One of the easiest short stopover destinations for first-time visitors to Dubai is to visit the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa.
But how exactly do you get between Dubai International Airport (DXB) and the city’s most popular and well-known attractions, the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa?
There is no “city centre” as such to Dubai, but the Downtown Dubai area is probably as close as you’ll get. Here we’ll explain:
- All your transport options from Dubai Airport DXB to Dubai Mall
- What to see and do around Downtown Dubai
- Alternative stopover destinations in Dubai
Public Transport Options from Dubai Airport to Dubai Mall
There are Metro train, bus and taxi options to get from Dubai Airport to Downtown Dubai.
Dubai Airport DXB to Dubai Mall by Metro
The easiest public transport option for visitors to the centre of Dubai’s shopping and entertainment district in Downtown Dubai is by Metro.
- From DXB Terminal 3 or Terminal 1, look out for the signs to the Metro Red Line at the airport. You alight at the rather easy to recognise station name Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall. From the Metro station, there is the Metro Link Bridge, a covered walkway with travelators to the Mall.
- The estimated travel time from T3 to Burj Khalifa Dubai Mall Metro station is 23 minutes. The walk to the Mall from the station, even with travelators add a further 10 minutes.
- The Metro Service runs from Saturday to Wednesday 5 am to midnight, Thursdays 5 am to 1 am and Fridays from 2 pm to 1 am. Per current guidance from the RTA.
- During peak times, the Metro service runs every 4 minutes (6.30 am to 9 am weekdays) and 4.30 pm to 8 pm evenings. Off-peak, the service runs every 7 minutes
- The standard fare on a Nol Red Card is 5 AED for this journey (Short term visitors will only need a Red Nol card for individual journeys, noting there is a 2 AED front fee as well; For a longer stop or extensive use of transport in Dubai, consider a Nol Silver card which costs more up front but fares are cheaper).
Dubai Airport Bus to Dubai Mall
There is little difference in cost to take the Bus instead of the Metro, but with traffic and stops, the journey is likely to take you at least twice as long and involve at least one change. Buses in Dubai are cashless so you need a Nol card from within the airport terminal before you board.
Note the bus does not go directly to Downtown Dubai, but can take you to the main Al Ghubaiaba Bus Station, this is where many of the countries Intercity buses depart from (You can learn more about connecting from Dubai to Abu Dhabi by bus here).
DXB to Dubai Mall by Taxi
Taxies are readily available in front of the terminals at DXB. You should expect a standard taxi, taken from terminal 3 to Dubai Mall to cost approximately 40 to 55AED and the journey to take 15 to 25 minutes, depending on traffic. Note leaving from Dubai Airport there is automatically a 25 AED flagfall added. Cost thereafter is 1.96AED per kilometre.
There is a choice at the airport of a standard taxi, premium taxi or ladies taxi.
NB if you jump in a Premium Taxi from DXB, they are nicer cars but charge you for the privilege an extra 1 AED per kilometre! Careful staff don’t sweet-talk you into spending more “for only 1AED more!!”
What Is there to do in Dubai’s Downtown Area
The most obvious answers are to visit the Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa – but the answer goes much deeper than this as there are just so many things to do!
On a short stopover from Dubai Airport, you will really need to narrow it down to a couple of favourite activities – many you can enjoy for free, others you will need to pay for and preferably pre-book.
- The Dubai Fountain Show – the free musical spectacular of Dubai Fountains happens over lunchtime and all throughout the evening. There are several vantage points to view the show from the Mall and nearby Souk al Bahar. We explain all the timings and best vantage points here.
- At The Top – Visit Burj Khalifa’s observation decks on Level 124/125. Just be aware even with timed slot tickets queues can be long, it might be better to save this activity for a longer stopover. You can see our complete guide here for the best ways to tackle Burj Khalifa here.
- The Dubai Aquarium – there are both free and paid experiences available. From within the centre of Dubai Mall you can enjoy the world’s largest suspended glass tank for free, or purchase a ticket and head inside for the underwater tunnel and more hands-on experiences.
- Ice Skating Rink – fancy a bit of exercise during your stop? Rug up and hire some skates to enjoy the Olympic-sized ice rink, yes within the Mall!
- Dubai Opera – timing your stopover of an evening you may be able to catch a show at the stunning Dubai Opera House.
What time is Dubai Mall Open?
- The main trading hours for the Dubai Mall are 10 am to midnight (often open later on special public holidays such as Eid).
- Some coffee shops in Duabi Mall open earlier than 10 am, and the Waitrose Supermarket on the basement level opens from 8 am for groceries.
If your Dubai Airport stopover is in the wee hours of the morning (many, many flights land between midnight and 5 am!) then you may be better keeping within DXB for a lounge and entertainment, you can learn about all the things to do in Dubai Airport here.
Stopover Passengers Note! If your stopover with Emirates is greater than 8 hours (or 6 hours for Business/First Class Passengers), you may be able to avail a FREE hotel room with Emirates Dubai Connect. We explain exactly how the Dubai Connect service works here.
Alternatives to Dubai Mall and Downtown Dubai on a stopover
If you only have limited time to get out and get some fresh air during a Dubai Stopover, why not also try:
- Dubai Festival City – creekside and close to the airport, this is a smaller shopping mall than Dubai Mall but still plenty of dining and entertainment options. You can enjoy the nightly IMAGINE sound and light show, or how about Bounce X freestyle Terrain Park if you have active kids to burn off energy?
- Al Seef & Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood – if you’d prefer a taste of old Dubai on a stopover, we recommend catching a taxi to this creekside area of the city (or Red Metro to Khalid bin al Waleed station, changing one-stop to Al Fahidi on the Green Line). Beautifully restored buildings and the Dubai Museum (8.30 am to 8.30 pm) can be found, along with plenty of dining options, and opportunity to take a traditional Abra across the Dubai Creek).
- The Walk & The Beach, JBR – this area takes a little longer to reach from the airport so you should allow at least an hour in transit either direction. If you are visiting during the cooler winter months this is the perfect place to catch some rays, maybe even time to head out on a boat tour from Dubai Marina and enjoy dinner at one of the trendy beachfront restaurants, or sundowners from a stunning rooftop bar.
- Grab the Dubai Hop-on Hop-off Bus for a greater taster of experiences and sightseeing all over the city. Note you cannot catch the sightseeing bus directly from the airport. The best starting point for airport passengers to jump on is Deira City Centre which is located a few stops away from DXB on the Metro Red Line.
If you’d prefer to get some shut-eye or simply have a refreshing swim and a rest during your Dubai stopover, you could try one of these conveniently located Dubai airport hotels.
Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Dubai, a handy guide on what to pack and top tips for first-timers on the do’s and don’ts, laws and customs to be aware of.
- Check out this incredible list of 150+ places you should visit when you’re in Dubai.
- Pick up a Dubai Pass to save up to 50% on top Dubai attractions
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!!!
- Discover the best areas to stay in Dubai, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE and transit passengers self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our recommendation links.Dubai Travel Planner