The deserts of the United Arab Emirates offer a unique landscape to explore. Desert safaris provide an exciting way to experience the sand dunes, wildlife and culture of the region. There are two main types of desert safaris available: classic desert safaris and premium desert safaris. While they share some commonalities, premium desert safaris provide upgraded experiences and amenities over classic tours.
Classic Desert Safaris
Classic desert safaris are the most popular and affordable type of desert tour in the UAE. These safaris take visitors off-road into the desert in a 4×4 vehicle to visit camel farms, experience dune bashing, sandboarding, and watch desert sunsets.
On a classic desert safari, visitors can expect to experience:
- Dune bashing – an exhilarating drive over sand dunes
- Camel riding opportunities
- Henna painting
- Arabic costumes and souvenirs for purchase
- Sunset views
- Arabic style buffet dinner with entertainment
The tour group sizes tend to be larger, usually around 20-30 people per vehicle. Transportation is usually by bus or shared 4×4 to the desert. Classic desert safari prices range from AED 150-300 per person.
Premium Desert Safaris
Premium desert safaris provide upgraded and more personalized tour experiences over classic options. On premium safaris, visitors enjoy:
- Smaller group sizes, usually 6-12 people
- Private luxury 4×4 transportation equipped with WiFi and refreshments
- More dune bashing time
- Opportunities to experience falconry
- Alcoholic beverages may be available
- Multi-course plated meals
- Luxury or boutique desert camps
With premium desert safaris, the goal is to provide a higher-end and intimate desert experience. Prices range from AED 500-1000+ per person depending on the customizations and offerings chosen. Upgrades like overnight camping, spa treatments, private guides and photographers can also be booked.
Key Differences Between Classic and Premium Desert Safaris
While classic and premium desert safaris share some experiences like dune bashing, camel riding and buffet dinners, premium tours differentiate themselves through:
- Classic: Shared bus or 4×4
- Premium: Private luxury 4×4
- Classic: 20-30 people
- Premium: 6-12 people
- Classic: Arabic style buffet
- Premium: Plated multi-course meal
- Classic: Simple desert camp
- Premium: Boutique style camp with upgraded amenities
- Classic: Basic offerings like sandboarding
- Premium: More options like falconry or helicopter tours
- Classic: Set schedule
- Premium: Personalized based on preferences
- Classic: AED 150-300 per person
- Premium: AED 500-1000+ per person
So while classic safaris offer a good introduction to the desert, premium safaris provide a more intimate, luxurious and customized experience.
Visitors who want a basic desert tour experience in a fun group setting will get good value from classic desert safaris. However, travelers seeking upgraded amenities, small group sizes and personalized attention based on their unique interests will appreciate premium desert safari offerings more. Either tour provides the chance to enjoy an iconic landscape, but premium desert safaris cultivate a sophisticated adventure.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is included in classic desert safaris?
Classic desert safaris typically include dune bashing, camel riding, henna/costumes, sunset viewing, buffet dinner and some entertainment for AED 150-300 per person. Transportation is usually by shared bus or 4×4.
- What extra activities may be available on premium desert safaris?
Premium desert safaris may offer add-ons like falconry, helicopter tours, overnight boutique camping, spa treatments or private photographers/guides for an additional fee.
- What vehicles are used for premium desert safari tours?
Premium desert safari companies use luxury 4×4 vehicles instead of buses or shared 4x4s. The vehicles are equipped with amenities like refreshments, WiFi and comfortable seating.
- How large are the tour groups with premium desert safaris?
To provide a more intimate desert experience, premium safari tour groups are limited to 6-12 participants at a time.
- What type of meal is served on premium tours?
Instead of buffet style dining, premium safaris offer plated multi-course meals featuring higher-end options compared to classic tours.
- Can I customize my itinerary on a premium desert safari?
Yes, premium desert safari companies allow visitors to customize their tour based on their personal interests and preferences.
- Do premium desert safaris allow alcohol?
Some premium tours provide alcohol options with meals, while it is typically not included in food provided on classic desert safaris.
- How much are premium desert safaris?
Premium desert safaris range from AED 500-1000+ per person depending on the customizations and upgrades selected like private guides, overnight camping or luxury transfers.
- Should I book a classic or premium desert safari tour?
Classic desert safaris are a more budget-friendly option for those wanting a basic introduction to the desert. Premium desert safaris offer smaller groups, upgraded amenities, luxury transportation and customization for travelers seeking exclusive experiences.
- What should I wear on my desert safari trip?
Light, loose comfortable clothing is recommended along with closed toe shoes/trainers suited for adventure activities regardless of taking a classic or premium desert safari tour. Many companies will provide traditional Arabic robes as well for photos and entertainment.
- What is the best time of day to go on desert safari?
Most desert safaris take place later in the afternoon around 3-4PM since the sun starts to set around 5:30PM. Sunset views are a popular inclusion on both classic and premium tours. Early morning desert experiences are also available on premium safaris.
- How long do most desert safari tours last?
The duration of most classic desert safaris is 5-6 hours in the afternoon/evening including about 2 hours driving dunes and activities plus a dinner. Premium desert safaris can range from half day experiences to multi-day overnights depending on customizations selected.
- Can kids go on premium desert safaris?
Yes, while dune bashing and some premium safari add-ons may have minimum age requirements like falconry, kids are welcome on most shared and private premium desert tours, often at discounted rates for children under 12 years old.
- Is transportation included in premium desert safaris?
Yes, private luxury 4×4 transportation with WiFi, refreshments and comfortable seating is provided by premium desert safari companies instead of shared buses or 4x4s used for classic tours. Some companies may also offer helicopter transfers.
- Can I bring my own food or drinks on a desert safari?
Most desert safari providers include buffet or plated meals in their classic and premium tours, so outside food is not necessary. Premium packages may allow travelers to BYOB if unique dietary needs must be accommodated.
- Are desert safaris safe for pregnant women?
While classic desert safaris may allow expectant mothers on their 4×4 dune bashing rides, most premium tour operators restrict these activities during pregnancy due to the turbulent, bumpy terrain. Pregnant travelers can still enjoy other premium safari offerings like camel rides or meals.
- Do premium desert safaris offer hotel pick up/drop off?
Yes, most premium desert safari operators provide private luxury transfers to and from your hotel as part of the tour experience, while classic desert safaris use shared shuttle buses for transfers.
- Can I tip my desert safari guide/driver?
Tipping your desert safari guide is customary if you received excellent service during your classic or premium tour. AED 50-100 per person is appropriate for standard tours and up to AED 500 for bespoke private safaris.
- When are desert safaris available?
In Dubai, desert safaris run year-round as temperatures are warm even in winter months. Summer tours depart in the afternoon or early mornings before the intense heat. Premium overnights allow travelers to experience the desert overnight during hotter periods.
- Do I need an international drivers permit for dune bashing?
No, dune bashing is conducted by trained desert safari drivers in 4x4s designed for off-roading. Participants ride as passengers so no special permit is required. Some premium tours may allow you to take the wheel under supervision.