How to Spend a 4 Hour Layover in Dubai

How to Spend a 4 Hour Layover in Dubai

Sometimes you have very limited time in a city or end up somewhere completely unplanned. Well, this post is to help you if that happens in #Dubai. I had a 4-hour layover and much preferred being #active to sitting in the airport. My recommendations are to go to the top of Burj Khalifa and/or take a scenic #helicopter flight over the city. Ready, set, go!

Dubai International Airport is one of the best in the world. There is no shortage of shopping, restaurants, bars, and places to hang out while you are stuck there. However, I don’t like to hang out in airports. It seems like a waste of time to me which is exactly why I wanted to spend my four hour layover in Dubai having some fun.

When I did my research everyone kept saying to not leave the airport and you will miss your flight if you don’t have at least 6 hours. That sounded like a challenge to me because I knew four hours was plenty of time to do one fun thing during my layover in the United Arab Emirates. When I was in Dubai in 2013 I loved it and had a great time dune bashing in the desert sands outside the city.

In the desert, with a view that seemingly never ends

I didn’t have time to go dune bashing but I did have two options I felt I could manage with my 4 hour layover in Dubai.

1. Go to the top of the Burj Khalifa- The tallest building in the world (I didn’t have time for this in my previous visit.)


2. Take a scenic helicopter flight over Dubai.

My layover was actually 3 hours and 50 minutes so I had to be fast. I needed to get to the tour and back to the airport 60-75 minutes before my flight. I was already checked-in and had carry-on luggage to speed things up. I wouldn’t board until 40 minutes prior to departure so arriving 75 minutes before my flight allowed me 35 minutes to move through security and immigration.

I chose to take the scenic helicopter flight over Dubai but let me break down going to the top of the tallest building in the world first. There is time to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa in 4 hours if choose to take that tour.

Burj Khalifa Layover In Dubai

The observation deck opens at 8:30am and you can choose from general admission, fast track (priority access to the top), and “At The Top” which is the highest observation deck and the most expensive for 500 AED.

The Burj Khalifa towers over the rest of the buildings

There is also a sunrise tour available on Friday and Saturday at 5:30am for 125 AED.

With Fast Track tickets, you can proceed directly to the attraction. The ticket also entitles you to privileged queuing at designated areas only: the reception and while accessing the elevators at level 124. Tickets are available only at the Ticket counters located in The Dubai Mall, on your intended day of visit (limited availability).

Fast track is not necessary but it may calm your nerves if you are worried about missing your flight.

Book your ticket for the observation deck online ahead of arrival for one hour after you land. This will give you plenty of time to get to the Burj Khalifa and back. If you are a little early or late they should be flexible.

from  $25

Burj Khalifa Sky Experience

 Burj Khalifa - Downtown Dubai - Dubai - United Arab Emirates
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Dubai International is 14km from the Burj Khalifa. That should only take 15 minutes without traffic but this could take longer during peak traffic hours

Map of Dubai, showing how to get from the airport to Burj Khalifa

Spend just enough time at the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, take some photos, and get back to the airport.

Now for how I spent my 4 hour layover in Dubai.

A Helicopter Tour Over Dubai

If you know me you know I love helicopters. I have flown helicopters to the Hamptons, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon to name a few. I love the view from above and it is unlike any other feeling looking down over a city landscape.

There are many different helicopter flights over Dubai to choose from. Many take off from the Palm Dubai which is not close to the airport. Atlantis The Palm is at least a 30 minute drive from the airport without traffic. That is why I opted for the closer operator, for that reason alone.

from  $162

Dubai Scenic Aerial Heritage Tour

 Dubai - United Arab Emirates
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I flew with Helidubai and they are located about 10-15 minutes from the airport. They did a great job and they did not sponsor this trip or pay me to say that! I highly recommend them.

During the helicopter ride

Here we go: The 4-hour Dubai Layover Challenge (actually 3 hours and 50 minute challenge)

8:10 - Touched down in Dubai

8:22 - Deplaned (I tried to book a seat in the front to get off as fast as possible.)

8:28 - Arrive at immigration

8:31 - Complete immigration

8:34 - Walk through customs with carry on (Don’t check a bag!)

9:08 - Driver is late but arrived (I pre-booked a driver for speed but a taxi would have done just fine. There was no line at all and plenty available.)

9:17 - Driver asks which hotel I’m going to (I’m not going to a hotel - great start...)

9:18 - Driver pulls over lost to ask for directions, luckily the helipad is only 5 min from us

9:23 - Arrive at helipad on time for 10am flight (This tour is only 10-15 minutes from the airport. There are others that leave from the Palm Dubai which is way too far for this short of a layover.)

9:28 - Sign in and wait in waiting room

9:32 - Safety presentation

9:40 - Back to waiting room

10:00 - Helicopter departs

10:20 - Back to car and to the airport

10:32 - Arrive at airport

10:37 - Clear immigration

10:42 Clear Security

10:48 - At Gate (Early)

11:15 - Board

12:00 - Depart for Kuwait

This was much smoother and faster than I could have imagined. Four hours was plenty of time to enjoy Dubai and see it from the sky. To make life easier I would recommend booking a 6 hour layover if possible and if you really want to see the city for the day look for an 8 hour layover or 12 hour layover.

This challenge was inspired by the 3.6 layover challenge. Grif gave me the confidence that this could be done unlike all the forum members at FlyerTalk and TripAdvisor. So take the challenge enjoy maximize your layover in Dubai!

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