All Articles Things to know before going on your first desert safari in Dubai

Things to know before going on your first desert safari in Dubai

4x4 cars driving along the sand dunes on a Dubai desert safari
Image: Aline Grubnyak/Unsplash
Xun-Lin Wong
By Xun-Lin WongJul 12, 2021 5 minutes read

Look past its towering skyscrapers, futuristic architecture, and spectacular skyline and you’ll find a city that is rich in culture, tradition and history, kept alive in the deserts beyond by Dubai’s desert-dwelling Bedouins.

Uncover the intriguing Emirati culture on a desert safari into the unknown and experience the unique and everchanging landscapes that surround this desert city, from the calm lakes of Al Qudra to the “Big Red” dunes of Al Badayer.

Here are all the things you need to know before planning your first desert safari in Dubai.

What are the different types of desert safaris in Dubai?

Whether it’s on a luxurious range rover or a thrilling 4x4 drive, at dusk or at dawn, there are many different types of desert safaris available for you to experience the beauty and rich culture of Dubai’s deserts. Depending on your interests and travel preferences, here are some of the most popular types for you to choose from.

Morning desert safaris

A hot air balloon being fired up on a morning desert safari in Dubai
Image: Hot Air Balloon UAE/Tripadvisor

Starting as early as 4:30 a.m., most morning desert safari tours will pick you up from your hotel accommodation and drive you straight into the heart of the desert. The predawn tours allow you to catch the sunrise and bask in the quiet and cool morning before the crowds start trickling in — perfect for enjoying adventure activities on the dunes without the harsh afternoon sun beating down on you.

As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm. Some morning desert safaris include exclusive morning-only activities like hot air balloon rides over the desert. Cap off your morning with a delicious breakfast, complete with Arabic coffee, dates and traditional sweets in a Bedouin-style camp. This Morning Red Dunes desert safari tour by Oscar Knight Tours will get you back to your hotel by early afternoon, giving you the rest of the day to explore the beautiful city of Dubai.

Evening desert safaris

Riding on camels in the Dubai desert at sunset
Image: Monya D/Tripadvisor

If you’re not one for early mornings, an evening desert safari promises you that quintessential Dubai desert experience. Your evening desert safari tour typically begins in the late afternoon between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., starting with adventure activities under the sultry heat like falconry, sandboarding, dune bashing and quad biking. Before the sun sets, make your way back to camp on a languid camel ride and marvel at the scenery as the vast desert descends into magical hues of yellow, orange and blue.

A man performing a traditional Tanoura dance at a desert camp in Dubai
Traditional henna painting at a desert camp in Dubai
A traditional Arabic barbecue at a desert camp in Dubai
Image: OceanAir Travels/Tripadvisor

But it’s when night falls that the desert comes to life. Tours like the Dubai Evening Desert Safari Tour by Dream Night Tours offer cultural activities like henna-painting, captivating belly dances and fire show displays, as you feast on a delicious barbecue dinner of kebabs and grilled meats, and smoke a pipe of shisha. Let your hair down and enjoy an Arabian night in the desert. Your host will bring you safely back to your hotel at the end of the night.

Overnight desert safaris

A 4x4 driving on the desert dunes in Dubai at night
Image: Abed Ismail/Unsplash

If you can’t decide between a day or night desert safari, you can enjoy the best of both worlds on an overnight desert safari tour. Over 14 to 18 hours, your full desert experience starts in the late afternoon with adventure activities to get your heart pumping. At night, enjoy live performances and delicious food, with the addition of a unique camping experience under the twinkling desert sky in a Bedouin-style tent. Wake up to fresh Arabic coffee before heading back to Dubai for a full day of exploring the city.

Camp tents set up in the middle of the Dubai desert
Image: Orient Tours - Day Tours/Tripadvisor

Spending the night in Dubai’s deserts is not recommended without a guide, so book a tour with Dubai Overnight Safari with OceanAir Travels to have your itinerary and needs covered for your overnight desert expedition.

How much does a desert safari in Dubai cost?

With plenty of different types of tours available, the cost of a desert safari will differ based on the operator, the length of the tour (whether it’s in the day, night, or overnight), the activities included, the type of transport provided, food options and many more.

Budget-friendly desert safaris

If you’re looking for a no-frills desert experience — exploring the dunes on foot or on a self-guided drive — some of the cheapest desert safaris in Dubai start from as low as AED36 to AED73 (USD10 to USD20) with hotel pick-up included. But for an additional AED110 to AED 183, you can upgrade your desert safari tour for more comfort and add a couple of must-do desert activities to your itinerary, while remaining relatively affordable.

Two people walking on the sand dunes of Dubai
Image: Ishan @seefromthesky/Unsplash

From only AED146, the Dubai Red Dune Desert Safari by Dream Journey is a great value-for-money tour option that includes camel riding, sandboarding, dune bashing, sunset photo ops and an upgrade option to include a desert camp visit with fun camp activities and food. If you’re traveling as a group, you’d get good value from the Dubai Desert Safari Private Car tour, which translates to just AED183 per person for a group of five.

Luxury desert safaris

Explore the Dubai desert like Emirati royalty and splurge on a luxury desert safari with prices that range anywhere from AED367 to AED1836 per person. These high-end tours often include hotel pick-ups in a luxe private vehicle, fancy drinks and multi-course meals, private campsites and accommodation, and other premium add-ons.

A Land Rover Desert Safari in Dubai
Image: Platinum Heritage/Tripadvisor

For just AED367 to AED734, you can upgrade to luxury desert safari options like the Premium Luxury VIP Desert Safari and Dubai Heritage Land Rover Desert Safari that include unique touches like a wildlife safari on a vintage Land Rover, bread and coffee-making demonstrations, multi-course dinners and an overnight stay in a retreat that is fit for royalty.

A private dining experience on a luxury desert safari in Dubai
A private chef cooking a multi-course dinner on a luxury desert safari in Dubai
Image: Platinum Heritage/Tripadvisor

If you’re looking to splash out on a romantic anniversary, birthday or celebration, the Platinum Luxury Desert Safari that starts from AED1818 includes a private Range Rover desert tour, a wildlife safari in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve and a decadent six-course dinner in the middle of the desert.

When’s the best time to go on a desert safari in Dubai?

The best months to go on a desert safari in Dubai are between November and March during winter when the weather isn’t unbearably hot in the afternoons. But the pleasant weather also means that it’s peak tourist season, so crowds at popular attractions are to be expected.

However, the climate in the desert is vastly different from that in the main Dubai city. Temperatures in the evenings and nights in the desert are typically lower than in the city, so an afternoon or evening desert safari in the summer months are great experiences as well, with many desert safari operators providing cooling units at camps and offering the option of closed air-conditioned vehicles. Note: Because of the heat, most tour operators do not run morning desert safari tours during summer.

What to wear on a desert safari?

A woman standing on the desert dunes in Dubai
Image: David Billings/Unsplash

If you’re not keen on finding bits of sand and dust chafing every part of your body, here’s our guide on what clothes to wear and pack for your desert safari:

  • Choose breathable and loose fabrics like linen and cotton in light colors that absorb less heat.
  • Long-sleeved tops and pants are the way to go to protect you from the sun while also keeping you warmer at night. It’s also more comfortable when you’re sitting on a camel or straddling a quad bike!
  • Avoid skirts if you plan to take part in any adventure activities.
  • Pack a jacket for when it gets chilly in the evening and night. A shawl is also a great option to keep warm, while also protecting you from the sun and dust during the day.
  • Wear sunglasses, a sun hat and pack on the sunscreen.
  • While covered shoes are sensible footwear options, sandals are the best as they stay on and are easy to clean off the sand.

Other tips for your first desert safari in Dubai

A man ride on a quad bike in the Dubai desert
Image: Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

You’re almost ready to embark on your first desert safari in Dubai. But before that, we leave you with some final tips to make the most out of your epic adventure into the deserts of Dubai.

  • Stay hydrated. Bring plenty of water with you and make sure you have cash on hand in case you need to buy more along the way.
  • Don’t bring or wear valuables—you might lose them in the sand.
  • Dune bashing can get rough. Avoid eating or drinking too heavily before the experience and definitely avoid the activity if you’re pregnant or have serious medical conditions.

Do your research and read reviews to find the best desert safari tour in Dubai that is suitable for your budget, travel style and interests. But most importantly — let go, let loose and let the beauty of the Arabian desert take you.

Xun-Lin Wong
Xun-Lin is a content strategist and producer from Singapore. Often found exploring museums and craft beer bars.