Unless you’re travelling overland from neighbouring Oman or sailing in on a cruise ship, you’ll almost certainly arrive at Dubai’s sparkling modern international airport close to the old city centre (although a handful of flights land at the new Al Maktoum International Airport in the far south of the city). Once you’ve cleared customs and the crowds, getting into town is fairly straightforward.
The airport (wdubaiairports.com; airport code DXB) is very centrally located in the district of Garhoud, around 7km from the city centre. There are three passenger terminals: Terminal 1 is where most international flights arrive; Terminal 3 is where all Emirates airlines flights land; and Terminal 2 is used by smaller regional carriers. All three terminals have plenty of ATMs and currency exchange booths, although if you want to rent a car, you’ll have to head to Terminal 1.
There are several ways of getting into town from the airport and many upmarket hotels offer free airport transfers; check when you book. Both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 have dedicated metro stations, offering quick and inexpensive transport into the city centre and beyond to southern Dubai; if the ticket office is closed in the station you're at you can buy a ticket at the information booth at the ticket barriers. Alternatively, there are plentiful taxis, although note that they charge a 20dh flag fare when picking up from the airport rather than the usual 3dh, making them significantly pricier than usual.
There are also various buses (see wdubai-bus.com) running from the airport into the city centre. Most useful for tourists (especially if you arrive during the night when the metro’s not running) is the recently introduced Sky Bus (Terhab) network, which runs 24hr from all three airport terminals with departures every 30min. The buses currently cover twelve routes from the airport to various points citywide and connecting with pretty much all the major hotels – see wdubai-buses.com for full details. The fare (15dh) is payable by Nol card/ticket. There are also various other local services, but these are only really useful if you’re staying in Deira or Bur Dubai and know where you’re going; again, you’ll have to buy a Nol card or ticket before boarding the bus.