Connecting at Dubai International Airport - useful tips for transit passengers

Dubai International Airport (IATA code: DXB) is world’s busiest airport, serving over 88 million passengers annually. It is home to Emirates airlines, which solely operates out of Terminal 3. Terminal 3 of Dubai airport is the largest airport terminal in the world. It is separated into three concourses A, B, C linked to each other by internal train. Terminal 3 is dedicated to exclusive usage by Emirates, while Terminal 2 (located on the other side of the airport premises) serves exclusively flights operated by Fly Dubai. Terminal 3 and Terminal 2 are linked by regular shuttle service, operating airside. Dubai Terminal 1 is used by all the foreign airlines operating to and from DXB.

As you may have guessed already, the airport covers a huge area. Although it is designed to operate in a friendly way, time is needed to switch between flights. The current minimum connection time is set to 60 min for Emirates flights and longer for any other connections (for e.g. connection between Emirates airlines and Fly Dubai). It used to be 70 min, so certain improvements have been made.

In case of short connection, be efficient

Short connection would mean 60-120 min. While the time is considered to be generally sufficient, you may find it hard to catch up in case you go the wrong way. For example If you get on the wrong transfer bus, catch the inter-terminal train when you are not supposed to, it may take you a while until you realise your mistake and find the way back. It means again waiting for bus/train, again passing through security check, etc. It is very possible that you miss your flight. In order to avoid confusions, follow the rules. As soon as you arrive in Dubai Airport, try to locate your next flight on the nearest screen. Note the gate name and number and memorise them. Don’t rely only on the gate number printed on your pre-issued boarding pass from previous flight, as it may have changed in the meantime. In case you don’t have an issued boarding pass, go straight to the connection counters. Go there if you are confused in any ways, the staff will show you the right way. Follow the signs to “Connections” and when there, make sure you take take the right way. As it may be crowded, look for staff with “May I help you” t-shirts. Don’t hesitate to approach these people and ask for directions.

Mind Terminal 3 is a silent area

Silent means no announcements are made. The Duty free areas in all terminals in Dubai airports are abundant and fun, so you may be tempted to spend more time shopping than you can afford. You won’t hear your name announced. In order to make it smooth, first locate your gate (physically) and hit the shops located close-by. While shopping, keep an eye on your watch and make sure you are on time for boarding. Gates close 20 min before departure.

Taking a rest

In case of an overnight layover, you may want to take a nap, or at least rest between your flights. Have in mind that Dubai airport operates flights 24/7, so there are flocks of people moving around at all times. In all concourses of terminal 3 there are leg-rest chairs, but they are not enough. So if you spot one, go for it.

A good option to relax is the Sleep'n fly Sleep Lounge located in the transit area of terminal 3, opposite Gate 1 in Concourse A. You can book a double or single bed for a 4, 6, 7, 8 or 10 hours stay. You can check the rates and make a booking following this link. In case you have a next day connection, you may also check the available airport hotels here

Water is free

Unlike many airports around the world, which force you to buy water at extremely high prices, the water in Dubai airport is accessible for free. There are drinking water machines installed close to the toilets around most areas in the terminal building.

Connection on separate tickets

In case you are self-connecting in Dubai airport, have in mind that the baggage carrousels are located after the immigration desks. That said, in order to collect your baggage you need to enter UAE, which may create complications in case you are national of a country which needs transit visa. The other possible complication is that you will be deprived from the possibility to use the airside means of transport between terminals. But don’t panic, there are companies like “Merhaba” who can assist with collecting and re-checking your baggage so that you stay airside. Don’t rush to immigration straight a way, but instead visit the “connections” desk before exiting. Ask for help there. 

Connections with Fly Dubai

Fly Dubai operates out of Dubai Airport Terminal 2, which is small and very basic. It is also very noisy, as public announcements are constantly made. It is very uncomfortable for long layovers too, as there aren't any quite places for resting. In case your Fly Dubai connection involves a flight with Emirates and you have sufficient time, spend it in Terminal 3. Note, to be on the safe side, plan at least 1h to move between the terminals, as Terminal 1 is accessible by shuttle transfer airside, but travel time is quite long as the speed limit is 25 km/h. Believe it or not, there are traffic jams too.

It is important to mention that as of 02 December 2018, 10 Fly Dubai destinations will be served out Terminal 3. The list of destinations is as following: Belgrade, Bishkek, Bucharest, Catania, Dushanbe, Helsinki, Krakow, Prague, Rostov-on-Don, Salah. 

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