A Dubai desert safari is a quintessential part of the Dubai experience. Getting beyond the skyscrapers, feeling the sand beneath your toes, and being introduced to Bedouin traditions combined with modern Emirati past-times.
Just one look for a desert safari in Dubai though and I’m sure you’ve already encountered just how overwhelming the decision is when it comes to picking a reliable tour operator.
Whilst the tour descriptions might feel similar, prices can vary vastly. What exactly are you paying for?
We’re going to talk you through here what to expect from your Dubai Desert Safari operator, and then compare the pricing and service you’ll get from each.
Let’s cut through the sales pitch and help you choose the right sort of safari for you and your travelling group.
- Our Top Picks – Best Dubai Desert Safari
- When is the best time of day to book a desert safari?
- What activities do you do on a Dubai Desert Safari?
- How can I book a desert safari in Dubai?
- Best “all in” Desert Safari packages in Dubai
- Best Dubai Desert Camp for Thrill Seekers
- Best Overnight Desert Safaris in Dubai
- Best luxury Morning Desert Safari in Dubai
- Cheapest Dubai Desert Safari
- What to take on your Dubai Desert Safari
- Alternatives to a Dubai Desert Safari
Our Top Picks – Best Dubai Desert Safari
Premium Red Dunes
See why this is the best all-rounder Dubai desert experience for first-timers
Click here for the itinerary and booking
Desert Quad Bike Safari
The best Dubai desert tour for thrill-seekers with quad biking included in your Dubai desert experience
Click here for the itinerary and booking
Overnight Desert Camp
This is the best Dubai desert safari that takes you on an overnight experience for nature lovers for s true Dubai Bedouin experience
Click here for the itinerary and booking
When should you book a Desert Safari for – Morning, Afternoon or Overnight safari?
Whether to spend just a few hours in the desert or stay overnight is really up to you as there are a variety of options on offer. Afternoon desert safaris tend to take off after the heat of the day has gone, whereas morning safaris have a greater focus on the desert itself than on entertainment.
You may prefer a morning desert safari if you’re on a tight schedule and already have an action-packed evening in the city. Families may also find mornings preferable to late nights with small children, you will find once your transport has you back in town it can be close to 10-11:00 PM.
If you have time within your schedule, an overnight stay in the desert is highly recommended as you get to see the desert in all of its glory, at sunset and sunrise; it also gives you a greater chance of encountering wildlife as the creatures of the desert are more active during twilight and nighttime hours.
Overnight safari’s in Dubai also give you the opportunity to stargaze over the unpolluted night skies. If camping isn’t quite your thing we can also recommend several Dubai glamping sites, including those offering coveted dome tents to see the desert in all its glory.
What activities do you do on a Dubai Desert Safari?
Each of the desert safaris we will list below has a slightly different agenda and activities on offer, but generally speaking, these are the sorts of experiences, and cultural and sporting opportunities you can enjoy on a Dubai desert safari.
All of the desert safaris we recommend below include a hotel pick up and drop back service in Dubai so it’s all door-to-door service in an airconditioned vehicle.
Depending on what sort of tour you have booked (and prevailing COVID rules at the time of your visit), this may be a shared vehicle with other tour participants, or your group could have a vehicle to themselves, up to 7 passengers.
Experience the thrills of dune bashing
Not for the faint-hearted, dune bashing – literally driving up and down sand dunes at speed – is something that many desert safaris offer as part of their itinerary.
Is dune bashing safe? Dune bashing is usually done in specially adapted four-wheel-drive vehicles fitted with seat belts. Drivers are usually highly skilled, trained, and stick to designated routes through the desert – if you book with a reputable company.
Dune bashing is not recommended for pregnant women, children, or anyone with any sort of medical problem. If you suffer from motion sickness we recommend you look for tours where this part of the day’s entertainment can be avoided.
Surf the great sand sea on a sandboard
Grab your board and let the dunes take you! Sandboarding is an extreme sport similar to snowboarding and does demand some skill as well as a good sense of balance – but there’s certainly no harm for amateurs to give it a shot! Participants can stand, sit or lie on their boards and move across or directly down the dunes.
Closed-toed trainers and socks are recommended for this activity.
Speed across the desert on a quad bike or dune buggy
Another way to get to grips with the desert is by quad bike or dune buggy. Some packages include this, in fact, some tours specialise in desert dune buggy tours. Others, you may find this is an added extra you are offered once you arrive at camp.
Remember to check your itinerary closely before booking if this is something that you really want to do as it’s not an automatic inclusion.
Make sure you’re dressed appropriately – cotton trousers or jeans recommended as well as closed-toe shoes and something to tie back long hair.
Have a henna tattoo
Henna tattoos have been worn by the woman of the region for centuries and are offered to visitors at most desert camps and on many desert safaris. Tattoos are traditionally painted on the hands, arms, and feet of brides and are thought to bring good fortune.
In the past, designs would differ from tribe to tribe but nowadays henna artists usually carry a portfolio of designs for customers to choose from. The henna will last about two weeks before fading – always a fun souvenir of your time in Abu Dhabi.
Not recommended for sensitive skin or people with G6PD deficiency.
Enjoy a Camel Ride
Riding into the desert sunset on a camel is a dream for many whilst for others it can be a complete nightmare! Just remember to follow your guide’s instructions and lean backwards when the camel stands up or sits down to avoid any injuries.
Most desert safaris offer short camel treks of 10-20 minutes as well as longer treks for the more adventurous often for an additional fee.
Camel riding is not for everyone and is not recommended for pregnant women or people with serious musculoskeletal injuries as well as very young children.
You are bound to get plenty of opportunities to interact with the camels and take some photos even if you’re not too keen on taking a ride.
Indulge in some belly dancing
Some camps and desert safaris offer belly dancing as entertainment. Belly dancing has its origins in ancient Egypt but was practised widely throughout the Middle East until the rise of Islam.
Nowadays, belly dancing is performed for tourists in the UAE but many conservative Muslims still consider it haram (against the teachings of Islam).
Be mesmerized by a Tanoura Dance
Sometimes as an alternative to belly dancing and sometimes to complement it, a captivating tanoura dance might be offered. Another dance originating in Egypt, tanoura gets its name from the characteristic skirt worn by the dancer. Dancers are rather uniquely, always male, and spin around allowing for their elaborate skirts to extend outwards like a hypnotic parachute.
Note that if you book your safari to coincide with a religious holiday, including the holy month of Ramadan, no entertainment will be provided.
Many visitors to the Middle East like to try smoking shisha and a desert safari is one place where you can do this in the unique setting under desert stars.
Even if not a regular smoker, it’s worth giving it a try for the cultural experience. Whilst shisha does contain fewer chemicals than cigars and cigarettes, it still has its health hazards if smoked regularly.
Let your taste buds be tantalized by an Arabic BBQ
Many desert safaris include what is known as an Arabic barbecue meal. The barbecue often contains a selection of delicious meze-style starters such as hummus (chickpea dip), moutabal (aubergine dip), fattoush salad (lettuce, cucumber, tomato, radishes, onion, pomegranate, and molasses), olives, mixed pickles, and Arabic bread.
Main dishes at an Arabic BBQ include various grilled meats and kebabs; this often includes the very popular ‘shish tawook’ (chicken marinated in garlic sauce and grilled on skewers). Sitting around the campfire, talking about the day’s activities whilst indulging in this tasty feast is the perfect way to end the day.
Note that some camps and safaris will provide alcohol at an additional cost, but this is obviously not part of the traditional Arabic meal.
How can I book a desert safari in Dubai?
There are a number of desert safari operators with an online presence but we recommend booking through ‘Get Your Guide’ as there is a simple and easy booking system, you receive an instant confirmation text and can cancel for free up to 24 hours before your planned excursion – giving you just that extra bit of peace of mind, especially with current uncertainty around travel plans.
Another option we’ve always found reliable for independently booking tickets and tours in Dubai is Viator (a Trip Advisor Company) – they have great depth in the range of tickets and tours on offer in the UAE.
Best “all in” Desert Safari packages in Dubai
- 7 hours
- Includes pick ups, dune bashing, sand boarding, camel ride, BBQ buffet, camel feeding, henna, falconry
- Quad Biking and extreme dune bashing optional extras
- See current pricing and available time slots here
What to expect: This is a very popular evening safari is run by OceanAir Travels and is the most booked in Dubai with good reason. Your 4WD pickup service will collect you from your hotel in Dubai between 3:00 to 4:00 PM and drive you to your desert location starting point.
Once you leave the highway, your driver pulls over to let the air out of the tires before you hit the dunes. Your dune bashing experience lasts around 45 minutes, before all the drivers congregate at the best sunset spot – truly one of the most magical moments on your trip to Dubai.
Next, you’ll be driven to Al Khayma Camp. It is one of the largest desert safari camps in Dubai. For this reason, it’s not very “personalised” and intimate; you are part of a much larger group once all the cars join together, but it’s very well set up, with clean bathrooms etc available.
Expect a buffet-style BBQ dinner with a range of local and international choices, there will be vegetarian options available too.
NB alcohol will not be included but is available as a paid extra – this applies at pretty much all camps offering beverages will only be water and soft drinks included.
You’ll spend around two to three hours at the camp where its possible to then take a short camel trek (don’t worry, this can be more than enough for most newcomers!), plus if you’ve chosen any added extras like quad biking this takes place from the camp, as well as sandboarding on the soft rolling dunes nearby.
They’ll give you some shisha to try, but if you’d like to experiment and try more flavours, this will cost you extra. Likewise, you can get a small henna design, or pay more if you’d like something more extensive.
TOP TIP: A lot of people go straight for the camel rides at dusk, but it can mean a long line. We’d recommend eating first, then the line will be shorter for the food and the camels!
Don’t want all the added extras? The team that runs Al Khayma camp can also offer you shorter daytime desert tours where you’ll get a basic introductory desert experience without the evening dinner and entertainment. If this interests you or you’re short on time in Dubai, check out this shortened 4-hour desert safari package here.
A close second pick from a reputable tour operator (Ammar Tours), this is also an excellent choice for first-timers to the Dubai desert who want a little taste of everything at a reasonably packaged price.
- 7 hours
- Includes pick ups, dune drive, quad biking, sandboarding, camel ride, BBQ Buffet, henna, shisha, belly dancing, tanoura dancer and fire dancer
- Excludes alcohol which costs extra
- See current pricing and available time slots here
What to expect: The tour itinerary is very similar to the above, but you will have a slightly different camp and a little more of the evening entertainment thrown in. Your upfront cost for this Dubai desert tour is a little bit more because your quad biking experience is included as standard.
This desert tour also allows you a private tour option but be mindful this will significantly increase the price of your desert safari in Dubai!
Best Dubai Desert Camp for Thrill Seekers
If you’ve come to the Dubai desert for the adrenaline-pumping action, make sure to look for camps that specialize in this. Adding it on later as you think it looks cool and want to give it a try will either result in paying more, or they may not have enough equipment available. Deciding upfront if you’re more of an adrenaline junkie and the motorsports appeal, this is a wise move.
This tour skips the dune bashing part in the 4WD and you go straight to pick up your Quad Bikes.
- 6 hours
- 1-hour quad bike included
- Also includes sandboarding, camel ride, henna, shisha, Tanoura and Khaliji dance show, unlimited soft drinks and BBQ meal
- See current pricing and available dates here
What to expect: They use the same Al Khayma camp as listed above but you’ll get the exclusive quad bike time before the rest of the group turns up for the evening entertainment.
Best Overnight Desert Safaris in Dubai
The huge advantage of doing an overnight desert safari is, of course, getting the pleasure of enjoying both sunset in Dubai and the beautiful Dubai sunrise.
The downside, we know not everyone loves to “camp”. The suggestions we are going to give here are much closer to the camping than the glamping end of the scale! But please don’t rule them out, even if you’re not a huge camping fan this is an unforgettable experience in Dubai and you’ll find it much more immersive with your hosts than the straight in-and-out evening camps.
Hands down when anyone asks the best desert tour provider in Dubai they are going to recommend you Platinum Heritage. Especially if you have children, the elderly, or slightly more infirmed in your group, this is the way to go to ensure their comfort and a premium Dubai desert experience open to all.
- Includes pick-ups, desert nature tour, 4-course dinner, traditional Emirati entertainment, accommodation, breakfast
- Exlcudes dune bashing, any motorsports or sand sports
- Check available dates and pricing here on Viator
NB Guides will speak English and Arabic. Should you wish to request German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Italian or Chinese, request in advance.
What to expect: Instead of the regular Land Cruisers, you’ll get to ride in an open-roof 1950’s Vintage Land Rover through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve.
The focus with Platinum Heritage is on the desert wildlife and fragile ecosystem, rather than the desert dune sports. No rough and tumble dune bashing here. Enjoy a slow and sedate desert drive while you take in the oryx and gazelles that roam this protected reserve area of the desert where only a select few operators can run tours.
The camp here is much more luxurious than other setups. A 4-course meal is served to your table rather than a buffet. You can even get the opportunity to try camel milk and camel meat as part of your desert experience.
There are some more “traditional” desert activities on offer too, such as henna and camel rides as part of your overnight experience, but instead of belly dancing and Tanoura, you will get a more traditional lineup of Emirati cultural entertainment.
Camping is in traditional Bedouin huts with access to clean bathrooms. Catch the sunrise over the desert dunes followed by a hot Arabic breakfast as the perfect way to end your Dubai desert experience.
This overnight Dubai Desert Camp also always you the option to add on a Hot Air Balloon Experience at sunrise too. It does considerably add to the pricing for your desert safari but this is an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience to try in Dubai.
Note they can assist with car seats for infants and those less mobile, but the camp is not wheelchair friendly.
Another option using the same camp set up at Al Khayma Camp allows you to extend your evening desert entertainment experience to overnight.
- Includes the evening activities such as dune bashing, sandboarding, camel trek, BBQ dinner, henna, shisha, dance
- Tent accommodation and breakfast also provided
- Check available dates and pricing here on Viator
What to expect: Once the “evening” crowd have left, the overnighters are provided with individual tents, mattress, sleeping bags, and pillows, absolutely none of your own camping gear is needed.
The camp is equipped with clean bathrooms for men and women and there is staff on hand throughout the night to help with any problems.
Wake to a hot Arabic breakfast and enjoy the sunrise across the desert before being returned by one of their experienced drivers back to the city, or cruise port at Port Rashid.
More Dubai Desert overnight options
Also, consider for an overnight desert safari in Dubai:
- Overnight Camping with BBQ Dinner and Breakfast – tented sleeping add on to their regular evening tours
- Overnight Camel Caravan with BBQ Dinner and Breakfast – includes a 45-minute camel trek in and airconditioned accommodation overnight.
You may also want to check out our guide to Dubai Desert Glamping, where to focus is more on the accommodation than the desert experience we talk you through all overnight desert options.
Best luxury Morning Desert Safari in Dubai
- 5 hours
- Includes luxury vehicle pick up, desert nature safari, binoculars, breakfast
- See current pricing and available dates here
What to expect: Another tour option from premium providers Platinum Heritage. If you want to skip the camping element this is a great way to still get a fully immersive desert experience.
An early start awaits as you are picked up by Range Rovers for your desert tour, in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. here your guides will talk you through the native wildlife.
Your morning is finished off with breakfast at the beautiful Al Maha Resort, on the grounds of the desert conservation reserve.
NB this tour is best suited to those aged 10+ years old and if pregnant, recommended not in the third trimester, but otherwise, this is one of the better tours for those with accessibility issues as you’re mostly in the vehicle, no extreme sports.
Cheapest Dubai Desert Safari
I always laugh a bit when I see people say “What’s the best cheap xx”, especially when asking for a service. Cheap and best may not always go hand in hand.
If by “cheap” you are looking for a no-thrills package of desert tour for a few hours, we could direct you to:
- Half Day Desert Safari – currently with 15% discount under AED 170 – includes dune bashing, sandboarding and camels but no meals with a 4-hour duration – morning and afternoon options.
- 4 Hour Desert Tour – Currently offering 25% discount so under AED 160 – same tour offered by our #1 choice here, but the shorter tour only includes the dune bashing, sand boarding and camel ride – all others are optional extras that will increase the price.
- Red Dune Desert Safari – currently AED 115 – a shorter safari mostly taking place with morning start times, you will get to experience dune bashing, camel rides and sandboarding with refreshments but no meal, back to town for a late lunch.
As you’ll see from customer ratings they are by no means inferior, you just don’t get fancy extras.
For many, this is more than enough for a desert taster if you haven’t got long in Dubai – just go in with your eyes wide open when asking for cheap that it’s very unlikely to include all the added extras and entertainment as mentioned above.
What to take on your Dubai Desert Safari
Once you’ve settled on your Dubai desert safari provider, don’t forget about what to wear and what to pack. We’ve seen plenty of tourist fails in this regard over our many years taking guests on desert safaris.
Let’s be clear, it’s not a fashion parade. It most likely will be hot and sandy – intensely hot and sweaty in summer and mild to even chilly in mid-winter. You will be taking part in physical activity and most likely dining seated on the floor.
Avoid making any embarrassing mistakes on your first desert safari and head over to our guide on what to pack and what to wear on Dubai Desert Safari – you’ll thank us later!
More Top Tips and Safety Matters when Considering a Dubai Desert Safari
Although a Dubai Desert Safari is on the top of most visitors’ wish lists, bear in mind it’s not suitable for everyone. It is not recommended for:
- Pregnant women
- Children under 6 (some will say children under 3)
- Those with mobility impairments and wheelchair users
- People with back or heart problems
Does that mean you need to miss out completely? No, in these circumstances sometimes it is only the dune-bashing element of the tour you should skip.
A good Dubai Desert Tour company can almost certainly find you an alternative way into the camp that will be safe for these excluded groups from the general tour bookings to at least enjoy the camp element of the experience.
Alternatives to a Dubai Desert Safari
If you are not keen on the cost of a Dubai desert safari or would prefer not to join a big tour group, here are a few options you can look into to still get a taste of the Dubai desert:
- Stay at a premium Dubai Desert Resort. These will allow you the luxury of 4-walls around you at night and all the mod cons but include desert experiences in their entertainment program, equally as good (and arguably better!) than you get on the bulk desert tour packages. We highly recommend Al Maha, A Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa if the budget will stretch, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort is another good alternative or in Sharjah Emirate look at the Mysk Resorts – Mysk Al Bayader is an excellent choice nearby.
- Take yourself on a self-guided desert safari. Not for the inexperienced! Even just driving on the dunes is an acquired skill. It is easy to rent a car in Dubai and pick out some easy spots such as Al Qudra Lakes in the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve which 2WD vehicles can access, but you will be surrounded by other “easy” campers. To hit the real dunes you’ll want a 4WD and experienced travellers with you and camp overnight.
- If you will be visiting Abu Dhabi, there are further desert safari options available just outside of the capital too, or look into some of the premier desert resorts in Abu Dhabi that also offer desert recreation activities – Anantara Qasr Al Sarab being our top choice if the budget will stretch or Tilal Liwa Hotel one of the most budget-friendly desert options in the UAE.
Dubai Desert Safari Frequently Asked Questions
The price of a Dubai Desert safari is quite variable. The cheapest you are looking at is around AED 150 ($40USD) per person.
A “bells and whistles” package with camel trekking and dune sports, expect to pay more like AED 350 per person.
Camping overnight on your Dubai Desert Safari is an optional extra only some tour companies provide.
Most Dubai desert tours run in the daytime, either leaving early in the day to beat the heat, or close to sundown but there are an increasing number of operators also offering camping overnight options.
These range from quite rustic to luxury glamping. See all our suggestions above which may suit you best.
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 from iVenture or a Dubai Go City 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:
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