How to Plan a Budget-Friendly Stopover in Dubai

by  Christina Garofalo | Jun 19, 2019
Dubai, UAE
Dubai, UAE / Alexey_Arz/iStock

Beyond its reputation for decadence, Dubai is a practical destination. The U.A.E.’s national airline, Emirates, offers comfortable and reasonably priced long-haul flights to Asia and Africa with free stopovers. With the new Dubai Stopover Pass, it is easier and more cost effective to plan than ever. Here’s what you need to know about the new pass and how to use it to get the best value. 

About the Stopover Pass

The new Dubai Stopover Pass includes admission to up to four of the city’s top attractions. The pre-paid, swipe-able card eliminates having to carry separate tickets and, most importantly, it's cost effective. The site claims you can save up to 60% on the regular combined entrance prices. You can purchase it online here.   

How Much it Costs

There are three tiers available for the pass:

  • Pick two attractions for $54 per adult and $46 per child 
  • Pick three attractions for $76 per adult and $62 per child
  • Pick four attractions for $105 per adult and $91 per child

It's important to note that there are no family packages. Each family member requires their own card. Discounted child rates are for kids between three and 12 years old.

What’s included

Guests can choose up to four activities from six popular attractions: Burj Khalifa At the Top (originally $39), Dubai Frame (originally $14 per ticket), Dubai Fountain Show and Lake Ride (originally $28), City Sightseeing Hop-on Hop-off Bus (originally $61), Marina Dhow Cruise Dinner (originally $35 per adult), and Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo (originally $15 per standard tickets). To help you stay connected, there is also an option to rent a pocket wifi device (with 1GB data). 

The card comes with a reference guide, which includes important information (hours, reservations, and more) for the attractions you’ll be visiting, as well as a map. Those who opt to get the pocket wifi or have an international phone plan can also use an interactive map online.

Activities that Offer the Best Value

Burj Khalifa (At the Top): You can’t leave Dubai without a trip to its most iconic building. The nearly 3,000-foot ascent to the 125th floor takes just 60 seconds and reveals the unbelievable scale of the U.A.E.’s rapid growth.

Dubai Fountain Show and Lake Ride: The 30-minute boat ride gets you a front-row seat to the world’s largest choreographed fountain show: 22,000 gallons of water propelled 460 feet into the air. The show takes place every 30 minutes — each time, with a different song and choreography — between 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. in front of the lit-up Burj Khalifa. Pro tip: Wear something you don’t mind getting wet. 

City Sightseeing on the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus: These popular sightseeing tours are a great way to see Dubai, without doing any of the work. These hop-on, hop-off buses will deliver you to as many as 38 attractions over a 24-hour unlimited travel period with guided commentary in 12 languages. Even at the current promotional rate ($61 on the website), a one-day tour will run you almost as much as the stopover pass alone. The air-conditioned buses are an especially good option if you’re visiting in summer (a great time to score deals). 

Combined, these three items would ordinarily cost $130 per person, while the Stopover Pass for three attractions will cost US $76 — about a 40% savings.

What You Need to Know

While the Dubai Pass provides entry to attractions, note that many sights allow a limited number of guests per day. We recommend making advance reservations whenever possible.

The pass benefits can only be redeemed once per person, and you have 36 consecutive hours to use it from first instance of usage. For entry, simply present the card at the entrance (no ID required).

What Isn't Included (But Still Worth Doing)

The Bedouin Experience is a fun, interactive way to learn the history of the tribes that roamed the region for thousands of years, and is great for people of all ages. The five-hour tour begins with a 40-minute camel ride in the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve, which is then followed by a falconry sho, and a meal at a reconstructed Bedouin camp. Evening excursions ends with a brief guided stargazing (from $107 per adult and $80 per child).

Depending on who you’re traveling with, you might want to book the new high-energy, self-driving boat tour on the Arabian Gulf, or attend a post-dinner Cirque du Soleil-style show. Additionally, those interested in culture should consider the SMCCU Cultural Experience in the Al Fahidi historic district. The cultural talks, conducted over a traditional Emirati meal (our lunch included lamb biriyani and doughnuts in date syrup), are aimed at debunking misconceptions about local culture.

For other budget-friendly activities, check out our Affordable Guide to Dubai

The Bottom Line

The Dubai Stopover Pass is a great, cost-effective way to see several of the city’s most popular attractions. We recommend purchasing the pass for two or three main sights, and be sure to keep one day free for other activities around town.

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