Jun 23, 2013


Dubai, Travels, United Arab Emirates

Dubai on a Layover

Sorry if this post is a little jumbled and full of grammatical errors… I’m still super jet lagged.
Before my trip, I spent a lot of time researching the Dubai stopovers set up by Emirates Airlines, but could hardly find any information. All I knew is that Emirates sets up passengers with layovers over 7 hours (I think?) in a hotel room free of charge. Emirates didn’t tell me what hotel I’d be staying in, or any similar useful information, so I thought I’d talk about it here incase anyone finds themselves in the same situation as me. I’m the type of person who can’t just sit in an airport or hotel room when there is a whole new city waiting to be explored.
When I checked in for my flight at the Dar es Salaam Airport, I was given a hotel voucher for the Copthorne Hotel (aka the Millennium Airport Hotel) in Dubai. I’m pretty sure this is where all Emirates passengers are set up. I was asked whether I wanted to collect my luggage in Dubai or check it all the way through to Houston; I chose the latter. I was very happy to have this option since managing my carryon and my toddler was difficult enough. I already had a change of clothes in my carryon for both me and the baby.
We arrived in Dubai at about 11:20pm on Thursday night. I thought that Emirates Airlines had automatically processed my visa for me when I booked my flight and hotel, but after waiting in the long customs line I found out they had not. Instead, Emirates has a counter in front of the customs area where you have to apply and wait for your visa upon arrival. So I had to go back and wait another 20 minutes or so for my visa to be approved. After heading through customs, I grabbed some coffee (I basically never drink coffee) and headed to the airport shuttle. I arrived at my hotel around 12:40am, so for planning purposes it takes about an hour-and-a-half from arrival to hotel check-in. Hopefully it won’t take me as long next time since I’ll pick up my visa before waiting in the customs line.
I went up to the my room and dropped all my stuff off. I was still wearing Eva, who was wide awake at this point. I went back down to the lobby and looked around a bit. There was a little kiosk called “Sun Tours”. (Side note: I just tried to find some sort of website for them, but I don’t think they have one. There are a lot of “sun” tours in Dubai, but the ones I found on Google aren’t the same ones as the one I went on.) A sign on the kiosk said the next tour would be from 7am-9am. I was super bummed, because my flight was set to depart at 9:05, and there was no way I’d make it. BUT, I remember someone commenting on a previous post on my blog saying they were able to do a tour in the middle of the night, so I went ahead and asked if that was really the only time available.
The lady at the kiosk told me she could set up a tour for whenever I wanted. She’d even do it right then and there. I decided to shower and get a couple hours of sleep first, so I scheduled my tour for 4:30 in the morning. The lady even provided me with a wake-up call, which was nice because there were NO CLOCKS in my hotel room. (Whaa???) Some other things you should know about the hotel:
  • There is no free WiFi. I believe you can purchase WiFi in the business center, but I didn’t bother since I only spent about 3 hours in my hotel room.
  • The toiletries suck. The shampoo comes in a little packet, which I didn’t even bother opening. There is no conditioner, either.
The hotel really wasn’t that bad for being free though. I saw a sign for a swimming pool and bar open until 1am or something like that, but I didn’t have time to check it out. The room comes with free breakfast too, but I was gone before then so I have no idea what that’s like either. There is a gift shop and snack/drink counter that appears to be open all night. The hotel seems to really cater to people with these types of stopovers.
Anyway, back to the tour… 4:30am ended up being an awesome time to start the tour, in my opinion. The sun rises around 5am so I was able to watch all the colors change, etc. The tour was private and comfortable- just me and Eva in a Lexus sedan. You have the option of having the company find another person or two to accompany you on the tour and split the cost ($60), but with just a few hours notice and a schedule change they weren’t able to in my case. I didn’t mind, though… the money was worth it to me. I was able to tell the driver which sites I was most interested in seeing, and I was able to have him pull over and snap a few pictures of me here and there.
Dubai is a fascinating city. I’m looking forward to my next stopover on the way back to Tanzania in July. I’ll be a little more prepared and I’m pretty sure I’ll have time to go up the Burj Khalifa, which I’m super excited about.