For anyone making their first trip to the UAE, a day in Dubai is a must. Dubai’s futuristic cityscape and glitzy facade really has to be seen to be believed, but underneath that facade is a dynamic city with a proud heritage and a love of tradition.
Whilst there are lots of organised day trips available, not all itineraries provide you with the opportunity to take your time and soak up the Dubai atmosphere. By planning your own trip to Dubai from Abu Dhbai, you are more flexible and can spend time where it suits you best.
In this article, we explain how to get to Dubai from Abu Dhabi and some of the things that you really shouldn’t miss when you go to Dubai, as well as taking a look at some of the guided tours available.
- How to get to Dubai from Abu Dhabi
- Suggested Day Trip Destinations: Dubai from Abu Dhabi
- Evenings in Dubai
- Getting Around in Dubai on a Day Trip
- Guided Tours From Abu Dhabi to Dubai
How to get to Dubai from Abu Dhabi
Driving from Abu Dhabi to Dubai is relatively easy. It takes approximately 75 minutes to drive from Downtown Abu Dhabi to Downtown Dubai (Dubai Mall/Business Bay Area) along the E11 Sheikh Zayed Road.
Once in Dubai, the road system can seem a little confusing, so do take your time so you don’t miss your exit (Using guided navigation is a must! Locally, Waze is a very popular app or trusty old Google Maps).
Rental Cars From Dubai to Abu Dhabi
There are plentiful car hire locations in Abu Dhabi, both in the Downtown area of the city and at the airport. You will just need your international driver’s license or IDP to hire a car (Renters under 25 years old may pay a young driver’s premium).
Pricing will vary significantly based on the model of vehicle you choose to drive.
- If you don’t want to do the driving, why not try Get Transfer? You can ask drivers to bid on your journey and choose the type of vehicle you want – sort of like Uber or Careem but more personalised and you’re locking in your journey for the whole day.
- We have a complete guide here to all our handy tips for self-driving in Abu Dhabi and the UAE to help you decide if you’re confident enough to get behind the wheel.
Public Transport from Abu Dhabi to Dubai
If you do want to take public transport, bus numbers E100, E101 and E102 travel between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The E100 and E101 routes begin at Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station (Al Wahda). The E100 takes two hours and costs AED 25 one way. The E101 also begins at Abu Dhabi Central Bus Station, costs AED 25, and takes around 85 minutes, termination at Ibn Battuta Station, where you can connect with the Metro.
The E102 starts in Mussafah and travels via Abu Dhabi International Airport to Ibn Battuta Mall Dubai, which takes approximately 100 minutes. The fee is also AED 25 one way.
Taking a taxi from Abu Dhabi to Dubai is by far the quickest and easiest way of travelling between the two cities if you don’t have your own car. A taxi from Abu Dhabi to Dubai Mall costs around AED 300 one way. Once in Dubai, taxis are easy to find and are a fairly inexpensive way of getting around the city.
Suggested Day Trip Destinations: Dubai from Abu Dhabi
There are literally hundreds of places you could visit in Dubai on a day trip, but we’ve narrowed it down for you to three of the most popular Dubai locations for a unique day trip experience.
Option 1: Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall Fountains
A day at the world’s biggest shopping centre should not be missed by any visitor to the UAE. Even if you don’t plan on spending your hard-earned cash on designer swag, the sheer awesomeness of this ultra-chic mall is sure to impress even the most ardent shopping centre critic.
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
At the heart of Dubai Mall is the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Famous for its massive tank and underwater tunnel, the aquarium is home to 33,000 different species of fish and other aquatic creatures. Tickets start at AED 169, with various add-ons. Or you can simply admire the main tank from inside the Dubai Mall.
Shop til you drop
For those that enjoy shopping, some of the flagship stores include Bloomingdales and French department giant La Galleries Lafayette. There is also a designer section of the mall featuring brands such as Armani, Gucci and Dolce and Gabbana.
If you fancy some new threads but don’t want to break the bank, you’ll also find international high-street favourites such as H&M, Zara, M&S, American Eagle and Muji.
Part of the mall is designed like a traditional souk and contains many smaller shops selling finely crafted jewellery, carpets, pashminas and other middle-eastern souvenirs. Adored with fountains and intricate fretwork, the network of alley-like passages join together under a large dome where you will find, rather randomly, the illuminated fossilised skeleton of a diplodocus.
Time to eat in Dubai
If you’re looking for a bite to eat, the Mall basement is a culinary delight. Here you will find international favourites such as Wagamama and Texas Roadhouse, as well as more local flavours. There are a number of specialist luxury chocolate and date shops, such as Laderach, Neuhaus and Bateel, as well as various places to buy ice-cream.
At the Top – Burj Khalifa
As if the mall wasn’t enough if its own right, the whole complex is overshadowed by the magnificent Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building. Visit the ‘At the Top’ experience for magnificent views of the city and coastline. Pre-booking this part of your Dubai day trip is a must:
- Tickets to At The Top start from AED 169, which includes access to the viewing platforms on levels 124 and 125
- You can upgrade your ticket to a skip-the-line Premium experience with VIP access to Level 148, the highest deck open to the public
- Sunset tickets are the most popular, so you can expect to pay more for these valuable time slots!
- You can also look out for packages that include brunch or combo tickets with the Dubai Aquarium are always good value.
Access to the tower is gained at the basement level of the Mall (follow the signs marked ‘At the Top’). Do expect queuing to take up a significant portion of your visit; for those tight on time, we always suggest skipping the journey up as there’s only so much you can fit in one day in Dubai!
The Dubai Fountains
After a day of shopping (or visiting Dubai Mall’s other attractions), head outside to the Dubai Mall Fountains. These mesmerising musical fountains form a spectacular display every thirty minutes from 6:00 pm until 11:00 pm daily (timings differ during Ramadan).
- You can enhance your Dubai Fountains experience by taking one of the traditional abra boats out onto the lake
Option 2: Take a Walk Back in Time to Dubai Creek, Al Bastikiya and Jumeirah Mosque
In stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of Dubai Mall, a day in the old part of Dubai will give you an insight into the history and traditions of this rapidly changing global city.
Start your day with a traditional abra ride along the creek or make your way through the souks towards the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (also known as Al Bastikiya).
At present, Dubai Museum and the Al Fahidi fort are under renovation, but there is plenty to see in this area. The neighbourhood is studded with art galleries, workshops and quaint cafes. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding is a must-stop for those wanting to learn more about Islamic culture.
Don’t miss the coffee museum, where you can sample different varieties of coffee from all over the world as well as see the traditional instruments used in their preparation.
Another option away from the shopping malls is a visit to the beautiful Jumeirah Mosque.
- Tours of the mosque are available daily at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm with no booking required.
- There is a charge of AED 35 per person, which includes light refreshments at the end of your visit.
- The Mosque is located on Jumeirah Beach Road, only around a 15-minute drive from the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood and can easily be combined with a trip to Dubai Creek and Al Bastikiya.
- For more details and to plan your visit to Jumeirah Mosque, click here.
Option 3: Dubai Marina, JBR & The Burj Al Arab
Another day trip option from Dubai features a trip to Dubai Marina and the Jumeirah Beach area known as JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residences).
Start your day with breakfast or a morning coffee by the waterside at Dubai Marina Mall before admiring the yachts in the swanky marina. You can easily walk from the Marina to the JBR in the cooler months, but from April to October, taking a water taxi may be a less sweaty option.
JBR is a beachside boulevard jammed full of shops and restaurants, as well as frequent pop-up markets and street entertainers. Access to the beach is free (deck chair payable), and there are showers and changing facilities available for a small fee. In addition to the beach, there is a playground and splash park for children as well as other sporting facilities.
It is possible to take boat trips from Dubai Marina along the coast as far as the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Hotel’s iconic sail-shaped hotel. This is a chilled-out option that allows you to see some of Dubai’s major landmarks whilst relaxing on the deck or in the comfort of the air-conditioned cabin.
The Burj Al Arab do take lunch and afternoon tea reservations from outside guests, so if you want to experience the delights of this 7-star mega-hotel without actually staying the night, this might be the way to do it. For more details, click here.
In addition to scheduled boat tours from Dubai Marina, there are numerous luxury yacht trips available to book in advance, like this one.
As the sun sets, watch the marina light up and treat yourself to sundowners in one of the Marina’s many rooftop bars and restaurants.
Evenings in Dubai
Dubai has a lot to offer for the evening visitor. As the city lights up for the evening, it comes alive as people step out to enjoy the cool evenings.
Apart from Dubai’s nighttime wining and dining scene, Dubai has a number of nocturnal attractions that you might wish to incorporate into your Dubai day or evening trip:
Dubai Glow Garden
Based at Zabeel Park, Dubai Garden Glow is a seasonal attraction featuring a variety of amazing illuminated creations. The park covers a huge area and uses more than 10 million LED lights to illuminate a range of creations made from recycled materials.
Adjacent to the Glow Garden (and accessed through the same entrance) is Dubai Dinosaur Park, a space filled with realistic animatronic models as well as some hands-on dinosaur-based activities.
- Tickets cost AED 70 and are valid for both the Glow Garden and the Dinosaur Park.
- Open 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm daily. For more details, click here.
A night at the Opera
Dubai’s stunning Opera House is the perfect place for a glamorous night out. To find out about upcoming shows and to book tickets, click here.
A mesmerising stage performance that tells of a young fisherwoman’s search for a missing pearl featuring acrobatics and pyrotechnics as well as motorcycles. This really has to be seen to be believed! For more details and to book tickets to La Perle, click here.
Dubai Marina Dinner Cruise
Watch the city glimmer from the water on a Dubai Marina Dinner Cruise. There are lots of options to choose from.
Getting Around in Dubai on a Day Trip
Dubai has a fantastic Metro system, and it is fairly easy to get from place to place on the main Metro route through the heart of the city; you will need to get all members of your group over 5 years old a Nol card.
Taxis are, however, a much more convenient option when you’re only briefly day-tripping to Dubai. Don’t underestimate the heat and distances involved in Dubai; walking is often not the best option, even for fairly short distances.
If you book your tickets directly with Big Bus you can get a combined ticket for Big Bus Abu Dhabi and Dubai – two city tours in one ticket!
Guided Tours From Abu Dhabi to Dubai
Guided tours are a great way to see a new city for the first time. Whilst Dubai is a relatively easy city to explore alone, it’s reassuring to know that you have a guide who will take you to the best spots and teach you what you need to know about them.
Tour groups are often able to jump queues, and lunch reservations are often made in advance, taking the hassle out of you finding a table in what can be very busy areas. In addition to dealing with all of the practicalities once you’re in Dubai, tours to Dubai from Abu Dhabi include transport in the price.
We recommend booking day tours to Dubai through websites like Get Your Guide and Viator as there are certain guarantees that you don’t receive if you book with most trip providers directly. This includes clearly outlined cancellation policies.
These are some of the organized day trips that you might like to consider:
Whole City Guided Tour
There are a number of guided day trips on offer that offer a combination of the sites listed above. One of the most popular is the Full Day Dubai City Tour. Whilst you do see a lot on this tour, you are limited in terms of how much time you can spend in each place.
Half-day tours featuring the Jumeirah Mosque, the Al Fahidi Fort and Museum, Dubai Spice Souk and the Burj Khalifa are also available. These give you the afternoon at leisure to enjoy Dubai Mall or head back to the JBR for some R&R.
The Aladdin Tour with Walks of Dubai comes very highly recommended. The tour takes three hours and covers the Al Fahidi Historical neighbourhood, a ride on an abra, visits to the souks and lots of local drinks and snacks.
For most full-day Dubai city tours you do need to make your way to Dubai yourself. However, the following options include transport from Abu Dhabi and back again in an air-conditioned coach.
Duration: 9 Hours
Cost: Approximately AED315 (US $ 86)
This guide trip to Dubai includes:
- A professional guide
- Transfer from Abu Dhabi
- A visit to Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort (temporarily closed Feb 2023)
- Time to soak up the atmosphere at Deira’s Gold and Spice Souks
- Photo stops at major landmarks including the Palm Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab
- An Abra ride on Dubai Creek
- Time for lunch at Dubai Mall*
- Optional visit to Atlantis and the Hidden Chambers Aquarium.
*Note that this option does not include admission to the Burj Khalifa ‘At the Top experience’.
Duration: 8 hours
Cost: Approximately AED 576 (US$ 157)
This Dubai day trip includes:
- A professional guide
- Transfer from Abu Dhabi
- Photo stops on the Palm, Jumeirah Beach and at The Burj Al Arab
- A 25-minute stop at the Jumeirah Mosque (NB photo stop, not the tour)
- Pass by Dubai Gold Souk
- Photo stop at Zabeel Palace
- 3-hours at Dubai Mall, including access to the 124th floor At The Top, Burj Khalifa.
Dubai Day Tours Departing in Dubai
If you’re happy to get your own way to Dubai, then these are some day tour ideas you can pick up from within the city:
Dubai from the Air
If you want to get a bird’s eye view of the city, there are a number of helicopter tours available which could be incorporated into your day trip. Rides last from 15 minutes to 1 hour.
Have a great time in Dubai!
We hope that this article will help you in making the most of your day trip to Dubai. There really is no shortage of things to do in this glamorous yet traditional city.
If you’d like to spend more than a day in Dubai and need some help with your travel planning, do take a look at our sister website, Dubai Travel Planner, where we take you through itineraries from 1 to 7 days in Dubai, plus we have a detailed guide on where to stay in Dubai to make the most of your short trip.
All information within this article was correct at the time of writing in early 2023.
Before you go… Important things to consider planning a trip to Abu Dhabi
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Abu Dhabi, a handy guide on what to pack as well as top tips for first-timers on the dos and don’ts, laws, and customs in the UAE.
- Check the most up-to-date COVID entry rules for Abu Dhabi.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, 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 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 hotel or tour recommendation links.Abu Dhabi Travel Planner