pass through.

I’ve been to Dubai several times now and have had all sorts of great experiences across the city. My first visit was in 2008 before Burj Khalifa was finished and when the whole city looked like a building site.

I’m lucky enough to have a cousin living in Dubai so I always spend a couple of days there as I’m passing through, but I’ve also done two stand-alone holidays just to Dubai.

After all those weeks, I’ve come up with this itinerary for those who have one day in Dubai. It will give you a small taste of this city and hopefully, you will want to come back for more next time.

There’s food, history, culture, shopping, bling, the tallest building, the desert, belly dancing, camels, adventure in the dunes and so much more.

So let’s get going…

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Start the Morning Early

You only have 1 day in Dubai, so don’t waste any of it lying in bed. Get yourself up nice and early ready for breakfast.

I’m going to make two suggestions for the morning and breakfast, both are quite similar though, spending time in the historic part of Old Dubai.

Option One: Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

A feast of Emirati dishes laid out on a carpet on the floor. The dishes include chick peas, flat bread, thin noodles and more.
The Emirati breakfast laid out for us

If you happen to be in Dubai on a Monday or a Wednesday, build your morning around breakfast at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.

Here you will enjoy a traditional Emirati breakfast with cultural talk. It starts at 9 am and last for 90 minutes.

I did this on my second visit to Dubai and loved it. With so little of the population Emirati, it was nice to be able to learn directly from a young girl. We were able to ask all sorts of questions, and the food was great.

Before breakfast though, take a walk along the nearby Dubai Creek, visit the Traditional Emirati House (open from 7:30 am weekdays) or Dubai Museum (sadly closed for renovations at the time of writing).

Option Two: Arabian Tea House

Arabian Tea House Setting
Pretty tea pots and cups at the Arabian Tea House

There are not too many places in Dubai that offer traditional Emirati food, but this is one of them.

There are a few locations in Dubai, but I recommend visiting the Arabian Tea House in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood for breakfast at 7 am.

Try one of the Emirati breakfast trays and a Sulaimani Tea – which has a delicious mint flavour.

After breakfast take a walk around the Old Dubai area and along the Dubai Creek. There are a number of small museums that you can visit, or you can just wander.

Another option is to take an abra (small boat) across the creek and visit the gold and spice souks.

Get Ready for Lunch

Looking down onto a large artificial lake between many buildings, some other skyscrapers
Looking down from the Burj Khalifa

At around 11 am, make your way to the Dubai Mall, one of the largest – and glitziest – shopping malls on the planet. It also happens to be right next door to Burj Khalifa, the tallest building on Earth.

In this area, you have a range of options. If you love to shop, just enjoy your time browsing all the high-end stores in the mall. You may find a bargain or two, especially if you are visiting during one of the many shopping festivals.

I’m not a shopper, but I do enjoy strolling around Dubai Mall to take in some of the attractions, such as the indoor waterfall and the iconic aquarium.

While in this area, I recommend a visit to one of the viewing platforms of the Burj Khalifa. It’s a bucket list activity to have views from this high up over the city, desert and sea.

While you are in this area, grab some lunch. Depending on how you want to spend your time, you can buy a combined Burj Khalifa viewing deck and lunch ticket, or you can simply grab takeaway in the Dubai Mall – there are over 200 food options in the mall, so plenty to choose from.

For an in-between option, I like the Time Out Market Dubai, which is just outside the mall and has great views of the Burj Khalifa.

It’s an upmarket food court with a range of fantastic options so everyone in your party can get what they want.

An Evening in the Desert

A white 4WD driving over bright red sand dunes near Dubai
4WDing over the dunes

A desert safari is one of the most fun things you can do in Dubai. Yes, it’s touristy, even a bit kitschy, but you still have to do it.

I took my teenagers on a desert safari and it was the highlight of their trip – and I have to say the parents had a great time too.

The safaris usually include some awesome 4WD dune bashing, perhaps sand boarding, and then a traditional dinner bedouin-style at a camp in the desert.

Here you can enjoy dancing, camel rides, falconry, henna tattoos and more while enjoying dinner.

Many tours also include added extras such as quad biking if you would like a little more adrenaline.

Most safaris begin at various times across the day, but I recommend booking one that offers a 7-hour option and starts at 3 pm.

They always include pickup, and I would request a pickup from the Dubai Mall if you can, which will save you from having to go back to your hotel.

For the Night Owls

You will arrive back in Dubai from the desert safari at around 10 pm. I would likely be falling asleep after a huge day, but if you are still full of energy, then there is more to do and see.

Firstly, head back to Dubai Mall (which works well if the safari will pick you up and drop you off there) and watch one of the last Dubai Fountain shows. The last ones are at 10:30 and 11 pm each night.

Then you can hit the bars if that’s what you like to do.

To be honest, I do not have a lot of experience with Dubai nightlife, but I have enjoyed meeting friends at Barasti, a casual beach club and bar at Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort.

After asking my cousin for the local recommendations, she also suggests:

Getting Around Dubai

Because you are only exploring Dubai in 1 day, I recommend using taxis or Uber to get around so that you can get exactly where you want to go in the least amount of time.

I personally prefer Uber so that the fare is set and payment is taken from my credit card without me needing to carry cash.

A local option is the Careem app which also works like Uber and Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC) also has an app available.

You can try to use the Dubai Metro, which is a really good way to get around in general, but the sites I have suggested are not right near stations. Even the Dubai Mall metro station requires a walk of nearly 1km to reach the mall.

A man and two women standing in the Dubai sand dunes. Behind them is a white 4WD

One Day in Dubai FAQs

There are some common questions I get whenever I talk to people who are about to visit Dubai. You may have the same questions as you are planning what to do in Dubai for a day.

Do I need to book attractions in advance?

Answer: Yes, it’s highly recommended to book key attractions like the Burj Khalifa observation deck, the SMCCU cultural breakfast, and desert safari tours in advance.

This ensures availability and often grants you a quicker entrance compared to buying tickets on the spot.

For attractions within the Dubai Mall, such as the Dubai Aquarium, on-the-day tickets are generally feasible, but booking online can save time.

What should I wear?

Answer: Dubai is a cosmopolitan city with a diverse international culture, yet it’s important to respect local customs.

Opt for modest clothing that covers shoulders and knees, especially when visiting cultural sites. Lightweight and breathable fabrics are ideal due to the heat.

For desert safaris, wear comfortable clothes and shoes; evenings can be cooler, so bring a light jacket.

Can I use my credit card around the city, or do I need local currency?

Answer: Credit cards are widely accepted in Dubai, including at malls, major attractions, and restaurants.

However, it’s useful to have some local currency (UAE Dirhams) for smaller purchases, tips, or in places that might not accept cards, such as smaller souks or for taxi rides not booked through an app.

We usually pick up a little cash from an ATM on arrival at the airport, but ATMs are readily available across the city.

Is it safe to travel around Dubai as a solo traveller or a woman?

Answer: Dubai is considered one of the safest cities globally for both solo travellers and women.

The crime rate is very low, and strict laws are in place to maintain public order. It’s common for women to travel alone, even at night.

However, as with any destination, it’s wise to stay aware of your surroundings, respect local customs, and use common sense to ensure a safe and enjoyable visit.

Spending more time in Dubai? Read these next
What to do in Dubai on your Second Visit
Travel Diaries – Dubai
Travel Diaries – United Arab Emirates

TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS

Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs

Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.

Hire a rental carRentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.

Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.

Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.

Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.

Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.

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