Headed to the UAE soon and looking for the best day trips from Dubai? Come check out these 5 wonderful Dubai day trips, all possible within a few hours of the area!
If you’ve already had a good look around the bright lights of Dubai, visited the beach, gone up the world’s tallest tower, seen the Malls, strolled the old Quarter and taken a dhow – is there really more to see in Dubai and the UAE? Absolutely! Read on for some fantastic day trips from Dubai to get to know the UAE even more!
It’s time to sort yourself out a car, find a reliable driver, or book yourself on some Dubai day tours and get yourself on one of these fabulous day trips to learn more about the countries ancient past and shimmery future as a culture capital.
Pre-Travel Guide to Dubai
How to Get Around
There are two main options for taking day trips out of the city.
1) If you are a confident driver, we suggest you hire a car. There are many pick up points from both the airport or within the city. Traffic can be a little hectic in the city centre and moves fast, but the suggested day trips here are mostly freeway driving, and roads are in excellent condition. Cars are almost always automatic transmission; the UAE drives on the right side of the road. If you are crossing the Omani border, check that your car rental insurance will allow you to do this and you have the appropriate permission letter.
2) If the pace of Dubai traffic seems a little daunting – or you are having no luck getting paperwork and insurance sorted to rent a car – you can hire a driver for these day trips from Dubai recommendations. You may be in a small group of other tourists and a less flexible timetable, but it will relieve the traffic and paperwork stress. We recommend you look for a private driver or small tour group on GetYourGuide.
Important things to pack
Remember it can get super hot out in the desert so sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, and bottled water are always absolutely essential. Bring cash (Dirhams) on any trips- although ATMs are plentiful in the city centers, you may not be so lucky once out of town! If heading over the border to Oman, you’ll need to remember your passport and take cash – UAE dirhams and a credit card should see you through in Musandam without the need for Omani Riyal.
Where to stay
There are a multitude of accommodation choices in Dubai, so it really depends on your budget and what you have come to enjoy. Staying around Jumeirah is a popular choice for beach goers but comes with a price tag, where as you may want to stay close to Downtown for the shopping malls, tall towers and to be centrally located to many of the cities attractions. If you’re on a tighter budget the older parts of town Deira and Bur Dubai give good value options. Anywhere you stay near a Metro stop will give you great access to the rest of the city.
When to go
Dubai is in the arid desert, so visiting during the cooler winter months of the northern hemisphere is recommended. Late October through to early April you will catch the best of the glorious, mild winter weather. Visiting December and January you may need slightly warmer clothing but it rarely drops below day time temperatures of 20c. Rain is very rare but can happen in the cooler winter months, as can dust storms and fog. Generally, warmth and blue skies are almost guaranteed but best avoid the absolutely peak summer months, its simply too hot to do any real exploring.
Important local phrases to know
The official language of the UAE is Arabic but English is very widely spoken. You would only need a few words in Arabic if you wanted to be polite to your hosts or show appreciation (though there’s a high chance those working in the service sector are not Emirati!)
Thank you – Shukran
Please – Min fadlak (m) Min fadlik (f)
Sorry – Aasif (m) / aasifa (f)
Stop – Kuf
I don’t speak Arabic – ana La ataKalam El Aarabya
Goodbye – Ma es-salaama
And without further ado, let’s get on with the real reason you’re here, to learn about the best Dubai day trips!
Best Days Trips from Dubai
Day Trip from Dubai on a desert safari
It doesn’t take long (unless you’re stuck in peak hour traffic!) to get beyond the concrete of the city and into the UAE desert. There are many companies that operate morning, half day, or evening trips into the desert, it all depends how much of an adrenaline rush you are looking for, and what budget you are working to.
Platinum Heritage Desert Safaris are a great option for those who want to appreciate the desert wildlife and flora. In their open top vintage Land Rovers you will be taken through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Platinum Heritage also offer hot air ballooning packages for those who don’t mind an early start, a simply breath-taking way to experience the UAE if budget will allow that ends in a luxury breakfast spread in their Bedouin village.
Those after a more action packed trip to the desert may want to look to one of the Dune Bashing expeditions. Experienced Emirati desert drivers will take you through the rugged desert dunes the hard way in their modern 4x4s; they are bound to give you plenty of thrills and spills before arriving at a Bedouin styles camp for refreshment and evening entertainment that normally includes a line up of camel rides, henna painting, shisha, traditional music, cuisine and even belly dancing.
Catching a falconry display too is an added bonus and some tours will offer more action sports in their camps such as quad biking, sandboarding and fat bikes. If you need something more sedate you can skip the dune bashing part and head straight to the desert camp – you will need to sign disclaimer forms to do any of the action sports and children need to be out of booster seat height to participate.
Generally speaking, to avoid the peak heat of the day most desert tours take off from Dubai in the late afternoon. Depending on the company they will either have a designated pick up point or will do hotel pickups across the city’s hotels before driving you to their favourite dunes. It’s not recommended unless you are a very experienced sand 4-wheel driver that you attempt to tackle the Dubai desert dunes on your own.
Recommended Options to the Sand Dunes:
- Dubai Red Sand Dunes Safari: BBQ, Camel, Sandboarding, and Falcon
Day Trip from Dubai to Abu Dhabi
Many people often think Dubai is the capital of the UAE but it’s actually big brother down the road Abu Dhabi that is the largest of the seven emirates and home to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed, the nation’s leader. And what better than to list it as one of the best day trips from Dubai?!
The second largest city in the UAE, the capital has a somewhat calmer demeanour than Dubai. Still a wonderful mix between classic and modern Arab architecture can be seen, also a lot more greenery and slightly less frenetic pace. Dubai Down Town to the Abu Dhabi Corniche (main beach front) you are looking at about a 1.5-hour drive on a fast freeway, give or take traffic conditions.
The number 1 highlight in visiting Abu Dhabi is seeing the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Built in honour of the countries founding father and where he is now laid to rest it is one of the most visually stunning buildings in the world. Entry is free and visitors can be provided for free with a hooded abaya or kandura if not sufficiently covered.
Day trippers from Dubai do tend to come in by the bus load during the day so it’s one to try and get to early for opening at 9am. Even with the cool marble tiles it can be hot going walking around the complex, but do take the time to walk all the way around and see the library and the Mausoleum.
Top Tip: Try and get yourself to the pedestrian bridge that crosses the freeway and check our Wahat al Karama as well. This is a dedication to UAE armed forces personnel who lost their lives serving the country. Not only is it a beautiful and thoughtful spot away from the crowds at the Mosque, you’ll also get some of the most stunning Mosque photos over the reflective pond, particularly at sunset.
Next on your Abu Dhabi agenda don’t miss seeing the newly opened Louvre (closed Mondays). A new cultural centrepiece on nearby Saadiyat Island. The building is equally as impressive as the art works inside, and not nearly the queues and crowds you might see in Paris!
If you have time, squeeze in a trip down the Corniche and drive past Emirates Palace – totally for the photo op! It’s a bit over priced to eat in, but get yourself across the road to Observation 300 at Jumeirah Hotel, Etihad Towers. From here you will get some stunning city scape views to die for and a perfect birds eye view into the magnificent new Presidential Palace. Your entry ticket includes a refreshment voucher to use on morning or afternoon tea.
On your way back to Dubai, make a cheeky stop at “The Last Exit” food trucks just over the Dubai border, well acclaimed for having some amazing dishes for hungry drivers!
Recommended Options to Abu Dhabi:
Day Trip from Dubai to the Musandam Peninsula, Oman
We’re going to get well beyond the bright lights of the city and take you to a whole other country! Don’t forget your passport and set your alarm early to make the most of a trip to the “Norway of Arabia”. From Dubai it can be a good couple of hours to get your destination – the regional capital of Khasab in the tiny Omani enclave that juts into the Strait of Hormuz.
You want to beat the Dubai morning rush hour traffic and head north, through the northern Emirates of Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain and Ras al-Khaimah until you hit the mountains (yes the UAE has mountains!). As the mountains hit the Arabian Gulf you come to the Al Darah border crossing. Here you have a few formalities on both sides of the border – an exit fee to pay in the UAE and a tourist visit Visa to Oman – you can read more on the formalities of the border crossing here.
Once you’re through the border it’s then a long 40 minute or so journey along the coastal mountain drive. You might need to take your Kwell tablets, but you’ll be reward with utterly stunning views into the small fishing village of Khasab. To see Musandam properly, you’ve got to get out on the water do grab boat in Khasab and get ready to explore the dramatic fjords.
The stark, raw beauty is completely engulfing. Once you are out on the water on a traditional dhow, you a transported to another world. A popular feature is the pods of dolphins that call the area home, you are almost guaranteed a spotting and they love coming out to play with the dhows. The more enthusiast may want to take on some snorkelling or scuba diving or even hiking into the khors.
Top tip: If you travel on a weekday (Sunday through Thursday) you will encounter far fewer expat day trippers who live in the UAE trying to do the same thing! This should make the border crossing a lot quicker and give you a true feeling of tranquillity when you’re out on the water. Also avoid making the border crossing around prayer times, staff will take breaks and this is when the queues back up.
Recommended Tours to Musandam Peninsula:
- Musandam Khasab Full-Day Cruise with Transfers & Lunch
Day Trip from Dubai to Al Ain
Also in the Abu Dhabi Emirate but this time you will drive south from Dubai and deep into the desert to find the lush oasis town of Al Ain that sits on the UAE border with Oman.
This is the original home of the Al Nayhan family, the rulers of the country so as you can imagine the town has a lot of historical roots. Worth visiting in Al Ain are the Al Ain National Museum and the Al Ain Palace Museum (the former royal homestead). Both will give you a good insight into the countries past and Bedouin culture and tradition.
The Al Ain Oasis, a UNESCO site, can be a welcome retreat from the heat. And if time will allow, the Al Ain Zoo is one of the best of the region displaying many native species and featuring an African safari trail.
To finish off your Al Ain road trip, head to the mountain top of Jebel Hafeet. From here you will see wide spanning views over to Oman. You can even stay here overnight in the Mercure hotel that precariously hangs off the cliff tops! At the foot of the mountain, don’t miss Green Mubazzarah, an oasis with a natural spring – the water said to have healing powers (though when you see how many others have their feet in it, you may not be so keen to touch it!!).
The journey both ways is about 1.5 hours give or take traffic but add 40 minutes for the steep drive up the mountain on this day trip from Dubai.
Recommended Tours to Al Ain:
Day Trip from Dubai to Ras al Khaimah
The Emirate of Ras al Khaimah – affectionately known as RAK – has made it clear they are the adventure Emirate of the UAE, and because of this, it’s one of the best day trips from Dubai! Home to the UAE’s highest peak Jebel Jais, Toroverde now operates the world’s longest zip line from the mountain’s top! Adrenaline junkies can now speed along at 150km/hr 1680 meters above the ground and take in the spectacular, rugged Hajar Mountain views over nearly 3 kilometres!
If that’s a little bit too much for you (I’m going a little pale just thinking about it!) then there are plenty of other outdoor adventures that can be enjoyed almost year round. Horse riding and mountain biking are popular, as well as water sports on the expansive coast line to the Arabian Gulf.
The great part is RAK is in easy driving distance from Dubai. You can self-drive or take an organised tour group that will pick you up from your hotel. If you are heading to the top of Jebel Jais you will need to allow 2 hours – as you can imagine it’s a long winding road to the top, another one you’ll need your anti-nauseas for!
Recommended Tours to Ras al Khaimah:
We always recommend visitors to Dubai to leave plenty of time to take in the highlights in the other Emirates as well. Much of the natural beauty and culture of the country and region lie far beyond the city.
Are you visiting the UAE anytime soon?! Which of these day trips from Dubai will you be adding to your itinerary?!
Keri is a travel writer, blogger, business consultant and expat mum of 3 living in the UAE. With her family they explore the region extensively. She blogs about her family adventures at Our Globetrotters and is co-founder and Middle East editor of city travel blog Little City Trips.