Dubai at any time of the year is hotter than my hometown. When we visited at the beginning of May it was already around 42 degrees and it’s predicted to hit over 50 in August! The mere thought of it makes my skin feel funny. Needless to say the heat coupled with the intense humidity makes walking long distances near impossible. So how do you see all the sights this unique city has to offer if you can’t do it on foot?
Well, taxis are pretty cheap but unless you can read your guidebook and look out of the window at the same time I would not recommend using one for sightseeing purposes but just for short journeys from one place to another. We therefore tried the Big Bus Tour hop on hop off buses. We are massive fans of these types of buses and have hopped on and hopped off them all over the world however only using Big Bus Tours once before, last year in Hong Kong. We had a great experience there so had high expectations for the Dubai routes.
No matter how hard I work on being spontaneous I really struggle therefore I booked our tickets prior to taking our trip. I booked via the Big Bus Tour website by simply choosing the length of ticket we wanted – we opted for 24 hour ones ($66), and selected the date that we wanted to take our tour. I received e-mail confirmation which I printed and then swapped for physical tickets with the Big Bus Tour representative on the day we had chosen. If you are capable of not having every detail of your lives planned out 6 months in advance then you could simply rock up to one of the reps and buy your ticket there and then. We found reps dotted around at a number of stops on the routes we took.
There are three routes through Dubai – The City, The Beach and The Marina. As we only had 24 hours we really had to think about what we wanted to see close up and what we could simply handle seeing from the bus. We decided that the City route was the most important to us. This route starts and ends at the Wafi Shopping centre (next to Raffles Hotel). So armed with our earphones which are provided, and complimentary water we headed to the upper deck which was split into three sections – open top, a canopied area and a contained air conditioned area. We opted for the canopied area and took our seats, found our language (of which there are 12) for the on board commentary and we were on our way.
We sat for the complete route which took just under two hours, taking photographs and listening to the very informative commentary passing Old Dubai, Dubai Creek and Deira. We then jumped off at the Dubai Mall ready to switch to the beach route. However, we decided to stretch our legs so intentionally missed one bus but knowing they run every 30 minutes we knew we had chance to grab a drink and make it back in time for the next one. One the The Beach route we had already earmarked the Jumeriah Public Beach as somewhere we wanted to hop off at. By the time we got there the full force of the afternoon sun was blazing down on us and with absolutely no shade available we quickly hopped back on the next bus.
Time was pressing and we had the rest of The Beach route left to experience. It was then we realised that we would not have time to do The Marina route. Therefore, I highly recommend buying a 48 hour ($88) or even 72 hour ($73.50 – there is currently 25% off) ticket to ensure you see everything. We caught the first bus of the day and only had two 30 minute hop offs yet still ran out of time. We unfortunately didn’t have time to extend our ticket as we had other activities booked for the rest of our trip. Oh well, it gives us a reason to return to Dubai in the future.
The thing I love most about the Big Bus Tour are all the extras that you get with it, with most being valid for up to 14 days after your bus tour. Meaning you don’t have to cram everything in one or two days, you can spread them out, making the tickets great value for money. We only had the opportunity to do a couple of them but really enjoyed the ones we did :-
Free Desert Sunset Tour
You need to double check running times with one of the Big Bus Reps. On the day that we took this tour it set off from Wafi at 5.30pm. We arrived at Al Sahra Desert Resort after around 40 minutes. Here we were given an Arabian welcome and offered coffee and dried fruit. The resort has been built to look like a traditional fort and here you could wander around, people were riding camels and having their picture taking with a falcon, neither of which are our thing as we are not a fan of using animals for entertainment. I did however have a henna tattoo and we watched the sun set over the desert which was a lovely sight to see. A nice way to spend a couple of hours especially if you want to get out of the city for a while.
Free Sharjah Tour
Again you will need to check with a Big Bus Tour rep regarding days and times you can take this trip. On the day we did it we jumped on the bus at Wafi at 10.30am. We were then taken directly to Sharjah known as the ‘Pearl of The Gulf’ which is the third biggest Emirate behind Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Sharjah appears to be a lot less western than Dubai and a lot quieter. On this tour we visited The Heritage Area which is a beautifully renovated district of the traditional Al Sheyoukh and Al Maraija neighbourhoods. Here we visited museums and did a bit of shopping in the souk. We then visited the iconic Blue Souk which houses over 600 shops. This tour took 3.5 hours and allowed us to see beautiful mosques and architecture throughout.
- Free Cruise on an Arabian Dhow: Dubai Creek (old Dubai) and Marina (modern Dubai)
- Free Ride on a Water Bus
- Free entry to Lost Chambers and Ambassador Lagoon at Atlantis The Palm (with 48 hour tickets)
- Free Entry to Dubai Museum (Al Fahidi Fort)
- Free Entry to Shindagha Museum (Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s House)
- Free Walking Tours (October to April)
- Free Reward Booklet with substantial retail, leisure and dining discounts in Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Our 24 hour tickets were provided on a complimentary basis in exchange for honest review