The Best Dubai Itinerary for 5 Days

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Are you looking for a Dubai itinerary for 5 days? Dubai is a bucket list destination for many people, but oddly enough, many people who dream about visiting the city have no idea what to do there. It’s sort of understandable as we’ve all heard of Dubai and its famous attractions, but how not may people do deep research.

To start, you should be able to see everything you want during 5 days in Dubai. Heck, you’ll also have more than enough time to make a day trip. As someone who’s been to Dubai, I can tell you that some attractions are overly hyped and not worth your time. E.g. The Palm Jumeirah is only cool if you’re seeing it from the air or staying at the Atlantis. Keep reading for my suggested Dubai itinerary for 5 days.

Dubai itinerary for 5 days mall

Day 1 – Arrive and downtown Dubai

Let’s be real, your Dubai itinerary for 5 days will likely start with you arriving in the early afternoon. Sure, there are some flights that arrive in the morning, but most of them end up getting there in the early or late afternoon. The first thing you should do is head to your accommodations and check-in. Take the time to unpack, change (it’s hot in Dubai), and rest if you’re jetlagged.

Once you’re settled, head for The Dubai Mall. I know this sounds like a weird suggestion, but there’s a reason for it. The Dubai Mall is massive and will require more than one trip if you like to shop. It also has many attractions, including the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo and The Dubai Fountain Show. You’ll also find the Burj Khalifa here which you could do on your first day if you’re not tired. Note that you should buy your tickets in advance. I also like the Dubai Mall because it has many famous international restaurants from all around the world. You can literally choose any cuisine you like.

Outside of the mall is downtown Dubai. It’s worth strolling around the Dubai Fountain. If the timing works, watch the fountain show. The Palace Downtown hotel grounds are worth walking through and the Burj Park hosts many festivals. Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard has quite a few sculptures, including the Wings of Mexico Statue, a popular spot for Instagram pictures.

5 days in Dubai

Day 2 – Beaches and the Marina

One of the best things to do in Dubai is to hit the beach. Your best bet is to hit one early before it gets too hot and the crowds show up. Which beach you choose is completely up to you. Kite Beach is popular because it’s not super crowded and it has facilities, including restrooms and restaurants. A little west of Kite Beach is the public beach which many locals prefer since there are fewer tourists and you get a  good view of the Burj Al Arab. There’s also Marina Beach and La Mer Beach, where you can rent seats/beds and have people serve you.

Regardless of where you end up, you should head to the Marina for lunch. There are plenty of restaurants that give you a view of the water. Similar to the Dubai Mall, you’ll also find many international restaurants here. I personally love Shake Shack so having a burger and shake by the beach was one of my favourite things during my Dubai 5 day itinerary. Once you’re done eating, just stroll around the area and enjoy the shops and art. It’s also worth doing a Marina cruise as it’ll give you a view of all the buildings from the water. Some of these cruises included dinner, so you can decide what you prefer. There are also Dubai night tours worth considering. 

Dubai itinerary for 5 days Abra

Day 3 – Old meets new

As you likely know, Dubai has changed significantly over the last 25 years. While most people are used to seeing modern Dubai images, a lot of the history remains in Al Fahidi. This is a historic part of Dubai where many traditional homes still stand. Most of these homes have been turned into coffee shops, hotels, and art galleries, but that doesn’t make the area less appealing. Most museums and galleries here are small but worth checking out since you can learn about Dubai’s history. 

Just west of Al Fahidi is the Grand Bur Dubai Masjid Mosque that allows non-Muslim visitors. This is one of the easier mosques to visit, so pop in if you’re interested. If you keep heading west, you’ll be right in the middle of the textile souk. This is a huge tourist trap, but it’s still worth a stroll since it’ll lead you to the Bur Dubai Abra Station. Take the Abra (water boat), which only costs about US $1 across Dubai Creek for some amazing views. Once back on land, you’ll only be a few minutes away from the Gold Souk and Spice Souk. The Gold Souk is a total tourist trap, but the Spice Souk is good to pick up a few things as gifts or for yourself.

Once you’re done, go back to the water and take an Abra to the Al Seef station (if the timing doesn’t work, take the Abra to Bur Dubai and walk). Al Seef is a modern version of Al Fahidi. The buildings are all recreations, but this is where you’ll find some great restaurants, cafes and nightlife.

Dubai 5 day itinerary

Day 4 – Day trip to the desert or Abu Dhabi

During your Dubai itinerary for 5 days, you should have more than enough time to do a day trip. The most popular ones are a desert safari and Abu Dhabi. Which one you choose is a personal choice. I had been to the Middle East before and spent time in the desert while I was in Jordan, so I personally chose Abu Dhabi as my day trip. 

If you’ve never been to the desert, it can be well worth it. Here you can go dune-bashing in a 4X4, ride a camel, see a belly-dancing show, or just lounge at a resort. There are multiple tours available, so you don’t need to do much planning. The desert is only an hour away, so it’s not a long drive. Many of these tours start in the afternoon (there are morning ones too), so your morning is entirely open. That time could be used to see an attraction you have on your list, such as the Dubai Frame or Wadi Wadi Waterpark.

Another day trip option is Abu Dhabi. While Abu Dhabi may not be as popular as Dubai, it has some great sites that can all be seen during a guided tour. Attractions such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace, and Abu Dhabi Heritage Village shouldn’t be missed.

Dubai itinerary for 5 days

Day 5 – Wrap things up

5 days in Dubai will fly by so use your last day to wrap things up. Go and have a nice meal by the water or finish shopping at The Dubai Mall. If there’s an attraction you’ve missed, now is the time to do it. Some people will even do some extreme events such as Skydiving or taking a helicopter ride. If you prefer to stay grounded (or in the water), there are sightseeing boat tours that are worth your while. 

Renting a bike and going for a ride by the water is a nice, relaxing and inexpensive thing to do in Dubai. If you’re looking for more shopping and eating options, City Walk is a great outdoor venue. Nearby is The Green Planet, a bio-dome that’s quite interesting but rarely gets mentioned in the top things to do in Dubai.

Final thoughts

Your Dubai itinerary for 5 days will be busy, but it’s unlikely you’ll ever feel rushed. The cost to go to Dubai is reasonable, but many people will opt to go to Dubai on a budget. I personally think you should have a modest budget so you can enjoy yourself. Unless you have ties to the city, it’s unlikely you’ll be back. Pay for the experiences you want, and enjoy your time in the city.  

About Barry Choi

Barry Choi is a Toronto-based personal finance and travel expert who frequently makes media appearances. His blog Money We Have is one of Canada’s most trusted sources when it comes to money and travel. You can find him on Twitter:@barrychoi


  1. Lolita on November 8, 2021 at 10:12 PM

    I am planning a trip to Dubai in November f 2022. Your article was very informative from a personal level. I am using it as a guide for my 7 days there.

    • Zinte on December 8, 2021 at 1:40 PM

      Not sure why you are waiting to go in November 2022. You will miss the World Expo if you wait till then.

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