We’ve been to Dubai (the largest of the United Arab Emirates) three times now, that’s how much we love it (or maybe it was just because our friend who lives there let’s us crash for free…). Dubai is super child-friendly, clean, easy to navigate, and offers beautiful beaches, decent restaurants, and great shopping. So long as you respect the Emirati laws and customs, and stay away in the summer when temperatures soar to ridiculous heights, Dubai is a guaranteed good time.
Dubai International Airport is located 4km (2.5 miles) outside of the city centre. Getting into the city is easy and reasonably-priced by taxi. The airport offers baby change stations, but there is nowhere private to breastfeed (seriously, I even asked at airport information!), a bit of a problem considering the taboo on breastfeeding in public here (see below).
Dubai is not a walking city. The whole place is designed based on the assumption that everyone will be travelling by car, so buildings are far apart and often set back from the road. In the summer, the heat makes it impossible to walk outside for more than a few minutes (i.e. the time it takes to get from the air-conditioned hotel interior to the pool). That said, if you have the time and it’s not nasty hot out, sidewalks are generally wide and well-maintained.
The best way to get around is by taxi. Taxis can usually be hailed easily on the street, and are reasonably priced. Pink taxis are for women and families with small children only.
Dubai has a small metro system that, while fun to ride, is not all that useful as stops are in the middle of nowhere, i.e. requiring an additional 10+ minute walk to your destination.
Breastfeeding in Dubai is a bit of a challenge. According to Dubai Tourism, while there is no formal rule against breastfeeding in public, doing so may offend local modest culture. While I’m a strong advocate of nursing in public while at home (see my post on that topic here), I never nursed in public in Dubai, which meant having to plan the day around Charlotte’s nursing schedule, and nursing in public bathrooms in emergencies.
Parks and Playgrounds:
Seeing that it is located in the hot, sweltering desert, the serious lack of greenspace in Dubai is no surprise. I’ve heard stories of local families picknicking on highway meridians because it’s the largest patch of grass they could find. Too bad they didnt know about the lovely lawn area behind the Dubai Mall (on the other side of the Dubai Fountain). If you’re kiddo needs some lawn to run around on, this is your best bet.
Dubai is otherwise extremely family-oriented and baby-friendly, and locals love to hit the town with their kids, especially in the relatively cooler evenings. Public bathrooms with change tables are easily found. Highchairs are always available in restaurants.
Baby supplies are widely available here. Supermarkets stock good quality baby food, including a wide range of organic snacks. The major shopping malls have entire sections devoted to baby stores, and are well-stocked. For the crunchy granola babies, there’s an organic supermarket in Dubai Mall with a huge selection of organic baby foods, non-baby foods, and beauty supplies.