Dubai Middle East Travel UAE

Essential Tips for Planning Your Dubai Desert Safari

Desert Safari and Dune Bashing tours are on the top of the list of things to do in Dubai. Ask anyone who has been there, and they’ll tell you it is the most fun you can have in the desert.

Most tour operators offer relatively the same experience albeit at different prices. It is the skill of the drivers, the insurance and the campsite facilities that differentiate them. Prices vary so it helps to look on the internet and ask your concierge for a recommendation.

The afternoon Desert Safari and Dune Bashing with a BBQ dinner is the most popular excursion. There are day trips to the desert but these can be uncomfortable due to the heat which can reach up to 55 degrees Centigrade. There are also night tours with an overnight stay in the desert which may not be a lot of fun but not too convenient to many visitors.

Our review of the Dubai Desert Safari and Dune Bashing covers the tour in detail. There are many photographs to regale you and give you an idea of what the safari entails.

At the time of booking, you will be given more information and asked if you have a medical condition that forbids you from taking the tour. In this article, we’re sharing our top tips based on our experience with Planet Tours and Safaris, the tour operator recommended by our hotel, Le Méridien Mina Seyahi.

Essential Tips for Your Dubai Desert Safari

1. The tour takes approximately six hours. It starts around 3.00 pm with pick up from the hotel and ends around 10.00 pm back at the hotel.

2. Have a light and early lunch, nothing that is likely to upset your stomach. It is best not to eat too much or drink a lot of water before as dune bashing is very bumpy and can make some people feel nauseous.

3. Bring a hat, sunglasses, a camera and a video camera if you wish.

4. Bring some cash and a credit card. You may need them for water/snack at the comfort stop, the souvenir shop and if you decide to buy photo/video from the official photographer.

5. Wear comfortable and loose clothing. Unlike elsewhere in Dubai, you will be solely in the company of other tourists and modest clothing is not mandatory. Shorts and thin strap tops are acceptable for women. Men can also wear shorts. I wore a lightweight top with linen trousers which I found to be comfortable and cool.

The temperature in the desert is a little lower than the city and drops by a few degrees in the evening. I took a lightweight cardigan with me but it wasn’t necessary (October).

6. As you will be getting in and out of the vehicle frequently and onto the sand, open shoes, thongs (flip flops) or sandals are preferable to socks and sneakers. The sand is so fine that it gets everywhere inside your shoes.

7. There is no need to bring water with you as there will be a comfort stop before dune bashing starts where you can buy refreshments and snacks.

8. The location of the desert is not as remote as you may expect. It takes roughly 45 minutes from central Dubai to reach the sand dunes but don’t let this put you off the experience.

9. The 4WD drivers are highly skilled and in perfect control of the vehicles so there is no need for concern. We had high praise for our driver’s skills on the sand dunes no matter how steep the ride was.

10. When you arrive at the campsite, secure a good spot by the dance floor before you partake in other activities, particularly if you come with a large group.

11. You will be given some free time at the campsite before the BBQ dinner is served. There are several activities and you may not have enough time to do all of them. These include: drinks at the bar (note: alcohol is at an additional cost), henna tattoos, camel rides, Arabic coffee and dates, smoking an apple shisha, taking photographs, dressing up in traditional clothing.

12. If you’d like to ride a camel, do it sooner rather than later as there was no one around after the initial rush when we arrived.

13. Tempted as you may be to buy souvenirs from the campsite, (they even take American Express and can swipe your card in the desert!), the mark up price is horrendous. We found similar items in the Mall of the Emirates for less than half price. Beware of offers of sand-filled bottles personalised with your names. They rarely resemble the sample they show you. Don’t give them your name(s) unless you are willing to buy or you may find yourself pressured to make a purchase like one couple in our group.

14. The Bedouin campsite with its modern look and amenities may not feel authentic. Don’t overthink it. You are in Dubai. You are in the desert. There is so much  around you to enjoy.

15. Desert Safaris are a lot of fun and worth dedicating your afternoon and evening time in Dubai. Just leave yourself in the hands of your skilled driver, enjoy the Arabic hospitality and go along for the ride.


— For a comprehensive photo and coverage of the tour, don’t miss our companion article Dubai Desert Safari and Dune Bashing.

Visiting Dubai? Don’t miss our Top 10 Things in To in Dubai.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.


  • Great tips and you are right, it was one of the most fun things I did in the desert of Dubai! The company we went with took care of us pretty well. I like tip #14, don’t overthink it, of course it will be a little touristy, but it still is fun!

    • Thanks Mark! I don’t have anything against touristy activities but the thought that the desert wasn’t quite that distant flashed through my mind. But only for a second. I rate this experience as one of the highlights, and would love to do it again!

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  • It actually starts at 4PM some people pick up at 3:30 or 3 because they have to pick up others but they leave dubai at about 4 or at times even later.

    The experience is indeed great it is certainly a must take to if you happen to be in Dubai.

  • Heading to Dubai in a couple of weeks and definitely want to do this. Did you book ahead or arrange through your hotel. When I click on the Planet Tours website it doesn’t give me much information. Thx

    • Hi Deanna – we booked through the hotel and we were able to get the date we wanted easily. I suggest you book any tours as soon as you get to the hotel, although I found them very accommodating when it comes to these requests. Have a great time! 🙂

  • Hi I am going to dubai on march 17 till march 23, 2013 with my husband and two daughter age 6 nd 8. I have been reading that in dubai you even as tourist have to dress up conservatively . Is it true. I am most comfortable in summer shorts and dresses. Though my friends said they wore shorts nd dresses everywhere. What do you advise to wear. Also other than the desert safari what is the attractions for my girls. Please advice.

  • Thanks Corinne for the insight….it’s really helpful. Would surely post my experience her post my dubai visit.

  • Hi.
    Your detailed note was truly helpful. We are going to Dubai in Dec. We have a 5 years old daughter. I am not sure whether she will enjoy the adventure or will she get scared .Should we risk dune bashing with her? Once inside the car she will have to go through the ride.
    Any advice whether its safe for children and whether children with such age group are seem to enjoy this experience.

    • Hi Sudhir and thanks you for your comment. I wouldn’t know if children of that age are even allowed. I suggest you ask the tour organisers at your hotel once you’re there. They can tell you what to expect. Sorry I can’t be of more help.