Airbnb is almost always my first choice when I’m looking for a place to stay. Recently they’ve added a feature called “Experiences” so that you can find things to do when you’re visiting a city. It’s awesome and it makes it so easy to plan your trip – especially in a place like Dubai where you might be worried about language barriers or getting lost if you are trying to figure it all out on your own.
What are Airbnb Experiences in Dubai? Experiences are a way to link up with a knowledgeable host who, for a price, will introduce you to experiences and activities that would be hard for a tourist to find on their own. Experiences in Dubai are divided into four categories: sports and outdoors; classes and workshops; food and drink; and history and local causes.
The Dubai Airbnb Experiences are as exciting and diverse as Dubai itself. There are a lot of different Experiences to choose from but the easiest way to get information is to get the Airbnb app or go to the Airbnb website and start browsing. I took some time to research Airbnb Experiences in Dubai and I found some that stood out to me right away!
What are Airbnb Experiences?
According to this Airbnb blog a successful Airbnb Experience boils down to the following four factors: access, perspective, participation, and passion.
As far as access goes, the best Experiences will give you access to things, people, places, and activities that would be hard for you to find on your own. With Airbnb Experiences you get to take a look at a place through a different perspective – that of your host. Hopefully you’ll find their unique point of view both enriching and informative.
A great host will make sure that you have the chance to participate rather than just observe from the outside. For example, instead of just watching a Muy Thai match, your host might teach you the basics of Muy Thai so that you can get a taste of what it’s actually like to be in the ring.
Lastly, a successful experience is going to involve an element of passion. The best hosts will share their knowledge and skills with you in a way that makes you feel truly connected to the place you are visiting. If they can convey their love and enthusiasm for whatever it is you’re doing – be it eating tasty food or riding camels through the desert – then they have succeeded.
How can I book an Airbnb Experience in Dubai?
You can book an Airbnb experience online on the Airbnb website or by using the Airbnb app. Simply type “Dubai” into the search bar and hit enter. A bunch of different options will pop up such as Stays, Adventures, Experiences, and more. Select “Experience” and you’ll be taken to a page will show you all of the Airbnb Experiences in Dubai.
You’ll see different categories such as “Featured” and “Top-Rated” and you’ll also be able to apply filters that will allow you to organize the Experiences on the page by price, language spoken, etc. When you click on or select a specific Experience you will be re-directed to a page that gives you a detailed overview of what the Experience entails. This includes:
• Rating and number of reviews
• Group size (eg. Suitable for groups of 3-12 people)
• What’s included in the price (eg. Transportation, food, drinks, entry fee, tickets)
• Language it’s hosted in
• A description of what you’ll do
• A write-up on your host
• A map that designates the pick-up point
• Information on where you’ll be during the activity
• Guest reviews
• Things to keep in mind (cancellation policy, communication policy, guest requirements)
• Similar experiences
• Pictures of what you can expect
The guest requirements section is where you’ll find information on age limits and maximum group sizes. Some Experiences aren’t suitable for children and some only allow children of a certain age, so be sure to make note of any restrictions when booking!
Once you are ready to book, you will be directed to a page that will ask for personal info and payment information, so be prepared to pay at the time of booking.
Featured and Top-Rated Experiences in Dubai
When you search for Experiences in Dubai the search results page will have a category for Featured Experiences. The Featured Experiences may vary over time but here’s an idea of what you can expect:
• Red Dunes Safari, Sandboarding & Camel
• Red Dunes Safari with Quad Bike & BBQ
• Night Dubai City tour with Flying Cup
• Private Red Dunes with VIP BBQ Dinner
• Water Sports/Activities + Meal – From Dubai
• Overnight Desert Safari w/ Meals & Show
• Eat and learn with Emirati local
• Ride through the Desert
• VIP Fossil & Camel Rock w/ Falcon & BBQ
• Dubai’s Favorite Little India On A Plate
• Abu Dhabi: 4-Hrs Morning Desert Safari
• Art, Jewels & Chocolate Tour of Dubai
It’s not exactly clear how an Experience becomes Featured, but there is also a category for Top-Rated Experiences, which will show you the Experiences in Dubai that have received consistently high ratings over time. The following are the Top-Rated Experiences in Dubai (including their ratings) at the time this article was written:
• Red Dunes Safari & BBQ @ The Real Camp – 4.92 stars (1003 ratings)
• High Red Dunes with Camel & vip Dinner – 4.95 stars (889 ratings)
• The Heart of Old Dubai – 4.93 stars (58 ratings)
• Sunset Camel Trek + BBQ with Shows – 4.92 (299 ratings)
• Safari-BBQ meal-Camel ride&Photography – 4.93 (111 ratings)
• Abu Dhabi: 7-Hrs Evening safari & BBQ – 4.95 stars (57 ratings)
Choosing an activity from the Top-Rated list might be the best way to ensure that you are getting a high-quality Experience in Dubai.
What will I get to do on an Airbnb Experience in Dubai?
Here are some of the activities that you can try with Airbnb Experiences in Dubai:
• Camel riding
• History walks and city tours
• Sandboarding & sand skiing
• Quad biking
• Henna painting & shisha smoking
• Hot air balloon ride
Those are just a few of the many, many activities available with Airbnb Experiences in Dubai. You will also get to see all sorts of amazing places that might not be accessible if you were just exploring on your own. Here are some of the attractions that the Airbnb Experiences in Dubai highlight:
• The Red Dunes
• Old Dubai
• The Abu Dhabi mangrove forest
• Zabaeel Palace
• Burj Khalifa
• Dubai Marina
• Palm Island
• Dubai Museum
• Saruq Al Hadid archaeological museum
• Shiva temple
• Gold Souq
• The Dubai Frame
• And so many more!
Some Experiences will show you multiple different places, so you’ll be able to check a bunch of different locations off your list at once. For example, the “What is Dubai – Real Culture Tour” experience will bring you to the Dubai museum, Shiva temple, Hindi lane, the Krishna temple, the textile market, Iranian mosque, Abra, AND the Gold Souq. Wow!
Since Abu Dhabi is so close by (just 1h20m by car) many of the Dubai Airbnb Experiences also feature day-trips to Abu Dhabi!
How much will I pay for an Airbnb Experience in Dubai?
Pricing is really going to vary according to your currency, the activity you are doing, and which dates you are booking for, but I’ll give a quick overview based on my research. The average price for an Airbnb Experience in Dubai is $93 USD per person. However, many of the experience are much, much cheaper than that (and some are much more expensive)!
Cheapest: $1 USD (Street Photography Tour)
Middle of the pack: $90 USD per person (Emirati House Experience)
Most expensive: $898 USD per person (Design Your Jewels/Jewelry Designing)
The best way to get informed about pricing is to search for yourself on Airbnb. Input the dates of your trip and take a look at what’s available. As you can see above, it’s possible to get a great Experience for just $1 USD!
Who creates the Airbnb Experiences?
Anyone can create an Airbnb Experience. There is a lengthy submission process but anyone who has an idea for an Experience that they want to share with travelers and tourists can go ahead and submit their idea to Airbnb and see if they meet the requirements for approval.
Here are some of the criteria that Airbnb has for their Experiences:
• Expertise: in order for their experience to be approved by Airbnb the host will have to demonstrate that they are both knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. They need to show that they will be willing to go the extra mile for their guests and add a personal touch
• Insider access: the Experience should make guests feel as though they are getting the inside scoop on a place. It goes one step further than what a tourist would typically experience and hopefully helps them see a place through a unique perspective
• Connection: the whole premise of the Airbnb Experience is to allow guests to make a meaningful connection with the people and places that they visit. A good Experience will make guests feel welcome while teaching them something valuable about the local customs, culture, or lifestyle
• Accuracy: hosts have to be transparent about what the Experience involves and provide a detailed itinerary and meeting location. People want to know what they are getting themselves into!
• Exclusive dates: only Airbnb guests can access an Experience on the specific time and date that’s listed on Airbnb
• Commitment to reservations: it should go without saying that a good host will be sure to show up at the agreed upon date and time!
• Ratings: the Experience must maintain a high rating, otherwise it may be removed from Airbnb. The quality standards are quite high as an Experience might even be removed if it dips below an average rating of 4.7
The main point to keep in mind is that Airbnb understands that the people booking Airbnb Experiences are looking for something a little out of the ordinary that goes above and beyond the typical tourist activity. Guests want a guide that’s going to share a personal connection with them and show them something they wouldn’t have been able to find on their own.
What languages are Airbnb Experiences in Dubai offered in?
An important factor is the ability to communicate with your host, so you’ll be glad to know that Airbnb Experiences in Dubai are offered in a few different languages.
The majority of experiences are offered in English, but there are one or more experiences offered in the following languages:
• Chinese (simplified)
Use the “language” filter when you’re searching on Airbnb in order to find an Experience in the language of your choice.
What if I need to cancel my Airbnb Experience?
Circumstances change all the time, especially when traveling! You never know what might happen, but for various reasons you may find yourself unable to make your scheduled Experience. The standard Airbnb cancellation policy is: cancel within 24 hours of purchase or at least 7 days prior to the experience in order to receive a full refund.
There are a few other reasons your Experience may be cancelled. The first one is if the primary booker fails to provide identification within 3 days of booking the Experience. You won’t lose any money if you don’t provide your ID within the 3 days, but your Experience will be cancelled. Of course you can book again, it will just cause an extra hassle on your part.
Sometimes an Experience will need to be cancelled due to weather. For example, if you are heading into the desert and it’s 122 degrees Fahrenheit, your host may decide to cancel due to health concerns. At that temperature you could easily get heat stroke or heat exhaustion. These experiences are meant to be fun and no one wants to take unnecessary risks! You will get a full refund if your host needs to cancel due to weather.
Another reason you might cancel is due to an emergency. If you are cancelling within 7 days of the Experience, you will likely need to provide Airbnb with legitimate documentation that proves there was indeed an emergency. If your emergency is deemed adequate, then you will get a refund. The following is a list of emergencies that fall under Airbnb’s Extenuating Circumstances Policy:
• Death of host, guest, co-host, additional guest, immediate family member, or caregiver
• Unexpected serious illness or injury to host or member of party – not a pre-existing condition
• Government mandated obligations (eg. Jury duty, court appearance, military deployment, etc.)
• Unforeseen property damage, maintenance, and amenity issues to Airbnb listing
• Transportation disruptions such as road closures or flight cancellations
• Train, bus, or ferry cancellations and no alternate route options
Requires special review:
• Cancelled Open Homes reservations
• Natural disasters, terrorist activity, and civil/political unrest
• Endemic disease or illness
• Travel restrictions
• Safety and security threat advisories
• Essential utility outages
• Changes to visa or passport requirements
Fingers crossed you don’t need to worry about any of that, but you never know what can happen when traveling!
How to pick a good Airbnb Experience
Reviews, reviews, reviews. When I’m looking at Experiences on Airbnb, I’m always looking for the ones with the most reviews. High ratings can be misleading at times, because a tour may be rated 5 stars, but if it only has two reviews, that isn’t saying much. But, for example, if a tour has a 4.4 star rating and 78 reviews, that tells me that the tour has been consistently good and that a large number of guests enjoyed it.
In order to find the best possible Experience, your first criteria should be to look for Experiences that have a high number of ratings. Secondly, you should look for the ones that are rated the highest out of the Experiences with a lot of ratings. Personally, I would want any Experience I’m booking to have at least 50 ratings, BUT the quality of the ratings also matters.
If an Experience only has 10 ratings but all of the ratings are highly positive, then you can still feel pretty confident that you are choosing a good Experience! You’re also going to want to consider what will be a good Experience for you personally.
If you are traveling with a family, your needs are going to be different than those of a solo traveler. It’s important to read all of the fine print or even contact the host directly to make sure that you are choosing the absolute best Experience for yourself or your family.
Here are some suggestions!
Best Experiences with Kids
• Instaworthy – Instagram Tour: Are you traveling with a sassy teenager who can’t stop looking at their phone? Well this tour might be enough to get them excited about exploring Dubai. The host will take you to some of the most picturesque places in Dubai and show you some places only the locals know such as the Street Art in La Mer and Tania’s Teahouse. And of course, you’ll get to snap the perfect picture to post on Instagram!
• Sea Safari, Banana Boat, Snorkeling + Food: This experience will be fun for the whole family! Dubai is right on the water and this is your chance to explore the stunning turquoise-blue waters of the Persian gulf.
• Morning Desert Safari with Camel Rides: This experience is for children ages 2 and up and it only lasts 3.5 hours which is nice if you are planning to bring young children. Older children can try riding camels or sand boarding, or you can just opt to relax at the campsite and enjoy your surroundings!
Experiences for the Foodies!
• Old Dubai, Dubai Museums, and Souks Tour: during this experience you’ll get to try camel milk ice cream. That’s not something you can do everywhere in the world!
• Sunrise Camel Caravan with Breakfast: this experience includes a traditional Arabic breakfast. You’ll get to try Lucaymat (an Arabic sweet), dates, and Kahawa (Arabic coffee)!
• Dubai Food Tour: this is one of the best experiences you can pick if you want a taste of authentic Middle Eastern cuisine. You will get to try kebab with toom or tahini, falafel with fava beans, fresh fruit juice at the coolest juice bar in town, a mandi (spiced chicken dish) dinner, and of course some Arabic desserts!
Extreme Experiences! For the Daredevils
• UAE’s highest mountain and longest zipline: Your host will drive you to the top of the highest mountain in the UAE, Jebel Jais (6,345ft) where you’ll have the opportunity to try the world’s longest zipline. The zipline is over 1.7 miles long and you can reach speeds of up to 90mph!
• Half Hour Flyboard or Jet pack Session at Dukes the Palm: I think jetpack pretty much says it all. This is your chance to defy gravity and look cool while doing it!
• Bike the Red Dunes & Dine @ VIP Camp: This Experience will give you the chance to go full throttle in the desert. You’ll get to explore the sand dunes on a quad bike and you’ll also have the option to try sandboarding!
Tell me more about the Red Dunes
The Red Dunes feature in many of the Top-Rated and Featured Experiences in Dubai. The Red Dunes refer to the area around the Big Red Dune, or in Arabic, Al Hamar. Al Hamar is situated in the Rub’ Al Khali (Arabic for “Empty Quarter”) desert which is located about a 30-minute drive from Dubai. Here are some fun facts about Rub’ Al Khali:
- It’s a type of desert that is known as an “erg” (from the Arabic “arq”). Ergs consist mainly of sand and have little to no vegetation
- It covers an impressive 250,000 sq mi! It is 620 miles long and 310 miles wide
- Some of the sand dunes in the desert are over 800 ft tall, with top elevations in the desert reaching 2,600 ft
- The sand has a distinctive reddish-orange colour that is caused by the presence of feldspar
- The temperature in the desert can reach a maximum 124 degrees Fahrenheit in July-August, and a low of 54 degrees in the winter!
Another fun fact about this desert is that it features in quite a few popular films, so chances are you’ve seen it on screen! For example, the movie Hidalgo is about a grueling horse race called the “Ocean of Fire” that takes place in a desert… Can you guess which desert? That’s right, the Rub’ Al Khali!
Why should I visit Old Dubai?
Within Old Dubai you’ll find the city’s oldest building (built 1781), museums and galleries galore, souks, and more! This is the place to go if you really want to get a sense of Dubai’s colourful history and amazing culture.
It’s also a great place to go if you want to get a taste of authentic Emirati cuisine! At the Spice Souk you’ll be able to purchase traditional spices such as zaatar (a thyme-based herb mix) and real Dubai dates. There are also many restaurants in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood if you are looking to try some traditional Emirati dishes!
The lowdown on Camel Riding: is it ethical?
Camels are an important part of desert culture and they are referred to by the locals as “the ships of the desert.” A lot of the Airbnb Experiences offer you the opportunity to trek through the desert on a camel. It’s worth noting that many of the rides are under an hour long so as not to overwork the camel, but there is still the question of whether or not it is ethical.
If you are concerned about the wellbeing of the camels you are riding you could definitely consider doing some research into your host and seeing if any of the reviews on Airbnb mention that the camels looked unhealthy or distressed. You can also reach out to the host personally and ask for some more information on the treatment of the camels. It’s always important to be mindful when it comes to animal tourism!
What is sandboarding?
Sandboarding is exactly what it sounds like. Similar to snowboarding, you strap a board to your feet and board down a slope – only with sandboarding the slope is made of – you guessed it – sand! If you are an adrenaline junkie then you’ll be stoked to find out that some of the dunes have a steepness comparable to a black-diamond ski run.
If you are looking for something more mellow, not to worry, you’ll have a whole desert full of dunes to choose from!
What about Airbnb Adventures?
Airbnb Adventures is like an amped up version of Airbnb Experiences. Adventures are marketed as multi-day trips that are led by local experts with activities, meals, and stays included. When you book an Adventure you won’t have to worry about planning, you can let the hosts take care of all the details and just relax and let yourself be fully present.
Trips can range in length from 2 to 10 days and you’re going to pay a minimum of $99 USD for an Adventure – which isn’t a bad deal when you consider that your hosts will be feeding you and giving you a place to stay!
Adventures are a great opportunity to foster meaningful connections with fellow travelers, hosts, and of course the place that you are visiting. Airbnb also has a sweet deal with GoPro – if you book an adventure you can get $200 USD off a GoPro HERO7 Black Adventure Kit.