Correspondent Report: 21 Hours in Dubai

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Correspondent Hao Tran has surfaced in Dubai, with an adventure that recalls my own 24-hour circuit of the UAE, but with more style.

I recently discovered that my friend was flying back to LAX via DXB after a short hop from BOM. I spent 21 hours in Dubai this past January when flying on Emirates from Cape Town to New York, so I shared with him a list of things to do. As a die-hard Emirates fan, I was surprised to read about the experience of a certain stubborn SkyTeam-loyalist

Arriving on January 18th and departing on the 19th

Early morning to afternoon:

I arrived at 530AM and received my free 30-day visa on arrival. I was ticketed for my return flight at 2AM the next morning and wanted to hit the ground running. If you’re arriving on a weekday, consider starting off the day with a private tour of the desert. The 200 AED (55 USD) weekday morning desert safari option meant that I was the only passenger in a Toyota Landcruiser. Early bird gets the worm. Despite a low passenger load, my tour operator did not cancel the trip.

I used Orient Tours, but I’ve also heard good things about Arabian Adventures. The process for reserving a tour can take a few days and initially seemed sketchy. Depending on the tour operator, the driver can pick you up anywhere, so I opted for an airport pick up.

The drive took about 45 minutes. Dune bashing, sandboarding, and camel riding were on the itinerary for the next three hours. Even peering out into the desert as we approached the dunes was fun. All were enjoyable, but the Rapid Travelling correspondent wouldn’t go out of the way to try the activities again.

Dune bashing

Afternoon to early evening:

I was dropped off at the Dubai Creek, where one can enjoy a 10-minute ride on a dhow for 1 AED. The pick up from the airport and the subsequent drop off saved me a cumulative taxi fare of at least $15, so the desert safari was worth it. Around the creek are a number of souks in the vicinity for the bargain hunter.

Crossing the creek

I had just watched Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, in which Tom Cruise scales the Burj Khalifa, and was in the mood for scaling the Burj myself. If you’re traveling on a whim to Dubai, expect to pay an entrance fee of 400 AED. As a tight-budgeted student, I opted for the more reasonably priced 100 AED advance booking. Security is tight at the entrance, pack light or be prepared to check in your belongings. Inventory is released 30 days in advance. Book early if you want to view the Dubai skyline at sunset.

For an authentic cosmopolitan taste of Dubai, I looked to the expertise of Anthony Bourdain.


I ended the night using the Dubai metro and looking at the sights. There are many choices for the adventurous such asindoor skiing. I purposely booked the 2AM DXB-JFK flight operated by a Boeing 777-300ER to maximize my time in Dubai, though it came at the cost of not flying the Airbus A380. There are two daily flights from DXB to JFK, both of which will be operated by the A380 next year.

My IMAX ticket from my hometown posing with my Burj ticket

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