Long Layover in Dubai During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

During our long journey from Los Angeles to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for our new job, we had a 17-hour layover in Dubai. We didn't think we were going to be able to get out into the city and see anything because of the pandemic, but we actually were! It was so amazing. So let me tell you exactly what you need for your long layover or trip to Dubai during the Coronavirus pandemic.

What documents we needed

You need a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test taken within the past 72-96 hours. The document for that negative test must include the following:

  • Your name

  • Method of test: RT-PCR (make sure you're getting the right test done)


  • Name and signature of the person performing the test

As an American citizen you'll only need that document and your passport, no visa is required.

Exiting the airport

Once you exit the plane, you'll follow signs for exit/connecting flights. Eventually it will break off into 2 different directions, so keep following for the exit and NOT the connecting flights. You'll wait in line to show an officer your COVID test. Once approved, he will allow you to continue on to go through customs/immigration like normal.

Things that are illegal

Make sure that you are aware of the laws in the UAE so you don't accidentally do anything illegal. I read a bunch of blogs beforehand saying that Dubai is the most relaxed in the UAE about these laws, BUT they're still illegal and can get you thrown into prison or even face the death penalty depending on the severity of your crime. Here are a list of things that are illegal, that you probably wouldn't think of:

  • Alcohol: drinking and/or being intoxicated in public (legal drinking age is 21)

  • Sex outside of marriage: if you are traveling with a partner and are not married, you will need to get separate hotel rooms

  • Public displays of affection: Even if you are married, this is illegal. No kissing, holding hands, or any other public displays of affection are allowed.

  • Swearing & rude gestures: being rude in public and online can result in jail time or large fines

  • Eating on public transportation: can lead to jail time or fines

  • Photographing people: especially men taking pictures of women. There have been several cases of men posting pictures on social media of the beach with women in them, and they were put in jail

  • Pornography: bringing it into the country or even just watching it while you're there. The internet is heavily censored in the UAE so be sure not to look up anything inappropriate

Main sights to see

Burj Khalifa

The world's tallest building that opened up in 2010. You can either just admire it from the ground and get a couple photos, or if you've got the money, you can go up to one of the various sky decks to overlook the city. Tickets range from $40-200 USD depending on how high you want to go! Click here for more details.

Dubai Frame

A large structure built to imitate a picture frame! It's built in the perfect location so that when you're looking through one side of the frame you see the modern New Dubai, while the other side is Old Dubai. You can take an elevator up to get awesome 360 degree views, and also check out the exhibits dedicated to the future of Dubai.

Katiekk2 / Getty images ©

Burj Al Arab

The only 7-star hotel in the world. Our Uber driver was telling us that the suites start at $10,000 USD per night and they pick you up from the airport in a helicopter, while the normal rooms start at $7,000 USD per night and they pick you up in a Rolls Royce. If you can't afford to stay there, book a reservation for dinner or at the bar so you can see the gorgeous interior! It's on a small island off the mainland of Dubai, so you can't get access unless you're on a tour or have a reservation of some kind.

Dubai Mall

This is the biggest mall in the world, at over 12 million square feet- the equivalent to 50 soccer fields! Every year Dubai has a Shopping Festival where they have massive sales on merchandise, have daily car raffles, and fireworks displays. So be sure to check out if you'll be there during that time so you can shop even more!

If you have more time...

If you have even more time then just a couple hour layover to see the main sights, make sure to check out their indoor ski resort and relax on one of Dubai's 11 beaches.

My favorite part?

We honestly didn't have enough time to just relax and enjoy the city, which I would love to go back and do. But, my favorite part of this trip was just driving around the town and seeing all of the unique architecture. It felt like nearly every building was built with some insane customization- it was so unique and beautiful!

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