One of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is a wealthy player in this oil-producing region. The city is one of most visited in the world; in fact, Dubai relies on tourism, and has marketed itself as the “shopping capital” of the Middle East. Indeed Dubai International Airport's duty-free areas are a major tourist attraction in their own right. The airport is a major aviation hub in the area, and one of the biggest airports in the world by passenger volume.
Transfers at Dubai International can be stressful. It's a huge, linear building – so be prepared to do some walking if you're catching a connecting flight. Terminals 1 and 3 are used solely for international tourists and make up 90% of the airport's total passenger traffic. Terminal 3 is used only by Emirates Airlines and is connected to Terminal 1 via a transit area, so you don't need to go through immigration to get from one to the other. However, you do have to make your way through the duty-free area – which is often very crowded. Terminal 2 is used by regional and low-cost airlines. It's on the opposite end of the airport, so you'll have to get to and from it via airport shuttle, an almost 30-minute journey.
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There are dedicated transfer desks in all three terminals. In Terminal 1, use desks A & B for Emirates Airline passengers, C & D for passengers of other airlines, and E (on the lower level) for transfers to Terminal 2. Terminal 3 has three transfer desks, G, H & J.
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Train: The Dubai Metro operates from Terminals 1 and 3. The stations are accessed through the respective arrivals sections, with automated trains running every 10 minutes from 6 am to 10 pm each day except Friday, when they run from 1pm till 11pm. Remember that these times change during the holy month of Ramadan, and note that you can only take two pieces of luggage with you, including hand luggage.
Bus: If you want to go by bus, you have a few options. Dubai Buses has stations opposite Terminals 1 and 2 outside the ground floor levels. They go to most major centers in Dubai. You can use buses 4, 11, 15, 33 and 44 to connect with Terminals 1 and 3, while bus 2 connects with Terminal 2. The fare is AED 2, but make sure you have the exact change. Then there's the official Dubai International Airport bus system, which has routes into the city and to more than 80 hotels in the area. Unlike the public bus system, it operates 24 hours a day, is air-conditioned, and has baggage holds. Emirates also has daily complimentary coaches to Al Ain and Abu Dhabi.
Shuttle: Many major hotels in the area offer free shuttle services to and from the airport. It's worth asking about this when you make your booking.
Taxi: The cream-colored, government-run taxis are considered reliable and efficient. They leave from just outside Terminals 1, 2 and 3. You'll be charged a fee of AED 20, with additional fare calculated on the meter system. A journey into the center of town should take 10 minutes (if you don't get stuck in traffic), and will cost about AED 45.
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There are a number of car parks outside Terminals 1, 2 and 3, that offer short-term and long-term parking options. The short-term parking bays are just outside the entrances to the Terminals and you can park there for up to 5 hours. Long-term parking bays are a little further, but you can take a bus to the airport if you wish. At Terminals 1 and 3 parking costs AED 10 for 15 minutes, AED 15 for 30 minutes, AED 25 for an hour, and thereafter increases by 10 – 20 AED per hour, depending on the car park. It'll cost you a hefty AED 280 to park for 24 hours, or a daily rate of AED 240 for long-term parking.
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There are information desks in the arrivals sections of Terminals 1 and 3. The airport sees a large number of harried international passengers and staff are well-versed in customer service. But with such large numbers of customers to deal with, be prepared for the occasional rude employee.
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Money and communications: ATMs are located throughout the airport, and there are currency exchange offices near gates 8, 18 and 22.
Luggage: Dubai Airport's luggage handling system is the biggest in the world. The Lost & Found office is in the underground Departures Level of Terminal 1, and is open 24 hours a day.
Conference and business: There are several lounges throughout the airport, especially in the transit area between Terminals 1 and 3. There are two business centers: Global Link, near gate 16, offers work stations with internet access, fax facilities, and secretarial services. The Connect Business Center has several meeting rooms and a conference center, in addition to workstations. There are also dedicated kiosks with internet access throughout the airport, which you'll need a credit card to pay for.
Shopping: The transit section between Terminals 1 and 3 has a large duty-free section, as does Terminal 2. Terminal 3 has a duty-free section exclusively for Emirates passengers. Dubai is considered something of a shopper's paradise and the airport is no exception. Be prepared to queue at peak times, however.
Food and drink: Dubai International has more than 200 restaurants and food outlets throughout all terminals, so you'll be sure to find something to your taste. The main food court is in the departures level in Terminal 1.
Other facilities: Prayers rooms for men and women. There's also a health club with a pool, gym, and jacuzzi, all of which you can pay for on an hourly basis.
Wi-Fi: Free Wi-Fi and several plug points are located throughout the airport.
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