No matter how brief the encounter - you won't find yourself at a lose end (Britrob)
Article Words : Amanda Harkin | 01 July

Dubai: a brief encounter

Got a flight stopover in Dubai? Squeeze the most out of your city adventure

Dubai is a convenient stopover for many routes to Asia, the Far East and Australia, particularly when flying with Emirates. Stopovers are usually free and there is no departure tax.

Dubai starts the second you leave the airport gates. There is no main city centre, just an eclectic collection of sprawling areas. It's about three kilometres from the airport to the Creek.

Inside the city, taxis charge a Dh20/£3 surcharge for rides from the airport; the ten-minute drive to the Creek costs around Dh30-35/£4.50-5.30. Public buses (Numbers 4, 11, and 15) from the airport to Deira bus station cost Dh1/15p.

Taxis are plentiful and, away from the airport, the pick up fee is only Dh3/45p, followed by Dh1.25/20p per kilometre. A reasonable bus service is available, with journeys costing only Dh1-3/15-45p. There are no trains or trams.

Going nowhere?

Dubai International iis one of the better airports to be stuck in. The Duty Free Centre, which boasts 5,400 sq m of stores, has won countless awards and offers good-value shopping. The on-site Health Club has a pool, gym and Jacuzzi (prices range from Dh15-30/£2.30-4.50 per hour) and offers massages.

Four hours in Dubai

(five hours between flights)

Head to Wafi Shopping Centre (Garhoud Bridge Rd) to catch one of the Big Bus Company's open-air double-decker sightseeing tours (Dh120/£18 which includes entry to the Dubai Museum and Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House). Buses leave every 40 minutes between 9am-5pm daily and take you around all the main attractions - the souqs, the modern skyscrapers, the mosques and more. Commentary is in English, and you can hop on and off on as you please.

On the way back, visit a classic café for an Arabic coffee or a toke on a sheesha (water pipe). Fatafeet (Al-Seef Rd, Bur Dubai, +397 9222) is a good choice for both - you can puff favoured tobacco alfresco while looking out over the Creek.

Eight hours in Dubai

(nine hours between flights)

Dubai Museum (Al-Fahidi Fort, Bur Dubai; Dh3/45p; +353 1862) takes you neatly through the city's history, from life as it was 30 years ago when the settlers made their living from pearl diving, to the cosmopolitan hub Dubai is today. When you're cultured out, head to the nearby Basta Art Cafe (Al-Fahidi Rd; +353 5071). Built in one of the city's historical wind towers - which, through the nifty use of convection currents, provided homes with non-electrical air conditioning - the café has a lovely, quiet courtyard, perfect for escaping the city's mayhem.

Once you've got your bearings, go shopping! Experience the dazzling, state-of-the-art shopping malls - the ever-crowded Deira City Centre still rules - as well as the old-world charm of the souqs, particularly Deira's Gold Souq, an atmospheric Aladdin's cave of shiny treasures.

If you haven't blown your budget on gold, move on to arguably the world's most luxurious hotel, the Burj al Arab, and catch the three-minute simulated submarine ride to its Al Mahara seafood restaurant (+301 7600). An exquisite three-course meal costs from around Dh500/£75 per person (although you could spend a lot more). If that seems a bit steep, try the Century Village (+282 4122; within shooting distance of the airport). Its courtyard is full of restaurants, perfect for al fresco drinking and dining.

Twelve hours in Dubai

(13 hours between flights)

Roam the waterside Bastakia quarter of Dubai. As well as the Dubai Museum, this area is an oasis of historical streets, wind towers, galleries - pop in to the Majlis Gallery (Al-Fahidi Rd; +353 6233) for local art in quaint surroundings - and trendy cafes. For a hefty fee you can use the private shoreline of one of the five-star hotels (around Dh150/£23 a day), which gives you access to their facilities. The budget-conscious should head for the public beaches - the stretch of sand opposite the Jumeira Mosque has showers and shelters, and won't cost a single fils. The Lobby Lounge at the Ritz Carlton (+399 4000), done up in colonial style and overlooking the beach, serves amazing afternoon tea.

Next, dry off and take a sightseeing cruise along the Creek. A variety of options are available - try the Al Boom Tourist Village (near Al-Garhoud Bridge, +324 3000), the biggest dhow operator in the city, or Danat Dubai (+223 5755), which offers lunch and dinner trips from Dh180/£27.50, and also runs cruises along the coast. Book in advance. Also, abras (small motorboats) cross the Creek and cost only around 50 fils (roughly 7p) each. You can negotiate a very reasonable price if you want to book the whole boat for some exclusive meandering.

Twenty-four hours in Dubai

(25 hours between flights)

Schedule your entire 24 hours around a desert safari - an absolute must while in Dubai. There are plenty of safaris on offer, so shop around. Tours vary, and may take in anything from villages and camel farms to mountains and water pools. You can experience the thrill of driving over sand dunes in a 4WD, enjoy Arabian delicacies under the stars, and be entertained by local musicians and belly-dancers. Half-day tours usually leave at 3pm from most hotels, and return at around 10.30pm so you get to see the sun set over the desert. Trips cost around Dh250/£38; book in advance. Overnight excursions, including a Bedouin-esque sleepover in the desert, cost around Dh350-450/£53-68. Try Arabian Adventures or Arabian Tours.

If you want an alternative to terra firma, book a scenic flight with Desert Air Tours (+299 4411), which offers 45-minute trips for Dh250/£38, or splash out on a helicopter ride - Aerogulf Services (Dubai International Airport; +282 3157) runs excursions from 10.30am to sunset.

Article supplied by Explore Publishing and all information sourced from the Dubai Explorer 2004