After a nice Debconf in Kosovo, I found myself in a bit more than 24 hour layover in Dubai while returning to Delhi. My friend Abraham Raji also had a long layover of around 22 hours. We had transit visa so that we can exit the airport and roam around in the city and come back for our flight later, rather than waiting for 24 hours at the airport.
Dubai Airport has a very good Wi-Fi which was a life saver, be it searching information, getting entertained or calling home, it never disappointed. The Wi-Fi has free unlimited access. Simply select the “DXB Free Wifi” option. It does not ask for a phone number or OTP. Just connects. The airport toilet at Terminal 2 Arrivals had near burning hot water, so I couldn’t even wash my face. The arrivals section of terminal 2 did not had a plug point to charge our devices. Later we discovered that this is also true for departures section of terminal 2 before arriving the boarding gates. The benches near the boarding gates F1-F6 have plug points, but my charger was not working with those plugs. As in the whole Dubai trip, Indians helped me charge my phone at the airport.
Our layover started at night, around 22:00 hours local time. We wanted to spend the night at the airport and exit to roam around in the city in the morning. We didn’t book a hotel as we could manage sleeping somewhere in the airport. There are no airport lounges and cloak room to keep your luggage after you are done with the immigration and customs, so we had to spend night at the arrivals section of the terminal 2, where we tried to catch sleep on the benches. I was hungry as I didn’t eat anything in my flight to Dubai due to non-availability of non-meat food. So I took a banana from the Costa Coffee shop which was priced 6 AED (equivalent to 120 Indian Rupees). Very expensive!
Another problem was that my flight checked out my luggage at the Dubai airport rather than transferring it to my connecting flight. So we had too much luggage with us and we carried it wherever we went.
Unable to get some sleep, we came out of the airport in search of a place to eat. It was already midnight and all shops were closed. Then we met an Indian who told us that if we walk to Al-Qiyada metro station, we will find some restaurants there to eat. It was around 2 km walk to the Al-Qiyadah metro station. We walked there and didn’t find any restaurant open, so walked back. We made some interesting conversations on the way to pass the time.
When we were returning to the airport, we saw there was a restaurant open which was very near to the airport, within 1 km of the arrivals section. The restaurant had Indian food and it was cheap compared to the Dubai standards. The name of the restaurant was Food Castle Express Restaurant. In this shop, a plate of 3 Idlis costs 5.5 AED (equivalent to 110 Indian Rupees), a cup of tea(the milk tea which is popular in India) costs 1 AED (20 Indian Rupees), a plate of Pav Bhaji was 8 AED (around 160 Indian Rupees), Chicken Samosa, Aloo Samosa and Cheese Samosa, all of them were 1.5 AED per piece, and Chicken Fried Rice was 12 AED.
I took a plate of Idli (3 pieces) for 5.5 AED, a cup of tea for 1 AED and a plate of Chhole Bhature for 7.5 AED. This was a filling breakfast around 04:30 in the morning and satiated me literally for the whole day. And i also got to eat some Indian food after a long Europe trip. We went back to the Arrivals section of the airport to catch some sleep. Abraham also had a very filling meal there, although I don’t remember what he ate there.
We exited in the morning at around 09:00 hours and were looking for a bus to drop us at some metro station as we planned to visit the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. Terminal 2 does not have a metro station, the nearest one is Abu Hail metro station. Turns out that we can’t just give cash and buy a bus ticket in Dubai, rather a travel card (called Nol card) is required which works on all the buses, trams and metros in Dubai.
To get a Nol card, we had to go to a metro station. Dubai has a hot desert climate. It was around 39°C and sand kept coming into my eyes. The weather was harsh and we had a lot of luggage, so walking was not fun. We walked to Abu Hail metro station and purchased a Nol card from there. We took the silver card which costs 25 AED and it comes with 19 AED balance. Here, we were guided by a Pakistani who was living in Dubai since few months. They helped us by telling about the Nol card and how to reach Burj Khalifa, etc. They also warned us not to cross the road with red signal for walking as it is easy to get a fine.
The journey from Abu Hail to Burj Khalifa by metro was charged 5 AED. If we compare this to taking a taxi, which from the airport, will add 25 AED as the basic fare, which are expensive than public transport, so we avoided them.
We reached Burj Khalifa metro station after 25 minutes and walked to Burj Khalifa, clicked some photos and went on to Dubai Mall. The strategy was to spend maximum time inside the buildings to avoid the harsh weather outside. Abraham had a meal in the mall, while I didn’t eat anything mainly due to everything being very expensive and lack of vegetarian options.
We still had 14 AED left in our Nol card and we wanted to spend that amount as the card works only in Dubai and we can’t get the remaining amount back after the trip. So we planned a trip which will spend almost all the card balance, cover the city and we do not need to walk outside of air-conditioning. The plan was to take a tram ride. So we went through metro to Sobha Realty Metro Station and walked towards the tram station. No need to get out of air conditioning for this.
The tram ride was nice. Be careful to check-in and check-out using the Nol card at the tram station, otherwise there is a huge fine. We saw the Dubai’s Marina area from the tram. The tram takes 3 AED regardless of the station you check out from. After the tram ride, we took metro from DMCC station and returned to Abu Hail metro station. Then we walked towards the airport, planning to have a meal at the restaurant we dined at in the morning. I found nothing good vegetarian there, so I skipped eating there and just took a chai.
After this, we returned to the airport to catch our respective flights. There was no language problem for us in Dubai. English is widely spoken. Infact, most of my conversations was in Hindi as I met many Indians and Pakistanis who knew Hindi. In fact, Abraham was talking to people in Malayalam and then I realized how much migration this country UAE has from the state of Kerala. Overall, people were very nice to us which made us feel like home.
The weather was harsh and it was tiring but anyways it was a fun layover in Dubai which we to do just within 50 AED (very cheap according to Dubai standards).