You should take a tour of the desert when you are in Dubai! We believe it is essential to your visit to the luxury desert destination. It gives you an idea of what the ‘real’ United Arab Emirates are all about. We went on such a tour on a recent visit to Dubai. But when we booked one, we noticed many options, and deciding which one was best, wasn’t straightforward.
In this post, we go through the basics of the Dubai Desert Safari experience. There are a few key elements that all or most desert safaris have. On top of that, some features are unique and can only be booked through certain tour operators. We did the most standard itinerary and loved most parts. This post contains affiliate links on which we could earn commission.
Dubai Desert Safari Itinerary building blocks
Most tour operators offer the same or a very similar experience. You will ride on a quad, go sandboarding, bash the red sea dunes in a 4X4 and end up in a Bedouin camp where you get a barbecue and some entertainment. All desert safaris offer hotel transfers, and some add fancy extras such as going to an oasis, riding in a buggy, or going on a hot air balloon. Let’s break these building blocks down for you.
Starting point: Hotel Transfer
All Dubai Desert Safaris include a hotel pick-up. Unless you are in a location on the outskirts of Dubai, the fee for the transfer is included. You will be picked up in a 4×4 car, which will be your mode of transportation for the rest of the day. If you are picked up first, you can sit in the front, with lots of visibility and comfort. If you are picked up last, you are likely to sit in the back, where you have less leg space, and you basically cannot see a thing when the cars are rocking the dunes later on.
Activity: Dubai Desert Quad Riding
On most desert safaris, the first stop will be at a quad-riding facility. This is a relatively random place in the desert that is surrounded by fences. You can ride your quad around other tourists on quads within those fences. Although the experience isn’t as wild or exciting as it looks in most Instagram-perfect pictures, we did enjoy it. If you ride to the back of the area, it is a lot quieter.
The quad-riding experience felt safe. You were given helmets, and the quads’ speed was limited. There was plenty of space for dozens of quad drivers to play around, and visibility was good. Depending on the package you booked, the quads will be included or not.
Acitivity: Dubai Red sand dune bashing
Dune bashing in a 4×4 means that your driver will deflate the tires of his car and is about to go crazy. Your vehicle will leave the regular roads and drive straight into the desert. While he does that, he puts the pedal to the metal. He will go up and down dunes, and the experience will feel like sitting on a rollercoaster. You will need to wear your seatbelt for this experience.
During our experience, we were sitting in the back of the car. That meant that although you get the rollercoaster experience, it was a bit disappointing. We couldn’t see where we were going, nor could we really enjoy it as much as the people in the front. If you tend to get car sick quickly, this is an experience you want to skip.
Activity: Sandboarding in Dubai
Sandboarding means you take a snowboard and ride it on the sand dunes of the desert. You will get amazing pictures while doing it, but it requires great skill to not fall on your way down the dunes. Many tour operators are afraid that you might fall and only allow you to sit down on the board, which is much less exciting.
On our Dubai desert safari, we did sandboarding around sunset. From the area, we had beautiful views of the endless desert. The red sand, which doesn’t feel too warm on your feet, made the experience unforgettable. Even if you don’t want to step on the board, the experience is worth it.
Closing activity: Dubai Bedouin Camp & Desert Camel Ride
The Bedouin camp is a unique camp made for tourists. There are multiple camps in the desert where a stage is set in the middle, and basic restaurants and shops surround it. On the stage, you will see several shows, such as belly dancers and a fire show. During most of this experience, some food in the form of a barbecue is included in your itinerary. Drinks, except for water, are available for purchase.
At the Bedouin camp, you can also find camels and horses to ride on. Some itineraries include one or two rides on a camel. We aren’t a fan of animals being part of a tourist experience and didn’t make use of these ‘services.’
We didn’t fully enjoy the Bedouin camp. While Dubai is luxurious and fancy, the Bedouin camp was quite a contrast. It felt artificial, and the shows were of low quality. The food nevertheless was acceptable and the staff overall friendly. If we went on a Dubai Desert Safari, we would try to find one that skips the Bedouin camp.
Conclusion: Which Dubai Desert Safari is the Best?
Now you know all about the different experiences that make up a Dubai Desert Safari, it is time to explain which one is best. You can find many other tour operators offering similar experiences when you go online. We booked ours through our affiliate partner GetYourGuide.com. On GetYourGuide.com, you can find over 100 tours if you search for the ‘Dubai desert safari.’ Making the right choice is difficult. That is why we made you a short list.
Best Dubai Desert Safari to experience it all
The best full-day experience in Dubai’s Desert comes with everything included. If you go on this excursion, you will get a local guide who will bring you to all the activities in the desert:
- You will be picked up from your hotel in an airconditioned 4×4 drive
- You will go dune-bashing in the 4×4. You can even extend this if you want to go longer
- Sandboarding is included
- Quad biking can be booked as an extra
- You will go to the Bedouin camp, and this includes:
- A full show
- A Camel Ride & feeding
- Henna Painting
- Falcon Experience
By booking this tour, you get everything in a straightforward package. The tour has been reviewed by endless amounts of travelers before you who highly rate the trip with 4.9 out of 5 stars. The tour starts late in the morning, and you will return after sunset.
Dubai’s Best Desert Hot Air Balloon Ride
While the activities on the ground are worth going into the desert, there is arguably a better way to experience Dubai. Instead of hopping into a 4×4, you can experience the desert from the sky in a hot air balloon at sunrise.
You will be picked up from your hotel before sunrise for this hot air balloon ride. You will be brought to the landing site of the hot air balloon, where you can have a beautiful sunrise view over the sand. You will also be greeted by a Peregrine falcon and enjoy your breakfast.
After your breakfast, you will start your balloon ride. You will be able to see endless red sand dunes. Usually, you can see animals such as camels, wild gazelles, and even some Arabian Oryx – if you are lucky. While floating through the air, you can see green oases, date farms, and all forms of the desert. After this unique experience ends, you will be transferred back to your hotel in a comfortable car.
The best budget Dubai Desert Safari
If you are looking for the most valuable desert safari, you need to take out a few of the planned activities. For example, the desert safari becomes cheaper if you skip the quad driving or dune bashing. However, suppose you add these experiences later. In that case, the more affordable option might become more expensive than the all-inclusive packages that cost a bit more.
Best Dubai Desert Safari for a luxury experience
If the entire desert experience that we described so far doesn’t sound Dubai luxurious enough, there is another option. You can trade the standard 4×4 drive for a luxury Range Rover. You skip the Bedouin camp and get to enjoy a secluded private dinner instead. You also skip the quads as you will be driven through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, where you will visit an ‘exclusive royal lake’ and a bird sanctuary.
Please note that the Range Rovers could be shared with other groups. You, however, have the option to book luxury cars exclusively for your group.
Best Dubai Desert Safari if you have motion sickness/car sickness
If you have motion sickness, you want an excursion to the desert that skips the dune bashing in a 4×4 car. If you book this trip, the dune bashing is only optional. It would need to be booked as an extra. While you skip the crazy driving, you will still experience most of the other things the desert offers, including sandboarding, camel riding, and Bedouin camp.
How much does a Dubai Desert Safari Cost?
The prices for a Dubai Desert Safari can vary. This is based on the number of activities your tour includes and how many hours you will spend in the desert. The cheapest safaris, where you join a group, will cost about 30 USD per person. The most expensive safaris, where you are driven in luxury Range Rovers, cost about 500 USD per person.
Is a Dubai Desert Safari Worth it?
We believe a Dubai Desert Safari is worth it. It is a way to see a more authentic version of Dubai than just the city. The experience is exciting and memorable for both young and old.
What is included in a Dubai Desert Safari?
What is included in your Dubai Desert Safari package depends on your booking. All packages include hotel pick-up and some experiences in the desert. The more high-end packages will have dune bashing, sandboarding, quad driving, and more included. Most tours will also take you to a Bedouin camp, where most activities are included in the price.
How long does a Dubai Desert Safari take?
The length of your Dubai Desert Safari depends on the package you book. Most desert safaris take about 6-8 hours. There are also shorter options.