How To Score A Free Stay in Dubai & Other Cities

When flying on Emirates, before you get to your destination you will stop in Dubai, if the only option for a connection in Dubai that is more than 8 hrs but less than 24 hrs,  you may qualify for Dubai Connect.  If you are eligible for Dubai Connect, Emirates will cover the cost of airport transfer, VISA, hotel and food! Dubai connect is shorter than a stopover. A stopover is usually a stay for more than 24 hours. Using a combination of programs such as Dubai Connect or a traditional stopover, you can pack in multiple trips for the price of one or with discounts. I will share my experience of Dubai Connect and conclude with airlines that offer discounted or free stopovers!

Dubai Connect

From Emirates website:

“As a special courtesy to our passengers, in certain cases where an itinerary calls for a longer stopover in Dubai, Emirates will provide accommodation, meals, ground transportation, and visa costs.

This service is available to:

  • First Class and Business Class passengers for whom the best connection time is not available and who have a transit of more than six hours and less than 24 hours upon arrival in Dubai. (Further conditions apply.*)
  • Economy Class passengers for whom the best connection time is not available and who have a transit of more than eight hours and less than 24 hours upon arrival in Dubai. (Further conditions apply.*)

*Further Conditions:

Dubai Connect may also be offered in other cases. Other rules may apply, depending on the date the flights were booked, fare paid, and flight selected from the point of origin, and the first available flight from the point of transit. Dubai Connect must be reserved in advance; Emirates is only able to accept reservations made at least 24 hours prior to departure of the inbound flight to Dubai. This service is subject to availability.”

Further Information is provided here

After I was notified that my fare qualified for Dubai connect, I took the extra step to secure a spot through reserving online.

Review on Dubai Connect

My stopover was on a Sunday when traveling back from HKT, Phuket, Thailand.  At the HKT airport, I checked my bag and would not see it again until my final destination in the States. Knowing this before hand I made sure to include a couple of outfits, swimsuit, and toiletries in my carry on as well as a fold up additional carry on in case I found souvenirs.  Emirates allows two checked bags for free and only 1 carry on/personal item. Make sure you have a converter and wash cloth as you may not need these in the destination you come from but will need them in Dubai. During check-in at HKT, I received my vouchers for Dubai Connect for the hotel and food. I was assigned the Copthorne Hotel.

I arrived about 3am in the morning and the Dubai airport is huge. It took me about 30-40 minutes to get to the Emirates desk. I went through customs, and then another long walk to the front of the airport. There was an exchange desk after customs. It looked like I was exiting the airport but I wasn’t there yet. Once at the Emirates desk they called for a shuttle to the hotel.

Copthorne Hotel

Check in was easy, the walk to my room was very long as I was on the far side of the hotel. You have to pay for the internet here so if you need to do anything on the internet, do it at the Airport as it is free. I didn’t want to pay for the internet because it was expensive and I read the connection was not that good. The room was adequate, not what I would pick if I paid. It was very old. I didn’t complain because it was free and I was in the room for at most 4 hours. The food was really good and a lot to choose from. However, if you are a beef or pork eater you won’t find it in Dubai. The staff was very robotic. Not much emotion or friendliness. The water was not that warm for a shower. Be sure to pack your own wash cloth or loofah.

Dubai Connect

What should you do during your short stay? You can check out many tours in the area and/or shopping. The hotel partners with a tour company. I would recommend checking out other rated tour companies but I have listed my experience below.

Sun City Tours Dubai

They have a tour company in the hotel that provides a city tour or a sand dunes tour. I opted for the city tour which was equivalent to about $41 USD. I found this out and went to my room to sleep for about 4 hours. My goal was to see as much as possible so I woke up at 9 am and went to the breakfast buffet. The food was excellent. It was Ramadan when I went so I ate a big breakfast because once on the tour you could not eat or drink until about 7 pm.

The tour was ok, I wish it was longer at some stops such as the Souk and that we could go into the Atlantis Hotel. Stops included the Gold Market Souk, The Dubai Museum, a taxi ride on Dubai Creek, Atlantis Hotel, Jumeirah Beach, Jumeirah Mosque, Burj Khalifa and Saga World Mall. We ran short on time because someone got lost on our tour. The tour ended at the Burj Khalifa, you could go back to the hotel and eat lunch (allowed at the hotel) or stay at the Dubai Mall. The tour seemed rushed and some stops were more drive by and I’m not sure if that’s because we ran behind schedule or the norm.

Jumeriah Mosque

Dubai Mall

I opted for the staying at the mall. It has 1200 stores and you could spend a day and still miss stuff. They have a zoo and an aquarium that I didn’t get to see due to time. The mall stays open until 11 pm. I was starving and found that the food court had a few restaurants open and a blocked off section for non-Muslims and people not participating in Ramadan. I was thankful as I was starving and needed water. There is free wifi in the mall. It’s very easy to get lost in the mall. Towards the end of the evening, I located the exit on the ground floor near the Dubai Fountain for a water show and an up close view of Burj Khalifa. Due to time and cost, I opted not to go to the top. If you pay for the day of and in the evening it’s about $137. Morning is cheaper and if you make reservations. There are also people available to take professional pictures of you outside in front of the Burj Khalifa. I opted for a free selfie.


After the show, I continued my long journey to the Taxi Stand.  I stumbled upon Al Jabber for cheap nice souvenirs. I finally made it to the taxi stand. It was about 50-60 AED to get back to the Copthorne. I made it back just in time to drop off my phone at the front desk to charge, (I left my converter and didn’t want to spend money to on a converter for a short time) eat dinner, shower and change and pack my souvenirs. I put my souvenirs into a carry on back and checked them, and put some in an additional carry on bag. I left for the airport on the shuttle about 3 hrs before scheduled fight. It was an early morning Monday flight so it was not that crowded.  My boarding pass and passport was checked about 6 times before getting to the gate. Even at the gate, you line up at the gate to go down an escalator and then you have a line at the gate as well.

All in all, it was great to experience a FREE glimpse of Dubai. However, I was left underwhelmed by Dubai. experience.  Next trip I will try to be more strategic about my stopover and perhaps pay for an extra day.

There are other airlines that allow you to have a free or discounted stopover allowing you to make the most of your trip and see two destinations for the price of one. Check out:


Japan Airlines



Etihad Airlines

Turkish Airlines

Thai Airways

Hawaiian Airlines


Air France

As always please read the fine print before booking and please remember it is subject to availability. Please comment below if I am missing an airline or about your stopover experience.

Check out this free tool from QuestOrganizer . It allows you to easily build multi city flights.
Check out this tool from QuestOrganizer covered by Lifehacker and JohnyJet. It builds in stopovers into your flight search.

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How To Score A Free Stay in Dubai & Other Cities

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How To Score A Free Stay in Dubai & Other Cities!

Kim H.

Kim H. is the creator and chief editor for Work Hard Travel Well. Born and raised in College Park, Ga. She is a true "FILA" :) and UGA Alumna. Go Dawgs!