2 days in Dubai – an itinerary of more do and less buy

How can you enjoy a place that is all about everything you try to avoid in your travels – extra fuss, expensive stuff, mass shopping, glitter and shine, and overconsumption? You can be sure it will be a challenge. But here’s how we handled it – spending 2 days in Dubai without losing our minds, going bankrupt, or compromising with our principles. We also managed to do a day trip to Abu Dhabi – all that on our way to our road trip in Oman.

We tried to focus on doing more instead of buying more, as there’s a popular joke that the name of the emirate Dubai comes from the words do and buy. We believe that if you want to, you can visit Dubai and enjoy the experience. Here come all the things to do in Dubai for 2 days – our exact itinerary and all the highlights we enjoyed.

2 days in Dubai itinerary - abra boats in Dubai Creek

2-day Dubai itinerary

Here’s the summary of our two days in Dubai.

Day 1 – we started with Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountains in the morning, Dubai Mall is inevitable on the way (we even had lunch in one of its food corners). In the afternoon, we went to Jumeirah public beach and did a DIY tour of Old Dubai, and crossed Dubai Creek in an abra boat. In the evening we returned to Dubai Fountains for the show.

Day 2 started with a speedboat tour from Dubai Marina and in the afternoon and evening, we continued with a desert safari tour. We spent 3 and a half days in Dubai, but one of them we used to go to Abu Dhabi and a half day was just the arrival and settling in the hotel.

2 day in Dubai itinerary - Old Dubai

Burj Khalifa

We couldn’t skip this masterpiece of architecture, engineering, and human achievement so we had to visit the (still) highest building in the world – Burj Khalifa! You can enjoy the views from the observation decks and you can admire the highest man-made structure from different viewpoints all over Dubai. We loved the view from around the Dubai Fountains best.

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We took the most regular tour of Burj Khalifa, reaching only up to levels 124 and 125. There are options to get to a higher observation deck (level 148), to dine at a restaurant, to witness the sunset, etc. Here is a variety of Burj Khalifa tours and activities you can book (preferably in advance) to enjoy the masterpiece.

Dubai Fountains

As Dubai Fountains are both marvelous and free (the latter is quite the exotic quality in Dubai), we advise you to go check them out, especially if you’re in the area (e.g. visiting Burj Khalifa or Dubai Mall). We witnessed the evening show (every 30 minutes between 6 and 11 p.m. – check timings here) from the terrace of the Apple Store in Dubai Mall and the view was simply amazing. If you want to pamper yourself a bit, you can enjoy the fountain show from an abra boat.

2 days in Dubai itinerary - Dubai Fountain

Dubai Mall

If you’re visiting Burj Khalifa or Dubai Fountains coming by public transportation as we did, you will have to pass through Dubai Mall. We weren’t interested in shopping and still spent about 2 hours walking around, searching for the way to the actual places we wanted, searching for the exit, etc. Maybe because we weren’t in the mood for losing time and walking our shoes off in a mall, we didn’t like the mall experience and we don’t think there were such great deals as people rave on the Internet.

2 days in Dubai itinerary - Dubai Mall

Jumeirah public beach

30 minutes being lost in Dubai Mall and one bus ride (thanks, Allah, for the air-conditioned bus stops) later, we were walking towards what was named on the map Jumeirah public beach. We met literally two people hanging on the beach, so if you’re into tranquility and peacefulness in modest clothing – that’s your spot. We couldn’t see changing rooms and toilets, but if you go prepared you can take a swim or just a walk along the beach promenade. The beach up north was full of kitesurfers if you’re more into active adrenaline adventures.

2 days in Dubai itinerary - Jumeirah beach

Old Dubai

Many city tours (like the Doha City Tour) visit the old parts of the city, but we got inspired to experience Old Dubai on foot DIY style by this blog post. In reality, we missed our bus stop and had to walk through construction works (they are everywhere in Dubai!). We threw a glimpse over Deira Gold Souk, rushed through Deira Grand Souk, enchanted by fragrances and spices. This is probably one of the best places for shopping in Dubai. When we got to Deira Old Souq Abra station, the sun was just starting to set so we headed to one of the many abra boats to cross Dubai Creek.

Abra boats at Dubai Creek

It was magical! Probably the best feeling we had in Dubai – sailing on an old wooden boat-raft with the aroma of petrol, birds flying over, purple skies over the old Arabic architecture. We fell in love with old Dubai and we definitely recommend crossing the creek by an abra boat (costs 1 dirham per person). So we got to Bur Dubai Abra Station, strolled along the Dubai Old Souq, and decided to skip the probably already closed Dubai Heritage Village and other monuments in favor of drinking tea, eating baklava, and smoking shisha next to the abra boat station in Bur Dubai. That’s was the most relaxed and delightful moment of our 2 days in Dubai!

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina is one of the most show-off places in the show-off capital Dubai. So you can expect expensive yachts, the “best of the best” buildings and experiences – like the tallest twisted building, the highest urban zipline, the highest Ferris wheel, you get the idea.

We decided to take a speedboat tour from Dubai Marina which took us along the marina canal with its Yacht Club and all the 5-star hotels and around the Palm Jumeira, all the way to the perfect photo spot with the Atlantis hotel. Our guide told us interesting stories on how everything was built in basically no time, and the speed part was total adrenaline.

Here are some more options for tours around the Dubai Marina and its surrounding waters and points of interest.

Dubai Desert Safari

If you crave deserts and desert life (we fell in love with the desert on our trip to Jordan), you can head out of the city and explore the desert part of the emirate. We took a 7-hour tour that took us dune bashing (with an extra grain of adventure contributed by our driver), followed by a sunset and sandboarding. Then we arrived at an improvised Bedouin camp where we had a great dinner with some amazing performances (belly dancing and hula hooping) and the opportunity to ride a camel (which we declined). They showed as some falcons and women could go for a henna painting. It was a nice experience as a whole, even though parts of it were a bit touristy.

You can choose desert safaris of all sorts and lengths, and you may want to check out the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve tour.

Dubai Ferry

We really wanted to take the Dubai Ferry not only as a means of transportation but also as a way to do further sightseeing of the Dubai skyline from the sea. Dubai Ferry serves the following ports: Dubai Water Canal Marine Station, Al Ghubaiba, and Dubai Marina. We couldn’t fit its schedule into our schedule but we would definitely board a ferry next time in Dubai.

Where to stay in Dubai

It’s clear you can choose from very humble accommodation to the 7-star Burj Al Arab, but one thing s is for sure – you want to stay near a metro station. We chose Studio M Arabian Plaza Hotel and Hotel Apartments and it was just a 5-minute walk from Al Qiyadah metro station and a 3-minute walk from two supermarkets (that supplied our dinners and breakfasts).

Transportation in Dubai

It’s true you can rent a car and be more flexible, but keep in mind most of the parking is paid, some places don’t offer sufficient parking, and being stuck in traffic happens even on the 10-lane boulevards. Some visitors plan where to go or where not to go based on the traffic forecast and parking budget – it’s really crazy in Dubai. That’s why we chose the Dubai public transportation and we were regular users of the metro (and sometimes the bus) systems.

We got our Nol Cards – you can top them up at most of the metro stations and at certain bus stations. When you don’t need the card anymore, you can return it to certain places and get your remaining money back. The great thing is you can get one from a vending machine at the airport (but you need to be prepared with cash – card payment didn’t work when we tried it).

2 days in Dubai itinerary - streets of Dubai

So those were our 2 days in Dubai – we believe we managed to make the most out of the city according to our travel tastes and style. If you decide to follow our 2-day Dubai itinerary, keep in mind is quite active and full of experiences so prepare mentally and physically for that! What are your recommendations for other great things to do in Dubai?

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