It is the Dubai International Airport, otherwise known as DXB, that serves as your gateway to the emirates.
In 1960, the airport began as a runway made of compacted sand but has since reached a peak and competed in several heavyweight categories among international airports.
The number of passengers passing through Dubai Airport's international flights places it first in the world. Dubai Airport has an annual passenger count of 85-90 million, surpassing London Heathrow, which is ranked second at about 75 million.
Modern Dubai does not rely on oil and its products to make a living (oil money comes from Abu Dhabi, where more than a third of the economy is still dependent on the black gold). In addition to the aerospace industry, high-tech, diamonds and tourism, Dubai's economy has expanded and developed in various directions. At present, about one-fifth of Dubai's revenue is derived from tourism. Around 90,000 out of about 400,000 workers in Dubai's tourism industry work at Dubai Airport.
Dubai Airport is not only ambitious in size, but strives to be environmentally friendly as well. Dubai, which has no shortage of sunlight, installed 15,000 solar panels in 2019, supplying about 7.5 million kWh of power per year to the airport.
In addition to being good for Dubai's economy, Dubai's airport offers passengers a lot of things to do until their departure time. Here are some ideas for how to spend your time in between all the shops, cafes, and restaurants (or watching planes take off and land):
Dubai International Airport has quiet and dark sleeping pods for about 15USD an hour, or you can spend time in one of the 370 rooms in the five-star Dubai International Hotel, located within Terminal 3. Guests can select from a variety of elegant rooms measuring 30-40 square meters with a shower and 24-hour service for about 90USD for 12 hours, or per hour (between 19-30USD). If you do not expect privacy, peace or quiet, you can always find a vacant spot in the terminal and sleep backpacker style.
At both Du and Etisalat's airport branches, you can purchase a local SIM card with a passport upon presentation. A free SIM card will even be provided, loaded with three minutes of talk time and 20 megabytes of data, which you can upgrade to more meaningful packages based on your needs. It is worth keeping an eye on both companies since there are sometimes hot promotions. Prices generally range between 15USD for 30 minutes of call time and G2 data to 55USD for 500 minutes of call time and G20 data. There is a 28USD credit included in Etisalat's tourist packages for Careem (the local Uber service).
Even without a SIM card, you are able to connect to the airport's very fast Wi-Fi network. Just choose DXB Free Wi-Fi from the list of wireless networks in range. As soon as you leave the airport, you will mainly rely on the UEA public Wi-Fi network located in almost every tourist area and shopping center, and of course all hotels have their own Wi-Fi. A local SIM card and a short registration process are required for UAE Wi-Fi access.
Note that popular voice/video calling apps are blocked from operating in the Emirates to protect the profits of government media companies. Zoom, Skype and Whatsapp will work in Dubai only for text messaging.
In Terminals 1 and 3, there is a branch of the Federal Authority for Identity & Citizenship, where citizens from selected countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Russia, and Australia, can obtain a visa upon arrival.
For those with dual citizenship who want to check the option of issuing a visa on arrival, the full list of countries appears here (in the last tab).
Located on the other side of the Dubai River, the airport is about 10 kilometers from the modern city center. From the airport, these are the average distances from Dubai's tourist areas:
You can book taxi rides in the city by calling 04-2080808 from the main taxi company, Dubai Taxi, located next to each terminal.
A base fare of about 7USD and 50 cents per kilometer is set by the government. With a marginal addition to the price, the nightly fare is nearly the same.
Private taxis can be booked using the Uber and Careem apps. Uber's Dubai-based subsidiary offers cheaper fares than those at Uber, especially when traveling long distances.
The bus is not recommended as a means of transportation in Dubai, unless you are familiar with the city's public transportation system and can plan an optimal route, as trips can be quite long.
As an example, to get to the promenade beach at JBR, you have to take the airport bus and then switch to another bus at the gold market in the apartment, which takes over one hour and forty minutes.
There are some five-star hotels that offer shuttle services to and from the airport, either by bus or by limousine.
There are two stations on the red line of the light rail at the airport: one in Terminal 1 and the other in Terminal 3. Deira is located 4 minutes away, Bur-Dubai is 9 minutes away, Downtown is 19 minutes away, Al-Barsha is 35 minutes away, and JBR Beach is 45 to 50 minutes away. A single trip costs about 1-2 USD.
This train departs frequently and operates from 5.30 AM until midnight, except on Fridays when it begins operating at 10 AM.
It is also a good opportunity to see the cityscapes since much of the track travels over elevated tracks rather than underground.
Although some areas of Dubai suffer from traffic jams during rush hours, driving in Dubai is comfortable, with a wide and modern road system. The terminals are dotted with car rental branches from several companies, including Hertz, Sixt, and Budget. Expect to pay about 37 to 200 USD per day, depending on the model and size of the car.
You can save a lot of money on the car if you avoid the branches at Dubai Airport and rent it from your hotel. Renting outside the airport will save you about 15 percent.
Also, Dubai has quite a few toll roads. Every time you pass through the toll gate, you'll be charged an automatic fee of about 1.22 USD, which will be deducted from the deposit of around 300USD you'll leave at the dealership. Save money by using Waze's No Tolls option.