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 the two Big Bus Tours. This 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 Big Bus Tour. You’ll also find them mentioned on our Places to Visit and Things to Do page.
The Big Bus Tour leaflet that you can pick up almost everywhere has the same map and although it’s not to scale, it’s one of the best maps you’ll find of Dubai. Not many Dubai maps are published because the place and the roads change so often.
Big Bus Tours
These are double-decker buses where to get the best views you need to sit upstairs. (You’ll find hardly anybody sits downstairs). On the top deck, part is covered, which can be useful in the heat of the day, and part is in the open. Buses have a recorded commentary, with a choice of language options and you are given headphones to use that you take on and off the buses with you. If sitting in the open expect some wind noise. This suggests the buses go fast – that’s not the case. They’re quite clean and 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, and hop-off, with around ten 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. The ‘red’ (city) tour is around the city, the Creek area, and old Dubai. The ‘blue’ tour is called the beach tour and takes you further afield including to the outer end of the Jumeira Palm.
Tickets can be bought online in advance or at almost every Big Bus Tour stop and some hotels on the day you want to take the tour. The tickets last 24 or 48 hours and theoretically, you can do both tours on one day, but this is not recommended as it doesn’t give you enough time to explore any of the stops.
Our recommendation is to do one tour one day and the second the next day. So it’s best to get a 48-hour ticket covering both tours (which gets you a discount) and this will allow you to include a free one-hour Dhow cruise on the Creek within the City (Red) tour if you wish, although it can be done separately.
The main intersecting points where both tours meet and could be seen as the start and finish of each tour are either at the entrance to Wafi Mall or Wafi City Mall as it’s sometimes called or at Burjuman Mall. (However, you can start at any stop if you’ve got a ticket in advance, or if there’s a staff member at a stop they’ll sell you a ticket so you can start from that point).