Dubai – it evokes all kinds of emotions.
A desert oasis, cosmopolitan city on persian gulf, progressive, and a city of superlatives: man-made islands, largest indoor ski, worlds best 7 star luxury resort, tallest building and tallest musical fountains. It’s also a city of extremes – modest but progressive Emirati (as people of UAE are known) rubbing shoulders with the folks dressed in latest fashions and trends; glitzy towering high rises overlooking traditional mosques; high desert temperatures outside with the coolest of the air-conditioning indoors; arid desert surrounding turquoise swimming pools in almost all hotels (without the water fee as charged in Las Vegas); traditional gold souks and glittering malls with displays of diamonds and gold as if its going out of fashion.
We always thought we will visit Dubai en-route to US or India. It was always an after thought. But lugging so many bags was never appealing and we never visited Dubai.
This time however, we had no choice but to break our journey in Dubai. Hyderabad has best connections to San Francisco via Dubai on Emirates airlines. The Dubai – SFO flight usually leaves around 9:00 am local time. Which means we have to leave Hyderabad at 2:00 am to make it to Dubai on time. With a toddler and almost in my third trimester, I didn’t want to travel in middle of night. So we decided to take a day flight to Dubai and stay there for a few days.
Plus, the service on Emirates is top-notch. I trusted them to help me out incase I experienced any issues en-route than any European airline.
With the dates planned out, we were set to make rest of the planning; activities, lodging, visa etc.
If you are flying with Emirates, getting a visa is a breeze. They have an option to apply for a visa online. You fill in passport details. upload a photo online and pay for it. Visa is emailed to you on approval. Simple and efficient.
Makes you wonder why other countries don’t follow this simple procedure?
Where to Stay
Dubai officially has many areas to stay and visit but as tourist ( and one with kids), you want to base yourself in one of the two areas: around Dubai Mall or in Dubai Marina. Both are happening areas with tons of activities, restaurants and lodging options from luxury condos to hotels.
If its your first visit to the city, don’t stay at the beach resort if you plan to do other sight-seeing. Dubai is not really known for its beaches and you will have to hail a cab every time you need to visit the city’s attractions.
We chose to stay near Dubai Mall at Al Murooj Rotana. As we planned this trip fairly last-minute, budget was the main reason for going for this hotel. But we were glad with the room, its size, amenities on the property (swimming pool, Wi-Fi, Club room with breakfast and proximity to Dubai Mall. There was some mix up when we got there, we got a teeny tiny room assigned but managed to get it changed.
Also, we had a promotional mailer to upgrade to Club Room which we signed up for. At 130 AED this entitled us to breakfast, wi-fi in room and evening snacks/tapas and drinks. A steal really if you consider the cost individually. But when we reached there they said that the promotional offer is expired at that price but the same is available for 250 AED.
Given that breakfast itself would have cost us 120 – 150 AED everyday, we signed up for this. In hindsight this worked out very well. We ended up making evening snacks our meals as Varun was sleepy and too tired to go out anywhere. Ordering dinner or eating at on-site restaurant would have ben even more $$.
Dubai has a fantastic array of activities for all ages. Skiing, Sky Diving, Hot Air Balloon rides, Zorba, Sand boarding, Sailing and Dune bashing for the more adventurous, aquarium, dolphinarium, unique kid themed museums for the kids, malls and souks for those into couture to street side shopping, to beaches and parks for those who want to just chill.
We wanted to incorporate Varun in most of our activities so that he won’t get too bored with site-seeing. This is what we went for (details in ensuing posts).
Entertainer book has 1 for 2 coupons on most of the activities below other than entry to Burj Khalifa. The book costs about AED 350 but sometimes is available on Ebay or trip advisor for a discount. Each book has 3 coupons for each activity and even restaurants. So even if someone has used one or two coupons you can still buy it from them. Even at full price for us it saved us $$ on meals and activities. Highly recommended even if you plan on doing few activities like us.
3. Abra Boat ride on Dubai Creek to Gold Souk
4. Ski Dubai
Varun enjoyed Dubai as much as he could have, given that he was still upset over leaving Hyderabad and his stuff getting packed. He wanted to go back home to Jayabheri. But since the trip, he calls every tall building the “tallest building in the world”. Now that we are in San Francisco, he wants to go back to Dubai.
I think visiting Dubai without young kids would be way more fun. You can visit bars and restaurants that are 21 years and older that offer killer views of the city. You could indulge in Retail therapy all day long. And of course you can do all adventure sports available under the sun.
Oh well, we enjoyed what we could and we can’t wait for Varun to be older so we can do some of the activities together 🙂
Stay tuned for more Dubai trip details!