The Longest Layover: Less Than 24 Hours in Dubai


When my family went to Uganda in 2016, we noticed that our longest layover was in Dubai.  It was about 19-20 hours if I recall exactly.  We decided that we’d make the most of it, and instead of spending 20 hours at the airport, we’d explore the city. 

One of the benefits of having an International husband is that he has connections everywhere. Once we arrived to Dubai International Airport, our “tour guide” with a personal cab driver picked us up, and our mini adventure started. I must’ve really trusted my husband at the time, because the situation seemed a little sketch at first. 

My husband and the tour guide only communicated in my husband’s language.  I remember my mother being nervous for my daughter and I to leave the country with my husband, but I assured her he would bring us back.  She had watched Not Without My Daughter a few times too many. At that moment though, my eyebrow did raise a little. But hey, here I am, alive to tell it.

We were able to catch up on sleep, eat some good food, and visit some of the beautiful landmarks in 16 hours, and still make it back in time for our flight! 

First 8 Hours

After landing, we had to get transit visas, which allowed us to leave the airport for a short temporary visit in Dubai.  It was pretty simple.  We had to show our passports, and then look into some type of camera that matched our faces to the photographs in our passports.

Blurry Snapchat photo for your viewing pleasure

Blurry Snapchat photo for your viewing pleasure

 I was interested to see how it would work for Bella because she was only 1 and a couple of months, and her looks were changing so often. She had taken her passport photos about 4 months earlier.  But she passed!  Looking at Bella’s passport photo now, she looks nothing like it.  We’ll have to get that taken care of in the near future.

Our hotel was fine, nothing fancy.  Just a place to catch up on sleep.  It was in a good location though, because we were able to walk around the city and find food without travelling far.  Our tour guide walked us to a small spot, where we ordered beef Bihari kebabs, spiced lentils and rice, and of course it came with naan.  It was probably close to midnight, and they were about to close. 

We then took a longer route back to the hotel.  The alleys were kind of scary, and filled with stray cats.  Once we got back to the hotel, we went in on the food.  The food was phenomenal.  We were also pretty hungry, so the hotel room was silent for about a half hour.  We just ate and ate, only stopping to give Bella bites of rice and chewed up beef lol.   

After Bella finished jumping on the bed, we knocked out for about 4-5 hours.


The Next 8 Hours

I felt like we hadn’t slept at all, but my husband insisted we wake early for the free hotel breakfast and pack up so we could at least explore a little.  I groggily obliged him.   

We walked around for about 2 hours.  There were so many boutiques and stores where we were, and the streets were already crowded early in the morning.  It was also around 90 degrees.  We went to a few stores, and after my husband did some haggling (an art I hope to learn), we bought a few electronics, a new phone and a tablet for Bella. 

Our tour guide came to scoop us, and took us to a few popular tourist sites.  Driving around was fun.  There were so many gorgeous skyscrapers and lots of sand.  We took a lot of pictures in the car. Lol


We drove around some, and our tour guide took us to one of the seaports, and then to the Dubai Mall where we were able to walk around some more, and visit the Dubai Fountain (free tourist attraction), and get some great shots of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa.  Even though our tour guide didn’t really interact with us much, he did take lots of photos, and occasionally smiled at us.

Just when I was really beginning to enjoy our view, our secret tour guide told us it was time to head back to the airport! 

So while it was a short lived trip, we made the most of it.  I encourage you to make the most of your long layovers too, especially when travelling internationally.  You never know what you can learn or see in just a day’s time.

I hope to return to Dubai in the future when we can stay longer.


Have you guys ever explored a city in less than a day?


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