Things to know before booking desert safari in Dubai

Everyone who visits Dubai prefers to experience a desert safari. There’re hundreds of operators and booking options with prices ranging between 55 AED and 300+ AED. It may be tempting to book the cheapest available Safari but before booking your desert safari it is important to know what exactly is included in your safari. Based on my research and find hand experience, this post aims to equip you with right information, so that you can make an informed decision and book with right operators.

Quick Overview of Dubai Desert Safari price options and what they include

#
Category
Approx price per person
Sample Operators/ Sellers
What’s included
What’s not included
1
Super cheap
55 AED
(INR 1000)
Bus journey from city to desert
Desert Safari in 4x4 SUV
Belly Dance, BBQ Dinner

No pickup from home/hotel
No 4x4 ride till desert
Lots of things (Quad Bike, Camel ride etc) extra
2
Moderate
135 AED
INR 2500
#1 + hotel pickup & drop (usually bus), unlimited water n softdrinks

3
Expensive
300 AED
INR 5500
Pickup from home/hotel in 4x4
Journey in 4x4
Quad Bike & Camel Ride included, Early morning safari

4
Ultra Expensive
400+
(240 AED for safari + 150 for ATV)
INR 5500
Hummer instead of Prado, all other standard items as in #3
Quadbike & Camel Ride
Some operators make different variations of the above and sell at different price points- it is important to know what is included and what is not. Also check on volume discount.

The cheapest option that costs around 55 AED involves guests reaching designated pickup point on their own, being taken to desert in a big bus and from the highway near the desert guests board the 4x4 jeeps (Usually Toyota Landcruiser Prado) for desert safari ride. You'll have to factor travel expense from your hotel to start point and journey in big bus means waiting for everyone else to arrive. Do cross check that this pricing includes dinner and refreshments.

A slightly expensive but more convenient option is the one that offers hotel pickup and drop. Saves you taxi/metro fare and the trouble of going out to the operator's office as in the cheapest option. Usually in cheaper options pickup and journey till desert is done in a van/bus to save cost. You will board a landcruiser/4x4 SUV only after reaching the desert.

There're premium options that offer pickup in a 4x4 SUV right from your hotel. Some operators bundle quadbike as well- saves you 10-20 AED than buying separate.

The ultimate experience is said to be in a hummer. Hummer or humvee is a hard core SUV made for US army (now replaced)- If you're an automobile enthusiast then a humvee ride will be lot more memorable than a Prado which is lot common in UAE and doesn't feel premium.

Different operators have different locations where they conduct the safari. The venue details are not publicly available. The cheapest operators often tend to do it closer to city, in sand dunes that are less challenging.
What do Indian OTAs like Cleartrip, MakeMyTrip sell? Should I pre-book?
Cleartrip's package is aligned to what I had explained above: Basic package starts at Rs 1161 (no hotel pickup, quad bike), package that includes hotel pickup n quadbike costs 2000+ (AED 210 approx). You can check Cleartrip's offerings here. Makemytrip also has a dozen different combinations of safari offerings- you can check here.

If you book a safari in India you'll end up paying 5% GST extra, plus in case your plans change, you will have to deal with complicated cancellation process. My suggestion would be to go to Dubai and work with a local operator there directly. Most of them will respond via WhatsApp to your queries, you might even be able to book over phone and pay in cash during pickup.
Book direct with operators where possible
In my opinion, it is more convenient to book directly with the operator. But online search often is dominated with travel agents who sell these desert safari packages and work on a commission basis. Below collage shows names n details of actual desert safari operators- clicked at the safari site when they had parked their SUVs. Dealing with them directly might save you a few bucks than going through a 3rd party agent
Morning vs Evening Safari:
The evening safari is the most popular one, as it is more convenient for tourists. Because more people sign up for evening, it is a bit cheaper. Same activity can be done in the morning- like 9 AM to 12 Noon or very early morning- 4 AM to 9 AM- these will be a bit expensive due to less number of people signing up- but advantage of early morning or morning safari is less crowd. You will be able to enjoy sunrise (in case of early morning safari) and enjoy the desert better. But activities like belly dance, BBQ dinner, henna painting etc will not be happening in the morning. Quad bike will be available. If you're not particular about belly dance and or prefer sunrise safari instead of sunset or have some other plans for the evening then go for morning safari.

There is also an overnight safari which involves camping in desert and return to city next day early morning.

Can I drive the SUV/Prado?
No. Visitors are not allowed to drive in the desert. Operators won't let you. I have given a suggestion to Dubai Tourism to allow it in a controlled environment. Hope they listen and implement. Right now guests have to be contempt with only quad-bike ride.

ATV/Quad Biking during Dubai Desert Safari- things you should know
When the operator reaches the desert, there'll be a break (for them to deflate the tyres and ready them for dune bashing, for guests to refresh, take a break. During this time guests can try a quadbike ride, or try some other fun activities like camel ride, photo op with traditional dress or shopping & refreshments.
Some expensive desert safari packages include a 20 min quad biking option, while most others have it optional, to be paid at the venue. If included, it is usually of the cheapest variety- the 90cc quad bike which costs 150 AED for 20 minutes. Above chart shows a slightly more powerful 220cc quabike at same price, so be sure to get a more powerful model. The cheapest 90cc one is not really much fun- it is like riding a TVS XL among motorbikes or Maruti 800 among cars. For more serious fun you should try  a more powerful quadbike which obviously costs more. Above image shows the prevailing rates (April 2018). Quad biking is facilitated in a small controlled area with an instructor sitting behind (they charge extra if you want to ride solo or have someone else sit behind)


Hope this information helps you. Have fun, select right option.

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