Dubai Airport: Our top 8 hacks to beat the crowds
Ready, set, queue.
Yes, everyone will be travelling soon: Dubai airports are predicting that around 7 million passengers will pass through their terminals this month.
The busiest days? Friday December 16 and Saturday December 17 as well as Thursday December 22.
Emirates predicts that around 300,000 travellers will pass through Terminal 3 this weekend alone.
Last year, 256,000 passengers travelled through all of the terminals of Dubai International and Dubai World Central on Friday December 18. So yes, this year will be at least as busy.
The good news is that there’s now unlimited free WiFi in all Dubai terminals and that you can use your Emirates ID to come back into the country when you return, skipping immigration lines.
For those of you travelling, here are 8 airport tips to make your trip less hectic…
1. Check in online
It’s so obvious there’s almost no point in saying it – yet every time we’re at an airport, the bag-drop line is a couple of people deep, while the check-in queue is bursting out of the barriers. Checking in online only takes a few minutes to complete, once you’ve entered in your details and confirmed a seat, so thank your lucky stars lots of travellers don’t seem to have cottoned on to it.
2. Trick yourself into getting there early
For the quickest possible check-in, aim to be at the airport three hours before your flight takes off – or four if you’re super keen. From today, the RTA will open a traffic diversion extending from the intersection of Casablanca Road and Airport Road up to the intersection of Marrakech Road, so that should help ease congestion and get you to the terminal on time. But we find leaving about 30 minutes before you think you should gives enough breathing room (because that last-minute packing always takes longer than you think it will). If you need extra motivation, put the clock on your phone forward by half an hour – that’ll shock you into getting out of the house on time.
3. Know your terminal – and consider getting the Metro
DXB’s three terminals aren’t a walkable distance apart – so make sure you get the right one. Terminal 3 is for all Emirates and Qantas flights, Terminal 1 is for all other international flights, and Terminal 2 is for regional and budget airlines. You can get a free 24-hour shuttle between terminals, but it’ll cost you precious time and effort.
4. Buy a lounge pass
No business class? We feel you, us neither. However you can get into a business-class-worthy lounge with just a little bit of cash – from Dhs180 per person to be precise. That’ll score you entry into the Marhaba lounges at Terminals 1, 2 and 3, where you’ll find plenty of seating, free wi-fi, an international food buffet, and showers if you need a freshen up (for a small extra charge). It won’t save you much time – but it will get you away from the hordes, and that’s priceless on a busy day.
5. Pack your hand luggage properly
Less is more if you want to get through security as quickly as possible – but if you’re on a 7+ hour flight, you’re going to want some home comforts. To cut down on unnecessary queuing, make sure all your liquids are under 100ml and prepacked in a clear toiletry bag ready to pop through the scanner. Taking a laptop? That needs to go through separately too, so make sure it’s packed at the top of your carry-on to avoid unnecessary rummaging. Forget about heaps of jewellery (it takes ages to remove it all before the body scanner, plus it’s always better to leave your valuables safe at home), whip your belt off while you’re waiting in the queue, and don’t bother with high heels – they often set off the scanner alarm, meaning you’ll need to lose them and go back through. This might only cut off a few minutes at security, but you’ll also be spared annoyed tuts from passengers waiting behind as you struggle to pull off your 12 bangles.
6. Get an e-gate card, if you haven’t already
Smirk at passengers stuck in lengthy queues as you breeze past passport control – it’s one of life’s small pleasures. If you’re a resident or regular UAE visitor, you can register for an e-card right there in the terminal – just remember to bring your passport (well, duh), a photo and Dhs200. You can also use a smart gate at terminal 3 if you’re a UAE citizen, resident, or a national of these countries – all you need is your passport, Emirates ID, or an existing e-gate card to register.
7. Weigh your bag at home
Getting down on your hands and knees at check-in is both a huge waste of time, and pretty embarrassing. (Anything to avoid a hefty excess baggage fee though). Instead, make sure you know your allowance, and pop your bag on the scales before you leave. You don’t need to buy any special travel weighing machine either – your bathroom scales will do the trick.
8. Print out an airport map
You can find handy guides to all the Dubai terminals here – print them out to have on hand (or study ahead of time) to make sure you know where you’re going. It’s always useful to know where the toilets, restaurants and gates are, rather than wandering around aimlessly looking for help or the right signs.
Got any more top airport tips? Share them in the comments below.
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