Dubai Fountain
 

Best Ways to See Dubai

Other than taking a Seawings flight (see below) or helicopter ride over the city and surrounding desert, really the only other way of getting a good overview of the city is to take one or more double-decker bus tours.

Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tours

(Big Bus Tours and City Sightseeing)

There are two companies offering hop-on, hop-off tours, Big Bus Tours (www.bigbustours.com), who have been around for years, and City Sightseeing Dubai (www.citysightseeing-dubai.com), the newer kid on the block. In general terms they have the same sort of offering for about the same prices. You'll find links on this page to our comparison page where we consider what they both have to offer.

Dubai has expanded massively since the turn of the century, and whilst in the early days it would have been possible to 'do' Dubai in a single day on a bus tour, this is no longer the case. Both bus tour operators offer a single day ticket but even if you never got off the bus, and they are both hop-on, hop-off buses that allow you to explore certain places and attractions en-route, you could not expect do the three routes they each operate, in one day.

Compare Big Bus & City Sightseeing Daytime Double-Decker Bus Tours

Beach View of Burj al Arab

Having elected which company to use, if time allows, we suggest you buy a two-day ticket - that's two consecutive days - which is much cheaper than two single day tickets. Both single-day and two-day tickets allow you to move freely between the three routes operated by the bus tour company you have chosen routes to hop-on and hop-off as often as you want, for as long as you want. However if you only want to visit one or two places and not see what else is on route, or you leave it too late to get the last bus of the day back to where you want to get off, just get a taxi, they're cheap enough.

The benefit of a two day, three route ticket is that you can see the bulk of Dubai, listen to a helpful commentary, select a handful of places to hop-off at to explore during the tours and also make a note of others you might wish to return to later in your holiday. It's a most relaxing and informative way to start any holiday in Dubai - you're atop a usually, largely open topped, double-decker bus which let's you see much more of the city than you'd ever see from a car. You're out in the warm air, or if you prefer, the full blast of the sun, with a good view and someone else doing the hard work i.e. driving!

Wonder Bus and Big Bus

If we were to make a constructive criticism of the bus tour method of operation, it is that the size of Dubai, the number of possible attractions on route, the sometimes slow movement in the Dubai traffic and particularly the number of free add-on bus tours and excursions available and included in your ticket, now mean that, to us at least, even the two-day ticket is not enough and for many Dubai visitors the fact that it has to be two consecutive days is a complete put off. Why not any two or three days in a seven day period? Why not a seven day ticket?

These extra 'tours', walking tours, and free entry tickets come free with your hop-on, hop-off bus tickets. They're mentioned in the tour bus leaflets. The tours are to other outlying areas and attractions, i.e. the ones that don't fit easily into the normal three route structure.These are sometimes valid for longer than the length of the main ticket. Some run on just specific days at specified times, others are a touch more flexible, but you've to get to the starting point for a certain time and by the time you decide you'd like to take one of these extra trips, the chances are you'll have to get a taxi to the start point as your two-day ticket will have expired and you won't be allowed to catch a tour bus on another day just to get to the start point of one of these free add-on trips. There seems to be a lack of joined-up thinking here!

Hopefully, because of the new found competition between the two hop-on, hop-off bus tour operators, things are likely to be kept under constant review and I'd expect to see continual minor changes for the better being implemented. Criticism over!

Even with this criticism, a bus tour is highly recommended for everyone who wants to get the best overview of Dubai in the shortest possible time, in the most relaxed way possible.

This whole section has a lot of info as it mentions some of the places that might be worth a visit during your stay in Dubai even if you don't do a bus tour. You'll also find them mentioned in greater detail on our Places to Visit and Things to Do page.

The bus tour company websites contain their route maps which show their various routes. However whether or not you intend going on a bus tour we recommend you pick up one of their leaflets which, although they are not to scale, contain maps that would be useful to every first time Dubai visitor as they show the extent of the city and where everything is in relation to each other and the city as a whole. For the present, we think the Big Bus Tour map has the edge.

Big Buses at Wafi

Compare Big Bus & City Sightseeing Daytime Double-Decker Bus Tours

Your Buses

For us these bus tours are the ideal way to start your holiday in Dubai. They help you get over a long flight and get a feel for the place as someone else drives you around the best bits of Dubai, in comfort and at a leisurely pace, whilst you luxuriate in the warm air and hot sunshine.  

The buses are double deckers where to get the best views you need to sit upstairs. (You'll find hardly anybody sits downstairs). The buses may vary - on the top deck, part is usually covered, which can be useful in the heat of the day, part is in the open, which is great if you want to sit in the sun and part may even be fully enclosed which is useful if you've had too much sun. Buses have a recorded commentary, with a choice of around 12 languages and you are given headphones to use that you take on and off the buses with you. If you lose them don't worry, the driver will give you some more.

Big Bus Personal Commentary Control Panel

If sitting in the open expect some wind noise. This suggests the buses go fast - that's not the case. They're quite clean, comfortable and it's a relaxed way of seeing the city. We go on at least one of the tours each time we visit and our daughter, a Dubai resident, often comes with us to see what's changed and what's new in 'her' city.

The bus tours are hop-on, hop-off, with around ten to twenty stops on each tour where you can get off for just half an hour or over three hours if you wish. Just bear in mind the time the buses end each day to allow yourself time to get back to base the easiest way. Bear in mind the last buses of the day tend to be busy, if not full. Any problems, just grab a sand-coloured cab, they're plentiful and cheap.

Tickets can be bought online in advance or at almost every major stop, particularly the major Mall stops where many passengers choose to start and end their tours. The tickets last 24 or 48 hours and theoretically you can do all three tours on one day, but this is not a realistic option and is not recommended as it doesn't give you enough time to explore any of the stops.

Dhows On The Creek

Our recommendation is to buy 48 hour ticket (for two consecutive days - which gets you a discount). These cover all three tours and this will allow you to include, if you time it correctly, a free one hour Dhow cruise on the Creek, although this can be done separately during the duration of your ticket.

The Three Routes

Both tour bus companies currently operate three roughly similar main routes, with between 10 and 25 possible places to hop-on and hop-off per route and occasional combined stops where it's possible to change routes. There is often an overlap between routes.

Here we give you an idea of the three main areas covered by the routes and our ideas of what to do and see on these routes to make the most of the tours.

Compare Big Bus & City Sightseeing Daytime Double-Decker Bus Tours

Route 1 - This is the Big Bus City (Red) tour and the City Sightseeing Red route - It covers the areas of 'old' and 'cultural' Dubai, the traditional souks, the Creek area, and new Dubai which is the area including the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, the Dubai Fountain, Old Town (it's new) and Downtown. Additionally, the Big Bus Tour goes to the Wafi Pyramid area.

Burj al Arab from the Madinat waterway

Al Fahidi Fort - Dubai Museum

What's To Do? 

On the Bur Dubai side of the Creek (Must See) visit Dubai Museum (most of it is air-conditioned & underground with free entry tickets given out on the bus), walk to the Textile Souk, the Bastakia area of wind towers, and Heritage Village, explore along the side of the Creek and cross the Creek on an Abra. Enjoy the hustle and bustle!

On the Deira side of the Creek visit the Spice and Gold Souks, see all the Dhows loading and unloading, visit Diera City Centre Mall.

On Big Bus Tours only, explore the Wafi Pyramid area including the Wafi Mall if you haven't already done this on Route 2. There's lots of superb restaurants in the adjacent buildings

Wafi Pyramid

In the (Must See) new Dubai area, explore the Old Town and Downtown areas (you're in one of the most expensive areas in which to live in Dubai), visit Dubai Mall (the world's largest mall) and exit it by The Burj Lake, have your photo taken with the Burj Khalifa in the background, cross the fancy pedestrian bridge to some great lakeside reataurants and the Souk Al Bahar and if you're there in an evening watch the musical fountain displays. When you're in Dubai Mall, visit At The Top (on the lowest level in the Mall) to book a ticket to go up the Burj Khalifa (entrance is at set times and it's much cheaper to book in advance - so you'll probably be coming back another day to go up the Burj Khakifa, but book it now.

Compare Big Bus & City Sightseeing Daytime Double-Decker Bus Tours

Route 2 - This is the Big Bus Beach (Green) tour and the City Sightseeing Blue route which covers new Dubai -the area including the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, the Dubai Fountain, Old Town (it's new) and Downtown, plus beaches along Jumeirah Beach Road, including Sunset Beach aka Jumeirah Open Beach where you'll want a photo of the nearby Burj Al Arab 7* Hotel, Wild Wadi, Souk Madinat Jumeirah, The Jumeirah Palm, the Atlantis Hotel plus Mall of the Emirates. The Big Bus tour, like its City (Red) tour also visits the Wafi Pyrami area.

What's To Do?

In the (Must See) new Dubai area, explore the Old Town and Downtown areas (you're in one of the most expensive areas in which to live in Dubai), visit Dubai Mall (the world's largest mall) and exit it by The Burj Lake, have you photo taken with the Burj Khalifa in the background, cross the fancy pedestrian bridge to some great lakeside restaurants and the Souk Al Bahar and if you're there in the evening watch the musical fountain displays. When you're in Dubai Mall, visit At The Top (on the lowest level of the Mall) to book a ticket to go up the Burj Khalifa (entrance is at set times and it's much cheaper to book in advance - so you'll probably be coming back another day to go up the Burj Khalifa, but book it now).

Drive along Jumeirah Beach Road - possibly have a look at Mercato Mall a lovely, smaller mall in at Italianate/Spanish style. Little known to tourists, it's a favourite of locals.

At Sunset Beach aka Jumeirah Open Beach - look behind you for a superb view of the 7* Burj Al Arab Hotel - yes take the photo! If you fancy a bit of beach time on this trip this is the place, but apart from a couple of changing cubicles you'll not find any other facilities on the beach.

Sunset Beach and Burj Al Arab from Tour Bus

Note the position of Wild Wadi, Dubai's original and probably most popular water park, you may want to come back for a proper visit.

Next stop is (Must See) Souk Madinat Jumeirah where you may want to spend an hour or two. Wander around the maze of somewhat different traditional shops in this modern souk. Walk through the souk and out the back you'll find waterways with abras and another superb view of the Burj Al Arab. A really relaxing area with it's own character and ambience. You can also do this on the Big Bus Route 3 (Marina/Blue).

Visit Mall of the Emirates (Ski Dubai) a large likeable mall with everything you could ever want. 

On Big Bus Tours only explore the Wafi Pyramid area including Wafi Mall, if you didn't already visit on Route 1. There's lots of superb restaurants in the adjacent buildings.

The Beach at JBR Walk

Compare Big Bus & City Sightseeing Daytime Double-Decker Bus Tours

Route 3 - This is the Big Bus Marina (Blue) tour and the City Sightseeing Golden route which covers Mall of the Emirates (Big Bus only), Souk Madinat Jumeirah (Big Bus only), the trunk only of Jumeirah Palm (City Sightseeing only), Marina Walk/Promenade, The Beach at JBR, The Walk at JBR, see the Marina tram system, see where beach resorts including Mina Seyahi (for Barasti Bar) are situated, take a ride around the Marina area (fee), over the bridges (great views of the Marina) and drive amongst the densest community of tall tower blocks in Dubai.

What's To Do?

Take a (Must See) leisurely walk right along The Walk at JBR where you'll see some fantastic shops and great streetside restaurants. People watching is an art here and for petrol heads you'll probably see some of the most expensive cars in the world driving past.

Another Must See is The Beach at JBR which is right beside The Walk at the left end looking to the sea. Take your beach wear for an hour or so on the beach. This is a fantastic new area with great facilities, great views and a whole range of restaurants.

Tip - it's another experience to visit The Walk and The Beach areas for a night out on a Thursday evening (the start of the weekend)! 

The Twisty Tower - Dubai Marina

Take a tram ride around the Marina (fee) and out to the Media City area (and eventually Souk Madinat Jumeirah and Mall of the Emirates) where you'll need to change trams to come back. You're at road level, so you'll experience the Dubai traffic although the tram has priority. In part you travel through the densest group of tall tower blocks in Dubai. Some class this area as Dubai's second centre.

Early evening visit Barasti Bar, perhaps the most famous and popular ourdoor beach bar in Dubai. It's to the left of and slightly behind the Mina Seyahi hotel.

Big Bus only, visit (Must See) Souk Madinat Jumeirah and (Must See) Mall of the Emirates, if you've not already been there on Route 2.

Compare Big Bus & City Sightseeing Daytime Double-Decker Bus Tours

If you're following our recommendations and taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour at the start of your holiday in Dubai, make sure you keep dehydration at bay by taking with you, and drinking, plenty of bottled water. As a back up there's usually a fridge on each tour bus and you can help yourself to a free bottle of cold water whenever you need, that's if the supply has not been exhausted.

Creek View

Stay On The Bus Daytime Tour

Easytour.ae offer an alternative to the hop-on/off type daytime tour offered by Big Bus and City Sightseeing. They are a much smaller company and by offering this type of tour, which plugs a hole in the market, can do it with substantially fewer buses. 

Their fixed, roughly 4 hour tours, leave the Burjuman Centre (Mall) at 10am, 12pm and 4pm, so this latter one includes some night time views.

Pricewise, the cost is around 50% cheaper than you'd pay for a single day hop-on, hop-off fare with Big Bus or City Sightseeing.

The tour drives past around 20 of the places, sights and attractions you may like to come back to and spend more time at later. It gives you a 30 minute stop at Dubai Museum (free entrance ticket), which is hardly enough time, and a 30 minute stop at Dubai Mall, which is nowhere near enough time for this mall or this area of Dubai - you'll not even get deep into the mall in this time, but it may spur you into making a much longer and more relaxed visit another day. Other than this the bus also stops for photo shoots at Jumeirah Mosque, Jumeirah Public Beach (for the obligatory Burj Al Arab photo, and the Burj Khalifa (another required photo for all visitors to Dubai).

It'll certainly give you a decent overview of Dubai, but it doesn't let you explore, or in some cases even see, the Wafi Pyramid area, the main cultural sights around the Creek, any beaches, Souk Madinat, Miracle Gardens or Global Village (none do the main hop-off, hop-on routes go to these), the Marina Walk/Promenade, The Walk at JBR or 'The Beach' at JBR. In fact, because of time constraints it completely omits any visit to the Marina area which has become Dubai's second centre. Make sure you get there sometime in your Dubai stay.

Compare Big Bus & City Sightseeing Daytime Double-Decker Bus Tours

Be aware - the warm breeze you'll discover on the open top deck of a tour bus disguises just how hot and strong the sun is.

Dubai Mall

Night Tours of Dubai

If you like the bright lights of evening, this could be a feature of your Dubai holiday.

Dubai Museum and Arabian Court Hotel

It gets dark in Dubai around between 5.30 and 7.15 pm depending on the time of year and these tours gives you the chance to see Dubai in all its illuminated glory, in the warm evening air.

The City Sightseeing buses generally run to about 9pm at night and you can experience the light and life of Dubai evenings on their normal buses up to this time. Big Bus tours generally run their daytime buses to about 8pm (although I wouldn't be at all surprised to see this change to match City Sightseeing).

Big Bus Tours however have also run their own separate Night Tours of Dubai for a number of years. These are two hour (plus a bit) tours during which you stay on the bus, with an informative and interesting live commentary in English from a qualified guide. They are not hop-on, hop-off tours! You can pick up a separate leaflet for this tour at any Big Bus stand, which you'll find just about everywhere.The tours operate every night of the week and seats are sold on a 'first come first served' basis.

All Big Bus night tours follow a similar route and there are currently five departure points located across Dubai where you can join the Big Bus Night Tour. At present these are Deira City Centre (Mall), Burjuman (Mall), Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Check on the Big Bus stands, leaflet or website for departure times which are roughly between 7pm and 8.30pm. If you buy your ticket when you book one of their normal daytime tickets you get a reduction if you buy their Combo package.

There's a map of the route in the special leaflets and on the Big Bus website.

Easytour.ae are another newish company that offer fixed route, stay-on-the-bus tours.Their evening tour on an open topped double decker bus lasts about 2 hours and leaves Burjuman Centre (Mall) at 8pm. Check their website www.easytour.ae. for route and pricing, which because it's a shorter route is around 20-25% cheaper than the Big Bus Tours night time equivalent. It'll be first come, first served so get there early. Downside - only one pick up point.

Emirates Aviation College

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Seawings

The ultimate - take a sea-plane trip around Dubai and the surrounding area!
Choose from a variety of main flight options around Dubai lasting from 30 minutes to a full day, or trips to Abu Dhabi, Jebel Ali, Fujairah or Ras Al Khaimah (RAK).
If that's not special enough combine your flight with an exclusive dining or sailing experience.
For more details visit www.seawings.ae.
To book your flight email reservations@seawings.ae.

The Wonder Bus Tour

This is a short tour that leaves from The Burjuman Centre and goes around a small part of the city and the Creek. Oh....and you do it in an amphibious bus that actually goes into the waters of the Creek! For more info visit: www.wonderbustours.net.

Wonder Bus

Your first Dubai holiday? Keep well...drink plenty of water!

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