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Visiting Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world … for now

A bit of background first: About a year ago, I was in Dubai for a workshop, and decided to go see the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (830 meters).

Visiting Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa

(Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and buy tickets, I will receive a small commission. This will not affect your price.)

Getting there involved taking Dubai’s spotlessly clean and well-run metro to the Dubai Mall: the largest mall in the world.

Trekking across the mall to the entrance, I took one look at the prices and … walked away again … back across the mall to the metro station, back to my hotel. I booked my 10,000 steps that day in that one expedition.

If you want to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa, you’ll have to pay at least 125 AED, which is €30 (US$34).

And when I say go to the top of the Burj Khalifa, I don’t really mean the top. I mean the 124th and 125th floor. To reach the 148th floor, it’ll cost you at least AED350. That’s  €85 ($95)!

Not visiting Burj Khalifa

From that day forward, I regretted that I hadn’t done it. The price is — pun intended — over the top. But it’s one of those things one almost has to do in Dubai.

So when I was invited to lead a workshop in Dubai again this year, I resolved to bite the bullet and pay the admission price. And if I was going to pay so much anyway, why not get the full deluxe treatment and visit the very top?

Visiting Burj Khalifa, Take 2

A fellow workshop leader and I set out in the morning to the metro and the long walk to and through the mall again, arriving at the entrance to the Burj Khalifa.

First we had to deal with a Groupon deal gone wrong. My friend had bought discounted tickets through them. Groupon had deducted the price from her credit card and then, for some reason, cancelled the order but not refunded the money. And they hadn’t let her know about any of it, so it took us by surprise at the desk. In a long phone conversation with Groupon’s customer service, she was assured that the money would eventually be returned, but that didn’t help us at that moment. I’m sure my friend wrote a very angry letter of complaint later.

Looking for a place to stay in Dubai? I generally use booking.com to find hotels.

In the meantime, there we were, holding vouchers that turned out to be worthless. We decided to go ahead anyway: we’d been looking forward to this! But for reasons that were not clear to me, we had to pay the peak-time price: 500AED (€121 or $136).

The beauty of a credit card is you don’t actually see the money changing hands. If we had, I’m not sure I would have been able to part with 121 euros just to ride an elevator to the top of a building, even if it is the tallest in the world.

You might also enjoy these articles about Dubai:

Visiting Burj Khalifa: “At the Top SKY”

The Burj Khalifa offers two sorts of visitor experiences. “At the Top” includes a trip to the 124th and 125th floors (not actually the top). You can admire the view on all sides of the building, including from a large outdoor space.

“At the Top SKY” takes you to the 148th floor (still not actually the top, but close!). It includes some extra flourishes:

  • “Fast track access” didn’t feel particularly fast when we went, but we waited with a group of perhaps 20 people on comfortable seats. Waiters offered us Arabic coffee and an assortment of Arabic sweets and dates.
A tray of dates and Arabic sweets in the "lounge" where we waited.
A tray of dates and Arabic sweets in the “lounge” where we waited.
  • The Burj Khalifa employees also handed each of us, for some unexplained reason, a pair of men’s swimming trunks. What that has to do with the Burj Khalifa? No idea. But the fact that they seemed like good quality (Burj Khalifa brand? Really?) took a bit of the sting out of what I’d just paid for the experience.
  • After a short wait, an employee led us down a series of halls, stopping to explain a few facts about the building as he went. We then stood and watched a large screen showing a clip about the filming of Mission Impossible 4, in which Tom Cruise dangled dangerously from the Burj Khalifa in one sequence. The video below is more or less the same:
  • Next we zipped up in a dark elevator, images flickering on the walls, including readings of how many meters we’d risen. With so many people crammed in there, I couldn’t really see the images well. Fortunately, it went very quickly — ears popping — and we soon arrived at the 125th floor.
  • Another employee ushered us out of the elevator and into a cordoned space to wait for the next elevator, which arrived almost immediately. This elevator whisked us to the 148th floor (555 meters high).
  • Emerging into a large, low-ceilinged, minimally-furnished space, a waiter offered each of us a glass of juice. Another offered small sweets from a tray.
  • We were allowed up to 45 minutes on the 148th floor, where there were seats and sofas so we could sit and enjoy our juice and the view at our leisure.
  • When we had seen enough of the 148th floor, we were free to join the hoi-polloi on the 124th and 125th floors, with no time limit.

Visiting Burj Khalifa’s 148th floor

I have to admit that while I still wonder if this was a waste of money, the views were pretty mind-boggling. After all, Dubai has lots of skyscrapers, and we could look down on them from here. My friend and I circled the 148th floor (not a very big floor), snapping pictures from every vantage point, as did all of the other tourists in our group. A small outdoor viewing platform allowed us to get a relatively unencumbered view too.

As is often the case in Dubai, the sky was hazy. That meant we couldn’t see very far, despite how high we were. We could make out the ocean, and, dimly, a few of the artificial islands along Dubai’s coast.

Here you can see a lower-rise area of Dubai, mostly housing. In the dim distance is the coast, and beyond it are the artificial islands called the "World Islands". Visiting Burj Khalifa
Here you can see a lower-rise area of Dubai, mostly housing. In the dim distance is the coast, and beyond it you can glimpse the artificial islands called the “World Islands”.

Straight below us, an artificially blue artificial lake blazed in the sun. Every evening an ornate multi-colored water and light show takes place down there. Next to it, the enormous sprawl of the Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world.

Looking straight down from the 148th floor of Burj Khalifa. The low building at the bottom left is a small part of the very large Dubai Mall.
Looking straight down from the 148th floor of Burj Khalifa. The low building at the bottom left is a small part of the very large Dubai Mall.

And all around in the middle distance, a scattering of skyscrapers, many completed, many still under construction. Between them on the ground: many vacant, sandy lots, but also highways lined with carefully-tended, colorfully landscaped strips of green and bright flowers.

If you look on the left side of this picture, beyond the two towers under construction, you'll see a patch of vacant land, a common sight all over Dubai. Around the highway junction, you can see the carefully-tended greenery that must take an enormous amount of water. Visiting Burj Khalifa
If you look on the left side of this picture, beyond the two towers under construction, you’ll see a patch of vacant land, a common sight all over Dubai. Around the highway junction, you can see the carefully-tended greenery that must take an enormous amount of water.

It all accentuated, to me, the generally artificial feel of Dubai. It is a city in a desert, yet tries its best to be something else: Las Vegas, perhaps (without the gambling), with skyscrapers like Manhattan, only more spread out.

Visiting Burj Khalifa: the 125th floor

Down in the economy section, visitors have more room and less special treatment. The view, of course, is the same: not much difference at such a height between levels 148 and 125. We had to contend with more people, though, most of whom were busy posing for selfies.

Tourists on the 125th floor of Burj Khalifa
Tourists on the 125th floor of Burj Khalifa

While the 125th floor was lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, we could also go downstairs to the 124th floor and outside to a large viewing platform below. Unfortunately this was also lined with large plate glass sheets. While this is certainly necessary to avoid anyone falling, either accidentally or on purpose, it made it hard to get good photos. Small opening in each section of glass did allow my compact camera’s lens to get a glass-free view.

The tallest building?

The Burj Khalifa might not be the tallest building for long. Construction started on Dubai Creek Tower in 2016, but stopped in 2018 with only the base of the structure completed. If it’s ever finished, it will top a kilometer high.

Construction has begun at the Tower at Dubai Creek
Construction has begun at the Tower at Dubai Creek. What you see in this photo is actually other buildings that will be part of a larger development around the tower.

When that happens, it has occurred to me, the entrance price for visiting Burj Khalifa is likely to drop, since it won’t be the tallest anymore. You’ll be able to see the Tower at Dubai Creek from it too. On the other hand, the design of the Burj Khalifa itself is very elegant. I would enjoy seeing it from the observation decks that the Tower at Dubai Creek will offer.

Will I be willing to pay the price for either one again? Probably not, unless the competition brings the prices down.

Visitor Information

Getting there: To get to Burj Khalifa, take the metro to the Burj Khalifa station, then walk. Leave plenty of time, since it’s a long walk to the mall and then a long walk inside the mall. Alternatively, take a taxi to the mall entrance. There’s also a bus from the metro station to the mall.

Order tickets ahead of your visit for just the 124th and 125th floors, or, if you want the full experience, here’s the link to order tickets for the 148th floor.

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about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments!  Read more…
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Such an honest review of the place! Thank you for sharing 🙂

I live in Dubai and have been to the top of Burj Khalifa a few times 🙂 And I usually advise people to go to the 124th floor only, there’s nothing special on the 148th, given the high amount of difference in the price. And although you might end up feeling later that it really wasn’t that big a deal, going to the 124h floor observation deck, it is definitely one of those boxes you need to tick while you’re here. After all, both these observation decks are the highest ones in the world (atleast at the moment) 🙂

I’m not a fan of heights but I think I would have to have this experience. I find it hard to turn down extremes – tallest buildings, world’s best cheesecake. waviest wave pool. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t like that but I guess I just am. Looks like an incredible visit. Glad you had the chance to do it after your first turnaway.

Unfortunately I suffer from vertigo, and I couldnt look down from a so high building. So thank you for having posted this article, at least now I know what other people can see looking to the bottom.

I don’t really get the tall building thing….but I guess you get good views.

Yes, I have read about the high prices in there but I guess is a one time opportunity. I almost choked when I had to pay $30 to go to the Top of the Rock, so, I am not sure how I would feel inhere. I didn’t know they are already constructing a taller building. Wow! #TPThursday.

Loved your looking straight down shot, not that I would look down like that myself. I also like the Tourists on the 125th floor of Burj Khalifa shot. The tallest buildings don’t get to bask in the limelight for long now!

I cant believe you went up right to the top! I would be too scared! I had no idea they were planning to build a bigger one either!

I would really want to visit the tallest building in the world! Excellent post!

I loved your honest account of visiting both the 125th and 148th floor. Although I certainly would have a hard time parting with so much money, I think I’d go for it because I don’t know when I would be back in Dubai. Can’t believe that Dubai is planning to outdo itself with another “tallest building in the world”.

‘Really nice post Rachel. I’ve never been to Dubai but I would also make it a thing to go and visit the (as of now) tallest building in the world!

I went to Taiwan last year, and visited the The Taipei 101 Observatory and Taipei Skyscraper which I believe is one of the top 5 five in the world. I paid about $40.00 I think, but I was in Taiwan. It had to be done!

You know I missed tickets to the top too, so it’s on my list when I head there the second time. I read the entire post as it really takes me through the experience.

Your review brought me back memories of my Burj Khalifa visit. I did after sunset and a price was a bit lower but not cheap anyway. There are things you do sometimes regardless of price.

I would definitely paid the hefty price to check out that view! So weird though to see no greenery! #blogpostsaturday

I feel like it’s so hard to fathom a building that tall, and even harder to imagine the one being built currently—a kilometer high! Would you go back to visit that one? Also… what did you do with the men’s swim trunks? I got a good chuckle out of that!

I’ve feeling very out of date – when I stopped off in Dubai neither the tower nor the subway existed! Might be time for a re-visit! To put the price in perspective – I paid nearly as much to go to the top of Sydney Tower – which is not even the tallest tower in Sydney!

Wow, that is really expensive. Nice to learn some of those details.

I must be really frugal (cheap) when it comes to elevators. I’ve been thinking that $14 is too much to pay to visit the highest viewing experience in Philly (for now) and that $19 was too much to ride the elevator to the top of the Marina Bay Sands hotel in Singapore. For now, I’ll continue to claim the window seat on flights where the view is included in the price of the ticket.

That view with the artificial blue lake in it looks so surreal, so futuristic! I love superlatives, so climbing the tallest building in the world would definitely be up there on my list, but I’m really not sure I could justify spending that much money on a view; it would almost be cheaper to book a flight and fly over it 😀

Really interesting post. I agree that if I see the 121 Euros passing from my hand to another, I might have second thoughts. It IS a lot of money. (Glad you went and shared your experience…not sure I would go). Loved that you added the Mission Impossible clip. Can’t believe he (or his stunt) would ever do those things.