Why visit Dubai?
This year’s spring holidays I wanted a place with heat and sun. I was first considering south of Europe like Malta buy was advised it was still too cold for a swim. Several friends recommended Dubai so I gave it a go and it was such a blast!!! I went with both my children aged 3.5 and 6.5 and my parents and all want to go back, mainly for the fun and the good value too (my parents are Asian).
Weather wise, April seems to be the best season to visit Dubai with average temperature of 32 degrees when we were there, warm and dry, very little wind. Much easier to bear than humid Singapore for example and it’s a shorter flight from Europe.
Oh and there are NO mosquitoes whatsoever! How relaxing!
How to get to Dubai from Paris or Zürich
- Direct flight with Emirates with duration between 6h50 to 7h15
- In the middle of Spring holiday it cost us approx 500 euros per person return flight
- There seem to be 3 flights a day from Paris. We took the 11.20am from Paris and the 2.50pm back from Dubai, both on board of A380 aircrafts with very cool entertainment on board including soft toys, activity books and kids meal with yummy Mac n cheese for children.
How to get to Dubai from Oslo
- One stop minimum from Oslo
- Quickest seems to be with Qatar Airways with duration approx 8h50 hours including 1h30 layover in Doha and Wifi!
- Price: approx 2580 KR per person!
With no further due, here is our children’s top pick
1. Kidzania: mini city just for children
I spent 4 hours from 2 to 6pm with both kids at Kidzania in Dubai Mall. My eldest son just loved and it still raves about it. He wanted to go back the next day. What did he like so much? Earning money. Kidzania money that you can then use for activities such as car racing, painting or buy some toys. He’s been obsessed with board games like Hotel or Monopoly lately, so dealing with bank notes is highly exciting for him.
How do you earn Kidzania money? By performing job like dentists, paramedics, courier, TV anchor working in a chocolate factory, creating a start up, etc… there are more than 60 role plays to choose from and most of those jobs/ offices are sponsored by well known brands (Kinder, Colgate, Dettol etc…). Each room had an adult instructor that would help you through your tasks.
The 3 year old little bro was a bit daunted by entering these rooms without me. He was a bit tired as our napping time got all messed up. He was still able to enjoy some (lots of ) car driving. He even got to get a driving license! And he did painting on easel, which he loved!
My son said: Why isn’t school like this? We get to learn so much while having fun!
And I thought to myself, 40 euro a day, is way less than what I used to pay for child care and even his current school… so why not?
I was so impressed I did a bit of research and Kidzania is a Mexican company with franchises in Dubai, Jakarta, Manila etc…and one opening right now in Europe in London boasting a GBP20M investment!
TIP: There’s a McDonald’s in case you’re hungry. With the purchase of a happy meal (10UAE Dirham = 2.5 euros) your child also gets to go behind the scenes of preparing a meal. Too cute. They don’t earn Kidzos but the experience and props are priceless!
Child – (4 to 16 years old) – AED 140 (34 euros)
Adult – (17 years and over) – AED 95 (25 euros)
Toddler – (2 to 3 years old) – AED 95 – which has to be accompanied by an adult
Infant – (under 2 years old) – FREE
- Opening hours: KidZania Dubai is open 7 days a week.
Sunday to Wednesday 09:00am to 10:00pm Thursday 09:00am to 11:00pm Friday & Saturday 10:00am to 11:00pm
2. Desert Safari
This a classic tour in the desert nearby comprising Dune bashing in 4×4 wheel drive, camel ride, henne hand painting, sheeshah, belly dance and other traditional arabic dance show, BBQ dinner, pick up and drop off at your hotel. Our tour including all the above plus all you can drink water and coffee.
What my 6 year old loved:
- Dune bashing (but his little brother got scared and a bit sick after a while so we had to ask the driving to take it easy)
- Riding a motorbike on the sand with his Grandpa (UAE 100 dirham extra though)
- Playing with the vibrant orange sand in the dunes, climbing up the dunes and rolling downhill
- Local deep fried donuts covered in a very light honey
What I wasn’t too impressed about (but hey, you get what you pay) is that
- the camel ride is like 90 seconds where you only get to ride for 50 meters and back, just so they can take a picture
- you have to line up among probably 100 women (and there is a similar queue for men) before you get to the buffet
- sheeshah are only free if you smoke them at their stall, remote from the dining area by the show. Otherwise you have to pay a fee to enjoy it while you are sitting at your table and watching the show
Cost: UAE 195 Dirham (50 euros) per adult, 150 per child (30 euros) and free for the little one with Funtour Dubai.
3. Our hotel’s swimming pool and buggy
I booked the Al Murooj Rotana hotel, right in the CBD across from the Dubai Mall. The pictures of the pool seemed nice and I loved the convenience and the value of that hotel. Built in 2006, Al Murooj Rotana hotel was probably one of the gems of Dubai with its ponds and restaurants back then. You can tell it’s been overtaken by so many towers and modern concepts, but it kept its charm with its tropical decoration, warm and helpful service and two great pools:
- Residence pool with a shaded shallow area for children, a waterfall, bridge and rocky type of decoration but no food and drink service there. Looking at the picture above you wouldn’t expect to be in the city centre and it felt that way. When you stay on Jumeirah beach and marina though, you really feel the suffocating presence of high rise buildings and concrete.
- Hotel pool with an area for babies (5 cm of water), one for children (60cm deep) and one for adults. We loved that the pool has never been packed over the 5 days even on the week end. The life guard had a constant eye on my kids and I could myself swim for a good 10-15 minutes knowing he’d be on top of things. As you arrive they come and open the umbrella, line the lounge chairs with a couple of towels for you with a genuine smile.
The kids used to spend up to 2 hours in the pool every morning after breakfast. They just loved how the 30 degrees water was just the perfect temperature and how the depth was just what they needed to play or practice swimming.
TIP: you can book individual swimming lessons for UAE 150 dirham for 40 minutes. I did it once and my son then practiced the other 3 days which led to amazing results.
To go from our residence to the hotel side which included the breakfast restaurant and the pool, either you could walk 3 minutes or ride the buggy. That was the kids’ favourite too!
More about our hotel Al Murooj Rotana:
Our accommodation was a very spacious 2 bedroom apartment with a lounge area, dining area and fully equipped kitchen. Plenty of space for the 5 of us to stay. There’s a flat screen TV in each bedroom and in the lounge room. Although the corridors and common areas of the residence where not the most fancy, the amenities in room and comfort where great.
Similarly the view was over the highway and you could hear it but for some reason I didn’t mind too much. It’s a constant noise that helps you go to sleep and we if you look beyond, the view was also featuring Burj Khalifa.
Lastly, the value was one of my key reasons for choosing it. All up including flight it was less than 900 euros for 6 nights and 5 days per person (through expedia.de) i.e. less than 70 euro accommodation only per person per night.
- book your hotel transfer directly with the hotel. They will charge you UAE 150 dirham one way instead of 47 euros through Expedia.
- When I inquired about Wifi in rooms prior to my stay, I was quoted UAE 90 dirhams (22 euros) per 24 hours but they were kind enough to offer it for free. That made my day!
4. The Dubai Fountain
It’s a water show taking place in the outdoor section of Dubai Mall, right by the tallest tower in the world Burj Khalifa.
The show includes music and lasts 2 minutes. It starts at 6.30pm and resumes every half hour until 10pm on weekdays, and from 6 pm to 11 pm on weekends (weekends being Thursday, Friday, and Saturday).
You can watch it from outside the mall, from the bridge leading to the Souk Al Bahar area.
TIP: you can book a table at the terrasse at one of the restaurant in Souk Al Bahar. We booked the Mango Tree thai one but all the outdoors tables were booked out and had to sit inside. Besides, it was so late with the time difference (+2 hours vs Paris or Zurich) that the kids were exhausted and sleeping on the benches. We could have avoided the price premium by watching the show from the Mall’s esplanade and eating in one of the restaurant along the Mall (Red Lobster) as opposed to in Souk Al Bahar.
5. Abra – Water Taxi in the Madinat Jumeirah complex
That was MY personal favourite. The Madinat Jumeirah complex is a totally man made small village with creek, river, bridges, old style buildings, souk and view over the 6 star hotel and iconic Burj Al Arab. Although it was recently all built from scratch, it is very charming and far from being tacky. Best to discover the area is to board an Abra, a bit like your Venetian Gondolas. They are UAE 75 per adult, 40 per child and free for the little one. Not cheap but so worth it.
That allowed me to spot Zheng He’s, a Chinese restaurant in the Mina A Salam area of the complex, with an amazing view on the beach and Burj Al Arab, with fine decoration but pricey cantonese menu. The roasted duck was beautiful, juicy, tender, not too fat but with crispy skin. Our best pick: taro fried dumplings filled with… FOIE GRAS!
I had booked the visit 2 weeks in advance to make sur we go at sunset. It is a nice experience but not a must do. tHe kids didn’t enjoy it that much. The night we went was a bit foggy so we couldn’t see much. I still capture a couple of nice pictures.
The water is warm. Warmer than our hotel pool, probably 35 degrees so I didn’t find it very refreshing. However the turquoise colour of the sea is stunning, same for it’s clarity and transparency. We caught up with friends there so that’s also probably why it was one of the kids favourite. The sand is white but not that fine but full of pieces of coral.
Atlantis and the waterpark:
I had to drop that one from our fully packed 5 day trip but it gives me a reason to go back next time.