Thoughts of a holiday in Dubai with kids may have you worried, but we are here to tell you that we went for a week with our kids aged 11, 9 and 3, and came back happy, relaxed with zero heat exhaustion or sunburn. In fact, the kids can’t wait to go back and here’s part one of why.
Dubai is a popular destination for luxury holidays. The futuristic city has a large and thriving expat community from all over the world, thanks to its liberal urban vibe. Over 80% of Dubai’s population is foreign! British and South African nationals account for some of the largest communities next to those from Southeast Asia.
Dubai is sleek, glitzy and glamorous on the one side yet rich in a culture steeped in ancient history on the other. We explored a bit of both and will share our experience with you, but first, here are a few things you need to know before going to Dubai with kids.
When To Visit Dubai With Kids
NOT in the summer! Summer in Dubai is too hot, especially for children. Schools are closed and everything slows down considerably at its peak during July and August when temperatures range between 43 °C (109 °F) in the day and 26 °C (79 °F) at night.
Dubai’s proximity to the sea gives it a higher humidity than other Gulf cities, which makes the heat more unbearable during the long summer from May to September. The average weather during winter (November to March) ranges from 24 °C (75 °F) in the day to 12 °C (54 °F) overnight.
Remember to pack travel-sized sunblock or you’ll pay a premium price in touristy areas.
You might like this related blog post: A Bedouin Desert Safari in Dubai
During summer, around April to May, is also when Muslims celebrate Ramadan, a holy month of fasting and prayer. If you go to Dubai during Ramadan, you should be aware of what is expected of visitors. During this special time, eating and drinking in public before sunset is one of the things, you’ll be surprised to learn, is against the law.
Taking all that into consideration, if you plan to visit during summer and plan to be indoors most of the time, you may find better deals and rates and it will be less crowded.
Airconditioning in all buildings are topnotch and backed up by more aircon units in case the first fails. That’s good to know, right?
We went to Dubai with our trio for a week during the UK half-term school closure in late October when it’s very cold in England and very warm in Dubai, but not too hot. A perfect winter getaway in other words.
While it was still very hot and humid outdoors during the morning and midday, the afternoons and evenings were pleasant. That’s when we did most of our outdoors exploration and our favourite activity in Dubai; night swimming.
Staying indoors during the mornings suited us as a family because we had good reason to sleep in, enjoying slow mornings in our spacious hotel apartment. Just what you need on holiday.
Photo credits: Roda hotels Roda Amwaj Suites JBR Dubai with kids
Where To Stay In Dubai With Kids
We booked a two-bedroom apartment at Roda Amwaj Suites Jumeirah Beach Residence for the week. For families, in our humble opinion, this is the best value for money accommodation situated in a great location with everything you need right outside the property and best of all, it’s by the beach. Hotel prices will only rise and reach dizzying heights in the JBR area the further you look.
Alternative areas you could find affordable family accommodation is downtown near the Dubai Mall and near the creekside in Old Dubai near the airport. JBR was perfect for us because we enjoyed being on the beach every day and having everything we need on our doorstep.
At JBR, you’ll find a large selection of fine dining as well as family-oriented restaurants and fast-food outlets, grocery shops, games arcade, carousels, indoor play areas, spas, nightlife, you name it! So much fun for families and The Walk.
The apartment felt like home. It’s super spacious with a large open plan living and dining room, full kitchen and one and a half bathrooms. It has a hall long and wide enough to put on a proper game of hall-way cricket with cupboards and storage space to hide bags, shoes and sandy beach toys out of the way.
The best thing about these apartments is that they are fully serviced. For me, mum, the main tidy-upper of all things and more, this is the cherry on the cake. I love Airbnb, but when we need a real break, a serviced apart-hotel is a must.
They have a play park, pool, pharmacy, grocery store, gym, spas, hairdressers and much more in the building. All very convenient.
Tip: The cleaners will not throw anything away unless it’s inside the bin, so make sure you get stuff in there if you want it removed.
Another thing, the walls are very thin. We didn’t realise this until we eventually quiet down enough to hear another family just chat next door. Oops!
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Alcohol is only served in restaurants that are inside hotels or private clubs. It is illegal for other restaurants to serve alcohol. It is also illegal to drink in public or to be under the influence of alcohol in public spaces or to drink if you are under the age of 21. I wish. Alcohol is expensive in Dubai and they have zero-tolerance for drunk driving. Special rules apply during Ramadan.
To get to other areas from JBR, just step out and wait next to the road to hail a taxi. They are plentiful and it’s easy to get their attention. Or use public transport. It’s cheaper but it will take a bit longer to get to your destination. A short walk to the back of the hotel you will find the tram station which connects to the Metro only a few stops away.
Public Transport In Dubai
You don’t need a car in Dubai. We didn’t have a car. Uber, taxis and a well planned public transport system got us all over the city to all attractions at all times. You can also use buses and the waterbus, which we did not even get round to trying this time.
Taxis and Uber
All taxis are metered. Some of the black cabs at the airport are private transfer companies and will charge astronomical fees. Ask before you get in.
Very handy is the taxi-organising person who will often be outside a major attraction such as the Dubai Mall. As a large family of five, we always need a larger car. The organiser will hail the appropriate vehicle for you and let you know if there is a waiting time. They can give you an idea of price before your taxi arrives and make sure everyone gets a fair turn.
The first few days, we mostly used Uber because we can order the right size car, book it for specific pick-up time and track its progress. However, we soon discovered the metro station near the hotel and chose to travel by rail from then on. It’s so much cheaper.
To give you a general idea: we paid an average of £20 each way with Uber to eg. The Dubai Mall, a 30min drive each way. Taking the tram and metro cost a fraction of that for the five of us every day.
The Dubai Tram & Metro Rail
We can highly recommend using the Dubai rail system.
You must buy an NOL card for each person, including children. You can buy your NOL cards from station ticket vending machines or staffed ticket metro stations. Public transport operators in Dubai such as rail, bus and waterbus, do not accept cash payment at all. The NOL card was introduced by this smart city to make it possible to see the city without cash. You can even pay for your taxi and parking with your NOL card.
At the metro stations, you must take note of the type of metro cabins/cars before you enter. Some of Metro cars are marked for men or women with children only and others are mixed. There are markings on the floor or on the metro train itself.
It’s easy to travel with a pram, stroller or wheelchair because there are lifts at stations and enough space to get on and off the trains.
Remember to check-in and out before and after each trip by swiping your NOL card over the card readers. If you don’t do this you may end with a big fine. Eating or drinking on the trains are strictly prohibited, so keep snacks for later or make sure the kids eat and finish before you jump on.
Check out these links for more info about public transport in Dubai
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Lots to do at the Mall Of Dubai. Didn’t spend much time outside in 37°C shade, but enjoyed a short #dubaimallfountain display then stayed inside for the rest of the day, playing and gawking late into the evening. VR (virtual reality) world arcade, Ice skating, live rainforest restaurant, impressive displays, indoor play areas and food courts kept us occupied. Not a very authentic Emirate experience, but it had to be done. Mall of Dubai boasts the largest candy store in the world, the largest synchronised musical water fountain show and the largest LED display wall. Of course, it’s also next to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower. Most entertaining was the people! I could sit and watch the crazy variety of glitzy and glamorous people come and go all day. We arrived at lunchtime and lost track of time. So much to do and see. Have you been? #dubaimall #mallofdubai #visitdubai
What To Wear In Dubai
The general rule is to cover shoulders and wear nothing shorter than knee-length in public places, such as malls, shopping centres and restaurants. No cleavage ladies or even a slight display of your chest gents.
If you are allowed to enter a mosque as a non-muslim, you must cover your whole body and women must also cover their head. You will be given a garment to cover yourself if you are not properly dressed.
From what we saw people wear in the JBR area between our hotel, the beach and all along The Walk, these rules either don’t apply or are blatantly ignored. Because my greatness! Some outfits are practically non-existant and downright scandalous as they head back to hotels from a day of sunbathing on the beach.
Be respectful of the Emirate religion and culture where-ever you are by dressing decently. Take a thin scarf with you in case you need to cover shoulders. I had my scarf tied to my handbag everywhere we went.
Drinking Water in Dubai
Plastic water bottles are in overabundance in Dubai. You will probably, like we did, get new bottles of water in your serviced hotel every day. Single-use plastic cutlery is widely used in restaurants, even in smart beachfront places. Hotels, in their attempt to cater to guests’ every possible need, provide single-use plastic razors, toothbrushes and everything you may need for self-care.
I couldn’t understand why we were left so much bottled water every day so I dug a bit deeper to find out if it’s safe to drink tap water in Dubai.
Turns out, tap water in Dubai is safe to drink. Dubai has one of the best, if not the best, and most advanced saltwater purification systems in the world. Other countries, such as Australia, came to Dubai to learn how they do it. Research has found that bottled water sitting at depots in the sun for many months, could, in fact, be more harmful to us than the tap water in Dubai.
We drank tap water in Dubai and did not get sick from it. Of course, you need to use your own judgement when it comes to your family, but it was fine for us. Didn’t taste funny either and I filled all our water bottles before leaving the apartment. I understand in extreme heat your bottled water will soon be boiling, but you should be able to safely refill it at water fountains or in public areas.
Only in old buildings where pipes may not be well maintained, could there be a risk of contaminated water, but from what I understand, most upmarket hotels and resorts will have safe tap water.
I am happy to be told otherwise – if you think that tap water in Dubai is unsafe to drink, please do not hesitate to comment down below and share your experience?
There is a place and a time for water in plastic bottles, for instance on the desert safari day trip when you can’t refill your own reusable bottle as often as you’d like. Maybe you have a condition that makes bottled water the safe option for you.
There is, however, absolutely NO excuse for any plastic bottles, soda cans and crisp wrappers to end up on the beautiful beach and in the ocean, where the kids picked out quite a few pieces of rubbish! You should find a general or recycling bin on Dubai beaches and in most tourist locations.
Have you been to Dubai? What did you think about the weather and where did you stay? Did you drink tap water in Dubai? Please comment down below?
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