Things to do with Kids in Dubai
I’m a huge fan of the Middle East, but if I’m honest Dubai; where everything is done to excess and they boast pretty much ‘The World’s Largest’ everything from buildings to shopping centres to water fountains, was never on my list of places to visit as a family.
Dubai’s unofficial motto is: the bigger and brasher, the better.
However, a very good friend recently moved there and having had enough of the dreary winter in the UK, we decided to seek out some sunshine. Direct flights (7 hours) were very reasonable considering it was half-term (£400 each with Emirates/Qantas).
There is a lot of things to do in Dubai for kids but a lot of it comes with a hefty price tag and adrenalin fuelled (e.g Wild Wadi Water Park, the Aquarium /Zoo or Ski Dubai). But we quickly learned that there is a lot to do in Dubai on a modest budget, plus a few free things.
The most economical way to get around is by public transport. You can buy a travel card at the stations and top up whenever you need. We purchased Silver Cards which cost AED 20 (includes AED 14 worth of credit). On average we spent around 15 Dirham (£3) a day on transport. The Tram and Metro are fairly new, efficient, air conditioned, have female/family only carriages and you can get to most places in the city with a map and a little planning. The buses are incredibly punctual and the bus stops are air conditioned. Taking public transport really helped us get our bearings.
Head to the Beach
There are quite a few beaches in Dubai. Most tourist can be found at ‘The Beach’ near Jumeirah Beach Residence. For the most part dress is conservative in Dubai but at ‘The Beach’, these rules are a bit more relaxed, you will see everything from women in traditional Abayas to tourists in G-strings, which I personally think is rather culturally insensitive.
Children can pretty much wear what they like, however, I wouldn’t suggest letting them run around in their birthday suit. I’ve never been a fan of bikinis or suggestive swim wear for children. If you’re looking for sensible reasonably priced swimsuits for kids do check out House of Fraser, as this is where I got my daughters.
There are also more local beaches which may not have as many facilities but are quieter, you can take a trip to Kite Beach, which has a children’s playground or in our case the closest one to where we were staying is called Jumeriah Beach.
Go on a Desert Safari (Half Day)
This was probably one of the highlights of the trip for my daughter and was very reasonable (150 AED/£30 for adults 110 AED for children). We booked direct with ABC Tours, if you book through a hotel you may pay more. They collect you in one of their powerful 4x4s, you go for an exhilarating drive over the sand dunes, arriving in camp where you can ride on camels, see a Falcon, get a Henna Tattoo, sample the local fayre and watch the Belly Dancers.
Visit the Dancing Water Fountains at Dubai Mall (FREE)
Pop down to the Dubai Mall, where the ‘World’s Largest’ dancing water fountains performs daily at 1.00 pm and 1.30 except for Fridays when the shows are at 1.30 and 2.00 pm, spraying water up to 500 feet in the air in sync to the music. Apparently, the shows at night are more impressive with 1.5 million lumens of projected light.
Go and see the Flamingos at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (FREE)
Jump in a taxi and head to the outskirts of Dubai to see the Flamingos, last recorded count had the numbers at over 3000, there are two daily feedings at 9am and 4pm. My only suggestion would be to book mark this page on your phone and have this map at hand for the driver.
I didn’t and resulted in us getting lost as I thought Ras Al Khor was the name of the park and not the surrounding area, in the end the driver deposited us at the wrong hide, with very little chance of getting another taxi. Luckily, a lovely local couple took pity on us and took us to the correct hide, waited for us to snap a few photos of the flamingos and deposited us back in Dubai so we could get a taxi.
Visit the Turtle Rehabilitation Centre (FREE)
Is the only Turtle Rehabilitation Project in Dubai and is a collaboration between Jumeirah and The Wildlife Protection Office. The outdoor enclosures are at the Mina A’Salam Hotel and are open to the public every day and no need to book. However, there are feedings on Wednesdays at 11 am and on Fridays at 1pm. However, I’d suggest you ring or contact them ahead of time as we went down to watch the feeding but it was closed due to a private function.
The closest bus stop is Burj Al Arab Hotel 1
Take a River Boat Taxi Across Dubai Creek
Probably one of the most authentic experiences you will have in Dubai, there are organised boat trips up and down the Creek, but I suggest just hopping on one of the local Abra (River Taxis) which are used by locals, enjoy the 5 minute journey across the Creek, explore the Old Souks and grab a bit of lunch and then head back. It’s only 1 Dirham each way.
The Creek is only a short walk from both the Al Ghubaiba Bus and Metro Stations
Go for a walk around the Dubai Marina (FREE)
The Dubai Marina Walk is a 7 km long pedestrian walkway lined with shops, cafes and restaurants and characterized by a dramatic skyline, you will feel dwarfed by the impressive residential blocks and skyscrapers. Children can run through the fountains (bring a change of clothes), you will find play areas for younger children under some of the bridges and if you’re feeling a bit flush you can spring for a bike hire (20 AED or 30 minutes).
The closest Metro Station is Damac Properties.
Burj Khalifa (Adults 125 AED/£24 – Kids 95 AED/£20)
Now that you’ve saved a bit of money you can splurge on a trip up the ‘World’s Tallest Building’ which is a whopping 828 metres tall with 160 floors, or in our case our friends kindly treated us. The viewing platform is on the 124th floor which was more than high enough for me. When you are standing on the viewing platform you are actually 100 meters higher than the Eiffel Tower! On a clear day you can see for miles.
You will need to book in advance.
I really wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can confidently say that we had a fabulous time and would definitely go back. A huge thank you to our hosts Suzanne, Peter, Bob and Pushkins for making us so welcome and taking such great care of us.
Copyright Notice: Many of my photos are Courtesy of Suzanne Scott, our host. You can follow her ex-pat adventures at chickenruby.com.
2 thoughts on “Dubai with Kids on a Budget”
This is really interesting. I’ve not been to Dubai and it’s great to read that there are so many free things to do there for families.
Wow, Dubai looks amazing. It’s not a place you think has lots for kids to do but that’s clearly not true. Lucky you getting to visit. It’s definitely on my list of places to go
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